§ Bill, as amended, considered.
§ Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [8th August], "That the new Clause (Representation of Ireland in Parliament for the Amendment of this Act),—(Mr. Macartney,)—proposed on Consideration, as amended, be read a second time."
§ Question again proposed.
§ Debate resumed.
* MR. GERALD BALEOUR (Leeds, Central)
said, when his speech was interrupted the previous night by the operation of the Twelve o'Clock Rule, he was engaged in showing that though the Prime Minister had declared over and over again that the question of the retention or exclusion of the Irish Members was a British rather than an Irish question, and ought to be decided by the preponderance of British opinion, he had, nevertheless, made this declaration of no effect by insisting that the opinion of Great Britain was to be ascertained not by the votes of the British Members, but by looking to the vote of Parliament as a whole. How British opinion could be ascertained by looking not to the votes of the British Members, but to the votes of the British and Irish Members taken together, the right hon. Gentleman had not condescended to explain. In the last Parliament, how did the right hon. Gentleman ascertain the opinion of the Scottish Members on the question of Disestablishment? Was it by looking to the vote of Parliament as a whole? Certainly not, for Parliament, as a whole, rejected the Motion for Disestablishment. How did the right hon. Gentleman ascertain the opinion of Wales on the question of the Disestablishment of the Church in Wales? Was it by looking to the vote of Parliament as a whole? No, for again Parliament, as a whole, rejected the Motion for Disestablishing the Church in Wales. How did the right hon. Gentleman endeavour to ascertain Irish opinion on the subject of Irish 1665 Home Rule? Was it by looking to the vote of Parliament as a whole? Very far from it. If he had proceeded by that method, he did not hesitate to say they would not be engaged at the present moment in discussing a Home Rule Bill. It appeared it was only when the interests of England were concerned that the right hon. Gentleman adopted a different method from that which he adopted in the case of Scotland and Wales and Ireland. But how did the Prime Minister reconcile his present attitude with the attitude the took up on this question in the last Parliament? Surely, if the rule was good in one case it must be good in another; and if the right hon. Gentleman followed the principle that he himself had laid down in these matters he ought to abandon this clause and fall back upon the proposal of 1886. But the right hon. Gentleman said—"On this subject we have given a pledge. "Yes, he had given two pledges. But when the right hon. Gentleman spoke of a pledge he thought they were entitled to ask upon what that pledge had been based? Clearly not upon the right hon. Gentleman's own opinion of the merits of the question. He hardly concealed the fact that he had not changed his opinion since 1886, but was of the same opinion still. The right hon. Gentleman, the previous night, replying to the speech of the hon. Member for South Antrim (Mr. Macartney), said that he did not complain of the hon. Member having raised this question a second time on Report stage, and even gone into some detail; but he added that the hon. Gentleman could hardly expect him to give a second answer in detail to the arguments which were advanced. He was not aware that the right hon. Gentleman had over given them a first answer in detail to these arguments. When this subject was discussed in Committee the right hon. Gentleman dismissed it with a, brief speech that did not occupy more than a column or a column and a-half of Hansard; and he thought it was not too much to say that the right hon. Gentleman had never seriously argued against the exclusion of the Irish Members. During the whole course of the Debates, the right hon. Gentleman had never seriously argued that the exclusion of the Irish Members would not be the best course to adopt. He had simply stated what, in 1666 his view, was the general opinion of the country. As to that, some light had been thrown upon the matter by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, for he explained that in taking the course they had taken the Government had deferred, not to the opinion of the country, but to the opinion of the Liberal Party, which, he ventured to say, was a very different thing. He was perfectly willing to give the Prime Minister full credit for sincerity in the language he used when he said he believed he was justified in giving this pledge, because it represented the general view of the country. But again, he asked the right hon. Gentleman what country? Surely not the United Kingdom. The right hon. Gentleman had again and again assured them that this was rather a British than an Irish question. He took it, then, that the country to which the right hon. Gentleman referred must be Great Britain. If the right hon. Gentleman ever was under the impression that the opinion of Great Britain was favourable to the retention of the Irish Members he had now had in opportunity of being undeceived. Looking at the Division List, he would see that, of the Members representing Great Britain, a majority of 29 were in favour of the exclusion of the Irish Members. The Prime Minister was therefore bound by his declarations to abandon his pledge, based as it was on a misconception, and accept the Amendment of the hon. Member for Antrim. It was worth while to consider for a moment the history of this question. What did the right hon. Gentleman say in 1886? That the proposition to retain the Irish Members for all purposes was too absurd to be entertained. Language even more emphatic was used by the Chief Secretary (Mr. J. Morley) in a speech delivered at Newcastle. To retain the Irish Members, the Chief Secretary said, would be fatal alike to the Irish and to the Imperial Parliament. That was before the rejection of the Bill by the House of Commons. But the Prime Minister returned to the subject after the dissolution of Parliament, and speaking at Manchester on the 24th of June he said—I will never be a party which gives to the Irish people a separate Parliament and also gives them a voice in British affairs at home.1667 The length of the right hon. Gentleman's "never" may be measured by months and even weeks, and it comes to an end whenever he draws in sight of a hostile majority. A group of votes is to the Prime Minister's conscience as a mass of iron is to the needle of the compass. In this case the deflection had been complete. In truth, the Prime Minister had boxed the compass. He had taken up every possible alternative in turn, and each one had been worse than the last. Then he comes here and says—"Let the House of Commons decide; the House is the master. "The right hon. Gentleman reminded him of the farmer who called together his geese, and asked them what sauce they preferred to be cooked with. He did not seem to realise that there was a preliminary question to be settled before the sauce was decided upon. That question was whether the geese wished to be cooked at all. The Prime Minister professes to consider the retention or exclusion of Irish Members a matter of secondary importance; but certain of his colleagues have expressed a very different opinion. In the course of a rather heated speech in Committee, when this subject was under consideration, the Prime Minister challenged the Leader of the Opposition to produce any statement by any responsible Minister which indicated that this question of the retention of the Irish Members was regarded as a vital one, and he repeated that challenge last night. It would not be difficult to find more than one such statement. The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir W. Harcourt) spoke on the very same day, and he declared that—For his part, he regarded the retention of the Irish Members as an essential part of the Constitution of the Imperial Parliament.But there was another Minister, whom he regretted not to see in his place. The Home Secretary (Mr. Asquith) referred to this question on the Second Reading, and he said—I regard this question of the retention of the Irish Members as vital to the Bill.And yet only yesterday the Prime Minister challenged anyone to show that any Minister had ever said this was a vital point. He thought that it would be impossible for the Prime Minister in future to allege that none of his Colleagues had committed themselves on 1668 this question. Now, he considered that on this question the Homo Secretary had been far longer-sighted than the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister had laid it down that any settlement, if not final, must be a lasting and continuing settlement; but the Home Secretary saw clearly that the retention of the Irish Members was a step, and a long step, in the direction of Federalism—that Great Britain would not long endure a system which, while it gave Local Government to Ireland, gave to Irish Members a governing voice in the Local Government of Great Britain. It was impossible that such a state of things could last. They would either have to go back to the present condition of affairs—possibly at the cost of civil war—or else go forward in the direction of something like a complete Federal system. The fact that the idea of establishing a Federal system in these Islands should have found favour with men like the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. P. T. Reid) and the Home Secretary was one of those portents in the present political situation which was calculated to cause a great deal of anxiety. He was not going to discuss the question of Federalism, but this at least must be granted—that it was no matter of minor importance that they should be taking the first important step towards carving out of the Imperial Parliament no fewer than five Parliaments, and perhaps more, required under any Federal system. It was no minor matter that they should be taking the first step in the direction of reversing the current of English policy which had lasted for many centuries. Hon. Members had also some reason to complain of the want of frankness on the part, of the Government in this connection. He believed that the Home Secretary had, in his own constituency, acknowledged that he was a Federalist; but the right hon. Gentleman ought to have made the declaration of his faith in Federalism, not in a corner of Scotland, but on the floor of the House of Commons. If the right hon. Gentleman had done that, the people of this country would have known where they stood, and would have been no longer in the dark. As it was, however, on this vital point the Government had no collective opinion; and the opinions of individual Ministers were only to be 1669 gathered from a hint here and a hint there. This was why they tried to shuffle off their corporate responsibility on to the House of Commons.(Some Members of the Government were in favour of retention, some in favour of exclusion, of the Irish Members, some for Home Rule pure and simple, some for a 19th century restoration of the Heptarchy; but they declined to undertake any corporate responsibility, because there was no corporate agreement. The House was told that these matters were only in an experimental stage. He did not see that this made the position any better. There appeared to be an impression among hon. Members opposite that a political experiment of this magnitude could be made, and if it failed leave them exactly where they had been at the outset. But there wore some experiments from which they could not recede. There were some experiments which, if tried, inevitably compelled a movement forward. He protested against this ancient Constitution being made a corpus vile on which these political vivisectors were to work their will, when they could not even agree among themselves what the nature of the operation ought to be. He did not believe the Party opposite realised the goal towards which they were tending. But surely the first step ought to be sufficient warning. In order that Ireland might be independent of England, England was to be made dependent on Ireland. It was perhaps fitting that this humiliation should come from a Prime Minister who, whilst boasting of his pure Scottish descent, described the English race as one which more than any other stood in need of every kind of discipline. He did not envy those Members of the Government who had to defend the 9th clause upon English platforms. As for the Prime Minister, notwithstanding his pure Scottish descent, he might have remembered that it was not to his own talents alone, unrivalled in many respects as they wore, that he owed his great position; he might have remembered that, he owed that position in no small measure to the greatness of England, before he consented that through his arm Ireland should strike this fatal blow at the mighty political fabric which it had taken England centuries to rear.
§ * MR. PAUL (Edinburgh, S.)
said, the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down never addressed the House without raising their opinion of him, and lowering their opinion of themselves. He had gathered profit from the intellectual treat which the hon. Gentleman had afforded him, but he found himself confronted by a preliminary difficulty. Referring to the declaration of the Prime Minister on the subject of the retention of the Irish Members, the hon. Gentleman claimed that the majority of the British Members were in favour of exclusion, and he endeavoured to prove that by reference to the Division Lists. Certainly, looking at the Division Lists, there was a majority of British Members who voted against the retention of the Irish Members, and in favour of their exclusion. But did they vote in that way for the purpose of improving the Bill, or for the purpose of destroying it? Were they voting simply, to use the classical language of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dublin University (Mr. D. Plunket), to render the measure "more detestable"? If they were, the case assumed a different aspect from that put upon if by the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. G. Balfour).During the course of this Debate they had witnessed an interesting resurrection. It appeared that the Bill of 1886 was not dead; it only slept; and, as the Sleeping Beauty awoke at the kiss of the Prince, so the Bill of 1886 had been re-animated by the chaste embraces of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. A. J. Balfour). The House had not the advantage of hearing the right hon. Gentleman move this clause, but he presumed they would have the pleasure of hearing his views at a later stage of the Debate. He (Mr. Paul) should not have intruded himself upon the House at this stage but for the taunts which had been levied at unofficial Members of the Liberal Party. They had been told that they had no opinions of their own, and that they had neither the courage nor the capacity to defend the opinions which they had adopted from the Prime Minister. The hon. Member for South Antrim (Mr. Macartney) was good enough to make a special appeal to the Sootch Members. He (Mr. Paul) represented a Scotch constituency, and he would venture to say a few words on his own behalf. He was 1671 aware that the task of defending the 9th clause had been undertaken by the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. It. T. Reid), but there was a quality in the advocacy of his hon. and learned Friend which he noted—his reasoning appeared to make a furtive escape from his premisses, and to effect a burglarious entry into his conclusions. On the last occasion on which he addressed his constituents he expressed the opinion that it would be well to retain the Irish Members for all purposes. When he first saw the 9th clause he confessed that he was fascinated with its logical neatness. Logic, however, was a very good servant, but, like most good servants, it was a bad master. When he came to examine the clause from a practical point of view he realised what the Prime Minister meant when he said that it passed the wit of man to divide Irish from British and Imperial subjects. If the Irish Members were retained for Imperial purposes they would be retained for all purposes, because the greater included the less and the whole the part; and if the Irish Members could remove a Government from Office, what did it matter whether they could vote for a Local Veto or Parish Council Bill? The Irish Members could remove the Government to-morrow if they chose, and if they had that power, what did it matter whether or not they would vote for the Local Veto Bill or the Parish Councils Bill? The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. A. J. Balfour) was not only a Leader of a great Part—he was one of the Representatives of a great city. Suppose the Irish Members had been retained for Imperial purposes only, they would not be able to interfere with a Manchester Water or Gas Bill, in which the right hon. Gentleman might take a benevolent interest; but they could take him from the place where he now sat and put him in the place of the Prime Minister. They put him in Office once, and they could do it again. What was the use of giving the Irish Members such powers, and then misleading the country by saying they were not practically retained to all intents and purposes? As a practical politician, he said the choice was between the proposed new clause and the clause as it stood in the Bill retaining the Irish Members for all purposes whatsoever. His hon. Friend and Colleague the Member for East 1672 Edinburgh, in a brilliant speech which would never fade from the recollection of those who were fortunate enough to hear it, argued most powerfully for the clause as it then stood. His hon. Friend was— he would not say a Separatist, because he might resent the epithet as offensive— but he was now for excluding totally the Irish Members on the one hand, and for removing all the restrictions and reservations in the Bill on the other. That, if not separation, approached so dangerously near it that there was no practical difference. But it was said that they were giving up a great privilege, and that they ought to exact something from the Irish people in return. Was it such a great privilege to be able to legislate for Ireland? It might be a duty, and whenever it should be a duty they retained the power to discharge it. He would take an example of two Sessions, 1881 and 1887. They were both chiefly occupied with important Irish Bills. The Session of 1881 was occupied by Mr. Forster's Coercion Bill and the Laud Bill of the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister. The Session of 1887 was occupied with a Coercion Bill and a Land Bill in the hands of the Leader of the Opposition. Was it a privilege or an advantage to the people of this country that the whole of the time of these long Sessions should be exclusively occupied by Irish affairs? That was a proposition that could not seriously be maintained. They had been told—and by no one more forcibly than by the Leader of the Opposition—that the position of the Irish Members now was very different from what it would be if Home Rule were carried. They were told that now the Irish Members were under a responsibility which would be taken away from them when Home Rule was passed. He thought that was a most extraordinary fallacy. To whom were the Irish Members responsible now? To their own constituents. To whom would they be responsible then? To their own constituents. The hon. and learned Member for Plymouth (Sir E. Clarke) asked last night whether it was fair that the Irish Members should vote on such questions as the Disestablishment of the Welsh Church? He (Mr. Paul) would ask the hon. and learned Member if he would leave the Disestablishment of the Welsh Church to the Welsh Members? Would 1673 he leave the Disestablishment of the Scottish Church to Members from Scotland? The hon. Member for Perth (Mr. W. Whitelaw) had a tenderness for minorities, because he represented one himself; he put down an Amendment to prevent Irish Members from voting on Scottish questions; but he saw no anomaly and no objection in Scottish Members being out-voted by English Tories. That was perfectly right, but when Irish Members assisted the majority of the Representatives of Scotland that was a monstrous tyranny. He (Mr. Paul) could not follow that train of reasoning. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain), in the Debate on the First Heading of the Bill of 1886, referring to the Bill as it came before the Cabinet, said—I objected to it, in the first instance because of the consequences which followed upon it. It appeared to me that if the Irish Members were to cease to occupy their seats in this House the Irish Parliament to which they are to be relegated must be, ought to be, and would be co-ordinate, and of equal authority.He (Mr. Paul) thought that was a very powerful argument, and for an Irish Legislature with co-equal and coordinate authority he, for one, would never vote. He had great sympathy with the national aspirations of Irishmen, but he had always endeavoured to look at this question from the point of view of Great Britain, and, as he was bound to do, from the point of view of Scotland. Scottish Members voted the other day in favour of Home Rule for Scotland by a majority of two to one; and he was perfectly certain that if Scotland obtained Home Rule she would not consent to have her representation in this House diminished, or to have the powers of their Representatives curtailed. He believed the time had gone by for taking away the Representatives from this House of any part of Her Majesty's dominions. He cherished the hope of his hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries—that in the future other portions of the British Empire might be represented here which were not represented now; but be would never support a proposal which, as he regarded the matter, would diminish the control of this House over Ireland, and would make it morally, though, of course, not legally, impossible that the Imperial Parliament should legislate on any Irish 1674 matter. He would never go a step to his knowledge in favour of a nominal or virtual separation between the two countries, because, in his judgment and belief, that would be to Great Britain a deplorable calamity, and to Ireland an irretrievable disaster.
MR. WYNDIIAM (Dover)
said, the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, and to whom the House bad listened with pleasure, put a somewhat pointed question to those of them who sat on the Opposition side of the House. He asked whether the Opposition would vote for this new clause in order to improve the Bill, or in order to kill it? Well, he (Mr. Wyndham) could give two answers to that question. The possible result of killing the Bill did not enter into the question at all. The Prime Minister, in introducing this Bill, used those words—On the important subject of the retention of the Irish Members, I do not regard it, and I never have regarded it, as touching what may be called the principles of the Bill.Therefore, supposing the hon. Member for South Antrim (Mr. Macartney) should be successful with his new clause, the Bill would not be killed, but would only be altered in a detail which, according to the Prime Minister, did not affect any one of its principles. His second answer was that they all knew that this Bill would not become law this Session. That, however, did not absolve them from protesting as strongly as they could against the first introduction of a principle which they believed to be aimed at the dearest interests of the country, and he would quote in support of that words used by the Prime Minister in his speech on the First Reading. He said—I and many of us here are content to take our place as plain, unlettered Englishmen, We cannot understand why Irish votes on some question of education or some other matters in which Englishmen are interested, and which is in no respect Irish, should be determined by those who have a separate Parliament to determine the same question for themselves.He was confident the majority of the electors of this country would take the same view of the matter when it was explained to them. The most interesting part of the hon. Member's speech was that in which he said that he, for one, would defend the 9th clause as it stood in the Bill. Curiosity as to the reasons which could have led hon. and right hon. 1675 Members opposite to favour this last solution had been stimulated by long delay. The Prime Minister adopted an attitude of reticence. They thought, when the hon. Member who had last spoken was addressing the House, that at last they had someone who would explain the Government policy on this clause; but they had been disappointed. He had found fault with the logic of an opponent of the Government proposition, but had then proceeded to attack logic as a master, and that was not surprising, for the rest of his speech consisted of a denunciation of the alternative in the Bill as it originally stood as compared with the alternative in the Bill as altered. But the hon. Member never balanced the last alternative in the Bill with the alternative proposed by the hon. Member for South Antrim. He examined the question of retention with limited and with full powers, and, casting logic on one side, as a practical man he preferred full powers to limited powers. Having arrived at that step in his argument, he proceeded to attack the position of the hon. Member for the East Division of Edinburgh; but, by so doing, he added nothing to his argument. The point he had to make good was whether logical or illogical, whether anomalous or not anomalous, the plan put forward by the Opposition was not a better one than that contained in the Bill. At the conclusion of the hon. Member's speech they were no wiser than at its commencement as to why the Government preferred the plan of the Bill to that of the Amendment, and were prepared to allow the Irish Members to interfere in matters of purely British concern.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
said, he was sorry he had skipped that step in the hon. Member's argument; but if that was the interpretation of the hon. Member he must again refer him to the reply of the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister on the point. The hon. Member said he was opposed to nominal or virtual separation. What was the opinion of the Prime Minister on the relations between separation and the retention of the Irish 1676 Members here? The right hon. Gentleman dismissed it with a flout. He said—There is one argument which I must put aside. It is a most dangerous argument, and in itself quite undignified.…It is the argument of those who say that, unless you retain the Irish Members, there is no Parliamentary supremacy over Ireland.The hon. Member in that part of his speech had, unwittingly no doubt, made use of an argument which in the eyes of his Leader was not only dangerous, but also undignified. He (Mr. Wyndham) would, therefore, place that part of the hon. Member's argument on one side, and relegate it to the obscurity that the Prime Minister thought its proper resting place on the 13th February. The hon. Member went on to show all the blots and blemishes of the plan of the Opposition, and to extol the virtues of the Government plan; but he had not succeeded in either attempt. The Prime Minister last night had claimed to himself the right of giving no answer to the arguments of the Opposition on the ground that he had already argued in detail on all those three alternatives. Now, he (Mr. Wyndham) had shown that the Prime Minister did, in introducing the Bill, contemplate the alternatives of retention or exclusion; and that, in so-doing, he did not shut the door on exclusion, but left it distinctly open, so that it was in the power of the House to deal with this matter without killing the Bill and without coining into direct collision with the broad lines laid down by the author of the Bill at the date of its introduction. It was within the competence of the House now, at the eleventh hour, to declare for exclusion. Let that be perfectly plain. Then the right hon. Gentleman went on, as he had said last, night, to give strong reasons against the next two alternatives—retention with full powers and retention with limited powers. The right hon. Gentleman had not given, so far as he (Mr. Wyndham) could call to mind, one single reason in favour of the plan of retention with full powers now standing in the Bill. He had refreshed his memory on the point, and found that, as a matter of fact, the right hon. Gentleman did not put forward in his introductory speech one single reason in favour of that plan. What the right hon. Gentleman did was this. When discussing that alternative, he gave two reasons against the alternative of re- 1677 tention with limited powers. In the first place, the difficulty of distinguishing between Irish and Imperial affairs; and, in the second place, the inconvenience of having two classes of Members in the House—some with full voting powers, and others with limited powers. But going on to give his reasons against retention with full powers—that was, against the plan in the Bill—the right hon. Gentleman said he attached very little importance to the first of these difficulties, because, though it was not easy to decide actually between Irish and Imperial affairs, there would be no difficulty in coming to a practical conclusion. That was an argument that must commend itself to the hon. Member who had just addressed the House. In the second place, the right hon. Gentleman attacked retention with full powers on the ground that it would be an anomaly; and, in the third place, he attacked it in unmeasured terms because it would lead to outrage within the walls of this Chamber. He had said that they should not, with their eyes open, deliberately leave a strong temptation to intrigue—wholesale and dangerous political intrigue. Therefore, to sum up, the Prime Minister, in giving his reasons in favour of these two alternatives, had disparaged one slightly, and had brought what he called strong, powerful arguments against the other, which he now advocated. But that very disparagement of the plan which had stood in the Bill—namely, of retention with limited powers—must be carried over to the discredit of the plan which now stood in the Bill. If, in spite of his disparagement, the Prime Minister decided upon retention with limited powers, it showed that he viewed the plan now advocated as carrying with it greater blemishes and blots. If a man, in choosing between two horses, deliberately and with his eyes open bought the one with broken knees, what a sorry jade the other must have been! But this was the case with these two plans of retention. The Prime Minister had deliberately chosen one which had obvious defects. According to the plan chosen, they would have 80 Members in the House without any responsibility to the electors of this country. He said, without hesitation, that the presence of such Members was as inimical to the theory of representative 1678 institutions as if they had been nominated by the Crown or by the House of Lords. It was held that the men who sat in this House to discuss the affairs of Great Britain should represent British men having a deep stake in those affairs; but they were now to have 80 nominated Members, only comparable to the King's men who deformed the political history of this country in the reign of George III. How was this monstrous innovation to be brought about? By what power and leverage was the Prime Minister endeavouring to force it against the will of the English House of Commons? The right hon. Gentleman had said that he was obeying the majority of the House. He had discovered that there was a majority of his own Party in favour of the last-adopted plan; and he had bound the minority of his Party to support the majority, and, advancing with closed forces, he overrode the whole Opposition. But the fact was that the minority of his own Party, together with the Opposition, constituted a majority of the House. The plan was repugnant to the House, and it had never received the sanction of the country; but that was less to be regretted, since they knew that it never would receive that assent.
§ MR. RATHBONE (Carnarvonshire, Arfon)
said, that he was not going to detain the House long, nor should he repeat the grounds on which he argued that the retention of the Irish Members on purely British questions would be fatal to the Bill before the constituencies of the United Kingdom and utterly ruinous to all chance of success to Home Rule in Ireland. He maintained those opinions still; but, on the other hand, when the Irish Parliament were debarred from dealing with all the important subjects contained in Clauses 3 and 4 of this Bill, be did not see how that House could consistently or equitably, except with their own consent, and for a very limited period, exclude the Irish Members from being present when those questions which it had been provided could be only dealt with by the Imperial Parliament were discussed. Nor did he consider that it would be desirable that this should be done. For instance, religion and education were both among the reserved questions, and he hold that on both of those questions it was desirable that the minority in all the four 1679 nationalities should have the protection of the control of the Imperial Parliament. He regretted extremely that the Opposition should have so dealt with this Bill as almost to force, by Second Heading speeches on every detail, the majority into the position in which it was impossible to consider the merits of each question as it was brought before them unless at the risk of being unable to pass any measure whatever in any Session of Parliament. On the other hand, he could not but deeply regret that the great statesman of whom he had been and was one of the oldest and most attached followers should not have acted upon his own judgment and produced a Bill carefully and very strictly guarded, and have accepted every provision which Democratic Governments of the United States and our Colonies had found necessary to adopt. Such a Bill would have been accepted by the Liberal Party, and must have been accepted by the Irish Party if they wished to have Home Rule in the next 10 years. He would go further, and say that the very able men who led the Irish Party would have realised that such a carefully-guarded Bill would have been their best protection against unreasonable and impossible demands, and have started Home Rule in Ireland with the best possible chance of success; while, after a fixed period, for which the financial arrangements between the Irish and Imperial Parliament might have been agreed upon, if it was found that further powers were required, they might safely have been granted when the Irish Legislature had settled down to its work, and the Irish people had realised what was possible, and still more what was impossible, for an Irish Legislature to do. He was unable to move the clause by which he showed how this proceeding might practically be carried out. By it the Irish Members might have been attending to their own affairs, and we to ours, during the greater part of the Session; and if they combined with the minority of the British Parliament to extort some advantage to Ireland by outvoting the majority in the British Parliament, the Ministry would simply accept the decision on the question before the House, but would not allow the Irish majority to oust the Ministry supported by the British majority, except on some great question of peace and war which 1680 was bonâ fide an Imperial one, and was dealt with as such. The British Government would have had no power to displace the Irish Ministry, nor ought the Irish Members to have the power to displace the British Ministry. The system would have its difficulties, no doubt, and we should have to adapt ourselves to it; but it would have nothing like the difficulties of any other alternatives.
§ MR. J. WILSON (Lanark, Govan)
said, he rose as a Scotch Member to thank the Government for the position they had taken up in this matter of the retention of the Irish Members in the Imperial Parliament. They had heard a great deal said pro and con in reference to this matter, but one thing which struck him very forcibly was that in 1886 the Party opposite had insisted upon the retention of the Irish Members, and now they had turned round and found fault with the Government for having given effect, partly through their persuasion and partly through the persuasion of hon. Members sitting behind the Front Ministerial Bench, to that plan? He failed to see why Irish Members who came to the House should be turned out when any Division was taking place on any matter outside the Government of Ireland. He held that they should have Irishmen within the walls of the Imperial Parliament as a binding link in the loyalty to the Queen and the United Kingdom. As a Scotch Member, he considered that it would fare very badly indeed with the smaller nationalities in the United Kingdom if the Irish Members were to be excluded from the precincts of the House. They all knew that when the Scotch Local Government Bill was passing through the House three years ago the Amendments supported by nearly all the Scotch Members were defeated by the English vote. Under these circumstances, he held that if the Irish Members were excluded from the House the Scotch Members would be entirely under the thumb of the dominant English Party. He was afraid that his hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. R. Wallace) was very much isolated from the rest of the Scotch Members on this subject. He (Mr. Wilson) knew that one Member of the House who was allied with the Opposition on the question had stated to his constituents that if the 1681 Government were in favour of retaining the Irish Members in Parliament, he would vote with them. He was not aware that that hon. Member had yet voted in favour of the Bill, and he should watch with much interest to see how he voted when they came to the crucial point. [Cries of "Name!"] He trusted that the object-lesson which Scotch Members had received would bind them together in support of the Government and in the desire to see Irishmen not only continuing to sit in the Imperial Parliament, but taking a practical part in all that concerned the Empire.
THE MARQUESS OF CARMARTHEN (Lambeth, Brixton)
said, be had observed that when the hon. Member (Mr. J. Wilson) began his speech by thanking the Government for retaining the Irish Members in the Imperial Parliament, right hon. Gentlemen opposite cheered him with considerable emphasis, but that the cheers diminished as the hon. Member wont on. This was not to be wondered at, because the hon. Member had at last let the cat out of the bag. He had admitted that he wanted to retain the Irish Members at Westminster because he wanted them to assist in passing radical legislation for Scotland. He (the Marquess of Carmarthen) did not care whether the Irish Members would in the future vote Conservative or Radical, but he felt bound to protest in the most emphatic way against the proposal that they should not only manage their own affairs, but at the same time be able to interfere in English affairs. Would the hon. Member who had spoken in support of the Government be prepared to leave the decision on any one of the English Rills the Government had introduced solely to the English Members? Would he be willing to leave the question of local veto for Great Britain solely to the English and Scotch Members? He (the Marquess of Carmarthen) knew it was very dangerous to make a definite statement beforehand; but he, for one, would be glad, if they wore to have Home Rule at all, that it should be Home Rule all round. He would leave Welshmen to manage Welsh affairs, Scotch men to manage Scotch affairs, and Englishmen to manage English affairs. Of course, he would infinitely prefer to maintain the 1682 present state of things; but if Ireland was to have the control of her own local affairs, England ought to have the management of her local affairs. The Prime Minister said last night that the Government did not feel compelled to go over all the arguments which had been used again and again in Committee on this question. The right hon. Gentleman ought to remember that only 24 hours' notice was given of the change of front of the Government on the question, and that there were only six hours of Parliamentary time during which it was possible to discuss the present proposal in Committee. Under these circumstances, nobody could complain of the English Members discussing a matter which was of the most supreme and vital importance to their constituents. The right hon. Gentleman was grateful for the compliments that he said had been paid to the Bill of 1886. The right hon. Gentleman must be thankful for small mercies, because those compliments were of a very left-handed character. The Unionists thought both Bills execrable, but they were of opinion that the measure of 1886 was not so bad as that now before the House. Then the right hon. Gentleman said that the discussions had been frivolous and unnecessarily prolonged, but he would remind him that the object of most of the Amendments moved in Committee had been to incorporate safeguards into the Bill. The fact remained that, of the 365 lines of the Bill that had been discussed, very nearly half had been amended. Last night the House was let into what he might almost call a State secret, and the curtain was drawn aside from the inner life of the Radical Party. The Prime Minister told the House that, by means well-known to everyone, he had been able to find out that the gentlemen who supported him were in favour of the omnes omnia, principle. He went on to say that the Members who were opposed to that principle might be counted on the fingers of one hand. He (the Marquess of Carmarthen) believed that one could count on the lingers of both bands those Members who told their constituents at the last election that the Irish were not only to have a Parliament of their own, but were to have control over purely English and Scotch affairs. It was clear that the 1683 Irish Members were to have exceptional privileges. On the First Heading of the Bill the hon. Member for North Kerry (Mr. Sexton) said that if the veto were used in a frivolous or vexatious manner the unique position occupied by Ireland of having a Parliament of its own, and representation at Westminster in addition, would not be without its effect. That showed that exceptional privileges were being bestowed upon the Irish Members. It was quite true that the Prime Minister had never made this one of the five essential conditions. Indeed he had never, on this occasion, led the House, or even led the opinion, of his own supporters. He had adopted the policy of Mr. Micawber, and had all along been "waiting for something to turn up. "One of the five essential conditions, however, laid down by the right hon. Gentleman was that there should be political equality. Could anyone maintain for a moment that there would be any political equality under the present scheme? It would be a complete revolution in Parliamentary history to exclude British Members from taking a share in the settlement of Irish affairs, and at the same time to give Irish Members the power which the Government now proposed to confer upon them.
§ * VISCOUNT WOLMER (Edinburgh, W.)
said, the Prime Minister, when addressing the House on the previous day, endeavoured to explain that he had not in any material sense departed from the position he took up at Manchester in 1886 in the words quoted by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham. The right hon. Gentleman, in fact, said he had deviated but very slightly from the position of 1886, and that he only accepted the present form of Clause 9 as the clearly-expressed will of the House of Commons. Now, with all due respect for the right hon. Gentleman, he submitted that that was an inadequate explanation of the change of front he had executed, because no later than the 30th June last the Prime Minister, interrupting some remarks which he was venturing to address to the House, said—" I have stated that we do not intend to propose any alteration in Clause 9. "Was that consistent with what the Prime Minister did on the 12th July, when he proposed a fundamental change 1684 in the clause? The Prime Minister had attacked the hon. Member for South Antrim (Mr. Macartney) for what he called his Separatism, because he declared that the British Members collectively, and the Scotch and English Members respectively, were entitled to be heard on this matter. But surely such an accusation against them, when they were simply maintaining the rights of British Members, was pure cant? They never raised the question of a separate nationality—it was forced upon them by the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister and his friends; they had had it repeated to them ad nauseam; and the solo foundation for the Bill now before the House was the consideration of the wishes of the Irish people, separate and distinct from those of the British people. They, as Members of the House, were bound to stand up for the rights of their constituents, and on a question of nationality they had as much title to be heard as the Irish Members, who were really the advocates of Separatism. The hon. Member for South Edinburgh, in the very able speech he had delivered that afternoon, gave the reasons why he rejoiced at the change of front on the part of the Government. He began by expressing a doubt whether the majority of the British Members were really in favour of the exclusion of the Irish Members—meaning, of course, exclusion as contrasted with the present form of the Bill. But the hon. Member could not entertain any doubt on that point, unless he believed that the votes given by the Opposition were intended solely to damage the Bill. Of course, they did desire to damage the Bill; but the point he wished to insist on was that, intolerable as they admitted would be the total exclusion of the Irish Members, it would be less intolerable than their inclusion for all British purposes. The hon. Member for South Edinburgh (Mr. Paul) went on to say that if they had retained the Irish Members for Imperial purposes only they would, practically, have retained them for all purposes, as the greater included the less. On that he joined issue with his hon. Friend. He denied that in this case the greater included the less, because the less was of not less importance than the greater. Did it make no difference to England that the Government in 1685 power should be enabled to pass legislation contrary to the wishes of the English Members simply because they had at their back the Irish vote? Was there not an enormous and complete difference between government in Imperial affairs, and the administration of English and Scotch affairs, and was it reasonable to give the Irish Members the privilege of legislating on purely English and Scotch subjects entirely contrary to the wishes of the English and Scotch Members? The hon. Member pointed out that Irish Members at the present time cast their votes upon purely English affairs; and he asked what less sense of responsibility they would be under when Home Rule was an accomplished fact than they were already under? To that he had a complete answer. At the present time the Irish Members joined with the Scotch and English Members in voting the appropriation of Supply, and they also voted the Irish Supplies; but when the Home Rule Bill became law no Scotch or English Member would be able to give a single vote on the appropriation of a single sixpence devoted to purely Irish purposes, yet the Irish Member would be able, practically, to give a casting vote on the appropriation of the taxes paid by the English and Scotch taxpayers. The hon. Gentleman asked whether, seeing that they were such strong advocates of the principle that the English people should have a controlling voice over purely English affairs, they would be prepared to give the Welsh people Church Disestablishment because the majority of the people of Wales desired it? The question was a fair one, and his answer to it was that if the Home Rule Bill passed the Federal system would be sure to come—as had been stated by the hon. Member for Dumfries—and in that case the Welsh Members would have the control of Welsh Business. But would the hon. Member for South Edinburgh pledge himself never to vote for the Disestablishment of the Church in England unless a majority of English Members were returned in favour of it? If he were not prepared to give that pledge, then there was no consistency in his argument. The Prime Minister, in his concluding remarks, told the House that the Election of 1892 was carried on with full knowledge on the 1686 part of the electorate that the Government would propose the inclusion of the Irish Members, the only question being how best the inclusion could be given effect to while the Chancellor of the Exchequer, with a magnificent sweep of his arm, had told them that on this point the English and Scotch Members would under the Bill be no worse off than they now were. It was an insult to the House of Commons and to the electorate of the country to pretend that there was any similarity between affairs now and as they would be under the Bill. When a man left a partnership in order to start business on his own account, he had no right to claim a controlling voice over his late partners' finances, or a decisive voice in the management of their business. Yet that was the power it was proposed to give the Irish Members. If the Prime Minister pretended that the electors of the country had some sort of mysterious inkling during the last General Election of what was meant by the inclusion of the Irish Members, he was weaving around himself a web of deception which could only be severed at the next General Election. Could it be pretended that hon. Members who supported the right hon. Gentleman told their constituents that what they meant by Home Rule was that they should cease to have any control over Irish local affairs, but that the Irish Members should come to the House of Commons and have the power to make laws against the wish of the majority of the English people? No more preposterous proposal had ever been made since the House of Commons existed—that the Irish Members, having got Home Rule themselves, should come there and, it might be, turn a minority of English public opinion into a majority on the floor of the House; that they could force on England, it might be against the wishes of a majority of the English people, the Disestablishment of the English Church, and that they could force on the Scotch people the question of a Roman Catholic endowment which would be quite repellant to a majority of the Scotch people. If this proposal were carried, it would raise a resentment in Great Britain against the Irish which would be a great calamity to the interests of the United Kingdom, and the Government could never stand against the up- 1687 heaval of popular indignation, which would speedily sweep away the rotten structure founded on this Bill. This Bill was said to do away with the old landlord and British ascendency in Ireland. Clause 9 established an Irish ascendency in England. They had been told that Ireland's wrong for centuries had been the establishment within her borders of a garrison of Englishmen. This Bill established a garrison of Irishmen in England and Scotland. A greater wrong was never offered to a free people, nor would any free people be more quick to resent so great a wrong. They were told by the supporters of the Bill that this was only a temporary arrangement. They knew the temporary arrangements in that House generally lasted for a few generations. But whether temporary or not, it was a wrong under which the British people would never sit down quietly. Such an arrangement, it was also said, would inevitably lead to a Federal system. Whether or not the people of this country wanted a Federal system was a fair question for argument; but to commit them to a system which might not suit them, without consulting them and without educating them, was simply to play ducks and drakes with the fortunes of the British Empire.
§ * MR. A. H. SMITH (Christchurch)
said, be thought it would be agreed by everybody that the question now before the House was one of the most important contained in the Bill. He regarded it as the keystone of the whole structure, because it vitally affected the future efficiency of the, British House of Commons; and, as an English Member, he felt bound to look after British interests. During the Debate on the Second Reading of the Bill he had ventured to point out that, in his opinion, it was the duty of the Government to state their policy with regard to this 9th clause before asking the House to pass into law the previous clauses of the Bill; and he had asserted that the Government had treated the House most unfairly by pursuing a policy of concealment. In framing a new Constitution for Ireland two courses were open—either to give Ireland some form of Local Government and retain the Irish Members in that House, or else to give Ireland some form of Home Rule and exclude the Irish Members from that House. The hon. and learned Member 1688 for Dumfries (Mr. R. T. Reid) had said that if they made the Irish contribute towards Imperial expenses the Irish Members ought to be retained. It appeared to him that that was a strong argument in favour of giving the Irish people some form of Local Government and against giving them any form of Home Rule. If Ireland were put in the position of a self-governing colony she would certainly be right in claiming the same freedom and exemption from Imperial taxation which the Colonies now enjoy. But that was not the policy to which the electors assented at the late General Election, and he thought that even the minority of English electors who had supported the Prime Minister at that Election would never consent to such a policy as that. He would not attempt to draw a distinction between Home Rule and Local Government for Ireland; but it appeared to him that if the Bill became law, and the Irish had—to take one instance—complete control of their own Executive, their Representatives would have no right to be retained in this House. The Prime Minister had at different times presented three plans to settle this question. The first was the plan which the right hon. Gentleman proposed in 1886—the total exclusion of the Irish Members. The position of the Unionist Party with regard to that proposal was clear. They objected to the principle of Home Rule altogether; but if Home Rule were to be forced upon them, they said that total exclusion was the only consistent and logical plan. Then, on the introduction of the present Bill, the Prime Minister proposed his second plan, which was generally known as the in-and-out plan. He had always considered that as the most impossible and the most absurd of all the proposals, and it appeared that that view was shared by a large number of Liberal Members. It was now abandoned; but if had been adopted, it would have involved the readjustment of their Ministerial system, which most of them, except the hon. and learned Member for Dumfries, thought ought to be maintained. The Government, having found that even the most patient and subservient of their followers were unable to swallow the in-and-out plan, had been driven to adopt the plan of retaining 80 Irish Members 1689 for all purposes, and they had been enabled, by herculean efforts, to carry the proposal through Committee. Whether that plan would be endorsed by the country remained to be seen; but he was inclined to agree with the hon. and learned Member for Dumfries that those who had induced the Government to change had done considerable injury to the cause of Home Rule in Great Britain, an injury which the Unionist party, of course, had no reason to regret. He did not think he could put the case against the present plan of the Government more strongly than by quoting an extract from the article contributed by the hon. and learned Member for Dumfries to The Contemporary Review of April, 1892—Imagine a Parliament assembled in Dublin for Irish business, and Irish Members in number proportioned to population—say 75—still summoned to Westminster, with power, as now to vote upon all occasions. Quite right where foreign or other common business of the United Kingdom is concerned; quite wrong where purely English or Scottish affairs. For 75, or a section of 75. Members might easily turn the scale on important Divisions, and daily control our home policy and government with no corresponding control by English and Scottish Members over Irish policy. Illustration gives a clearer impression than argument. Take the case of denominational schools, a subject surrounded by sectarian jealousies in both countries. It would be strange that in Roman Catholic Ireland a settlement should be made without England being able even to whisper a preference, whereas in England, divided between two conflicting Protestant policies, the decision should hinge on Irish Homan Catholic votes.Many would think that even the old system of pocket boroughs was better in theory, and it would be difficult to induce the British electors to agree to retain what had happily been called a phalanx of free lances in the House of Commons. The Government were in a dilemma. By making concessions, first to one section and thou to another section of their supporters, they had evolved a scheme under which neither the "all-out" plan nor the "all-in" plan was consistent or possible. The hon. and learned Member for Dumfries appeared to console himself by saying that the scheme would lead to what was known as Home Rule ail round. But Home Rule all round was not the policy on which the country voted at the General Election. There were two reasons—or, perhaps, you should call them excuses—put forward by the Government in order to commend Home 1690 Rule. One was the pacification and contentment of Ireland, and the other was the relief of Parliament, from the incubus of Irish Business. Now, several most importants parts of the Bill, on which the Government had been pressed very hard, had been made temporary in their character. Some of the most urgent questions with regard to Ireland had been taken out of the consideration of the Irish Parliament for a certain number of years. It appeared to him, therefore, that the scheme of the Government would fulfil neither of these conditions; and he ventured to prophesy with some confidence that even if the scheme was passed through the House of Commons it would receive severe and emphatic condemnation at the hands of the electors of this country.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
said, the greater the experience they had of the Liberal Unionists the more reason they had for admiring the flexibility of their mental structure. He could not help thinking that as he listened to the very interesting and very eloquent speech of the noble Lord the Member for West Edinburgh (Viscount Wolmer), when the first Home Rule Bill was introduced, the great gravamen of the objection of the Liberal Unionists was that it excluded the Irish Members from the House of Commons. [Dissent.] He saw some of the Liberal Unionists shaking their heads. Did those hon. Gentlemen deny for a moment down the country declaring hero, there, and everywhere that they would never vote in favour of a Bill that would utterly disintegrate the Empire by excluding the Irish people entirely from representation in that House?
§ An hon. MEMBER: I never said it.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, the hon. Gentleman denied that he ever said it. That was a peculiarity of the Liberal Unionists. They had in their ranks gentlemen who had never said anything, and when one tried to pin them to a statement up one of them jumped and said, "I never said it. "He agreed with the hon. and learned Member for Dumfries, who had pointed out the objections to the full retention of the Irish Members in the House. But he thought the Liberal Unionists had somewhat exaggerated those objections. In fact, the 1691 noble Lord the Member for West Edinburgh had actually told them that there was not one elector in 1,000,000 who agreed with the Government in the matter.
§ * VISCOUNT WOLMER
What I said was that there was not one elector in 1,000,000 in favour of it at the time of the General Election.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, that he was in favour of it, and as there were 6,000,000 of electors in the country, there were only five other electors, according to the noble Lord, in favour of the present proposal of the Government at the General Election. No one for a moment denied that the objections to the course proposed by the Government which had been best summed up by the hon, and learned Member for Dumfries were strong. The in-and-out system was suggested as an alternative; but there were more organic and fundamental objections to the in-and-out system than there were to the Irish Members sitting in the House for all purposes, because if the Irish Members were to sit there for partial purposes they would have two majorities in the House which would destroy the whole foundation upon which Parliamentary government and Parliamentary control over the Ministry rested. Therefore, they had merely Hobson's choice. They had to accept the idea of the full retention of the Irish Members or the full exclusion of the Irish Members. He did not hesitate to say that he had always been in favour of the exclusion of the Irish Members; and if the Bill were a full measure of Home Rule for Ireland, he would have the greatest pleasure in voting for their exclusion. But he had never heard a single Member of the Opposition explain what was to happen with regard to the land, with regard to taxation, and with regard to the Constabulary, during the period these subjects were retained within the purview of that House. The Irish Legislature would not have the right to legislate upon them; and would it be possible, or would it be reasonable, that they should claim to legislate upon all those essential matters without the presence of one single Irish Member in the House? Therefore, he thought the objections to the exclusion of the Irish Members were far stronger than the objections that could be brought forward 1692 to their full inclusion. They should wait until the end of the probationary period before they could do anything in the direction of excluding the Irish Members. It had been said that the ultimate outcome of the scheme would be Home Ride all round. He had always been in favour of that principle. He believed it would come, and they must wait until full Home Rule was given all round before they settled what would be the ultimate status of the Irish Members in the House. If they got Home Rule all round, then, of course, every component part of the United Kingdom would have its local Legislature, and would send a proportional share of Members to that House to deal with Imperial matters. Liberal Members were told that they voted blindly for everything suggested by the Government. Suppose the Government were right? Were not Liberal Members then right in voting for the Government? But they did not vote blindly. They considered every proposition that was brought forward; they considered the general fact that they wanted to carry a Home Rule Bill, and also the general fact that everybody had his own scheme of Home Rule which he desired to see adopted. There must be a certain measure of give and take if the Bill was to be carried. A great deal had been said by Members of the Opposition about what Ministers and others had said on this subject on previous occasions. What was the good of those recriminations? If he wished, he could begin now and read for a week extracts from diverse excellent and valuable speeches that had been delivered by Conservatives and Unionists advocating the inclusion of the Irish Members. But they should look at the thing as a question of the present moment. He did not see how it would be possible practically to find any other solution of this very difficult question at the present moment, and for that reason he would vote for the scheme of the Government.
§ SIR M. J. STEWART (Kirkcudbright)
said, that what the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) wished to do was to retain the Irish Members there to ride over the Scotch and English Representatives. The old theory of the Constitution was that Members should be returned to parlia- 1693 ment to express the wishes of their constituents; but it was not the theory of the Constitution that Members should be returned from Ireland to the House to over-ride the wishes of British Members in British affairs. Therefore, if the hon. Member for Northampton wished to carry out that conclusion to its just end he would not allow the Irish Members to come there under Home Rule. It was utterly unprecedented to introduce into a Legislative Assembly an extraneous element which had really no right to be there at all. The hon. and learned Member for Dumfries had condemned the inclusion of the Irish Members during the Debates on the Home Rule "Bill of 1886. He would like to ask Scotch Members what they thought their constituents would say to them for voting in favour of the Irish Members coming to the House and taking an active part in Scotch affairs. He dared say that the Prime Minister, who readily jumped to conclusions when it suited himself and his Party, thought he had gauged the Scottish mind, and discovered that it was favourable to the disestablishment of the Church of Scotland, although the question had never been fairly put before the constituencies. The right hon. Gentleman no doubt thought it would be a good thing to get the help of the Irish Members to enable him to carry disestablishment of the Church in Scotland and in Wales; but. If such a, thing were attempted, he believed the Scottish people would rise up against their present Representatives if the issue was not fairly put before the electors. It was the undoubted belief of the Prime Minister's followers in Scotland at the last Election that if the Irish Members were retained in that House they would only be returned to vote on Imperial questions. A Government which could suddenly change its mind in 24 hours with regard to one of the most organic matters in the Bill was not to be trusted. Why did the Government not appeal to the country on the question whether the English and Scottish people were to be over-ridden by Irish Members, and were to be taxed by Irish Members, and whether we were to give the Irish Members the sum of £500,000 a year from the Imperial Exchequer? The people of Scotland, he 1694 believed, would not have Irishmen to rule over them. Irish men were not so popular in Scotland as the Prime Minister seemed to think, judging from Midlothian.[Nationalist cries of "Oh, oh! "He was speaking of what he knew, having had a considerable experience in the management of county affairs in Scotland. He knew the Irishmen swelled the rates and filled the prisons, and he knew how heavily the Scottish people were taxed by the presence of Irishmen in the country. Yet they were to pay heavily for the privilege of the Irish Members coming to the House, and having all their own way in Scottish affairs. If they were to have anything in the shape of Home Rule, they must have a Federal system, and they must allow England, Scotland, Ireland each to manage their own affairs. There was a very strong feeling, which was rapidly rising in Scotland, against the policy of the Prime Minister, which he could only describe as an absolute tyranny. A number of the Prime Minister's colleagues, including the right hon. Member for Fife (Mr. Asquith), the Lord Advocate, the Member for South Aberdeenshire (Mr. Bryce), and the Minister for War, all stated, in addressing their constituents, that they would not have Irishmen voting on Scottish questions, and that while they wished to give Ireland a Parliament of its own, they were not going to make the Imperial Parliament a cause of offence to the people of Scotland. The Prime Minister did not consider the opinion of Scotland or the opinion of England in regard to this matter. The right hon. Gentleman would find that the Representatives of Great Britain were against his clause. He would find that the Irish Members, after they had a Parliament of their own, would not be satisfied in this Imperial House, but would continue to have a great many claims to urge, and a great many things to discuss. He did not believe that the Irish Members returned to the House in the future would be the best men that Ireland had, but most likely would be the men who might, be termed "carpet-baggers"—men who merely wanted to make as how in Imperial affairs. Ireland could not afford to send 80 Representatives to the House, and yet keep a sufficient number of her 1695 best men at home to sit in the Irish Parliament. He believed the result would be that they would have a second-class Parliament in Dublin and second-class Representatives in the Imperial Parliament. That would not be a good thing either for Ireland or Scotland. He humbly and sincerely trusted that those Members on the Ministerial side of the House who had carefully considered the question would give a vote in contradiction to the vote they had given on this question the other night.
§ MR. LOUGH (Islington, W.)
said, they had heard a great deal about the opinion of the people of Great Britain being against Home Rule, and he would like to investigate that question for a short time. Wales was almost solid in support of the Government; Scotland returned a majority of two to one in support of the Government; and with respect to five-sixths of England in extent and to three-fourths in population there was not a majority against the Government. It was only in the southeast corner of England, in the eight counties around the Metropolis, that the Unionists obtained their majority. Owing to the congested state of the population, these eight counties returned 130 Members, of whom only 31 were supporters of the Government, leaving a majority to the Opposition of 68. But Home Rule, which was a question of decentralisation, should not be left to be decided by London, which was, of course, opposed to anything being taken from her. He might almost ask that the vote of London be left out. Then the Government would have a majority of 108.
§ MR. LOUGH
As Ireland was also interested in the question, Ireland ought also to be left out of the calculation; and then the Government would have a majority of 50 instead of their present majority of 40. In face of these facts, it must be admitted that the constituencies of Great Britain returned an entirely different verdict from that of the congested districts around London. It was important to remember that the Opposi- 1696 tion previously voted for the retention of the whole 103 Irish Members. [Cries of "No!"] He was aware that they gave a different reason for their vote, but he judged by actions and not by reasons. It was on the Motion of the hon. Member for Waterford to retain 103 for all purposes. [Cries of "No!"] The Chairman ruled that it was so; and it was so, as far as he could make out. Several Unionist Members had Amendments on the Paper to the effect that 80 Irish Members should be retained for all purposes; but when the Prime Minister moved the same Amendment, those gentlemen voted against it. In 1886 the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, speaking on the Home Rule Bill, said that he objected to it, in the first instance, because it terminated the representation of Ireland at Westminster. On the Irish Land Purchase Bill, the right hon. Gentleman said that if the Irish Members were retained at Westminster, the Imperial Parliament would remain the Imperial Parliament, and its supremacy would then be an established fact. Speaking to his constituents a little later, the right hon. Gentleman expressed the same opinions, and subsequently in this House the right hon. Gentleman said that the retention of the Imperial Parliament in its present form and entirety was necessary for the Empire. "We are anxious for the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament." The pith and marrow of all these speeches was the retention of the Irish Members at Westminster in the very way in which the Government proposed to retain them now. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bury had said that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham never brought forward those points in regard to the Irish Members in connection with a fully-equipped Home Rule Bill, but it was a fully-equipped Home Rule Bill in 1886, and it was in connection with that Bill, and when the Bill was on the Table, that the right hon. Gentleman insisted on the point of the retention of the Irish Members in the form now proposed by the Government. The noble Lord the Member for West Edinburgh (Viscount Wolmer) asked whether the Representatives here were to be trampled on by the Representatives of Ireland, and were these 80 Irish Members to be allowed to put their 1697 hands into the pockets of the British taxpayers. There was really no cause for alarm. Out of the 80 Irish Members to be retained 20 would be Unionists, who would pair, leaving a Nationalist majority of 40. It would be 40 in 650, and that was a proportion to the whole House of one to 16; and one Irishman could not trample on 16 Englishmen. There was a point which was not kept in mind when discussing this question, which was: that that House retained the full right to legislate for Ireland; and it would be iniquitous to assume such a right without allowing the representation from Ireland to continue. The course taken by the Government was the only course open to them. The full right of taxation was retained in the Imperial Parliament; and were they going to impose taxation without representation? The full control of taxation and of the land was retained in that House for a term of years. The taxation and the agrarian legislation of the country were the two great avenues by which Ireland had always been oppressed; and if the House retained full powers over these matters it would be a most iniquitous thing to banish the Irish Representatives from its counsels. The hon. and learned Member for Dumfries said he thought the policy adopted by the Government would increase their difficulties at the time of elections. For his part, he (Mr. Lough) was willing to risk those difficulties. He would a thousand times rather go to the country an advocate of the policy of retaining the Irish Members in that House than go and court the fate of 1886, when they tried to banish the Irish Members from the Imperial Parliament. He thought the more fairly anyone considered the facts of the case, the more he would be driven to the conclusion that it would be a great loss to that Assembly in every respect if the Irish Members were banished from it. Certainly the Debates would be much less lively, and the English Members would lose an excellent example of patriotic duty. The more the matter was considered, the more certain did it appear that the Government had adopted the only wise course under the circumstances.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN (Birmingham, W.)
The hon. Member who has just sat down has entirely misappre 1698 hended the arguments in the extracts from my speeches which he has quoted, but I will only notice now the very extraordinary arithmetic of his very extraordinary speech. He appears to have risen in order to prove to the House that the opinion of Great Britain was not only in favour of Home Rule in the abstract, but also of the particular form of Home Rule which is now under consideration; and in order to arrive at that result he requests the House, in the first instance, to eliminate the whole representation of the southern counties of England, including, amongst others, the whole representation of London. This, to my mind, is most self-denying on the part of a Metropolitan Member. I cannot agree with the hon. Member. My view is that, having regard to its position and general importance, London deserves a much larger representation than it has at present. If there is to be any elimination at all, the only part of London I think we can spare is West Islington. In discussing this clause it is very difficult for us to separate the merits of the controversy from the tactics which have been adopted. It is one thing to judge the scheme of the Government, but it is necessary also to consider the strategy by which this scheme has been imposed upon the House of Commons. The Prime Minister, I think, should understand that there is a general sense and feeling in the country, to which I believe they ought in their own interest to give more heed and attention than they have hitherto done; that the Government in regard to this matter have not dealt fairly or frankly with this House or with the country. The right hon. Gentleman, in a Manifesto which he found it necessary to issue in order to soothe certain restless consciences in Scotland, said that the Government desired that nothing should be done in the dark. I do not for a moment say that that was not their desire; but I must say that they have been very unfortunate, because I will undertake to say that until July 13 last—the day when the guillotine fell upon the 9th clause— there was not a soul in the country, and there were few in this House, who had the slightest idea as to the intentions of the Government in regard to this question. What is the cause of this reticence on the part of the Government? Just 1699 let us, in spite of the objections of the hon. Member for West Islington (Mr. Lough) to go into ancient history, look into the history of what the Prime Minister has called an "organic detail," but what I shall call the cardinal feature of the Bill, and which is the one that has been before the public from the moment that the idea of Home Rule was submitted to the country. In 1871 my right hon. Friend denounced the idea of Home Rule, and ever since then throughout his speeches and writings—
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I did not. In 1871 I wrote a letter to Mr. Bright signifying the contrary—that if the supremacy of Parliament were preserved, there was no limit that I would fix in granting local liberty to Ireland.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will allow me to finish my sentence. In 1871 and since, in every speech and in every letter which the right hon. Gentleman has written in which he has referred to the subject of Home Rule, he has always admitted the importance of this question of the retention of the Irish Members and the position of the Irish representation at Westminster. That was what I was going to say, and the interruption of my right hon. Friend does not in the least apply to that statement. But, as my right hon. Friend thinks it desirable to get up and interrupt me, and say that in 1871 he did not denounce Home Rule, I beg to remind him that in 1871, speaking at Aberdeen, he said that to accept Home Rule would be to make ourselves ridiculous—
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
The distinction is important. It was in 1871 that Home Rule, if I remember rightly, instead of being the opinion of Mr. Butt and promulgated with great ability by that gentleman, was adopted by the Irish Nationalist Party.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I really cannot follow the views of my right hon. Friend; I can only follow his speeches. I can only say that I thought it was in 1700 1871—I was speaking from memory, but everyone knows the speech to which I refer. It was delivered in Aberdeen, I and in that speech my right hon. Friend said that we were not going to make ourselves ridiculous in the eyes of the civilised world by establishing a separate Parliament in Dublin. This matter has always been one of the first importance, and whether you call it an organic detail or a cardinal feature it is a question which everyone who considered Home Rule must have had constantly in his mind. Having had it constantly in his mind, the Prime Minister changes his mind about the ridiculous result of Home Rule, and in 1886 he comes down here, and having had this matter in his mind between the whole of this time, he proposes a plan for dealing with the organic detail, and that is the plan for the exclusion of the Irish Members from Westminster. I challenge my right hon. Friend, and I challenge other right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Government Bench, to say that they have not changed their opinions, and that they do not think now that the plan of 1886 would be the best plan if it were possible. I rest there for a moment. The exclusion of the Irish Members from Westminster is, in the opinion of my right hon. Friend and of some of his friends—I do not say of all of them—the best plan for dealing with this organic detail. But the right hon. Gentleman tells us that he has now given this plan up. Why? Not because he himself was convinced that it was wrong, not because he has found a better plan, but because the country was against it. I venture to say that I think he has had insufficient information as to the opinion of the country upon the subject. He himself has told us what that information was. He said he had accepted the view which was presented to him in the speeches of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, and of the Liberal Unionist Party, and in the general indication which he gathered from the opinions of his own supporters. Very well, He gave up his first plan, the one which he himself preferred, but he did so subject to a condition. And now I come to a matter which I must recall to the memory of my right hon. Friend, because I think he is under some misapprehension with regard to it. I 1701 reminded my right hon. Friend that on a previous occasion he had given a distinct pledge with regard to this matter at Manchester. He might have referred to the speech he made then, because my quotation was given three weeks ago. It was not only given in 1886 at Manchester, but was subsequently reprinted in a volume of speeches revised by the right hon. Gentleman himself.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
My right hon. Friend is in too great a hurry. If he would allow me to finish my sentence. They were, as stated in a note, partially revised by him, and revised generally with his authority.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
The right hon. Gentleman says they were revised by me. They were not revised by me. They were revised by a gentleman whom I told to do what he thought best about them, inasmuch as I placed perfect reliance on his honour and intelligence, and asked him to refer to me when he thought it necessary. That is totally different to the right hon. Gentleman's statement.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I do not see that that throws the slightest light upon the matter. Does the right hon. Gentleman disown the correctness of the quotation? I will read it to him—I will not be a party to giving to Ireland a Legislative Body to manage Irish concerns and at the same time to having Irish Members in London acting and voting on English and scotch business.That was the statement of my right hon. Friend, and there is absolutely no qualification of that statement throughout that speech. What was the explanation which my right hon. Friend made yesterday? He said—The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham quoted from a speech of mine to the effect that I would not consent to Irish Members, who had received the power of managing their own affairs, voting in this House on questions affecting British interests. Undoubtedly I did speak strongly against what 1702 appeared to me to be a most formidable difficulty attending the retention of the Irish Members. And then I am taunted with having deviated so much from my original purpose. I have deviated from it to this extent alone. Nothing would have induced me to endeavour to force upon the British people and the Imperial Parliament the retention of the Irish Members with an unlimited vote. We accepted that from the House of Commons, as we accepted the retention of the Irish Members from the country.My right hon. Friend thus alleges that he has not forced the present, scheme upon, or, I suppose, even suggested it, to the House of Commons, and that the House of Commons has forced it upon him. He throws the whole responsibility upon the House of Commons.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I have no charge to make against my right hon. Friend. All that I wish to say is that, whilst I do not dissent, because my memory does not authorise me to dissent, from the quotation which he has made, I will not be bound by the construction which he puts upon the quotation.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
Then I must ask the House to put a construction upon these words. I say that it is upon the House of Commons, according to the right hon. Gentleman, and not upon the Government that the responsibility rests.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
That I dispute; and I object to the proceeding of my right hon. Friend in forcing into my mouth the words that proceed from his. I threw no responsibility upon the House of Commons. We are exclusively responsible for that acceptance.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
The right hon. Gentleman, as I shall show very shortly by other references, would certainly not, of his own free will and desire, have forced upon or suggested to the House of Commons a course of proceeding which he himself regards as the third best in the series of three alternatives. Certainly he would, if he had had the power, have selected the best of the three alternatives and not the worst. But he said we "accept it from the House of Commons"; therefore, whatever may be the feeling of my right hon. Friend, I say that if that statement is correct the responsibility does rest with the House of Commons. But 1703 that statement by my right hon. Friend does not answer the appeal which I made on a previous occasion. What I stated was that he had given the country a distinct pledge that he would not be a party to a particular course. If he had said, "I shall unwillingly consent to this course," he would undoubtedly have been within his right in accepting it unwillingly from the House of Commons when the House of Commons forced it upon him. But that was not what he said. He said, "I will not be a party" to the course in question. Grant, for the sake of argument, that the House of Commons has forced this proposal upon the Government; grant, for the sake of argument, that the majority in this House are distinctly in favour of the proposal as it stands before us; still, I say that the right hon. Gentleman is bound by his own words to tell the House of Commons, and tell the majority, "You do what you like upon your own responsibility; but I have declared that I will not be a party to this course." The Government, however, having abandoned their proposal for the exclusion of the Irish Members, and having pledged themselves to the country that they would have nothing to do with the retention of those Members for all purposes, come down to the House with what I may call their second best plan —namely, the "in-and-out" plan. So far I have no complaint to make, because, although I do not think that that plan would have successfully accomplished what they desire, still clearly it was an honest attempt to carry out what the right hon. Gentleman once said it passed the wit of man to accomplish, but what we believed he had subsequently been able to secure, because the right hon. Gentleman, having said he would not be a party to having the Irish here, we took it for granted, when he proposed the second best plan, that he thought at any rate it would fairly, successfully, and substantially achieve the result which he had admitted to be desirable. What was the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman when he introduced that clause only a few weeks ago? He has told us in the Manifesto, to which I have already referred, that the Government were unwilling to admit that the Irish had the semblance of a claim to 1704 share in British affairs. Therefore, down to the time when the "in-and-out" clause was introduced, the Government were still of opinion that hon. Members below the Gangway opposite had not a shadow of a claim to share in British affairs. Under these circumstances, all that we did was to ask the right hon. Gentleman to be good enough to tell us whether he intended to adhere to the clause. We were prepared to show that in some respects it would fail to carry out the avowed intentions of the Government, and, of course, if we were able to show that, we supposed that the Government would be willing to accept Amendments in accordance with their own promises. All we asked that we should be allowed to know was whether the Government intended to propose the clause and stick to the clause. Well, Sir, we did not get a very satisfactory reply, but we did get this: We got the assurance that the Government intended to propose the clause, and that they saw no reason for departing from that clause. We got a further assurance on June 30, when the right hon. Gentleman said to my noble Friend the Member for Edinburgh—I have stated that we do not intend to propose any alteration in Clause 9.Now, the House will see that the Government by the mouth of the right hon. Gentleman is pledged, in the first instance, not to allow Irishmen to share in British affairs. They are told by the right hon. Gentleman, up to the introduction of the "in-and-out" clause, that they do not allow Irish Members to have the semblance of a claim to share in British affairs. The Government intend to propose a clause to give effect to their pledge; they tell us again and again they will propose it; they say they will not depart from it, and that they do not intend to propose any alteration. Well, Sir, have we not a right to assume, under these circumstances, that whatever might be the action of the House of Commons, the Government would propose their clause on the terms in which it appeared upon the Paper and use their best endeavours to secure its passage? and having done so, if a vote had been taken, and they had been defeated, I 1705 admit, under these circumstances, they possibly might have yielded to force majeure. I do not think it will be disputed that it was impossible for any one who was not in the secret—I do not know how many were in the secret—to know until July 12, on the eve of the day when the guillotine was to descend, that the Government intended a radical alteration in their own proposal. Then at the very last moment the clause, after having served the purposes of the Government through the First Reading and the Second Reading, and all the earlier stages of the Bill, was suddenly withdrawn. The mask was removed, and the real and last intentions of the Government were for the first time disclosed. And now we find that the Government are finally committed to the third of the three alternatives—the alternative which, by their own confession, is the worst of the three. Whilst this process of changes was going on, why on earth was not the House taken into the confidence of the Government? Why were we not to know what the view of the Government was with regard to this clause? My right hon. Friend told me on Friday that he knew what my purpose was, and that he intended to defeat it. Of course, I admit that it is legitimate to defeat the purpose of an opponent, but is it legitimate to defeat the purpose of an opponent by such means? Is it legitimate to use language which will be certain to deceive the opponent? Grant for the moment that opponents are deserving of no mercy, and are entitled to no faith, what about the supporters of the Government, what about the country? Was it right that they should be kept in the dark? Was it right that they should be deceived up to the last moment as to the intentions of the Government? I think we have great reason to complain, not merely of the clause, but of the way in which it has been introduced. Now I propose to examine the reasons given for the adoption of this worst of the three alternatives which suggested themselves to the mind of the Government. It is said that it has been accepted from the House of Commons. Well, is the House of Commons in favour of this clause? Do the Government doubt for a moment that if they had adhered to the original clause they would 1706 have obtained a majority upon it? Have they less reason to suppose that hon. Members who followed them in 1886 when they were in favour of exclusion, and also in 1893 when they introduced the in-and-out clause, and who have followed them since when they have abandoned the exclusion of the Irish Members, can they have the slightest doubt they would have followed them still with the same loyalty which has always distinguished them, with the same readiness to accept anything which the Government are pleased to offer them? The argument of the right hon. Gentleman is that the majority of the House of Commons, induced by his own action, accepted the alteration; but is it pretended in these circumstances that the acceptance by the House of Commons justifies the Government in breaking their pledges? The Government did not always say that they were prepared to accept the opinion of the House of Commons. The hon. Member for South Antrim (Mr. Macartney) yesterday interrupted the Prime Minister when he was speaking of this, and said that the British majority was against him. My right hon. Friend came down upon the hon. Member for South Antrim and accused him of being a Separatist because he was separating the British majority from the majority of the United Kingdom in the House of Commons. Who taught us to do that? Are we to be blamed for placing confidence in the statement of my right hon. Friend? I quoted from the utterances of my right hon. Friend on a previous occasion, and I am prepared to repeat the quotations now—the first from a speech in Wales, which was the foundation of the whole subsequent controversy, giving up the idea of the fixed conclusion that the Irish Members must be excluded. I quoted also from a speech at the National Liberal Club, and in both of those speeches the Prime Minister said it was the British majority which alone had a right to settle this question. Upon that theory of my right hon. Friend, which I think is easy to be justified in a matter of this kind, undoubtedly the greater country has a right to put its veto on a proposal which most seriously concerns its own interests. If, therefore, we take the question of the British 1707 majority, there is no doubt whatever that the British majority in this House, to the extent of 29 or 30, is decidedly against the proposals of my right hon. Friend. He has apparently decided, however, to go from what we understood to be a promise, and we are now face to face with the third of these proposals. It is not necessary to dwell at any length on the merits of this proposal. It has been demolished by the Government themselves. They have hardly said one word in favour of it, and in the Manifesto of my right hon. Friend I find nothing but excuses and this pretence that it has been forced upon them by the House of Commons, but not a word in favour of it as a real practical working scheme. The Chancellor of the Exchequer is only bolder than the rest of his colleagues, and he has defended the scheme. But my right hon. Friend's defence was that, at all events, it was no worse to have the Irish Members here under the Home Rule Bill than it was at present. The two things are totally different. With interests as widely scattered as our own, we should have here a delegation of Irish Members sent here with no interest in our proceedings, and intending only to use their influence in order to secure special concessions to themselves. Just look for a moment how it will work. Suppose the Government should desire to veto a Bill of the Irish Parliament, and that the Government is dealing at the same time with a Bill on eight hours, or a Bill for local veto. The Irish Members have no interest in either the Local Veto Bill, which concerns Great Britain, or with the Eight Hours Bill, which does not concern Ireland. It is a mere toss-up whether they vote on one side or the other; but if the existence of the Government depends on this Bill is it not certain, according to whether the Government are favourable or unfavourable to the views of the Irish Parliament, that the Irish delegates will vote?
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
It is not the same now; one has to find intelligence for some hon. Members. If Irish Members use their power now in that way we know perfectly well that we can retaliate, but 1708 we shall have no power of retaliation under this Bill. [MR. BYLES again dissented.] I advise the hon. Member to study the speeches of the Chief Secretary. There he will find all this argument put better than I can put it, and, perhaps, as it comes from a friend, it will carry conviction to the mind and open the ideas of the hon. Member. But I will not depend entirely on the Chief Secretary. What do the Irish Members themselves say about it? Here is a quotation from the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon). It is from The Freeman's Journal, March 9, 1893, and the hon. Member was addressing a meeting of his supporters—The Bill of 1886 gives no representation at Westminster, and if the British Ministry had chosen to advise the Crown to use the veto and the Crown had acted on that advice, Ireland had no power to express her discontent. Now, however, under the present measure, the veto of the Crown might stop a Bill for a time, but there is nothing to prevent the Irish Legislature from passing it again and again, and in the meantime the Irish Members in the Imperial Parliament will be more in evidence than before, and justice would be done.I think that is a perfectly reasonable view of the hon. Member, and I quote it to show, whether you look to the Benches opposite or to the supporters of the Government, you will find a concurrence of opinion that by this arrangement the Irish will have an influence at Westminster which they will be entitled to use for their own affairs. Take one other illustration of a different character. I have taken the case where we might be discussing legislation in which the Irish Members had practically no interest. But suppose that we were discussing a question of denominational education. Upon that subject there is no doubt that the majority of Great Britain holds opinions different from the majority in Ireland. We can easily imagine that a certain amount of influence might be brought to bear from a certain quarter on the Irish delegation to take part in our discussions and to impose their views upon the House of Commons. In that way, while we should be deprived of the slightest voice in any question affecting education in Ireland, our whole system of education here might be vitally altered by the votes of the Irish Mem- 1709 bers. What is the answer which the Government attempts to make to these objections? In one of the arguments put forward by the Manifesto the Prime Minister says that he does not believe the Irishmen will come here permanently. I do not believe that they will; but they will come whenever they can do most mischief; they will only come when they have an object to serve. They will have no interest in our proceedings except so far as they indirectly affect their own proceedings, and they will not come until summoned or sent with the particular object of bringing pressure to bear on the House of Commons and the Government. We are told that if they do come they will not have the same motive for interference as now, because they will have obtained the object on which they had set their hearts —national independence. I do not know that any of them would say that they had gained the full object of their heart's desire, or that they will be satisfied with the Bill as it is likely to leave the House of Commons; but, putting that aside, there is one question which the Government propose to leave in a transitional situation, and that is the question of the contribution from Ireland. Is it not absurd to suppose that hon. Members from Ireland, so shrewd and able in the defence of their own interests, will discard that shrewdness and ability after the Home Rule Bill is passed, and that they will not use their influence to get better money terms from the British Parliament? They will have a constant reason to come here on every opportunity. Then we are told that the arrangement is to be a temporary one. There might be something in the proposal if this were really a temporary arrangement. [Mr. W. E. GLADSTONE dissented.] I refer the right hon. Gentleman to his own Manifesto, in which there is a passage which points distinctly as a reason for falling in with this arrangement of the Government that it is temporary, and I know it is said that the arrangement is to be "until and unless Parliament otherwise determines." This transitional arrangement is offered to us as a comfort. It might be a comfort if there was a fixed term for this transitional arrangement, say, for six years, and then we should 1710 know that the Irish Members would leave us. But there is to be nothing of the kind; we have got to fight the matter all over again before we can get rid of our friends. What will happen? This arrangement will go on for ever, or until it becomes so intolerable that we shall risk even a civil war rather than continue it any longer. What is the present position? I have pointed out that of the three plans perhaps the first is, in the opinion of the Leaders of the Government, the best of the three. They have only given it up because they know that opinion was against them. My right hon. Friend said that Conservative opinion was against him because he could not recollect that any Conservative had spoken in its favour. Now, at all events, that misunderstanding has been removed. He knows that the whole Conservative Party will vote with him. He thought that the Liberal Unionists would not vote with him, and I confess that the right hon. Gentleman had, perhaps, in that view more reason for his apprehensions. I come now to the quotation made by the hon. Member for West Islington (Mr. Lough). I complain of those quotations as I complain invariably of the quotations of the Chancellor of the Exchequer—that they are, if not garbled, at all events absolutely inadequate and incomplete, and give no idea of the general drift of the argument to which they refer. Take one or two cases referred to by the hon. Member for West Islington. The hon. Member speaks of my speech on the First Reading of the Home Rule Bill. I said then that the retention of the Irish Members was necessary in order to secure the effective supremacy of this Parliament; but in the same speech he will find that I stated two conditions which were necessary—(1) the retention of the Irish Members, and (2) that the Local Body or Bodies to be created in Ireland should be admittedly subordinate. And I am perfectly prepared to grant that, if this Body in Ireland were admittedly and really subordinate, then, as a matter of course, you must retain the Irish Members here. The hon. Member quoted a speech of mine on the Land Purchase Bill in which I repeated the views I had expressed in the preceding speech. I said—"The retention of the 1711 Irish Members will make the supremacy an established fact," and I went on to show that a Legislative Body to be subordinate would be somewhat similar to those National Councils to which reference had been made. Yes, Sir; if you establish in Ireland a National or Provincial Council, or something in the nature of a magnified London County Council, I admit there goes with that the retention of the Irish Members as a matter of course. But we have tried in the course of this Debate to make this Legislature a really subordinate Legislature, and you have refused all our Amendments; and not only that, but you have absolutely refused to call this Legislature subordinate because, you say, that would be an insult to the Irish people. What you have established is a Parliament nominally subordinate, but which will be really co-ordinate, which will struggle until it becomes co-ordinate, as to which hon. Members opposite have said again and again they will not rest satisfied until they have thrown off the interference of the British Parliament at Westminster. In these circumstances, you reduce us to say that, if we are to have a Parliament of that kind, if you are to proceed on the model of a Colonial Legislature, then your own logical course is that you shall exclude the Irish Members. Although it is true that in 1886 we asked for the retention of the Irish Members, it was only because—and there is not a speech I made, or anybody else made, that does not contain this qualification and condition — we contemplated a thoroughly subordinate Legislature. The Chancellor of the Exchequer quoted the other day a letter that I addressed to the hon. Member for North St. Pancras (Mr. T. H. Bolton), in which I said this was a cardinal proposition; but, although he had the letter before him at the time, he deliberately avoided reading the context, which contained the words—In the hope that the changes which would logically follow would be worked out in Committee.Of course, I accepted then, as I have all through, the idea that the retention of the Irish Members was a pledge that the Government were willing at that time— or it was said they were—to withdraw their Bill, and to take advantage of the opportunity to remodel it so as to create 1712 a subordinate and not a co-ordinate Legislature. Under the circumstances it is quite impossible for the Government to throw the responsibility of this proposal upon the House of Commons. If they chose to stick to their own original plan, which they have never denied to be an honest plan, they are absolutely certain of the largest majority they have had since this Bill was introduced. They can carry this proposal by the help of their own majority; they can carry their own proposal by the help of a united majority, which would, I have no doubt, include a large proportion of their own following. If they do not do so, at all events the responsibility rests with themselves. What that responsibility is I will show by a quotation from the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Speaking at Blandford in 1886—
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I do not see that the remark has any relevancy, but since the right hon. Gentleman says it had reference to me, I am reminded that he referred to a speech I had made at Warrington, in which I said I would have nothing to do with Home Rule, and he said these were his opinions. He thanked me and Lord Harrington for having set a noble example which he was proud to follow.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
No. It was in a speech at Plymouth made about the same time; but it was recalled to my mind by the interruption of the right hon. Gentleman. The speech I was going to quote was delivered on September 26, 1885. Referring to a speech which had just been made by the hon. Member for Cork City (Mr. W. O'Brien), he quoted these words from that speech— 1713Mr. Parnell's 80 Members of Parliament would fasten upon the flank of the English Parliament and rankle on them like a spearhead.Commenting upon these words the right hon. Gentleman said—That is what we have to meet, and, if the English Parliament is not to become a helpless tool in the hands of this Party, you must give an overwhelming majority to the only Party which has the courage and the honesty to face them.The situation is the same to-day. Once more we are face to face with the Party of 80, who may rankle like a spear-head in the English Parliament. Now we are prepared to give an overwhelming majority to the Party that will dare to face them. Can it be that the courage and the honesty are wanting?
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
The right hon. Gentleman has invited me to enter into a contest on this subject of consistency. If I were inclined to do that I am afraid I have hardly time. The right hon. Gentleman says that in 1870 the Prime Minister was against Home Rule; but at a much later period, if it were worth while, I could prove that the right hon. Member for West Birmingham was in favour of it. Indeed, he said he was in favour of giving entire autonomy to Ireland, subject to the condition that the authority of the Imperial Parliament should be maintained; and he said it could be maintained only by keeping the full number of the Irish Members at Westminster. That was his statement of the Irish Question in 1886; and he said he only desired to keep the Irish Members at Westminster if this Irish Parliament were subordinate. Well, in regard to the subordination of the Irish Parliament, there is really no difference between the Bill of 1886 and the present Bill. What do you mean by a subordinate Parliament? It is a Parliament whose powers are limited; and the powers of the Irish Parliament are limited by this Bill. You prevent it dealing with Imperial questions, with Foreign affairs, with Colonial affairs, with the Army or the Navy, or with Imperial taxation; and surely a Parliament whose powers are so limited must be subordinate. Therefore, the idea of the right hon. Gentleman is fulfilled in this Bill. In 1714 objecting to the Bill of 1886, the right hon. Gentleman, with astuteness and ability, fixed upon the weakest part of that measure—that which related to the exclusion of the Irish Members. The right hon. Gentleman reproached the Prime Minister with having been against Home Rule in 1870; but the right hon. Gentleman joined the Government of 1886 knowing that the object— [Cheers.] — allow me to finish the sentence—he joined it knowing that the object of that Government was to examine into some plan for the purpose of giving Local Government to Ireland. The Irish Question was undoubtedly the question upon which that Government was formed. He was dissatified, and properly and honourably severed himself from that Government because he was dissatisfied with the conditions which were then laid down for the Irish Government. He accepted, us he said in his letter, the principle of autonomy for Ireland. He did not object—I should be sorry to misrepresent him—he and I have often discussed these matters together, and I think I am presenting a perfectly fair view of his mind and his action on that occasion when I say that he did not object to a plan for giving self-government to Ireland, but he regarded the maintenance of the authority of the Imperial Parliament as a cardinal question. He did not think that that Bill sufficiently guarded the authority of the Imperial Parliament; and, therefore, he severed himself from the Government, and he stated that if what he proposed then was conceded he would vote for the Second Reading of the Bill. And what was that condition? That condition was the withdrawal of the self-same clause for which he is going to vote this afternoon. This is practically and substantially the clause of the Bill of 1886 which he condemned. In his address to his constituents in 1886 after the defeat of the Home Rule Bill, the right hon. Gentleman said that it was proposed that the full and continuous representation of Ireland in the Imperial Parliament should cease. That is what this Amendment proposes; and he said that the effective discussion and supervision of Foreign and Colonial policy now exercised by the Representatives of all parts of the United Kingdom should give 1715 place to some system of occasional and periodical delegation. That is what the Amendment proposes, and those are two things which the right hon. Gentleman then condemned as absolutely fatal to any plan of self-government for Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman said that such an arrangement, while leading inevitably to complete separation, afforded no just hope of meeting the demands of Scotland and Wales for an effective control over their domestic business, coupled with a full place and share in the Imperial system. He was for Federation then, and his objection to the exclusion of Irish Members was founded upon the ground that their removal from Westminster would amount to separation, and would deprive them of that voice in Foreign, Colonial, and Imperial affairs which in his opinion they ought to have. Now, the right hon. Gentleman has appealed to us. He asks me if I have changed my mind on this subject. I have no hesitation in saying that I do believe he there pointed out the greatest defect of that Bill—namely, the exclusion of the Irish Members. In, I think, 1887, the Prime Minister declared, on behalf of the Liberal Party, that he was prepared to alter that provision in the Bill, and this I can honestly say—that in no speech I ever made on the Irish Question since that time have I not put forward my own opinion and belief that the retention of the Irish Members was a thing that ought to be maintained by the Liberal Party in any Home Rule Bill. No one can deny that the opinion in England is in favour of the retention of the Irish Members. That is what I have to say upon that part of the matter. Then the right hon. Gentleman says—"Oh, but you proposed the in-and-out plan." I want the House to consider this: We have nothing to do upon this Amendment with the in-and-out plan. The in-and-out plan was one which was to exclude Irish Members from dealing with matters which were solely British. But we always maintained that in regard to Imperial matters all the matters that are dealt with in Clause 3 from which the Irish Legislature is to be debarred should be voted on in full force by the Irish Members. But your Amendment is to exclude them from Imperial affairs. You who are going to vote for the present 1716 Amendment, as the Conservative and Liberal Unionist Parties are going to declare that, because Ireland is to have the management of her own purely domestic affairs, therefore she is to have no voice whatever, either in Ireland or at Westminster, in the supreme questions upon which the whole of our fortunes are built. I am glad you have presented such an issue as this to the House. We are willing that the country should judge as between you and us. If there are questions which affect your Empire abroad, your Colonies, or India, in these Ireland is to have no voice. You keep the taxation of Ireland; you say you shall make war, and that the war taxes shall be paid in part by Ireland; and in the question as to whether you shall make peace or war Ireland is to have no voice. Is it possible for so monstrous a proposition to be put forward by responsible statesmen? That is really the issue which is put before the House upon this occasion. This point was argued with great force before the country. I remember a gentleman whom my right hon. Friend and I equally respect—Dr. Dale—in the original discussions on these matters, coming to me and saying—"I am a Home Ruler, but the thing I cannot stand is that Ireland should not be heart and part with the United Kingdom, and that she should not share her prosperity and her burdens, and that if a moment of peril arises to the Empire Ireland should not take her full share of it." I confess that argument carried great weight to my mind, for it is only by keeping the Irish Members at Westminster that you can make Ireland heart and part with you—only in that way can she share the fortunes, and, if necessary, partake of the burdens, of the United Kingdom. That is why we have altered the Bill of 1886, and that is why we are prepared to justify the alteration before the country. But then you come to the question of the in-and-out clause. The right hon. Gentleman endeavoured to fix—I thought almost unworthily—some charge of concealment and false dealing upon my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister with reference to that matter; but everybody who remembers the speech on the introduction of the Bill or on the Second Reading of the late Solicitor General 1717 will remember that he charged the Government, upon the speech of the Prime Minister, with not having made up their minds whether they would adopt that plan, or whether they would adopt the plan of the Irish Members being here for all purposes. To say there is anybody in this House or out of it who did not know those two proposals were laid before the House with a view to its being ultimately determined by the House which of them was most acceptable is really endeavouring to fix upon my right hon. Friend a charge of dishonour which is utterly unworthy. My right hon. Friend put these two plans, and argued both before the House. I believe if it had been possible that the Irish Members, while taking full part here in all Imperial affairs, should have not taken part in English domestic affairs, but confined themselves to their own domestic affairs, it might have been a good arrangement; but anybody who knows the House of Commons will easily understand that the practical difficulties which attended that plan were so great that there was a very general and almost universal feeling in this House that it was a plan which it would be difficult, if not impossible, to work. Therefore, the longer the matter was considered, the more it become apparent that leaving the Irish Members here for all purposes was the plan which would be most acceptable to the majority of the House. That is a very plain, but at the same time a very true, statement of the manner in which this question has been dealt with. I do not see anything that the Government or their supporters can reasonably be ashamed of. I say that that question has nothing to do with the present Amendment. The present Amendment does not say the Irish Members shall deal with their own affairs, and shall not deal with British domestic affairs. It says that the Irish Members shall not deal with their own Imperial affairs. That is the point of this Amendment. Every hon. Member who votes for this Amendment does so with the knowledge that he is thereby voting for the principle that because Irish Members are given the right to deal with their own domestic affairs they are to be deprived of all voice in the Imperial affairs of the United Kingdom. That is the principle which has been put forward 1718 by the Unionist Party. That is the policy that the Tory Party and the Liberal Unionist Party are prepared to adopt this afternoon. For my own part, I am ready to take issue with them upon the point. That is not our view of a united Empire. While prepared to delegate to Irish Members, in order to relieve the Imperial Parliament, the management of their own domestic affairs, we claim for them, as we claim for ourselves, that they shall have a full and complete voice in all those Imperial matters which concern them as much as they do us. In our opinion these are the principles most consistent with the dignity and unity of the united Empire. These are the principles we are prepared to affirm, and therefore I am perfectly ready to negative the Amendment.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR (Manchester, E.)
It may have been a matter of surprise why, among the various gentlemen on the Treasury Bench, the Chancellor of the Exchequer was selected to defend the present proposal of the Government, and to attack that which we desire to substitute. One of the ablest, he is not one of the most closely connected with the preparation and the carrying through of this measure. We are naturally surprised that the Chief Secretary did not take this opportunity of expressing his views on the subject. I apprehend that the real reason why the right hon. Gentleman was chosen for this honourable office is that beyond all other men he is able, without turning a hair, to get up in this House, and to denounce as monstrous, iniquitous, and absurd proposals to which he himself has set his hand in previous years—proposals for which he has constantly voted, and by which he has frequently declared that he is prepared to abide. This is a most valuable gift for a Member of the present Administration, who, for one reason or another, have been forced so frequently, and in such humiliating circumstances, to swallow every one of the professions they have made in the face of the country. There are two questions, both of first-rate importance, which are raised by this Amendment. The first is the Parliamentary and public history of the process by which the Go- 1719 vernment were brought to bring forward the proposal to which they now declare they intend to adhere. The second and more important question is the merits of the rival proposals. With regard to the first of those questions, I do not intend to say much on the present occasion, because it has occupied not an undue measure, but a large measure of the speeches that have been made. It has been dealt with very conclusively by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham. No hon. Member who listened to the right hon. Gentleman's speech, or who has present to his mind the sudden change of front that was made by the Government in connection with this proposal on July 12 last, can doubt that a more extraordinary way of leading the House than that adopted by the Government upon one of the most important questions ever submitted to its decision does not exist in our Parliamentary annals. What was the reply of the Chancellor of the Exchequer? The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not attempt one word of reply to the arguments that were urged against the present proposal of the Government by the right hon. Gentleman opposite and by other speakers. The Chancellor of the Exchequer contents himself with going back to the original speech in introducing the Bill made by the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister. He said of that speech, it is perfectly true, that in it the Prime Minister argued against every one of the three possible plans, and that the result of that extremely able piece of dialectics was to leave the House in a doubtful state of mind as to what the real views of the right hon. Gentleman were. That is a true and an extraordinary fact; but it does not get over the series of answers which the right hon. Gentleman gave to questions put to him time after time— that the Government meant to press the proposal which they laid on the Table in February last. What is the reply to that? There is no response? He constantly discussed questions on which the subject of the retention of the Irish Members had the greatest bearing. We constantly asked—"What is the view of the Government on the retention of the Irish Members—are we to argue this or that Amendment on the theory that they 1720 are to be retained for only Imperial purposes?" but the Government, who, I presume at that time had made up their minds, never for one moment allowed us to know the main outlines of the Bill they pretended we were to be permitted to discuss. I will not dwell further on these transactions—they do not reflect credit on those who were responsible for them. They do not reflect credit on the Party who condoned them, and all I can say is that the Parliamentary procedure by which this clause was got through the House was worthy of the clause itself, and more than that I cannot say. Coming to the merits of the clause, I have already addressed the House upon this question, and I certainly do not intend to occupy their time with regard to it now at any great length. Such time as I may occupy will be devoted, not to personal recriminations or to quotations from previous speeches, but to discussing the merits of the question before us. I may ask if there is in the whole history of Parliament a single precedent for a proposal which revolutionises the whole of our Parliamentary Constitution being brought forward without those responsible for the proposal saying a single word in its favour? I will do them the justice to say that they have argued against all the alternatives, and that they declare they have chosen the least intolerable. They say—"There is this argument against excluding the Irish Members altogether, and there is this argument against excluding Irish Members for certain purposes and certain purposes only;" but they have not brought forward a positive argument in favour of a positive proposal, and we are, therefore, driven to the conclusion to which I am myself prepared to subscribe—namely, that, of all the intolerable proposals before us, we should choose the least intolerable. I have never said a word in favour of retaining the Irish Members here, either in 1886 or subsequently, although I have always maintained that if we are to sell our birthright, at all events we have a right to the mess of pottage, and that the least we could get out of this great betrayal is that our Debates should no longer be hampered and disturbed by the Irish elements. Though I have always held that view, still I admit that the objections to the exclusion of the Irish Members 1721 are so great that only the fact that the objections to the other alternatives are so much greater induces us to put the Amendment on the Paper, and, after putting it on the Paper, to vote for it. I must confess that I never hear a speech against the exclusion of the Irish Members without finding myself in a large measure in agreement with it. I never hear such arguments as those used yesterday by the hon. and learned Member for Dumfries (Mr. R. T. Reid) and those used to-day by other Members without admitting in my own mind what I now admit publicly—that the arguments against the exclusion of the Irish Members are of a most powerful description. No doubt exclusion would make the Irish system resemble the Colonial system even more strongly than it does now; and that, with the adoption of the Colonial system, you would do something which would do something which would tend to weaken the ties which bind Ireland to this country. I do not think anything is to be gained by minimising the case on the other side. The objections to all the Government's alternatives are, however, overwhelming. We have to choose between the bad proposal of 1886, the worse proposal of February, 1893, and the worst proposal of July, 1893. For my part, in this melancholy and even tragic choice, I would go back to the plan—which I have always thought least intolerable—the plan which, at all events, left our proceedings unhampered by the interference of a delegation which, I fear, will come from Ireland, not for the purpose of promoting British business, but for the purpose of extracting for their own clients money and privileges from the British Parliament. In dealing with this question, I cannot wholly leave out of account the argument urged early tins afternoon by the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. John Wilson). That hon. Member, with an admirable candour, explained to the House that he wanted the Irish Members to be retained because they would vote for the Radical portion of the Newcastle Programme. In fact, that hon. Member illustrates in his own person all those doctrines of Parliamentary intrigue on which in past times the Prime Minister and the Chief Secretary have so eloquently dwelt. He looks upon this, 1722 as do other Members, as a plan for getting 80 gentlemen to support a Radical Administration. The Secretary for Scotland, I remember, in a speech asked, in pathetic tones, where the Liberal Party would be without the support of the Irish Members? Well, Sir, I do not know where they would be. They certainly would not be on that Bench. Undoubtedly we cannot disguise from ourselves the fact that, among the calculations made by hon. Gentlemen with regard to the future, one of their forecasts is that, whatever injury may be done to the Imperial system by having an Irish delegation within these walls, very great benefit would be done to the Radical Party. I am not sure that that would be the result. I rather think the Irish delegation would sell their swords to the power which gave them the best terms for Ireland; and, though I hope that Party will always be the Radical Party, yet this I must say—the history of this House is long, its future may extend over many generations, and it is possible that a time might arrive when a Government with which the hon. Member for Govan was not in agreement might find for the Irish delegation some terms of accommodation. [Ironical cheers.] I cannot altogether in this connection — the jeers of the Party opposite remind me of it—refrain from touching upon what the Prime Minister described in the letter he wrote to the Chairman of his Committee as "a plain history of recent involved transactions." Among the many brilliant gifts possessed by the right hon. Gentleman that of writing plain history is not one. I, who have as minute a knowledge of the transactions of 1885 and 1886 as any other single Member of the House, did not recognise in the account of the right hon. Gentleman a single lineament at all resembling the truth. The right hon. Gentleman is alive—as everybody but the hon. Member for Govan is alive—to the possibilities of what has been described as Parliamentary intrigue, and he thinks he finds a flagitious example of it in the conduct of the Tory Party in 1885. I believe I know what took place then, and that, at all events, did not take place. The Tory Party gave up not a single one of their principles or convictions in order to obtain a single Irish vote. For my part, I have said before, and I say it 1723 again, that if any Irish gentleman is good enough to support me in the Division Lobby for anything I think right I shall not reject his assistance. But if I pass from 1885 to 1886, then, again, I find a great English Party supported by the Irish vote. Can the Leader of that Party get up and say in the face of the House, as I have said, that in 1886 they gave up no cherished conviction, no hereditary belief of that Party? No, Sir; it is notorious that that Party changed round on the subject of Ireland in the twinkling of an eye. They became new men on that question; and, so far as it was possible for an outsider to judge, they became new men, because if they had remained the men they were before they could not have counted on the support of the 80 Irish Members below the Gangway. That is the historical transaction which will always remain as a classical instance of Parliamentary intrigue, as an example of the danger to which the Empire would be subjected by having an Irish delegation here. The danger, I am aware, exists now; but it would exist with ten-thousandfold force when the Irish Members have no connection with our affairs, when they come to sell their votes—I do not use the word offensively—for whatever any Party will give them for the country they represent. These dangers must surely be present to every mind; but I think I have noticed in the speeches of my countrymen who have addressed the House—and somebody has remarked that the talking this afternoon has all been done by Scotchmen—that the balm they have applied to their consciences is that, though this may be unjust to England, this dangerous step must be taken as necessary for a movement towards Imperial Federation. That consideration may bring peace to their troubled consciences; but I would like to ask any gentleman who cherishes the dream—I hope it may be some day a reality—of a real Imperial Federation, whether this is really a step in that direction; and, if it is, whether he thinks it ought to be taken? If we are going to have Parliaments for Scotland, Wales, and England on this Irish model, what will be the result? There will be four Executives and four Parliaments, with in London—in the neighbourhood, I presume, of this very building—an English 1724 Parliament of 435 Members, with an English Administration, sending a delegation to this House. Is that a possible scheme? [Cries of "Yes, yes!"] Two Executives in London, one representing the great mass of the Imperial taxpayers, of the Imperial wealth, of the Imperial population, sitting in an English House of Commons, and next door to it another Assembly bearing some perfectly unknown relation to this English Parliament, who is to manage the affairs of the rest of the Empire. The scheme is perfectly absurd; and if we are going to stop short of that, and give Parliaments to Ireland, Wales, and Scotland, with delegations to this House, how will the English electors like the prospect? Slavery to Ireland is sufficiently bad, but to be enslaved by Scotland and Wales as well would be the last depth of degradation which could be reached by the unhappy victim of these legislative experiments — the English elector. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer has said on previous occasions—and the argument has been repeated by some of his colleagues in this Debate—"After all, what do you lose by the Irish managing their own affairs, and why should you deprive them of the trouble, labour and burden of coming here to manage your affairs?" That is an ingenious argument. I would like to turn it round, however, and look at it from the point of view of the English elector. Your Party have gone about talking about one man one vote, equal electoral values, and all the rest of it. You desire, therefore, that every elector in the United Kingdom should have the same power. Do you think that you give the same power to the English and the Irish elector when you enable the English elector only to elect a man to manage English affairs, and the Irish elector to elect a man to manage both English and Irish affairs? In other words, the Irishman will elect for two Assemblies and the Englishman for one Assembly only. Do you call that equality? Can you pretend—you who love these theoretical equations, this mathematical weighing of votes—that you are dealing out equal justice? Is it not evident that by this Bill you give to men who certainly have not shown in the past that they have deserved especially well of those who love this Empire a power 1725 which you do not give to your own electors, and which, apparently, you think your own electors are not worthy to possess? But this question of delegation goes much deeper than hon. Gentlemen appear to suppose. The system of representative government rests, and must essentially rest, upon a double basis of local representation of local affairs and of local representation of Imperial affairs. If you cut away that local representation which is one support of your system the rest of it becomes absurd. How do you educate your electors in Manchester, Glasgow, or Govan to deal with the Empire? At present you bring forward every question that is before the public; you discuss on every platform questions affecting Scotland, Hampshire, Ireland, and you ask them not merely to consider their own particular interests, but to turn their minds to the multifarious interests of a great and varied Empire. By this method you educate them to be good citizens. But supposing this was all put an end to, and that the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. J. Wilson) had got the wish of his heart — a Home Rule Assembly in Scotland and a delegation to this Imperial Parliament—why the hon. Member would never once mention to his constituents a single English question. He would not have a word to say about English Education, English Local Government, or English Temperance Reform. If he were elected, as no doubt he would be, he would simply go as a delegate to the Imperial Parliament to vote on questions in which England alone was concerned, about which his constituents cared nothing whatever, which they did not understand, to which they had not given a moment's thought, and with which they were imperfectly acquainted; and he would give his vote, not in accordance with English interests or on broad principles of equity, but merely to extort from the Assembly something which would benefit his own constituents. That would be inevitable, and I say it would cut at the very root of the theory of representative government as it has always been understood in this country. The best way to deal with these questions is to take an extreme instance of the extension of the principle to be adopted. If it is no hardship to England that Irish Members should vote here 1726 when they have no concern in our affairs, it would be no hardship to England if we were to have delegations from Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, to carry out the same functions. Would anybody accept such a system? Would it be admitted for a moment that there would be a lightening of our labours, and that, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer said, if these delegates chose to undertake the duty, we should be grateful for their kindness, and have no reason to complain of what they did. This illustration shows that you could not work the machine upon such a system. If you are going to keep an Imperial Parliament and the present system of the Union with Ireland, no difficulty arises; if you are going to cut Ireland adrift great evils may ensue, but still no difficulty arises in the House of Commons; but if you are going to take your system of in and out, or your system of the inclusion of the Irish Members, then I venture to say that you are making a change which I do not believe you can defend before your constituents, and which, I believe, you cannot defend to yourselves. Conceive the feeling of injustice which would be generated in the minds of English and Scotch electors. I do not know what others think, but I think that under the existing system the Irish vote as an Irish vote in our great towns gives far more than its fair share of weight to the views of a particular Party in Ireland. We submit to it because we know it is one of the necessary incidents of the Union— we accept it as one of the evils of the Union. But if you keep up that tyranny of the Irish Party in the constituencies of the great towns, and in addition have a delegation from Ireland in this House, I say that undoubtedly a feeling of outraged justice will gradually germinate in the bosom of every English and Scotch elector, and you will find that this Home Rule Bill, which was intended to make peace and to settle the Irish Question, will be the beginning of controversies more savage, more bitter, and more unending than those that have disturbed our peace for many years. For these reasons, Mr. Speaker, I, with regret, but without hesitation, feel myself compelled to vote for a plan which, at all events, leaves Englishmen and Scotchmen masters in their own House, which, whatever 1727 else it does, does not hand us over as slaves to an Irish delegation, and which will preserve, I trust, intact and free from all those temptations into which some Parties in the past have fallen, and into which some Parties in the future may again fall, the great Parliamentary traditions of this House.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 181; Noes 215.—(Division List, No. 240.)
§ It being after half-past Five of the clock,
§ Further Proceeding on Consideration, as amended, stood adjourned.
§ Bill, as amended, to be further considered To-morrow.