§ Mr. J. H. CAMPBELL
The unusual brevity and corresponding obscurity of the Gracious Speech with regard to the programme of legislation for the ensuing Session have given rise to a good deal of doubt and a good deal of speculation as to the exact nature and extent of that programme. Not very much additional light is thrown upon it by the reticence of the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister yesterday, but if we are to look for guidance in this matter I think we naturally would look to the declarations and speeches of the responsible leaders of those various sections of the House upon whose continued allegiance this present Government must depend even if it is to survive the first week of the Session. Anyone reading between the lines of the Speech delivered last night by the hon. Member who now leads the Labour party in this House (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald) must have recognised that lie was speaking with more than prophetic instinct when he asserted his confidence that the Government would deal in this Session not merely with the question of the Payment of Members, but with the question of the Osborne Judgment. Curiously enough, there is nothing in the Speech to lead to any such conclusions, but I am quite certain that the hon. Member had very good reasons for the confidence that he ex- 146 pressed. In the same way, no one who has studied the speeches of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Waterford (Mr. John Redmond), who leads the Irish Parliamentary party in this House, and no one who has considered the action of himself and his colleagues up to the present can have any doubt that the attitude is to be continued which they pursued in the previous Session, as the result of the understanding or bargain, by which, in consideration of the assistance of himself and his friends in the Division Lobby, this House was exposed to what I consider the ignominious position of conducting its whole debates and its entire legislation on lines dictated and controlled by the hon. and learned Gentleman. It is perfectly plain that state of affairs is to continue.
I am quite sure that right hon. Gentlemen opposite would have been very glad to have escaped from this position, and it is in this connection that I wish to call the attention of the House very briefly to the attitude adopted and the position taken up by right hon. Gentlemen opposite immediately before and during the early days of the recent General Election on the question of Home Rule. I would rather imagine—I think it is a rather reasonable suggestion—that in their anxiety to escape from the position in which they had been placed during the previous twelve months the right hon. Gentleman opposite would have gladly welcomed either a decisive victory or a decisive defeat, because either of those would have saved them from coining back and putting themselves once more in the position to which I have already referred; because I can hardly conceive anything more galling to men with a high sense of political honour than that they should be once again placed in the same alliance—a position in which they would be coerced to admit that the great interests of the country and the great business of this House were to be carried on and controlled, not according to the interests and wishes of the Empire, but according to the views and requirements of the hon. and learned Gentleman, the Member for Waterford. That probably is the explanation of a very extraordinary coincidence in the election addresses of several of the right hon. Gentlemen opposite. In the election address of the Prime Minister, the Home Secretary, the First Lord of the Admiralty, the Postmaster General, and some others, there was absolutely no reference of any sort or kind to the question 147 of Home Rule, and the election had progressed for some days in this country—up to a stage which made it pretty evident there was going to be no real change either way in the state of parties—before these responsible leaders of public opinion ventured to let the electors know, even in their own Constituencies, what was the sort of view they had as regards Home Rule and what were the intentions of His Majesty's Ministers in respect to it. Finally, on the 7th of December the Prime Minister, speaking at St. Andrews, said:—I have spoken of Ireland, because the else of Ireland is one that is prior in point of time and urgency, but do not we here in Scotland feel, are we not made to feel perpetually, the incapacity of the Imperial Parliament, not from want of will, but from want of time and from the competition of other business and other concerns, to give us in Scotland what the Scottish people need. It is the same thing in Wales. It is the same tiling for my own poor and despised country of England.In a subsequent speech the right hon. Gentleman said—and it will be seen that he is giving the keynote to his followers—the idea being to suggest that after all, just like this Constitutional revolution that he proposed to carry out, this question of Home Rule was going to be a very simple and trivial matter. Here is what he said on 12th December:—That was a very simple policy, and that was to maintain undivided and undisturbed the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament and, subject to that condition, to give to their Irish fellow-subjects the power by legislature and by an executive of their own to deal according to their own ideas with matters which were of purely Irish concern.The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary thought it was even a simple matter. Here is the way he put it on 10th December:—It would free the British House of Commons from a mass of petty details, which would be far better settled locally, and the representatives of the nation would be left free to deal with the great questions of real magnitude and importance.The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs also defined his views as regards Irish Home Rule with the following remarkable proposal, which is from a speech delivered on 5th December:—Irish Home Rule when it came would be part of a great reconstructing of the House of Commons in this sense, that there would be a redistribution of seats according to the numbers and population. Ireland, when it had Home Rule and when the House of Commons was left free for Imperial matters, would have fewer members in the House of Commons than it had to-day. Under a scheme of Devolution, England, Scotland and Wales, as well as Ireland, would each of them have more scope for dealing with their own local affairs.The Chancellor of the Exchequer made even lighter of it, I observe, when he in 148 his speech at Bangor on 9th December said this:—After disposing of the Veto of the House of Lords the first thing will be to reconstruct our present. Imperial machinery in such a way as to free the House of Commons from trivial local and provincial details, which can be attended to so much better in the district concerned, in order to leave Parliament untaxed for the purpose of attending to the immense Imperial questions that are awaiting consideration.That is the way in which responsible Ministers proposed to deal with the question, and as we suggest at the dictation and under the control of hon. Members from Ireland below the Gangway, they are rushing this great constitutional revolution with the intention and desire that in the interval, while the Second Chamber and its power are in abeyance they will, with the assistance of their Friends below the Gangway, force upon the unwilling electors of this country those Home Rule proposals which on two occasions the intelligence and good sense of the electors have signally defeated and rejected. The only other commentary upon that to which I would like to refer is the very remarkable statement that was made at Bristol by the Chief Secretary for Ireland. He made it on the 1st of December, and it seems to have been one of those rare intervals of political fortitude which he reserves for English platforms. He seams to have regretted it ever since, because he has given a variety of explanations of it culminating, in a suggestion that he meant the very opposite of what he said. Here is the prophetic statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland.
§ Mr. CAMPBELL
I am reading from the report of "The Times" of the 2nd of December:—Home Rule was one of the questions which ought to be left, and should be left, to the judgment of the whole people. If they thought that they could smuggle a Home Rule Bill through the House of Commons three years following, all he could say was that their ignorance was beyond all conception.The right hon. Gentleman has been at pains ever since to emphasise the use of the word "smuggling," and he suggests that all he was referring to there was any suggestion about smuggling.
§ Mr. CAMPBELL
It is all I have got. It is more than enough for my purpose, and ought to be more than enough for his, 149 because some of his friends in Ireland telegraphed to him to know whether he was correctly reported, and stating that very curious and very startling results were supposed to flow from this utterance of the Chief Secretary. A friend had written to him:—The following conclusions are drawn from your statement:—1. That it would be improper for the Government to introduce a Home Rule Bill within three years from now. 2. That you are of opinion that Home Rule is not being adequately submitted to the judgment of the whole people at the present election. 3. That any Liberal scheme of Home Rule would exclude finance from the purview of the Irish Parliament.Here is the right hon. Gentleman's reply, as telegraphed and as published in the "Freeman's Journal":—I repudiate the three statements as untrue and misleading Mistake is possibly due to the use of the word 'smuggling.' No big" Bill can be smuggled through the CommonsAs far as I know, that is the only attempt to repudiate the meaning of the passage that I have read, and up to the present I have never heard on the part of the right hon. Gentleman any repudiation of the correctness of the extract I have given from his speech. I pass from that, because it is only interesting as leading up to the present position of this question in Ireland. Matters have been developing there in a very remarkable and a very startling way. For some months there has been an attempt in the English Press and on the English platform to provide for Irish loyalists promises and pledges of toleration under a Home Rule Parliament; but while these attempts have been made, and made by gentlemen who neither have the power to redeem these pledges nor any authority to fulfil these promises, there is going on in Ireland contemporaneously the assertion of the law of the League, and it is keeping its hand alive and in use by occasional outrage's, by occasional cattle-driving, and by occasional boycotting. But, perhaps, the most awkward reminder of all in reference to these pledges of political toleration, is to be found in the extraordinary scenes of intimidation and violence which prevailed in many parts of Ireland during the last General Election. There were many constituencies in which freedom of opinion and the exercise of the franchise was accompanied by personal risk. Organised mobs intimidated voters, who had to be escorted to the poll under the protection of the police, and scenes of the most discreditable character occurred in many parts of the West and South of Ireland. In the city of Cork alone, as the result of 150 the election fight there, no fewer than 1,400 individuals were treated in the public hospitals for external wounds and injuries.
Mr. WILLIAM REDMOND
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will allow me to say that as far as I know, being personally present all the time, there is no foundation for that statement. If it was made I am certain it was made in error, and, at any rate, I say, without fear of contradiction, that there was no more disturbance, no more violence, no more damage done in that contest than in any contest in this country, and that as a result it cannot be shown that any single person was seriously hurt.
§ Mr. MAURICE HEALY
I am sorry my senior colleague is not present to corroborate the statement of the hon. Gentleman. A more peaceful election than that which took place in Cork did not take place throughout the length and breadth of the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. CAMPBELL
I am very glad to hear the statements made by the hon. Gentlemen who have intervened. All I can say is this: The statement I have made in reference to the 1,400 individuals who were treated in these institutions appeared in the public Press, and not only that, but actually applications came in for extra grants to these institutions owing to the extra trouble and labour imposed upon their staffs. I have a very distinct recollection of a telegram published by the senior Member for Cork as regards the intimidation and violence which he alleged prevailed in the contest which he went through in the county of Mayo. Be that as it may, all I can say is that those who at the time were living in Ireland, and know what was going on, are not likely to receive any very great reassurance on the subject of political toleration under any system of Home Rule.
But this whole question has been rather rudely shaken and interfered with by the recent issue of the Ne Temere decree. It is to this matter particularly that I wish to direct the attention of the House. In April, 1908, the Vatican promulgated a decree, now notorious as the decree Ne Temere from the opening words of the document, by which the Vatican claimed over the Roman Catholic Church the right to declare illegal, with all ecclesiastical consequences, any and every marriage in which one of the contracting parties either was, or ever had been, a Roman Catholic, unless celebrated according to certain con- 151 ditions to be attached by the Roman Catholic Church and by this decree. At the time of its introduction it was dealt with at a meeting of the General Synod of the Church of Ireland, whose bishops and laity denounced it as an attempt to invade the civil liberties and rights of the people of Ireland. It passed for some time without much criticism under the belief, I should imagine, prevailing in this country, as well as in Scotland—because this decree applies both in England and Scotland as it does in Ireland—that it was going to be a mere ornamental decree, and that no one would have the courage or the audacity to attempt to enforce it as against the civil and religious status of any individual in the Empire. Speaking for myself, I can only say that even if this decree in its operation had been confined to the members of the Roman Catholic religion in Ireland, I should have bitterly resented it, because I do not think it is in the power or duty or right of any Church to super-add its own conditions to what the law considers to be sufficient in the case of civil marriage. Therefore, as a layman, I should have resented it. But it became intolerable when it was sought to apply it in the case of mixed marriages, and to assert ecclesiastical jurisdiction and control over a married couple in any and every case in which either of the parties to the marriage contract was, or ever had been, a baptised Roman Catholic.
It was not very long before a concrete case of the application of this decree arose in Ireland. The circumstances connected with it have aroused such alarm and such a sense of indignation and anger throughout the length and breadth of Ireland that I must ask the indulgence of the House if I explain minutely and in some detail the facts and features of this remarkable case. I can do that best by reading the account given by the person who in this particular case was made the victim of this decree, and this account is contained in a memorial or petition which was addressed by the woman in question—Mrs. McCann—to His Excellency the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. This statement of hers has been public property for many weeks. It has never been challenged in any particular as to its accuracy, and an important and influential committee, non-political in its character, of gentleman in Belfast have taken the trouble to verify it in every detail, and they have assured me that I can stand over every statement that was made in it. I will read it for the 152 benefit of the House without comment. She says:—May it please your Excellency, I pray your Excellency's assistance under the following circumstances: I am the daughter of a small fanner in County Antrim and a Presbyterian. I was married in May, 1908, in a Presbyterian church by my own clergyman to my husband who was and is a Roman Catholic. Before our marriage, he arranged with me that I should continue to attend my own place of worship and he his. After our marriage, we lived together for some months at my mother's house in County Antrim, but work called my husband to the West of Ireland, where I joined bun and we lived some months there. Afterwards we came to Belfast where my first child (a boy) was born, in June, 1909. During all this time there never was any difference between us about religious matters, and our boy was baptised by my own clergyman. My husband on Sundays would take care of the baby when I was out at church. A short time before our second baby (a girl) was born, in August last, my husband spoke to me about changing my faith, in consequence, he told me of the way the Roman Catholic priest was rating him, and I was visited on several occasions by this priest who told me I was not married at all, that I was living in open sin and that my children were illegitimate, and he pressed me to come to chapel and be married properly. I told him that I was legally married to my husband, and that I would not do what he wished, and on one occasion my husband and I besought him to leave us alone-that we had lived peaceably and agreeably before his interference and would still continue to do so if he let us alone. He threatened me, if I would not comply with his request, that there would be no peace in the house; that my husband could not live with me and that if he did his co-religionists would cease to speak to him or recognise him. When he found he could not persuade me he left in an angry and threatening mood.From this time on, my husband's attitude to me changed, and he made no secret to me of the way he was being influenced. Our second baby was taken out of the house by my husband without my leave, and taken to chapel and there baptised. My husband also-began to ill-treat me, and told me I was not his wife, that I was nothing to him but a common woman. I bore it all, hoping his old love for me would show him his error. But the power of the priests was supreme, and on returning to my home some weeks ago, after being out for a time, I found that both my dear babies had been removed, and my husband refused to tell me where they were beyond that they were in safe keeping. I did everything a mother could think of to get at least to see my babies, but my husband told me he dare not give me any information, and that unless I changed my Faith I could not get them.A day or two after this, on pretence of taking me to sec my babies, he got me out of the house for about two hours, and on my return I found everything had been taken out of the house, including my own wearing apparel and underclothing, and I was left homeless, and without any means or clothing beyond what I was wearing. My husband left me, and I could not find out where he went. I subsequently saw him at the place he was working. He was very cross with me, refused to tell me where the children were, or to do anything, and told me to go to the priest, in whose hands he stated the whole matter was, and also said unless I was remarried in chapel I would never see the children. I subsequently saw the priest who said he could give me no information, and treated me with scant courtesy.I have tried to find my husband, but have failed, and cannot now get any information of his whereabouts or that of my babies, and I do not know even if they are alive. My heart is breaking. I am told the police can do nothing in the matter, although if it was only a shilling was stolen they would be on the search for the thief; but my babies are worth more to me than one shilling. In my despair I am driven to apply to you as the head of all authority in this country for help. I am without money, and but for the charity of kind friends I would be starving. I want to get my children, and to know if they are alive: and I have 153 been told, kind sir, that if you directed your law officers to make inquiries they could soon get me my rights.Will you please do so, and help a poor heartbroken woman, who will continue to pray for the Almighty's blessing upon you and yours?Now, I ask hon. Members to notice two matters in that petition. In the first place, I think it is a great tribute to the courage and spirit of this poor woman that, sooner than admit that she had been living in a state of concubinage, sooner than turn her first-born into a bastard, she declined the intervention of this reverend gentleman, and refused to submit to their degrading conditions. In the next place, what I wish to emphasise is the double complaint that letter contains. In her absence her humble home had been raided, and every little possession of hers in the world, all her personal belongings, had been stolen from the house. That was the first matter mentioned in the petition to the Lord Lieutenant. The second was this, that her husband had disappeared, that she could find no trace of him, and that her children had been buried away in some institution or place unknown to her and by hands she could not trace, and in these piteous terms she appealed to his Excellency the Lord Lieutenant, as the fountain of law and justice in Ireland, for advice or assistance. Now let us see the extraordinary way in which this matter was dealt with by the Executive. That letter was sent on 2nd December and reached his Excellency on the 3rd. On the 3rd, the following telegram was sent to the Lord Lieutenant:—The Belfast Presbytery have unanimously resolved to support the case of a woman who has been deserted by her husband and deprived of her children. The legal adviser proposes to institute proceedings. Would like the police to help in finding whereabouts of husband, so that he may be servedFollowing up that telegram, a letter was written in these terms on 3rd December:—May it please your Excellency,—In confirmation of my telegram of to-day, I write to say that the Belfast Presbytery, at the special meeting held yesterday, expressed its sympathy with the woman, a member of Townsend Street Presbyterian Congregation, who has been deserted by her husband and deprived of her children, and we have unanimously resolved to support her in her efforts to have justice done in the case. A committee was appointed, with myself as convener, to take whatever steps they may consider necessary under the guidance of our solicitor, Mr. MacDowall. Mr. MacDowall has been consulted, and he advises that legal proceedings should be instituted against the husband, but the difficulty is to find him. It would be a great help if the police gave all the assistance they could in the effort to find out the husband, so that he might be served with the necessary legal documents.On the day that letter was written the Lord Lieutenant wrote to this poor woman the following letter:—I am directed by the Lord Lieutenant to acknowledge the receipt of your letter referring to your 154 regrettable domestic difficulties, and I am desired to ask you to be good enough to mention for his Excellency's information the name of the church in which the marriage took place, and the name of the clergyman who officiated.She had already stated that in the Memorial. The letter continues:—His Excellency would also be glad to have some further particulars with regard to your maiden name, and your father's residence, your husband's late residence, and the name of the parish and of the priest referred to.The lady, in reply, sent a letter, of which no copy was kept, and therefore I cannot give the exact contents, but I am assured that the contents were substantially these: The answer gave the particulars asked for, so far as she knew them. She gave the name of the clergyman who married her, and the name of the church in which the marriage took place. She gave her father's name, and her father's residence. She said she did not know the name of the priest who told her she was living in sin and not married, but that he was on the staff of the clergy of the church to which her husband belonged, and that she could identify him if she saw him. Now, what was the answer sent after all this process of red-tape on the part of the Executive? Let the house not forget this. On the face of her petition she set out an act of common theft on the part of those who were responsible for raiding her house and plundering her little goods and chattels. If it was the woman's husband who did this, he was as great a thief in regard to those articles as any thief in the land, because, under legislation passed by this House, a married woman has as good a title and claim to any article of that kind as any of us have to any article in our possession. In the case of a husband who interferes with any articles of that kind coming under this description, he is as liable to be prosecuted for theft as the commonest thief in the land. Therefore, in the first place, his Excellency had called to his notice the fact that a theft of this kind had been committed under circumstances of grave outrage. The woman was enticed from her home, and while away some persons, presumably acting on the instigation of the husband, came and carried off all she possessed. Her two children were also taken, one of them an infant only a few months old, who was almost literally torn from the breast of the mother. Her husband's whereabouts were unknown, for steps had been taken to secrete him. Her application was that the Executive would authorise the police to assist her in dis- 155 covering where her husband was, because until she knew she could not take any steps to recover either her property or her children. You cannot take proceedings for any habeas corpus to recover the custody of children unless you are in a position to give the name of the place where the person from whom you intend to recover is located. You have to serve documents, and you must have the residence of the person you propose to make the defendant. Therefore, you must have some place in which the documents will find him. This poor woman was absolutely without remedy or redress of any kind, unless and until she ascertained the whereabouts of her husband, or the exact locality in which the children were. One would have thought that the heart-breaking letter she sent would have at least elicited a letter of sympathy, if not of support, from the quarter to which it was addressed. Here was the final and only reply, dated 5th December:—Sir,—I am directed by the Lord Lieutenant to acknowledge the receipt of your telegram of Saturday, and also your letter of that date received to-day. His Excellency also received on Saturday morning a letter from Mrs. McCann alleging that her children had been removed from her by her husband, who has also deserted her. In the absence of any evidence that a criminal offence has been committed his Excellency is advised that there is nothing to warrant his intervention or the interference of the police. So far as can be judged from the very general statements submitted to his Excellency the matter appears to be one altogether for a civil action, and his Excellency notes that the Belfast Presbytery propose to institute legal proceedings, presumably on behalf of Mrs. McCann.That letter ignores the whole point of the request made by the woman and made on her behalf, namely, the assistance of the police as a condition precedent to the institution of these proceedings. It ignores that altogether, and in doing that it betrays the elementary duty of the Executive, because under our Constitution, as always understood and as always enforced in practice, if any member of the community loses the smallest article of property, not to say his or her children, but even the smallest article of property; if a dog strays, if an umbrella is lost, and the loser gives information to the police, they will not say "it is a trivial matter," they will not say "it is not a criminal offence," but they will endeavour to trace the lost, stolen or strayed property. But in this case, where there was an outrage of this kind, which was not merely an outrage on common humanity, but in direct violation of civil and religious rights, in this particular case the Lord Lieutenant, forsooth, says he is glad to 156 hear that civil proceedings are going to be instituted and that it is entirely a civil matter. I say that that was a direct violation and an abandonment of the duty of the Executive. There was no ambiguity about the facts. The facts in that document which I have read are as clear as any poor woman, under the circumstances, could make them. She gives details of the raiding of her house, of the abstraction of her property, even of her clothing. She gives minute details of the kidnapping of her children, and informs the Executive that her difficulty is that those who are responsible for all this have succeeded in covering up their steps, and that she does not know where her children are living, and she cannot find the residence or address of her husband, and all she asked for, the only appeal she made to the Executive was that the police should be directed to do for her in this great trial and calamity what the police would voluntarily of themselves and without direction do for the humblest individual in the land who came to them with any complaint either of stolen or lost property.
These are the facts of this remarkable case, and the commentary remains that all that has to be done, even under our boasted constitution and civilisation, in the case of any persons in this country who are legally married according to the second law of the land is that the emissaries of any Church—I do not care what church it may be, or the clergyman of any church take possession of the children, bring them away to some place where they cannot be discovered, and then calmly defy the law. That will be, and must be, the position if the attitude taken up here on behalf of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland is sound either constitutionally or politically. Once you seek to cover up your tracks, once you make it impossible for the outraged father or mother to ascertain the exact place in which the children are, once a thing of this kind is done in the absence of the mother or father, the whole thing is complete, and there is no redress. The parties have no redress and can get no redress civilly, because there is no person on whom they can serve the necessary civil document, and these children are now, as far as we can see, for all time lost to the unhappy mother. She is not only homeless, but she is husbandless and childless. Thank God, she is not helpless, because kind friends have come to her aid, and everything is being done so far as charity is concerned to relieve her in her position. 157 But it is a very striking warning, and a most extraordinary case to occur in this century, and under so-called constitutional Government, under a responsible Imperial executive. It may be said, if this has occurred under an Imperial executive, and while an Imperial Parliament is sitting, what argument is that against Home Rule? I only say this in reply: if anyone is misguided enough to raise that contention, that we have no Imperial executive in Ireland, nor have we had since the year 1906. I say deliberately that the whole function of Imperial Administration and Government in Ireland has been allowed to drift from the hands of the responsible Ministers and agents of His Majesty, and has been transferred into the hands of the hon. and learned Member for Waterford (Mr. John Redmond) and his colleague, the Member for the West Division of Belfast (Mr. Joseph Devlin). Now, that is not my statement. I am not making that statement on my own responsibility. The hon. and learned Member for Waterford in the month of September, 1909, told his audience in America that ever since 1906 the United Irish League had been running the whole Government of Ireland.
§ Mr. J. H. CAMPBELL
Not on the occasion that I am referring to. He did not extend it in any sense that would have conveyed to anyone that he was referring to any period except that one.
§ Mr. J. H. CAMPBELL
But in another speech he made his meaning even plainer, because on the occasion of his last visit to America, that is 1910, he repeated the same statement, but he gave us this piece of additional information, which was not news to Irishmen but might come as a revelation to Englishmen, namely, that his colleague the hon. Member for the West Division of Belfast, was the de facto Chief Secretary of Ireland. Therefore it is idle to say that the Imperial Executive took any responsibility in this matter. They have abrogated their position in Ireland; they have handed it over to their allies and Friends below the Gangway, and of course they, under any system of Home Rule that the ingenuity of man would ever devise, would take the controlling position in the happy days when Home Rule arrives. At least this case of Mrs. McCann 158 is a solemn warning to those of us in Ireland who feared such results, and I can assure this House that it has strengthened the unalterable determination of Loyalists and Protestants in that country that at any sacrifice or at any cost they will struggle to retain what they believe to be the only guarantee for the continued enjoyment of their civil and religious rights, that is that they should live under laws that have received the sanction of this Imperial Parliament. I have stated the whole case and nothing but the case as regards Mrs. McCann so far as I know, and I have kept nothing back from the House. I have told every single fact in connection within my knowledge or that of those who have been communicating with me. But I wish to make this one other observation in this connection. It would be much more valuable indeed and much more consoling to those whose future welfare and rights depend upon the state of affairs that may develop in Ireland if instead of prophetic assurances as to what would or would not happen under a system of Home Rule the hon. and learned Member for Waterford and his colleagues would occasionally take the opportunity of going down to the country and visiting the localities in which from time to time outrages upon person and property occur and denouncing them there, a course which they have never taken. And so long as they abstain from doing that, so long will they fail to delude us by any of these paper assurances or paper guarantees. And in this connection I venture to say it is not unworthy of remark that although the facts of this case are notorious, and have been notorious in Ireland ever since they occurred—that is to say, in the early part of December last—so far as I know no expression of repudiation and no expression of reget for them has come from any quarter represented by hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway from Ireland. All I can say is, that so long as oases of the kind are possible, so long will it be the duty of those who represent the interests of the Loyalists in Ireland to call the attention of the House to matters of this kind. I do not know how the Government propose to meet the position. This much I can assure them: if they attempt to deal with it in any way that will fail to give justice to this unfortunate woman, that will fail to place at her disposal the resources of the Executive in order that she may trace out not merely her children and recover them, but also that she may 159 bring to justice those who are responsible for this great outrage, so long will we continue to arraign the Government, if not at the bar of this House, at least at the bar of public opinion in this country, until we have obtained in this particular case the justice that we demand, and until we obtain a still greater requirement, and that is the suppression or withdrawal of this intolerable decree.
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Mr. BIRRELL
I may say I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. J. H. Campbell) should have thought fit, in the disquisition which he has given in the time at his disposal, to smother up the circumstances of this McCann case, which, I agree, are of a distressing character, with matter and imputations which, I think, might have been left to some of those other very frequent occasions that arise in our political life. I certainly do not propose to reply to the earlier part of his speech, and I am well content to leave the reference that he made to my own observations at Bristol in the very fair way in which he left it. I think it must be apparent to everybody in this House what I meant, and indeed what I said. I am perfectly well content to leave that matter where it is because I am in a position intellectually and morally totally different from the impression left by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman; for I am well persuaded that when my observations are read by any intelligent man it will be perfectly obvious not only that I meant what I said, but that I said what I meant. What I said was, you never could smuggle any great measure through this House. About this other matter the right hon. Gentleman was a long time in coming to his statement, but I knew it was there, and I waited patiently. The right hon. Gentleman introduced this Ne Temere decree of the Pope of Rome. He did not read it to the House, but it can be read in all its details by anybody who cares to obtain a copy from Messrs. Brown and Nolan, printers and publishers in Dublin. All I have got to say is that they have nothing to do with this matter. Mrs. McCann is the lawful wedded wife of Mr. McCann, according to the laws of this realm. She is entitled to every legal right that flows from her status as a married woman. With her, for my part, the matter rests, and must rest. The right hon. Gentleman in Dublin laid great emphasis upon the fact that she is a married woman in the eyes of God.
§ Mr. BIRRELL
Of course, and man—in the eyes of God and man; and the Pope of Rome is of opinion that a Roman Catholic who marries should be married in a Roman Catholic chapel, and, if he does not so marry, in the opinion of His Holiness, the persons are not validly married according to the law of that Church. The right hon. Gentleman differs—we have a Pope and an Anti-Pope—as to what is marriage in the eyes of heaven. That is a matter upon which it is within Mrs. McCann's legitimate sphere to say that it is just possible that neither one nor the other authority knows or is entitled to speak upon that subject. All we know is that these people are married. To every Court in England. Ireland and Scotland and throughout this Realm, they are married people, and married people they must remain. Mrs. McCann is entitled to her remedies and her rights as a married woman; and, if she comes into a court of law and justice, this decree will not be available to be raised or considered by counsel or judge. My sympathy—I say this quite frankly—is with Mrs. McCann, and undoubtedly so. The case has not been tried out, but I am well content to base my sympathy on the fact that she has been deprived of her children of tender years, and that she does not know at this moment where they are. That is quite enough to excite my sympathy. The memorial which the right hon. Gentleman read was, of course, not of her composition; it was that of Mr. Corkey, who admits it himself. All I can say is, if she had written it herself, if she had not asked for the interposition of a clerical scribe, I am quite satisfied I should have been moved even more to the depths of my heart than I was by the style of that composition. I am prepared to take it in this way, that she has been deprived of her children by her husband, and, by the laws of this country, her Husband is entitled to the custody of his children. To speak of it as a case of kidnapping is obviously not correct. Kidnapping it was not. In my own opinion it was a wrong and a cruel act on the part of this man, about whom I do not say a single word, however.
I know nothing of the circumstances of their married life. It is enough for me to know that they were married, that she had children of tender years, that she came home one day and found they had been taken away, and that she does not know where they are. This happened a long time ago—several months ago. After a lapse of 161 time it came to the knowledge of a number of influential persons in Belfast, who were interested, as indeed who would not be interested, in the story which this poor woman laid before them. All I can say is that they seem to me to have given the most extraordinary advice. The right hon. Gentleman tells me that nothing can be done, that this woman has no court and no chance unless she can lay her fingers upon her husband. That is not so. She could have obtained the means of applying to the Court of Chancery, and have made them wards of the Court on the ground that they had been taken away from her.
§ Mr. BIRRELL
Your contention is that unless she can lay hands on this man for all time, this poor woman has got no chance and no opportunity of discovering where her children are.
§ Mr. BIRRELL
With all the wealth of Belfast behind her and of all these important bodies, nothing would have been easier for her—I am perfectly well satisfied of that—than to obtain in a Civil Court all the remedies she requires. No difficulties would have been put in her way. Do you suggest that this decree would have been available in the Court of Chancery?
§ Mr. CAMPBELL
Will the right hon. Gentleman suggest in what way she could have made the Civil Law amenable so long as she could not find her husband or the place in which her children were detained.
§ Mr. BIRRELL
I am perfectly satisfied that the mother of the children, upon an affidavit stating the facts—I presume they are the facts read out by the right hon. Gentleman—could have obtained in that Court of Chancery the protection of her children which she requires, and they would have entitled the Court to use all its powers to find out where they were and who had the custody of them, and to issue a Habeas Corpus to have them brought up. I decline altogether to believe anything of the sort suggested by the right hon. Gentleman. At all events, some attempt might have been made during these 162 three months. It is quite obvious and apparent to anybody that the interests of this woman were sacrificed. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame," "Withdraw."] You have only got to read the speeches made by a number of clergymen. One Presbyterian, who thanked God for this case, and another said that Providence had arranged that it should happen just at this time to show the good people of England and Scotland what would happen if a Home Rule Government ever came into office. The point that I make is that it would be perfectly easy, without waiting for the discovery of this man, to have taken proceedings. This, at all events, is a view which I confidently contend for as a lawyer. The right hon. Gentleman very much complained that the Castle had not perceived the point about the petty larceny which had been committed.
§ Mr. BIRRELL
Gross outrage is not a legal term. The contention of the right hon. Gentleman was that the father had removed these children, and that, although entitled by law to their custody, he was not entitled to the clothes in which they were wrapped up or the clothes of his wife, which it was alleged he had taken away. The point was not in any way brought to the notice of the Castle. It was neither in the letter or the telegram of Mr. Lowe.
§ Mr. BIRRELL
The point was not raised that the assistance of the police was required in order to bring to justice somebody who had committed a theft. That was an after suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman, one which he made with very great force in his speech in Dublin. The view taken by the Executive, I believe, is the view of the right hon. Gentleman the Attorney-General, which he is quite prepared to justify, that it was not a case for the police at all, inasmuch as the woman had behind her the whole of the Presbytery of the North of Ireland, and Dr. Lowe was the person who wrote the letter to which the right hon. Gentleman read the letter in reply that they had the best advice that a civil remedy was the true remedy. With regard to the state of facts as they are, it 163 came to my knowledge a very short time ago that the father Mr. McCann—a man about whom I do not say a single word—has himself disappeared; he has gone, and he is no longer the custodian of his children. I think that makes a very great difference.
§ Mr. B1RRELL
I do not know. As soon as it became clear to me that the legal guardian of the children, who was entitled to have them in his custody, had disappeared I thought the time had very properly arrived when it was the duty of the police to find out where the children were. So long as they were under Mr. McCann, and so long as he was looking after them, it was not a case for the criminal law. As the right hon. Gentleman has said, the police could be invoked, but you cannot invoke them in every case. They may be asked to find a pocket-handkerchief or an umbrella, but that is not a case which would give rise to litigation, or discussion, or consideration. But to say the police are to be invoked to provide detectives to find out the position of children who are assumed to be living with their father, their natural guardian, and in his legal custody, is a proposition which I cannot agree with. But as soon as the father had gone—I do not know where he is, I am told he is gone. I have no certain knowledge—and that the children were left without their natural guardian, the mother was obviously entitled to their custody and to complete access to them. That being so, the police are instructed to find out where they are. I hope they will prosecute their inquiry with the utmost zeal. So far as I am personally concerned, if any subscription were necessary to provide Mrs. McCann with the means of obtaining her legal rights and position, I should be the first, myself, to subscribe.
§ Mr. BIRRELL
No, you do not want it, and you never did want it. You do not want it; I want it. I think it is a most painful state of circumstances for Mrs. McCann, and I confess I am thinking only of her. I do not care very much for the angry voices of Gentlemen opposite. If the address of these children can be ascertained, and if they can be brought back and placed under her control, that is the object I have in view. That the police could have interfered at an earlier stage 164 is not a suggestion which can be supported. They are inquiring now as best they can, and I am sure that after the debate in this House, they will inquire with all the greater fervour and zeal. I am not at all sorry that the matter should have been brought under the notice of this House. I am glad it has been brought forward, but let us have none of the quarrelling and wrangling like that described in "Ginx's Baby"; do not let us be quarrelling about irrelevant points, but let us discover where these poor children are, and return them to their mother.
§ Sir E. CARSON
I cannot but think, having regard to the very serious way in which this case is looked upon by all coreligionists of Mrs. McCann in Ireland that the majority of people in that country who have any sympathy with her will think that the speech of the right hon. Gentleman is not only absolutely disappointing, but really, so far, is no answer at all, while that attempted to be given shows how disgraceful and scandalous has been the conduct of the Executive in Ireland. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that neither sarcasm nor jokes will dispose of this case. The people who have taken it up—namely, the Presbytery of Belfast, where rights have been violated, are not the class of men to be deterred from doing what they believe they ought to do, as Members of a Christian Church, towards one of their congregation, by any sneers or by any jokes, or any ridicule by the right hon. Gentleman, who never recognises any responsibility in his office except it be to his masters below the Gangway. The facts of the case have not been denied. They cannot, I suppose, be controverted, and what the right hon. Gentleman has solemnly laid down in this House under the British Constitution is this, that a woman who has been legally married by the law of the land can be so interfered with that her children can be abstracted from her, hidden away from her, that her husband can leave her upon the plea that she is an immoral woman and that her children are bastards, and that when her house is raided in her absence, and her petty goods taken away, and when she can no longer find her children, then that the British Constitution knows of no remedy under which the Executive would be entitled to give assistance. I venture to dispute the accuracy of the right hon. Gentleman's law, and I can only say if it is the law, as he has laid it down, I would venture to think that the time of the 165 House had been better taken from this time to Easter to set right such a monstrous law.
What does the right hon. Gentleman say? Does he mean to tell me that if this poor woman had gone to Scotland Yard and said that her children had been taken away, that she could not find them and did not know where they were, does he mean to tell me that she would be told: "Go to the High Court of Justice and file an affidavit and go into the Court of Chancery; we do not want women like you here"? Would the police say that, and would they say, "Go away; you have the whole Court of Chancery open to you; but the last thing we will allow you is that the police, who would go and look for your stolen dog or cat, should for a moment concern themselves about your children"? Yes, Sir, and all the more forsooth that is the law as regards the interference of the Executive, and as to why it cannot be applied. Why? It is because, as the right hon. Gentleman said, it is only a case of Pope against anti-Pope, which is right or wrong, as to where the woman ought to be married. What a way to treat a serious question! The right hon. Gentleman says all you have to do is go and file an affidavit in the Court of Chancery. What good will that do? I will assume for a moment you can do that, although I am not at all sure that you can. Supposing you go there, what is the Court of Chancery going to do if you cannot tell them where the children are? What are they going to do if you cannot tell them where the husband is? "Oh!" he said, "get a habeas corpus." But direct it to him where, to bring up the children before the Court. [Mr. Birrell made an observation which was inaudible.] What is the good of that when you neither know where the husband is or the children are, and when you will not direct the police to go and do their duty and find out. That, Sir, is the gravamen of the charge against the Government. I venture to think His Excellency the Lord Lieutenant would have been doing much better service if he had applied himself strenuously to this case instead of writing about the great benefits Home Rule would confer upon Ireland, when we have got Home Rule and when this Imperial Parliament will not be able to interfere in such a case as this. The right hon. Gentleman gives some tardy hope to this lady. He says he now has found out in some way or other, which I do not know, that the husband has gone too. When did he find that out?
§ Sir E. CARSON
It is in the woman's petition to the Lord Lieutenant as far back as the 2nd December. Who told him this man had gone away? Was it his police? What right had they to be interfering in the case? Now he tells us because the husband has gone away he is interested in the children. Has the husband taken the children with him. What, then, is the difference in the situation?
§ Sir E. CARSON
No more than he knew at the time of that petition as to whether the husband had still custody of the children. He put forward the plea here that the husband-in-law has the right to the custody of his children—that is, children of infant years of this kind. He did not know, and he does not know, whether they were in the custody of the husband. It never occurred to him at the time to inquire, before he was refusing the use of the police, as to whether they were not abstracted away, and in the hands of the reverend gentleman who had gone there and broken up that home. But now, when Parliament has assembled—yes, Sir, the Imperial Parliament to which we appeal, when that Parliament is assembled it suddenly strikes him that, after all, those children may not be in the custody of their parents, and that he may show a little interest. I say the whole proceeding in this case, from the beginning to the end, is a grave public scandal, and I say that if one part of that scandal is more grave than another it is the action, or rather the inaction, of the Irish Executive, and if anything could aggravate that inaction it is the conduct and methods and manner of the right hon. Gentleman to-day.
§ Mr. JOSEPH DEVLIN
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dublin University (Mr. J. H. Campbell) before proceeding to what constituted the indictment in his impeachment referred to outrages recently in Ireland, but referred especially to the scenes of disorder that took place in one of the southern constituencies, in certain of the southern constituencies, but he did not give a single argument or fact to bear out the statement he made to the House. Two hon. Members who were 167 engaged in the conflict in Cork have both denied his allegation, and I suppose all his other allegations would be equally denied if there were hon. Members here to take them up It is unquestionably true that there were outrages in Ireland during the recent General Election. But when the right hon. Gentleman was delivering his lecture to the party, to which I belong, and saying that the Members of it ought to go down to the south of Ireland and lecture their constituents on the desirability of observing law and order as he conceives it ought to exist, why did he not ask some of his colleagues to go down to Belfast and deliver such a lecture to his friends there? I know of only one striking outrage that took place in Ireland during the recent electoral conflict, and that was in the city of Belfast, when a bomb was thrown, not, let me remind the House, not at a Nationalist Member or a Nationalist gathering or at a Nationalist hall, but which was flung at the hall of the Independent Orangemen in Belfast. The Independent Orangemen constitute a class who have torn themselves away from the wretched religious bigotry which has been the stock-in-trade of hon. Gentle-men above the gangway. The Independent Orangemen represent the enlightened spirit of Ulster Protestantism, the Independent Orangemen are men who have endeavoured to tear themselves away from privilege and ascendancy, and to associate themselves with the fortunes of their fellow workers in the capital of Ulster. How were those independent Orangemen treated, by having a bomb thrown into their hall, by the lives of the workers, who constituted that body, being made intolerable in the public works, by being threatened that their lives would be made intolerable in the city of Belfast if they continued to advance along the lines of democracy. I can call the attention of the House to another instance that took place at the election of last January (1910). In one of the divisions of the city the managing director of the great firm of Harland and Wolff stood as a Parliamentary Candidate. A Unionist he declared himself to be and a Free Trader, and, standing, as he was entitled to do as a citizen, for the representation of one of those great divisions, the "Northern Whig," the organ of the gentlemen who have organised all this scandalous transaction, which I will expose in a moment or two, the "Northern Whig" declared that if Mr. Carlile, who 168 was the managing director, as I have stated, of one of the largest industrial concerns in the world, did not withdraw his candidature and stand down, that his life ought not to be worth twenty-four hours in the city. Those are the gentlemen who come here, and from their lofty positions as representatives of the Unionists and as Front Bench statesmen, to lecture the Irish Parliamentary party, and the representatives of Ireland, as to how they should demean themselves in the pursuit of the cause of law and order.
I listened with great attention to the speech delivered by the right hon. Gentleman on this case. It was not precisely the same type of speech which he delivered in Ireland. He confined himself as far as he could to facts which he thought could not be denied. He says the accuracy of the charges contained in Mrs. McCann's memorial have not been denied. Who is to deny them? From the moment this case was first mentioned in the public press until even now, with all the privileges of Parliament to defend them, they have not told the House who the priest was. I challenge him in the face of this House to let us know the name of the priest. I tell him further, to my knowledge the priest against whom these sinister insinuations have been made is prepared to take him, or any of his impeachers, into the Public Courts. He (the right hon Gentleman) says that there is no tribunal before which this question can be tried.
Let him come out and make a charge openly against this or any other priest as having been associated with this trans action in the manner he declares, and then the tribunal before which that action will be tried will test the worth of the melodramatic performances which have been carried on in this House to-day. This has been, to my knowledge, the whole stock-in-trade upon which Ulster Toryism has depended for its existence during the last six months. The right hon. Gentleman said that the reason he could not name the priest was that Mrs. McCann did not know him. Let the House mark this. Documents have been published and statements have been made in which the priest's name has been published as "Father C——." His name has never been given in full. I can produce documents which have been published in which "Father C——" appeared, if not several times, at any rate once or twice. But if the woman does not know the name of the priest, who got the name of the 169 priest, and why is it not mentioned? The right hon. Gentleman said that it was one of the priests in the district in which the woman lived.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
The right hon. Gentleman made himself responsible for all the declarations contained in the woman's statement—the touching, elaborate, and pathetic statement of this illiterate woman, written six weeks or two months after the incident took place, written five days before my election in West Belfast, written and printed before the Lord Lieutenant ever received it, and sent in shoals into England and Scottish constituencies in order to affect the minds of Nonconformist electors. That was the statement; that was the condition which existed. I regret the necessity for my intervention. I say that it will be proven that it is a wretched domestic quarrel between these people, and one of the lowest, meanest, domestic quarrels that was ever brought into an ordinary court, much less submitted to the high judgment and inquest of this great Parliament of the Empire. I have asked that statements should be sent to me for this Debate from the clergymen in this district, and the only definite declaration made by any of these clergymen is that Mrs. McCann herself sent for this priest in order that he might exercise his undoubted influence as a priest in bringing peace into the family, in trying to assuage whatever trouble might exist, and in bringing domestic peace and happiness into the home which we are told the priest entered for the purpose of kidnapping the children. The right hon. Gentleman has not declared that the priest kidnapped the children, but his friends have. I was told that I myself kidnapped the children. I was asked by the Tory and Unionist Press in Belfast in their leading articles during the progress of my contest, to produce the kidnapped children. The priest has been charged with kidnapping the children. Why did not the right hon. Gentleman repeat that charge here? He has not dared to do so. Posters were placarded on the walls at Belfast, saying, "Will you vote for Devlin and have your Protestant children kidnapped by the priest?" Mrs. McCann has been the greatest asset of the Ulster Tory party since the days of King William III. I will read the declarations of the three clergymen in whose district 170 the McCanns lived. This is the declaration of the first clergyman:—Mrs. McCann, residing with her husband at 167, Cavendish-street, Belfast, called on me at the beginning of October, 1910, to see if I would come to settle some difference between herself and her husband. I went to her house at once, and with pleasure, in the hope of being able to do some good. This was my first visit. I found that their life was unhappy, that disputes had been frequent, and carried so far as to call for the intervention of the police. I listened to their charges, and councilled peace. …. Contrary to certain statements that have appeared persistently in the Press, I wish to add—I would have preferred that the Chief Secretary had told us something as to the reports of the police in regard to the domestic quarrels of this family, because I understand that the intervention of the police was a more constant occurence than the intervention of the priest.
- (1) That it is absolutely false to say that I or any other priest took the children away;
- (2) That I never once accused Mrs. McCann of being a "common woman "or living in" concubinage";
- (3) That before any priest in Belfast called on these people, their domestic life was anything but happy;
- (4) That the police had to be called in frequently owing to their quarrels."(5) That while they had what has been referred to as a 'happy home,' in Barton Street, before meeting the priests, Mrs. McCann left her husband in consequence of their disagreement and took lodgings in Buckingham Street.Now I come to the statement of one of the curates:—In my capacity as priest in charge of the district in which the McCann's lived, I visited them for the first time in January, 1910. Neither then, nor on any subsequent occasion, did I inform Mrs. McCann that she was not properly married, nor did I tell her that she was living in sin, nor that her children were illegitimate.… Neither directly nor indirectly have I had any part in breaking up the home of these people, or in bringing about a separation.Now I come to the statement of the third priest. He says:—I never called on Mr. or Mrs. McCann at their house, and only met them once under the following circumstances. On Sunday, 9th October, 1910, I attended in church here as usual to baptise any children that might be brought to the font. Among others, Alexander McCann came carrying his own infant child in his arms for baptism. As this was rather an unusual thing I inquired the reason, and was told that his wife was not a Catholic, and that any of the women in the neighbourhood who would otherwise have brought the child were afraid of her. I asked a young woman who happened to be present in the church to act as sponsor, which she did.I was just proceeding to baptise the infant when Mrs. McCann, who had also come to the church, rushed forward, evidently with the intention of attacking the young woman who held the child. Mr. McCann stood in the way to prevent her, and as he did so she attacked him most violently, using both hands and feet.I am afraid she would use her hands in this direction more than in drafting a pathetic epistle to the Lord Lieutenant:—She made a very unwomanly exhibition which I prefer not to describe, her actions and language being very disedifying. The sacristan managed to remove her and her husband from the church, but I understand that she continued the display outside. This is the extent of my personal connection with the McCann case.171 I received this morning by post a letter from a friend of this man McCann. I have the letter here. It was written by McCann to this friend, who has forwarded it to me. It is, I believe, all in McCann's handwriting, and it tells a most tragic and sorry tale of domestic misery. I do not want to attack Mrs. McCann; the whole thing is to me absolutely repellant; but, after all, I think that Members of the House ought to know something of the particulars that are stated. Every statement in the Memorial is denied. I have not had time to read the document all through, but I would say to hon. Members that, before they believe one side of a sordid and sorry domestic story, they should read the other side of the story; they would then find out for themselves that irreligion, and not religion, was responsible for all these troubles. I am willing to give this letter to any two Protestant Members of the House. They may then take the statements contained in the Memorial and other documents which the right hon. Gentleman has presented to the House, and form for themselves a judgment as to whether this is not one of the most scandalous political dodges ever known. All these incidents occurred in October. We have heard of the touched hearts of the Presbyterian ministers, of the leaders of privilege in Ulster, and of the men who constitute the Ulster Unionist party, who slander and libel a nation, dragging a miserable domestic conflict into the arena of Parliamentary discussions for their own scandalous and party ends. The matter occurred in October, but their hearts were not touched until the eve of the election in Belfast. Why from October until December were not the right hon. Gentlemen and his merry men engaged in pursuit of these children and of this man McCann? They had all the facts in their possession for six weeks.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
Your adviser had—the man who supplied the brief. Who was the lawyer who drafted the memorial and prepared the case and presented it with such irresistible force to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland? It was Mr. Alexander McDowell, of Belfast. Mr. McDowell is the unelected pope of the Ulster Unionists. He prepared the case, and during the General Election here is what he wrote in a letter—which was not intended to be 172 published, but which somehow did find publication—to one of the colleagues of the right hon. Gentlemen when on these benches. After denouncing the Ulster Unionists, and saying that they were very difficult people, that they were very stupid and hard to understand, he said:—I have found a tit-bit at last which will raise all the dormant enthusiasm for the Unionist cause and for the banner which you carry." (An Hon. Member: "That is a stolen letter.")I suppose the hon. Gentleman thinks that I stole the letter as I kidnapped the babes. I assure him that I have the most profound respect for him. I do not think there is anyone in this House who has less political or personal offensiveness than he has, and I am not going to read any lecture, as did the right hon. Gentleman as to the way we ought to conduct ourselves throughout our Constituencies—in the course of that lecture telling all the peculiarities of the people represented. You know in Ulster you do not understand the people if you are an Ulster Tory Unionist. You only come there and curse the Pope.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
Everybody knows the hon. and learned Gentleman would not curse the Pope. Everybody knows that the Pope is the best asset he has in Portadown. The hon. and learned Gentleman's methods of electioneering are not by cursing His Holiness, but by using a blackthorn stick with his coat off. What did this Mr. McDowell, this simple lawyer, this gentleman, who, I understand, did not get a knighthood from the last Government, but expects to get one from this? I hope, by the way, the right hon. Gentleman opposite will take a note of that. Mr. McDowell says:—I suppose you saw yesterday's 'Whig' and 'News-letter' in relation to the kidnapped children. It is having a tremendous effect here. I am told it will have the same tremendous effect in Scotland. It ought to be useful to you in the shape of stiffening the waverers.It is not to assuage a sorrowing mother. It is not to bring back the long lost babes. It is not to impeach the wandering and degraded father; but it is to bring back and stiffen the waverer!
The House will perhaps wonder why this is being made so tremendous an issue in Belfast. I have already stated that the embers of religious bigotry are dying there. The democracy, once the instrument of a faction who never thought of the people, but only of themselves, are coming nearer and nearer to the light. They have begun to read and think for 173 themselves. Last year, though they differed from the Irish party on the question of Home Rule, the great mass of them were in hearty sympathy with the Liberal party on all those great social reforms to which the Liberal party has committed its honour and its name. These people in Belfast are a class of the community who are really good and genuine at heart—a hard-working and an enterprising people. They are not, I admit, Home Rulers, but they will be Home Rulers by and bye when they come to understand. Recently, in Belfast, Dr. Bailie, the Public Health Officer, an ex-Unionist member of the corporation there, for the first time in his life—as for the first time in the lives of the Tories of Belfast—came into contact with the social and economic conditions that exist in this great big and wealthy city. He drafted a report of his experiences. That document was presented to the Public Health Committee. It was a very simple document, largely composed of statistics, but it was a very human and tragic document, because under all this veneer of wealth and greatness which the people boast of in this House—out of it all, I say, we see labour conditions for which there is no parallel. The report says:—I am called upon to state that the women are compelled to make children's pinafores at 4½d. per dozen, women's aprons at 2½d. per dozen, men's drawers at 6d. a dozen, men's shirts at 10d. a dozen, ladies' blouses at. 9d. a dozen, and ladies' overalls at 9d. a dozen. From these very low rates of pay must be deducted the time spent in visiting the houses for work, the necessary upkeep of the workers' sewing machines, the price of thread used and almost invariably provided by the worker. After these deductions are made, the amount left to the worker is so extremely small as to make one wonder if they are benefitted at all by the work. The same is found among the workers in the various processes of the linen trade. These workers constitute the larger proportion of the workers in Belfast. A penny per hour——Let the House listen to this:—A penny per hour is the ordinary rate, and in many instances it falls below a penny per hour.Then Dr. Bailie goes on to say:—It cannot be too frequently and strenuously insisted that such underpaid labour must inevitably cripple and In great part nullify the good effects of any schemes of social reform. The underfed and overwrought physique of the sweated worker, with his weakened stamina, lacks the resistance necessary to combat disease, and is undoubtedly one of the main causes of the high death rate,Then listen to these sorrowing mothers—the mothers who have called forth the sympathy of these gentlemen. Dr. Bailie says:—The sweating evil injures more than those immediately concerned. Practically the whole of these underpaid workers are mothers, and the evil effects of unremitting and under-remunerated toil must be transmitted to the next generation ….174 I attended the meeting in Belfast of these sweated women and their sympathisers. It was a crowded gathering. There was not a single clergyman in the hall—not one of the gentlemen who met on the platforms when this question of Mrs. McCann was the battle cry of Unionism. One Christian clergyman, like a voice crying in the wilderness, wrote a letter and said:—I wish the manufacturers of Belfast would pray less and pay more.The popular indignation was aroused. The pathetic faces of these women were being mirrored in the feeling of indignation that was burning in the hearts of every section of the widespread population. The workers were beginning to think what this meant. They had stood by these party political adventurers and upheld a system which makes women work for 4d. a day, and by which they receive a shilling for making a dozen shirts. Yes, Sir, there was not a single clergyman there. But when Mrs. McCann's case came on there was a crowded meeting in the Ulster Hall. Who were on the platform? The crushers of the poor, the manufacturers who sweated women, and the responsible agents for the pinched faces. These were the men who came there for wretched political capital, and had not a single voice to raise on behalf of the toiling women who were doing so much to build up the greatness of the city, and advance the material interests of their masters in Belfast. Nine-tenths of the audience were Protestants. I am a Catholic, and I was the only Member of Parliament present. They thought they have well switched off discussion and examination of all these crimes against democracy by catching at an isolated case, and by using some domestic incidental instance to prevent light being cast upon the economic conditions they impose. They will not do so so long as I am a Member of this House. Of course, if Mrs. McCann's case could have helped it, I would not have been a Member of this House.
§ Mr. R. J. M'MORDIE
I happen to be the Lord Mayor of the City of Belfast. I was hoping for an opportunity to speak here this evening, and I was in the hope that I would get the support of the hon. Member for West Belfast (Mr. Devlin). The hon. Member has somewhat widened the basis of the discussion. I can tell him that there is no such thing as sweating in the city of Belfast. The matter came before me in my official capacity. I told gentlemen interested in the city that, 175 having regard to the outdoor trades and in view of the Government in power, that they should have no difficulty whatever in getting an inquiry if there was any sweating in Belfast. I would not be a party to any such disgrace in Belfast. I asked gentlemen who complained to ask for the inquiry; I entreated them to do so. I know there is no sweating; it is impossible that there should be any. I also happen to be chairman of an association whose efforts are to spread the industrial prosperity of this district over a wider area in Ireland. Some of the members are termed Tories, others are Home Rulers, and there are also Catholics and Protestants.
And I could tell the hon Gentleman who has spoken that Father C. referred to in his speech is a member of that association, and I will tell him what happened at the last meeting at which I had the honour to be present. There is only one trouble in Belfast in regard to industries at present, and that is that we need 2,000 women, and cannot get them. There are 1,000 looms idle, and there are 1,000 other vacancies because there are collateral industries. The question we put to Father C. at that meeting about getting these women into Belfast, but he was doubtful whether he could do it. Sweating is an utter impossibility in Belfast. That matter can be investigated, and I promise, if the Chief Secretary will arrange it, we will have a sworn inquiry into the matter.
There is prodigious prosperity in Belfast and in the best, and even in the second class industries women workers get wages reaching as high in some cases as 22s. a week. There is no such prosperity in any town in England or Scotland, and the reason is simple. The trade unions arrange the wages, and that is a matter of fact which can be ascertained by anyone who takes the trouble to write a letter on the subject. The worker in Belfast has a cheaper house by 3s. a week than he would get in any town in Great Britain, with the possible exception of Barrow-in-Furness. The 4s. 6d. house in Belfast is 7s. 6d. in England, and workers on this side of the Channel are perfectly delighted to get away to Belfast. I have been applied to by numbers of men in England to get them situations in such a perfectly prosperous town as Belfast, and that, although we have to pay carriage on corn, iron and flax, because we cannot induce our Nationalist friends in the south and the 176 west of Ireland, where they have the beautiful land that we have not got, to grow flax, and therefore we have to import it from Belgium and Holland, It is perfectly absurd to suggest that there is any difficulty in Belfast other than that of getting the people to come into work. I hope Father C. will consider that matter, and I hope we will get the women who work for 5s. and 6s. a week all over Ireland to come to Belfast, where they may make 12s., 15s. and as high as 22s. a week. That is admitted, and I hope the hon. Member for West Belfast (Mr. Devlin) will support us in the attitude we are taking up.
I am in a position to say that there is perfect unanimity among the laity in Belfast, and I include the laity for whom the hon. Member speaks on the subject matter of this debate. The women, including the women in that large community represented by that hon. Member, are speaking to the Protestants in the streets of Belfast and asking them can they not stop this. The condition is appalling. It is perfectly well known to all of us here that this matter has been the subject of correspondence in the newspapers of Belfast and Edinburgh, and other places. And I particularly observed a correspondence carried on in a very interesting paper, and one for which I have a great respect, although it happens to be a Home Rule organ—the "Yorkshire Post."
§ Mr. M'MORDIE
Oh, then, I am wrong, but I happened to see the correspondence carried on in that journal. Correspondence has been going on for several months, and there never has been a suggestion made in Belfast, Edinburgh, or Leeds that there was one particle to be said against Mrs. McCann. Not only that, but Father Hubert, in a public speech, and other priests who have written to the papers on the subject, have taken up the position from the beginning that the clergyman in this matter was right. We do not know the clergyman, that is admitted.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
I say to the hon. Gentleman again, what I said before, that a document was published in the Press with the words "Father C." following it, and that that was the name of the priest, although the full name was never mentioned.
§ Mr. M'MORDIE
It was never suggested that Father C. interfered. It was suggested that he was the Parish Priest, and that the man who did this—it is perfectly well known over the town—was one of his curates.
§ Mr. M'MORDIE
If anyone could give his name I should think it would be the hon. Member for West Belfast (Mr. Devlin) or perhaps the Chief Secretary, who may be better informed still. Mrs. McCann does not know him. It is perfectly well known that Father C. is the parish priest and no one wants to say an unpleasant word about Father C, but knowing the character and organisation of the community to which they belong we know that no curate would do what was done in this instance without the approval not only of the parish priest, but of the bishop.
§ The question of the breaking up of the home seems to be a small matter, and to afford humorous reflection to some people, though it does not so strike those terrible persons in Ireland who are in favour of the connection with Great Britain. The documents read by the hon. Member for West Belfast are very interesting, but they would be more interesting and would be more likely to be accepted as valuable evidence if they were produced some time ago. I do not attach the least importance to any one of them. They will not stand investigation and are no answer to the charges made. The sacredness of the home has been the one thing in England that has been carefully guarded. It is not open to anyone, whether a lawyer or a doctor to go into a home and use peculiar influence in order to break it up, and the man who would do that—if he was a lawyer, I take that instance as I happen to be one myself—would be a base criminal, or if he acted as some particular person is said to have acted. I say that a man who would desert a woman in these conditions should be dealt with in such a way as that he never could perpetrate such a fraud upon another woman.
§ I cannot conceive any action worse, because a woman cannot protect herself. She may protect herself from violence, but not from desertion, and if there is one 178 sacred duty binding upon every man it is to protect his partner. If the woman is deserted she has not the power to arrange-her future as the man has. A ruffian like McCann may go to New South Wales or the United States, change his name and marry again, but a woman in these circumstances is utterly lost if once deserted. The Chief Secretary seems to have some anxiety about protecting the woman. There is no difficulty whatever about that matter if one could assume that the Chief Secretary is speaking for the Prime Minister also. I will tell the right hon. Gentleman an-excellent way. If the man McCann were a Protestant he could be traced down within ten days and his children could be traced. We have good police in Ireland, I believe they are the ablest body of police in Europe, but it so happens that the children and the father cannot be found. I know the police cannot find them. But I will tell the Chief Secretary how they might be found. If the Chief Secretary-wrote a letter or sent a telegram of six words—and I will tell him to whom—he would have the children in forty-eight hours. The form of the telegram would be: "Have McCann's children in Belfast in forty-eight hours." Let the Government take powers to inspect and investigate the conditions prevailing within all buildings in Ireland and England and you will get the children.
§ Mr. M'MORDIE
I will tell the right hon. Gentleman privately. If it is sent to a gentleman whom I know, and, if the children are in Ireland, you will get them in twenty-four hours. If the Government, with their large majority, will not stand up for the rights of individuals, if they will not protect the rights of ordinary citizens in these islands, nothing can be done. If the suggestion I have made is carried out you will get the children. I offer the Government all the help I possibly can from the few men who are members of the Ulster Unionist party, and if they act for themselves in this matter they will save a lot of time. If they do not act, I intend to act myself by sending such a communication as will secure some attention and get the children. The Government are supposed to look specially after the poor, and it is remarkable that they have not evinced the least interest in this particular case. I assume if the man in this case had been a Peer, 179 if it had been Lord Shaftesbury, or Lord Londonderry, and those children had been taken out of the house, we should have bad screams all the way from Dublin across here to Westminster, but because this has been done by a clergyman, there is dead silence. I am perfectly satisfied that there is a horror of the whole situation in the minds of my fellow-countrymen. Probably the course I suggest would inconvenience hon. Members below the Gangway and they would perhaps lose their seats. Now it appears that it is right for the Government to protect the oppressed all over the world, with the exception of the case of this poor woman in the city of Belfast.
§ Lord EDMUND TALBOT
I do not wish to dwell at any length upon the details of this extremely sad and pathetic case. I hope the children will be speedily found, that every effort will be made to discover the father, and, if he exists at all, the priest against whom these charges have been made. I venture to prophesy that if all that is done, and the case is properly brought before a Court of Law and tried, it will be discovered and proved to the satisfaction of every fair-minded man that at any rate the ecclesiastical authorities of my Church have had no share whatever in the gross and brutal conduct of this man. We have heard a good deal of what the Church is supposed to have done with regard to this case, but we have not heard anything as to what the Church actually does in such cases. To my own knowledge, what happened is this: It is true that my Church lays down conditions as to how a Catholic must be married. It is true that no Catholic can be married in accordance with the law of our Church unless he is married in a Catholic Church, by a Catholic priest, and in the presence of two witnesses. Those are the conditions laid down by the Catholic Church. We have cases of mixed marriages, and cases have occurred quite recently in this country where a Catholic has married a non-Catholic, and, either wilfully or through ignorance, has married, not fulfilling the conditions of the Church. Subsequently the Catholic party of the Union has either discovered his or her error, as the case may be, or has repented of the sin committed against his Church. What does he do? He goes to a priest and explains the situation. He says: "I have unwittingly (or on purpose), knowing I was doing wrong against the law of my 180 Church, contracted this marriage. I regret it, and I want to have it put right in accordance with the laws of my Church. What am I to do?" The priest tells him to bring his wife and agree to be married again by a Catholic priest. If that is done, and both parties consent to it, then the matter is happily arranged; but supposing you have a case where the non-Catholic refuses, and says: "No, I have already been married, and I am not going to bother about being married over again; I don't care about your conscientious scruples in this matter, and I decline to be bothered by going through another marriage ceremony in accordance with your religion." Such a case as that is provided for. The Church looks after the interests of its own members, and the duty of the priest in such a case as that is to report to his bishop that here is a case where the Catholic party, either through a mistake or ignorance, or through culpable error, has not obeyed the marriage laws of his Church, and wants to get the matter put right, explaining that the non-Catholic party will not consent to be married by the priest. In a case of that kind, the bishop of the diocese, either by a general authority granted to him to deal with such cases, or by an authority which he can obtain for dealing with a special case, can pronounce that marriage valid from the date on which he is satisfied that the the two parties concerned wish to continue in the matrimonial state. Cases of that kind have occurred and been so arranged and dealt with within the last two years. That legitimatises in every way the children born of such a union. I thought it advisable, considering the great interest aroused by this very sad case, that I should be allowed to state to the House exactly what does happen, and how these matters, when they do occur, are dealt with by my Church.
§ Mr. MOORE
On many occasions in the past, I have differed from the Noble Lord who has just spoken, but I hope I have never said anything personally offensive to him. I thank him now for the opinion which he has expressed. The Noble Lord has stated that he is of opinion that it will be found that his own Church has not been concerned in this matter. Whether that is so or not, the Noble Lord has been frank enough to say that this woman has been subjected to a gross and abominable outrage. That contrasts and differs very much from the opinion expressed by another Roman Catholic Member below 181 the gangway, who made use of his position in this House to vilify, attack, and insult this woman whose statement has been declared to be true by the Chief Secretary. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no."]
§ Mr. BIRRELL
I said the admitted facts, namely, that the children were taken away, and that she does not know where they are. That is enough for me.
§ Mr. BIRRELL
If I did, I made a mistake, because an ex parte statement like that cannot possibly be admitted by any one.
§ Mr. BIRRELL
The woman says she does not know the name of the Priest, but if she were introduced to him, she would have no difficulty in identifying him.
§ Mr. MOORE
In the present state of her knowledge, the woman cannot identify the Priest. Of course, if you produce the Priest, it will be easy for her to do so. Up to the present the Priest has not been produced, and never will be produced. When this case is brought before the House by my right hon. Friend, who vouches for the accuracy of it, after an inquiry, it is interesting to see the reception this case meets with from hon. Members below the gangway.
I will tell the House why. If self-government is granted to Ireland, hon. Members below the gangway will be the sole 182 authority in an Irish Parliament to deal with the case of a Protestant like Mrs. McCann, who has run contra to the Canons of the Roman Catholic Church by marrying her husband otherwise than in the presence of a Roman Catholic priest. This is the Tribunal to which one will have to go then, and, when one sees to-day the reception of her case, absolutely devoid of all sympathy, and every opportunity taken to throw mud at her, and to sneer at her, and to have the whole thing minimised, as, in the words of the hon. Member for West Belfast, "merely a domestic incidental circumstance," as if one were accustomed to have his home broken up and his children torn from him every day in the week; and when we know that this treatment is likely to be repeated, and that they will be our masters in the Home Rule Parliament in Dublin, it is not a promising outlook for the Irish Protestants. I see signs that the hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. John Dillon) is going to speak. I put this categorical question to him. There is a conflict between the law of the Roman Catholic Church on marriage, which is the law of the majority of Ireland, and the British law as we know it in this House. Under the decree of the Council of Trent, every marriage all over the world between Christians of any sort is absolutely void if not celebrated before a priest and two witnesses, and it lies with the Pope to put that decree in force in any European or continental country if he pleases. He has refrained from doing so in Germany because the Germans will not stand it. He has put it in force in the last two years in this country, but he has kindly restricted it only to those cases where a Roman Catholic has married a Protestant. It is, however, in the power of his Holiness to-morrow, by the stroke of his pen, if he sees fit, to apply it to every marriage that has taken place between Protestants in the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. MOORE
It would not affect me very much as a matter of conscience, but it would affect me very much if you had a Home Rule Parliament in Ireland, and if you had a Roman Catholic majority, who are devoted adherents to their own church, for which I give them every praise, and if that majority elected to follow the law of their own church and to assimilate the law of Ireland to it. Where would Protestants come in then? That is how it affects me. I am quite prepared to take my share 183 of the rough things of this world, but I do not want my children denounced as bastards. I put this categorical question. It has been put to hon. Members below the Gangway again and again, and they dare not answer it in the Constituencies, because they know what the priests would do to them, the priests who preside over the meetings at which Nationalist Members are selected, and at which no one is allowed to have a free voice. They would not have the support of the clergy if they gave an answer. I want to know if you have a Home Rule Parliament in Ireland whether the Protestants of that country who have entered into mixed marriages will be governed by your legislation according to the decrees of the Roman Catholic Church, or according to the law of the land, as we know it now. The hon. Member for Mayo will answer that, I have no doubt.
§ Mr. STEPHEN GWYNN
I have already answered that as a Protestant representing a Catholic Constituency.
§ Mr. MOORE
The hon. Member is a professing Protestant, I know, and hon. Members below the Gangway are very glad to get gentlemen of the character of the hon. Member, who is well-known in literature, but I should be hardly willing to regard him as a very robust theologian. I want to know about these inquiries. The husband of this woman in Belfast has been spirited away, or, perhaps, he has gone away of his own will. When the hon. Member for West Belfast was speaking, he said he had a letter in his possession written by him. I wonder he did not give us the address.
§ Mr. MOORE
It is the address of the writer we want. If that address were given he could be served with civil proceedings to-morrow, and I can hardly believe the hon. Member for West Belfast could not facilitate the inquiries of the Chief Secretary by giving him the address of this man for whom the police are now hunting. Looking at the position of this family—the children are very young, and the husband has disappeared—I should say, on the whole, it is probable the children are in some charitable, religious, or philanthropic institution in Belfast. I do not think that is straining deduction very far. If they are, there is one gentleman 184 in Belfast—he is a fair-minded man—who would give the information at once. Will the right hon. Gentleman write to the Roman Catholic Bishop of the Diocese and ask him are these children in any school or institution within his diocese? The police cannot search convents. I think they ought to be able to do so, or there ought to be some Government inspection. I have always voted for it. What is the good of turning a thousand police out into the streets of Belfast to search for these children if they cannot enter the convents? The whole thing could be done politely if the right hon. Gentleman would write to the Bishop of Belfast and say: Will you kindly say whether these children are in any school or institution in your diocese?
§ Mr. MOORE
I am glad to hear that, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will state the answer he receives to the House. I think it will be a fair proof of the bona fides of all the persons concerned in the case. I think it is a most unworthy suggestion that the case has been got up for political purposes, but, considering the source from which it came, I am neither shocked nor surprised. I should like, as we are on this matter of how far Irish Protestants will be affected under the proposed legislation which this present Parliament is supposed to be leading up to, to give the House an instance which has lately come to my knowledge, a very nice instance of the toleration which is being preached on many platforms, chiefly intended for British consumption, because we do not experience it at home. There was a gentleman appointed as a High Sheriff of county Cavan. He was absolutely illegally appointed. I beg leave to say that in the presence of my learned friend the Attorney-General. Under the Common Law a man can only be appointed as High Sheriff if he is one of three names returned to the Privy Council. This Gentleman, Dr. Smith, was not one of the three names returned in 1910, and I say, after full consideration, and after looking into the law, that the Lord Lieutenant absolutely exceeded his jurisdiction. I understand that the High Sheriff is a friend of an influential Member of this. House. The Lord Lieutenant absolutely exceeded his jurisdiction when he departed from the three names on the list, and appointed Dr. Smith on the excuse that his name had appeared in the previous list. It was an absolutely unfair and 185 illegal excuse. I should not mind that so much if the whole thing had not been part and parcel of a plan to pander to the desires of hon. Members below the Gangway, and I bring it before the House as a very excellent illustration of how administration will be carried on in Ireland if hon. Members below the Gangway are put in possession of all the powers they seek. I put this merely from the point of view of an Irish Protestant. Dr. Smith is a Nationalist, a Roman Catholic, and a Home Ruler. I do not say he is any the worse for that, but his first act as High Sheriff was to dismiss the Under-Sheriff, a gentleman called Forbes, who has been Sub-Sheriff for the past fifteen years, and who has served every Sheriff in Cavan—Protestant and Roman Catholic—during that time. It is practically the only employment an Under-Sheriff has when he takes up that profession. It is a mistake, I think, in our law, that he should be at the mercy every year of some incoming stranger, and, as a matter of fact, all over Ireland it has generally been the custom to continue the Under-Sheriff who knows his work in his office. That, however, was not good enough for this Roman Catholic High Sheriff, Dr. Smith, and the first thing he did was to give the sub-sheriff notice, without having received any complaint from the county.
The next thing he did was to dismiss the Protestant Returning Officer, and, as in the case of the Sub-Sheriff, where he appointed a Roman Catholic, he appointed a Roman Catholic also as Returning Officer. I think that was a hard case, too, but there was a Court housekeeper who had been a sergeant, and was an army pensioner or perhaps a constabulary pensioner, and whose remuneration for the work would be £15, or perhaps £20 a year. He is a small man, but, when you put a Nationalist and a Home Ruler of the sort of Dr. Smith in power he hits the small man just as much as the big man, and this unfortunate caretaker of the court house was turned out of his house on 31st January, his crime being that he was a Protestant and perhaps an Orangeman. Now you have a Roman Catholic High Sheriff, a Roman Catholic Under Sheriff, and a Roman Catholic Returning Officer in Cavan, and there will be a Roman Catholic in the courthouse within a week, if he is not in it now. I do not say that in local administration you have not a right to elect whom you like, but I do say it is a hard thing that you should exercise local 186 powers to turn people who have a fixed position like the Under Sheriff, who in this case had been Under Sheriff for sixteen years, adrift in the world merely because they are Protestants and replace them by Roman Catholics, and I do believe the fairness of the hon. Member for Mayo would lead him to denounce that if he finds the facts as I have stated. It is not tolerance, but it is one of the instances happening under our eyes. It happened this very year in Cavan, and, if this is going to be a specimen of the administration which awaits Protestants under Home Rule, it will only stiffen our backs and nerve our arms all the stronger to fight against it. It is quite possible this matter may lead to trouble in Cavan, because if this Sheriff is not properly appointed it seems to me that any executions or seizures by him can be challenged in law. That would paralyse justice in the county, and, if so, it is the fault of the Government and of the Lord Lieutenant in perpetrating such a job. I would not complain had it not been for the manifest intolerance which flowed from it. It cannot be denied that the case happened, but is there any person in this House who in such a case would not have used it in a political campaign should an election be pending? Would anyone refuse to make use of it? I know the report of the Medical Officer of Health contains certain statements. But what did the hon. Member for West Belfast do, in view of the fact that an election was pending and in view also of his desire to make political capital out of the matter? He called a meeting in St. Mary's Hall. He designated it a meeting of workers—not of Nationalists—and he there denounced the iniquities of the employers of Belfast, all this occurring in the few weeks preceding the election. The hon. Member talked largely about the democracy of workers, but I would take leave to say that any observer could see that he made electoral capital out of the report of the Medical Officer of Health, although the statements in that report as to sweating were not verified. One would imagine, when hearing the hon. Member talking about democracy, that we on these benches are not allowed to represent any democracy at all. Now I represent some 5,000 artisans in the towns of Lurgan and Portadown, and if they are not a democracy I do not know what can be. The hon. Member, however, seems to think that we here only represent the landlords. I wonder whether we could find enough landlords in the Division to fill a hall like St. Mary's Hall.
§ Mr. MOORE
That may be so, but I would point out that there was a contest in South Belfast in which my hon. Friend the Member for that Division showed that in eleven months he had considerably increased his majority. In East and North Belfast the Unionist Members were returned unopposed, while in West Belfast, which the hon. Member himself represents, the majority of the democracy in the same period fell 25 per cent. It is the Radical and Nationalist game to represent the Unionist forces in Ireland as either divided or weakening, but the last election showed that the direct contrary was the case. They are neither weakening nor divided. And I may say that we are prepared to give the utmost resistance by every means in our power which the Constitution permits—and under the Constitution we are entitled to defend ourselves—we are prepared to give the utmost resistance in our power to every proposal which will cut us off from the impartial protection of the Imperial Parliament.
§ Mr. DILLON
When the hon. and learned Member for North Armagh arose I thought we were concerned with the case of Mrs. McCann, but the greater part of his speech was devoted to a subject of which we had heard nothing before in the course of this debate, and which, in fact, had nothing whatever to do with it, namely, the grievances of certain officials in county Cavan owing to the intolerance of a new High Sheriff appointed, in the opinion of the hon. Member, irregularly. If the hon. Member can substantiate his assertion that the new High Sheriff dismissed every Protestant who held office and substituted Roman Catholics, I for one would condemn that action. But may I ask the hon. Member if he will follow my good example and give us information as to how many Catholics are employed by the High Sheriffs of Antrim and Down?
§ Mr. DILLON
No; the Roman Catholics never had a chance of appointment. Here you have an example of the toleration shown in those counties. You see that Roman Catholics have no chance there at all. But what are the facts as to county Cavan? May I say, in passing, that if the hon. Member will challenge me, on a suitable occasion, to debate the question of religious tolerance by Catholics in the 188 South of Ireland, as compared with the tolerance shown by his co-religionists in the North, I am prepared to meet him, and I think I may promise him more than he bargains for. In the county of Cavan, under the late and the previous High-Sheriffs, no Catholics were appointed. Yet it is a Catholic county, as 80 per cent. of the population are Catholics. So-tolerant was the attitude of the High Sheriffs that no Catholic had a look in at all. How about another department of civil administration? For instance, in the county council of Cavan, out of the paid officers 53 per cent. are Catholics and 47 per cent. Protestant, appointed by the representatives of the people. Is that intolerant government?
§ Mr. MOORE
The hon. Member's figures are entirely misleading unless he looks at the dates when these officials were appointed. I take leave to say he will find that of the 47 per cent. he has quoted there have not been 10 per cent. appointed since the people have had the power under the Local Government Act.
§ Mr. DILLON
I will pass away from that subject. It is really irrelevant. I come to the case of Mrs. McCann. But may I observe that if at any time before the House rises, the hon. and learned Gentleman chooses to raise this issue, which is a very important one, I admit, I am willing to meet him. I am not afraid of the reputation of the Catholics in the South of Ireland, when it comes to the question of the practice of the virtue of toleration. Now let me deal with the facts in the McCann case. I should like to call attention to a sentence in the speech of the senior member for Trinity College (Sir E. Carson). It was a furious speech, it was one of those impassioned forensic efforts for which the right hon. Gentleman is noted. He said that the facts had been stated and that they had never been challenged. Well, I deny the facts as stated I say that there is not one shred of evidence before the House to support any of the alleged facts, except the disappearance of the children.
§ Mr. DILLON
I am speaking of the facts contained in this memorial, on which the right hon. Gentleman sought to secure the sympathy of the Members of this House, and, I repeat, that there is not one single shred of evidence produced in support of the statements beyond the story of the woman herself. I venture to assert that the right hon. Member for Trinity College in a court of law would deal with such a statement as that which is now relied upon as merely an ex parte statement. Instead of being the statement of the poor woman herself, it turns out to be a statement drawn by one of the ablest Presbyterian clergymen in Belfast, and it was drawn, not so much with the intention of recovering the children as of influencing an election which was pending In connection with this McCann case two separate issues are raised. One is the broad and general issue of the decree Ne Temere. The whole debate has turned on the particular case of alleged hardship brought before the House. There was an expression used by the right hon. and learned Member for Trinity College which was of a most extraordinary character. He said that the Catholic Church, by attempting to lay down conditions under which members of her communion could be conscientiously married was coming into collision with the law of the land and with the civil rights of the subject. He said the Synod of the Church of Ireland protested against such a claim as an attempt to invade the religious and civil rights of the people. We Catholics say that the church, so far as the members of its own communion are concerned, has a perfect right to lay down its own requirements. But it is a very different thing for a church to assert the right to deprive anyone of their civil rights. No attempt has been made in this case to interfere with any of the civil rights enjoyed by Mrs. McCann. The Chief Secretary said that this lady has been all along, and is at the present moment, in the full enjoyment of her civil rights. The hon. and learned Member for North Armagh challenged me to answer a question which he said that neither I nor any of my friends would ever dare to answer. The question was whether, in the event of our having Home Rule, we should feel compelled to alter the law in such a way as to make bastards of children born of marriages such as that of Mrs. McCann. I say "No." I do not believe there is the slightest risk of any alteration of the marriage law in Ireland which would inflict the smallest injustice 190 or civil disability on anyone not a member of our own church. If there were Home Rule in Ireland to-morrow the present conditions would remain, namely, that those who elect to be in communion with our church would be obliged to observe the laws of that church. Can any civil Government interfere with that? I say that no power and no civil Government could say that a man bound to a church should cease to give conscientious obedience to the law of that church?
You cannot interfere with conscience in that way, and his position would be just the same. Whatever are the laws and customs of marriage in our church they would be observed by those who belong to the church and those who refuse to obey the laws and customs of their church would have their own remedies which have been described; that is to say, they would be outside the church, or temporarily not in active communion with it. Is there not a terrible lot of hypocrisy in the indignation and excitement of the hon. Member for North Armagh and others upon this question of the decree Ne Temere. I know of people now living who were made bastards by the law of England, although their parents were properly married in the churches of our religion in Ireland. The law has not been altered so long ago. It is not long since it has been repealed. People had been living together as mart and wife for years, they had been married properly according to their church, and their children were bastardised and they were not only so, but they were made bastards in the eyes of the law and the inheritance of their fathers. They are living in Ireland to-day with the memory of that injustice by the law of this country, and is it not hypocrisy and humbug to talk so much about the danger of injustice arising from this decree. The fact is that all these matters belong to a period which has passed away.
Let us be quite frank and fair about this matter. All churches and all religions, and even some who have no religion, were unjust to each other in the past. The Protestants of this country have done just as intolerant things as I am afraid our own church has done on some occasions in this and in other matters. The day for all that is passed. The public opinion of Europe and Western civilisation would not tolerate such a condition of things as existed in the past. Now, let me come to the case and to the facts, or rather to the 191 facts as they are alleged to be. The facts are not notorious, as was stated in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. No facts have been established except that in the first place the children were taken away. It has been alleged that the children were spirited away by a priest, and the word "kidnapped" has been used. I do not believe there is a word of truth in that suggestion against the priest. I cannot pretend that I know, but I have reason to believe that the children were taken away by their own father. I am not defending him in any way. I know nothing about the character either of Mr. McCann or of Mrs. McCann except their own statements, but I do believe that the children were taken away by the father, and I have good reason also to believe that the priest had nothing to do whatever with the taking away of the children. The main fact is that the removal of the children, if it were done by the father, was perfectly legal, and, although it may have been cruel on his part, the Lord Lieutenant could not interfere so long as the children were in the custody of the father, and, as I understand the law, the law could not interfere. So long as they were in the custody of the father, though they might condemn it, what could the Government do? There has been nothing whatever said in this Debate to prove that they were not removed by the father, or that he had not a perfect right to do so. The next fact, or alleged fact, is the desertion of the wife by the husband. That is the only fact which seems to be admitted except that the children were taken away. Everybody seems to admit that McCann has deserted his wife. It is alleged that he deserted her under the orders of the priest who had broken into a family that had been living peacefully together, and had almost persecuted the husband and wife. But there is not a shred or tittle of evidence in support of that statement.
Surely it is a monstrous thing that for a political purpose—because it is admitted that the speeches have been more for a political purpose than in the interests of Mrs. McCann, and that for that purpose this Debate was inaugurated—it is monstrous to have this discussion without a shred of evidence to prove this serious allegation. The next allegation is, that the priest not once but repeatedly went to the house, and was the means of breaking up the family. But Mrs. McCann does not know the name, and none of these Belfast gentlemen who have interested themselves 192 in this case know the name of the priest. I do not believe that anything can be said in support of that. I believe that, on the contrary, the name of the priest is thoroughly well known to all these gentlemen, and they are afraid to state it for fear of a writ. I am in a position to state that if they were to-morrow to name the priest a writ would be served, and the machinery would be put into motion to bring about an investigation of this case to the bottom, and in all its details much more effectually than by means of a debate in the House of Commons. I will now turn to what is a rather painful aspect of this case—and really I must protest against the statement that because we give such evidence as is placed in our hands rebutting the charges made against Catholic people of Ireland by this case, we should therefore be held up as attacking and hounding down this unfortunate and wretched woman. We are no more hounding down the woman than you are hounding down the man. Hon. Members come into this House and read an ex partc statement made by this wife charging her husband with every form of cruelty and outrage, and yet if we give some statement on the other side then we are told we are acting in a most ungenerous, unchivalrous and cruel way towards the woman. The people who are acting cruelly and ungenerously are the people who drag the sordid, wretched case of this family dispute into the Press and into this House. Here is a letter, which I am told and believe is in the handwriting of McCann himself. The hon. Member for North Armagh challenged me to say why the hon. Member for West Belfast, having the letter, did not give the address. The letter is here, and we are prepared to give the letter into the hands of hon. Members who desire to investigate the case. It was handed to my hon. Friend by a friend of McCann, and the address had been carefully torn off. It is a long document, giving a horrible history of a sordid, disgusting, family life. I do not intend to read it, but I really must give one or two passages in order to show that there is another side to this story. If the House of Commons is sought to be turned into a court to try this question and the statement of one party is read, and it is an ex parte statement, it is only fair to read something from the statement of the other party. In the very first sentence the husband says:As the husband of the woman in the recent Belfast trial, I desire to say that the priest had no more till do.[Laughter.] He means "to do"; it is in 193 the Belfast language; it does not happen to be edited by a Protestant clergyman.The priest had no more till do with the case than the editor of the 'Irish News,' and to show you how utterly impossible it was for me to live in the same house with this woman——And he then goes on to give a hideous picture of their life for several years. He found it impossible to live with her. He says:—Her letter, or what is supposed to be her letter, to the Lord Lieutenant is all or nearly all a pack of lies. I am not a cruel-hearted man as the Presbyterian minister would have people to believe.And he is as well entitled to be heard in this House as she is, although I do not think either of them is entitled to have these ex parte statements read here. He goes on:—She says I asked her to change her faith on account of the way the priests were ratting me. I never did anything of the kind. I did ask her to get married so that we could live like Catholics. She says that during the first thirteen months there was never a dispute about religion, but there was never a day passed without a dispute. For instance, she would have meat ready for me on Fridays. She would put back the clock and make me late for Mass. She ridiculed the priest and religions cursed the Pope and sang hymns all day.I must say that Mr. McCann's letter sounds to me more genuine than Mrs. McCann's. He claims that he is neither a drinker nor a smoker, that he gave up smoking because his wife would not allow him to smoke; that he paid her all his wages every week except a shilling or two, and yet his wife abused him for not giving her enough. She also accused him of keeping another woman. She attacked his mother and father, and called them most opprobious names. She went into the country to her mother's to be confined. When he went there she told her husband that the child was stillborn, and asked him to go for some drink, but when he returned she told him that the child was alive. That is only an ex parte statement, but I say it appears to me, although I do not vouch for the accuracy of one word of it, to be more naturally written than Mrs. McCann's letter. Finally we have the evidence of the priest, confirmed by this letter, that when the unfortunate man took the child in his arms and brought it to be baptised this delightful woman followed him into the Catholic Church and pulled away the girl whom he had got to hold the child as godmother, and when he interposed she got hold of him in the church and pounded him with her fists and dragged him out into the street, and it turns out that she went home and broke the windows of her own house. That is not a picture of a home of happiness and peace into which 194 this diabolical man, this Mephistopheles, the Catholic priest, entered, and for the first time was the cause of disturbance and dispute. My conclusion in this matter is this, that here you have a sordid domestic tragedy dragging on for years, and into which I do not intend for a moment to enter to adjudicate, upon the relative merits or demerits of Mr. and Mrs. McCann. They seem to have been an ill-mated pair, and had an unhappy home, and we have the evidence of the priest to show that,' like many a man who went as peacemaker, when he went there to try his utmost to make peace he failed. Therefore it is a gross and scandalous invention to say that the priest interfered in this happy home and broke it up, and brought war and discord where peace had reigned before. I most sincerely say, whatever may be thought about the merits of the case, that I believe thoroughly that it is an electioneering case, and that neither the House nor the public of England would have heard of the McCanns and their grievances had it not been for the letter of the Tory agent read by the hon. Member (Mr. Devlin), and in my deliberate judgment, and I believe I am speaking the opinion of most of the Members of these benches, as well as those opposite, it was nothing short of an outrage to bring the case at all before the House of Commons.
§ Mr. BOTTOMLEY
I think it will be the general opinion of the House that the extremely painful incident which has been under discussion for some time past might, for the present at any rate, be considered closed. Remembering, as it is almost difficult to do, that we are discussing a Motion for an Address in answer to His Majesty's Gracious Speech, I ask permission of the House to call its mind back to the comparatively prosaic subject of the political situation in which we find ourselves at the commencement of the Parliament. I do so as a detached Member of the House, and if I seek any higher title than that for demanding the indulgent attention of the House, it is that as a London Member, I occupy the unique position of holding the balance between the two official parties of the State. There are, I understand, sixty-one Members for London, thirty of them calling themselves Tories, or whatever may be the equivalent phrase, and thirty Liberals or Radicals. Therefore, thirty of the London Members exactly equalise the other thirty, and I occupy the proud position of being the 195 representative of the Metropolis. Speaking with a full sense of the responsibility which that position puts upon me, I ask permission of the House to view the present situation not from the point of view of a party man, on one side or the other, but from the commonplace attitude of a plain, blunt, common-sense man of business, who thinks that from that point of view, there are one or two considerations which might with advantage be respectfully submitted for consideration.
I base my views, such as they are, upon this fundamental principle, that the days of political revolution in this country, at any rate, are ended. When we see, as we do every day of our lives, hungry men and women content to bear their sufferings patiently, waiting for the evolution of the social system, or the reward hereafter, which they are taught is their chief hope, they are not likely to storm the Bastille, because of a temporary dispute between the two Houses of Parliament. I have listened attentively to the discussion, and I hope it is not an unparliamentary phrase to use, when I say that it struck me as being characterised by a large amount of unreality. I see two distinguished Members of this Assembly spending their summer vacation together in the pristine freedom of a private yacht, performing their marine ablutions together day by day, and subsequently being the common guests of one of the ducal families of this country, walking arm-in-arm home at night after their deliberations here, and filling up their spare time on the one hand, by abusing the aristocracy, and on the other always by abusing each other, then I am tempted very much to the repetition of the historic phrase of the late Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, which I need not further particularise. When I see Members on this side vehemently condemning the hereditary principle, I glance at the roll of Junior Ministers on the Treasury Bench, and wonder to what other cause they attribute their high position in this House. Therefore, I say there is to my mind a certain sense of unreality in this discussion. I do not consider it necessary to use any strong or abusive language towards either political party, or even towards the other place, at the other end of the corridor. I have always entertained a respect for that lady of whom we have all heard who was in the habit of bowing her head in church whenever 196 the name of his Satanic Majesty was mentioned, and when called upon for an explanation, replied, "Politeness costs nothing, and you never can tell." We, on this side of the House, never can tell. It may become a patriotic duty at any moment, at short notice, in the cause of true democracy, to don a coronet and robe, and take part in the deliberations of the other House, and therefore I shall endeavour to observe moderation of language in view of the present political situation.
I observe with pleasure the presence of the Prime Minister, and I am going to be obtuse enough to respectfully put to him a question which was asked by a right hon. Gentleman on the other side of the House, and the answer to which I followed, but have not yet been able to mentally digest. We are told we are here at the commencement of a new Parliament, and the question asked was, "Why a new Parliament"? I have never been able to understand it. I can understand that the Prime Minister found, after the failure of the Conference, that the hope of carrying the Parliament Bill was remote in the extreme, but I cannot understand why the Bill was not sent to another place—it was almost ready to go—and why we could not have then submitted it, rejected as it might have been by the other place to the judgment of the people. I endeavour to look these questions plainly in the face, and I am going to suggest that perhaps some such consideration as this, weighed with His Majesty's Government. If we send that Parliament Bill to another place with its preamble staring that place in the face, instead of ignominiously rejecting it, that other place may possibly take hold of that preamble and say, "we will consider favourably your Veto restrictions, but we will give effect to the preamble of your Bill, and we will send it back to you with some scheme of reformed constitution of our House attached to it," That would not have suited some of the advanced Members as they are called on this side of the House.
Another point I want to ask on this subject is this: Calling myself, as the Leader of the Opposition says we may all call ourselves to-day, a democrat, I felt extremely embarrassed, having a complete set of Hansard in my possession, and having occasionally dived into its musty pages, at having to explain to my constituents why we were appealing to them in the very last days of the year, on an expiring register, 197 when new registers had been made up, and were almost available for use in the election. The Prime Minister yesterday used this phrase: He said "to expedite the register was impracticable." I want to know why by common consent a little Bill of one clause, making all Parliamentary registers come into operation, there and then, could not have been passed in the last few days of the last Parliament, and why we could not then have placed ourselves in the position, which I say with great respect it is pure cant to say that we are in, of having the best possible reply of the people to the question submitted to them at the last election. The Prime Minister said he wanted some kind of emphasis of the policy embodied in the Bill, therefore he again submitted the principle of the Parliament Bill and its embodiment to the electorate. I thought that was a phrase of some significance, because there is a very large section on this side of the House who are bitterly opposed to any kind of reform, at the instance of the Government, of the House of Lords. It does not lie in the power of the Prime Minister, after using that phrase, to withdraw from the Bill its most important preamble, and I am one of those who firmly believe that to leave the House of Lords as it stands and to limit its Veto is a grotesque method of dealing with a great constitutional question.
The Prime Minister says we have the embodiment of that policy in that Bill, therefore I suppose the House may assume that when it is reintroduced it will again contain the preamble in favour of reform of the House of Lords. That being so, I press with great humility upon the Prime Minister—after all, all that a private Member can do now is, with humility, to make casual and occasional speeches—for permission just to throw out this suggestion. The Prime Minister said yesterday he hoped to get this Bill through, passed and completed, before the Coronation. That is a vain hope, utterly without any foundation or probability. It is too much, human nature being what it is, and the House of Commons and the House of Lords being what they are, to expect such a consummation as that. I want to suggest, as I have suggested elsewhere, that there is a practical solution of this question, well worthy of consideration. The embodiment of the policy that the Prime Minister submitted to the electorate declares for a reformed Second Chamber and a limited Veto. Whilst we are considering the question of the Veto, the other House might 198 well be engaged in seriously considering some measure of reform, the two Bills might automatically change Houses for consideration, and, instead of trying to force an agreement before the Coronation, which is utterly hopeless, you could appoint a joint committee of the two-Houses to consider these two measures, with a view to bringing forward after the Coronation a consolidated Bill, dealing both with reform of the Lords and the limitation of its Veto. That is a practical, statesmanlike proposal, though emanating from a private Member, and I am quite certain nothing short of this will meet the case, and that failing it, His Majesty will be greatly and gravely embarrassed in the early days of his reign, by being called upon to go through that solemn ceremony of the Coronation, with the whole country seething in political and party ferment.
I want now to refer to one matter on which I feel very deeply. I want to know a little more as to the intention of the Government about depriving a private Member of the small remnant of Parliamentary usefulness and existence that is now left. Why is all our time to be taken till Easter? If the Prime Minister said, "Give us your time, and we will undertake to make it up to you in some way after Easter," I could understand the bargain. But we may find ourselves, even after Easter, asked to sacrifice such few rights as we possess. The position of any self-respecting private Member of this House is becoming intolerable; I do not know what we are here for. The old theory was that we were here to control the public purse. We are now mere automata. I cannot help likening myself and the average private Member to the vermiform appendix of the body politic, with no nobler functions than that of being operated upon.
We have no vital function to perform. We might as well stay at home, and send a gramaphone here to say, "Hear, hear," when a Minister gets up. I do feel that the whole power of the private Member is being taken away. The whole control over the Executive is gone, and yet the average party Member sitting on this side or on the other side of the House, is content to come here simply to register the decrees of the official Cæsar. I for one am not prepared to submit to it, and so far as the rules of this House will permit, I will raise my voice and use every means in my power to resist the proposal to filch away 199 the rights and privileges we have as Members of this House. The mover of the Address yesterday used one phrase in referring to the Estimates which appealed very much to me I hope it was inspired. He said he hoped that the Estimates, before being submitted to this House, would undergo some kind of business examination and revision. Heaven knows we have little enough control over the expenditure of public money. We have a Committee called the Public Accounts Committee, which is not very useful, because it simply has to sit in judgment upon money after it has been spent, and it is invariably induced to agree with the official view in regard to expenditure. Last year I pressed the Chancellor of the Exchequer on this matter and received great hope and encouragement from him as to the appointment of a Standing Estimates Committee from among the Members of the House, in order that before the Estimates are submitted they may undergo revision by business Members of the House, who would report on the adequacy, extravagance, or insufficiency of the Estimates. May I ask the Prime Minister's attention to a statement made by him just before he assumed office in 1906. Addressing his own Constituents, he used these words:—With regard to the voting of public money the theory of the constitution is that the people's representatives are sent to Parliament to control expenditure, but what is the practice? In 1904 under supply closure thirty-one millions of money were closured, not one item of which was ever discussed, and this year (1905) the amount rose to fifty millions sterling. This is a most serious state of things, It amounts to nothing more nor less than a creeping and progressive paralysis of the Parliamentary organism.The Prime Minister has been in power some years. Is he going to permit this creeping and progressive paralysis to become chronic? I was horrified one day last year when the Prime Minister, in answer to a question—I am sure it must have been written by one of the officials—told me that Ministers and heads of departments are responsible for their Estimates, and that the only control of the House is limited to discussions in Committee of Supply. I do hope that when we are appointing the Public Accounts Committee their power will be extended to examine the Estimates before they are submitted, or else that we shall have an independent business Committee of the House to examine and report on the Estimates. When we are defying the other House to put a finger on any item in the. Budget because we are the guardians of the public purse, is it not hypo- 200 crisy that fifty millions or sixty millions of public money should be automatically voted every year without examination or discussion by a single Member of this House? I ask the Prime Minister to take that view into his consideration. I hope we may shortly have an assurance that there is to be a restoration of the business control of this House over the expenditure of public money. When that is accomplished, it will be one good thing done.
We have an extremely oracular Speech from the Throne, and we have been encouraged by the hon. Member who moved the Address to read into it anything congenial to ourselves. I do hope with regard to Naval and Military matters that we are going to take the plunge which I see some Members of the Cabinet are preparing themselves to take. I hope we are no longer going to tinker with Naval and Military Estimates, but that we will consider the big question that is behind, namely, that a supreme Navy is essential, and that certain improvements and developments have to be faced in order to keep pace with the spirit of the time. Is it not well to recognise that we ought to have one comprehensive Military and Naval loan, the money for which would be subscribed a thousand times over, and for which the interest would be three millions less than you are proposing to spend on increased Naval Estimates for the year. You would then have a huge fund at your disposal to use as occasion requires. Do not discuss in this House or elsewhere exactly what you are thinking in regard to naval or military equipments. There are not half a dozen Members in this House who have the remotest conception of the meaning of these things. Do not invite military attachés to come and witness your manœuvres. Have a large fund in hand for the purpose of providing what you require, and which would involve a much less charge on the taxpayer than under the present system. I thank the House for permitting me to throw out these suggestions. I only hope the Government will give some little encouragement by restoring to Members of the House some kind of real and live existence, and that they will not enforce, to the growing impatience of the country, the Party system which has led one of the most brilliant men who sat in the last Parliament, Mr. Hilaire Belloc, to express the result of his experience in a book recently published. He says:—The Party system is in the last stages of decay. It is no longer really alive. The necessity of getting rid 201 of it is like the necessity one is under of being rid of a great dead body in one's neighbourhood when it has begun to putrify.My view of the Party system is that it is the reductio ad absurdum. Unless you vote straight you get a bad mark from the whip, from whose dominion I am happy to be temporarily released. We are told that there is nothing else for it if you come here than to be good boys. We may then be made peers, or something of that sort in the good time to come. I earnestly, respectfully and sincerely beg the Prime Minister's kind consideration of the suggestions I have thrown out.
§ Mr. WALTER LONG
I am glad that one hon. Member speaking below the Gangway opposite (Mr. Bottomley) has been found to comment upon the extraordinary situation in which we find ourselves. Early in the afternoon we were discussing the order moved from the Government Bench. It was suggested that there was some precedent for the action which the Government were now taking. I venture with great confidence to say that there is no precedent for this present case. There is one precedent—namely, the action taken by the Government themselves last year. But the circumstances then were entirely different. Parliament last year met much later, and Easter fell much earlier, and the Government were compelled to make the Motion they did. Although the circumstances now are different, we find ourselves, as the hon. Gentleman opposite said, deprived in the most ruthless and wholesale way of the time in which private Members can make proposals, suggest legislation, or indeed play any other part in the business of this House than register the opinions and decrees of the Government. I remember when it fell to the lot of my Leader to make proposals for taking the time of the House, and the indignation of hon. Gentlemen who are now below the Gangway and who were then on this side of the House was apparently very real. At all events it was very loud, it was frequently and vehemently expressed. It is interesting to observe that during this debate only one hon. Gentleman opposite has been found to comment upon the action of the Government. The Chief Secretary blamed my right hon. Friend the Member for Dublin University (Mr. Campbell) for introducing one particular incident on what he called a political matter, and he reproached him further by saying that it was unnecessary to do it inasmuch as 202 we would have many other opportunities of laying our views before the House. If the Chief Secretary were present, I would ask him to specify one of the numerous opportunities to which he refers. The Prime Minister told us that he hoped full time would be given for the discussion of the Address. We have had hopes of that kind expressed from the Government Bench more than once. We were told last year that this House would have full opportunity to discuss the Veto Bill, and we have had no opportunity at all. I should be very much surprised if we did not find the Prime Minister rising at some later date and telling us that his hopes have been dashed to the ground and that he is compelled to ask the House to come to a close on the Debate on the Address, and we shall have no opportunity in which to raise any of the questions in which we are interested, and when the Address is over until the Government find themselves in an easier position than they are in at present we are not to have one single moment in which by any of the usual modes, or even by adjournment, we can call the attention of the country in this House to any single question.
We have been discussing, so far, the question raised by my right hon. and learned Friend (Mr. J. H. Campbell). I have no knowledge of that question except that which has been gained from newspapers. I have no means of verifying it because, as we have heard it debated today, it is impossible to go beyond the statement which has been made. But when I am told that this is a political dodge which is being got up for a political purpose, I can only say that I absolutely decline to believe that there is any foundation for a charge of that kind, knowing, as I do, and in spite of the inclination of some hon. Gentlemen to talk of this trouble having been raised in Belfast, that one of the largest meetings ever held in Ireland was addressed by clergymen and laity, and, being, as I am quite certain that none of those gentlemen would have lent themselves to advocating by their speeches and by their presence at that meeting that which was not in reality a grievance and which was only a political dodge. But there is something else to be said in answer to that allegation. We had the Chief Secretary dealing with the question himself earlier in the evening, and he went so far as to express his profound regret at the circumstances, and did not attempt to deny that the occurrence had taken place. All he did, and, as it seemed to me, with 203 very ill-effect, was to try to prove that he was unable to deal with the case and unable to secure justice for this unfortunate woman. I do not believe that the great ecclesiastics who have expressed themselves in the strongest and unmistakable terms in Ireland upon this question have done so without satisfying themselves that there is good foundation for it, and I regret, profoundly, that the Irish Government have not taken action, as they could have taken action, to secure some measure of justice for this unfortunate woman. Everyone who is conversant with the Government of Ireland knows that the Government and the police in Ireland do a great deal of the work that is done by the private individual in England and Scotland. They have constantly to intervene in order to see that justice is done and that crime is punished. Surely that is a pathetic passage in that woman's petition, in which she says that if a shilling had been stolen the whole forces of Government would have been employed in order to find the criminal, and see that punishment was meted out to him, and that justice was done as far as possible to the person who had been injured. Surely if that is true—and no one has sought to deny it—then is not it equally true that the full forces of Government ought to have been employed to do justice to this unfortunate woman, and make it improbable, if not impossible, that there should be a recurrence of anything of the kind? But it is useless to carry the matter further. The Government have boasted of their impotence, and they are determined not to act on any statement we make or any entreaties we may address to them, and any criticisms we may pass evidently fall on deaf ears.
There is another subject to which I wish to refer. The fact that we have no time at our disposal after the Address is over will make it impossible for those who belong to His Majesty's Opposition to obtain from the Government any information on certain points. I am not very confident that we shall be successful now, but at all events we will make the effort. Why is it that the whole time of the House is being taken with the general assent of those independent Members who, in other circumstances, would have protested loudly against this action of the Government? It is, we are told, because they are united in the determination to support the Government in passing the Parliament 204 Bill. And why is it that the Parliament Bill is being pressed upon us? It is pressed upon us because it is well known that without some special powers of that kind, without some change in our procedure such as is indicated in that Bill, the Government cannot pass some of the measures that they want to pass, notably Home Rule for Ireland. What a farce it is to suggest that this new procedure is required for such measures, for instance, as education or licensing, or any of the other abortive schemes of His Majesty's Government during the last two Parliaments. We have not heard anything lately about the Education Bill or about the Licensing Bill, and we all know perfectly well that the Government realise that those were measures which had not got the support of the country. And they do not propose to re-introduce them because they know that the country would not back them in doing it. But they are in a difficulty. The Prime Minister boasted in his speech yesterday that he had behind him a majority as large as any majority that had backed his precedessors, at any rate for a long time. That is perfectly true as far as numbers are concerned. I am not going to discuss the question which has been raised in some quarters that a majority ought not to count because it is a composite majority. I am only going to point to the fact that that majority, depending as it does almost entirely upon the votes of the Nationalist Members for Ireland, makes it inevitable that the Government should put itself in a position to pass Home Rule, and that therefore we are called upon to submit to the filching away of our Parliamentary liberties in this House, in order that a Bill may be forced through, in order that Home Rule may be forced upon this country and upon Ireland. That is the actual position in which we find ourselves. My right hon. Friend the Member for Dublin University quoted from a speech made by the Chief Secretary to his constituency in Bristol in which the Chief Secretary told his constituents and the country that Home Rule is a question which ought to be assented to, I think he said referred to the people. What steps is the Government taking to bring about this result? My right hon. Friend quoted from the speeches of one or two Members of the Government. He called the attention of the House to the references they have made to their Home Rule proposal. Surely if it is idle to ask the Government to do what I believe ought to be done in 205 the interests of legislation, namely, to present the Bill to this House in order that it might be fully understood by the country before they attempted to pass it into law, if we cannot ask them to do that surely it is not too much to ask that they should tell us in general terms what the proposals are.
If I am met by the answer that they have got no proposal at present, then I call as witnesses Members of the Government who, during the election, spoke on this subject. More than one of them, notably the Secretary of State for War (Mr. Haldane) referred in explicit terms to that scheme which the Government have for Home Rule. It is quite evident that in their minds if not on paper they have some scheme or some proposal for dealing with this question. And is it too much that we should ask to be taken into their confidence at all events so far as the general principles of the scheme are concerned? How is it possible for the country to do that which the Chief Secretary says it ought to do, namely, consider this question, if it is to be dealt with in this way? What is going to take place during the next few months? Obviously, I imagine it is almost certain that the ordinary accidents will happen, and that there will be from time to time vacancies in this House. At every election which is being fought the Government prefer to take refuge in this most undignified position. They prefer to leave their proposals absolutely nebulous, so that nobody can lay their finger on this or that part of the scheme and criticise it, so at this moment among the hon. Gentlemen opposite who are prepared to vote for Home Rule and who are clamouring for it, there is not one of them who would get up here and say clearly what it is that this Government scheme is likely to be. Not only are the Government failing to give us any general information, but further than that the statements they do make are startlingly inconsistent in themselves. The Foreign Secretary, whose absence we all deplore, not only because we are always glad to see him here, but because of our profound regret that a tragic death has deprived him of a brother and us of a distinguished Englishman, referring to this question, more than once talked in what seemed to me to be, for so distinguished and clear a man, a very loose way. More than once he referred to the intentions of the Government to grant Home Rule to Ireland as it was given to the Boers. That 206 is a strangely loose statement to come from so distinguished a man, and I venture to say that South Africa offers no precedent whatever and no parallel for the case of Home Rule for Ireland.
What happened in the South African case? We are asked by the Foreign Secretary to believe that the ideal of the Government—I do not take it any further than that—is that Home Rule should be granted as it was granted in South Africa. Nobody knows better than the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, the Under-Secretary for the Colonies (Colonel Seeley) that the South African case is not only no precedent for this case, but is precisely the reverse. The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head. But in South Africa you had got two Parliaments already in existence—in Cape Colony and Natal. What this Government did was to grant not Home Rule to South Africa but representative government to the two other colonies which were at that time Crown Colonies. What followed from that? What is the great event on which hon. Gentlemen congratulate themselves and the country, and which they say ought to be the precedent followed now in Ireland. It is exactly the reverse of the proposal of His Majesty's Government in Ireland in order to pass which we are asked to surrender our liberties in this House. No sooner had we granted representative government to these two other colonies than the Secretary for the Colonies agreed to do what?—To abolish the four Parliaments, the four different Governments, and to form one Government. For what purpose? I am not quoting textually, but I am giving with substantial accuracy the eloquent words of the distinguished statesman who is now Prime Minister of South Africa. He claimed that South Africa should be united in order that in all great questions affecting the Empire South Africa should speak with one voice. Can any hon. Gentleman deny that the policy which led to the abolition of four Governments and the creation of one Government is no precedent for the policy which the Government now recommends?
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY for the COLONIES (Colonel Seely)
I said that the union in South Africa could not possibly come about without the granting of Home Rule to the other two colonies.
§ Mr. WALTER LONG
What the right hon. Gentleman and his friends are always putting before the country as the 207 great advantage is not the original granting of representative government to these smaller colonies, but the ultimate coming together of the four colonies into one, and the merging of four different Parliaments into one Parliament which enables South Africa to speak with one voice. I take it a step further. Surely what South Africa did is what we did 110 years ago in Ireland and some 200 years ago in Scotland.
We had three Parliaments, the Scotch, the Irish and the English Parliaments, and we merged them, and South Africa is following our example. To quote the South African case as justification of or a proper illustration of what the Government now propose to do is to fly absolutely in face of the facts. I know that the hon. and learned Member for Waterford (Mr. John Redmond) has taken the country into his confidence in a variety of speeches which he has made, and in one very interesting article which he wrote to a magazine edited by the hon. Member for the Scotland division of Liverpool (Mr. T. P. O'Connor). In reading those speeches and that article, and having some small amount of knowledge—I go no further than that—on the subject of Ireland, and her past history, I confess I am unable to understand whether the hon. and learned Gentleman, in taking the case of Canada as a precedent, puts Ireland in the position of the Dominion, or in the position of one of the provinces of Canada. There is all the difference in the world between the two. In considering the South African case it is extremely interesting to remember that when the South African people met in convention to discuss what should be the form of the new Government of their country, the first scheme they had under consideration, and which they took into the convention, was a scheme of federation. This, I understand, to be the proopsal which unites the greater number of hon. Gentlemen opposite. They laugh at the idea of separate Parliaments; at the same time, it appears convenient for them to forget that the leader of the party, who himself says separation is not proposed by the Irish Nationalist party, has never withdrawn, but stands by to-day the language which was used by his predecessor, and which has been used by himself, namely, that no man can put a limit to the march of a nation. Consequently, when he denies that separation is wanted, it must always be remembered that there is that limitation to the hopes held out to hon. Gentlemen opposite 208 and hon. Members below the Gangway. The federal scheme, I understand, is the scheme that evokes the sympathy of hon. Members below the Gangway, and makes many of them supporters of Home Rule, but they would not support Home Rule if they had not a federal scheme before them. In the South African case, they started with the idea of a federal scheme, but when they came to contemplate the structure, and to a large extent had created a federal scheme of Home Rule, they realised that if you were to give reality to the provincial Parliament, the result would be that there would be practically nothing for the central Imperial Parliament to do. The result of their federal scheme would leave to the Federal Government a very moderate amount of work, a very small amount of dignity, and very little chance of making their country what they properly desired it to be, and what they constantly hope and believe they will make it, now they have got the chance.
I wonder how many realise what the effect of a federal scheme would be. After all, in this great Imperial House of Commons, are we not often reproached with the fact that we take too much time over, and pay too much attention to, what are called domestic affairs, rather than our great imperial affairs? I do not think, however, that that is the fault of this House; but I ask hon. Gentlemen who have pledged themselves, as it seems to me, rather hastily, to this scheme of a Federal Parliament, to realise what may be expected. On all those questions which come home to the minds of the people, on all those questions materially affecting their well-being, their daily lives, their own home concerns, each of those Members of this Parliament who proposes to have a Federal Parliament, and who contemplates, I presume, sitting himself in that Parliament, is delegating the duties of the most important Parliament to the less important Parliaments, and is thereby depriving himself of any power or right to take part in legislation which is often very important and lies nearer to the hearts of the people than anything else that is done in their behalf. When the people of South Africa realised what was the meaning of federalism, they abandoned it and tore up their scheme, and founded the present scheme of unification, which has enabled them to speak with one; voice as part of the Empire. What is it I have asked the Government to do? Surely it is not very much, and surely it 209 is not unfair, to assume that if they have thought this thing out, and clearly made up their minds what they themselves intend to propose, they ought not to be so afraid of their own scheme, so frightened at their own shadow, as to be unable to tell us whether it is the Australian or Canadian model, or the still looser federation of Australia which they have in their minds, or whether Ireland is to play the part of Canada, or the part of one of the provinces of Canada, or one of the Parliaments of Australia. We are entitled to believe that they have some fairly definite notion what it is they mean to propose. Why is it that they propose to keep the country in the dark?
How often have we heard hon. Gentlemen perorating to their Constituents and talking about government by the people for the people? What has become of that ancient Liberal and Radical doctrine? This is not government by the people for the people. This is government by the Government of the day, with power to require that they were to do nothing in respect of their scheme except to say "Yes" or "No." What has become of these Liberal and ancient theories? Why is it that the Government will not take the people into their confidence? Why is it that they will not adopt the advice of the Chief Secretary and say to the country—"This is our proposal; we want you to consider it, in order that we may have your authority to pass it into law." The answer is quite obvious. The Government know perfectly well that the moment they open their minds, the moment they take the country into their confidence, their scheme will very soon be torn to ribbons, and their own position will be materially weakened, if not destroyed. Therefore, from the point of view of this House, I hold that in a change so great and vital as this one which you are proposing, by which you will undoubtedly break up the United Kingdom, it may be for evil, it may be for good—I hold, and others hold with me, that you ought to take the country into your confidence and tell it what it is you mean to do, and give an opportunity of examining your proposals. I do not wonder that we never hear a reply. The Government having gone through the terrors of an election, and having, as they say, come back triumphantly with a majority emphasised although decreased—a curious way of emphasising—they will run no more risks, and they will keep the secret locked up in 210 their bosom, divulging it to nobody, although they know by doing this they are-asking the country, without any previous knowledge, to give their assent to a great scheme of legislation which may be fraught with the direst consequences to the country. I know that any appeal I make-is not likely to move the Government to tell anything more than they have told us—and that is nothing. We live in a state of profound ignorance as to their intentions. Their friends have advocated different schemes, and then the Government will suddenly produce a scheme to the country and ask that it should be accepted in a hurry, without any of the knowledge that it ought to possess. I think the Government are treating the country as badly in this respect as they are treating the House badly in taking all its time. I think they are treating us with the greatest unfairness. I believe myself that the inevitable consequence will follow that when the proposals which they are framing, or have framed for this revolution, are made public and the country is taken into their confidence, they will find that it is opposed to their scheme of Home-Rule. The country will not have it. The country has refused to have it before. Therefore, while I blame them for not taking the more heroic and better course, yet I do not blame them for adopting a course which tends to their own security. It is because they believe that they have not got the country at their back, and that this scheme of Home Rule is not one which will be accepted, that they have adopted the course which to them is one of greater wisdom, but which is not that which they ought to take in the interests of the country and in fairness to this House.
Sir H. SAMUEL
I listened with a good deal of interest and admiration, I must say, to the words that fell from the hon. Member for South Hackney (Mr. Bottomley), who says, truly from his point of view, that he is the Member for London. I must honestly confess that I have a considerable amount of sympathy with the views which the hon. Member expressed. I have had the honour during the years I have been a Member of this House to listen to a good many Gracious Speeches from the Throne. During all these years I have never for a moment intruded upon the House at so early a period of the Session. I am led to do so on this occasion for one reason only—that the only thing that a private Member has got to do is to speak as early as possible in the Session, as there is a 211 very great chance that he will not have an opportunity afterwards. There was a time when it was said, and when it was really true, that we were the representatives of the people. Not only was it the case, that the majority of our constituents must agree with our views, or they would not have returned us, but at the same time, we had the power of expressing on their behalf, what their views were, nay more than that, we had the power very often, of initiating for them, different things, which they thought would remove grievances from which they suffered.
From the words we heard to-day, from the Prime Minister, I think there is very little doubt, that the last remnant of power or of individual action that remained with the ordinary private Member 5s to be absolutely taken away from us. We shall have no longer the power of either expressing the views our constituents hold, nor shall we have the power of putting them into action. In private measures, we are deprived of our power, and in public measures, closure by compartments and time closure have taken away from us, the opportunities we used to enjoy. I would like to ask the House whether this is really a time when it is advisable to deprive us of that power? It is the present intention of His Majesty's Government to very largely curtail, if I may so put it, the criticising power of another place. In addition to that, they now propose to take from the private Member his power of criticism. Therefore I venture to think that the Government intend to deprive themselves of the pleasure of listening to any criticism at all as to any of the measures of which they approve. It seems to me that the present Government, instead of being, as it poses to be, a democratic Government, holding its position from the people, are turning themselves into a more autocratic form of Government than we have ever witnessed in this country in our time, an autocratic Government that declines to brook any opposition or to brook any criticism of any kind or sort as to its actions. So much shall I say for the woes of the private Member. After all, anybody who has been in this House for a great number of years has, I suppose, some little right to look back on the past, and to rather pride themselves upon the individual liberty that was granted to the men who were the representatives of the people.
212 I would like to express the very deep regret I feel as a London Member, that London, which is, after all, the capital city of this Empire, has not received the smallest mention in the Gracious Speech from the Throne. London is suffering at the present time from one or two very serious grievances. One has been so much before the eyes of the public lately, that I hardly intend to say much about it, and that is, shall I call it, the insurrection that has taken place in the East End of London recently. The alien question has been with us for a great many years. I recollect as far back as 1889, when I had the honour of being a Candidate for a West London Constituency, that I brought before the then Prime Minister, the very serious condition that prevailed in that Constituency. We had there a very large influx of exactly the same character as that which resulted in the insurrection in Sidney Street. Therefore, it is no new thing, but it has been growing worse and worse. There are two different features of the alien question entirely separate and entirely apart from each other. There is, first of all, the industrial question, and, secondly, and it becomes an infinitely more serious question from another point of view, that is as to the people who come into this country, and who are against law and order in all its forms. Leaving aside altogether the industrial question, I do ask whether the time has not arrived when we in London, at all events, should be free from any such sample of disorder as we have been witnessing very lately in Sidney Street. I must confess, and I believe all my colleagues who represent London Constituencies on this side of the House, feel very keenly, indeed, that His Majesty's Government have not thought fit to advise that there should be something to prevent it, and that there should be no allusion to it in the Gracious Speech from the Throne.
There is another matter, which is almost as serious as the alien question, I mean the financial position in which London is, at the present moment. There is no question about it that as the years roll on, we Londoners find it more and more difficult to, if I may so put it, live under the difficulties which at the present time surround us. There is no doubt of the fact that living in London becomes more and more expensive every year. We find as well that the Government themselves are assisting to create the very difficulties from which we suffer. First of all there is an enormous number of empty houses in London just now. Empty houses arise from a 213 variety of causes. Firstly, I should say, there are very many people who cannot afford to pay the excessive rates which prevail in London, and the more empty houses you have the heavier the rates become. The last Budget passed by His Majesty's Government undoubtedly has very heavily, and must very heavily, increase the burden of the rates. There is not a shadow of doubt that various licences have been extinguished, and that a very large number of the men who are engaged in that trade are bound, unfortunately, to close their houses. The result of it unquestionably is to add very greatly to the increase on the rates. In addition to that, recent decisions in the Law Courts have laid it down that the assessments of those houses will have to be lowered on account of the increased duties that have to be paid. All those things very largely add, and must very largely add, to the rates which we Londoners have to pay. I can only say for myself that I think it is hardly fair that we should have the large decrease in Exchequer grants that has taken place at the present time. Surely we must be treated with some little fairness in London. You have a very large number of hon. Members who make up the composite majority at the disposal of the Government, who are not much interested in London, or I doubt if they are much interested in England. Their interests lie in other parts, which are more subservient and more at their disposal for the objects they have at heart.
I ask, and I think I am entitled to ask, that in the interests of those who are endeavouring to do their best in this great City, that His Majesty's Government shall pay some little heed, at all events, to the things we are suffering from. It will be apparent to every man who moves about this great City that the increase of traffic is becoming almost impossible for us to be able to control it. That, I think, is an open secret. The police themselves say that it is becoming a danger for the public, and one which must have some strong remedy, or otherwise it will become a very serious matter. This, of course, you will say, is a minor matter, but I am inclined to think that the safety of the public is not a minor matter at all. I do ask in all seriousness that since His Majesty's Government have not thought fit to treat this subject as serious enough for a reference in the Gracious Speech, a subject which has been very seriously reported of by a Commission, I do ask that in the interests of those whose daily work lies in 214 perambulations of this great city, that some little heed should be taken of the question so that those who are least able to protect themselves, our wives and children and women folk, shall be able, at all events, to move about this great city without the danger they incur now. I have ventured to take the Debate away from the great Imperial subjects that have been raised by hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House, but, after all, I venture to think that perhaps some domestic matters are really worthy of our consideration. In these circumstances I can only express my thanks to the House for giving me their attention.