§ Order read for resuming adjourned' Debate on Amendment [31st March] to Question [9th March], "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ Which Amendment was, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words" upon this day six months."—[Mr. Walter Long.]
§ Question again proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question." Debate resumed.
§ 4.0 P.M.
§ Mr. PIRIE
On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker, I desire to ask a question. Yesterday the Chair, in reply to a question, 1385 expressed regret that the question of the Army versus the People was introduced into a Debate on the Government of Ireland Bill. May I ask whether the House should not be reminded of this expression made by you presiding over our Debates in order that we may get, on the Speaker's authority, a better settlement of the question which the House is now discussing?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I am afraid it does not rest with me to guide the Debate. I was asked yesterday by an hon. Member for my view, and I said I thought it was rather regrettable that as we had spent considerable time on the other topic, attention should not be devoted more directly to the Home Rule Bill. Any matters of course which I consider to be relevant to the Home Rule Bill, I should allow, but if I thought the discussion was proceeding into matters which were irrelevant it would be my duty to interfere.
I can perfectly understand, Sir, both the question of the hon. Gentleman, and your reply, and I feel that you, Sir, in all your long experience in the Chair must have seldom listened to a Debate whose main essential was more remote from the subject under discussion than the Debate to which we have listened yesterday and the day before. If that be an offence, and I do not think it is, probably the greatest offender of all was the Minister for Foreign Affairs who never from beginning to end of his speech, referred so far as my recollection goes to the merits or the demerits of the Home Rule Bill. I do not think, if I may say so, he was to blame at all except in so far as he was one of those responsible for the passage of the Parliament Act, because evidently the situation—the absolutely unexampled situation—in which we find ourselves is the direct result of that measure. It was supposed by the authors of it, and by some of those who supported it, perhaps it was even thought by some on this side of the House, that in the course of three years we should in successive Sessions discuss the merits of the Bill, and that may happen, and has happened, for example, in the Welsh Church Bill. Why has it not happened in this Bill? Why are not we discussing, and why cannot we discuss, in detail the merits or the demerits of the Home Rule Bill? Why? Because the situation has absolutely changed since that Home Rule Bill was introduced. 1386 Nobody's thoughts are this moment fixed upon the merits or the demerits of that Bill, but upon the impasse, the hopeless muddle, into which the Government, this House of Commons, and the country have been driven by the policy of His Majesty's Government.
We are nominally discussing a Bill for the Better Government of Ireland; we are nominally discussing a Bill which was intended, so we were always told, to bring peace to Ireland. What are we actually discussing? We are actually discussing how war is to be avoided; we are actually discussing how a message of peace is to be prevented lighting a conflagration in the North of Ireland, such as this country has not known for centuries. Well, no wonder those accustomed to the ordinary conduct of our procedure are astonished to find, through no desire to transgress any Rules of this House, but from an overmastering force of circumstances, anybody who talks about the Home Rule Bill is regarded as dealing with irrelevant matter. Does anybody doubt that? I listened to the speech delivered by my right hon. and learned Friend (Sir Robert Finlay) the Member for the Edinburgh University yesterday. In the greater part of that speech he dwelt, as we have all dwelt, as we feel bound to dwell, upon the problems forced upon our attention by the present Ulster crisis. At, the end my right hon. and learned Friend wandered into the subject before the House, and actually ventured to give certain, as I think, admirable and conclusive reasons, why the Home Rule Bill is a bad Bill for Ireland, why it was a bad Bill for Britain, and not least of all why it was a bad Bill for the South and West of Ireland. The whole House then felt he was talking about something in which they had no further interest. How conies that about? It comes about because while nominally this House is called together to discuss a new plan of Bill, a new and, as the Government think, an improved legislative structure for Ireland, in reality what we are all rushing to prevent, is the whole building coming down upon our heads and crushing those in it. That is a most lamentable state of things, and I do not know really how it is possible to avoid, or how the House would tolerate any responsible speaker avoiding this main question which has no more to do with the merits or demerits of the Home Rule Bill for Ireland, than it has to do with the merits or the demerits of the Bill which this House recently passed for South Africa. No, Sir, what is in the 1387 minds of all of us at this moment is not the merits or the demerits of this Bill, but how on earth, with decent credit to ourselves, we can avoid a rational catastrophe.
I heard the speech of the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) yesterday. He began by saying that he had never heard in all his experience of this House a Debate so admirable in tone and temper and in the conciliatory spirit displayed than the one which took place here within these walls two days ago. Well, Sir, does that mean that we are agreed? No, Sir, it means that we were frightened. It means that there are great catastrophes in which all minor differences no doubt sink into relative unimportance, but at the same time their absolute importance remains wholly undiminished. We think as fervently as we ever thought that there never was a worse policy than what is called Home Rule for Ireland, even as regards the South and West, and we think, as we have always thought, that if you are to have Home Rule, this is the most preposterous, the most ill-conceived, the most ill-constructed, and the most inconsistent measure that was ever sought to be forced through the House of Commons. These are strong views to hold, and we hold them passionately, fervently, as we always have done, yet such is the pass which the Government has brought us to that we can hardly listen with patience to each other, while we debate the true difficulty, at any rate, if not the true difficulty, the immediate and over-mastering difficulty in which we find ourselves. We all endeavour to avoid some great catacylsm. What are the smaller differences that in happier times divide us? What do they matter? I have no doubt that there are people who suppose that the difficulties in which we find ourselves, and the Government find themselves, are due to the Army. I need not say I regret the line taken up about the Army by Gentlemen below the Gangway opposite. They are in a less responsible position than Ministers on the Government Bench. I regret also, not merely the wild words of the First Lord of the Admiralty, but the even relatively sober declaration of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, because even he, with his characteristically moderate manner, allowed certain phrases to fall from him the day before yesterday, in which he actually seemed to imply that, to his mind, this notion of the Army dictating the 1388 policy as an Army to this Government or any Government was impossible at the present or any possible future time, and he used words which almost suggested that we were on the eve of a revolution.
If the people of this country want revolution, they are the masters, and they can have it. But a hundred revolutions, even though they be as often as revolutions in a Central American Republic, will not alter the facts about the Army if you have an Army. That Army must either be a voluntary Army, or it must be an Army raised by compulsory conscription, or it must be a mercenary Army. If you are to have any Army at all, it must be on one of these three plans. Hon. Gentlemen opposite—and here I am in less opposition to them than on many other questions—think that a compulsory Army is, at all events, at present unnecessary. Then they must either have a voluntary Army or a mercenary Army. If you have a voluntary Army, how can you have it otherwise, or on different lines from the present Army? You cannot have it. There is no favouritism exercised as to the admission of the recruits or the officers—
The difficulty is to get officers, the difficulty is to get recruits. Nothing, I suppose, would satisfy the hon. Gentleman opposite, who interrupted me just now, but that you should require every officer, in addition to showing competence in military affairs, to pass an examination in the principles of the Liberal party and the followers of the hon. Gentleman. These men and officers are chosen at random from all sections of the population who are prepared to join the Army. How on earth can you alter that system? You can destroy it. It is difficult enough now under a voluntary system to keep your supply of men and officers up to the level admittedly required by the interests of this country. You can destroy that, but you certainly cannot make it other than it is. You cannot, in other words, prevent a man and an officer still being one of our fellow countrymen, brought up in the same surroundings, as we all are, brought up in the same traditions, as we all are, having presumably the same ideals as those common to Britons here and across the sea. That you cannot help. If you want to help it, there is only one way. Surround yourself like some Oriental potentate with a mercenary bodyguard of men who have nothing whatever to do with this country, 1389 who do not belong to our race, who have no share in our rights and traditions, and there you get the idea of the hon. Gentleman. It is not my business to discuss, and I am not discussing whether the People versus the Army is a good or a bad cry. There are some hon. Gentlemen who merely seem to think that the art of statesmanship and the art of manufacturing cries are one and the same industry. I am not concerned in that. I am concerned with much bigger and deeper things, and I only regret—and I most profoundly and deeply regret—that this class of discussion has been forced upon us. I think it most deleterious. I think it most unhappy and most unfortunate. [An HON. MEMBER: "Then turn it off."] I said so with all the earnestness in my power on Monday week, and I repeat it now. I say it is most unfortunate that these questions should have to be raised at all, but when they have been raised, do not let us go away with wild and erroneous notions.
At all events, let me, for my own sake if for nobody else's, say what to me appears the true state of the case. It is obvious, it is plain and it is admitted, that the business of the soldier is to obey orders. It is admitted, it is plain and it is obvious that in this country, ever since the time of Oliver Cromwell, or at all events, ever since the time of James II., the Army is, and must be, under civilian control. That is to say, the orders must ultimately come with the authority of the people of this country as represented by the Government of the day. The Government of the day is sometimes misrepresented, but that is not the point. The Government of the day are for the time being the depositories of the authority. I hold that view. I think, further, that the idea that the Army is not to support the civil authority is nobody's claim, certainly nobody on this side of the House. That is the plain, commonplace, day to day code which ought to regulate the relation of the community and its Army. But everybody nows, and everybody must know, that if either through the fault or the misfortune—call it which you like—of those responsible for power at the moment, you force the whole community, including the Army, to say to themselves, and each man to say to himself, "Obviously, my first duty is to obey orders; I am a soldier. I obey, and that is my duty. But here questions have been raised which go, or seem to go, beyond the day to day code which regulates me, and which must regu- 1390 late every Army. What am I to do? Am I to obey these orders, or am I to leave them and take the consequences?" Can anybody deny that such cases may arise? Nobody can deny it. And mark you, it is not a question of deciding what an Army ought to do, it is for each man, be he civilian or be lie soldier, to say what he ought to do. The idea of corrupting the Army and asking it as an Army to do this, that, or the other, different from what it is ordered to do by its chief, I call that criminal. Yes, Sir, that statement of the plain day to day code carries with it by a necessary implication that the Government of the day does not press such questions, and does not require the Army to do such a thing as to compel the individual soldier, be he officer or be he private, to do that which is against his conscience. That is my view It is folly to say that that is undermining the discipline of the Army.
If the hon. Gentleman wants to interrupt, it would be more to the purpose of this Debate if he would say which of my propositions he differs from. Which of the doctrines—which I have no doubt very imperfectly expounded, because it is difficult to deal with these subtle questions with absolute accuracy—which of the propositions I have laid down does he or anybody else differ from? I believe the case I have ventured to lay down certainly does not encourage indiscipline, and does not suggest that no soldier ought ever to be asked to deal with civil difficulties. I never suggested that. There are questions where it would be difficult to say where the line is to be drawn. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Of course, that is the whole point. That is absolutely the whole question. That is why I say it is a profound misfortune that these problems have been raised, because you cannot lay down an absolute line. I can imagine two officers or privates—it makes no difference which—saying, "While I am violently against Home Rule, and I think Ulster is monstrously treated by this Bill, I think I am bound, in spite of that, to obey any orders, even if it leads 1391 me into the most violent and bloody collision with those in whose cause I believe." Another man may say perfectly equally conscientiously, "I never take much interest in these questions about the constitution of the country, but I would rather sacrifice my commission and my career, my pension, and all that I value, and all that is necessary for the support of my wife and children, rather than go and get mixed up in a trouble of this kind." And those two men may be equally conscientious, although taking directly opposite courses. Who is to say from the outside which is right and which is wrong? You ought never to put the Army in that position.
I have tried to lay down principles which have no national application. Wherever men have consciences, wherever men have a sense of military and civil duty, these questions may possibly be forced upon them. When they are, then I say those who are responsible for that condition of things have brought about an evil which it may take many years to repair. That was intended to lead up and does lead up to this further statement. I say your difficulties are not due to anything that has either occurred or will occur in the Army, but they are due to the fact that Ulster is determined not to be under the Home Rule Government, and the majority of Englishmen agree with them. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Those are really the two root difficulties. The reason why we are discussing this question in an entirely different atmosphere front that which prevailed last year and the year before is because this state of things has only just come home to the Government and its supporters. That being the root evil, I do not believe that anything will give you security for peace except the exclusion of Ulster. Seeing that the exclusion of Ulster is the cause of all your troubles, I do not see that unless you exclude it you will get out of it. The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs told us that in his view force was no remedy, and that force, either now or hereafter, under any circumstances, would not solve this question; that if you shot down Ulster by your troops—which, of course, from a purely tactical and strategical point of view I suppose the thing could be done, you have enough men—but if you did it, you would not have 1392 solved the Ulster question, and that is the view of the right hon. Gentleman.
He admitted, if I understood him rightly, that an Ulster forced into this unnatural union would be a danger to Ireland and a danger to Great Britain. Very well, then, why force it? That is a very simple elementary question apt to be lost sight of in all these discussions as to how to get round this difficulty in this way or that, but that is the root question, and everything else is subsidiary to it. I am the last man to deny that these subsidiary questions, which are those I shall try to discuss, are of enormous importance, and the most important of them all by common consent is as to whether and when the people of this country should be consulted as to the policy which is to be pursued in Ulster. That is the question to which I think in the main the right hon. Gentleman devoted himself, and on that, perhaps, he will allow me to say a few words. Our proposal is a very simple one, and I should have thought to a House of Commons that prides itself on being democratic, the simplest and the best of all. It is that before carrying your Bill into law, which you now admit in its present shape will produce civil war [HON. MEMBER: 'No!"] I was referring to the Prime Minister. On a Bill which in its present shape would produce civil war—[HON. MEMBERS: "No; the Prime Minister did not say so!"]—well, on a Bill which, if it passes in its present shape, would produce something less than perfect peace and happiness, it would be a right thing to consult the country who, by universal admission, shared the ignorance of the Government on the attitude of Ulster when the last election was taken. I am not going over the old ground of asking in how many Ministers' addresses Home Rule was found, because there never really has been any reply to our allegations, and I am quite prepared to leave the matter where it stands. It is quite enough for me to deal with facts which are undisputed, and it is absolutely undisputed that it was never believed by the electorate or by the Government themselves that the opposition of Ulster would have the least resemblance, either in character, degree, or intensity, to that which we now know it possesses.
We, believing ourselves to be democrats, but not really understanding the inner essence of the doctrine, think the best plan is that, under those circumstances, you should ask the people what they do think, and that you should ask them before 1393 the Bill passes into law. Why is not that policy carried out? It is not carried out for the fundamental reason that it would destroy "the fruits," as they are called, "of the Parliament Act." The Parliament Act, I understand, is the charter of democratic liberties, and it certainly is a very singular result of this charter of democratic liberties that it makes it quite impossible for the Government of the day to consult the people. But, so anxious are we to do everything to prevent the catastrophe which on all sides of the House we fear, that it has been pointed out that by two separate methods that loss to the Government could be avoided. Either your pride or your vanity or your patriotism make it necessary for you to go back to the constituencies saying, "We passed the Parliament Act. Look at the good things we have got from it!" Very well, it is a strange frame of mind, but we accept it. We take account of it, and we have suggested two methods by which all that you desire can be preserved for you, if the people are on your side, and which we would be ready to accept. At any rate, two Gentlemen on this bench—the Leader of the Opposition, speaking for the party, and my right hon. Friend, speaking for himself, and I think with general agreement—have both suggested that.
One, of course, is the Referendum. I am a believer in the Referendum, and I believe, even if you do not have the Referendum as a general part of your institutions, it is eminently suited for this particular crisis. I will tell you why. It is eminently suited for this crisis, in the first place, because it does not rob you of the fruits of your precious Parliament Act. In the second place, it is eminently suited to this crisis because it enables you, from your point of view, to get rid of the plural voter, and from our point of view to get rid of the necessity of a redistribution of seats. We think that to abolish plural voting without a redistribution of seats is a gross and palpable act of gerrymandering tyranny. But it is an elaborate process. This saves it all. No redistribution is required to get the opinion of the country direct. What is the objection? It is most amusing to see Gentlemen on the other side wriggling on this particular pin. The Member for Mayo (Mr. Dillon) says that it is the most antidemocratic invention you could conceive—in other words, to ask the people a definite question and to get the answer is really an insult. The Foreign Secretary takes a somewhat different line. He says 1394 that it is an experiment. That is one of his arguments. This Government has done nothing but make experiments in constitutional building for which there is no precedent anywhere in the world. We are only asking for an experiment in a procedure which has been tried under the sanction of this House in all British Dominions, and which has long been part of the practice of various States in the United States of America. It is an experiment in this country, but it is not an experiment in constitutional procedure among men of our own speech and our own race.
What is the other argument of the right hon. Gentleman? He said that perhaps only 30 per cent. would vote, and then you would not get the opinion of the community. I can perfectly understand, when a matter has not been discussed, thrashed out, dealt with in all the papers, or been the subject and topic of universal debate, that it may be wrong to spring upon the country a Referendum on that which they have never considered or thought about at all. Who can say that the Home Rule Bill is in that condition? [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Since the last General Election—indeed, in the last four months? Supposing, under those circumstances, only 30 per cent., which is a ludicrous supposition, voted, how do you get the opinion of the country better by asking the people in the form of a General Election, and forcing them to give an opinion upon Home Rule by voting upon something else? Your theory is that you will get 70 per cent. of the whole if you ask them on every question under heaven, and that then you will really know what they think about Home Rule, but that if you only ask them about Home Rule and only 30 per cent, vote you will not get their opinion. I do not think that I have ever heard any argument quite so absurd, but the Government will not have it apparently. Will they have the other proposal, a proposal thrown out by my right hon. Friend the Member for the Strand Division (Mr. Long)? He suggested that we could, either under the Parliament Act, as some contend, as it now is—and I see Lord Selborne contended rightly or wrongly—take a General Election without imperilling your three successive Sessions, or pass an amending Act by consent ad hoc for this purpose, and so that you might go to the country without imperilling your three Sessions. That would get over all 1395 the difficulties of the right hon. Gentleman. What objection has he to that? He spoke, remember, after my right hon. Friend. He had heard my right hon. Friend's suggestion, but he did not make any reference to it. He left it severely alone. It is open even to the charitable to suppose that he did not give an answer because he had not an answer forthcoming. That is our proposal, simple, in accordance with constitutional usage, democratic in the true sense of the word, and, if that were carried out, then, although in my opinion the crime of coercing Ulster would not be diminished, the guilt of the crime would be distributed more widely than it is now. Instead of being carried out by an irresponsible junta, it would be the deliberate act of constituencies of this country, and the difference made no doubt in the situation, both here and on the other side of St. George's Channel, would be incalculable. That is our proposal, and it has been rejected.
What are the two rival proposals with regard to an election? There is the two-elections plan. That is the plan which the Prime Minister started, and which apparently commends itself, or did commend itself, to the Government. Ulster was to be out of Home Rule for six years, during which there would be two General Elections, and in Home Rule afterwards. I am not going to discuss whether or not Ulster was wise in, as I understand, the absolute horror which it expressed at being put by Statute under a Dublin Parliament in this form or in any other form. I am now on the point of how you are to get the opinion of the people. Do consider these two elections from that point of view, and not from the point of view of Ulster. Are those two elections to be on the question of Ulster or not? Both hypotheses have been accepted by different speakers. I heard the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Mayo on this subject. I think it was most interesting and instructive, and, if he will allow me to say so, extraordinary. He said, "How foolish it is for Ulster to reject this, because it is incredible that both elections should be held about Ulster. In one of those two elections it is almost incredible that the Radical party would not be kicked out of office. Why should not Ulster take it?" Is that consulting the people of this country about Ulster? Is that the democratic method of asking the people of this country whether they think Ulster ought to be forced under 1396 Home Rule? You are going deliberately on the theory of the two elections to have these two elections, not only not being certain that they will be on the subject of Ulster, but being certain that they will not. The whole defence of the hon. Gentleman was that they would not be on Ulster.
§ Mr. DILLON
The right hon. Gentleman is entirely misrepresenting what I say. I said this: Surely the Tory party would have some other articles in their programme besides Ulster, and, according to their view, the addition to the rest of their programme of the question of the coercion of Ulster would be a great electoral advantage.
Have I substantially misrepresented the hon. Gentleman? I should be very sorry to do so, but have I done so? His contention, as amended, or, at any rate, as stated to-day—I have no doubt accurately restated—is that Ulster will be so diluted by other topics that practically we may be sure that the electorate of this country will decide in favour of Ulster. They will be so sick of this Government after two elections that, whatever their views on Ulster may be, Ulster will be relieved. That is one theory, but it is not a good way of taking the opinion of the democracy upon the Ulster question. It may be a very good way from some points of view, but not from that point of view. Now I take the other theory. The other theory is that at both elections Ulster will be the topic of debate. If Ulster is the topic of debate in both elections, it must be the topic of debate between the elections as well. You cannot have the whole attention of the public directed to one set of questions between the elections and then suddenly when the election comes round diverted in a different channel. Therefore, for two elections, we are to think of nothing but Ulster, and this is the way in which the British Parliament is to be relieved of the incubus of Irish questions. I wonder whether the Government have looked back on the speeches in which they introduced the Home Rule Bill. That Bill was to do two great things: It was to give peace to Ireland, and it was to prevent us always, in this House, having to discuss Irish questions. What has it actually done? What actually up to date has been done has been to give an immediate prospect of war in Ireland, and what it will do, if the Government plans are carried out, will be to make us consider the question of Ulster, to the exclusion of all other questions, practically until these 1397 two previous elections have been held. I cannot understand that ever being put forward as a serious plan by serious politicians. It must have been launched by the Prime Minister as a mere ballon d'essai, as a mere subject for debate and discussion, and I cannot imagine that any human being would accept such a plan or ever thought of it. Very well, that plan seems to me to be hopeless.
Now I will take the last of the three plans which deal with Dissolution, and which are suggested as alternatives to our simple, orthodox constitutional plan. The only other plan is, first, to put the Bill on the Statute Book and then ask the country what they think of it. May I say that, after that, the Government appear to me to have absolutely cut off all connection with constitutional tradition in this matter. We used to pride ourselves in this country and in this House that as far as possible continuity of legislation should be maintained, and that a Bill, once on the Statute Book, should, if possible, not be immediately cut off—excised if the opposite party come into power. The Government are now making discontinuity the corner stone of their policy. Their idea of legislation is first pass the Bill, and then see whether you like or wish to repeal it. But you should see whether the country like it before you pass it. The evils in all cases of this method of instantaneous reversal are great, but in the case of Ireland they are overwhelming. Think of what they are as regards the South and West. You will give to hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway what they bargain for, and what I presume they have got in writing. You will give them what I have no doubt they have got in black and white definitely, namely, a promise that the Bill should become law before the General Election. That is your promise.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Sir Edward Grey)
I denied that in the House in answer to a question.
If I had heard the right hon. Gentleman I should never have thought of misrepresenting him.
§ Sir E. GREY
It was in answer to a question put from the other side, whether there was any written obligation. I said there was none whatever.
Of course, if I had heard that I should never have used the 1398 word "written," I should have said "definite" instead of "written." I unreservedly withdraw the word "written" and I substitute the word "definite"—a definite understanding that the Bill should be on the Statute Book before a General Election. There is no other possible explanation of the violent aversion of the Government to any of the schemes suggested on this side for having a General Election without depriving them of any privileges they have obtained. I think I am, perfectly justified in assuming that. Observe how monstrous this new policy of the Government is—the policy first of passing the Bill and then asking the country what they think of it. It is, I think, a great shame to hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway—at all events to those who support them in Ireland, because you will have raised their hopes and expectations to the highest pitch; you will have put on the Statute. Book something they believe is going to be the permanent law of the country, and whatever disappointment might occur, if before the Bill became law, the country showed its objection, whatever disappointment might happen in the South and West of Ireland, would have been increased tenfold by having dangled this thing before them in the shape of an actual Statute on the Statute Book, and then seeing it snatched from them as the immediate result of a General Election. Therefore I think it very unfair to hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway; but it is monstrous as regards Ulster.
And here I must say a word or two about what the right hon. Gentleman said in another part of his speech. Having told us in the earlier part of his speech that force was no remedy, having explained that the idea of forcing Ulster into a union with Dublin was perfectly chimerical, he then went on to explain that, nevertheless, if, after the Bill was passed, anything in the nature of a provisional Government were started, of course, the Government would use all the forces of the Crown to deal with that situation. I suppose it was in consequence. of that statement of the right hon. Gentleman that the Lord Chancellor went back upon his speech, which undoubtedly represented the opinion of the Cabinet when he made it, a speech which was the corner stone in the Debate in which it was made, and which was taken up and applauded by Gentlemen who think with us in the House of Lords—plaudits 1399 which were taken without qualification or explanation by the Lord Chancellor. Naturally, after the speech of the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, he could do nothing but go back and write quickly, like the unjust steward, words which entirely altered the sense of the statement which, on Monday week, was universally regarded, and rightly regarded, as representing the then opinion of the Cabinet. I think the policy in deference to which that editing of "Hansard" took place is monstrous to Ulster, and I also think the threat of the right hon. Gentleman dangerous in itself.
Let us conceive the position. The right hon. Gentleman says, "Why should Ulster complain of the Bill becoming law if nothing is done under it?" Of course something must immediately be done under the Bill. The whole reason why the Appointed day is put off for a year is because an enormous number of things have to be done under it before the full machinery of the Bill is in working order. From the moment that the Bill passes Ulster is legally excluded from the Union. I offer no opinion whether that does or does not justify setting up a provisional Government, but I do say that it is monstrous, simply because you have given this definite pledge to the Nationalist party, that you should put these men under the stress and temptation of saying, "This Bill is the law: we are no longer full citizens of the United Kingdom by Statute, but we must hold our hands until a General Election is taken." Their leaders may be able to induce them to do it, but why put them under the temptation? What is your justification? If, after you have done that, you find some regrettable incident occurs, as those things may occur when tension rises to breaking point, do not you think you will be responsible? You send your troops; you carry out all the military policy adumbrated by the Secretary for Foreign Affairs. Will not you yourselves feel responsible? You will be responsible. You admit that the country must be consulted before the Home Rule Bill comes into operation. That was admitted by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. But after having admitted it, you so arrange your plans that every temptation to outbreak is given to Ulster before the opinion of the country is taken. I call that a dangerous, a most dangerous, if not a most wicked policy, and I am surprised that the Member for East Mayo 1400 (Mr. Dillon), who followed the Secretary, of State, did not express, in the clearest language, his abhorrence of it. May I read what fell from the hon. and learned Member for Waterford (Mr. John Redmond) in an interview with a Radical paper on this point in September. "And what," asked the interviewer of the "Daily Chronicle," "about the idea of a General Election between the passing of the Bill and its coming into force?" "That," replied Mr. Redmond with decision, "would be still more unthinkable and preposterous. It would be a stupid and a cowardly action. I am perfectly satisfied the Government never has had, and has not now, any such intention." I have not the wealth of epithet at my command which comes readily to the practised tongue of the hon. and learned Member for Waterford. I do not describe it as "unthinkable and preposterous," nor even as "stupid and cowardly," but I do think that a greater violation of constitutional usage, a greater break in the legislative traditions of this country, a revolutionary procedure more unfair to the South and West of Ireland, represented by hon. Gentleman below the Gangway, and more unfair to the people in the North-East of Ireland, never was devised. I cannot believe, and I do not believe, when the Government come to think it over, that they will feel that that, in its naked simplicity, is a possible policy. There was a phrase, to me at the time and indeed now quite unintelligible, which fell from the Foreign Secretary which, when developed, may possibly contain some reference to this point. I will read it. He repeats, not for the first time, that the Bill must be put on the Statute Book, and he goes on:—The Bill might be placed on the statute hook in a way which I believe would be perfectly fair, as between both parties, whichever won the election.5.0 P.M.
What does that mean? Has it any meaning? I think it has. I think in a speech like that, delivered by a practised diplomatist like the right hon. Gentleman, a phrase of that sort was not merely uttered to fill in a sentence, but to express—perhaps I ought to say conceal—some important suggestions. I do not know what that suggestion was. Whatever it means, it is very difficult for him to think it could be one which would not leave untouched any cure of the two dilemmas of which I have spoken, namely, the cruelty to the South and West of Ireland of seeing a Bill on the Statute Book reversed if we won, 1401 and the strain and temptation on the North-East of Ireland remaining patiently after they have been severed by legislation from the United Kingdom. I have surveyed these various questions of an election, and I have not touched upon the others. It is a way of getting at the opinion of the people of this country that I am mainly discussing to-day, and I have discussed all the alternatives of which I know. I am driven back, as I am always driven back when I think of this question, to some modification, be it what it may, of the scheme of my right hon. Friend, something which will enable the electors to decide without depriving hon. Gentlemen opposite of their plunder of a Church or any other of the things to which they attach real importance.
§ Sir WILLIAM BYLES
Will the right hon. Gentleman be good enough, in his very interesting speech, to deal with the optional Home Rule that is offered?
To the hon. Gentleman I may have been obscure, but that comes under the two elections scheme. Had the hon. Gentleman studied the eloquence of the Admiralty, he would know that is their main point.
I think we have some right to complain of the position in which we are placed. Hon. Friends of mine have talked and thought a great deal about an issue to this question which could be found in some form of federalism or devolution. I ought to say that, as I understand it, federalism means so many things that it would be presumptuous for me, and trespassing too much on the time of the House to discuss it. I have never been myself a believer in cutting up the United Kingdom, but if some moderate form of devolution, such as was suggested by my hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Cave) meets with universal favour and is to solve this difficulty, then I am not going to stand in the way of anything which would prevent the horrors which otherwise I foresee. But how on earth are you going to approach this question from that side? Remember—it is essential—that you cannot have a general scheme consistent with the view of the Government that this precious Bill must be on the Statute Book. It took I do not know how many years to mature the Constitutions of Australia, South Africa, and the United States. Infinite trouble and infinite pains must be 1402 taken before you deal with this question, and to deal with it piecemeal, if by any unhappy chance it may be necessary, can, never be described as good legislation or good statesmanship. At any rate, if you have to approach it piecemeal—that is to say, if you have to deal with the problem of Ireland before you touch the problem of Britain, you must obviously begin by treating the North-East of Ireland separately from the South, otherwise you solve no difficulty at all. You must treat them separately. They must be regarded as separate units in this structure which is some day to be built—a very extraordinary way of proceeding, but the only way if that were agreed upon.
At all events, until the final structure is completed. I, personally, should have thought if you are to have that kind of scheme at all, that your division ought to have been permanent. That is my own personal view, but it is not necessary to the argument. What is necessary to the argument is that you cannot put Ulster under Dublin provisionally,. saying, "Some day you will form part of a general scheme, which you will really like when you know it." You cannot really do that. That really may be wholly and truly absolutely dismissed. If, therefore, you are to have a provisional devolution, part of that devolution must be to make Ulster and the rest of Ireland separate units. I do not know what the view of hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway is now. A few days ago it was violently hostile to that.
I did not hear, but I read the speech of the hon. Member for East Mayo following upon my learned Friend the Member for Kingston (Mr. Cave), in which he said that that was am impossible solution.
Apparently he thinks so still. If they will not have it, how is devolution to take place Nobody in their senses can suppose that if your object is to prevent civil war in Ulster, that end would be gained by saying to Ulster, "You must join with the rest of Ireland, until, in the course of ages, we find a way of getting a good Second Chamber, and also carrying out this system for the whole of the United Kingdom." A second 1403 Preamble will not help us. I understand that the President of the Local Government Board is going to follow me. I do not ask him to agree with all I have said. I do not ask him not to object too violently and not to attack, if he pleases, much that I have said. He must differ from it violently, but I do ask him to take the House at large into his confidence, telling us on what broad and general lines he has some hopes of coming to a settlement. I have endeavoured, with perfect candour, but at inordinate length, to deal with what appeared to me to be quite plain and insurmountable difficulties in certain plans that have been proposed. That is not with a view to ruling out plans, but of concentrating on plans that will succeed. Let the right hon. Gentleman help us in that task. We have almost given up the idea, at least, I have almost given up the idea that in this House and on this question we are going to try and turn out good legislation. That is an ambition far beyond our powers and our capacities. Let us content ourselves, and be happy if we succeed, if we can turn out legislation which does not bring upon us, even in a few weeks or months, calamities, the unspeakable calamities of civil war.
§ The PRESIDENT of the LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. Herbert Samuel)
The note of this Debate hitherto has been one of a desire for accommodation. Hon. Members from both sides of the House who have taken part in the Debate have voiced, in earnest and cogent speeches, the desire which I think is widely felt both in the House and in the country, that some settlement of these grave issues should be found. Although the right hon. Gentleman's speech was, for the most part, almost of a purely negative character, still I thought I detected—I hope I was not over sanguine—in his last few words, that he too, a life-long opponent of Home Rule as he has been, would desire and would welcome some means of escape from this impasse, to which both parties might give their assent. The right hon. Gentleman began his speech by saying that the House in this Debate had not really addressed itself to the merits of this Bill. He did not complain—he said that the circumstances made that inevitable. Indeed, I am sure that no Member of the House would wish to repeat over again the long six months' discussion of its merits and details which occupied our attention two years ago. Our 1404 business now—that is the purpose and intention of the Parliament Act—is to discuss whatever new considerations may have arisen in the interval, and that is why the House has directed its attention, and if I may say so respectfully, naturally and properly directed its attention to the question, above all, of Ulster, and how we can best avoid the use of force in the North of Ireland. That was the main topic of the right hon. Gentleman's speech.
If this Bill were dropped, would the House now be discussing any other question than how to avoid the use of force in Ireland? If this Bill had never been introduced, would not this House have been discussing years ago how best we could cease from using force in Ireland? Who would have thought, listening to the right hon. Gentleman's speech, that he himself for ten years had been the protagonist of coercion in Ireland? Are his recollections of those bitter years such as to make him wish that that experience should be repeated? What is his forecast of the future—twenty, thirty, or fifty years hence? Can he conceive that Ireland would be governed still under a system of unified government against the will of the vast majority of her people? The right hon. Gentleman has been in this House for forty years, and we congratulate him, if we may be allowed to do so, on the anniversary that falls this year. The only thing, if I may say so with all respect, that makes it possible for any of us to realise that he has been in this House so long, is his opinions. The voice is the voice of 1914, but the opinions are the opinions of 1874! Whatever changes there may have been in opinion, whatever movement there may have been in Ireland or in this country, whatever vague longings and gropings there may be towards the development of a federal Constitution for this country, the right hon. Gentleman remains where he was, as a new Member of this House, forty years ago. I recalled the fact that he himself, when he was Chief Secretary for Ireland, and when he was Prime Minister, found it necessary to use force, and found it necessary to use the troops for the coercion of Ireland. What would he have said then if officers in the Army had come to him and said that their consciences did not allow them to take part in the operations to which he summoned them? Suppose the officers of the garrison in Ireland at that time had declared 1405 to their superior officers that they regarded the Act of Union as having been obtained by force and fraud, that the Irish people were right in resisting it, that the Irish Land system was, as is now recognised, the worst in the world, and that the agrarian agitation was founded on reason and justice, and so far as they were concerned they could not in their consciences raise their hands, as officers of the Army, against those who were resisting the law—what would the right hon. Gentleman have said? He would have said, "That is not your business, that is for me and for the House of Commons, on whose confidence the Government depend, and your duty is to obey the orders, whatever they may be, of the authorities which are constituted over you." So, again, with the case of strikes, an illustration which has been so often urged. But if these new doctrines to which the right hon. Gentleman gave his adhesion, namely, that the Government ought not to ask officers to do that from which their consciences revolted—is not that the right hon. Gentleman's doctrine?
There are things which a Government may ask a soldier to do which his conscience prevents him from doing. Do you doubt it?
§ Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
Is the right hon. Gentleman's doctrine this, that the Government in framing its policy and in issuing its orders ought to take into account, as one of the governing considerations, that officers and soldiers in the Army might object, on conscientious grounds, to obeying those orders?
If we are to bandy questions, let us do it. Does the right hon. Gentleman say that if the Government of the day told the Army to come and "take away that bauble," they ought to do it?
§ Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
It is a question whether or not such a command would be lawful. I believe it would be lawful, and the officers ought to do it. I believe the remedy does not lie in an officer disobeying orders, but in the House of Commons ejecting the Ministry that gave such an order.
§ Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
I am answering the right hon. Gentleman's speech. He propounded certain doctrines which I have endeavoured to repeat. He has not stated that I have repeated them inaccurately.
§ Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
I do not desire to misrepresent in the slightest degree the principle of policy which the right hon. Gentleman has propounded to the House. I understood him, and I think the House understood him, to say that cases might arise in which officers had conscientious objections against taking a certain course of action, and that the Government of the clay was doing a wrong thing in putting those officers and soldiers in such a position as to place in conflict their conscience and their duty. Am I wrong in so interpreting the right hon. Gentleman?
Does the right hon. Gentleman think that the consciences of the soldiers and the officers is not a thing which the Government ought ever to take into account?
§ Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
I am answering the right hon. Gentleman's speech. The right hon. Gentleman is endeavouring to induce me to make a statement of my views, which I shall be very happy to do at at the right and proper time. At the present moment I am endeavouring, with such resources as I am able, against a master of dialectics, to lead the House to consider to what the right hon. Gentleman's doctrines lead, and I do not propose to be diverted from that course. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman is the last man to wish to run away from any proposition which he has laid down when it is being examined and analysed. I am sure on consideration he will not wish to confuse the issues by retorting with a series of questions. I repeat that the right hon. Gentleman has told the House that in his view, which is of importance, Governments would be doing a wrong thing if they put officers and soldiers into a position in which they had to choose between their conscience and their duty, with special application to the case of Ulster. I ask where does that doctrine lead us to? The mess-room would become in future a debating society. This officer says, "I consider that Ulster is being hardly treated. I agree with those who say that the Government has no mandate from the country. In my conscience I hold it is a wrong thing for us to be employed to put down their resist 1407 ance." His neighbour at the table says, "I disagree. I hold the opinion of the Prime Minister that there is a mandate, and that we are justifiably used in putting down resistance." Where arc you going to draw a boundary line between conscience and political opinion? The mess-room will become not, indeed, a debating society, but a legislative chamber, and in it will be decided what laws are to be enforced and what laws are not to be enforced. The right hon. Gentleman said very truly that military men are chosen from the mass of the population. They are certainly not chosen on account of their political competence. The Army is the arm of the State; it is not the brain of the State, and it ought not to be allowed to usurp that position. I say further that the doctrine which the right hon. Gentleman and some others have laid down is a doctrine which puts these officers and men in a cruel position. So long as you had the old rule that no political question was a matt[...]r for the Army at all, so long as you had the simple rule that each man obeys the orders given to him by constituted authority from above—
I cannot quite understand the doctrine. The law clearly lays down that a soldier is entitled to obey an order to shoot only if that order is reasonable in the circumstances.
§ Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
That is not a question which arises in this case. The right hon. Gentleman is again confusing this issue. The question whether an order is, in the circumstances, lawful as given by the individual officer in command of a regiment or a detachment is not a question that arises in this issue, and the point I am putting is that it has hitherto been fully understood that these political matters are not matters for the Army to consider in any degree. Where they are ordered to go, there they go. The right hon. Gentleman and others who allow the question of conscience to be entered into are putting these officers in a cruel position, because for the first time they are being told by public men of distinction that it is their business to draw distinctions in particular cases as to whether or not they will obey orders or be dismissed. This is a topic into which I have absolutely no desire to enter to-day, and which 1408 I had not intended to enter upon to-day. I have been compelled to do so because the right hon. Gentleman devoted a large part of his speech to this particular question. I believe that the House of Commons will be doing the greatest disservice to the Army and to the State if it continually debates this particular topic. I earnestly trust, and I say it with absolute sincerity, that this will not become an issue before the constituencies, and I would far rather that the Liberal party were beaten on other issues than win on this one.
I turn with much relief to the other topic of the right hon. Gentleman's speech. Leaving the question of the Army he came to the various proposals for ascertaining the opinion of the country on this question of Home Rule in Ulster, and first he urged the claim of the Referendum. Of the Referendum as a principle, he, as we all know, has long been a partisan. He believes in the Referendum as a good constitutional expedient for settling difficult matters and for ascertaining the opinion of the country. We do not believe in it. You cannot, in fact, limit the use of the Referendum to this one issue. If we adopted the Referendum now, inevitably that would be a precedent for other cases. If for Home Rule, why not for Welsh Disestablishment; if for Welsh Disestablishment, why not for woman suffrage, for our land proposals, and for each great controversial matter in turn. And then you would find that as there is, as a rule, one great controversial Bill almost every year, you would have to take a poll of the people almost annually on some great question that vexes the mind of Parliament. Frequent polls do not in their working mean more democracy, but less. You weary the democracy. You find, again, that after a time a minority of the electors goes to the poll, and this minority is given the power to overrule a legislature elected by a much larger number of the electors. In addition, you have confusion of the issues; you cannot, in fact, disentangle one issue from the others before the electors, and finally you will impose upon an electorate of millions direct functions of government which they are not qualified to perform, and which may be better undertaken by a representative assembly. For those reasons, and for those-reasons only, we refuse to take, either now or after the Bill is on the Statute Book, a Referendum of the people on this particular Bill. 1409 Then the right hon. Gentleman again referred to the proposal for an election, and he said there was one clear reason, and it was the only possible reason, why we refused to have an election before the Bill is placed upon the Statute Book, and that was that there must be some obligation, if not written, then unwritten; if not definite, then indefinite, between the Government and the Leader of the Nationalist party, that there should be no General Election before this Bill is placed upon the Statute Book. The main reason, in the right hon. Gentleman's opinion, is this, because the difficulty with regard to the Parliament Act he thinks might be got over by agreement between the two parties. The main reason, he thought, was that there must be some obligation of that kind. I desire to say in emphatic terms on behalf of the Government that there is no secret obligation of any sort or kind between us and the Nationalist party, that there is no undertaking which is not known to the whole world as to the passage of this Bill and the taking of an election upon it. The reasons why we consider it is not necessary, and not right, to have an election before the Bill is placed on the Statute Book—they have been repeated again and again, but it is necessary to repeat them once more since the matter has again been raised by the right hon. Gentleman—are these: we believe that the nation does not desire any such election, that the nation desires the matter to be settled in this Parliament, and that there is no sign of any movement of public opinion whatever against the solution of the question within the present Parliament. Further, we do not adopt this plan because we believe, in fact, that it would settle nothing with regard to the question of Ulster. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Trinity College, Dublin (Sir E. Carson), has always carefully abstained from giving any undertaking at all that Ulster would abide by the decision either of a General Election or a Referendum. On the contrary, I believe he is not in a position to give any undertaking, for his supporters in Ulster have gone so far with regard to their objection to Home Rule that I think it would be impossible for him ever to say in Parliament or in the country that if a General Election went against his views, or a Referendum went against his views. there would be no resistance in Ulster, or that there would be no civil war. All the right hon. Gentleman has been able to 1410 declare to-day is that if an election was held, then the guilt and the crime of coercing Ulster would be distributed over a larger area. Is that really an adequate inducement for a course of that kind?.
I must refer for a moment to one very threadbare subject, and that is the question of the mandate, in answer to what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Strand Division (Mr. Long) said two days ago. He said we founded ourselves upon the mandate given at the last election on the strength of speeches made by right hon. Gentlemen opposite, that we had searched, as he not very kindly put it, the scrap-heap of their old speeches in order to find occasions on which they had made references to Home Rule, while we abstained from doing so. The right hon. Gentleman entirely misconceives our argument. [An HON. MEMBER: "We understood your words!"] No, I do not think so. The quotations we have given from Lord Lansdowne and the right hon. Member for the City of London were quotations, not in which they have said that Home Rule was the issue at that election, but quotations in which they said that the Government had made it clear that it was the issue at the election.
§ Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
The right hon. Gentleman wrote a letter at the last election, at the end of 1910, in which he said:—It is the avowed policy of the Government to destroy the Veto of the House of Lords, and then under Single-Chamber government, without any further reference to the electors, to place Home Rule upon the Statute Book.[An HON. MEMBER "You denied it."] We have never denied that. Then Lord Lansdowne, who was then, and is now, Leader of the Unionist party in the other House, said at Portsmouth, "Mr. Asquith has made it perfectly clear that the first thing the Government will do will be to place Home Rule upon the Statute Book." Either Lord Lansdowne was accurate in his declaration or he was not. Either the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London was accurate in his declaration or he was not. If he was not accurate, I think he ought to explain how he fell into such a misapprehension. If he was accurate, then it was the avowed policy—not merely the concealed policy, but the avowed policy—to pass Home Rule within the present Parliament.
The right hon. Gentleman's next point was that we claim that the Irish question 1411 is to be eliminated from British politics, that we are to have a period of quiescence, but that our present proposals anticipate that the Ulster issue will be an issue during the next two elections. If right hon. Gentlemen win the next election, it would be decided, I suppose, then, at all events, for the time being. What is their proposal? We anticipate that this matter will be settled within the term of six years, but if we have permanent exclusion on the Statute Book, then at any election and at every election for all time this question of Ulster will be raised and put as an issue in our politics. He put to us, further, many objections to the suggestion made by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary that, after all, the case of Ulster was to a large degree met by the fact that, before the Act became fully operative, there would necessarily in the ordinary course of events be a General Election in this country and a new Parliament would be elected, and he said, with much force and obvious truth, that even if the election went against the present Government and in favour of himself and his Friends, it would be a matter of almost insuperable difficulty to repeal the Home Rule Bill which had once been placed upon the Statute Book. I think that is quite true. The difficulties, as he said, would be overwhelming, and the disappointment caused throughout Ireland would be so great that no Government would lightly undertake the task of such repeal.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs did not suggest that this election, which will take place in normal circumstances before the Bill becomes fully operative, would be an election in which the country might be able to decide whether there should be Home Rule or not. We regard that issue as decided. What he had in view clearly was the one outstanding point as to whether the exclusion of Ulster should be for six years, or whether it should be for a longer period. I think the right hon. Gentleman would not urge that there would be any insuperable difficulty, if the elections went in favour of himself and his Friends, of modifying, at all events, that provision in the Bill which dealt with the particular case of Ulster. Meanwhile, he said, we should be placing an almost irresistible temptation before the Unionists of Ulster to engage in unconstitutional actions during the time that 1412 was elapsing between the passage of the Bill and the bonding of an election. 1 am unable to see why they should be placed in a position of any difficulty at all. Entering fully into their feelings, and appreciating entirely their determination not to be placed under an Irish Parliament, at all events until an election has been held in this country, why should they be tempted or driven to take any revolutionary or forcible measures at a time when no Irish Parliament is in existence, and at a time when there is no Irish Executive, and when, if they were rebelling at all, they would be rebelling against the authority of this Parliament and of the present Executive in Ireland?
For clearness, may I ask whether I understand the right hon. Gentleman right to say that the proposal or the suggestion of the Government is that the Bill should be passed in a form which excludes Ulster for six years, but in such a manner that that limitation of six years may be removed if an election went against the present Government?
§ Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
That is what has been suggested—that the proposal made by the Prime Minister in this House as the basis of settlement should be embodied in the Home Rule Bill, that in the ordinary nature of things the next election would take place between the passage of the Bill and the establishment of an Irish Parliament and Executive, and that, obviously, if the right hon. Gentleman and his Friends had control of the next Parliament, during that interval they would have the full power, and nothing that we could do could prevent them from altering the particular provision in regard to Ulster that had been inserted in our Bill.
§ Mr. CAVE
It is very important that we should understand the position. What the Foreign Secretary said on Tuesday last was this:—If it be the case of an election on those terms, and so arranged that the Home Rule Bill would come into operation within a year, or whatever its natural time would be after its passing, provided the election goes in favour of it. well. I think there may be something to be made of that proposal."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 31st March, 1914, col. 1060.]That did not refer to the six years' question at all, but to the Bill as a whole.
§ Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
I do not think my right hon. Friend ever contemplated that if hon. Gentlemen opposite come into power after the next election, the whole of this Bill would be repealed.
§ Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
I do not think he had any such anticipation. Obviously, if the right hon. Gentlemen have command of the next Parliament, they have the power, the constitutional power, to do what they will, and I certainly do not think my right hon. Friend ever contemplated any agreement between the two parties, that they, on their side, should consent to the passage of the Bill in this Parliament, and that we, on our side, should consent to its repeal in the next Parliament. If that is what hon. Gentlemen opposite have in view, the sooner their minds are disabused the better. There is one other point.
§ Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
The point which I was endeavouring to make clear was that we could not see any justification of any sort or kind why the Unionists of Ulster should take any revolutionary action of any sort during the interval when they were still under the Government of the Imperial Parliament and the Executive, and were waiting a General Election which was within a few months to be held. I pass from that and come to answer a definite question put to me the other day in relation to the finances of the Bill by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Strand, which he said had been put on several previous occasions, and had never been answered. If the right hon. Gentleman will absolve me from answering it I will be very glad to pass to other topics. I quite agree that the others are more important, and I have no desire to enter into this question. But I was fearful that if I did not do so the right hon. Gentleman would say, "here again the Minister in charge of the finances of the Bill is not able to answer a definite challenge which I have given." Therefore, very briefly, I may say a very few words upon it. He declared in the usual terms that the finances of the Bill were unworkable and so forth. He went further and said that no authority in Ireland except one had ever given any sanction to the principle on which the finance of the Bill was founded, and that all Irish authorities of importance had condemned it. It is quite true, that the Trish County Councils' 1414 Association, after a minute examination of the finances of the Bill, condemned the whole of them. The reason was that they had their own scheme of Irish finance which was based on the assumption that the existing Irish revenue was the whole of the revenue collected in Ireland, including revenue collected on spirits and other commodities which are consumed in this country. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Strand, or any student of Irish finance, would accept that document.
§ Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
Mr. Gladstone abandoned that doctrine, and admitted that it was not one that could be defended, and in his later Bill it does not appear as the hon. and learned Member knows very well. If he quotes the authority of Mr. Gladstone, he must quote the considered opinion of Mr. Gladstone, and not the earlier opinion of Mr. Gladstone when dealing with the Home Rule Bill of 1886. The criticism of the Irish County Councils' Association is, therefore, ruled out, because it starts from a false assumption. The right hon. Gentleman quotes the Primrose Committee. Does he approve of the Report of the Primrose Committee, which recommended complete fiscal autonomy and the entire control of the Irish Parliament over all Irish Customs and Excise? The authorities which I quote in support of the proposal are these: First, the greatest living political economist who is an authority on public finance, the professor of political economy in Trinity College, Dublin, whose book on Public Finance has been for the last twenty years the text-book among economists on this subject. Professor Bastable, after a minute examination of the whole financial conditions of the Bill, mentions some minor details in which he would like to see them altered, but with regard to the main lines and principles he expresses his approval. And the other authority which I quote is, after all, the best authority of all, the representatives of the Irish people themselves in this House. If you want to know what is the opinion of Ireland, we must go to the Irish Members of Parliament. While very naturally hon. Members opposite desire to see more money given from the Imperial Exchequer to assist the needs of the Irish Parliament they—would be less or more than human if they did not—the fact remains that the hon. Member for Waterford, on the Third Reading of the Government of Ireland Bill, in 1913, 1415 expressed in general terms his cordial approval of the financial provisions of the Bill.
§ Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
If I may say so, that is a very irrelevant observation. I now come to a close. During this Debate many hon. Members on both sides of the House have made suggestions for a settlement of the Irish difficulty, and perhaps the most remarkable feature of this Debate has been the manner in which the principle of federalism has received support from various parts of the House. This great change in our constitutional arrangement is now contemplated without alarm in many quarters in which previously it was viewed as almost revolutionary. Even the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, and who has been hitherto somewhat hostile to the proposal, has said that if along these lines it might be possible to find a way out of the very grave difficulties in which Parliament and the nation now find themselves, he, for his part, would not interpose objections. After all it ought not to be impossible to devise for this country arrangements similar to those which have been established in so many countries of the world. More than half of the white population of the world now live under federal constitutions. Two hundred and twenty-four millions of people have both Home Rule Parliaments in the States or provinces in which they live, and also a central Parliament for the nations to which they belong, and very various have been the methods by which, owing to historical or geographical circumstances, the several nations have dealt with these problems. The suggestion has been thrown out, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Trinity College has not discountenanced it, that it may be that along this line some solution will be found. But I think that this must be agreed, that the prospects of any Conference or Commission representing all parties in the State, arriving at a federal solution of our difficulties, would not be bright if the question of Home Rule for Ireland were still left in a state of indecision.
In the interests of federalism itself it is necessary that this bitter controversy should be carried forward to its solution, and it is only after this Bill with, it may 1416 be, some temporary provision for the exclusion of Ulster, is placed upon the Statute Book, that it is probable or possible that men of various parties and various views can get together and in a calm. spirit discuss the consequential and further alteration in our constitutional arrangements. Before this Bill comes on for discussion in its next stage, there must necessarily be a considerable interval. Let that interval be used for these various suggestions to germinate, and for discussions and conferences to take place, so that when the House, after passing the Second Reading, addresses itself to the later stages of the Bill it may be that more fruitful suggestions for accommodation may be made. I most earnestly hope, as every Member of the Government does, that we shall not be compelled, either on the one side or the other, to use yet again the instrument of coercion in Ireland, whether against the North or against the South or West. But you must not take advantage of our intense reluctance to use those weapons to wreck our Bill. You must not trade upon that reluctance to defeat the great political object that we have in view. After all, it is not only the Government which is on its trial in these days. British statesmanship as a whole is on its trial. If those who sit on this side of the Chair are for the time being His Majesty's Government, those who sit on the other side of the Chair are His Majesty's Opposition. They have a share in the responsibility, as they fully recognise, for the good government of our country. On them, though not quite equally, as well as on us, lies the burden of finding a solution. Parliament in these days is moving and acting under the eyes of the whole Empire and of the world, and under the judgment of posterity. I am profoundly convinced that the nation and the Empire desire a settlement of this question. It is the duty of Parliament to effect it.
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
I think that the concluding portion of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman contained one remarkable statement. That is that, between the Second Reading and the further stages of this Bill, there will be a considerable interval, during which conversations may be renewed, and further accommodations may be sought. If, as the right hon. Gentleman stated, the Government are still open to further accommodation, the way to peace then may still be opened, but 1417 if the Government are going to adhere to this Bill as it stands with the accommodation that they have so far offered, we are still discussing this Bill with a grave cloud hanging over us. If the Government are prepared for further accommodation with regard to Ulster, as regards both area and time, then I think that there may be some chance of peace. But if they go on with their existing proposals, asking us to agree to them, then I am perfectly convinced, from the evidence that we all have, that the cloud which hung over us for the last week has not yet been dispelled. We all recognise on both sides the difference of temper and the difference of attitude which hon. Members on both sides of the House have shown in dealing with this question upon this occasion. It is due to the fact that hon. Gentlemen opposite at last have realised that Ulster is prepared to fight for her freedom. We have got that far. We have got it by a display of force, by a preparation of force which has made everybody throughout the length and breadth of this realm tremble to think of what might be the consequence.
Consider the action of the Government. We saw howitzers, battleships, and armies prepared last week or the week before in case some outbreak should take place in the North of Ireland. These facts are an admission that the Ulster problem is a grave problem which has got to be faced. I rose to speak with the hope that I should not in any way raise those questions connected with the Army, or with coercion, or anything of that kind. I wish to discuss as dispassionately as possible this view, to which expression was given on both sides of the House, as to the possibility of some federal solution of this question. I have no enthusiasm for federalism—in fact, it is only last week that I examined this question in its detail. I am a Unionist, and I take a federal solution of this problem, not as a thing desirable in itself, but as a way out of the muddle into which we have got—a way out of the appalling mess which the Irish problem has got us into. As to this federal solution, I do hope that it is not too late for the Government to give some real earnest, not merely a preamble, that the federal proposal will be considered with a view to a solution of the problem. If they are to do that, they should not wait another week, certainly not another month, before they establish a Commission to inquire into the finance and into the difficulties 1418 which are bound to arise in any federal scheme for the United Kingdom as a whole. Let that be done at once. If this Home Rule Bill is the beginning of a federal movement, let us see the next step in that movement, which is to establish a Commission of that kind. Let it be done now. I must say that I approach this matter as a Unionist. I believe that the Union under this Parliament is best, and that the federal system is second best. I will tell the House why. I remember in the days of my childhood, when I went over to my father's house in the West of Ireland, the discontent that prevailed; I recollect the drums summoning people to meetings; I remember the seething discontent in the country among all classes. All that has vanished, and it has vanished owing to Unionist legislation. Owing to legislation under the Unionists, owing to the Land Act, those agrarian troubles, which were the source of the greater portion of disaffection, have disappeared, and you now have a people with a quite different outlook upon all questions from what they had twenty years ago.
§ Mr. WILLIAM O'BRIEN
The hon. Member will allow me to remind him that Mr. Wyndham himself confessed to the fact that the legislation could never have been passed by the Unionist party without the co-operation of the Nationalists.
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
I accept the correction of the hon. Member. I do not use the word "Unionist" in any party sense; what I meant to convey was that it was the Act of Union, and the fact of British credit, the credit of England and Scotland and Wales behind it, and the full authority of the Union, which enabled the land purchase scheme to be carried and this great and beneficent progress in Ireland to be effected. I am devoutly thankful that the Home Rule Bill of 1886 and the Home Rule Bill of 1895 were defeated for that reason, because I believe that the continuance of the Union has materially unproved the fate of Ireland. I believe that if you only continue the Union that progress will go on. I believe that everybody who approaches this grave problem must agree that now the question has got so far we have got to look at what remains. There does remain a sentiment which has got to be recognised, a sentiment which is growing in Wales, in Scotland, and in England too. I devoutly hope that that sentiment may be diverted from being a Separatist sentiment into being a Unionist sentiment in the true sense of the 1419 word. I say frankly that in Wales—I represent a Welsh constituency—unless there is some devolution of Welsh business, especially private business, from this House, you will have an increasing tendency to see national tradition and racial feeling fomented against England. Therefore I am driven to consider anew some form of federalism. I believe the Union is best, but this respect we have got to look beyond the Union to see whether there may not be effected some modification of that principle by the introduction of what is called devolution or federalism.
Let me come to the connection between the federal solution and the concrete proposal of the Government to-day. I am perfectly convinced that a federal solution at this present moment, on the basis of this Bill, which included Ulster, would not be a peaceful settlement—that is to say, you cannot force Ulster to accept this Bill and tell them it is a federal scheme or part of a federal scheme. You have got, I believe, to exclude Ulster until your federal scheme is complete. I think that the very existence of a time limit, the mere mention of six years, is the most disastrous thing you could offer. It is a threat. A fixed period of time, whether it be three, six, nine, or twelve years—indeed, any mention of a specific time—is bad. It is not a time limit that you want to make the Ulster Covenanters lay down their arms; they will go on until that time, fearing what may happen; but if you exclude Ulster until there is a federal scheme for everybody in the United Kingdom, then I think you will see a considerable change of Unionist opinion in Ireland itself. I believe that to be the only possible way to effect that change. It is not an easy thing to do, I admit, and matters are going on which render it extremely difficult; but, if the counsels of peace are to prevail, then the withdrawal of the time limit, or some such proposition, is absolutely essential. After all, what is it Ulster is fighting for? The Unionists are not fighting from fear. It is the Unionists in the South and West of Ireland who have got to fear, and who do fear the Ancient Order of Hibernians and sectarian organisations. They have fear, but I do not wish to bring that into the Debate at this moment. I do not think that Belfast fears the Ancient Order of Hibernians; I do not think it is fear that inspires the Belfast Unionists. They claim for British citizenship, which they believe is the protection 1420 of their liberties, and is a guarantee of their prosperity and industries. They are prepared to fight for that principle, the principle of British citizenship as against Irish citizenship.
They will not retain that under the Home Rule Bill as it stands; they will not retain even the very elements of it. Under a federal scheme they would retain it. I received only this morning the prospectus of a new undergraduate political club, at Oxford, and they put this problem to my mind in a very short and neat way, "The basis of the club is to maintain intact the British Empire, and to maintain that Ireland shall ever bear the same relation to the Imperial Parliament as shall England, Wales, and Scotland." If you have a scheme of that kind, then the Ulsterman's vote in this Imperial House would count just as much as the vote of every Englishman, Welshman, and Scotsman. Under your Home Rule Bill it does not. Under your Home Rule Bill you are killing the Ulsterman, whose vote would be only worth half what the vote of the Englishman, Scotsman, or Welshman is worth. You are depriving the Ulstermen of half their representation; more than that, you are transferring them from their present relation to the Imperial Parliament to a Parliament which is not in the position to them that the Imperial Parliament is to England, Scotland, or Wales. You are driving them out of their Imperial allegiance into a local allegiance. That I maintain is what, as far as I can see, the Ulsterman is prepared to fight against. They demand equally with the Welshman, the Scotsman, and the Englishman full British citizenship. I believe that a federal solution would be a way out of that difficulty. But now I wish to say a word about area. Very little has been said about it. The more I look at that aspect of the subject, the more unsatisfactory I think are the proposals of the Government with regard to exclusion by counties. I do not think you will get the men in Belfast to agree to excepting Tyrone and Fermanagh from the exclusion.
There are 100,000 Ulster Volunteers, and 30,000 of them are outside the four counties of Belfast. If you are going to offer them anything, I believe you must at least offer the inclusion of the great covenanting counties. In the interests of the future unity of Ireland it is most desirable that you should not consider how little to exclude, but how much it is most desirable to exclude, looking to the future. I believe that if you made a clean cut of the province 1421 of Ulster, you would have much more chance of getting Ulster to agree to a Dublin Parliament, whether on federal or other lines, in a future generation, than if you cut out a small Protestant area. If you cut out the four counties of Belfast, I do not believe that you will attain your object, but if you cut out the province, not for any fixed period, and I agree not permanently—I do not wish it to be a permanent barrier against possible union—but until such times as Ulstermen can come honourably with their Unionist principle and their principle of citizenship into the Irish Parliament, then, if the Dublin Parliament show the sympathy which they say they will show, I believe you will get the Unionists of Ulster to come in; but, if you exclude a small Protestant area, I believe the result would be to create a barrier against further inclusion. What I would earnestly ask hon. Gentlemen opposite and hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway on this side to consider is, Whether it is wise to give only the smallest possible concession? As to the selection of the city of Derry as a separate unit, that is, of all things, the least earnest of sympathy you can give, and the most disastrous thing you can suggest, if you mean your proposal to be the basis of a settlement of this question. If you take the long view, I believe the exclusion of the whole province of Ulster would be a wise step. There should be no time limit and no permanent barrier, and you should give an earnest of your good intention by looking to solution of this problem on federal lines.
I must say one or two words about the Bill which we are asked to read a second time in view of these considerations. The first thing that would have to go, if you adopted the federal scheme, would be the Customs and Excise. Those provisions for separating the Customs and Excise are not federal provisions for a federal Parliament, but separatist. The one essential for any federal system is a fiscal union, and by this Bill you destroy that at the outset. This Bill is not a federal Bill, and not on federal lines at all, as long as that provision remains in it, and I believe if you are going to have a federal solution for the United Kingdom the only way of possibly doing so is by cutting out of the Government of Ireland Bill all those separate issues that are contained in it—Customs and Excise, Post Office, the factory laws and industrial laws, and the judiciary. I have dealt with this matter, 1422 and I am not speaking for anybody but merely for myself. I dare say my proposals are open to the gravest objections, and I can see them myself. The Union, I believe, is the best, but for peace I maintain that some such proposals as I have dealt with are possibly a solution which may be found in the course of the next few months. One thing I am perfectly certain of, and that is that it is no use for right hon. Gentlemen who represent the Government to adopt a threatening attitude in any negotiations of this kind or any other. I believe that the sentence, "Let us go forward and put these grave matters to the proof," has done more to prevent a reasonable settlement on any lines or a peaceful settlement than anything that has happened in the whole course of this controversy. But it is not at an end yet. There are milder things than that said by right hon. Gentlemen from the Front Bench opposite which are just as inimical to settlement on peaceful lines. I mean the sort of attitude which says, "We offer you these concessions, and if you do not adopt them as an agreement, as a basis of consent—well, then, we shall go on in spite of you."
The way they have been offered, the very manner of offering of their suggestions, hitherto has been a menace to Ulster rather than an attempt to conciliate her. I believe if, at this eleventh hour, in spite of your threats, in spite of your laughter, in spite of all the talk about wooden rifles and all the preparations made the week before last, Ulster might be won, and that we might be saved a national calamity if the Government would give an earnest of their resolve to meet this question fairly on federal lines, and would exclude Ulster until that is embodied in an Act of Parliament for Wales and for England and for Scotland. I have never been to Ulster, and I know very little of Ulstermen, and therefore I am not in a position to say, but I believe that if the Government came forward with some such proposal as that we might see a great change in the attitude of some people to this Bill. No one more than I do would regret the setting up, the permanent setting up, of two Irelands. You have almost got it now. I heard an hon. Gentleman last night talk about freedom, and the sense of freedom in the Irish people. You have raised up in the last two years freedom in Ulster as against Irish freedom. It has been potential for a long time, and the hymn the Covenanters 1423 are singing now is "Ulster shall be free." If you do not recognise that movement, I believe that it will go on and will lead to the permanent setting up of two separate sentiments in Ireland. I think that would be a disaster for the economic interests in Ireland and to everything in Ireland. I often go to the West of Ireland, and I know that if you set up a separate Parliament without Ulster coming in eventually that the taxes upon the poor rural South and West of Ireland may be extremely high, but that is the least of all reasons. I think there is a sentiment common to the whole island of Ireland which in the long run will prevent that, but if you go forward with this Bill, and if there is blood in this Bill, you are only giving one more instance of the tragedy that has stained the whole history of Ireland, and the conflict between Celt and Saxon, and between one religious community and another. If you will reconsider the very basis of your Bill, and the whole question now at the eleventh hour, you may avoid creating what you are now creating, namely, two Irelands, and you may by wise statesmanship at this eleventh hour weld the whole island into one.
§ Mr. YEO
It is somewhat difficult for the latest recruit to this side of the House to follow the speeches of this afternoon. I propose to give some of the reasons why I come here to support the Home Rule Bill. As I have sat many an evening since I came here I have looked across to the other side of the House, and my mind's eye has been fixed many times on men who in the old days fought for Home Rule for Ireland, and I saw this afternoon sitting on those benches in my vision Michael Davitt, Parnell, Biggar, Dr. Tanner and others. They are dead, they are gone, but still to-day the fight rages round the Home Rule Bill. We have a Parliament of men who have assembled all these years since that first Bill has been fought inside and outside of this House, and still we are in this position, that the Bill to-day is upon the Table but not yet upon the Statute Book. Almost every hon. Member opposite who has spoken this afternoon spoke as if we were in sight of peace. I pray God it may be so, not only for the Irish people, but for the Empire at large—not only for the Irish people that they may enjoy that measure of control, but that once and for all it may be settled within the lifetime of those of us who are 1424 here, so that Ireland shall have that meed of justice given to it which shall bring peace and prosperity within its borders. If it does not come now, what is to be the result? I have tried dispassionately to look at the matter, and to ask myself the question in this House since I have been sent here: Will it be possible, if this Bill is rejected, for this fight to go on for another hundred years? I say no, personally—let the Government go forward with this measure, let them make no further concessions, for I have made up my mind since I have been here that the concessions of to-day would be taken gladly by hon. Members opposite and then they would come, holding out their hand, asking for more concessions, I think that the Government has gone far enough.
I come here from a district that has stood by the Liberal party for thirty years, and which returned one of the most honoured Members of this House. For that time it has supported the Liberal policy of Home Rule for Ireland. I was asked to take up the cudgels against my opponent, and my election cry was "Home Rule for Ireland," and we fought that election, the first three-cornered one in that constituency, and they gave us the verdict for Home Rule for Ireland. You may smile at it, but the election was fought on those lines and on no other, and in spite of the armament brought down there by the "Daily Mail" and the pantechnicons and four-in-hands and their bands and their torches, I came out triumphant. This afternoon I am here to express the voice of that district which I heard last week laughed at and ridiculed by hon. Members opposite, who ought to have more regard for the districts in which they live than to find fault with Poplar. If the same searchlight had been put upon some of the districts in which hon. Members opposite live, God only knows what would happen. I am giving you exactly my own personal views. I hope the House will not mind the way in which I express them, and if it is not Parliamentary I trust Mr. Speaker will call me to order. I do not think it is far behind some of the language from the other side, and I think it is just as well mannered, especially as what I have heard since I came here. I am conscious of this that there has got to be a settlement of this Irish question. I believe that it is not only within the four corners of this British Empire, of which I am proud to be one of the loyal sons like hon. Members on the other side, for when it comes to 1425 rock-bottom matters we differ very little. But far beyond the seas, when this Home Rule Bill becomes law, I personally believe that a good deal of the friction and of the bad feeling and of the ill-feeling which is against us in America will be removed. Within our own shores, too, a good deal of the ill-feeling will be removed in Australia when the Home Rule Bill becomes the law of this land.
I may be told by Members who are cynical, and who laugh that I know very little about it. Perhaps I do. If I had bad the experience of years of hon. Members here I should have passed the Home Rule Bill long ago, and I should not have been wasting the time of my country in "gassing" like they are "gassing" here to-day. I want to say that, in common with many of my Friends, as a Protestant, as one who has engaged in religious work for forty years, I hate oppression of every kind whatever. If I believed that this Bill, if passed, would bring oppression upon my brothers and sisters in Ireland, I would not hesitate to vote against the Government. But I do not believe that for a single moment. Personally, I only know what I read in the papers—[Laughter] I do not mind hon. Members' laughter. I only know what I read in the papers with regard to Ulster, and I believe that the Carson Army is the biggest sham and fraud that was ever perpetrated in any country. I do riot mind telling the House what I believe. It is a lot of humbug in order to try and coerce a Liberal Government. I hope the Government will put their backs into the business, and let the people see that they are not afraid to go on with this Bill. If they do not, they will not get the support of the people outside. If they do, they will.
Hon. Members opposite are apt to get angry if we sometimes smile when this Bill is under discussion. A sincere man may ridicule groundless fears, but he never laughs at rooted convictions. I hope you believe that. I am afraid some of you do not. In my opinion every facility has been afforded for the advancement of Ulster's safeguards. That is conclusive evidence that the conscience of Ulster is not belittled nor her alarms ignored or lightly treated. The root objection to the Bill is admittedly the religious element. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I say it is. If you could get rid of the Roman Catholics in Ireland you would have an Ulster that comes nearer your heart. That is what is the matter. It is that humbug, sham, and 1426 religious bigotry which has not yet left the hearts of some of those who are above us socially, and who sit on that side of the House. Against the solemn Covenant of Ulster is pitted the words of the predestined leaders of the Irish Government. That is, to me, an equally solemn and sacred Covenant, and the cloud of witnesses to that Covenant is too great to be inscribed on any scroll of parchment. This Covenant pledges Ireland's honour that the conscience of Ulster shall be preserved inviolate, and her interests fully protected. Since when has an Irishman's word of honour not been accepted in his own country? Since when, I ask?
§ Mr. YEO
I wish I were as well up in the Rules and Orders of this House as the hon. Member is, then I should know what to say to him. I am bold enough to assert that Celtic honour will prove too strong for the weight of circumstances which Ulster presumes will eventuate. The basis of my assertion is the fact that this Bill is the consummation of an increasing perseverance, an unrivalled persistency of purpose, a struggle which has lasted for generations, in which the real patriots of Ireland have striven to vindicate the honour of their forerunners. The Act of Union has never been more than a statutory term in Ireland. Instead of unifying the Irish people, it has frozen them. I have received a letter from an English clergyman in Ireland, an Anglican parson, one belonging to your own clique:—Before going to Ireland in 1856. I had scruples about granting Home Rule, as I feared for the welfare of the Empire and the safety of the Protestant minority. After serving in three Irish counties I became convinced that the utterly reasonable demand of the people for power to control their own affairs could be granted with absolute safety, both as regards the integrity of the Empire and the position of the minority. There is no religious intolerance save on the Orange side, and Roman Catholics and Protestants live and work together on the best of terms. It is my strong belief that Irish Protestants will benefit more than any other class from the passing of the Home Rule Bill. As I remember the courtesy and kindness I always met with from Irish Roman Catholics. I blush for the charges made against a kindly and generous people.That opinion should give Members on the other side food for reflection. It is an opinion which cannot be lightly cast aside. It is an opinion worth having, and one which I think ought to carry weight. It is from an Anglican clergyman who has spent fourteen years in Irish counties, the names of which are mentioned in the letter, and any Member who wishes to do so is at 1427 liberty to see them. It cuts at the root of all this business about Home Rule bringing ruin to Ireland. The bedrock of it all is religious bigotry. I have been expressing views which come from my heart. The unbiassed vision sees in this Bill, if supported by a united Ireland, the restoration of Irish confidence in the British nation, the establishment of a real kinship, and the creation of a new and blessed era to replace the discontent and dislike which have reigned too long. Ulster is asked to sacrifice—what? Not her conscience; not her religion; not her flag. The rest of Ireland and Great Britain say to Ulster: Abandon your prejudice and suspicion; join us in the desire and effort to restore Ireland to the level of her sister nations, that she may achieve equal prominence, gather equal advantage, and reap equal credit with them in the glory still to be attained by the Empire. Ulster has contributed her share in the construction of the Empire, in the fields of commerce not less than on the desert plains of war. Ireland belongs to the Empire; Ulster belongs to Ireland. Without her Ireland cannot consummate the hopes and desires made possible and probable by this Bill. Ulster must, and I believe Ulster will, come in. I pray God that the day may not be very far distant when this British House of Commons may meet to rejoice that there has been given to Ireland a large measure of self-government, which will tend to consolidate her friendship towards this nation and that of her sons beyond the seas.
§ Mr. T. P. O'CONNOR
I think that the whole House congratulates the electors of Poplar upon the representative they have sent here. I am sure that his manly and breezy speech has already won for him a place in the House. I found in the speech of the hon. Member for Denbigh Boroughs a very wide gulf indeed between the tone and the suggestion. The tone was quite unexceptionable, and I am sure his intentions were excellent, but I shall have to examine his suggestion presently. Before I reply to his speech I wish to say a word about the speech delivered this afternoon by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Balfour). I looked forward to the right hon. Gentleman's playing a useful, fruitful, and patriotic part in this controversy. He is a man who stands high in the esteem of the House, with great intellectual powers, and he is now, to a certain extent, in a 1428 detached position. If he had consented to play the part played by Peel, after his expulsion from office in 1846, as an opponent of the Government from the party point of view, but a supporter of all that was good in its policy, I think he would have helped us very considerably towards the solution of this question. I regret to say that the right hon. Gentleman, for some reason unknown to me, adopted quite a different course. Without the slightest desire to offend, I really class the speech of the right hon. Gentleman to-day and other speeches as, in tone and temper, amongst the worst I have heard in the whole course of this Debate. Yesterday we had an atmosphere of compromise and conciliation; the day before we had the same. Under the influence of that atmosphere and helping to create it we had two very remarkable, eloquent, and powerful speeches from hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway—the hon. and learned Member for Exeter (Mr. Duke), whom I have had the pleasure of knowing for nearly forty years, whom I knew before ever he or I was a Member of this House, and the hon. and gallant Member for Hull (Sir Mark Sykes). Those Members made a pointed appeal, not merely to their own Friends but to the party opposite, and not merely to the party opposite but to us, to contribute towards the solution of this difficulty by a spirit of conciliation and compromise. When I was thinking of what I should say here to-day I thought of some observations entirely in accord with that spirit. When I heard, to my surprise—nay, to my amazement—the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London bring back to this controversy much of its old venom, I was very disappointed indeed. I noticed that even by the party above the Gangway that portion of the right hon. Gentleman's speech was not listened to with any apparent or fervent approval. [An HON. MEMBER: "Yes!"] I am sorry to hear it. I myself thought it was listened to in very frigid silence. The right hon. Gentleman accounted for the conciliatory temper of the Debate of the previous days by saying that we were frightened. I will tell hon. Members my reading of that atmosphere. It was that we were frightened, though not quite in the sense in which the right hon. Gentleman used the words: we were frightened by the prospect before us of having to bring before the nation so grave, and I may say even so terrible, an issue as the Army against 1429 Parliament—to put the Army in its present position and in its attitude towards this Bill as one of the issues before the country! That is a prospect which I imagine may be very attractive from an electioneering point of view to hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side of the House, but my hope and belief is that, however strongly they may have felt that, there was not one of them who did not shrink from having to fight that issue before the nation. The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs made an appeal to the House—and other appeals have been made to the House—to drop that issue. The right hon. Gentleman has revived it.
§ Mr. T. P. O'CONNOR
The allusion of the Foreign Secretary to the matter was, I think, confined to a single sentence or two in the course of his speech, and now the right hon. Gentleman has revived it. However, I am not going to imitate the right hon. Gentleman. I am not going into that issue except to say that, if the right non. Gentleman chooses to raise that issue, then that issue must be faced. I certainly do not desire to contribute towards raising it. On other points in this Debate I find the right hon. Gentleman is strangely stercotyped—I might almost say, in an anachronistic position. He really seems on this question to be a Bourbon who never forgives and never forgets anything. He raises the same old arguments that I should have regarded as entirely out of date. I would only make this further allusion to his speech—I do complain that a man of his experience, great intellectual gifts, and his great position in this House, did not, make some contribution towards the conciliatory solution of the problem. I never thought from the very beginning of this struggle that the Home Rule Bill would not get on to the Statute Book. I believe so still. I have even a fervent hope—though I must say that the speech of the right hon. Gentleman rather depressed it—that the Bill will get on the Statute Book with something approaching to consent. I believe that most men in all parts of the House are in favour of a settlement of the question. I believe, to their honour, that many hon. Members above the Gangway on this side are not only in favour of a settlement, but are working hard to produce a settlement. I believe some of them 1430 have adopted the federal idea as a line of escape, and have not only consulted among themselves on these lines, but, if I may believe the newspapers —and I have no other knowledge on the subject—they have also been in consultation with other Members of like tendency of thought on the other side of the House.
As to our position as Irish Nationalists, not only our interests, and the interests of our country, but our whole disposition are directed to produce a settlement of this question. So strongly do I feel on this subject—and I believe all my Friends do—that I would regard it as a horrible disaster if the new virgin page of Irish history, which is to open with the restored Parliament, had upon it the blot of one single drop of blood, either Catholic or Protestant. I believe that at this moment every intelligent and broadminded man in this House, and in every part of this House, is trying to find a formula for a settlement. I believe that in seeking to find that formula there are some dangers we ought to avoid. We should have plain thinking, frank speech—and speech can be frank without being provocative—and we ought to have honest and above-board dealing. It is in that spirit, at least, I shall try to discuss the question. The real question that remains between the different parties in this controversy is Ulster. I do not discuss the principles of the Home Rule Bill. I do not want to put too high what Unionists Members have said upon that. I know that they will never assent to the principle of the Home Rule Bill. But for the moment, with the best motive, and in the interests of peace, they are willing at least to acquiesce in a settlement, even a Home Rule settlement, provided it makes certain concessions to them, I will go through the various formulae in as temperate and as candid a spirit as I can. Two of them I will really not give much attention to. I really believe they are out of date, because the features of a controversy like this at this stage change front day to day, and even from hour to hour.
The Referendum does not really require much further discussion. If there were no other reason against it as a means of settlement, there is this reason: that it would not be accepted by the Government, and certainly would not be accepted by us. As to a General Election, I think that is a solution that I may also dismiss. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why?"] The hon. and learned Gentleman asks me why. I will 1431 give him my reason. If he will read the speech of the hon. Member for Hull (Sir Mark Sykes) he will find the reason there a great deal better set forth than I can set it forth. The hon. Member for Hull in his speech, which I think was received, I will not say with approval, but with admiration of all sides of the House, pointed out conclusively that a General Election now—that is the point with which I am dealing—would not settle, but would unsettle the whole question. In his powerful argument, to which I think there can be no answer, he pointed out a victory for either party would rather be a disaster than a means of settlement. Besides, as a matter of fact, it is too late at this time of day to ask the Liberal party to give up the rights and powers—small as I think are the powers which were conferred by the Parliament Act—and one of them was that their measure should be passed with or without the assent of another place and in the same Parliament—I say to ask the Government or the Liberal party to give up that victory is really to ask something which is quite unfair.
I come to the other solution. The point of principle—it is not a point of detail—which really divides parties in this transaction is whether the exclusion of Ulster shall be temporary or permanent. Let me say quite frankly that so far as we on these benches are concerned, while we consented for reasons which I shall give presently, to the temporary exclusion of Ulster, or a part of Ulster, we shall not consent, and we cannot be expected to consent, to any proposal, whatsoever shape it takes, which provides for, involves, or contemplates the permanent exclusion of Ulster. Hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway on this side have appealed to us upon this question. They have asked us to make sacrifices. We have made as many sacrifices as anybody can expect us to make; many of these we were most unwilling and 10th to make. Before I come to that point, let me deal with one of the formulas for a solution, namely, that of federation. It is amusing to me, it is even agreeable to me, to find that principles which I have been preaching for at least a quarter of a century, and apparently without making much advance, have, during the last few days, made such enormous progress. I quite agree there is not the same point of view on this question between my hon. Friend the Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) and myself. I am, 1432 and I have always been, in favour of Home Rule all round.
I am in favour of Home Rule all round, not merely because I want to do justice to the different nationalities that make up these islands, but because I want to liberate the Imperial Parliament, so that it "may rise to the height of the great argument" of ruling this world-wide Empire. Anyone who wanted an argument in favour of such a solution has certainly had it in the last few days. In the midst of Debates of the most widespread Imperial interest we have had to interrupt our proceedings with private Motions—I will not say of no importance—for a small Irish Bill, and other matters of that kind, which certainly are not the kind of subjects to which the Imperial Parliament should devote so much of its time and attention. There was a question as to whether in a certain Irish railway the clerks should or should not be chosen irrespective of their religious opinions, and at least seven hours of the House of Commons was devoted to that. And seven hours is about the time we give annually to the Budget of India, dealing with 300 millions of people, who look to us as the supreme and final power to govern their country. I go further. I believe when federation comes to be considered we cannot stop merely at these islands. Travelling, as I have done, in different parts of the Empire, and finding there the same language, the same laws, the same general ideas, the same devotion to the Mother Country, I think that statesmen ought to devise some means by which these great sister nations of ours should have some share in forming the policy of the Empire. That is my position. In that position I am far more in accord with the hon. Member for Christchurch (Mr. Page Croft) and other hon. Members than with my hon. Friend the Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon). Having stated my position, let me examine federation as a means of escape from the present position. Education goes on at an extraordinary rapid rate in these times. I am beginning to think that the most successful schoolmaster in politics, at least, the earth ever saw, was General Gough. I heard, for instance, the hon. Member for Denbigh Boroughs saying that he had been rather opposed to federalism, but that within the last few days he had changed his views—a rapid conversion, upon which I congratulate him.
Let me probe federation, not as a principle, but as the solution of our difficulty. 1433 Does anybody seriously think that federation is a simple problem? That it could be worked out with the same rapidity with which men are converted to it? Why the first proposition I heard made on this subjuct is that it should be by universal assent; that the Liberal lion should sit down with the Tory lamb. That kind of talk reminds me of the vacuous nonsense I constantly hear from men unacquainted with political life, that the great evil of the country is government by party, and that really we should abolish the party system altogether. Federation has to be worked out rapidly. If it is not worked out rapidly, I do not see how it is to be a solution of our difficulty. Why, Sir, when I remember the kind of feeling and anticipation with which I entered this House of Commons more than thirty-four years ago, that in ten years time I might be making laws as a minister in my own country, and when now, thirty-four years after I entered the House of Commons, I am still making almost the same speech upon the same subject, I cannot imagine the state of mind which contemplates rapid action upon so complex and difficult a problem as federation. The proposal actually made, not by hon. Members opposite, but by the hon. Member for Denbigh Boroughs who preceded me, was that Ulster should remain out until a federal scheme has been completed and passed into law.
§ Mr. T. P. O'CONNOR
That the whole of Ulster should remain out of the jurisdiction of an Irish Parliament until a complete scheme of federation was on the Statute Book; until a Home Rule Bill was proposed and carried for Wales, until a Home Rule Bill was proposed and carried for Scotland, until a Home Rule Bill was proposed and carried for England, and until a new Imperial Parliament was created on this revolutionary transformation of its present position. Well, Sir, I think that proposal was admirably summed up in an article in the "Spectator" which approved of the proposal, but approved of it on the ground that it would postpone the inclusion of Ulster to the Greek Kalends, or, as we say in Ireland, until Tib's Eve, which comes neither before nor after Christmas. Is opinion so ripe on this question as some of my hon. Friends assume? I have not heard much from the two Noble Lords to whom I always look for the true and purest Tory gospel. The 1434 Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord Robert Cecil) has not yet spoken. The Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University (Lord Hugh Cecil) has, and this was his statement: "We are still perfectly convinced that the true Government of the United Kingdom is to treat it as one nation with a single Parliament and a single Executive." That does not show much progress in the Tory party towards the principle of federation. No, Sir, I think it is absurd and cruel to mutilate Ireland and to keep up her mutilation until this Parliament has solved one of the most difficult and complex problems that ever was presented to any legislation.
There is another kind of suggestion which is of a different character, namely, that there should be what is called a Statutory Commission to examine into the subject. Well, who objects? I do not object. I will give my support to any machinery, to any proposition that will help forward Home Rule all sound and liberate the Imperial Parliament from purely local questions. But is the proposal this that the exclusion of Ulster should come to an end when this Commission has reported, with the condition that this Commission should report in six years! Do hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway accept that proposal? I get no answer to that. I do not think that they are likely to do so. If they would do so, then we may consider the question very carefully; but, Sir, in my opinion, although Home Rule all round is the final and the only logical and the only proper solution of this question, in my opinion it will be not a rapid, but a slow process, because my reading of English history and character is this, that there is no historical tradition and instinctive feeling of the English people greater than a disinclination ever to throw the Constitution into the crucible. For that reason, I am unable to regard federation as a means of escape.
The second formula on which the hon. Member for Denbigh Burghs dwelt is the exclusion of Ulster for an indefinite period, or at least a considerable period. Let me examine that proposal. The hon. Member was careful to explain, and he dwelt upon that, and dwelt upon it with much passion and appeal, that when he spoke of the exclusion of Ulster he meant all Ulster. I do not know any question on which it is more necessary to have exact definition and elementary instruction in geography than Ulster. A great part of the discussion on this question, at 1435 least in the earlier stages, was that Ulster was spoken of as if it were a unit, and it is now demanded that it should be treated as a unit pending federation. In the earlier discussions which we old stagers remember, Ulster was used as one homogeneous province, where you had a vast number of Protestants and a stray Catholic here and there. That has been abandoned. But the claim for the exclusion of Ulster has not been abandoned. Let me see how that will work out. Is Cavan to be excluded as an Ulster county? The percentage of Catholics in Cavan is 81, and because there are 20 per cent. of Unionists in Cavan and 80 per cent. Nationalists, then Cavan is to be excluded. Take Donegal. The percentage of Catholics in Donegal is 77.7. Take Monaghan. The percentage of Catholics in Monaghan is 73.3. Now hon. Gentlemen are always talking of the rights and consciences and religious convictions and freedom of the Orangemen of Ulster. I am willing to give, and I give it from my whole heart, any eulogy that Orangemen have drawn to themselves as to their sternness, their dourness, their energy, their industry, and all the rest. But there is one claim I will not admit to them. I will admit any claims you like for them as men, but I will not allow their claim as supermen. The hon. Gentleman below me spoke, and I am sure with an earnest and sincere desire for solution and compromise, but his actual solution and compromise is that 20 per cent. of Protestants should have the right to remain outside an Irish Parliament, and 80 per cent. of Catholics shall be put under the bann of not joining in that Irish Parliament, for which they have worked and prayed all through their terrible history of persecution.
I think I have disposed of the claim of the hon. Gentleman to exclude three counties. But he laid special stress upon two other counties—Tyrone and Fermanagh. What is the case in Tyrone? In Tyrone there are 54.7 per cent. of Catholics, and in Fermanagh 55.3. Now is the proposition on the part of these supermen, that if they have a majority, or even a minority, in an Ulster county, they have a right to exclude themselves from an Irish Parliament, but if the Nationalists have a majority, or even a minority approaching to equality, they are to be excluded from an Irish Parliament. Are the Orangemen to have the option of 1436 remaining in or outside the Irish Parliament, and are the Nationalists to be forced outside the Irish Parliament whether they like it or not? Talk of coercion! Was there ever a more extraordinary example of coercion in Ireland? I maintain that the concessions which the Government have proposed, and to which we have given our reluctant assent, were an enormous advance in the way of compromise and conciliation, and showed our anxiety to take even the greatest political risks in order to produce a peaceful and friendly settlement. I take two more counties. Take Armagh, with a percentage of Catholics of 45.1, and Derry, with a percentage of Catholics of 45.2. We make a great demand on the Nationalists of Armagh and Derry that there should be a possibility of their being excluded for six years from the Irish Parliament when they approach to nearly a half of the entire population.
I am going to make an observation which I am afraid may be considered controversial, but I must do so because it is a fact, and because it is necessary to the argument. There is only one oppressed minority in Ireland, and that is not in the South, but in the North. I make the statement, but I will not elaborate it, because I do not wish to say anything provocative, and yet, Sir, we are asked in two of these four counties that the Catholic minority is to be turned from the doors, temporarily, of an Irish Parliament, to be placed under an Imperial Parliament where their representatives are such a small minority of the representation of Ulster, and inhere their comrades and fellow countrymen and fellow Nationalists will be reduced from something like eighty to a little over thirty. Talk of sacrifice! I say we have made bigger sacrifices than ever a nation made before in order to conduce to liberty with assent and good feeling. Various suggestions have been made with regard to us. The hon. Gentleman below me, for instance, said there are many Covenanters in Tyrone and Fermanagh, but there are also many Nationalists in county Derry and Armagh. Now I am told that we are face to face with civil war, and why? For what purpose, for what reason, for what justification? There is not a county in Ulster which cannot vote itself out of an Irish Parliament by ballot. Will any man contend that any man has a right to use a bullet for that which he can get by a ballot? They are to use the bullets, and to coerce this Parliament and 1437 this country, not because they cannot get any counties out where they are in a majority, but because they cannot get every county out whether they are in a majority or not. If that issue was ever put before a rational people like the English, I have no doubt as to what the answer would be.
Our position is very plain. We believe that the proposals of the Government are best for a settlement, best for this Parliament and the Irish Parliament, and best for Ireland, and we also believe that they are best for Ulster. We believe that our people in Ireland are separated into two camps to-day not by their own fault. I fully agree with one statement made by the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University (Lord Hugh Cecil) that it is the fault of this country that the Protestants in the North of Ireland are in the position in which they are to-day. They were sent there by a piece of unwise statesmanship due to the brain of Francis Bacon in the reign of James I., but they were sent there. Notwithstanding the difference of race and creed between the old race and the new race, the new race got possession of the country. I maintain the absolute historical accuracy of the proposition put forward by the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) the other day that until the Union came again to divide them the religions and the races in Ireland were united in the common cause. Is there a man in this House who can give stronger testimony on that point than the hon. Member for the St. Augustine's Division of Kent (Mr. Ronald McNeill)? I am revealing no secret when I say that the Encyclopædia Britannica owes many of its best articles on Ireland to the brilliant pen of the hon. Gentleman Will he deny that Ulster and Ulster Protestants were the cradle of some of the movements for the liberation of Ireland and the Irish Parliament, and, above all, for equal rights for Catholics?
The hon. Member below me talked of all the Unionist Parliament had done for Ireland. I admit much has been done, though I think I may claim the Governments of both parties were a little helped by the Irish people, and perhaps as an Irish veteran, I may claim that something was done to pass that legislation by the Members of this party. But this is my most solemn conviction. The last great Land Purchase Act was passed by the present Chief Secretary, and the one before that by the late Mr. George Wyndham, whose premature departure 1438 from a scene in which he was so distinguished a figure is genuinely regretted by the men of every party. But when were these Acts passed? After what conditions. The Land Laws of Ireland were reformed for practically the first time in 1881, but before that five millions of people had left Ireland because of the bad land system, and more than one million died of hunger because of that system. I believe that that Irish Parliament even if it had remained entirely as it was at the time of the Union, even if it had remained entirely composed of landlords and Protestants, would have solved the Catholic question and the land question fifty years before it was ever dealt with by this Parliament. Hon. Gentlemen talk of distrust of the Irish Catholics. My hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich read out last night some of the circulars that are being sent out, in which these poor people in Ireland and some Free Churchmen are asked to believe that if Ireland has Home Rule, Protestantism, Protestant liberties, and Protestant creed will be under the heel of the Vatican. Is that the reason why the Noble Lord the Chief Whip of the Tory party is opposed to a Home Rule Bill.
When we say we do not distrust the Protestants of Ireland they believe us guilty of insincerity. No, Sir, we are not insincere. We know what the Irish Parliament was which was entirely Protestant. It opened the doors to the franchise in 1793. Why, Sir, the Irish Parliament consisting of those Protestant squires was an advance on the English Parliament in religious equality. We say we are sincere in trusting them, and we are sincere in asking them to trust us. We do that because we are students of the history of our country. What is the proposals which divide us? We say that Ulster should be optionally excluded, if she likes, for six years, and that at the end of that time she should come in. What is the other proposal? Practically indefinite or permanent exclusion. That proposal no Irish Nationalist can listen to, and I do not believe any English Liberal can listen to.
The Government have said from the very start that any concession they make must be in agreement and accord with the principle of their Bill. Now their Bill is one for a Parliament for all Ireland, and permanent exclusion or indefinite exclusion of Ulster is absolutely inconsistent with that principle. What is the meaning of the temporary exclusion of Ulster? It 1439 is not that any of us admit that Ulster has a right to stand out. Our reason for agreeing to it, and the reason of the Government for proposing it was, that we believe a small proportion of the Ulster Protestants, under excitement, have been stirred up to the hallucination that an Irish Parliament consisting, according to their theory, of the refugees of criminal lunatic asylums, is going to destroy the liberties of the Protestants of Ulster and their property, and I think I heard it suggested that the lives of their wives and children would not be safe when such a Parliament was in existence. We give them six years to find out their mistake, and we believe they will find it out long before six years is over. The Irish Parliament will act in a broad and generous spirit, unless Irishmen are going to belie all the traditions of their history which have always been traditions of generous consideration for the men of every race and creed. I could read testimony after testimony from Protestant historians if I had the time.
Either the Irish Parliament will act in the broad and generous spirit that we feel convinced it will act, in which case there is no reason for further exclusion, or it will act unjustly as the hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway feel and believe, and then I say that if there were any injustice during those six years from the Irish Parliament to the Ulster Protestants, no Government, be it Liberal or Conservative, could refuse to extend the period, and ought to extend the period of exclusion to those Ulstermen if they could make out a fair, just and reasonable case. Therefore, when you say automatic inclusion you mean automatic if the Irish Parliament conducts itself properly and justly and tolerantly towards Irish Protestants. Those are the only conditions you have a right to ask. I do not dwell upon the point of two elections, because almost every speaker has touched upon it. All I have to say upon this point is that the attitude of hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway on that question shows us that they have an equal distrust of the Irish people and the English people, and of the Irish Parliament and the British Parliament. They take the Irish Parliament as going to do them an injustice. That shows they distrust it, but they think if the Irish Parliament does them an injustice the British Parliament will not come to their relief. What a poor opinion they have of the loyalty 1440 and fidelity of their English Protestants in defence of their own creed and their own people! Why, Sir, it rather astounds me when I see hon. Gentlemen belittling the power of the Imperial Parliament to interfere on behalf of the Protestants of Ulster, on the only occasion upon which they would have a right to interfere, namely, in the case of oppression. I am astounded to hear such statements made when everybody knows the Balkan States and the people of Italy were liberated and united, so far as they have been united, by the voice of one Englishman denouncing the oppression and imprisonment of the patriots of those countries. If there were any oppression in Ireland this Parliament would speak, and speak long before the end of the six years. I say that this temporary inclusion is best in the interests of Ulster. I put it to any hon. Gentleman above the Gangway, I put it to any hon. Gentleman even from Ulster, I put it to the Noble Lord the Member for Portsmouth (Lord C. Beresford), Does he want sectarian strife between the Irish Protestants and the Irish Catholics to continue or to come to an end?
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
If the hon. Member directly asks me, what we are afraid of in the North is what occurred before in Ireland when there was Protestant domination. All the ills in Ireland were due to Protestant domination. We are afraid of Catholic domination in the future.
§ Mr. T. P. O'CONNOR
The Noble Lord has given me a perfectly fair answer, but he will pardon me if -he compels me to enter for a moment on another line of argument. You are afraid of Catholic domination. Now what do you mean? [An HON. MEMBER: "The Ancient Order of Hibernians."] It is no use talking to, me about the Ancient Order of Hibernians. I am not a member of it, and there are no secrets, I believe; but, as a matter of fact, that is an absurd question, and there is no reality in it at all. What does Catholic domination mean? Catholic domination starts with what appears to me the most astounding fallacy in political discussion I have ever heard. It is that because a body of men consists of members of the same religion their politics will run on sectarian and not on economic lines. I have illustrated that very often on the platforms in this way: If an Irish Parliament had been established last year, 1441 I have little doubt that Mr. William Murphy and Mr. Larkin would have been members of it. Would they have voted in the same Lobby? Would Mr. Larkin have said to Mr. Murphy, "I will take 18s. per week because you are a Catholic," and would Mr. Murphy have said to Mr. Larkin, "No, my friend, I will not be out-done in generosity, I will give you 30s. per week because you are a Catholic"? It is much more likely, if there were an Irish Parliament, and if Belfast were included in it, that an Orange Larkin from Belfast and a Catholic Larkin from Dublin would both be voting and speaking, and with some emphasis, against an Orange employer from Belfast and a Catholic employer from Dublin. I hope I will not again be supposed to be making a controversial observation when I say that there is plenty of room in the conditions of Belfast and Lisburn for a Larkin to raise them out of the slough of bad wages.
It is better to let these people come together. They will come together if they are left alone. [Cheers.] Does that cheer suggest that we have ever preached from Ireland from any of our platforms the gospel of sectarian difference— we who have had three Protestant leaders in our history in forty years, and who have Protestants amongst us, seven or eight out of 74? Why, if I were presiding at an Irish meeting and any gentleman even mentioned the word "Catholic" or "Protestant" I would call him to order under our rules. [Laughter.] The hon. Gentleman laughs. It is scarcely fair or courteous, but, as a matter of fact, it is true that if at any convention of my countrymen in Great Britain, with whom I have been associated for a great many years, any delegate got up and spoke of "Protestants" and "Catholics," I would call attention to Branch Rule 10, which says, "No sectarian discussion is allowed at the meetings of this organisation," and I would compel him to take his seat, and every man in the convention would support me in doing so. We think as much of talking about religious differences at the meetings of our party as upon the golf links or in any of the other places where we meet. Why, we do not know any difference amongst us. The men we love and trust best in our party are Members of the Protestant religion, and so in the South of Ireland the men who are raised to positions of honour and dignity and emolument are often men chosen by Catholic bodies from their Protestant fellow countrymen.
1442 Sincerely, I beg these Gentlemen to try and understand their countrymen a little better. There have been some examples—I do not wish to dwell upon it—of scorn and contempt thrown upon the Catholic and Celtic population of Ireland. I heard the Noble Lord, who got a just rebuke the other day from the First Lord of the Admiralty, sneering at the valour of the Irish people. The First Lord replied that if the Noble Lord had seen Irish troops on the battlefield he would not so underrate their courage. I do not want to speak in the language of infatuated self-praise of my race, but this I say: You have no right to despise them, and, if you do despise them, you are the only people in the world that despises them. They carry the light of learning and of piety all over the Continent of Europe. Their sons were the masters of all the Courts of Europe. To-day many of them hold positions, some of them being Prime Ministers, in the great Dependencies of this country. Many of their blood have been Presidents and high officials of the United States. Do not despise them. Do not misunderstand them. Join with them, as we want you to join with us. Ireland is one nation. She requires all her sons; as Parnell said, "We cannot spare one Irishman." Sincerely, honestly, we want you in the Irish Parliament. Your qualities are the complement of the qualities of our people. Together they will make a happy blend, and together they will build up our nation from its ruins.
§ Mr. CHAPLIN
May I be allowed to preface what I have to say, although it was quite foreign to my purpose to-night, with a few words in reply to the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board with regard to his cross-examination of my hon. Friend the Member for the City of London (Mr. Balfour) as to the duty of soldiers and officers to obey. I think the right hon. Gentleman, unwittingly I am sure, entirely misrepresented the views of my right hon. Friend. So far as I understand them, his views are precisely the same views that I hold myself, and I have always been brought up in the belief and understanding that the first duty of soldiers, be they officers or be they men, is to obey the orders of those who are authorised to give them. My right hon. Friend, it is true, pointed out that, even with all the obedience that is shown by soldiers to all lawful orders, there may arise cases in which men feel the duties imposed upon them to be so revolting to their 1443 consciences that they are prepared to sacrifice everything that is dear to them, not only their own fortunes, not only their own futures, not only the comfort and happiness in the case of the men, it may be, of their wives and families, but even their lives, rather than obey orders. After what we have been told as to the absolute necessity, under certain circumstances, of passing into law by force this Home Rule Bill, the effect of which would be to submit to the domination of the Nationalist party the people in Ulster, I can well and easily understand that Ulster men, who have declared that they would rather die than surrender to that domination, may go to all lengths, and I do not know that anyone can justly blame them for it, and men who are soldiers after all have consciences, and for conscience' sake they, too, may be prepared even to sacrifice their lives. That was the doctrine my right hon. Friend laid down, and I do not think I have differed from him even in one iota in what I have said just now.
In this case there is another question which arises. For whom would they be called upon to make the sacrifice? Why, for the very men—they have not forgotten it, you may depend upon it—who, in the darkest days of the war in South Africa and at the time of the great reverses of this country when the lists of killed and wounded were read out from that Bench across this floor, were not ashamed to shout with triumph and rejoicing at the massacre and slaughter of many a gallant English, Scotch, aye, and Irish soldier too. I pass from this to make one other observation on the speech of the right hon. Gentleman opposite. He told us that the Government was under no obligation of any sort or kind to the Nationalist party in this House. I thought it was a little hard on the Leader of that party. Are the Government really under no obligation whatever to a political leader in this House who was able to take into the Lobby with him eighty men to support them when defeat in connection with their Budget would have been absolutely fatal to them, destructive of the party, and destructive of everything they hold dear, within the very first ten days after the new Parliament had come to sit. It was on an occasion—I remember it as if it were yesterday—when the hon. and learned Member for Waterford was not satisfied with the Government. It was during the Debate on the Address that 1444 the occasion arose. He was dissatisfied with something that the Prime Minister had said in the country during the recess with regard to the guarantees to be obtained from the Crown. The hon. Member for Waterford was entirely unable to agree, and the Prime Minister very quickly found that, although he had obtained the support of the hon. Gentleman and his followers during the election, he had not got their support for the Budget. Then this occasion arose, and this is what occurred within my hearing. After one or more violent speeches—it was on the day when the Prime Minister had moved to take all the time of the House for his Vote of Censure on the House of Lords—and it must be remembered that at the close of the old Parliament he had given from that Table the most solemn undertaking in the most formal manner that any Minister could give, both to Parliament and to the country, that the first act of the new Parliament, if they continued to enjoy its favour, would be to re-establish the Budget as from the day it left the House of Commons. What happened? The hon. and learned Member for Waterford had taken great umbrage. I remember exactly what he said very late in that Debate. His, words were:—All I can say is this. Unless I bear from the Prime Minister something very different front what I have heard up to now, both with regard to the guarantee to be obtained from the Crown, and also for the suspension the Budget, I and my Friends will vote against this Motion to-night.There was no bargain! I am told they got nothing! I have always wondered what the hon. and learned Member was told. I have asked once or twice in the House of Commons. I wonder whether the President of the Local Government Board or the Chief Secretary for Ireland will be able to tell us what the assurances were that secured the support of the hon. and learned Member for the Government that night, whether it was written or not; and what was it that induced the hon. and learned Member to recall his undertaking—and he is not much given to that sort of thing—to vote against the Government that night? It was a great temptation to the Government; their whole fortunes, and the fortunes of their party, were at stake, and, worst of all—and it must have been well nigh intolerable—if they had been defeated in the new Parliament that night, it would have been a complete and absolute vindication of the action of the House of Lords in throwing out the Budget. It was a temptation which must have tried 1445 the Government very hard when they thought of the fate that awaited them unless by some means or other they were able to placate the hon. and learned Member for Waterford and obtain his support instead of the condemnation which had been threatened almost up to the moment that he went into the Lobby.
I am going to ask the House to allow me to offer it to-night a few observations on the question which is immediately before us, and that is, the consideration of the Home Rule Bill. The question which, in my humble judgment, we have all of us to ask ourselves in connection with this Bill, is whether the passing of the Bill in the form in which it is at present, and we have been told that it is the Bill which was carried through this House before, is calculated to lead to peace, to increased prosperity in Ireland, and, therefore, to the welfare of the United Kingdom and its people. If I really were able to believe that it was so, I should be greatly tempted to vote for it with all my heart and soul. But according to the Foreign Minister this Bill is also to apply to Ulster, either by settlement or by force. That is what the right hon. Gentleman has told us more than once. As regards Ulster, this Bill neither can, nor ever will, be applied to Ulster by settlement. That, in my humble opinion, is absolutely certain. I have not only in recent years, but in days gone by, before many hon. Members of this House were even born, many opportunities of learning and studying the character of the people of Ulster, as well as of the people of the other parts of Ireland. In my early days, when Mr. Gladstone was first embarking on what I should call the first series of great measures in regard to that policy which he termed the regeneration of Ireland, knowing what was before us, I took an opportunity, in the second year after I had entered Parliament, of spending many months in Ireland, in all parts of it, travelling through the country, and seeing and learning everything I could, mainly in the hope of making myself a complete master of the Irish land question, as it was then called, and this I am vain enough to think I did fairly well. It is my deliberate opinion, because I have been in Ulster again quite recently, that the character of the people to-day is precisely as it was then, and that to attempt to carry this Bill by force is certain to bring not peace but the sword again into 1446 that unhappy country, and what is then to become of all the great and remarkable increase in the material prosperity of Ireland which is perhaps the most significant feature in the whole situation? What is to become of the remarkable progress and the remarkable improvement in prosperity which it has made during recent years under the Imperial Parliament? As for peace, there will be no peace. There will be massacre if this Bill is carried by force. And as for prosperity, this great prosperity I have spoken of, will be at once arrested and probably disappear, perhaps for a complete generation. As to force, it is quite impossible that any Minister in any English Government I have ever known could have spoken more vehemently against the use of force than the Foreign Secretary spoke only yesterday. Here is what he said:—We came to the conclusion that in the long run force was no solution. That I am perfectly ready to admit. It makes me look with the greatest reluctance, almost with despair, upon finding any solution of the Ulster question by the use of force.Those were the words of your own Minister. Then he went on:—To embark on a policy of actual coercion, to make Ulster submit to an authority in Ireland which she is determined to resist by force, is a most grave, a serious and ominous thing."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 31st March.1944, col. 1061.]It fills him with despair. I entirely agree. I go further. I say it would add to the hatred of Ulster, of the Nationalist Parliament and of the Nationalist policy, and it would make friendly relations impossible, in all probability, for generations yet unborn. And yet there is, and there ought to be, no reason for despair if this Government had only the courage of its opinions. When Parliament met at the beginning of this Session, on the 10th February, and when I heard the speech of the Prime Minister on that occasion, I began to think, and not only think, but most earnestly hope, that the desired haven of peace at last was possibly emerging front the gloom and coming into the light. And so it would have been if the Government had had the courage to stick to its opinions. What gave me hope was what the Prime Minister himself said upon the exclusion of Ulster. I hope the House will permit me, even at this hour, to refer to the words used that night; it adds greatly to my regret that the Prime Minister is not able to present himself during this discussion. This is what he said:—I do not despair at this moment of the possibilities of agreement. I think that the language used in the 1447 Speech from the Throne is, if I may say so with respect, language that ought to find an echo in every quarter of this House.So it was. But I do not find much echo of that langauge in the speech that was made at Bradford very shortly afterwards by a leading member of that Administration, nor, I am sorry to say, in the response of the Prime Minister himself, when in my hearing he was asked across the Table—Do you endorse the substance and the sense and the matter of that speech?He replied, sitting there and not getting up—Yes, I do.However, he went on—Speaking for myself and my colleagues, and I believe for my Friends behind me, but certainly speaking for myself and my colleagues, I will use no last word in regard to this matter of settlement. Schemes and suggestions of settlement are in the air. The exclusion of Ulster is often referred to the exclusion of Ulster meaning, of course, for this purpose—it can have no other meaning—the inclusion of the rest of Ireland in a system of self-government.Mark you, the rest of Ireland, meaning there, to take his own words, the total exclusion of the whole area of Ulster. [HON. MEMBERS "No!"] It was so. If the rest of Ireland is to be included in any arrangement, how can it mean anything else than the exclusion of the whole of Ulster? So it was understood by my right hon. Friend, and so it was understood by me and those who sit upon this bench. I said to myself that there was hope at last that we might escape all the horrors that we were afraid had been awaiting us. I will give the right hon. Gentleman opposite the column of the OFFICTAL REPORT in which the speech occurs. The date is Tuesday, 10th February, and "the rest of Ireland," upon which I lay this emphasis, is referred to in column 76. The right hon. Gentleman went on:—Well, now. I am not going—it would be very wrong if I did—at this moment to pronounce, or attempt to pronounce, any final judgment upon this or upon any other suggested solution."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th February, 1914, col. 80.]The Foreign Secretary said the other night:—One great obstacle to the settlement by consent is the way in which our proposals have been received.The First Lord of the Admiralty joined in and said:—It is far you now to take the next step.Both those right hon. Gentlemen must pardon me, but they are both of them absolutely wrong, as I will prove directly. The Foreign Secretary is not always present. I make no complaint whatever 1448 of him. He has many other most serious and grave duties to which he must attend. But the First Lord of the Admiralty has been here through all these Debates, and he should have known a great deal better. What are the facts? The very next day the next step was taken on our side by my right hon. Friend the Member for Dublin University (Sir E. Carson). What was it he did? I hope the House will forgive me if I read one or two extracts, but the case is so important that I feel bound to press it even on the attention of a small audience like this. My right hon. Friend pointed out that the Prime Minister had stated two things, first, that there was nothing in the world he would not do consistent with the fundamental principles of the Bill to avoid the terrible calamity of war or bloodshed; and, secondly, that he would not reject the exclusion of Ulster as a possibility. That was my right hon. Friend's version of the statement, and he continued:—That is a very important matter. If the exclusion of Ulster is not shut out, and if at the same time the Prime Minister says he cannot admit anything contrary to the principles of the Bill. I think it follows—it must follow—that the exclusion of Ulster is not contrary to those principles.He added:—I can only say this to time Prime Minister"—This is the answer to the Foreign Secretary—If exclusion for that purpose is proposed, that is to say, to avoid strife, it will be my duty to go to Ulster at once to take counsel with the people there.What more on earth could he have said? I am sure that all impartial people who have followed the proceedings with the care they should have done, must admit that a more cordial and friendly reply in the circumstances it was impossible for any man sitting on the Opposition Benches to give to the suggestion that was made by the Prime Minister himself. I should have thought it was one with regard to which no Minister could have wished for anything better or for anything more. Time went on. Nothing more was heard until, I suppose under pressure, a further and different announcement was made on the first night of the Second Reading of this Bill—an announcement which was utterly destructive of his own suggestion and destructive of all the hopes and anticipations which it had naturally excited in Ulster. I regret it myself more than I can say, because it is in the exclusion of Ulster that I have always thought there lay the best hope of a settlement that could be found. There it is. It is out of 1449 our hands, and now I must say, adopting the words of the First Lord of the Admiralty, the next step does not rest with us, but with the Government, if they are in earnest in their desire to avert the horrors and terrors of civil war in Ireland.
May I say a word or two upon the Bill and the methods by which it has been conducted from the very outset. Hon. Gentlemen opposite always find it convenient to forget that this question has been twice already submitted to Parliament, and twice already has been rejected, once by the House of Commons and once by the House of Lords, and on each occasion, when it was afterwards referred to the people, the people supported the action of the two Houses of Parliament by overwhelming majorities. It may, perhaps, be of interest to hon. Gentlemen, opposite to know that when it was rejected by the House of Lords, the majority in favour of that rejection of Members who came back to the House of Commons was greater than the majority of the House of Commons by whom it was supported. I do not know why hon. Gentlemen opposite are so desperately afraid of taking the only constitutional measure by which, so far as I perceive, they can avoid disaster and come to a peaceful settlement of this question, namely, by submitting it for the third time to the country. The Prime Minister has always adopted a most extraordinary course. He has told the country and this House over and over again that, whatever happened, he had the mandate of the country, and that they knew all about this Home Rule policy before the 1910 elections. He is absolutely wrong, and, if the House will bear with me, I am going to drive home my statement in the next few minutes. I say nothing of the suppression of this subject in the addresses of nearly all of the Cabinet to their constituents, for that has been sufficiently proved and driven home already. But I ask the Prime Minister this question, and I hope that some of his colleagues who are present will convey it to him: Can he tell me the name of one single Minister occupying his position in this country, when his Government had determined to introduce a measure of great importance and endeavour to carry it into law in the ensuing Parliament, who would ever have dreamt of omitting a full statement of that question from his address? Can he tell me the name of a single Prime Minister who has ever taken that course before, and if he can, who it was, and when it occurred? I shall be 1450 very much surprised if, when he searches his records, he does not draw and discover a blank.
That is the case with Ministers. What is the case with their supporters? In the election of December, 1910, out of 313 Gentlemen sitting on the Government side of the House, Liberal and Labour Members, in how many cases do you think it was ever mentioned in their addresses? In 106 only. That is how it was kept before the public. I have something more to say on that point. I have been very careful, so far as I could, to get the facts. The Prime Minister tells us that he, at all events, made it clear in his different speeches. I have brought his different speeches with me. The first was made at Hull a few days after the election had begun. The only reference to his Home Rule policy in that speech is contained in five lines. It was this:—In a speech I made at the Albert Hall nearly a year ago, I dwelt on some of the causes that we believe are in our keeping. I spoke of a proper solution of the problem of Irish self-government. What I then said I repeat. To it I adhere, and I believe the Liberal party ad here.He did not even tell them what he said. Neither did he tell them to what he adhered. He referred them to a speech made at the Albert Hall. Well, I have that speech, too. What did he say there? It is most extraordinary, but he did exactly the same thing. He referred them to another speech made at another place a year before—it was even a year before he was Prime Minister—in the year 1908, a speech he made in this House. How do you suppose that the poorer people, the working classes and the general community throughout the country would be able to ransack the "Parliamentary Debates" and to find a speech relating to Home Rule which was made by the Prime Minister three or four years before? The thing is too absurd. It is incredible, and what he did say was incorrect. He said:I repeat here to-night what I said then. Speaking on behalf of the Government in March of last year, described Ireland as the one undeniable failure of British statesmanship, and I said that a solution of the problem could be found only in one way—by a policy which while explicitly safeguarding the supreme and indefeasible authority of the Imperial Parliament, will set up in Ireland a system of full self-government in regard to purely Irish affairs. There is not and there cannot be any question of separation; and there is not and cannot be any question of rival or competing supremacy. Subject to those conditions, that is the Liberal policy.We will look a little further into this. The repetition was not accurate. He did not say full self-government, and he did not say Irish affairs. What he did say was that their policy was nothing but self-govern- 1451 ment for purely local affairs, a very different thing altogether. The right hon. Gentleman ought to know that there had been a Bill for local self-government already submitted into the House of Commons, and when it went to the Convention at Dublin it was rejected with ridicule and scorn, and the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. John Redmond) and his associates with him had to look exceedingly small.
Why is all this tyranny to be inflicted upon Ulster? Why was it that the Prime Minister was able to hold out to us the alluring hopes that he did, and then without a word more to change his attitude altogether, and to inflict this added disappointment upon that portion of the country. There is no bargain, we are told. There was no arrangement of any sort between the Government and the Members and leaders of the Nationalist party in this House, and, therefore, I am not likely ever to be able to find the reason, but I want to say with the utmost earnestness one word on behalf of the people of Ulster. Who are these people of Ulster? They are the direct descendants of the Protestant immigrants who were imported into Ulster from Scotland and England, and sometimes from parts of Ireland, in the reign of James the First, under the scheme which he proposed, determined to have, at all events in one part of Ireland, a population upon whom he could depend as being loyal to the Crown and Constitution of this country. They were induced to go there under every kind of undertaking and solemn promise. It was known in those days sometimes as the plantation of Ulster, and in later days was described by Gladstone as the well-known covenant of Ulster. What are these promises? Special security for their religion and security for the land on which they were placed. Other conditions were made besides, and, above all, they were to be under the control of the English Government. How they filled their part of the bargain may be judged by the contrast which anyone who goes there can see between Ulster and many parts of the rest of Ireland to-day. A more industrious, a more loyal, hard-working, active or intelligent race, no country possesses in the world. They have been amongst our best soldiers, they have always been well affected to this country, they never joined the Nationalist ranks when they proclaimed themselves as rebels, as many of them have done over and over again. If the hon. Member (Mr. 1452 Dillon) were here I would remind him of some of his statements, not so very many years ago. There are other reasons why these people should dread being under the control of men like him. There was one celebrated statement he made to the effect that, "When we come into our possessions we shall remember the men who have opposed us before, and when we are in power we shall mete out their punishment to our foes and our rewards to those who have been our friends." These Ulstermen who have been induced to go there by the terms I have mentioned, these loyal men who are some of the worthiest subjects anywhere to be found in the Empire of the King—what is to be their reward to-day? You are going to subject them by force, if need be, and to place them under the domination which they detest, and abhor, under the domination of men to whose principles, whose policy, and whose practices they are most determinedly opposed. Do you think by using force against this supremely loyal population you are going to add to the peace and the prosperity and the welfare of that country? I say in the presence of the Chief Secretary for Ireland, in my solemn judgment, if life is destroyed, if blood is shed, if you cannot enforce their submission without the ultimate resort to force, and you put it into action, you will be guilty of the greatest crime that has ever been committed in the annals of this country for generations. The time will come, and not far distant, I am certain, if you do, when you will be called to account by the people of this country. There is nothing in the world that they hate so much as injustice of this kind, especially when that injustice is enforced by the shedding of their blood. When that time arrives, believe me, it will be the death-knell of your evil rule and the hour of your doom.
§ Mr. GILL
I think during the three days in which this Debate has been going on, everybody who desires a peaceful solution of this difficulty will be glad at the changed tone of the speeches and the evident desire on the part of many Members to find a solution. I regret exceedingly the last remarks of the right hon. Gentleman in speaking of force. I think it would have been better and more in accordance with the keeping of a late Cabinet Minister if he had used his energies in the direction of trying to find some way out of the present difficulty. The Foreign Secretary the other day asked Members on both 1453 sides of the House to look at the matter from a non-provocative standpoint. We have had some extraordinary speeches from the back benches on that side. Hon. Members, I think, have shown a desire to try and find a peaceful way out. It would have done credit to their hearts and their heads. So far as the Labour party is concerned, we are Home Rulers of long standing and Home Rulers by conviction. For thirty years this question has been before the country. We desire, and I believe the country desires, that it should be got out of the way for the simple reason that it blocks the way of social reform, which is very much needed, and which the country is waiting for. Reference has been made to General Elections, and to the question whether or not the Government have a mandate for this Bill. Whatever may be said as to Members of the Liberal party not having put the question of Home Rule in their election addresses, I think it will be generally found that it was mentioned not only in 1910, but at the two previous elections, that Home Rule was one of the issues submitted to the electors. It is quite true that the past generation opposed Home Rule—the elections which took place in 1886 and 1895 showed that quite clearly—but a change has come over the country, and a different view is taken now from that taken previously. It is difficult now to get up any enthusiasm against the adoption of a system of Home Rule. The country looks upon the question as settled, and consider that the only thing required is that the Bill should be passed by Parliament. We are strongly of opinion that in all cases the majority should rule.
I have been very much surprised by hearing hon. Gentlemen opposite, and especially the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London, mention the particular circumstance that there is a majority in England against it. I do not see why that should be introduced as an argument against Home Rule at all. I understand that England is a unit in the United Kingdom, and I do not see why they should single out one country to dominate the rest. What is to become of Scotland, Ireland, and Wales? They are all represented in this Imperial Parliament, one vote should be as good as another, and the majority ought to rule. We have now had this question before us for three Sessions, we have arrived at the third stage under the Parliament Act, and if this Bill passes through the House of 1454 Commons it will become the law of the country. It is quite true that the minority have taken up a strong attitude on the question. Every minority have to suffer in some way or another in connection with Acts of Parliament of which they disapprove, but in every previous case the minority have had to give way. It is said there is an exception in this case, and that what is proposed is altogether different from anything which has existed before. It is said that if this Bill becomes an Act of Parliament, the minority ought to be treated differently on the ground of difference of religion—the difference between Roman Catholics and Protestants. This is not the first religious question which has been before the House, and in connection with which minorities have had to suffer. When the party led by the late Leader of the Opposition was in power they went to the country in 1900 and asked to be allowed to complete the war. That was the only mandate they had, but they took the opportunity of bringing in an Education Bill in 1902 which outraged the religious' feelings of the whole of the Nonconformists in this country. It is true that there was passive resistance, but there was no armed force, and that minority have had to accept the position which that Act created.
Then in 1904 they introduced a Licensing Bill for which they had no mandate. That Bill created a monopoly, and gave to licence holders property which they did not previously possess. At that time a large number of people were indignant. A large number of temperance reformers, and people who believe in temperance, had to submit, and I see no reason why there should be one treatment in this particular matter different from what has been done in regard to the other questions which I have mentioned. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London said that the Government should ask the people what they think about this measure. I would point out that they themselves took the opposite course, and instead of asking the people beforehand what they thought, they passed Bills for which they had no mandate. They took the course of passing them and leaving the electors to judge afterwards. There is a Bill to-day before a Committee upstairs which has passed the Second Reading in this House, and upon which hundreds and thousands of textile workers in Lancashire and Yorkshire feel strongly. 1455 Ballots have been held in regard to that particular Bill, and very large majorities have decided against it, but still that measure will probably become law, and these people will have to submit when that takes place.
I consider that the Government have tried to meet the Opposition in regard to the Home Rule Bill very fairly. The Bill itself as passed in previous Sessions is full of safeguards. One safeguard after another was inserted, and we were beginning to wonder what the Irish Government were going to have left to them. Their powers are very limited indeed. The concessions which have been offered from time to time have only been used for the purpose of trying to get further concessions. My colleagues and I have been constantly engaged for many years in negotiating with employers with respect to industrial disputes. We do come across employers occasionally who, when we make offers of a peaceful character, think that that shows a feeling of weakness, and that all they have got to do is to refuse to come to an agreement in order to get more. That is the way many strikes are caused. The Opposition seem to have adopted the same attitude in regard to this question. They seem to think that because the Government are trying to seek peace by offering concessions they are weak. They are taking up the attitude that if they can only keep them longer, and bully them a little bit more, they will be able to extract a greater number of concessions. I think that no responsible Government in this country, to whatever party it belongs, can afford to give way to threats of that sort. I regret, and the party to which I belong regret, exceedingly, that Army officers have seemed to take sides. It has a bad effect on the organised workers of the country, and it will make the difficulties in connection with our disputes much greater in the future than they have hitherto been.
I regret that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London suggested that soldiers were entitled to act according to their consciences. It seems to us a strange doctrine that this question of conscience only comes in when it is a question of politics, and the politics of one side only. We have never heard at any time in the history of great trade disputes, when the military have been called out from time to time, of the question of Conscience coming into operation. On no 1456 single occasion has the soldier refused to act because it was a trade dispute and because his conscience would not permit him to act. It is against the best interests of the country that the question of the Army should be brought into matters of this sort. I think we have not heard the last of it, and I regret that such a matter should have been introduced. Everybody agrees that if there is any likelihood of a minority being injured or oppressed in connection with any Act of Parliament, they ought to be protected. We think what has been done, and what has been offered, so far as Ulster is concerned, will give the people adequate protection. It seems to me that the majority have not been sufficiently taken into consideration in this matter. The majority cannot be ignored in a question of this description. Anyone who has read the history of Ireland. and who knows what, has gone on during the last hundred years can come, I think, to no other conclusion than that the majority are perfectly right in seeking to have a Parliament of their own to try to improve the conditions in their country. The young and the sturdy have been compelled to emigrate because they were unable to obtain a living in their own country. Something must be radically wrong with the state of Ireland, when we find that during the last 100 years the population has been depleted by over 50 per cent. There is no other civilised country in the world which shows such a condition of things. Irishmen who have gone abroad, have taken prominent positions in the countries to which they have gone. I have been to America and I have seen Irishmen occupy the most, prominent, positions in some of the State Parliaments.
The Irish nation, the Irish Nationalist section especially, has been subjected to coercion and eviction and absentee landlordism. People who for over thirty years send a compact body of eighty representatives to this House for one purpose only, I think deserve to be recognised. It certainly shows that they are in earnest in their demand for Home Rule, and so far as this Bill is concerned, we will give it our fullest support. The Irish Members of this House have generally been in favour of democracy, and have generally assisted the Labour party in doing what they desire to do. I have on a previous occasion mentioned the circumstances in which we had reason to be grateful for the action which they took in regard to textile Bills, and 1457 we support them to the full in what they are asking for. We never expected that, the Government would offer or even suggest, the exclusion of any part of Ulster. It came as a great surprise to us, because we consider that Ireland ought to be a united country in itself. I do not think that the working classes in Ireland generally are in favour of exclusion. I saw in the papers a week or two ago a resolution passed by the Belfast Trades Council, upholding the exclusion of Ulster from the Home Rule Bill. We look at this question generally from a different standpoint. from that of other hon. Members. To our minds this is an economic question. There are many problems in Ireland that require to be dealt with, and which are not being dealt with properly at the present time. The great bulk of hon. Members opposite seem to think that when an Irish Parliament is established it will be divided exactly as Irish parties are divided to-day, but the Nationalist members will form one section an the Ulster members will form another.
I do not believe that anything of the kind is likely to happen. Among the eighty-six Nationalist Members I believe that there are as many different shades of opinion as there are in this House. I think that among them you will find Conservatives who will be able to act with the Ulster members, and that you will have some Liberal members, and you will certainly find some Labour representatives among them. I shall be very much surprised, indeed, if you do not find even some Tariff Reformers among them. But though they may all hold different opinions, they come here with one distinct object, and that object is nationality. They have come here as a national party, for the purpose of securing a Parliament of their own in which they can act in accordance with Irish ideas. When that Parliament is established, as it will be established, I think that parties will be divided exactly as they are divided here. We are looking for a strong Labour party in Ireland. We believe that there is need for it. We certainly know that there is great need for improvement in the linen mills of Ulster as regards the conditions of work, the rate of wages, and the abolition of fines. I have had the most extraordinary statements made to me as the result of investigations which have been made in regard to the conditions that exist there, and that would not 1458 be tolerated for one day if they existed in the textile mills of Great Britain. I certainly think that when the Parliament is established, each representative who is sent there will consider what is the best thing he can do for his own country, and Members will not divide themselves into religious sections. They will look upon their duty from the point of view of seeing what is most necessary to improve the conditions of the people.
There are many problems of wages and hours of labour, and there is a big housing problem, not only for Dublin but for the rest of Ireland. Those of us who have had to do with the recent dispute in Dublin know what are the conditions that exist there. There is plenty of work for an Irish Parliament and work in which all ought to take part. There is no religious question in the trade unions—Orangemen and Catholics work together. A short time ago, I heard from a friend, one of the great international trade unions of this country which has members in England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, opened a branch in Dublin. The district delegate from Belfast, who performed the opening ceremony, is an Orangeman. Practically all the members of this branch are Catholics, and they entertained him to dinner. In the very same society there has been an election for the position of president. There was an Orangeman from Belfast, and there was a Catholic, and there were several others, and in this particular branch in Dublin they unanimously voted for this Orangeman from Belfast as President. That shows plainly enough that working together so far as their affairs are concerned, they do not consider the religions question. That, to my mind, will be the attitude which they will take in the future when they have got a Parliament of their own.
I think that everyone agrees that it would be better, if possible, to have a peaceful settlement of this problem, but it is impossible that those people in the North should be separated from the rest of Ireland, and that there should be two separate Governments. The rest of Ireland is in the most intimate connection with Belfast, and Belfast is in the same relationship with Dublin and other cities. of the country. People in the other parts of Ireland invest their money in banks in Belfast, and different articles required for other parts of the country are bought in Belfast. There is one Ireland now, but it 1459 would not be one Ireland if the people are separated in the way that has been suggested, and such a separation is bound to interfere with the industrial conditions not only in the rest of Ireland, but in Belfast itself. One naturally asks how is this situation to be dealt with. It is a problem which needs to be thought out very carefully. To my mind there is not much need for fear. As soon as the new Government is established, it will depend on that Government as to how it treats the people, and how it carries out the laws and administers the country. It seems to me that this is going to put the Government on its mettle, and that it will make it carry out the laws of the country in such a way that I believe the Ulster people will be glad to come in at the end of six years. It would be an incentive to good legislation and to administration.
I do not know what the position would be in the future if this suggestion of the Government is accepted. Personally, I doubt whether many counties will vote themselves out. I have had conversations with prominent Irishmen, some in Ulster, and they are very doubtful themselves whether more than two or three counties will vote themselves out. I think if there is a fair field and no favour, and if the National Parliament starts in a peaceful manner, that Ulster—and it is what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dublin University asked for, namely, that Ulster should be won—will be won. As to a Referendum, personally I do not believe in that proposal. I do not think it is a practical solution of the problem, nor do I think if there were a Referendum that it would be confined to this one question. If the electors were left to themselves, and no meetings were held and nothing done, it would be found that they would not be got to vote, and a small minority ought not to decide an issue of this decision. But the ballot could not be confined to one issue, and I think that the parties would feel bound to do something for the purpose of getting a large vote. Meetings would certainly be held, and not only the policy of the Government, but that of the Opposition would be reviewed, and the whole of the voting would take place in relation to that condition of facts. Therefore, I do not think the Referendum ought to be taken into consideration at all; it would not settle the matter in any way whatever.
1460 A suggestion has been put forward which seems to find great favour in different parts of the House. It surprises me that such a development has taken place within the last few days in favour of the federal solution. There may be something in it. Everybody agrees that we want some system of devolution, not only for Ireland, but for the other three countries of the United Kingdom. There is a great deal of time spent here on small matters which might be dealt with elsewhere. Still, I think that the solution which is suggested requires to be considered with very great care indeed. So far as England is concerned, it will have to be dealt with very carefully. I believe that there is much business which comes before this House that might be very well managed in a local Parliament, but this question of federalism has many sides; there are some things to be said for it, and other things against it. A few years ago I paid a visit to the United States of America, and, while there, I found that a burning question, so far as industries were concerned, was whether they should adopt the Workmen's Compensation Act, as they have got it in this country. They found the greatest difficulty in different States in getting that Act pased. It was found that it interfered with the written Constitution of the United States, and the Supreme Court intervened from time to time in regard to the establishment, of this Act. On the other hand, there is something to be said for the system in the, United States. Within certain limits the States can do certain things. In Massachusetts, so far as factory legislation is concerned, they have got ahead of any part of the world, but had the whole of the United States taken the same view that would not have been done.
In regard to the federal system, I do not think it would be fair or just, and certainly would not be generous, to Ireland. This Home Rule Bill has been before us for a very long time. The country is ready for it; Ireland has sent a compact body of Nationalist Members to this House ready to vote for it at all times; they have done that for the last thirty years—[An HON. MEMBER: "Forty!"]—at least for a long period of years, and they are absolutely united in favour of establishing a National Parliament in Ireland. As far as we are concerned we are prepared to support them, without any federal settlement interfering with the passing of this Bill. Questions have been 1461 put with regard to a General Election. So far as that is concerned the Opposition apparently require a lot of General Elections, for every time any question is put forward to which they are opposed they say that there is no mandate from the country for it. But they did not take that into consideration when it was a question of education, licensing, and other measures. The Parliament Act is a bugbear of hon. Gentlemen opposite. They want to get it done away with, but as far as we on these Benches are concerned we are not prepared to sit here for three years for the purpose of getting Bills through. I think the Government ought not to give way on this question, and that they ought to see their three Bills through, the Home Rule Bill, the Welsh Disestablishment Bill, and the Plural Voting Bill, also. Everybody who desires a peaceful solution of this question will find that it is only by being united on this point, and by being determined on all sides of the House, that a peaceful solution can be reached for the benefit of the nation.
§ Mr. SAMUEL ROBERTS
I quite agree with the last few words of the hon. Member for Bolton (Mr. Gill), but I must say that it seems to me he has not directed very much of his attention to the question of conciliation; rather, he seemed to confine his speech all through to the point that the Government should stick to their position. I think it is incumbent upon every Member who addresses the House on this question to do it in a sober way, conscious of the grave responsibility which rests upon each one of us in a grave crisis like the present. We have had several speeches in that tone delivered during this Debate. I should like to allude to the speech of the Foreign Secretary delivered yesterday. It was an utterance of great thought, and it went as far as any speech I have heard towards wishing for a peaceful settlement in order to avoid the horrors of civil war. The right hon. Gentleman said the door was not shut, and he invited still more conversations. I could not say quite the same with regard to the right hon. Gentleman who sits opposite to me to-night (Mr. Herbert Samuel). We did not hear anything from him in that tone. I regret it. I want to look at the position as it is now. For two years the people in Ulster have made it quite evident that on no account could they accept this Bill. The Government and their supporters through the whole of those two years said that it was a case of bluff, that 1462 they did not really mean it, and an hon. Member who made a speech from these benches this afternoon, the hon. Member for Poplar, I think, repeated that the Ulster Members were bluffing.
The Government came to the conclusion, however, that there was a case, and, at the beginning of this Session, the Prime Minister came down and made certain important proposals to exclude Ulster, or parts of Ulster, for a period of six years. If the six years' limit had been omitted, personally, I think you might have done something by way of settlement. But the people of Ulster, who had to come in at the end of that period, felt that they must keep up their organisation, otherwise the position would have been intolerable. It reminds me of the time limit we had on the occasion of the Licensing Bill. The Government then proposed a time limit for all publicans in this country of fourteen years. After the expiration of the time limit, the whole of the licences were to be confiscated to the State without any compensation whatever.
§ Mr. S. ROBERTS
Yes, I am perfectly right, that was the proposal. Although they were to go on paying their contribution towards compensation for the whole of those fourteen years, yet at the end of that time they were to be confiscated. That was defeated because everybody saw the injustice of it. This is a similar sort of case. I am perfectly sure that a great many hon. Members opposite, and perhaps also on the Government Bench, believe now that exclusion ought to be given without a time limit. I know that many hon. Members opposite think so, because I have spoken to them on the subject. The hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald), who sits opposite, said so in this House. He said he did not see very much difference, if you gave a time limit for six years, why you should not give it without a time limit, or some words of that kind. My argument is, that the Government, by this concession, have admitted there is a case, and, having done so, I contend that it would be impossible for them to enforce the operation of this Bill by force. The opinion of the country would be so dead against them that it would be impossible for them to carry it out. The hon. Member for Cork (Mr. W. O'Brien), in a speech last night, ridiculed the idea of there being any difference between a six years' time 1463 limit and no limit. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the party on this side made a counter offer, namely, to take a Referendum on this question. He said:—We will concede plural voting and we will have a straight issue, Aye or No, on the Bill with the exclusion of Ulster.That has been rejected. I have not heard any sound reason for the rejection of the Referendum. It is a very simple and easy way of finding out the opinion of the people.
Perhaps the House may be interested to know that a month or six weeks ago I voted myself in a Referendum. In a Bill promoted by the corporation of the city (Sheffield) which I have the honour to represent three provisions were opposed at a ratepayers' meeting, and a poll had to be taken. We went to the poll, and there were ballot papers in exactly the same way as at an election, and on the ballot paper there were three questions. The first was: Are you in favour of Clause so-and-so relating to the erection of an abattoir or public slaughter-house by the corporation, yes or no? (2) are you in favour of the Clause giving power to the corporation to run certain motor-buses, yes or no? and (3) are you in favour of strengthening the law with regard to petty thefts, yes or no? The corporation won two Clauses and were defeated on the third.
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ Mr. S. ROBERTS
It was more than that. It was, to my mind, an effectual test of opinion on those questions. Reference was made yesterday by the Foreign Secretary and by several hon. Members to-day to the question of federation. The Government all through these Debates have said that this Bill was the beginning of federation for the United Kingdom, but it is quite impossible that this Bill could be the beginning of a federal system. It is not in the Bill itself. The Bill is entirely antagonistic to the principle of federation, and, of course, especially on the question of the Customs and the Post Office. Federation, as known in the Colonies, is a very different thing from the federation 1464 which this Bill has taken as the standard. There is Colonial self-government as we know it, which is practically a separate nation, where you have only the string with the Crown and the Court of Appeal. Then you have other States of those Governments which are strictly under the central Government. They are ruled in the same way and all the laws act exactly in the same way in each country.
§ Mr. S. ROBERTS
I am speaking of Australia, for instance, and all the provincial States there have the same laws.
§ Mr. S. ROBERTS
The same powers, that is what I meant. May I go back to the question of finance of this Bill, which is a most important thing. When this Bill was first introduced, the Government appointed a Special Committee to advise them. It was a very important Committee which called expert evidence, and it came to an absolutely unanimous decision, that the finance of the scheme must be, and the first principle of sound government must be, that the same authority that is spending the revenue should collect it. The Government rejected that for the purposes of this Bill.
§ Mr. S. ROBERTS
We never could tell the reason why. The scheme they substituted is this: that the British Exchequer is to go on levying and collecting all the taxes in Ireland just in the same way as they do now, and that out of that revenue they are to pay to Ireland a fixed annuity, the amount to be determined at the passing of the Bill by the Joint Exchequer Board on the basis of the cost of the transferred services to Ireland. The balance of the revenue will go towards the cost of the reserved services. It does not go the whole way, and there will be a deficiency, after that balance has been contributed, of something like £3,500,000.
§ Mr. S. ROBERTS
I make it £3,500,000. At all events, last year, after defraying the cost of the reserved services, it would 1465 have left a deficiency estimated by the Irish Secretary, in answer to a question on the 24th June, of £1,706,000. In addition to the transferred sum, there would be £500,000 for giving the Irish Government a start, and the English Exchequer would have to continue to pay the cost of the whole of the Imperial services. Ireland's share would probably come to about £3,500,000. Any further moneys which Ireland might require for her local services beyond the transferred sum, there would be only one way of getting, and that is by fresh taxation. We have been told, and I believe it is absolutely correct, that it will be impossible to make any economies in the present cost of the transferred services. Therefore, any additional money that was required would have to come out of fresh taxation, or increase of present taxation. Can anybody imagine Ireland being taxed over and above the present taxation? I cannot. But that is what I am afraid this Bill means. Ireland is restricted, no doubt, by the provisions of the Bill in reference to taxation, and I think she would find it extremely difficult to discover any fresh sources. There is the land, of course, but surely that is sufficiently burdened already. There are Irish industries, but if you put a special tax upon them they would not stay in Ireland.
Under these conditions it is not at all likely that the people of Ireland will be satisfied. As to the British position, the Prime Minister told us on the introduction of the Bill, that one of the chief objects, so far as England was concerned, was to cut the loss. Personally, I do not think that we are going to cut the loss. In this Parliament we shall have an Irish representation of some forty members, whose chief business will be to look after Ireland, and if there is a shortage of money, to press the Government of the day for more money. One hon. Member from County Dublin said distinctly the other day that Ireland would be entitled to a share of any grant made by this House from the common Exchequer. That is not cutting the loss. The point arose in reference to housing. It was pointed out that if a Grant was not made towards housing in Ireland previously to the passage of this Bill, Ireland would have to come and ask for a Grant. That would not be cutting the loss. That would be a grant over and above the transferred sum. The hon. Member said:—There is nothing in the Home Rule Bill to prevent an Imperial Grant being made to Ireland, at the same 1466 ime as to Great Britain for housing purposes. If a Grant can be made for housing, it can be made also for other matters.One of the most important questions in connection with this Bill is that of land purchase. We have already advanced a very large sum for this purpose. The Irish Secretary in July of last year put the amount for land and cottages at £124,000,000, and it was estimated that £61,000,000 would be required. So far the annuities have been very punctually paid. But if this Bill passes there are people in this country who feel anxious about the future, and I am rather afraid that Ireland will find herself in a worse position in regard to land purchase. I do not think that the Government of the day would be so inclined to advance money to Ireland when Ireland had separated herself from Great Britain. Therefore there would be a danger of not getting those advances. If the annuity was in arrear, according to the Bill, it could be deducted from the Transferred Sum. Therefore there would be sufficient security for that. But the Transferred Sum would be deducted by that amount, and Ireland would be so much the worse off. I should like to go back once more to the first objection of the Unionist party to the principle of Home Rule. The principle dates back over a hundred years, to the time of the Act of Union. What was the position then? This country was at war with France; we were very much pressed; there had been, I think, two attempts to land in Ireland, and the Government of the day came to the conclusion that it was absolutely necessary for the safety of the country that the two Parliaments should be united. Pitt, who was Prime Minister, said in his speech on the Union:—We must consider it as an act of great national policy, the object of which is effectually to counteract the restless aspirations of an inveterate enemy"—that is Napoleon—who has uniformly and anxiously endeavoured to effect a separation between the two countries.The correspondence of Viscount Castlereagh which is given by Mr. Lecky in the third volume of his history, is a paper giving all the arguments as to why the Union was made. He says:—Both the Parliament and the people of Ireland have for the last seventeen years"—that is, during Grattan's Parliament—been almost entirely engaged in lessening by degrees their dependence on Great Britain.A little further on he says:—The vast majority of the inhabitants of Ireland are either rebels or inclined to become such. The object of 1467 the disaffected, that is the great majority of this island, is confessedly a separation from Great Britain.Mr. Lecky adds at the bottom:—These were, I believe, the true reasons that governed the conduct of English Ministers.That was the cause why the Union was made. The question I ask this House to-night is: Does not that cause exist at the present time? If we are to believe the statements made by hon. Gentlemen from Ireland in speeches which they have made, both in this country and in the United States of America, their ultimate object is separation from this country. That is their idea. This Bill, they tell us, is the stepping-stone towards that. The Unionist party, and I hope also Members on the other side, will say, "We never can consent to a measure which will in any way enable Ireland to lessen her connection with Great Britain. The two islands are inseparable by geographical reasons, and from stragetical and financial reasons it is of the utmost importance that this country should be one with Great Britain.
§ Mr. AGAR-ROBARTES
I hope that the hon. Member who has just sat down will not consider me guilty of any discourtesy if I do not reply to the interesting speech he has just delivered. I want to turn my attention for a few moments to the Government. I really think that it would be almost impossible to find any politician gifted with sanity, or even a party hack, who could possibly congratulate the Government on the position in which they find themselves owing to their Irish policy—a policy, we must remember, that we were told would bring peace and prosperity to Ireland, and would usher in the millennium in a country which had been misgoverned in the past. It was stated on hundreds of platforms and in thousands of speeches that the days of coercion were over; that force was no remedy; and that "peace, perfect peace," was the policy of the Liberal party. I admit it all sounded very nice. It all sounded very easy. But unfortunately the Government fell into the mistake of ranging the position: "Sentiment against Sense." If two years ago, instead of under-secretaries and secretaries to under - secretaries gibbering, Cabinet Ministers had only begun to think, then the party to which I belong would not have found itself in the deplorable condition in which it is to-day. So far back as June, 1912, I found it necessary to warn those distinguished men who occupy the Front Bench that it was absolutely im- 1468 possible to bring Home Rule into operation unless you first excluded the four counties from the operation of the Bill. On that occasion I was looked upon as a knave by some, as a fool by others, and as both by the rest.
My amendment on that occasion was vigorously and vehemently opposed by hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House, with the notable exception of my hon. and gallant Friend on my right (Mr. Pirie) and the hon. Member for St. Ives Division of Cornwall (Sir C. Cory). It was vehemently opposed by hon. Members below the Gangway opposite. I well remember that my hon. Friend, if I may call him so, the Member for West Belfast (Mr. Devlin) was so determined in his opposition to my amendment excluding the four counties, that be threatened to sever his head from his body if the amendment was carried, and to sit opposite a truncated corpse. Mr. Deputy-Speaker, at that time I considered that as the only solution of the Irish question. [Laughter.] I do not mean the partition of my hon. Friend; but the division of Ireland into two parts. All that is ancient history. Far be it from me to labour the point, for I fully realise that the man who says, "I told you so," is very often a nuisance and invariably a bore. I hear one or two signs of agreement. Perhaps hon. Members on this side of the House will also agree with me when I suggest that we are nearer a settlement to-day than we were in those days when hon. Members on this side of the House, either thought that Ulster was bluffing, or else they themselves were bluffing! Personally I am very glad to find that wiser counsels have prevailed, and that the Government have made concessions. I think we may describe them as sacrifices. I think the Government deserve great credit for the concessions and for the proposals that have been made. Honestly I do not think that hon. Members opposite have received those concessions or those proposals as generously or in that generous spirit which they might have done.
I want to examine very shortly the various suggestions which have been made for the settlement of the Irish question. First of all there is the demand that emanates from hon. Gentlemen opposite for a General Election—looked forward to by them with avidity—I might also say with greed—but not so eagerly anticipated by hon. Members on this side of the House. 1469 I should have thought it must be obvious that a General Election will not possibly settle what I should describe as the Ulster question. In the first place, a General Election would not be fought principally on the question of Home Rule. We should have farmers discussing, for instance, the last phase of Tariff Reform. We should have the agricultural labourer discussing the minimum wage. We should find ministers of all denominations wrangling round the Welsh Church. The Insurance Act would play a prominent part, and the deep-seated objection of certain people to licking stamps no doubt would produce again, as it has before, a vulgar abuse of the mother tongue. If hon. Gentlemen opposite got the best of the General Election; if they won it, and got the better of what I may describe as a slanging match, then there would be no settlement at all of the Ulster question. They would have to subdue the majority in Ireland by force. To my mind there can be no finality in such a settlement. If, as I suggest with great respect, the voice of the Chancellor of the Exchequer might prevail, if the party to which I belong were to win the election, what then would be the position of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dublin University? Surely he could not return to his supporters and say, "The game is up!" If I understand the position aright—and I think I do—I maintain that we are dealing with Ulstermen who, I might say without offence, are fanatics; who honestly and sincerely think that if the Home Rule Bill were passed, and if they came under an Irish Government their civil and religious liberties would be in danger, their most cherished convictions would be ruthlessly rooted out, and even their lives and the lives of their children would be endangered!
If that is the spirit of Ulster, and I believe that to be the spirit, then surely approval by Great Britain could make no difference to them! It would be no good going to Ulster and saying to them, "Your civil and religious liberties are in danger, still you have lost the election and Great Britain approves." If Ulstermen believe that, they would go on fighting in order to protect their faith. I had experience of that sort of fanaticism as far back as 1902. I remember perfectly in 1902, after the Education Act was passed, Cornwall was in a blaze, and the cry went up that "Rome was on the rates," and I remember perfectly well as 1470 long ago as that peaceful, respectable citizens refused to pay their rates, and that they had to appear day by day before the magistrates, that they were fined and their goods were distrained, and in many cases they suffered imprisonment. I remember one noble sacrifice by one of my Constituents who, in order to avoid payment of rates, made over all his goods and possessions, even to his toothbrush, to his wife. I merely give that as an instance, to show how fierce the Protestant flame will burn, how unquenchable and fiery the spirit of men who honestly and sincerely believe that their civil and religious liberties are in danger.
Therefore I dismiss entirely the question of a General Election, or the demand for a Referendum as absolutely useless in solving what I describe as the Ulster question. That brings me to the proposal of the Government, to what is known as temporary exclusion. I, personally, am really desirous of seeing the question of Ireland settled. I maintain that it is absolutely impossible to turn a deaf ear to the repeated demands of the majority for self-government. I also believe it is unthinkable and impossible that the war-whoop of a faction or the bray of a minority should ultimately prevail over the cry of a nation. It is impossible that Ulster should take up the untenable position that because they do not want Home Rule, no one else shall have it, although I support and will support their demand, which I consider their right, to remain outside the scope of the Home Rule Bill. I believe it is absolutely impossible to bring these two incongruous elements together at least for many years. Temporary exclusion to me has one fatal objection. It is this: that at the end of six years the Government expect to be able to do what they cannot do now. Therefore, no one will contend but that the unrest and uncertainty in Ulster during that period of six years will be absolutely intolerable. I maintain it is quite impossible to keep Ulster in what I might describe as a state of siege for six years. Surely, if the Liberal party happen to be in power in 1921, and if the Liberal party can afford to be generous, then they can afford to be generous now and act up to all the old principles of Liberalism which used to read "trust the people," instead of the new fanatical principles of official Liberalism that read "Coerce them." Surely the Government ought to 1471 say to the Ulster counties, "if you do not wish to come in at the end of six years, then we will give you the option not to.
I think it was the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University who said, speaking a day ago in the House that the people of Great Britain were sick of the Irish question. Personally, I entirely agree with him. I think the electors of Great Britain are tired to death and bored to tears with the Irish question. If my proposal was followed out it would be no longer an English question, for automatically at the end of six years the Ulster people would be given the option of coming in or staying out at will. If the prophecies are true of those who support Home Rule, that it will indeed bring peace and prosperity to Ireland, then the Ulster counties would be tumbling over each other to take their share and play their part in this rejuvenated Ireland. I have always maintained that the onus of proof must always fall upon the exponents. I would point out to hon. Members opposite that if they grant that option at the end of six years or ten years it would not, after all, be a bar or a bolt against the decree of a united Ireland. It is quite possible, as I have said, that if all the good things come of Home Rule the Ulstermen will come in. I should really like to make an appeal to hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway opposite, and it is this: After all, you, in days gone by, as I heard the hon. Member for East Mayo say, have experienced coercion—you have tasted it and tried it. Some of you, as has been said, have been imprisoned. Why should you wish, then, to bring these horrors upon your fellow countrymen. I am perfectly convinced you can never have a contented Ireland so long as you attempt to bring in people under any form of Government which they dread and distrust.
There is just one other solution, and that is the suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen (Mr. Pirie). Personally, I must admit I am not particularly in love with cutting up and mincing Great Britain, for, as I have always considered, the clouds of a federal system are not yet above the horizon, but if the solution of the Irish question could be found through a federal system, I should have no objection to supporting my hon. Friend's suggestion, as I am anxious to see a solution of this question if possible. For, after all, graver issues 1472 have been raised during the last few days than the question of Ireland; they are far-reaching in my opinion, and, if persisted in, will be disastrous, not only to our Army, but also to our Navy. Hon. Gentlemen opposite blame the Liberal party—the Liberal party blame them. It would be presumption on my part, and far be it from me, to judge between you, but I am absolutely certain, if either party attempts to bring the Army or the Navy as pawns into our paltry party politics, sensible men will rise up and say, "Extinguish the light from the clock tower. A plague on party politicians and all their works!"
§ Mr. ASTOR
I have listened with great interest to the courageous and interesting speech which has just been delivered by the hon. Member opposite. I find a great deal that I agree with in what he has said. Perhaps there is so much in common between us, because both have the distinction to represent West-country constituencies. I have noticed one thing during the past months, that whatever audience I addressed, whether it was a speech at a political meeting or an after-dinner speech, the one certain way to get approval from my audience was by abusing the party system. All sections, large numbers of people throughout the country are against the party system, because they believe that we in the House of Commons have made a mess of things during the past few years. It is for us to show at this moment and during the future months that we can retrieve our good name, and that we can carry through this question and the constitutional question on a satisfactory national basis. I have listened to most of the speeches that have been made. I listened to some speeches of a distinctly conciliatory character from hon. Members opposite. I confess that I have been disappointed with the speeches which I have heard from hon. Members below the Gangway. The hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) and the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. T. P. O'Connor), as I understood their speeches, closed the only door for a satisfactory settlement—the only door through which I could possibly go. It was with genuine regret that I heard those two speeches. Hon. Members of the Nationalist party have referred to some of my colleagues and criticised their speeches as if the only suggestion we had put forward was for the complete and absolute exclusion of Ulster, and that 1473 nothing else should be done. If I may summarise the proposals which have come from us, it has been "exclusion pending federalism," which is quite a different proposition.
The hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool said Ulster would have six years to discover her mistake. But if at the end of six years they still believed they were right in asking to be left out of the Irish Parliament, according to the hon. Member they ought to be compelled to come into that Parliament. That is the essential difference between us. Hon. Members below the Gangway say the men of Ulster must come in. We say if they do it should be of their own free will. I think the Government bring forward Home Rule with the justification that in their opinion there is need of a certain delegation of powers from this Parliament to other bodies. In discussing this question I want to speak of Home Rule as little as possible, because Home Rule has bitter memories for all sides, there are bitter associations connected with it and all we mean by it, whatever our party may be. Therefore I want to speak of it as being a proposal for the delegation of certain legislative rights and powers, and examine it as such. Hon. Members on this side do say, and they have said, and say now, and I dare say a large number will continue to say, that they are opposed root and branch to the whole principle of Home Rule. Nobody on this side or on any other side can say that he is opposed to every and any form of devolution or delegation of powers. After all, this House is always delegating powers and rights to other bodies. The whole question turns on what are the legislative rights and powers that you are going to delegate.
Secondly, what is the nature of the body to which you propose to delegate those rights and powers? Is that body to be associated with a geographical area or is it a body connected with sentiment or nationality? On these two points there might be a certain measure of agreement. I think we might agree that the powers to be delegated must be considerable, and that the body to which they are delegated must be a body of considerable importance. So far there may not be much difference, but then we come to the crux, and that is what is the amount of control and actual legislative powers to be maintained in the central Parliament in London which under the federal scheme would 1474 have supervision over subordinate authorities. On this depends entirely whether the machine you set up is centrifugal or centripetal, on whether the forces are disintegrating or unifying. The machinery you set up is centripetal when the central control is a real one, when the central Parliament has a real control and supervision over the subordinate bodies, and when the amount of retained services and legislative powers are real and considerable.
Similarly, looking at the other side, the subordinate bodies to which powers are delegated must be really subordinate bodies, and under the central control and veto of a Parliament representing the whole of the United Kingdom here in London. That is what I propose to refer to as the federal scheme. I realise that federalism, to a large number of people, means a totally different thing. If you get two people discussing federalism, and one says he is a federalist and the other an anti-federalist, you probably find when they come to discuss what they mean by federalism that they mean exactly the same thing. Federalism may have certain advantages or disadvantages, but at all events it has this merit, that in many respects it is a safe solution of the difficulty. As far as machinery is concerned, it is a safe proposal, because it is unifying and not disintegrating. The alternative is a scheme of machinery where your central control is nominal, where the central Parliament has a veto, but it is a nominal veto, and it has not a real power of influencing and vetoing the legislation of the subordinate Parliament, where the retained services and legislative powers retained in the central body are infinitessimal and where too much is given away. That is what I mean by the anti-federal scheme. That scheme is one full of danger to the whole country, and I would oppose such a scheme as long as I have any power either in this House or out of it.
Let me examine the present Home Rule Bill in the light of this. I find, first of all, it is unlike any federal system that we have in the British Empire. It is unlike the Canadian, the South African, or the Australian schemes. Therefore I begin with this discovery that the present Home Rule Bill cannot be compared with any federal system or machinery existing within the British Empire. At once I find a possibility of danger in the Home Rule Bill. My second point is that under the Home Rule Bill it is proposed 1475 to delegate powers and rights and authorities to the subordinate body which cannot possibly be applied to the rest of the United Kingdom, if you establish at some future time other bodies in Scotland, England, or in Wales. The hon. Member for East Mayo, speaking yesterday, said that he claimed that Ireland ought to have special treatment. I do not say that there must be absolute and entire uniformity, but you must have practical uniformity in the powers you delegate to your subordinate authorities, and it is absolutely impossible to delegate the powers given in this Bill and extend the present Home Rule Bill to England, Scotland, or to Wales. I do not think it will be possible to summarise the proposals contained in the present Home Rule Bill more accurately than by saying that it gives to Ireland subsidised separation. In the past we have known a section of a country, a community in a country, breaking away and setting up its own autonomous government. It is a novel proposal that the Mother Country should drive away from its own protection a section of its people and not only give them their own Parliament and the right of making their own laws, but, in addition to that, subsidise them in their separation. There is another thing in the present Home Rule Bill which I find dangerous and which I find anti-federal.
What is the one thing which is the basis of our existence as a United Kingdom? It is national defence. Under the present Home Rule Bill it is not proposed that Ireland should give a penny towards the national defence of the United Kingdom. There is no proposal that in the future Ireland should give one penny towards our national defence. That, to my mind, is an element of danger, and is a point which I object to in the present Home Rule Bill. I need not refer to the Post Office, the Customs, and the Judiciary, which have been alluded to by several speakers in this Debate before this evening. To my mind this Bill is a bad Bill, and a dangerous Bill, because the foundation of it is separation. To my mind it is a bad Bill, and it is a dangerous Bill, because it is an anti-federal proposal. It is an anti-federal solution of the difficulties we are up against. What is our proposal on this side? First of all, we are the Unionist party. To our mind Union is best for the country. We are satisfied with the form of government which we have known. My 1476 own admiration is tempered to some extent by the knowledge that those ninety united votes, which 1 see below the Gangway, have enabled a minority of this House to pass a Budget which did not on its merits command a majority of votes in the House. That solid phalanx of ninety votes has enabled the Budget to be carried, whereas, on its merits, there was a majority against it. I see also the same ninety votes below the Gangway responsible for the temporary suspension of the Constitution. I see many grave dangers and menaces in the near future, and I attribute them largely to the existent of those ninety votes below the Gangway, solid on all questions. It is this which causes me to think that our admiration for the system of government as we have known it in the past must be tempered by the results of that government.
We say that if there is to be any change, if force of circumstances makes it necessary to have an alteration, then that alteration must be a safe change. The alteration which is suggested must be safe for the United Kingdom, and the machinery set up must be unifying and not of a disintegrating nature. If there is to be any change whatever, to my mind there is only one solution, and that is the federal solution. What is the attitude of hon. Members opposite? It is very difficult lo reconcile the protestations which we have from the Back Benches opposite with the facts as we know them and with the attitude of the Front Bench. Hon. Members on the other side during the last few days have been throwing forward suggestions for a federal solution. They have, in fact, been echoing some of the speeches which were made by right hon. Friends of mine during last autumn. Hon. Members on the Back Benches have done that, but I have not seen the Prime Minister or any responsible Minister sitting on the Front Bench coming forward and putting before this House and the country a distinctly federal proposal for dealing with the Irish question. We have, first of all, this present Bill, which, to my mind, is an anti-federal Bill. Then hon. Members who sit below the Gangway tell us that federalism is slow, and that it takes a long time to establish it. But, because it takes a long time to establish a system of federalism, is no reason why your corner-stone should be anti-federal in character.
I find it also difficult to reconcile the speeches of hon. Members who sit on the 1477 Back Benches opposite with the attitude of hon. Members of the Nationalist party. Hon. Members who sit below the Gangway have not only in the past, but have also recently used towards Ulster terms which can only be described as threatening. They have not so far as I have heard them, tried to win Ulster. They have said to Ulster, "You shall come in." They have not said to Ulster, "We will try to win you in to end our quarrel." The hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) said the other day that he wanted special treatment for Ireland. I should have thought if he had been trying to win Ulster that he would have tried to repeat the words used by my right hon. Friend the Member for Dublin University (Sir E. Carson) in the autumn, that Ireland must have no special treatment, but that the treatment meted out to Ireland must be the same legislative treatment as is given to the people who live in the other portions of the United Kingdom. Then I find it very difficult to reconcile the conciliatory messages which are apparently sent forward from the Back Benches opposite with the attitude of the Prime Minister on this question. The Prime Minister has federalism on his lips, but I have never yet seen him take any action which leads me to believe that there is federalism in his heart. All can say is that, if there is federalism in his heart and in his mind as well as on his lips, he is evidently at the present moment not a free agent to give expression in a practical manner to those sentiments.
In the autumn we saw hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House holding out what I may describe as an olive branch, throwing out hints of a federal solution. I did not see the Prime Minister take any action to grasp that hand. The Prime Minister waited, and last week he saw the result of his inaction. Then I find it also difficult to reconcile the utterances of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs with the protestations, which I believe are absolutely genuine, which come from the Benches opposite. The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs has advocated Home Rule within Home Rule. If I understand Home Rule within Horne Rule, the right hon. Gentleman has put forward a suggestion which is entirely opposed to federalism for the United Kingdom. If it means anything, it means federalism in Ireland; it does not mean federalism in the United Kingdom. The 1478 other day the right hon. Gentleman, I do not think it was in this House, but on the platform outside, said that if the Conference of three years ago had discussed the federal solution it might have been practically ready at the present moment. In other words, he said that it is too late mow. He gave expression to the sentiment which I have heard also coming from hon. Members sitting opposite, that they cannot lose the fruits of the Parliament Act, and that they cannot afford to lose the two years gone by. Surely it is worth spending two years, it is worth spending four years more, if by so doing you can get a settlement by consent, because unless you do get a settlement by consent you are not going to get any settlement whatever.
I find it indeed hard to reconcile the suggestions which I know are genuine, coming from the Back Benches opposite with the actions of the right hon. Gentlemen who sit on the Front Government Bench. It has seemed during the last few days as if it might be possible for certain Members who sit on opposite sides of the House to agree to certain amendments to the present Home Rule Bill, but by the Parliament Act we are precluded from putting down those pacifying amendments and discussing them, and, if we can come to an agreement, from carrying them through. The Government even have not been able to put down on the Paper their own amendments in connection with their concessions. The question I have before me at the present moment is not what I should have done twenty years ago, or what should have done ten years ago, but what is the position I am up against at the present moment, and what is it incumbent on me to do. I see the Constitution shattered, and that it is not being rebuilt or reconstructed, owing to the attitude of the Irish Nationalist Members in this House. I see a Budget which, on its merits, could not command a majority of the House of Commons, and I see at the present moment the shadow of convulsions, the shadow of dangers, which I do not care to probe. I see all these things, and when I realise the possibilities, dangers, and risks—when I realise all these things, then, as far as I sin concerned, I am prepared to take great risks to take a great step forward in order to try and get this question settled by consent and without bloodshed. I wish, as far as in my power lies, to avoid a crisis, and crises, which will make for bitterness 1479 not only in Ireland and in the United Kingdom, but in every Colony throughout the Empire. I want to avoid crises, which will endanger our position at the heart of the Empire.
§ 10.0 P.M.
§ Mr. LOUGH
Members on both sides have taken great interest in this Debate, and I, for one, am glad that the time allotted for it has been extended. I listened with particular interest to the speeches made on the first evening of the Debate, but I am afraid that some of those delivered yesterday and one or two to-day have not proved quite of the same character. The right hon Gentleman the Member for the City of London, who opened the Debate to-night, made a remark about the situation which calls for some notice, especially as it was afterwards repeated by the hon. Member for the Denbigh Boroughs (Mr. Ormsby-Gore). The Debate was chiefly about Ulster and its position under the Bill, and the right hon. Gentleman said that what Ulstermen wanted was to be able to retain their full rights as British citizens. We have had that point constantly raised throughout this Debate. civis Britannicus has been often mentioned. I think hon. Members have been too ready to pick up the loose phrases used by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Trinity College. I would like to ask this question. Have the men of Ulster ever enjoyed the full rights of free citizens? What are the full rights of free citizens They are the enjoyment in their local government of the control of their local affairs, and I believe the greatest test of British citizenship is for the ordinary citizen to have control over the police and not to live under a centralised police force. In that sense the men of Ulster have never enjoyed the full rights of citizenship, and they never can unless some such Bill as this is passed. Further than that they enjoy no rights over their schools or over their commerce. They are in a most pitiable condition. I speak as an Ulster man. Members of this House should look at the realities of the situation. If they did, I think the tone of their eloquence would be greatly changed. They say that Ulster must necessarily be oppressed if put under this proposed Parliament. Nothing of the kind. It will all depend upon what the Parliament does, and the mistake Ulster is making at the present moment is that it 1480 is crying out too soon. It is possible that the Parliament may confer great benefits, upon Ulster, and I would suggest that hon. Gentlemen might look at these brighter shades of the picture, instead of dwelling so constantly on the darker aspects. On the first night of the Debate we had an interesting speech from the hon. and learned Member for Exeter (Mr. Duke). He asked the House to look at the realities of the situation. He said that Ulster was one reality. Another reality, he declared, was that the people of England objected to the Bill. But he did not allude to the fact that all the Celtic fringe around the Scotch, the Welsh, and the Irish, by great majorities are in favour of the Bill, and if England wants to live happily with her surrounding countries, as part of a great federation, she must consider the opinions of those parts. It is easy, therefore, to give an answer to the hon. and learned Gentleman on that point. There is one reality which the hon. Gentleman did not mention, and I should like to direct attention to it for a few moments. This is a question between two islands, not so different in size as they might be, but very different in their conditions. The island of Great Britain is the most prosperous island in the world; the island of Ireland is in many respects one of the most miserable. [Dissent.] Why, the presence of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Trinity College and of myself in this House could not be a better proof of that.
§ Mr. LOUGH
I am speaking of the realities of the situation, and I was about to give figures which appeal most easily to hon. Members opposite. Here is one island, Great Britain, which has doubled its population, as far as England and Wales are concerned, since 1851. Scotland has doubled its population since 1831. But in the case of Ireland its population has decreased by one half. In whatever respects you compare the two islands you see one going forward in prosperity and wealth in the estimation of every intelligent person throughout the world, whereas, when you 1481 look at the other you see it going backwards. Hon. Gentlemen opposite may laugh at that. They may say that latterly there has been some improvement. I admit there has been some little improvement, but it is because Ireland has sunk so low that if any change did take place it could only be an improvement. But I also say that any improvement which has been won has been gained by the advance of this great question of Home Rule and self-government and by pressing the rights of the Irish people as they have been pressed by the Nationalist party. Hon. Gentlemen opposite will admit that Great Britain presents a great contrast with Ireland in respect of population, wealth, and general progress, and the object of this Bill is that the great reality of the retrogression of Ireland during a long period may be borne in mind, and accepted as a reason why some change might be made such as is here proposed.
There is one other speech to which I listened with great interest. It was made by the hon. Member for the St. Augustine's Division (Mr. Ronald M'Neill), who, like myself, although representing an English Division, is an Irishman and an Ulsterman. He has the faculty of making very plausible speeches, like sonic other hon. Gentlemen opposite, without giving away anything to the opposite side. Alluding to the proposal of the Government, he said that they had not selected the right area, and that the whole of Ulster ought to be excluded from the Bill. Let us look at that. On what was the argument based? He said that a certain section of the population—that is, the Protestants in Ulster, who are only 22 per cent. of the whole population of Ireland—objected to a Home Rule Constitution, and, therefore, we should exclude Ulster, which is one-fourth of the country, because that 22 per cent. of the population objected to the Bill. Take the province of Ulster. There we find that 44 per cent. of the population are Catholics. If you are to exempt Ulster from the Bill because 22 per cent. of the people do not like the proposals in it, why on earth should you not have respect to the opinion of 44 per cent. of her population? The argument of the hon. Member against the proposals of the Bill was just as strong as the argument he put forward on behalf of the futile scheme he laid before us.
Perhaps it will be thought I am a little critical of hon. Gentlemen opposite and the suggestions they have made towards 1482 a settlement, but I am sure they will forgive me when I say I am just as critical of the suggestion put forward by the Government. What is the proposal for settlement that is made to us? I call the attention of the House to the spirit in which it has been made. It is that certain counties in Ulster, if they vote themselves out, shall be included after six years. My knowledge of Ulster prompts me to be against the whole policy of exclusion. I must not be accused of any disloyalty to my right hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench for discussing this matter somewhat freely, for they invited discussion. The Foreign Secretary quoted a sentence from the Prime Minister, and said, "Here is a suggestion for you, but it is not the only suggestion that has been made. We have also had the suggestion of Home Rule within Home Rule, and Sir Horace Plunkett's scheme, and we do not close the door to any suggestion." The object of this Debate is that suggestions may be thrown out and that they may be criticised. Therefore, I am going to criticise the Government's suggestion, which is exclusion for a time of certain counties of Ulster. I should like to call the attention of the House to one most peculiar thing about this proposal. I have been a long time in the House—over twenty years—but I have never heard a proposal brought forward by a Government in such an extraordinary way as this has been proposed. Its parents have said nothing about it; its authors never defend and never explain it. The hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon), in his speech yesterday afternoon, said that he accepted it, but that he did so with pain. He did not explain it; he did not defend it. Why on earth should we live in this world of shams, and go on with a thing which nobody likes, which nobody understands, and in which nobody believes?
Let me point out freely the defects of this proposal. It was taken from the Front Opposition Bench. That is a very had origin for anything. It was brought forward by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Dublin University (Sir E. Carson) in his celebrated Amendment to the Home Rule Bill. He said, "It is a bad affair. I do not believe in the policy of exclusion. I bring it forward to destroy the Bill." That was candid and honest, and I believe every word of it was true. The policy of exclusion is fatal to the Bill, and for that reason, and 1483 because of its bad origin and the necessarily evil effect it will have, the Government ought to have hesitated to bring it forward. As it is brought forward, let us look at it. What good can this do Ulster? All that the counties have left to them is to vote themselves out of the Bill. What will happen if they do? The first six years of the Irish Parliament will be the most important period in the history of the next fifty years for Ireland. In the first six years a new Government will be set up, the number of State Departments will be fixed, and a system of government will be entirely novel and different from anything that exists in the British Empire will be worked out. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I hope it will be better than any we have yet seen, and that the experience of the Australian, New Zealand, and the other Home Rule Constitutions will be even bettered so that it may be a good scheme. While all this work is being done, Ulster is to be excluded. Afterwards she is to he asked to come in and live under a Constitution which will be fixed on iron lines, and in the fixing of which she has had no part.
§ Mr. DILLON
Ulster will not be excluded unless she votes herself out. I very much doubt whether she would vote herself out.
§ Mr. LOUGH
I quite agree. That is the second point I was going to make. I wish the hon. Member would have discussed the details, because he would know them much better than I do. What will happen is that the best part of Ulster—county Cavan—will not vote herself out. Donegal will not, and only four counties may. I only say "may." Perhaps they will not. There may be only three, but if the four do vote themselves out, what will be the result? The result will be that there would be no opposition in the Irish Parliament. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"] Hon. Members opposite may disagree, but at any rate the representatives of the minority will be excluded, and that would be a ridiculous position.
§ Mr. LOUGH
I think the point I am making will appeal generally to the House. I say that the great body of the representatives of the Irish minority would be excluded. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] It would be a great pity if they were excluded. Wherever there is fighting to be done there Irishmen like to be, especially the men of Ulster, and they ought to be in the Irish Parliament, and in it from the beginning. The smaller the minority, the more imperative it is that it should be represented, and, above all, that it should be represented by Ulstermen. Even forty sensible men from Ulster in a Parliament of 160 that will meet in College Green would bring the light of reason and intelligence into that Parliament, which it could not possibly have without them. It would be a tremendous pity if the Opposition should be entirely absent front that Parliament. Further, there would be great administrative difficulties. Hon. Members from Ireland, especially the hon. Member for East Mayo, will admit, if they discuss the matter from a critical standpoint, that there would be great administrative difficulties in carrying out this proposal. How are all the questions connected with railways, rivers, and canals in the excluded area to be settled? The thing is almost unintelligible. You have the idea of cutting out a part that must be strictly defined. We have heard that the county of Londonderry may be excluded, while the city of Derry may be included. In that case, the Dublin Parliament would have to go through the excluded area to get to the city of Derry, which would be under its jurisdiction unless it went round by sea. If we look at the matter in a strict way we cannot but recognise that there would be the greatest administrative difficulties in carrying out this proposal.
Then there is another point. What we ought to do to-day in setting up an Irish Parliament is to avoid all occasion for strife in the early years. If we set up a separate State in Ireland there will be jealousy between the two areas, the excluded area and the area under the Parliament, and I believe this jealousy will tend to grow. The Ulster people will be jealous of the benefits which are conferred on the rest of Ireland. I speak with considerable knowledge of Ulster when I say that no one in Ulster wants exclusion. That seems a very strong statement to make, seeing that the Members for Ulster all vote for it, but the 1485 opinions they have expressed in this House ought to be a good deal discounted by the fact that it is meant to destroy the Bill. It is the Opposition still aiming at the destruction of the Bill, not the improvement of the Bill, that has led to this proposal being brought forward. The reason Ulster does not want to be excluded is that she has a thousand ties of business with the rest of Ireland. For instance, the greatest business of all that Ulster does is not after all the linen business, of which so much is heard, but her banking business. Belfast, the centre of the excluded area, if there he any, borrows money from large areas of Ireland, which she lends out again to build up the industries of Ulster. Belfast does not want to be excluded from the rest of Ireland.
§ Mr. LOUGH
But if she follows the advice of her friends she may be excluded. I see I have converted the hon. Member (Mr. Dillon) up to a point. If I can get him to support me in allowing this undesirable proposal to drop, I shall have done something in my few remarks. The men of Ulster are not afraid. They are least of all afraid in these counties. They are too numerous there to be oppressed. We will never have any fires of Smithfield or religious persecutions lit in Ireland again [HON. MEMBERS: "Again?"] I apologise. That was a slip.
§ Mr. LOUGH
Never. I have often said so myself. They do not fear anything of that kind, but they fear that they will be excluded from their share of control in the affairs of the new Parliament. We experience it now in many counties, especially in the favoured region of county Cavan under the county council. We had the same guarantees with regard to the county councils from hon. Members opposite, that all would be right, and that the minority would be represented. We have never had a representative of the minority although we are entitled to six in county Cavan since 1898. What is the reason? I cannot blame Irishmen for it. We have the kindest feeling all through Cavan. We do not mind being excluded because the county council is rather a dull place. What is the reason why there are no representatives of the minority upon the Cavan County Council? The fault is entirely 1486 due, not to the Irish, who are a people of great virtues, but to this House, which framed a bad Bill. This House took no pains when it was establishing the County Council Bill to secure that the minority would be represented, and especially this great minority that is scattered over Ireland. There are in the three Southern provinces no fewer than 260,000 Protestant people of all kinds who are not members of the ancient Church. None of these can have any representation under the Bill as it is framed.
§ Mr. LOUGH
Heaven help any Protestant who is not better. Catholics, although most excellent men and most useful representatives, are not just the same as men elected, whatever their faults and prejudices, to speak the opinion of the minority they represent. Take, as an illustration of what I mean, the province of Connaught. There are 22,000 Protestants there, and they would like to get representation in the Dublin Parliament. Everybody would like that there should be a voice chosen by themselves to express their views in that Parliament. Of course, it would be difficult to arrange, but still I think some method might be found to give them representation. It might be secured to some extent by proportional representation. You have already adopted that method with regard to some of the cities where it is not wanted. Why not apply it to the counties where it is wanted, and thus secure that the scattered minority would get representation under the Bill? I think they might get more representation than they were strictly entitled to at first. This would be the step I would take to reassure them, and to make them feel that they would be able to hold their own and that no oppression could ever affect them there. The hon. Member for East Mayo and the hon. and learned Member for Waterford have spoken most sympathetically in regard to the matter for two years, and so has my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary, but they have brought forward no proposal 1487 except that for the exclusion of Ulster counties by the vote of majorities. I am entirely against it. It can do no good to Ulster or anybody, and I think something more practical might come out of our Debates or before the Bill leaves us.
§ Mr. DILLON
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman if he has got any support from Ulstermen for his proposal?
§ Mr. LOUGH
I will tell you how that stands. I am sure it is the conviction of all Ulstermen, but for party purposes they do not like to be the first to come in. The idea is none the worse for being suggested by a small minority. I am quite sure from the sympathetic way my right hon. Friend has alluded to it that he is not hostile to it. Why has he not the courage to propose it?
§ Mr. LOUGH
I do not think my right hon. Friend can be convinced of anything. I want to say one word upon another point. I deeply deplore that the question of the Army has been brought into this subject. The question how we can satisfy the people of Ulster is large enough with-cut having this mighty question in connection with the Army raised. [Cheers.] I am delighted to hear that hon. Gentlemen opposite are of that opinion. I hope that the question may be laid, and that we may hear no more about it. I would like to say that if there is to be an end of that question, hon. Gentlemen opposite have a duty to do with regard to it just as much as we have. A few days ago I was speaking on this point in the House, and I called attention to the British Covenant which is being scattered through our constituencies; and if anyone chooses to look at the origin of this question of bloodshed he will find that this is a perfectly accurate account of its origin. In the original Irish Covenant, of which I have a copy here, there was nothing about inducing soldiers not to frighten the people of Ulster. It is a 1488 beautiful document, in some respects rather crude with its appeal to the Almighty and its declaration that they will make what resistance they can in Ulster. When it was originally signed it was never thought that there would be any fighting at all. It was passive resistance that was intended. They were not to submit to the commands of the Parliament. But it was never thought that there would be an Army Corps and threats of immediate bloodshed. Then we have the Covenant in England with its direct appeal to force which I read to the House the other day. There was a distinct statement that, in certain circumstances in Ireland, those who sign the Covenant would use all their influence to prevent the Army in certain eventualities doing their duty. I want to read another document which is being scattered broadcast in Ireland now. A copy reached my hands to-day. This is the document in which it is stated how the war is to be started in Belfast:—Dear Sir.—In case of necessity, it is proposed that the alarm shall be given in Belfast by the tiring of two signal rockets from one or more of certain points in the City, and it is proposed that this should be taken up by hooters in all the different works, sounding seven short blasts in rapid succession, repeated at intervals, and also by the ringing violently of all church and chapel bells. I shall be glad if you will let me know whether you will be able to assist in this in any way, and, if so, make arrangements for doing so as soon as possible.— Yours sincerely, J. T. SERVICES, Captain.For Commander, Belfast Division, 19th March, 1914.I describe that as a dangerous document to be scattered about among an inflammable population. I do not want to exaggerate it, because I know very well the people of whom I am speaking, but I do not think that this sort of thing ought to be scattered broadcast in Belfast. At any rate there is no use in right hon. Gentlemen and hon. Gentlemen opposite appealing to us to avoid all this threatening of force, if all the time an organisation of this kind with threats of this sort is got up against the peaceful inhabitants of a great province like Ulster. And I cannot leave this without reminding the House that it was, I believe, through a false alarm, a lying alarm, that the rebellion of 1641 broke out. Who can tell if this rocket might not be fired in Belfast any night by some irresponsible person. [An HON. MEMBER: "The First Lord of the Admiralty."] We have had all that about the First Lord of the Admiralty before. I have listened to the other side, and they might listen to my side. Hon. Members opposite have got their duty to do. If they are organising an army of their own which, such as the 1489 Army described in this document, which may be let loose at any moment, there must be some force arranged in such eventualities to meet it. Therefore I think that all this matter has gone far enough. These appeals to force should cease, and by some excellent suggestion, such as I have made to-night, if you do not like the Government's suggestion, or by that suggestion of Home Rule within Home Rule, or by any intelligent, decent proposition, you may arrive at a happy conclusion now of this long-standing trouble, and by so doing bring prosperity and peace not only to Ireland, but also to the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. CAVE
The Debate has now proceeded for three days, and I am struck by three things: One is that, from beginning to end, not a Member on the benches opposite, except the Members on the Treasury Bench, has spoken in favour of the Bill now before the House; secondly, there have been strong appeals made, and from both sides of the House have proceeded proposals, obviously genuine, for the settlement of this question; and, thirdly, all those proposals, in whatever form they came, have been uniformly belittled and ultimately rejected, first by Members on the benches below the Gangway, and, secondly, by the Government themselves. I do not think that those of us who have desired to see a settlement of this question by consent need feel ashamed of the line which we have taken. It indicates no weakening of resolution, either on the one side or the other. But we know that we are at crisis, or near a crisis, of no ordinary kind. To hon. Members opposite, defeat in the contest before us means the loss of their work for two years past, indeed, for many years past. Victory, if they attain it, can only be attained at the cost of the suppression by force and by bloodshed, as I believe, of a great community in Ireland, and the creation of feelings of hatred from which this country will suffer for generations. For us, defeat means the destruction, as we believe, of our friends and of the Union; and victory, also, I agree, has its perils, for we must then deal with what. I agree is the strenuous demand of the greater part of Ireland for a measure of self-government. And to all of us the fight, when it begins in earnest, means bringing into the arena, and bringing into peril, some of the greatest things in our country. It means, whatever happens, a loss of strength to the country, and a loss of reputation for this House and for this 1490 Parliament. In the view of all of us, I suppose, we have for the last week or two been looking over the edge of the crater of a volcano, and it is no wonder if many of us, who love our country, want, if we can, to find some safe way round.
Proposals have been made for a settlement. How have they been received? Let me refer to them very shortly. We proposed a Referendum, and in that I think my right hon. Friend went as far, perhaps further, than many of us would have gone. I do not say that for myself. He proposed that this matter should be determined, without the plural vote, by the majority of votes in this country. That was refused, and the only reason which the President of the Local Government Board gave for that refusal was that if there was one poll there would be frequent polls. But this is possibly the greatest crisis of our time, and even if there were reason to think that other polls might follow, yet the Government might well take this course as the easiest method of arriving at a decision. We proposed an election; we proposed it under conditions which would have kept alive the advantages they could claim under the Parliament Act by reason of the passing of the Bill in successive Sessions. We had the offer made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Strand Division on behalf of his party, that if you thought that the Parliament Act only applied to a Bill passed in three successive Sessions, and did not apply to it when passed in four successive Sessions, then we would consent, without spending the least time on it, to an Amendment of the Parliament Act in that respect. That again was absolutely declined, and the reason given by the President of the Local Government Board, was that the nation does not desire an election. How does he know? How on earth can he tell? The nation, when they voted in 1910, knew, little of the Ulster question as we know it to-day, because the Government themselves knew very little about it. How can you tell that the nation would not be only too willing, if the chance were given to them to reconsider their decision (if it were a decision) in 1910, to say by a straight vote whether they are in favour of this Bill or not. The fact is that both those proposals are rejected, I firmly believe because hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway on this side object to them. There is another solution which none of us have favoured, except possibly the Prime Minister, and that is the proposal made by Sir 1491 Horace Plunkett that Ulster should be included, with the option of exclusion after six years.
§ Mr. CAVE
At all events he did not propose it to the House, and no one on this side supports it for the obvious reason that you cannot sever the connection between Ulster and this country and restore it again in the same way after six years. The thing cannot be done, and nobody here thinks that a practical solution—I mean no one on this side of the House. Then there was a scheme which the Foreign Minister very justly associated with the name of Lord Hythe, although it was put forward in this House and elsewhere before Lord Hythe associated himself with it. As regards that scheme it received a great deal of support from Members on the Back Benches here and also from Members on the benches opposite, and the Foreign Minister said that the door was not closed on the proposal embodied in that scheme. It has been referred to here as the federal scheme. If I may, I desire with all respect to protest against the use of that word in connection with that particular scheme. It is really not a federal scheme. Federalism, Lord Morley said quite lately, is one of those conjuring words out of which you can get what you please. It means different things to different people. Indeed, the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) tried to show that it included the present Home Rule Bill. That only shows how dangerous it would be for us to adopt the word without knowing exactly what we mean by it. It is very undesirable that we should seem to be agreed when we do not agree in fact. We must be precise about our meaning. The scheme which I have supported, and some of my hon. Friends have supported, is a scheme, not of federation, but of devolution, and I believe, with most Members opposite who speak in favour of fede- 1492 ration, that is what is in their minds also. By devolution I mean, of course, the delegation of powers connected with local government from the central authority to a subordinate assembly in the area affected. That is not federalism; that is devolution. That is the scheme, and the only scheme, which most of us here have supported. It is just the scheme which operates now in the Union of South Africa. It is just the scheme which satisfies communities so diverse as the Transvaal and Natal. The same scheme, we think, ought to satisfy Ireland. I say, with conviction, that that proposal has great recommendations. To begin with, it recognises the paramount importance of a substantial and effective union between the different parts of the country, and reserves for the central body the last word in any matter of real importance. It is consistent with the national sentiment, it is consistent with local self-government; but it maintains the essential thing—the central authority. A friend who knows about these matters, having looked through the Statutes for many years past, has told me that the history of the Statute Book shows that nearly all the purely Scottish and Irish legislation passed since the respective unions is directed to subjects falling within the South African Provincial legislative field. Half the living "Public General" Statute law consists of what falls properly within "Provincial Ordinances;" add "Local" Acts, and nine-tenths of the whole bulk so falls. That shows how great is the area of legislation devolved under a proper devolution scheme. The surrender of what are sometimes called "National" powers. which my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Exeter (Mr. Duke) in his striking speech the other day called "prerogative" powers, to the legislature of a part of the country only is a capital error. We shall make a great mistake if we delegate these national powers to the Irish Parliament; we shall be committing an error for which our successors will never forgive us. Whatever the intentions of hon. Members may be, we shall be sowing the seeds of the division of this people, and putting Great Britain and Ireland in exactly the position in which Sweden and Norway were. Further, devolution, at all events, recognises the existence of Scotland. I do not say that the scheme applicable to Ireland should or could be applied in its entirety to Scotland. But, at all events, it lays down some kind of precedent which 1493 might, if the House thought fit, be applied to Scotland, whereas this Bill, as it stands, could not be so applied. I do not think it is possible, whatever may be done for Ireland, that in the future the House should apply to Scotland the provisions of this Bill. Those Scottish Members who take an interest in federalism or devolution are right when they say that the Bill now proposed, so far from favouring the hopes of Scotland, is really fatal to them for many years.
Mr. MURRAY MACDONALD
Will the hon. Gentleman please mention what are the provisions in the Irish Bill not applicable to Scotland?
§ Mr. CAVE
Then I am right in saying that this Bill cannot be applied to Scotland! Under the present Bill I believe it impossible to effect unity in Ireland for many years. Under a scheme of devolution, while it might at the beginning be necessary to make a division between the two parts of Ireland, yet you would be creating a link between the two, and, possibly not at once, but in time to come the tendency would be towards Union. I think you would get under a scheme of devolution Ireland one, or, at all events, a better chance of seeing it one, than you will ever get under this Bill. Let me add this—for time is short and I do not wish to be misunderstood—hon. Members have spoken of passing this Bill and excluding Ulster from it, pending some scheme of federation. I want to say 1494 quite plainly that I do not think that the right course to follow. I do not think that would satisfy any real objection to the proposals which have been made. To pass the Bill, though you exclude Ulster—or a part of it—and then to set up a Convention for the purpose of considering a federal scheme would not prevent, civil war unless the period of exclusion was satisfactory to Ulster. Again, there would be no security that we should get any result whatever from the Convention which had been set up. It would be dependent entirely upon what might happen.
Thirdly, the very passing of this Bill, even for a part of Ireland, would itself be a bar to devolution. The Bill is not only not federal, it is an anti-federal Bill. It seems to me ridiculous to expect that, having set up by this Bill a Parliament such as you propose, to some extent a sovereign Parliament, you will be able to undo what you have done. The proposal that we should pass this Bill as it stands and should afterwards take out of it the anti-federal elements, and produce anything like a real federal scheme, is not hopeful. Practical men do not expect to take away powers that are once given. If you pass the Bill as it stands you will never be able to undo the harm you are about to do. I want to insist upon that—and upon this: If you want a federal or a devolutionary scheme, you should have it now before the Bill becomes law. You could set up to-day a convention to deal at once with the matter, while this Bill is pending in this House. Time is short, through no fault of ours. The South African Constitution was really worked out in seventeen weeks. I am told that the practical work was done in six weeks out of that seventeen. What was done in South Africa—in a very difficult case indeed—would, I believe, after all our discussion, be well done in this country in the same period—at all events, I believe that that is the only way in which this devolutionary scheme could be effectively used.
I know the real objection to it is because hon. Members from Ireland below the Gangway will not look at it.
§ Mr. CAVE
That is the real difficulty; they will not look at it, and unless you can get over that, to talk about a settlement is not of much value. The hon. Gentleman will have no arrangement, and will rather 1495 bring his country into very great peril and make himself responsible for all that is going to happen. The Duke of Wellington once said:—I have probably passed a longer period of my life engaged in war than most men … and if I could avoid, by any sacrifice whatever, even one month of civil war in the country to which am attached, I would sacrifice my life in order to do it.The hon. Member does not take that view. He will make no sacrifice whatever—
§ Mr. CAVE
I did not intend to use provocative language to the hon. Gentleman. I certainly have no wish to do so, but I say in all seriousness that the responsibility is as much his as that of any man in this House, and that if we fail to come to an agreement—and, on both sides of the House, we are very desirious of it—it will be because he is not willing—
§ Mr. DILLON
Really that is not fair, and the hon. and learned Gentleman is treating me very unfairly. If I were to enter into any negotiations as to the proposals he is now making, I would be hunted from the representation of any National constituency.
§ Mr. CAVE
What is the use of hon. Members on both sides of the House discussing these proposals if at the very beginning the door is slammed in our face? I will leave that now, and say a few words about the only other alternative before us. If all other proposals fail, as it seems they do, there is nothing left but exclusion —not that we like exclusion. I believe it is a makeshift, and a temporary makeshift. It is not a settlement of the question. Nobody in the House likes it, but it is plain it is the only other way out unless you are prepared to go to the utmost limits of coercion. You must either coerce or exclude, and if you are going to exclude I beg the hon. Gentleman and the Government to face this question of the time limit, because their proposal will not bear looking at for five minutes. Why are you going to exclude for six years? Is it not upon the basis that you will not now bring in those who will not now consent to be brought in? If in six years they do not consent, will you then 1496 be prepared to force them to come in? If after six years you have won them over and they consent to come in, there is an end of it, and they cone in. If, on the other hand, they do not consent, are you prepared to use the whole of the forces of the British Crown, which, after all, are ours as well as yours, and all the strength of the country to compel these men to submit to a Government which they detest? If you are, we can hardly argue with you. You say to-day that you will not bring Ulster in because she will not consent. After six years you must give her the option of saying again whether she consents or not.
Two elections are really no remedy at all. It is said they will give an opportunity of repealing the Bill. It has been answered to-day with great force that to repeal an Act is a very difficult thing. That course is against all our traditions, and it does not give Ulster a fair chance. It may be that at the first election we should win, and that at the second we should lose. We might have the measure repealed in one Parliament and re-enacted in the next. In the meantime think of the suspense in which you keep that country, and that will be a bar to a solution of the problem. Even now I am not without hope that the sense of fair dealing of the House as a whole will prevail, and that some method will be found of avoiding the terrible necessity of coercion in Ulster. If not, Sir, we must go into the fight, but we shall go into it with confidence as to the result. You have in your hands the machinery and the organisation, and the forces of the country for the moment are under your control. But Ulster, too, will have great forces behind her. She will be fighting, as she believes, for her flag and her freedom. The horror which you must feel for the hateful task before you will weaken your arm, while the arm of Ulster will be strengthened by the sympathy of more than half our country.
§ Question, "That the Debate be now adjourned," put, and agreed to.
§ Debate to be resumed upon Monday next (6th April).
§ The remaining Orders were read and postponed.