§ Order for Third Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."
§ Captain WEDGWOOD BENN
I beg to move, to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the wordsthis House declines to give a Third Reading to a Bill which violates the principles of the Great Charter (many times confirmed in Parliament) that no freeman shall be taken or imprisoned or disseised of his liberties or free customs but by lawful judgment of his peers or by the Law of the land; whereas all matters examinable or determinable under the said Bill have their remedy and redress and their due punishment and correction by the Common Law of the land and in the ordinary course of justice.This is the last occasion on which this House will have an opportunity of discussing this Bill, and it is perhaps the right occasion to recapitulate the objections to it which we have urged in the course of the discussions in Committee upstairs and on Report. The objection to the Bill, generally speaking, is that it is a hand-co-mouth Bill which enables the Government to carry on without determining what their policy should be. When the Defence of the Realm Act was passed in time of war a limit of time was put to the operation of that Act, and those concerned were perfectly well aware of that limitation set to activities under the Act. In addition to that, there has been a long period since the Armistice, and no one would have imagined that fifteen months after the termination of hostilities we should still be technically in a state of war with the Government in power with all the exceptional instruments which were conferred on them for the purpose of beating the enemy. It is only under the threat of determination of these powers that you can possibly hope to get their activities to cease. We saw only yesterday what was the effect of this indefinite continuation of these special powers when the First Commissioner of Works actually produced a Supplementary Estimate for £260,000 for building the tenancy of 692 which had been continued beyond the period for which it was supposed they would be needed. There we see at once a proof of the effect of this indefinite extension. Therefore the first ground of objection to the Bill, and by no means the most weighty in my judgment, is that unless you set a sharp limit on the emergency laws you will never get those activities to drop off, and let us resume the ordinary peace time organisation of the country.
The second point is, that by this Bill giving the Government an extension of these exceptional powers we are in fact providing them with an excuse, if not prompting them, to postpone the permanent settlement of a great question on which there is a demand for a clear and coherent policy on the part of the Cabinet. Let me take a non-controversial subject. There is the summer time problem. The alteration of the daily calendar may be good or bad, but the Government have had pletny of time to make up their minds about it. Surely it is not unreasonable to ask that the Government should decide this question permanently instead of leaving it to the whim of a Department. That will bring home the evil of this indefinite prolongation of emergency powers. Take the question of food. There is a great deal of difference of opinion about food control. Some hon. Members think that the control is only the harbinger of a general State system of socialisation, and others think that the control is bad and should be removed at once; but nobody is in doubt that the Government should have made up its mind as to what is its permanent policy with regard to food. I submit as a second ground for objection that by continuing in this haphazard way these powers, we are encouraging the Government in not deciding their policy, and not explaining to the public what line they propose to take. We know quite well that the food question is a very large, complicated and urgent question. It is affected, for instance, by the war in Russia, in the employment of the rail and other transport which should be available for the distribution and supply of food. The operation of the blockade has very seriously and adversely affected the food supplies of this country. I submit that the reason they 693 ask for the continuation of the extraordinary powers of the Food Controller is because they will not make up their minds on their Russian policy, and that is the very reason why this House should decline to give them these powers. Whatever views we may hold on this question it is perfectly clear we should demand from the Government a perfectly plain and comprehensible statement of what their attitude to Russia is to be. Exactly the same thing applies in food matters in Germany. Before the War 85 per cent. of the food consumed in Germany was produced in that country and it is now estimated that the productivity of the soil has been diminished by 40 per cent as a result of the War, and the effective quality diminished by 55 per cent. The situation in Central Europe does affect the question of food supplies for this country by allowing the Government exceptional power to manipulate so that here they may take off a sixpence and there they may impose a shilling. We encourage them in their failure to grapple with the urgent question of the revision of the Peace Treaty, and I think it is not going too far to say that we diminish the productivity of Germany by holding over-the heads of the producers threats as to what may happen. So I submit that a good ground for objection to the Bill is that it is merely encouraging the Government to live in this shifty way and not make up its mind. No doubt it is excellent for politicians to be free from commitments, but it is a bad thing for the country not to know the policy of the Government.
The objection to the Bill may also be stated in this way with perfect reason, that it shows that the Government persists with a war mind and that it has not settled down to tackle the problems of peace in a true spirit of reconstruction. That brings me to the third objection to the Bill, namely, that this Bill permanently endows, or at any rate for a longer period than intended, the Government with exceptional powers which this House would never have granted if it had not been under the stress of foreign danger. That, I submit, is a very improper thing to do. If we read the terms of the Proclamation made in Ireland, it is stated clearly there that the Proclamation can only be made in case of any fear of invasion or emergency arising out of the War. Neither of those two circumstances existed. When the Act was introduced 694 it was explained that it was intended as a weapon against our enemies abroad. It may be a good thing to strengthen the hands of the Executive and to give them powers they did not possess before the War, but it cannot be a good thing for the Government to grasp in this camouflaged way powers which were only granted for the purpose of beating the Germans, and for no other purpose whatever. Regulation 18A has often been discussed here, and it is one of the most objectionable. That Regulation provides that anyone found even in the slightest degree in communication with an enemy agent is subject to arrest. That is a very proper Regulation and an absolutely essential Regulation to make in time of war. And now the term "enemy agent" is obsolete; it can no longer be used. We have no enemies and the Government has taken this vestige of its war powers to make use of them as a new weapon of oppression. It is far more rigid than the Official Secrets Act, and it is intended to fortify their Intelligence Department with powers that should only be conferred with the full consent of this House after full debate. Take, again, Regulation 18A—the power to punish people for having been to the address of a foreign agent or in possession of a letter, and so on. The foreign agent may be French or American; the phrase is defined in this case in the loosest way. Then we have Regulations 51 and 55—the power of search without proper warrant, and the power to arrest, oven by a police constable, without any warrant at all people suspected of these offences. During the War these powers might be proper, and they are powers that might be brought within a new Officials Secrets Act if it were being proposed. Why does the" Government now propose to get them by this side wind? This is a point of great substance. Why do the Government seek these powers? It is, I believe, because they intend to use them against political doctrines to which they object. We do not think that this is the way to attempt to stamp out public opinion. Repressive measures of this kind are not the way. The way to counter political activity to which we object is not to repress it, but to meet it with a better reason. That is the first item of my third objection to the Bill, that it carries into the area of peace and reconstruction the war mind, and the Government are grasping in time 695 of peace these enormous powers, which were applicable only to war-time. They would never have been conferred except under the stress of the most urgent need in a time of great national danger.
That is the most serious defect of the whole Bill, particularly in its application to Ireland. It may or may not be a good thing to have a new Coercion Act for Ireland, but we say that it is a subject for a special Act. Why, when this Bill was introduced the great majority of Members of this House did not know about its application the Ireland The word "Ireland" did not occur. Why was that? Why was it not mentioned that it was an Act aimed principally at the Irish people? I think it was because the Government preferred to camouflage its application to Ireland. While certain vestiges of these great powers were still to exist in Great Britain the whole of them were to continue to exist for Ireland, and for Ireland alone. Why did not the Government plainly say so? They could have done that quite easily by inserting a few words saying in effect, "So far as Ireland is concerned, all the Defence of the Realm Regulations shall continue." That would have been more straightforward and we should have understood exactly what was to be the meaning of the Act. Instead of that the Government came forward in this camouflaged way. it was not discovered what was really proposed with regard to Ireland until the Bill was in Committee upstairs, and then the disguise was torn off, and we understood that the real intention, the prime reason of the Government was to ask for these powers with regard to Ireland. It may be said that we are quite wrong to object to these powers; that the special circumstances of Ireland justify the granting of these powers; that we are unwise in expressing this view and that our admiration for Ireland carries us too far in our opposition to these powers. I venture to remind the House that this Act will suspend the Habeas Corpus Act in Ireland. That is the reason that when an hon. and gallant Member and myself drafted an Amendment to it, we did so in the words of the Habeas Corpus Act of 1679. This Act would do away so far as the whole of Ireland is concerned with this foundation of our freedom, this aegis of our political liberties, the Habeas 696 Corpus Act. The Attorney-General may be able to tell us, but so far as I have been able to discover by my searches the Habeas Corpus Act has not been suspended since 1882, and I am also informed that it has been the custom to pass an Act of Indemnity for every suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act. That is a matter of legal information and opinion into which I do not enter, but if it is true. Parliament should consider much more carefully this Bill which suspends an Act which has not been suspended for 40 years. All the more strange that it should be attempted by camouflage and by obscure references in Sections and Subsections.
I wish to bring the House to a sense of historical perspective. People may say to us: you are allowing your feelings to carry you away, you are going too far in this Irish business. Well, the Government are asking for very exceptional powers, and they say that they are to deal with the bad state of Ireland. But they have already the Crimes Act, the Criminal Law-Amendment Act, 1887, although it is a very small thing compared with these proposals. It enables them to search for arms, to deal with intimidation, illegal assemblies, and dangerous associations. Those powers fall short of the powers of this Bill. They are trifling compared with it. Yet that Bill when it was proposed was discussed in this House for 41 days. The Chief Secretary moved it, Mr. John Morley, as he then was, opposed its introduction into this House, and on the Third Reading Mr. Gladstone stood at this box and opposed it. The House may remember that during that time, when the Act of 1887 was being discussed, the "Times" published the famous Pigott letter, and a great deal of the public opinion of this country was under the impression that the Irish leaders were active participators in the campaign of assassination in Ireland. But in spite of that, Mr. Gladstone stood here and opposed the Third Reading from the very place where I am now standing. Therefore I would recommend hon. Members who still call themselves Liberals and followers of Mr. Gladstone to remember what he did then. I ask them whether they are going into the Lobby to-day in favour of the oppressive instrument which is contained in these Regulations? I think it is an acid test.
§ The CHIEF SECRETARY for IRELAND (Mr. Macpherson)
May I remind the hon. and gallant Gentleman that every section of that Act has been given legislative effect to by Mr. Gladstone?
§ Captain BENN
The right hon. Gentleman was also a Liberal Member. He followed Mr. Gladstone before he became a Home Ruler, and stopped when Mr. Gladstone became a Home Ruler. The arguments that were used in favour of the Crimes Act by the present Lord President of the Council (Mr. Balfour) and others are the very arguments which I have no doubt will be used again now. Let me read the substance of some of these arguments:We have pointed out over and over again and wearied the House by so doing, that the Bill is intended to be put into operation against crime. I say again that we have determined to do our best to put down crime; we have determined to put down terrorism in Ireland.These were the words of the Solicitor-General of that day (Sir Richard Webster). And again:—Is it the freedom of the moonlighter to pursue his midnight assassinations, and which is marked by the impotence of the law and the omnipotence of terrorism? That is the freedom which the right hon. Gentleman (this was Mr. Gladstone) asks us to bow down to, and to pay worship to." These were the words of Mr. Balfour in reply to the arguments of Mr. Gladstone. What did Mr. Gladstone say in reply?If I were an Irishman, and I joined a political association, it would be for the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Balfour) to say whether I became a criminal by this Act. I am not to be permitted to bring him into Court, to challenge him to a contest in which he would have all the advantage of public administrative authority. I am not to be permitted to obtain even publicity for the motives of his proceedings which may remain hidden away in his own breast. It is for him, dispensing with judge, jury, counsel and witnesses, to say whether I am a criminal or not.That is exactly the case of Alderman Kelly which has occurred recently. Again, Mr. Gladstone said, speaking of that Coercion Act:I will not deny that it includes crime in its aim, but it passes beyond the aim of crime, and it aims at associations. Association is the only weapon whereby the many and the poor can redress the inequality of their struggle with wealth, influence, power, and administrative authority.That was Mr. Gladstone's argument against the Act of 1887, and that argument 698 applies to our opposition to the Third Reading of this Bill to-day. I know perfectly well what the case of the Government is. They will say, "Look at the crime in Ireland; look at the murders; look at the list of crime which is published daily."
§ Captain BENN
I do not understand the relevance of that remark. The Government are asking for powers to crush these people. The answer is that they have had these powers for five years, and there has never been such a failure of the administration in its action against crime. For every succeeding act of repression there has been a new outbreak of crime. It has been said that the only people who are not in gaol are the people who have done the murders. You are not succeeding in suppressing these people by proclamations, suppressions of newspapers and deportations of leaders. In your latest act, like some Norman King, you have put the Irish people under the curfew. We have the right hon. Gentleman's own confession that he has failed. Every statement that comes from the Publicity Department about increased crime in Ireland is only one more proof of his failure to repress it, and I submit, while I desire as much as anyone to see the end of crime in Ireland, that the policy of the Chief Secretary has been a lamentable failure. The whole administration has been utterly ineffective for the purpose for which it was designed. Every step which he has taken in the way of persecuting these people, every kind of irritation which has been put into force, has only had the effect of organising the Irish people still more against the Government. I have spoken to many Sinn Feiners, and they have said that the Chief Secretary is the greatest friend they have. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"] Yes, that is what has happened. These people are very keen politicians. They have no fear of being locked up. What they look to is the triumph of their cause, and I have found many of these men who say that the Chief Secretary is the man who is making their cause triumphant. That is what is said by many men who desire the separation of Ireland from Great Britain.
I have so often told the House what this really means translated into daily act 699 that I apologise for reiterating it again, but I am anxious at least that the people in Ireland should understand that there is someone in the House of Commons who regards the whole thing with contempt and loathing, because that at least is doing some deed which may help to preserve the slender ties, if they exist at all, of affection between this country and the sister island. Here is a boy of 13, Joseph McCarthy, arrested for taking part in a concert at which national songs were sung. I do not know what happened to him, but be was arrested. What is going to happen to his family, to the father and mother of the boy? Are they going to love this Administration more, are they going to feel more inspired with a passion for the Union? I have mentioned some of these cases before. [Cheers]. I am very surprised at those cheers. If they have been mentioned before, why have we not had them answered? Take the case of McGinn, a boy of 16, one month's imprisonment. What was his crime? Carrying a Sinn Fein flag. Then there is the man I have often mentioned, Pat McCabe, and this is really a classic of the administration of the right hon. Gentleman, a man who got a month's imprisonment for whistling derisively at the police. He is not a criminal, but he is being made into a criminal by imprisonment for that offence. Then there is the man who got a month for singing the "Soldiers' Song" and "Felons of the Land," two songs that are well known in Ireland, not new, not particularly applicable to the Chief Secretary, although they apply to any English tyrant in Ireland, down to the petty tyrant who rules there to-day.
There is not only this fatuous persecution of children, but the crushing of the genuine and very wholesome Irish spirit. The Sinn Feiners have a great idea of the economic future of Ireland, and they have got an Industrial Commission which is spending its time holding meetings to consider how it might be possible to develop the economic resources of Ireland. They went to Cork to hold a meeting of the Commission, and some hon. Friends of ours of the Labour party were there at the time, but the Chief Secretary suppressed the meeting. What sense can there be in that? Is that a crime? Of course not. It is because, first, the Chief Secretary knows very little about what is going on in Ireland and has a very 700 small share of personal responsibility, and secondly, it is the logical and hateful consequence of a mechanical military domination of any country. Here is another instance. A play was suppressed, entitled "The Dawn of Freedom." Our Administration is engaged in suppressing the theatre, and people who have read the history of the Austrian domination in Italy will know what that means. Then there are the raids. I am told that on the 16th February, in one district in Monaghan 500 houses were searched, and, according to my information, in the month of February there were 4,000 houses searched by the Chief Secretary's orders. What is the position of the householders who find themselves disturbed in the middle of the night, their children and servants turned out of their beds by armed men, the drawers and the tables and chairs ransacked? [Laughter.] Hon. Members may find it cause for amusement, but I do say that it is not in the interests of the Union in Ireland.
Let me read au interview given by one of these women whose house was raided. Her husband was a Member of Parliament and he may have committed many crimes; I do net know; Members of Parliament are not always above reproach. I do not know what Brennan had done, but this is what she says. She was awakened by a knocking at the front door at 2 o'clock in the morning, so loud that it aroused all the residents on the road. She goes on:I jumped out of bed and went to the door, inquiring who was there. Someone shouted, 'Police, open the door, we want to search the house.' I asked for time to dress, and the reply was that I was to open the door at once or it would be burst in. I opened the door, and a squad of soldiers with fixed bayonets came into the hall, followed by five or six police with revolvers. An officer asked for my husband, and I. said he was not at home and that the children were asleep, and I hoped they would not disturb them. 'We cannot help that,' replied the officer. They then searched all the apartments, opening drawers and emptying them of their contents. One bedroom which was occupied only by one of my children and the maid was entered four times, the police and soldiers throwing the lights from the electric torches on the occupants, who were terrified.She proceeds to explain how a lodger who was at the top of the house was visited in a similar way, and says:Notwithstanding this and the protests of his wife, they forced her into the bedroom, 701 flashed their lights on the sick man and questioned him several times as to his identity and from whom he rented the flat.The three children were so terrified that Mrs. Brennan had to sit up practically the rest of the night trying to pacify them. All the time the search was proceeding soldiers were marching and counter-marching in the street, and there was a continuous buzzing of motor-cars. The report goes on to say that the officers expressed their regret for the inconvenience that had been given, and I am certain that they loathe carrying out the orders of the Chief Secretary. Four thousand of these raids have been carried on in one month. Is it to be wondered at that the whole of Ireland, Unionist, Nationalist, and Sinn Fein, is being welded into a solid block of opinion against the rule of this country there? Of course not. Every person who suffers an indignity of that kind becomes a potential enemy of this country. I am going to say something further. My right hon. Friend is not even satisfied with these powers, this great mass of extra-Habeas Corpus powers which he has got. He is going beyond the law. But I wish first to refer to the cases of people who have never had charges made against them, and, of course, the House will understand that this has been going on under all the Administrations since the Coalition Government was formed, so it is nothing to me whether the present Chief Secretary gave the order or did not give the order. It is the Administration I am tackling, although I would not myself like to be concerned in it. These people, arrested without charges, include an ex-Lord Mayor of Dublin, who is, I believe, on bail in this country. He is not permitted to go back. Why was he taken away? He has never been told. Then there was the bogus German plot of 1917, on the strength of which many Members of Parliament and others were rounded up and imprisoned, and everyone in this country, myself included, was horrified when we read the Government exposure of the German plot. But there has never been given a tittle of proof, and what did the late Lord Lieutenant himself say about it? Lord Wimborne said:It is somewhat strange, in view of the highly specialised means of obtaining information which have recently existed in Ireland, that neither I, nor, as far as I am aware, any other member of the late Irish Executive, was aware of the existence of 702 this plot until it was discovered by the British Government.He goes on to say, of course what is perfectly true—that all the time the Germans would have been only too glad to get into touch with the disaffected elements in Ireland, but of this plot ht declares he never had any knowledge, yet on the strength of this plot these people were rounded up and deported, and two of them died in gaol. One, of course, was the famous case of Thomas Ashe, and the other was the case of Mr. Pierce McCann. He was a Member of this House, elected for one of the Divisions of Tipperary. Are we doing the right thing really in giving the Chief Secretary these powers? 1s he exercising them in a way which is calculated to do the best to allay the very sore situation that exists? Did his predecessors, or does the Castle—because that is the point—really exercise the powers given by this House in a way that is calculated to help settle the age-long grievances of Ireland? I am so timid of wearying the House that it is only a real compassion and sincere belief that make me go on. Take the case of Mr. Pierce McCann. I took the greatest trouble to get the facts, because I made a mistake over a case last night in regard to Mr. Barton. I am not justifying Mr. Barton, although I shall be glad to have the opportunity of speaking on it if necessary. I took care to find out what sort of a man Mr. McCann was. He was elected by a large majority and returned as a Member of this House. He was an active opponent of the English. He was arrested without a charge, and he died in prison.
§ Captain BENN
What is the good of the Chief Secretary saying he did not arrest him? It is the Administration I am attacking, and the right hon. Gentleman is merely one of a number of transient and embarrassed phantoms. It is the Administration I am attacking, although, as I say, I should not like to think that I or any friend of mine was associated for an instant with that Administration. This is what a friend who can be completely relied on has told me about Mr. McCann. He was a man who was an active Sinn Feiner. He took no part in the rebellion of 1916, and he was a member of the Executive of the Volunteers. He was arrested after the 703 rebellion, deported and confined, and after ten months he died. My informant says:He was never brought before any Court charged with or convicted of any offence, political or otherwise. I do not think even the most bitter opponent of Sinn Fein would regard him as an extremist. He was on the Irish Volunteer Executive in 1916, and was one of those who, like MacNeill and the late O'Rahilly, opposed the rebellion and travelled a good deal of Munster on Easter Saturday and Easter Sunday, 1916, in order to prevent the spread of the outbreak. He belonged to a class which in normal times is regarded as rather Conservative.The Sinn Feiners are in many ways very Conservative in their ideas economically, extremely Conservative, and, as I think, utterly mistaken and reactionary. My informant goes on to say:He farmed extensively on up-to-date lines at Ballyowen, near Cashel.I should like to call attention to the character of this man who died in prison, a Member of this House, without being charged with any offence. This is his character, written by his friend:
5.0 P.M.He was a man of the very highest character, quiet, gentle, unobstrusive and extremely religious. He was a strong athletic man, very fond of sport, and I believe he got the Royal Humane Society's medal for life-saving on two occasions, and was the recipient of a presentation from his fellow members of the County Hunt, because of the way he risked his life on one occasion by jumping into the swollen waters of the Suir and rescuing a man from drowning.I will not commit the indelicacy of reading a most touching letter which I had from his mother because I happened to mention his name in a Debate recently. What possible use can there be in taking a man of that stamp and imprisoning him? I say the thing is an infamy, and I do not think it can fail to find an echo in the hearts of hon. Members who do not agree with us. I repeat that the right hon. Gentleman, not satisfied with these excessive powers he has been given, is now going beyond the law. I will give him two cases. There is the case of the boy Connors and another named M'Loughlin.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I do not see the relevancy of this. We are discussing now whether certain powers shall be given or not. When the hon. and gallant Gentleman says that the Irish Government has done terrible things in the past, and that the present Government is going outside 704 the powers of the law, what has that to do with this Bill?
§ Captain BENN
I submit that the only way we can decide to give the right hon. Gentleman these powers is to examine the way he is using them.
§ Captain BENN
I submit to you that I am going only to deal with powers exercised by the right hon. Gentleman, alleged to be power under the Defence of the Realm Act.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I thought the hon. and gallant Gentleman began by saying that he was going to deal with matters which were outside the powers of the Bill.
§ Captain BENN
It is quite clear that I am wrong. But how am I to criticise the right hon. Gentleman on anything before this House if he does things which are outside his power?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
We are not now discussing the Irish administration as a whole. This Bill contains one clause which relates to the Irish administration, and the hon. and gallant Gentleman is, of course; perfectly entitled to discuss that if he likes. But this is not the opportunity for discussing Irish administration generally. That is another matter. He is entitled to discuss Irish administration so far as he says it is, or will be, carried on under this Bill. But in order to discuss anything outside this Bill he must find another opportunity.
§ Captain BENN
I certainly have, in common with all Members, a complete desire to submit to your ruling, and I think I can deal with this case without trespassing beyond the limits you have laid down. The right hon. Gentleman, under powers he alleges to possess in Sub-section (4), arrested this boy. I can only deal with the thing lightly, because of your ruling, but he arrested the boy, kept him in confinement from February 10th until April 9th, under the powers of D.O.R.A., as he says. The boy's parents then brought a case to the Courts, and the Chief Secretary's minions were then convicted by the Court of Appeal of de taining the boy unlawfully. What is that but kidnapping? There is the similar case of John M'Loughlin. Of course, it is convenient to the Executive to take 705 away a witness or examine him in private, but it is against the law, and even this Bill which the House is asked to give the Government to-day, will not permit him to do that sort of thing. If the opportunity did offer, I should certainly like to say more about the illegal acts which the Chief Secretary is committing under guise of these powers.
In conclusion, I would ask, is it a moment to give new powers to a Chief Secretary who has been convicted by the Court of Appeal of breaking the law? Is it wise to give new powers to a Government whose dealings in Ireland give rise to the belief— and the well-founded belief—that they are intended to promote disorder? Is it wise to give, again, to this Government, powers to carry out an administration which requires the presence of 35,000 soldiers, which degrades the soldiers into doing duties of which they are ashamed, and which are steadily alienating Irish opinion from the English tie, and will, if persisted in, end in the separation of the two countries? This is not a new problem—the powers of the Irish Ministry. The same question of exceptional powers to the Irish Executive was being discussed in this House 130 years ago under the Treason Sedition Act, or some Act of the kind, at a very disturbed time in Ireland, and I would ask the attention of the House to a passage from a speech made by Charles James Fox on that occasion, which illuminated the whole situation, and might be suitably remembered to guide our counsels to-day:Human nature, is the same in all countries; if you prevent a man who feels himself aggrieved from declaring his sentiments, you force him to other expedients for redress. Do you think that you gain n proselyte where you silence a declaimer? No; you have only, by preventing the declaration of grievances in a constitutional way, forced men to more pernicious modes of coming at relief. In proportion as opinions are open, they are innocent and harmless. Opinions become dangerous to a State only when persecution makes it necessary for the people to communicate their ideas under the bond of secrecy. Do you believe it possible that the calamity which now rages in Ireland would have "come to its present height if the people had been allowed to meet and divulge their grievances? Yon alienate every heart whose voice you stifle: you drive men to correspondence with foreign nations, when you debar them from corresponding with you; and this was the case with Ireland. When she petitioned, addressed and remonstrated she had no power—706 that was so at the time that Mr. Redmond sat in this House—the time of the constitutional agitation in Ireland—but when all these acts of insanity and rigour had been passed she rose from small meetings of mere petition to a concerted, armed and embodied union of 100,000 persons.
§ Captain BENN
The argument, of my Noble Friend is that Mr. Fox's opinion was discarded. My answer to the Noble Lord is a simple one. Mr. Fox's advice was not taken; Mr. Pitt's was. Mr. Pitt's advice has been followed ever since, and it has been a failure.
§ Colonel PENRY WILLIAMS
I beg to second the. Amendment, moved so ably by my hon. and gallant Friend. I do not propose to deal again with the question of Ireland. He has dealt with that very thoroughly, and I will pass it by with this one comment, that I do not think it is necessary to inflict this injustice on Ireland. I believe it is a political crime to do so, and, in fact, I believe it is worse. I believe it is political stupidity to inflict this upon the Irish people. We have vigorously opposed this Bill now for four months. We fought as hard as we could. We are but a very small minority, but we have fought it on the floor of this House and in Committee with all the power that we could command, and I think I may claim that we have fought fairly. But we have opposed this Bill because we consider it an unnecessary measure, because we believe it violates every principle of liberty to which we attach very great importance, and we think it is a thoroughly bad Bill. It is an extraordinarily difficult Bill to understand. We had great difficulty in Committee. It deals with a large number of Acts of Parliament, and it deals with them by reference. Then you have Regulations, you have Orders in Council, and you have various other matters which yon have to dig out by reference. It is par excellence a Bill legislating by reference, and we have asked for an explanation from the Government as to when the Regulations are to come to an end. We are met by the statement that this Bill comes to an end on the 31st August. That is not what we want to know. It may be a Parliamentary score, but it is not really, fair on the part of the Government. They should tell us, and explain to us, exactly 707 the position that we shall be in if and when we get the ratification of peace. If the ratification of peace does not come before the end of August, then I take it that this Bill, in so far as it relates to the Second Schedule, will never come into effect at all, and what are the Government going to do? When are we likely to get an Order in Council declaring the termination of the War? Is that likely to be before the 31st August, or after? I think we ought to have some explanation from the Government as to the position. I will address myself to the Bill. It is a thoroughly bad Bill. I object to it from the first word to the last word. I do not think there is one good provision in it. I will take the first Schedule, which seems to appeal to the law officers of the Crown as containing measures of benevolence, and, therefore, measures which should be continued. The Courts Emergency Powers Acts, I understand, are certain enactments which enable County Court judges and ethers in certain eases to grant exemption privileges to certain persons; that is, I believe, in cases of restraint and legal processes they may relieve certain persons of their obligations. That may be a reason to amend the ordinary law. It may be that the ordinary law is harsh in dealing with certain cases, but I want to protest here against giving anybody the power to discriminate between His Majesty's subjects when they come to a Court of Law. When we go to a Court of Law for justice is ought to be justice for one as well as justice for the other. Therefore, if you favour one class of litigants you must inflict injury upon the other class to whom you deny the right granted to the first. The Government, I believe, have lost sight of its early scholastic training. They have forgotten the old law of lynamics, which says that for every action there is an equal and contrary reaction; and for every favour you bestow on one man in this way, you inflict an injury upon the other. I do not think that is a principle which this House ought to allow to be established in a Bill of this sort. It may have been right during war time. It is certainly bad in peace time.
I come to the Second Schedule. It can fee divided into two heads—the one dealing with the Regulations concerning control, and the other with the Regulations which deal with restrictions on the liberty of the 708 subject. In regard to the first, we have a control of, probably, the three vital necessaries of our daily life—coal, shipping and food. Control has not stopped the rise in prices. It is not possible by control, I believe, to prevent the rise in prices. Look at the position of shipping. We have had control for four or five years, yet we have had the freights mounting up until now they are five, eight, and ten times the size of pre-war times. We have had control of coal, and there is not a town in England to-day that it not short of coal. There is not a householder who is not complaining bitterly of incompetence and inefficiency in the distribution of coal. Every hon. Member knows quite well that that is so, for every Member, I have no doubt, has had complaints, as I have had, from his constituents in this matter. In regard to food, I do not want again to go into a detailed discussion of the food Regulations, but my objection to control is not that it prevents the producer or the farmer exploiting the public and extracting from the public a larger share of the profits, but that control is delaying the coming into force of those economic laws which will put the situation right. The Government is bound to tackle that problem sooner or later. The Government is bound to prevent the rise in the price of food. If it does not, the country will demand an explanation.
I am quite certain that a proper fate will overtake it if the Government fails to reduce the cost of living. It will not reduce that cost by fining a poor shopkeeper for having sold an article at a few pence above the maximum price-That is dealing with the effect of the rise-But that rise has taken place, and the Government ought to deal with it. They have got to remove the cause of the rise in prices, and I recommend them, if they want to stop the rise in prices, to stop their borrowing. Let them stop creating inflated credit, and credits of all sorts. Let them establish a proper sinking fund for the redemption of their debts, and then they will begin to secure a reduction in the cost of living. Then, of course, the question of the rise in prices does not depend upon control, It depends, to a large extent, as my hon. and gallant Friend has pointed out, upon our foreign policy. Instead of trying to control the price and keep it down, inefficiently, it would probably be better if the 709 Government took steps to import the article which was in short supply and create an abundance, because, until you get production or supply in excess of consumption you will not get your satisfactory reduction in price.
I come to the question of the restriction of the liberty of the subject. During the whole of last century there was a tendency on the part of the Legislature to extend the freedom of the subject. Laws were relaxed. Freedom was granted. A free press and free speech were fully developed. That has had a very beneficial effect upon this country. Until the outbreak of the War we were the freest country in the world. Life and property was safer in this country than anywhere else. The policy of granting unrestricted freedom of the subject was fully justified. Are we on the eve of a reversal of that policy? Is it the intention of the Executive to curtail and filch away those principles which we have valued for so many years? Is this the beginning of applying to England the policy which has been applied to Ireland—a policy which, when once begun, is bound to increase in intensity? Is it a policy which will lead to the same state of affairs on this side of St. George's Channel, as, unfortunately, exists now on the other side? I hope not! I will bring my remarks to a conclusion, because I do not think it is any use further to appeal to this present House of Commons. During a good many centuries the House at the other end of the corridor, the House of Lords, stood for liberty. I think this cannot be denied! Certainly, up to a time when it was interfered with in the reign of Queen Anne by the creation of Peers to carry the iniquitous Treaty of Utrecht into effect, that House stood for the protection of the people's liberties against the encroachment of the Crown. They have within the last few months taken a new lease of life. I would only instance the Aliens Bill, where they stood for liberty against the arbitrary action of this House. I appeal to them to renew that function of the protection of the people's liberties in this case, and give the people cause to say, with my right hon. Friend the Chairman of the Liberal party, "Thank God for the House of Lords!"
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I hope the House will bear with me for a few moments 710 while I endeavour, in as short a time as possible, to reply to the attack which has been made upon me personally, and upon the Irish administration, for which I am primarily responsible to this House. Hon. Members who speak in a sphere of considerable safety and comfort are not speaking with any knowledge whatsoever of the realities of the situation in Ireland. The hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite (Captain Benn) spent about a week in Ireland. He went across to study the situation. So far as I know he saw no person who could explain to him the Government point of view. He came in contact with nobody who was in charge of the Administration, nor did he seek it. It is quite obvious with whom he had contact. Ho openly said he had got his information about me and the Administration from Sinn Feiners.
§ Captain BENN
Really, I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman thinks it necessary for me to correct him as he goes along. Of course, I saw Sinn Feiners; but I saw bishops, archbishops and all sorts of other people as well.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I am quite prepared to admit that the hon. and gallant Gentleman's criticism might be fair, just, and legitimate were he dealing with a country where the conditions were the same as in this country. But one thing my hon. and gallant Friend seems to forget in his venom and fury is that the time when this country was in its darkest hour—indeed at no time was the country in greater danger!—was the moment the party which he seeks to defend and justify—do not let the House forget that!—assembled itself in its thousands—and had it not been for some misadventure at the last moment!—in its hundreds of thousands in order to stab this country and the Empire in the back. The salient fact of the rebellion is one which must be remembered when you are dealing with Irish conditions to-day. That rebellion was not stamped out. That rebellion left behind it a spirit far more malignant and far more revolutionary than the spirit of Ireland had ever been in its life. Do not let us forget that the condition of Ireland is the condition which is stated by the hon. Gentleman who is the spokesman of the Sinn Fein party in this House: the condition of Ireland is the condition of an armed country.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I am coming to that point. Every single man in Ireland who acknowledges the Sinn Fein doctrine which has been adumbrated in the House by the hon. and gallant Gentleman, who firmly believes—
§ Captain BENN
I cannot allow the Chief Secretary to say that I have defended the Sinn Fein policy of separation. It is ridiculous, because, of course, I have done nothing of the sort.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
Let me get on! Every single man, anybody who holds any loyal doctrines of any sort of kind, is an enemy and a foe to Ireland. That is the condition. Sinn Feiners at the present moment regard themselves as the Irish Republic Government. No one knows that better than the hon. and gallant Gentleman. They issue their proclamations in the name of the Irish Republic. They go as far as to say that they have at least two hundred thousand volunteers whom they have organised into an Irish Republican Army for treasonable, seditious, and murderous purposes. They believe themselves to be in possession of an entirely perfect system of Government. They have quite recently published a new oath of allegiance in, I believe, the Irish press; certainly in the English press. That oath makes it as plain as possible that every single member of the Sinn Fein organisation must disown, as the enemy of his country, anybody who is not a Sinn Feiner. What is more, they have their Army organised just as perfectly as the British Army was in France. They have their divisions, brigades, battalions, and the competent military authorities. The other day I had sent to me a proclamation headed, "The Irish Republican Brotherhood," and this is the sort of thing they issued:We hereby give notice that from this time forward any trading directly or indirectly either in the licensed premises or shop of the said Michael Walshe shall he considered as Dealing with the Police, and he suspected of giving information, and thereby considered as traitors and therefore shall be liable to the full penalty.
§ (Signed) On behalf of the competent military authorities,
§ The House may think that is a small point, but it is typical of the intimidation 712 and terror which is being inspired among the people of Ireland by the Sinn Fein people. The hon. and gallant Gentleman taunted me with being a Liberal, but I always understood it was the first duty of a Minister of the Crown to maintain law and order. I am a Minister of the Crown, and so long as I am entrusted with the government of Ireland it will be my duty, which I shall perform faithfully, and as adequately as I can, to do my best to maintain law and order in order to preserve the lives of law-abiding citizens. The hon. and gallant Member opposite seems to forget the traditions of the past. He taunted me with having lost, all my Liberalism because I desired to enforce these Regulations in Ireland. I remember that even the Crimes Act of 1887, which was passed after forty-one days' discussion here, was taken almost word for word from the legislative enactments of Mr. Gladstone.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
Mr. Gladstone had enacted almost every Clause of the Crimes Act of 1887. When he was in power and felt that crime should be sup pressed, he used every power to repress it, and when the Unionists came in he condemned coercion merely to score a party point. The hon. and gallant Gentleman has repeatedly given a great number of cases, but he has never dealt with the Irish situation. He produced the case of a boy or a girl who has been arrested for selling flags. I cannot remember which these cases are, naturally, because I have a great many to deal with, but what I find in the case often quoted is that in the case of girls soiling flags they are offered the chance of being bound over in their own recognisances, but they refuse.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
Were I to declare that it was no offence you would find a statement published in all the Irish papers that a Minister of the Crown says it is no crime to refuse to recognise the Courts of His Majesty.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
The difficulties of the Irish Government have been enoremously 713 increased because of the venomous and virulent attack of the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite (Captain Benn) upon the present Administration. These people regard him as an ex-Minister of the Crown, and as being of much greater importance in the councils of the nation than we do. If murders do take place to-morrow, and attempts are made upon the lives of officials who are loyally endeavouring to perform their duty, I should not be surprised that they would be inspired to do that by the venomous attacks of the hon. and gallant Member.
§ Captain BENN
On a point of Order. I submit that the Chief Secretary has no right to say that I have inspired anyone to commit an outrage. It is not right, and it is not true.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I never said anything of the kind. [HON. MEMBERS: "You did'." and "No."] I said that I should not be at all surprised if after accounts of this debate have been read to-morrow the lives of many officials in Ireland are endangered. The hon. and gallant Gentleman comes forward with these trumpery cases. Has he ever tried to look at the other side of the question? Has he realised that last week 49 raids have been made by the Sinn Feiners, and does he know what that means? Does he realise what it means in the dead of night for 100 masked men to go about prepared to take the life of a lonely woman and breaking into places where they think they can get arms. Never a word of sympathy for a poor woman like that comes from the hon. and gallant Gentleman or for the relatives and friends of those gallant soldiers and civilians who lose then lives. What do those, men raid houses for? Is it to procure arms to decorate their houses? Why do they assemble in companies and battalions? Is it for the love of England or for the love of law and order? Why do they do it? What is the reply of the hon. and gallant Gentleman? There is but one explanation, and he knows it. It is that they are endeavouring to collect those arms to murder, mutilate and destroy the law-abiding citizens of the country. Am I to stand by and not ask for the granting of powers by which I can maintain law and order? The hon. and gallant Gentleman drew a picture of a raid by the police and the military the other day on a house, and I 714 cannot remember what the offence was, but this House was asked to weep tears over the conduct of the police and the military in that case. The police and the military have to perform duties very often which they may not care to do, but they do perform those duties splendidly, loyally, and well.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman did not produce a much more recent case. He did not produce the case of the murder of the mother of thirteen children by masked and armed men the other day. The hon. and gallant Gentleman brings forward some trumpery case where the police and the military have been endeavouring to do their duty, and he exaggerates it, but not for a moment will he turn to the brutal side of Irish life, in which crime, murder and intimidation are rampant. The poor and the law-abiding are those who are suffering. The hon. and gallant Gentleman usually takes the line that by repression you increase crime, but everybody knows that you cannot repress what does not exist. What are the facts? Before the rebellion we had many years of Liberal administration, and after the rebellion a Royal Commission was appointed to report to this Assembly and to Parliament upon the matters which led up to the rebellion. Up to that time the hon. and gallant Gentleman will admit seditious speeches were made and outrages were committed, and battalions and brigades were permitted to drill. A Commission was appointed, consisting of Lord Hardinge of Penshurst, Sir Montague Shearman and Sir Mackenzie Dalzell Chalmers, and this was the result of their deliberations:It appears to us that reluctance was shown by the Irish Government to repress by prosecution written and spoken seditious utterances and to suppress the drilling and manœuvring of armed forces known to be under the control of men who were openly declaring their hostility to Your Majesty's Government and their readiness to welcome and assist Your Majesty's enemies. This reluctance was largely promoted by the pressure brought to bear by the Parliamentary representatives of the Irish people, and in Ireland there developed a widespread belief that no repressive measures would be undertaken by the Government against sedition. This led to a rapid increase of preparations for insurrection and was the immediate cause of the recent outbreak. We are of opinion that from the commencement of the present War all seditious utterances and publications should have been firmly suppressed at the outset, and if juries and magistrates were found unwilling to enforce this policy further powers should 715 have been invoked under the existing Acts for the Defence of the Realm,That is a careful statement by three men who investigated the situation in Ireland. It was their conclusion that if you allowed seditious utterances and crimes to go on, if you allowed outrages to be committed, you did not stop crime and murder, but it continued to increase. The result was that you had open rebellion in 1916. It is true that, after the rebellion, a great many men were deported to this country without trial. Some were tried by court-martial and some were shot, but immediately afterwards there was an amnesty and they were allowed to come back. The moment they came back they started, not to be friendly towards Great Britain, but very much the reverse; and surely the conclusion to be drawn from that is that these men ought never to have been allowed to get into that state of open rebellion and open sedition. The hon. and gallant Gentleman never mentions raids upon police barracks. In the last fortnight, certainly within the last month, there have been nearly twenty of them, conducted with arms and many of the implements used in war, not by a few men, but by large numbers of men carefully congregated and carefully-selected. It is quite obvious we are up against a tremendously dangerous situation in Ireland, and only this morning I received letters from Loyalists in the south and west of Ireland begging that steps be taken by the Government to get them out of a country so dangerous as that part has become to those who are endeavouring to abide within the law.
In Ireland no man need fear the law, nor, indeed, any of the Defence of the Realm Regulations, providing he is a law-abiding citizen. Even under my Administration, which the hon. and gallant Gentleman probably thinks is the worst of all Administrations, no man need fear the law if he obeys it. The law of the United Kingdom and Ireland is the law of the realm, and if it is broken—if either the criminal or the common law is broken—it is the obvious duty of the Irish Administration to vindicate it, and neither the Lord Lieutenant nor myself would be worthy of our positions if we did not endeavour by every means in our power to vindicate that law. The hon. and gallant Gentleman draws attention to the fact that Ireland alone has to 716 endure the bulk of the Regulations. I do not know whether he realises that Canada has issued an even worse Regulation than the worst under the Defence of the Realm Act. I will read to the hon. and gallant Gentleman one which was passed on the 7th July, 1919:—Any association, organisation, society or corporation whose purpose or professed purpose, or one of whose purposes, is to bring about any governmental, industrial or economic change within Canada by use of force, violence or physical injury to person or property, or by threats of such injury…is guilty of an offence under this Act. Here you have not only political and treasonable associations, but industrial associations condemned by the Canadian Government.
§ Colonel P. WILLIAMS
It is not a question of one Regulation. It is a question of the whole of the Regulations under the Defence of the Realm Act.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
This is a Regulation passed by a progressive and great Dominion within our Empire, and it is infinitely more stringent than any Regulation which we are asking this House to pass. The Regulation to which the hon. and gallant Gentleman referred is a Regulation prohibiting illegal assembly, and illegal assembly in Ireland is a political and treasonable assembly, but the Canadian Regulation which I have quoted goes beyond that and prohibits an assembly which may be an industrial assembly.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
That was settled by means of this Regulation, and I ask the House to remember that fact. It shows obviously that within the United Kingdom and within the Empire, there are conditions prevailing infinitely worse than there may be in England. The conditions prevailing in Canada might be as bad almost as the conditions in Ireland, but in Canada at any rate the Government had the courage to get the House of Representatives to pass what, in my judgment, is a very severe Regulation indeed. I apologise to the House for occupying its time so long. Before I sit down I would like to refer for one 717 moment to cases which my hon. and gallant Friend referred to. A great deal of capital is being made out of the deportation of the Lord Mayor of Dublin. But we all know very well that there was no prospect of any sort or kind of this man becoming Lord Mayor of Dublin until he was deported, yet that is the kind of thing on which my hon. and gallant Friend likes to enlarge. The hon. and gallant Gentleman has also talked as if by executive order I had sent police constables to the Dublin Mansion House and taken the Lord Mayor out of the Council Chamber and deported him without trial. The facts are very much the reverse. With their usual perversity, the Dublin Corporation, the moment they found that this man could not be present at a Council meeting, appointed him Lord Mayor. The hon. and gallant Gentleman asked me what was the charge against him. I told him. I told him that, along with a great many others, he was deported out of Ireland under Regulation B, which is a Regulation preventing people from conducting themselves prejudicially to the best interests of the subject and of the Government.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
There is no intention of bringing him or any of them to trial. They will be kept here under that Regulation. The hon. and gallant Gentleman went on to rake up an old case; the case of Pierce McCann. I had nothing to do with that case. The man was sent to prison and was deported, and died in hospital. The hon. and gallant Gentleman referred to the testimonials which were given as to his character. Such testimonials are quite easily got in Ireland. I will bring forward another case—the case of a man who was known to have been an Irish Volunteer. Recently an attempt was made upon His Excellency's life. This man was shot, and his friends said he was a most excellent citizen. But that man, on the morning of the attempted murder, went to Mass with bombs and revolvers in his pockets and murder in his heart. He was shot by the police. That is the sort of thing which, if it had occurred on the other side, the hon. and gallant Gentleman would no doubt abuse. I make bold to say that no reliance can be placed upon any such testimonials to character. The doings of the Sinn Fein 718 body at the present time are deep and dark. The hon. and gallant Gentleman recently went to Ireland, and probably he came away with the impression in his mind that these men were eager for great political ideals; yet very likely the very men of whom he formed that view were, even while he was in another part of Ireland, engaged in a conspiracy to murder. He pretends that Sinn Fein is not responsible. But everybody knows that it is responsible for these murders. I referred a moment ago to the murder of Mrs. Morris. The evidence given was that the leader of the Sinn Fein gang assembled his colleagues that night and said:Boys, we must have a raid to-night. The Sinn Fein Club wants money and arms.Nobody in Ireland doubts the fact that Sinn Fein is responsible. Nobody in Ireland with any patriotic tendencies at all doubts the fact that Sinn Fein has at least 200,000 of these men who are prepared to murder loyal subjects at any hour of the day or night. No one doubts the fact that, so strong and so determined is that force that the maintenance of law and order becomes a great duty on the part of those who represent the Government there. It is only in this cool, calm and serene atmosphere that speeches of the kind we have heard to-day can be tolerated at all. If my hon. and gallant Friend, day in and day out, had to meet with nothing but murder, nothing but outrage and nothing but crime, I am certain he would soon alter his tone and not vituperate those who are endeavouring to maintain law and order, so that every law-abiding citizen, who wishes to go about his duties with freedom to life and limb, shall be allowed to do so. So long as the outpost of Empire—and Ireland is a very Troublesome outpost— is regarded by the House of Commons and by the people of this country as an integral part of the United Kingdom and Empire, so long we will maintain the Empire's law and the Empire's order, and if, in the days to come, the United Kingdom says that the separation which these people in Ireland wish must come, then my duty will be over.
The right hon. Gentleman opened his speech with a duel with my hon. and gallant Friend as to the action of the Liberal party and of Liberals in this House. We Labour men are not 719 concerned as to whether people are merely influenced by being out of office or in; the view we are concerned with is that every statement that my right hon. Friend has made from that box to-day affords the clearest justification for the action which we are adopting. He informed the House that the Sinn Feiners were as well trained and as well disciplined as the British Army. That was his own statement, and he asked the House to make the deduction from that statement that armed forces, so well prepared and so well disciplined, and so ready, were the danger that he had to contend with in Ireland at this moment. I will just read an extract to the House which will show exactly that the difficulty he himself complains of to-day is a direct result of the Government of Ireland in the past. I have here a speech by the present First Lord of the Admiralty, delivered in January, 1914, which almost states word for word what my right hon. Friend is complaining of to-day. Speaking at Bedford, he said:The Ulster Volunteer Force is the most wonderful creation of modern times. You are told the British Army is to be used against you. I cannot believe that this terrible thing will be done, but you are pre-paring an army which I believe, in its personnel, training and equipment, to be in no way inferior to the best army they can put in the field. You are wise and prudent to go on with this wonderful preparation, as it can be used in any emergency.6.0 P.M.
The right hon. Gentleman said he unfortunately had to administer and give effect to some things which were the direct result of things he was not responsible for. If he is justified to-day in telling the House and the public that the real danger, so far as this Empire is concerned, is this trained army, now under Sinn Fein, are we not entitled to say that is the direct result of the preparations for the arming of those who are members of the Government to-day? In other words what earthly use is it going to the Irish people and saying, "It is wrong, it is contrary to law, for you to mobilise an army," when they can turn round and say members of the present Government were themselves advocating that policy?
You have heard to-day from the right hon. Gentleman the statement 720 that in spite of all the coercion, in spite of all the pressure, in spite of ail the police and 35,000 troops in Ireland, Ireland is in a worse condition to-day that he has ever known it before. That is an admission of the bankruptcy of government so far as Ireland is concerned. Regulation 55 is deleted so far as this country is concerned, and it is made applicable to Ireland. If Regulation 55 was made applicable to this country, it would be competent for the Government to arrest anyone without trial and without charge. I do not think it is fair for my right hon. Friend to twit those who disagree with the Government policy as inciting to murder or violence or anything else, because if that attitude was adopted it simply means that the Government is to do just what it likes and no one is to criticise its action. We are entitled to say first that the administration in Ireland up to now has proved a failure, and whether he be an Englishman or an Irishman there ought to be no power to enable him to be arrested without a charge being preferred against him. We limit ourselves to the simple fact that if these men are guilty of any offence it is the moral duty of the Government not only to enforce the law but immediately to put them on their trial and make a charge against them. So long as you in this House of Commons support a policy that enables you to arrest men without any charge, there is bound to be discontent and dissatisfaction.
§ Captain REDMOND
Were it not that the situation is so tragic in regard to our unfortunate country it would indeed be rather amusing to listen to the two right hon. Gentlemen squabbling over the corpse of Ireland on the dissecting table of the House of Commons. Both the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Macpherson) and the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Captain Benn) are aliens to Ireland. Each has accused the other of being an alien. Subsequent to a recent by-election the Chief Secretary sneered at the hon. and gallant Gentleman and said he was an alien to Leith. At any rate he proved that he has more connection with Leith than ever the present Chief Secretary has or will have with Ireland. Furthermore, I think the taunt thrown at the hon. and gallant Gentleman that ho did not face the front in Ireland did not lie very well in the mouth of the right hon. Gentleman, 721 who did not take the same part during the War as was taken by the hon. and gallant Gentleman. But after all what does this all amount to? Here is Ireland once more being made the shuttlecock of British party politics. We have one hon. Member saying at one time, "Mr. Gladstone said coercion was good for Ireland." We have another hon. Gentleman retorting that at another time Mr. Gladstone said coercion should not be put into force in Ireland. What Mr. Gladstone said at one time or another does not concern me in the slightest. I am here as an Irish Nationalist not caring a row of pins what either British party think concerning their treatment of Ireland. All British parties, whether Liberal or Conservative, at all times have proved their utter incapacity to govern Ireland. That is proved more than ever by the condition of Ireland today. The Chief Secretary has given us, I think, a very accurate description of the lamentable condition of that country. Before he came to that part of his speech he made the statement that there were hundred of thousands of Irishmen in the Irish rebellion.
§ Captain REDMOND
How many were engaged in the rebellion in Dublin in 1916? I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to read the number from the Hardinge Report which he has in that box. I do not believe there were 1,500. No one can surely accuse me of having any sympathy with it, considering that I was in another place at the time, and that subsequent to that I fought two elections against the people who were associated with the rebellion. At the same time, I will not have it stated by the Chief Secretary or anyone else that it was a case of thousands of Irish people in 1916 desiring to overthrow British supremacy in Ireland by physical force. Nothing of the kind. What took place was that a small and hitherto not very powerful section of people in Dublin, for one reason or another thrown together, and having arrived at the conclusion that force was the only remedy in face of the constant breach of faith of British Governments, determined to have recourse to force in the streets of Dublin. When the rebellion took place it was condemned in all quarters. It was condemned by people who are to-day Sinn Feiners. It was the subsequent attitude of the Government, 722 and the subsequent acts of cruelty and repression on the part of the Government that drove the people of Ireland into the attitude they have adopted to such a large extent to-day. That is common history. The Chief Secretary said the rebellion was not stamped out. I agree with him. The Government stamped the notion of rebellion into the hearts of the Irish people, and, furthermore, by their shootings of men without trial, and their deportation of hundreds of people, many of whom were proved subsequently to have been innocent, they enraged the feelings of the Irish people and goaded them into the unfortunate attitude that so many of them adopt in regard to the methods for bringing about their legislative freedom to-day. The Chief Secretary gave us a long recital of the unfortunate outrages and murders which have taken place in Ireland. I could give perhaps just as long a recital as he has given. We have as much, if not more, reason to regret those outrages than even he has because, Chief Secretary as he is, we live in Ireland more than he does, and we are more intimately concerned with the condition of that country. But much as we regret the state of affairs there, and though we agree with the facts as generally enumerated by him, he has never once suggested throughout the whole course of his rather lengthy observation how he is going to remedy that state of affairs. He tells us Ireland is in a worse condition than it ever was. Granted. The question we have put to him over and over again is, Is it by coercion that you are going to remedy that? Has coercion ever remedied it in the past? Has repression ever remedied it? Has the prevention of freedom of speech, of public assembly, and of the expression of political views brought about a remedy when a similar state of affairs has existed in the past? Of course, he knows that such is not the case. He knows that every measure of coercion in Ireland has brought the country to a worse position than previously, unless some subsequent measures of ameliorative reform, such as the various Land Acts and Labourers Acts were passed for the benefit of the people. The Chief Secretary is exceedingly glib in his recital of the conditions in Ireland. He said that he is out to maintain law and 723 order in Ireland. No one wants him to maintain law and order more than I do. How is he maintaining it? Is there law and order to-day in Ireland? Is there more law and order than there was twelve months ago? Is it likely, with the prolongation of those Regulations, that there will be more law and order in Ireland this day twelve months than there is to-day? He states that Canada has a much worse measure than this. For a measure to be worse than this, this must be bad. If this measure is bad, he says the Canadian one is worse. My answer is that Canada has its own choice, and it is the Canadian people who have brought in their own measure for the future of their country. It is not the Irish people who are bringing in the present measure. You are doing it, and you should not have the right to fix the future conditions and welfare of our country. If we had a Parliament of our own in Dublin, and if we chose to bring in what the Chief Secretary has described as a worse measure, then it would be our own business. This is not our business at all. It is a measure which is being forced upon Ireland by representatives of other portions of the United Kingdom.
The Chief Secretary recited various horrible occurrences which have taken place in Ireland. That is true. I am the last person to say that the present conditions in Ireland are not almost beyond despair so far as crime is concerned; but it is only fair to say that the Irish people have been exasperated, goaded, and driven into a state of desperation by the acts of the Government. See what happened yesterday in Dublin. A boy called Staines, who is the brother of a Sinn Fein Member of Parliament, was concerned in the case. He is only 16 years of age and his brother is in gaol. The boy was living with his mother, and the house was raided by the police, under these Regulations I presume, and a few documents were discovered which smacked of the Sinn Fein strain. The boy was brought before one of the city magistrates in Dublin, a most competent, fair-minded and liberal man, and when the charge was made under these Regulations to implicate this lad, the magistrate declared that he saw no connection between the documents that had been found in the house and the charge against the boy. He adjourned 724 the case for half an hour, saying that he would consider what he would have to do under the Defence of the Realm Act Regulations. "When he came back in the Court, he said that there was no course open to him under these Regulations at the instance of the police, but to send this lad of 16 to gaol for a month for being in a house in which documents were found which were in no way connected with him. That is the statement of the case which appears in the Dublin newspapers which arrived here last night. Perhaps the Chief Secretary does not read the Dublin papers. I do. This is only one instance of the methods of exasperation that are going on in Ire land. I think it was the "Times" newspaper which stated recently that in their opinion there was some form of conspiracy to endeavour to prevent anything in the nature of an amicable settlement being arrived at in regard to Ireland. I am very much afraid that that must be so. I have come to the conclusion that there are certain parties in this country who are doing all in their power to frustrate anything in the nature of a true union between your country and ours. I have come to the conclusion that there are certain people in this country who want another Amritsar, and perhaps it may take place.
The only chance for any well-meaning Government to remedy the present state of affairs is to give the people of Ireland what they have been cheated out of for the last five years, and that is the right that they constitutionally won after two general elections, and which was embodied in an Act of His Majesty's Parliament. We are told that a Home Rule Bill is to be introduced. This is a nice manner in which to prepare for the reception of a Home Rule Bill. It was the same in regard to other proposed settlements of the Irish question during the war. When the Convention made its majority report, the Prime Minister came down to this House on the same day that the report was issued, and said that the Government were going to force conscription upon Ireland. To-day we have the Government with one hand offering a so-called measure of self-government to Ireland, and on the other hand we have them, with their agency of coercion, saying that at all costs law and order in their acceptance of the term must be maintained. It may interest the House to hear a statement 725 which was recently issued by Cardinal Logue in an interview, which he gave to an American correspondent. In that interview he is reported as saying:I am convinced that if a satisfactory measure of Home Rule were introduced the people would accept it; but it must be one measure applied to the whole of Ireland. The present regime of repression, deportations and reprisals will continue so long as Britain denies this.There is the kernel of the present state of affairs in Ireland. You are seeking to coerce us into submission into the acceptance of a measure which you know no part of the Irish people demand. You are endeavouring to throw dust in the eyes of the British as well as the American people by offering us something in Ireland which is practically only fit for the waste-paper basket, and at the same time you are perpetuating a system of coercion which will make things worse in the next decade even than they have been in the last.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman who opened this Debate (Captain Benn) said that if the House passed this Bill it would prompt the Government to defer the solution of several very urgent problems. One of my objections to this Bill is that it continues without any discussion the Daylight Saving Act. One hon. and learned Gentleman said that was an uncontroversial matter. I can assure the Government that it is not so. There are two opinions as to whether or not the Act ought to be continued in its present form, and any hon. Member who happens to represent an agricultural constituency will agree with me that this Act has not met with the approval of agriculturists, either of farmers or farm workers. I very strongly object to an Act of that nature being continued under the Regulations contained in this Bill. I have other objections to this Bill. The hon. and gallant Member (Captain Redmond) has suggested that Ireland to-day is merely a shuttle-cock between British politicians. I can assure him that that is not so, so far as the hon. and gallant Member for Leith (Captain Benn) is concerned, and certainly not so so far as I am concerned. We deplore what is taking place in Ireland. When we look to the past we must lay the blame on the shoulders of those who are responsible for the circumstances under which the present situation has arisen. Let us recall what was said by 726 Members of the present Government and by no less a person than the Lord Chancellor in 1913. He said:In certain circumstances theyThat is the Lord Chancellor and hi" friends,would stand side by side with loyal Ulster, refusing to recognise any law and prepared with them to risk the collapse of the whole of the body politics to prevent this monstrous crime.If that is not providing an example for lawlessness in Ireland I am unable to say what is. The Chief Secretary said that the hon. and gallant Member for Leith merely exaggerated country cases, and paid no attention to the cases which he himself had brought forward. The cases brought forward by the hon. and gallant Member for Leith were in every sense just as good and as vital as those cited by the Chief Secretary. It has been said by the Chief Secretary that it is not repression that leads to crime. In my judgment, it is not lawlessness in Ireland that has given rise to coercion, but it is coercion that has given rise to lawlessness, and until the Government grasp that fact they will never settle the Irish problem. I object very strongly to the powers of search and arrest that are given to the Government under this Bill. The Chief Secretary quoted certain powers possessed by the Canadian Government which he said were stronger than those given to the Government under Article 18A. Can he inform the House that the powers of search and arrest under Regulation 55 are possessed by the Canadian Government? I very much doubt whether that is the case. What are the Government going to do when these powers lapse? This Act operates only until the 31st August, 1920. Is it suggested that self-government for Ireland will be in operation by that date?
Will the Solicitor-General inform us when he replies what is the intention of the Government? Is it proposed to come to this House for a Bill to continue powers and Regulations such as those under this Bill. For those reasons, if my hon. and gallant Friend goes to a Division I shall certainly support him in the Lobby.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I object to this Bill on several grounds. It contains a number of pettifogging silly 727 measures which we could well do without. I may give as an example interference with small private traders, such as the prohibition of the sale of sweetmeats in theatres. A rather more serious power is the power to enter on land, seize trees and take them away at a Government valuation, against which the subject has no appeal. Then purely bureaucratic and extremely stupid Regulations are in many cases continued. I may refer to shipping control. Speaking as the representative of a great port, I Bay that it is not required, and that it tends to hamper trade and keep up freights. Another example, an Irish one, is that of flax control. We have fully discussed it in this House. A very charming gentleman from Armagh sent me in his card just now. I went into the Lobby and met four gentlemen from Armagh, flax growers. They impressed me very favourably indeed. They asked me to do what I could to get the hampering restrictions on the Irish farmer removed. They used extremely bitter arguments against the Government. I said: "We are taking the Third Reading of the Defence of the Realm Act Continuance Bill now, and we are told that this and other Regulations contained in the Bill are required for the good of Ireland." When they asked what I meant, I said: "To coerce your Sinn Fein fellow-countrymen"; and they said: "That is all right. Keep the Sinn Fein part of it on, but free the flax."' I think that on this matter Ireland is for once united. These four gentlemen told me that unless within the next few days they get some assurance from the Government with regard to Irish flax growers, they are not going to plant flax, and this will lead to a lot of unemployment and distress. I wish the right hon. Gentleman to bear this in mind and use his best endeavours to prevent this result.
The hon. Member for Lanark mentioned Russia. I do not think that I should be in order in referring to that, though certainly this whole flax trouble is due to the mistaken policy towards Russia of the hon. Member for Lanark and his Friends. Then there are great interferences with personal liberty which are intended for use against a class This is class legislation. It was the hon. and gallant Member for Reigate (Brigadier-General Cockerill), I believe, who did great service in the War, who told us in the Debate on the Report 728 stage that it was absolutely necessary to keep on the power in this country of arrest and search, and this extraordinary Regulation, 18a, because of foreign agents. He told us with great pride of the wonderful organisation of the censorship of cables and letters, and the international exchange of information which had been built up during the War and defeated the machinations of the German spies. And it is necessary to keep it on now, not against Germany, but some other power. The hon. and gallant Member is not actively engaged in this work now, but I would submit to him that in all countries engaged in this War there has been built up an enormous organisation of counter espionage, and these people have got a vested interest in keeping their jobs going.
The work is extraordinarily interesting. I saw a great deal of it myself during the War on the staff, and they naturally want to keep it going, and there is a sort of tacit understanding among them that they are going to be very careful to watch each other and to make out an excellent case to show that the Hush-Hush Service is vitally necessary for the defence of the Empire and for each respective country. Therefore we are told by the Government that this right of search and arrest under 18A is required in this country. Nothing of the sort. The Government know that it is class legislation. It is aiming at what they are pleased to call Bolshevism. I have never heard a definition of this terrible disease. Anyone whom you disagree with is called a Bolshevik, and there is an end of it. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Duncairn (Sir E. Carson) asked for a definition and has not got it. It seems to be a terrible disease, afflicting the working classes, and this is what these regulations are required for. They are not going to work a cure of general unrest among the working classes. That is going to be cured only by better conditions and more liberal treatment. I now come to the worst portion of the whole Bill: that is, the Irish portion. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the Irish rebellion. I was serving at sea at the time. He said there were thousands of Irishmen who did not rebel because their hearts failed them—a mean and despicable argument. Anyone who has ever 729 served with Irishmen knows that they are brave as, or braver, than any English people. It was not cowardice which kept these people back.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
He said, what will be seen in the OFFICIAL REPORT to-morrow, that their hearts failed them—a mean and despicable sneer. You may disagree with these men and call them murderers if you like. These men who are prosperous need hardly spend their time in plotting against the Govern merit. You may abuse them to any extent, but they are not cowards.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I said nothing of the kind. The hon. Member will see what I said to-morrow. "By some misadventure," I said.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I must have misunderstood the right hon. Gentleman, and I accept his withdrawal of course. Debates like this have been taking place for years, not only in this House but in the German Reichstag over Poland and Schleswig-Holstein, in the Hungarian Parliament; over the subject nationalities of Hungary, and while people are oppressed in any country by Imperial ism, as Ireland is oppressed by British Imperialism, these Debates will continue, and abuse by the Government about murders and crime will not help us. Let us look at the way in which this Bill operates. The hon. Member for St. Stephen's Green, the Lord Mayor of Dublin, has been referred to. He was arrested before he was Lord Mayor. Even Unionist members of the Council selected him Lord Mayor afterwards. He was arrested on the charge, as the right hon. Gentleman told me in answer to a question, of being suspected of having acted, or being about to act, contrary to law. I ask hon. Members to forget for the moment their political platform. Here you have a totally new crime, new to me, and, I hope, new to all of us, of being suspected of being about to act contrary to law. Under that a man who is a philanthropist and a good citizen, who is respected everywhere and is a credit to any city in the world, a man of the highest character, is arrested. He is spirited off 730 to England. For a time his relations do-not know where he is. Eventually it is admitted that he is in Wormwood Scrubs. The Chief Secretary, in answer to a question in this House, said that he is not going to be brought to trial, and his comrades are not going to be brought to trial.
Whatever the crimes committed on one side they do not justify this. It does not, maintain law and order in Ireland. Things there are going from bad to worse. This is not going to keep law and order in Ireland. I believe that the more this is continued, the more you will do to increase crime. Hon. Members may not know it, but I believe that the votes given by Members in favour of this measure to-night will do move to cause deaths of innocent people than 50,000 speeches here or anywhere else. It is a sad thing to find the whole of Ireland in such trouble at the present moment, and I am sorry to hear the right hon. Gentleman's speech in defence of his Administration. These raids in the dead of night against 400 people, entering their houses by force, turning women in a delicate state of health out of their beds, ripping up mattresses, searching for incriminating documents, is that keeping law and order? Are these things which keep law and order or redound to the credit of our Administration or of our race? No, it is not meant to keep law and order. It is meant to stir up crime. The words of the hon. Baronet opposite, Sir F. Banbury, during the right hon. Gentleman's speech, "then Home Rule need not be given to Ireland," will, I hope, appear in the OFFICIAL REPORT. I hope that they were heard in the Reporters' Gallery, because really they give away the whole of the Government case in regard to Ireland. It is intended to stir up trouble in Ireland. I do not say that the right hon. Gentleman himself would wish to have a massacre and mow down people with machine guns, but I say that there are men in Ireland who do. They do not care twopence what happens as long as they can prevent Home Rule for Ireland. They have got the right hon. Gentleman in their pocket. The other day there was a meeting in the Albert Hall, and an hon. Member calling himself the Vice-President of Ireland, the hon. Member for East Cavan (Mr. Griffith) made a speech. He stated to an audience of 10,000 people that the real governing power in Ireland 731 was the Assistant Under-Secretary, Sir John Taylor, and that Sir John Taylor—I would like a denial of this—was connected with the "Times" newspaper during the Parnellism and crime period, that he wrote or prepared the articles for the "Times" which were intended to connect the Nationalist constitutional party of that time with the crime that was then going on in Ireland. If that be the case—
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I am very glad to hear it. The man who made that statement is not a firebrand, he is not a romantic; he does not show the Celtic temperament, as perhaps the right hon. Gentleman and myself do. He speaks deliberately and coolly, and he declared that, and I think there is some reason for the suspicion. This is what people believe in Ireland. They believe that what is desired is at all costs to discredit the cause of Irish freedom. That is why I say that these powers should not be left in the hands of such an Administration. The Administration is not competent, it has not kept law and order, and things are going from bad to worse. The riots at Fermoy and Thurles, in which, I am sorry to say, the police and the military took part, had not been condemned, as far as I know, by any leader of opinion on the Government side. I know that the British soldiers over there hate the work they have to do. It is unfair to ask these men, many of whom have fought bravely in the War, to do such work. That sort of treatment and the whole attitude of the authorities are combining all classes and all creeds against the Government. In the last few days I have spoken to a number of fellow naval officers who are of Irish birth—three to be exact. They came, one from the North, one from the centre, and one from the South of Ireland. I will give the right hon. Gentleman their names, in private, if he wishes it. They come from Irish land-owning families which have been Unionist for generations. I talked to them at some length about the conditions in Ireland. They did not talk about the murders; they did not condemn them; they did not condemn even Sinn Fein. They deplored the condition of things in Ireland, but their invective was kept for the Government. That is the 732 most extraordinary part of it. They spoke in tones of sympathy for the Sinn Fein movement. They said they did not believe the murders were committed with the knowledge of the leaders of Sinn Fein. They hinted that certain of these murders were deliberately concocted by agents provocateurs.
That is the state of things in Ireland. These things ought to be said, and it is our duty to say them. I give my word that what I am saying is true. You have succeeded in uniting Ireland—excluding perhaps a few in the North-East—you have succeeded in uniting nine-tenths of the Irish people against you in hatred of England. That is the tragedy of the position. The Irish are people who, if they had been treated properly, would have been loyal, peaceful and worthy citizens, as such men are in our Colonies and in the United States. Let me give one instance. A man named Savage was killed in the fighting after the attempt made on the life of His Excellency, the Lord Lieutenant. That man's brother served in the Australian Navy. There you have one man living in an atmosphere of liberty who does good service; the other, living under the oppressive rule in Ireland, attempts to commit a dastardly murder on the King's representative in Dublin. That is what this Legislation leads to. I hope hon. Members will think carefully before they vote for it. It is not we here—as the right hon. Gentleman accused my hon. and gallant Friend—living in safety who do it. My hon. and gallant Friend, at any rate, was not living in safety during the whole of the War. It is not we who incite to murder or who palliate murder, but hon. Members who support the Government in this repressive Legislation; it is hon. Members who vote to-night in favour of the Third Heading of this Bill. They may not be conscious of it, but they are as guilty as the humble instruments who have to put this Law into force in Ireland. I have spoken plainly. I hope I have not hurt the feelings of any hon. Member. I feel as strongly about this as anyone can.
§ Mr. SPENCER
The point has been made that where it is desirable to continue any provisions under this Bill, it would be far better that they should be the subject of separate legislation. I want to refer to one of those provisions. It is that which relates to the coal mines. 733 We have now passing through this House a Bill for the purpose of dealing with coal mines. Whatever power you are seeking to retain under this Bill could have been transferred to the Bill dealing with coal mines. I think the point should have the special attention of the representative of the Government who replies to the Debate. There are other provisions of a similar character which might very easily and wisely become the subject' of special legislation. In reference to what has been said about Ireland, I wish to say that I recognise that the Secretary for Ireland has a very difficult task. The Chief Secretaryship is, and has always been, one of the most difficult positions to fill in any Government, and probably at no time was that task more difficult than it is now. The right hon. Gentleman undoubtedly has to cope with a legacy of mis-government in the past. The prevalence of violence in Ireland is due to the fact that we have not recognised the right of Ireland to govern herself. Any man who has any knowledge of the Irish question, especially since the days of Parnell, must have come to the conclusion that the present state of affairs in that country is due to the fact that one part of the constitution in this country refused to sanction a Bill that passed through this House years ago to give Home Rule to Ireland. If the other House had passed the first Home Rule Bill I think Ireland would have been in a state of peace and prosperity to-day. Ireland has ceased to trust us; she has no faith in any promise we make. We remember the awful conditions in Ireland at the time of Isaac Butt. Charles Stewart Parnell and Mr. Redmond, by their wise leadership, brought the country to a state of tranquillity, and then it ought to have been the pleasure of this country to have granted a measure of free-government to Ireland. If the psychological moment in the history of Ireland had been used by British Statesmen we would not have had enacted the crimes that trouble us to-day.
Therefore, all responsibility for the state of unrest in Ireland must be placed, not on Ireland alone, but upon the shoulders of those people who had not statesmanship and foresight enough to give to Ireland the measure of freedom she ought to have had. There has been passed through this House a series of Acts designed for the 734 repression of crime in Ireland. I think everyone on the Opposition Benches believes in the repression of crime. What we do not believe in is the repression of the aspirations of the Irish people for liberty and freedom. We will not support the Government in any act whatever which seeks to prevent Irishmen from giving free expression to their political opinions. We have honoured in this country men who have come from foreign lands, men like Garibaldi and Mazzini, who were fighting for the liberty of their country against the oppression of the foreign foe. I would like to say that as far as the Labour party are concerned, we would to-day be in precisely the position in which the Irishmen are if the Germans had been lucky enough to win the War and to impose their will on Ireland. What Englishmen would have been worthy of his salt if he had sat down quietly and complacently under the rule of a foreign yoke such as the Germans might have imposed upon them? If we had been guilty of perpetrating the crimes that are supposed to be perpetrated by Irishmen now against the present Government, if we had done a similar thing in this country and had the German yoke upon us, I venture to say that hon. Members opposite, who are condemning Irishmen because they are taking part in these political struggles, would hail with delight similar action in our own country if those actions were designed to get rid of a foreign foe. But even if that is so, I do not for a moment believe that Irishmen are fighting their case the best way when they have resort to crime. I believe that the whole testimony of the Irish case from beginning to end is that you cannot repress the aspirations of the Irish people for liberty and the right to determine their own form of government, by these powers which you are seeking to obtain under this Bill. The whole history of Ireland tells us that you will not succeed this way. You have the right to say to us, what would we do, and that is a position which we should face. I do not know exactly what position is being taken up by those who represent Ireland in this House, or by His Majesty's Government, except as represented in the Bill which has been introduced. I do know that during the War we proclaimed to the world that 735 we were fighting for the right of small nations to determine their own political destiny, and I believe you will never settle the Irish question until you allow Irishmen themselves to determine what form of government they are going to have in their own land. [HON. MEMBERS: "A Republic."] If it is to be a Republic, why should they not have a Republic? I would like, to put this question to the right hon. Gentleman. What right have we to impose our will upon Ireland, any more than—
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member is getting rather far from the question. We are not dealing with the Irish question generally, but as to the application of certain Acts to Ireland.
§ Mr. SPENCER
Instead of seeking to retain powers for the purpose of governing Ireland, it would be far better to face the whole situation and let lreand determine its own form of government. I believe that you will strengthen our Empire by giving each separate part the right to determine whether it will remain part of the Empire or not, and we will never have a strong and complete Empire and loyal Empire so long as we use any form of repressive measures to make one part or any part remain inside the Empire. I am sorry the right hon. Gentleman did not really attempt to answer the charges which were made by the Mover of the Amendment. He did not seek to explain them, but brushed them aside as trivial and trumpery. If there has been a miscarriage of justice in Ireland upon even a girl or boy, I think the right hon. Gentleman should have a thorough investigation made of each case, and where he finds that there has been that miscarriage of justice and that his servants have been over-zealous, he himself ought to acknowledge that fact, so that, as far as possible, he shall renew in the Irish people that measure of confidence that they might have in his government if they found that when he ascertained his servants had made a mistake, he was quite prepared to recognise that mistake and to try, as far as possible, to avoid having it made again.
§ Mr. DONNELLY
I fully sympathise with the hon. Gentlemen who Moved and Seconded. These Regulations have a very prejudicial effect on the commerce of Ireland at the present time. In the 736 north of Ireland, where I come from, flax control is causing very serious trouble. Outside the doors of this Chamber just now there is a deputation which is trying to interview the most responsible Minister of the Government on this subject. In Ireland, and particularly in Ulster, flax control so shackles and so limits the price to the producer that it is inflicting very grave injustice on the producers of flax. I have here a copy of a resolution passed at a meeting held in Belfast on Friday last, which was mainly composed of very loyal supporters of the Empire:Not a Board which, in 1918, fixed Irish flax at 45s. maximum per stone, and 25's tow yarn at 18s. 10½d. per bundle, yet still controls and confiscates Irish flax at the same price (viz. 45s. per stone maximum) in spite of the fact that 25's tow yarn being freed from control have risen from 18s. 10½d. to 72s. per bundle, is dead to all sense of righteous dealing, and for this reason alone is unfit to direct or govern.I think there, ought to be a reply immediately on this question of flax control. There is no commercial reason, or reason of policy, why this control should continue, and flax in Ulster and all over the country should be free. If it were, the producer would get three times the present price, and in England and elsewhere the producers are getting three times the price received by the Ulster producers. The Control Board, which sits somewhere in London, is composed largely of spinners, and there is very little representation for the producer who is a farmer. The Board sees that the spinners get the bulk of the profits. They have benefited to a very great extent, and in fact huge fortunes have been made by spinners within the last two or three years, as a result of this, shall I say, for want of a better expression, "wangling" of prices of flax? Only the other day, in the County of Down, a farmer brought his flax to the market in the belief that he could sell or not, as he pleased, but he was told by the police that he must sell, and at the particular price at which his flax was graded. He refused and said he would take it home. A riot was almost precipitated in the market, and subsequently the unfortunate farmer was brought before a Court under the Defence of the Realm Act and fined £5 for refusing to sell his flax at an unfair and unjust price.
There is another matter to which I should like to draw attention, and that is the export of potatoes. Inspectors 737 were appointed to see that the Army got the right class of potatoes, and those inspectors put certain prices on and no man dare export a potato out of Ireland without a licence from the Department of Agriculture, which is really the Department that carries out this kind of control in Ireland. To the present day no man can export a potato out of Ireland without a licence. That is a position of affairs that is causing trouble and is the subject of very great scandal in the country. I am speaking of facts, as I live in the country and am aware of what is going on every day. These licences are granted in various invidious ways. Discrimination is shown and fortunes have gone into the pockets of men who have been granted licences to export while other men, just as much entitled to licences to export, have not received them. There is no necessity for any licensing system. The stock is much better than it was this time last year and the people in Ireland want to export potatoes. I can assure hon. Members that in Liverpool and other markets in England potatoes are £1 or £2 more than they ought to be by reason of this particular licensing system in Ireland. If this system were abandoned potatoes ought to be sold in Liverpool at least £2 a ton cheaper. When I speak of control I refer to this insidious and discriminating system of licensing. I do not know if the Chief Secretary knows much about this matter, but I think it is about time that this scandal as to licences for exporting potatoes was done away with, and the sooner that is so the better for the British as well as the Irish consumer.
On the political aspect of this Bill I desire to say very little. My hon. and gallant Friend, the Member for Water-ford (Captain Redmond), has dealt with the question in his own lucid and eloquent way. I will only say this—that generations of Ministers have sat on the Treasury Bench and stood at the Table and they have used in their own various ways the alleged remedy of force, but force was never a remedy. Whether force is applied in Ireland under the Defence of the Realm Regulations, or under any other name which you choose to use it has never been a remedy, and never will be. When you apply force you beget force in return, and I can assure the right hon. Gentleman and hon. Members—it may be through their not knowing Ireland 738 —that the sooner they get rid of the idea that they can treat Irishmen and Ireland by force or repression the sooner will relations between Ireland and England be better. The sooner they get a broader outlook on this question of self-government for Ireland, the sooner they get rid of the narrow, old ideas that I believe were promulgated from one of the Benches on the other side of the House, then the sooner will the link between Ireland and England become a more peaceable one.
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL (Sir E. Pollock)
I hope the House will forgivve me if I make a somewhat short reply to the speeches made this afternoon. I am very anxious to try and fulfil the expectations which were formed, when my right hon. Friend opposite had a word with me on Monday night, that the division on this Third Reading should take place at an hour which I think has already passed, and which I do not want to make later. Perhaps I might answer the hon. Member who spoke last, in a sentence or two. The question of flax was very thoroughly discussed on the 1st March, and on a previous date when the Bill was on report. My hon. Friend, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade (Mr. Bridgeman), then intimated that he was hopeful that some voluntary agreement might be come to after meetings had been held by the groups of persons interested, the farmers, the merchants and the spinners. If the hon. Gentleman will look at Hansard, for the 1st March, Col. 94, he will find that the matters to which he has referred have already been anticipated in large measure by my hon. Friend.
This is a Bill to continue Regulations and a few Statutes until the 31st August next. The Statutes and Regulations it is proposed to continue are all of them at present in force. We ask powers from the House to continue a dozen Statutes and something like fifty Regulations out of the existing number of 250. All we ask is that the Regulations should be continued until the 31st August. It is suggested that this is a most extraordinary legislation, that it is unprecedented, that we are asking the House to pass the Bill by reference, and so on. When that criticism is levelled against the Bill, I wonder whether hon. Members have ever made themselves acquainted with the Expiring 739 Laws Continuance Bill, in which, Session by Session, we continue a large number of Statutes by reference, many of them Statutes which have never been put permanently on the Statute Book by reason of the controversies which surrounded them at the time. There, we have Statutes which date back over eighty years, and which are still placed annually on the Statute Book by reference, and no objection whatever is taken to it. Surely I may say this scheme of legislation has been enshrined into a system of the House by the precedent already created. We were told by the hon. and gallant Member for Leith (Captain W. W. Bonn) that this is a hand-to-mouth Bill, and the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) says that the Regulations we are continuing are pettifogging Regulations.
§ Sir E. POLLOCK
Illustrations were given of the small importance of some of them. Yet, in this case of a hand-to-mouth Bill and pettifogging Regulations, the hon. and gallant Member for Leith tells us that ho has culled out of the Habeas Corpus Act some words which he has put together as a reasoned Amendment against the Third Reading. He makes a speech obviously feeling very strongly that it was a case of John Hampden, on a minor scale, and clothed himself with the mantle of Mr. Gladstone whom he told us, spoke from this box, and in the words of Charles James Fox he asked us not to pass the Third Reading of the Bill which contained pettifogging Resolutions and was a hand-to-mouth Bill. I do not think I need detain the House with that sort of dramatic matter. Perhaps it is sufficient to say that when we were listening to the hon. and gallant Member we were very glad to know that there was no disaster at the field of Chalgrove such as happened in the case of the great John whom he impersonated. This Bill falls into three parts. We are continuing the Food Regulations. That is said to be an evil thing to do, but a large section of the House asks us to continue them and to enforce them more strictly. In another Section we are keeping shipping Regulations, which again are demanded by a large number of hon. Members as vital. Another Section deals with 740 the Coal Regulations, under which we secure more or less the distribution, or if you like the non-distribution, of coal. Lastly, there is the question of the continuing powers asked for by the War Office in regard to foreign aliens. What is the acid test of which my hon. Friend spoke, I think rather rightly? We have had diatribes about the administration of the law in Ireland and the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, which has never taken place, either in England or Ireland. All this was pure melodrama, and quite apart from the fact. Under 18A we give powers to arrest and search those people "where a person without lawful authority or excuse" does so and so. Where they have either lawful authority or excuse no harm can happen to them. It is suggested that my right hon. Friend here (Mr. Macpherson) is acting in a merciless, cruel and absurd manner in Ireland in making use of these Regulations against persons who are unable to justify themselves and have no lawful authority or excuse. If they are law-abiding citizens they need have no fear of that law any more than any other law or Regulation.
The other matters which are left are these. It is said that these Statutes ought not to be continued, and the hon. Member for Middlesbrough called them class Regulations. It is necessary to say a word in answer to that, because a very improper feeling or understanding might go abroad if I left that unanswered.
§ Colonel P. WILLIAMS
I cannot allow that statement with regard to class legislation to go by. I never made use of that expression.—[HON. MEMBERS: "Order!"]
§ Sir E. POLLOCK
The honour belongs to the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull. What is class legislation? It is a series of Acts under which a court is empowered in its discretion, in the particular circumstances which come before it, to decide whether a greater amount of time ought to be given to a debtor to pay what is due to him, or in the case 741 of bankruptcy where the particular facts of the case seem to warrant, that time should be allowed in coming before the court. Persons who are debtors, or who may have to go to the Bankruptcy Court, and the other persons for whom this legislation is passed do not belong to any particular class, and rights are not given to any particular class. It is merely for the purpose of arming the court with a discretion in order that it may be rigidly and rightly used, as it is by the court, for the purpose of preventing a miscarriage of justice. These Statutes are continued in the First Schedule, and the Regulations are continued in the Second Schedule. All the matters with which the Regulations deal have been discussed over and over again. We discussed them many days in the Autumn in Committee, we have discussed them again in this House, and we have proved through the War that the Regulations were of service and of use.
The last criticism I wish to answer is this. It is said "Now we are getting to the times of peace." It is quite true that nearly all these Regulations, and still more these Acts of Parliament, were intended to deal with problems and difficulties which arose out of the fact that the War disconcerted men in their business, upset the ordinary course of trade, and created difficulties. During the period that those difficulties existed, the Acts and Regulations were held to be of use. Has that time passed away? Can it be said that the waves which have been created by the storm of War have all died down? Is there no reason for the Regulations and the Statutes still to remain? We ask the House to-night to continue the powers given under the Bill for a further period until we hope the storm may finally cease.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
Will the hon. and learned Gentleman deal with one matter which affects poor people, the sale of chocolates in theatres?
§ Mr. T. P. O'CONNOR
My strong disinclination to take further part in this Debate has been extremely accentuated by the speech of the Solicitor-General. I firmly believe that if I had at my command the austere eloquence of Demosthenes, the more flamboyant rhetoric of Cicero, even the golden eloquence of St. John Chrysostom, or even the trumpet of the Angel Gabriel, I could not penetrate 742 the mind of the hon. and learned Gentleman. The hon. and learned Gentleman complains of the language of my hon. and gallant Friend, the Member for Leith. The hon. and gallant Member for Leith, ho says, invoked Magna Charta, cited the name of John Hampden, cited the name of Mr Gladstone, and, says the hon. and learned Solicitor-General—I am perfectly assured with all sincerity—why are these great names brought into this trumpery question on this wretched little innocent Bill? It seems to me that it is not a trumpery question to ask whether Magna Charta still exists, whether the principles for which Hampden fought and died are still valid, and whether the gospel of Gladstone is still adhered to, in face of the fact that you have in Ireland at the present moment the abrogation of Magna Charta, of the principles of Hampden, of the principles of Gladstone, and of all the principles on which this great assembly is founded. Trial by jury does not exist in Ireland, the freedom of the Press does not exist in Ireland, freedom of speech does not exist, the freedom of the person does not exist, the freedom of one's home does not exist in Ireland.
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
I am glad my hon. Friend agrees with me. After all these abrogations have been made of the principles handed down to this country by generations and centuries of struggle, the Solicitor-General, with the simplest and most candid air in the world, says, "Why all this pother, why Magna Charta, why John Hampden, why Gladstone Drought into the discussion of this simple, innocent little Bill?" I have such great respect for my hon. and learned Friend that I put this down to a professional innocence which he does not feel. When I hear lawyers in the House of Commons addressing it, I often have a feeling that really the stage has lost some of its greatest ornaments. There is nothing to compare with the apparent fidelity to nature, innocence and ignorance of these learned gents. What is the state of things in Ireland? I was talking the other day to a newspaper correspondent who had been over in our part of the world recently. He had also been in America, from which he had just come; he had fought gallantly in France during the War on the side of the Allies, and he was, I may say, a 743 countryman of mine, as many others who fought on the side of the Allies were, and recently, in his voyages for the discovery of truth, he had been in Ireland. He said that the only thing for any parallel to the state of things he found in Poland under the Russian Government was the state of things he found in Ireland under the British Government. We have liberated the Poles from Russian Government, and we have put Russian Government on the Irish people by way of vindicating our purposes. [HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!"] Did I hear murmurs against that statement; [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes!"] I am very glad to find somebody has the courage to deny my statements. Did Russia do more in Poland than take away the liberty of the Press, liberty of the person, the liberty of speech? Did Russia rule by tanks and aeroplanes? Did Russia do more than that in Poland? I find silence from the Gentlemen who murmured against my statements.
The Solicitor-General reads Regulation 14b of this Defence of the Realm Act and says, "It simply asks that a man shall show that he is in lawful occupation, or something of that sort—so simple—and you call on the name of Hampden, and Gladstone, and Magna Charta, because in Ireland every man must prove himself innocent if the Government declares that he is guilty." I see that the other day 50 people were deported from Ireland on a warrant which did not charge them with any crime but the intention, or purpose, or suspicion of the Government of the intention and purpose of committing a crime, and then the hon. and learned Gentleman says, "Why discuss this trumpery Bill with these innocent Regulations? I wonder what Camille Desmoulins, when he was going to the guillotine, in sending his last message to his own wife, who was to follow him so shortly to the scaffold, would have thought if after he had led the mob and brought them to the Bastille, and after breaking down the Bastille had brought an end, as he thought in his idealism, to the principle of Lettres-de-Cachet and the Bastille—that was in 1789—I wonder what Camille Desmoulins would have thought, if he was able to see the events of this world from another sphere, if, I think it is 131 years after he had brought down the Bastille and the Lettres-de-Cachet, 744 the free and liberal Government of which he and all the revolutionaries in that period were the admirers would have the Lettres-de-Cachet in Ireland to send Irishmen to the Bastille. That is the innocent little measure which, with his almost virginal, Joan of Are appearance, the Solicitor-General describes as a trumpery Bill in reference to which no man is entitled to mention Magna Charta or Hampden.
I am sorry the Chief Secretary is not in his place. I am sure his absence is unintentional. I am still sorrier I was not in my place when he was delivering his speech. As a matter of fact, I have spent my day in attending a meeting to try and save the Armenians from butchery and in attending a Committee to do something to help disabled soldiers, English as well as Irish. I hope the House will believe me when I say that the present state of things in Ireland fills me with horror and misgiving, that no man who takes anything like a sane view of the future of his country can look at the events that have taken place in Ireland with any other feelings than those of horror and misgiving. If I could think the policy of the Government can bring that state of things to an end I would support the Government, but I oppose the Government for the reason that I believe, as long as the present system in Ireland remains, that state of things will not only not pass away, but will become worse and worse with every day and with every hour. There is no use anybody charging me with sympathy with assassination. If anybody makes that charge against me I am prepared to meet it, but there is nobody. I call the attention of the House to the fact that things in Ireland, instead of improving, are getting worse. I call attention to the fact that until the present system was inaugurated, under the present Government, under the present Prime Minister, after the rebellion, Ireland was comparatively tranquil. It is a country where crimes of violence for sordid reasons are rarer than in almost any other country in the world, and the reputation of my country for crimeless-ness and for virtue is historical.
I ask the House seriously to ask themselves this question. There is crime, there is disorder. Cannot they put these two things together, that the crime and disorder in Ireland have begun and have 745 increased steadily and proportionately with the repression and the militarism which exist in Ireland today? If that be so, surely any rational man is bound to come to the conviction that as the present system, instead of diminishing or detecting crime, has increased crime and left crime undetected, it is time for us to try another system of dealing with this terrible and unfortunate state of affairs. This journalistic friend of mine, whom I quoted a short time ago, told me of the extraordinary consequences that are taking place of this system in Ireland. Your soldiers who are there are mainly young men, some of them, I believe, not much more than 18 or 19 years of age. Some of those of 20 or 21 have come to Ireland from other parts of the world, and when they come to Ireland to do duty, which they hate, to stand in the way of national aspirations with which they sympathise, full of the conviction that they have risked their lives to bring liberty back to the world, instead of the autocracy and militarism of Germany, when these men mix with the Irish people and perform the duties, odious to them, which they are asked to perform, take care that you are not sending hack to England English soldiers who are as much Sinn Feniers as the people against whom they are sent. I am told by those who have been in Ireland, and who have spoken with the soldiers, that by the employment of them in this odious duty, which they detest as free-born Englishmen, you are planting in their minds the germs of revolutionary feeling. After all, who are these young soldiers? They are the sons of working men, most of them have been working men themselves, most of them have to go back to earn their living, when they are demobilised, as working men, and do you suppose you could put any genuine, honest liberty-loving English working man, although he was in khaki, in Ireland to carry out the principle of militarism, there, against the will of the people, without imbuing his mind with revolt, not only against the Irish Government in Ireland, but perhaps against his own Government when he comes home?
I understand the right hon. Gentleman spoke of an army of 200,000 Irishmen, fully armed and as well equipped as the British Army. The first question I ask about that statement, which I do not believe to be true, is this: What good has your repression in Ireland been, what 746 good have been your 12,000 raids into private houses, tearing the clothes off the beds in which women lie in illness and children lie in fear, what has been the good of all your deportations and all your savage sentences before courts-martial, what has been the good of all this, if at the end of it all the Chief Secretary tells you that you have in Ireland 200,000 Irishmen as well equipped as the British Army? Why, Sir, when the rebellion took place in 1916, as my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Waterford (Captain Redmond) said, there were not at most more than 2,000 men in Dublin engaged in it. There were not 2,000; but, supposing there were, they have become 200,000, according to the Chief Secretary. Could there be a greater indictment of the present policy of the Government than that statement of the Chief Secretary? I do not think the statement is accurate. I really sometimes think the Chief Secretary is in search of another job. I am not surprised. I do not think his present job is a comfortable one. I am very sorry for him. I am very sorry for any man who is Chief Secretary for Ireland under present conditions. I do not wish to embitter the life of the right hon. Gentleman by anything like a personal attack upon him, but I must say this. I hope he gets another job, and gets it soon. When I see men on the look-out for a job, I ask myself what do they want next, and I have come to the conclusion that what the right hon. Gentleman is really aiming at is to become first President of the Irish Republic. No man has done so much to advertise the Sinn Feiners, and when he says that the Sinn Fein organisation has 200,000 men as well equipped as the British Army, I think he has given a tribute to the power of that organisation. Another statement I am told the right hon. Gentleman made was that Alderman Kelly would never have been made Lord Mayor of Dublin unless he had been put into Wormwood Scrubs? If you do not want him to be Lord Mayor of Dublin, why not keep him out of Wormwood Scrubs?
Does it not all mean that the policy of the Government, instead of diminishing crime, instead of diminishing revolt, in Ireland, is increasing it hour by hour? The right hon. Gentleman said that he was determined to preserve law and 747 order. I want to restore law and order. He cannot preserve what he destroys. He says he regards Ireland as an outpost of the Empire. So do I. If you look at it from that point of view you will not make the mistakes you have. The idea that Ireland by force of arms can beat the British Empire never occurred to my mind, but it is a danger to the Empire. The neglect to solve this question, the provocation given to the Irish people, men tried by court-martial instead of by jury, boys sent to gaol, like the poor little boy of 17, the poor little girl who was sent to gaol because she sold green flags, the domiciliary visits, the soldiers and police running loose and killing people—all these things are producing an effect which is full of peril to the Empire. To-day alt the Irish in America are on the side of the Sinn Feiners. Nearly all the Irish in Canada, if not on the side of Sinn Fein, are dangerously near it. In Australia, where the Irish are a third of the population, they are on the side of the Sinn Feiners. I have just come back from a tour of my old constituency. I found myself there, not amongst organised Sinn Feiners, but the attitude that they are not surprised at their people at home, because of the provocation of the Government. By this policy you are estranging the opinion of the civilised world. You are making the people of every nation come to the conclusion that all the old gibes at England as perfidious Albion, with virtue on her lips and hypocrisy in her heart—a statement I should never have believed but for Ireland—you are convincing the world that all your professions in this War of righteousness and unselfishness are false and hypocritical, and I think in that way you are damaging the repute, and, in my opinion, imperilling the future of this Empire.
Major Ear! WINTERTON
I desire—[HON. MEMBERS: "Divide!"] It is not right that we should go to a Division without at least one point made by the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down being answered, because he is a most distinguished Member of this House and has a considerable reputation in other parts of the Empire and in America. His words will probably be cabled out, and will give, I think, a very false impression of the attitude of this country 748 towards the Irish problem at this moment-He compared the Government of Ireland to-day with the Government of Poland under the old Russian Empire. I have heard many exaggerated statements of the case from the Irish Benches opposite, and were I 110 years old instead of only thirty-seven, I daresay I should have heard during the last hundred years the same speeches made about every British administration, including probably the same speech made by the hon. Gentleman about Mr. Gladstone's administration in the Eighties.
§ Earl WINTERTON
I am glad the hon. Gentleman admits it, because he said at the commencement of his speech that the policy of the Government to-day is so different from that of Mr. Gladstone.
§ Earl WINTERTON
He said it was contrary to the policy of Hampden and Gladstone. I do not want to go into the question. I only want to deal with the specific case he put. It is an example of the appalling exaggeration of the case put forward in statements from those Benches for many years. The hon. Gentleman may be very thankful he lives in Ireland to-day and not in Poland. Does he suggest for a moment that British soldiers in Ireland or Irish police, or whatever are the instruments of the Government, torture prisoners as was done by the old Russian Government in Poland before the War?
§ Earl WINTERTON
Then what does the hon. Gentleman's reference to Poland mean—a reference which is going over the cables to America and elsewhere? I can imagine the American newspapers saying, "Mr.—, a distinguished Member of the House of Commons, describes the Government of Ireland to-day as that of Poland before the War." It is perfectly true that the liberty of Irish subjects has been largely taken away. We admit it and deplore it. Many of us on this side deplore many mistakes made by the present Irish administration, and the hon. Gentleman would have more sympathy from us if he did not make such obviously exaggerated speeches as that which he 749 has made to-day. But there is an answer to the point that liberty has been taken away. Let me tell him as a British soldier that a great many British soldiers during the War who were not politicians had some pretty hard things to say about a section of the Irish people attempting to stab us in the back. Then what about the British officers who were murdered m cold blood in Dublin? Can he point to any nation in the world which, under such circumstances, would not have imposed some restrictions on the Irish? Had any States of the Union behaved when the Americans were in the War as a section of the Irish did in 1916, does he deny that the utmost rigour would have been imposed upon the liberty of those people? The hon. Gentleman ignores this fact, that there is a huge organisation in Ireland by means of murder and assassination to make all government impossible. How are you going to deal with that except by military law? He talks of people who fought in the War. People who fought in the War realise that when murders are committed on the police—in many cases when they are not able to defend themselves—it is the first duty of the administration to protect them, and, instead of making covert attacks upon the police and soldiers—he made reference to women and children being dragged from their beds by soldiers—I think it would have been more becoming had he paid a tribute to the extraordinary patience with which the Irish Constabulary and British Army have borne the most brutal attacks which have ever disgraced the annals of a people. He talks of crimelessness in Ireland when you have men murdered in cold blood. Take the case of the Inspector murdered in Thurles, a man respected by all in the town except the extremists. He was murdered in cold blood. The murder was witnessed by 3,000 people coming back from the races, and not one of these people had the moral courage to give information as to who committed the murder. Yet the hon. Gentleman said it was a crimeless country.
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
The Noble Lord, I am sure, is not so foolish as to say that I declared Ireland was crimeless now My 750 statement was that ordinarily Ireland was the most crimeless country in the world, and I adhere to that statement. Instead of denying that there is crime in Ireland now, my point was that a country that might be crimeless had been filled with crime by the policy of the Government, which is quite a different thing.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Earl WINTERTON
I will only make this answer to the hon. Gentleman. I was one of a small band of Tory Members in the 1906 Parliament who constantly faced the Opposition from the hon. Member and his friends when we called attention to the disgraceful cases of cattle-maiming which went on from 1906 to 1910, accompanied by some of the most brutal manifestations ever seen. According to the hon. Gentleman's statement, Ireland was at that time a crimeless country. Including Mr. Birrell's administration, there has always been in Ireland— I have not the slightest hesitation in saying—a section, if only a small section, who have committed crimes that would disgrace any civilised country; crimes almost unknown in this country; moonlighting, the maiming of cattle, and things of that kind. The fact that they are more active now does not necessarily mean that it is because of the restrictions placed upon them by the Government. If the hon. Gentleman and his friends had any policy to deal with this situation we should listen to their speeches with more satisfaction. If by the wave of a magician's wand—which they are never likely to receive they were put in a position of authority, they would be met by exactly the same disorder and would have the whole of the Sinn Fein organisation against them. The hon. Member mentioned the French Revolution. If is always the people who start by being mild revolutionaries who find, when they do get into power, that they either have to become autocrats or lose their heads. If, as I say, the hon. Gentleman and his four friends opposite, by a magician's wand, were put into the position of those in charge of what is termed "Castle Government" in Ireland, he knows perfectly well he would have to adopt the same methods, or, at any rate, give some sort of protection to the ordinary citizen of Ireland who does not wish to see murders take place in the streets. There has never been a party in this House so bankrupt of suggestions for dealing with 751 the situation in Ireland, or whose policy is supported by such a small section of the people, as that of the hon. Gentleman opposite.
§ Mr. MacVEAGH
It is characteristic—[HON. MEMBERS: "Divide, divide!"]—It is characteristic, I say, of hon. Members who have been standing at the bar of the House, and who are in a hurry for their dinner, that, after listening to and encouraging the harangue which has just been delivered by the Noble Lord, they should try to shout down anybody who replies, even in the briefest terms, to that speech. The Noble Lord has not been unduly long: I shall not be as long as he. I have listened with great admiration and received in a chastened spirit the lecture which he delivered to my hon. Friend the Member for the Scotland Division on his extravagance. I have seen many wonderful things in this House during my seventeen years in it, but I never expected to live to see the day when the Noble Lord opposite would excuse anybody of extravagance. Satan rebuking sin is the only spectacle I can compare with that of the Noble Lord. He has delivered a speech worthy of his earlier days in this House. He and I have gone through many lively scenes in this House and we have said a good many things of one another across the floor of the House. I have outlived my schoolboy indiscretions. If the Noble Lord had outlived his, and never delivered that speech to-night, I would have thought he was on the high road to becoming a statesman. When a politician begins to think that he is a statesman he is on the slippery slope that leads to destruction. I thought the Noble Lord had got on the slippery slope and was slipping right down on to the Government Bench at the earliest opportunity! He has been good enough to sneer at the paucity of the Members of the party with which I am associated.
§ Mr. MacVEAGH
The Noble Lord repeatedly referred to the three or four Members to which our once powerful party was reduced. He once belonged to a little coterie which, I would remind him, was not more numerous than ours, but which I do not think is very likely to obtain a dominating voice in the councils even of the party which he supports. 752 The Noble Lord got very indignant in respect to several matters. His memory should carry him back to 1885. I would remind him of the identity of the statesman who introduced the parallel between Poland and Ireland. It was the late Mr. Chamberlain. In a memorable speech he delivered in Islington in 1885, he said that the government of Ireland by England could only be compared with the government of Poland by Russia, or with the government of Venice by Austria. Therefore, the Noble Lord need not have got so very indignant when the comparison was advanced to-day by my hon. Friend. I advise the Noble Lord to read that speech of Mr. Chamberlain, and when he reads it he will not be quite so violent as he was this evening. Mr. Chamberlain then warned this country that England was depending in Ireland absolutely on the bayonets of 50,000 soldiers kept permanently in a hostile position. That is the position to-day in Ireland. Whatever may be said about the government of Poland, let the Noble Lord remember that, as a result of British rule in Ireland, you have reduced the population by 50 per cent. with in the past half-century. Even Poland, misgoverned by Russia, by Austria, or by Germany, has doubled its population within the same period. It is also very remarkable, and I commend this to the Noble Lord, that every one of the countries for which you went into this War to win self-determination—I do not care which you take—Rumania, Poland, Finland—they have all doubled their population within a period during which the population of Ireland has been reduced by half.
Crime in Ireland to-day was talked about by the Noble Lord. None of us approve of crime in Ireland. I do not approve of it in England either. I do not approve of it in the Noble Lord's constituency. There is a whole lot of crime committed there about which he does not say anything. One of the greatest crimes was selecting the Noble Lord himself. We condemn these crimes in any part, but the Noble Lord—
§ Mr. MacVEAGH
I bow to your ruling at once. Sir, but it is tempered, by the reflection that the Noble Lord had got so hopelessly out of Order himself that he 753 dwelt upon the question of crime in Ireland, and I was replying. All I want to say is that we have condemned crime all over Ireland. The Noble Lord in his speech made two contradictory statements. He said that this crime was committed by a very small section of the Irish people—
§ Earl WINTERTON
What I said was that in normal times a small section of the people committed crimes in Ireland not committed in most civilised countries.
§ Mr. MacVEAGH
The only statement the Noble Lord gave us referred to cattle maiming. But in Staffordshire there was an outbreak some years ago of cattle maiming, and it went on for years—cattle maiming never equalled by anything done in Ireland.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
We cannot discuss the whole story of cattle maiming, or have a duel between the Noble Lord and the hon. Member. The Question before us is the Third Reading of the Bill.
§ Mr. MacVEAGH
I have not the slightest intention of dwelling on the matter. I only mentioned it in passing as an answer to the Noble Lord's suggestion that cattle maiming is a crime peculiar to Ireland. I say it is not. I repudiate the charge. I say there has been no cattle maiming in Ireland during the whole period covered by the operations of this Bill. It was the Noble Lord who went into ancient history, and resurrected charges against Ireland, and
§ alleged crimes were being committed there to-day which are not committed at all. I repudiate above all the suggestion of the Noble Lord that such crimes as are being committed in Ireland are being committed under the aegis of a huge organisation. Personally, I differ most profoundly from the Sinn Fein party. They opposed me at the last election and no doubt they will do so at the next, and probably I shall follow the fate of many of my colleagues. But no personal considerations of that kind are going to blind me or make me be a party, or cause me to sit here silently and listen to the slandering of my own countrymen. To say that the Sinn Fein organisation is engaged in working up crime is a foul and atrocious libel. Whatever personal grievance I may have I am not going to be a party to abusing their character. Everybody who knows anything about the condition of Ireland knows how these crimes are brought about, and they are not brought about by the Sinn Fein organisation. I think it only right that, as a political opponent of theirs, to repudiate the suggestion which the Noble Lord has offered. I indicated when I rose that I intended my remarks to be very brief, and I should not have intervened at all except for the extravagances of the Noble Lord. I hope in future he will deliver more serious speeches and bring a little more thought into his orations than he did in the effort which he made to-night.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 291; Noes, 52.755
|Division No. 32.]||AYES.||[8.15 p.m.|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. C.||Bridgeman, William Clive||Colvin, Brig.-General Richard Beale|
|Agg, Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Briggs, Harold||Conway, Sir W. Martin|
|Amery, Lieut.-Col. Leopold C. M. S.||Brittain, Sir Harry||Coote, Colin Reith (Isle of Ely)|
|Atkey, A. R.||Broad, Thomas Tucker||Courthope, Major George L.|
|Bagley, Captain E. Ashton||Brotherton, Colonel Sir Edward A.||Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Brown, Captain D. C.||Davies, Thomas (Cirencester)|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Bruton, Sir James||Davies, Sir William H. (Bristol, S.)|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Dean, Lieut.-Commander P. T.|
|Balfour, Sir R. (Glasgow, Partick)||Burn, Col. C. R. (Devon, Torquay)||Denison-Pender, John C.|
|Barnett, Major R. W.||Butcher, Sir John George||Denniss, Edmund R. B. (Oldham)|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Campbell, J. D. G.||Dewhurst, Lieut.-Commander Harry|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Carew, Charles Robert S.||Dockrell, Sir Maurice|
|Benn, Com. Ian H. (Greenwich)||Carr, W. Theodore||Doyle, N. Grattan|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Casey, T. W.||Duncannon, Viscount|
|Bigland, Alfred||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord R. (Hitchin)||Edge, Captain William|
|Blake, Sir Francis Douglas||Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A. (Birm., W.)||Elliot, Capt. Walter E. (Lanark)|
|Borwick, Major G. O.||Chamberlain, N. (Birm., Ladywood)||Eyres-Monsell, Commander B. M.|
|Boscawen, Rt. Hon. Sir A. Griffith.||Cheyne, Sir William Watson||Falcon, Captain Michael|
|Bowles, Colonel H. F.||Clay, Lieut.-Colonel H. H. Spender||Farquharson, Major A. C.|
|Breese, Major Charles E.||Cobb, Sir Cyril||Fell, Sir Arthur|
|Forestier-Walker, L.||King, Commander Henry Douglas||Richardson, Sir Albion (Camberwell)|
|Foxcroft, Captain Charles Talbot||Law, Alfred J. (Rochdale)||Richardson, Alexander (Gravesend)|
|Fraser, Major Sir Keith||Law, Rt. Hon. A. B. (Glasgow, C.)||Roberts, Sir S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)|
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Lloyd, George Butler||Robinson, Sir T. (Lanes., Stretford)|
|Gange, E. Stanley||Lloyd-Greame, Major P.||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Lorden, John William||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Gilbert, James Daniel||Lyle, C. E. Leonard||Sanders, Colonel Sir Robert A.|
|Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel John||McLaren, Robert (Lanark, Northern)||Scott, A. M. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)|
|Glyn, Major Raiph||M'Lean, Lieut.-Col. Charles W. W.||Seager, Sir William|
|Goff, Sir R. Park||Macmaster, Donald||Seddon, J. A.|
|Gould, James C.||M'Micking, Major Gilbert||Shaw, William T. (Forfar)|
|Grant, James A.||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.||Shortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on-T.)|
|Gray, Major Ernest (Accrington)||Macquisten, F. A.||Sprot, Colonel Sir Alexander|
|Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.)||Malone, Major p. B. (Tottenham, S.)||Stanier, Captain Sir Beville|
|Greenwood, Colonel Sir Hamar||Marriott, John Arthur Ransome||Stanley, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. G. F.|
|Gregory, Holman||Martin, Captain A. E.||Stanton, Charles B.|
|Greig, Colonel James William||Mason, Robert||Steel, Major s. Strang|
|Gretton, Colonel John||Mitchell, William Lane||Stephenson, Colonel H. K.|
|Griggs, Sir Peter||Molson, Major John Elsdale||Stevens, Marshall|
|Guest, Major O. (Leic, Loughboro')||Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred M.||Strauss, Edward Anthony|
|Guinness, Lieut.-Col. Hon. W. E.||Moreing, Captain Algernon H.||Sturrock, J. Leng|
|Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Mosley, Oswald||Talbot, G. A. (Hemel Hempstead)|
|Hailwood, Augustine||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert||Taylor, J.|
|Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Murray, Hon. Gideon (St. Rollox)||Thomas, Sir Robert J. (Wrexham)|
|Hambro, Captain Angus Valdemar||Murray, Major William (Dumfries)||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Hanson, Sir Charles Augustin||Nail, Major Joseph||Thorpe, Captain John Henry|
|Harris, Sir Henry Percy||Neal, Arthur||Tickler, Thomas George|
|Haslam, Lewis||Nelson, R. F. W. R.||Townley, Maximilian G.|
|Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Newman, Colonel J. R. p. (Finchley)||Turton, E. R.|
|Hilder, Lieut.-Colonel Frank||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Vickers, Douglas|
|Hills, Major John Waller||Nield, Sir Herbert||Ward, Col. L. (Kingston-upon-Hull)|
|Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Norris, Colonel Sir Henry G.||Waring, Major Walter|
|Hope, James F. (Sheffield, Central)||Palmer, Major Godfrey Mark||Warren, Lieut.-Col. Sir Alfred H.|
|Hope, Lt.-Col. Sir J. A. (Midlothian)||Parry, Lieut.-Colonel Thomas Henry||Weston, Colonel John W.|
|Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Perring, William George||Whitla, Sir William|
|Hunter, General Sir A. (Lancaster)||Pinkham, Lieut.-Colonel Charles||Wild, Sir Ernest Edward|
|Hurd, Percy A.||Pollock, Sir Ernest M.||Willey, Lieut.-Colonel F. V.|
|Hurst, Lieut.-Colonel Gerald B.||Prescott, Major W. H.||Williams, Lt.-Com. C. (Tavistock)|
|James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Pulley, Charles Thornton||Wilson, Colonel Leslie O. (Reading)|
|Jephcott, A. R.||Purchase, H. G.||Winterton, Major Earl|
|Jesson, C.||Raper, A. Baldwin||Yeo, Sir Alfred William|
|Jodrell, Neville Paul||Ratcliffe, Henry Butler|
|Jones, Sir Evan (Pembroke)||Rees, Capt. J. Tudor- (Barnstaple)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|Jones, J. T. (Carmarthen, Llanelly)||Remer, J. R.||Lord E. Talbot and Mr. Dudley Ward|
|Kellaway, Frederick George||Renwick, George|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Hancock, John George||Royce, William Stapleton|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Hayday, Arthur||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Hayward, Major Evan||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Brace, Rt. Hon. William||Hirst, G. H.||Smith, W. R. (Wellingborough)|
|Briant, Frank||Johnstone, Joseph||Spencer, George A.|
|Bromfield, William||Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander J. M.||Swan, J. E. C.|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Lawson, John J.||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Cape, Thomas||Lunn, William||Waterson, A. E.|
|Carter, W. (Nottingham, Mansfield)||Maclean, Rt. Hn. Sir D. (Midlothian)||Wedgwood, Colonel J. C.|
|Davies, A. (Lancaster, Clitheroe)||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, Consett)|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Murray, Lt.-Col. Hon. A. (Aberdeen)||Williams, John (Glamorgan, Gower)|
|Donnelly, P.||Murray, Dr. D. (Inverness & Ross)||Wilson, W. Tyson (Westhoughton)|
|Entwistle, Major C. F.||Myers, Thomas||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Galbraith, Samuel||Newbould, Alfred Ernest||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Glanville, Harold James||O'Connor, Thomas P.|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||O'Grady, Captain James||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Graham, W. (Edinburgh, Central)||Redmond, Captain William Archer||Mr. G. Thorne and Colonel Penry Williams.|
|Grundy, T. W.||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Guest, J. (York, W. R., Hemsworth)||Roberts, Frederick O. (W. Bromwich)|
Question put, and agreed to