§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ The CHIEF SECRETARY for IRELAND (Mr. Macpherson)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
I need hardly tell the House that it is with diffidence that I rise to attempt to expound the principles of this Bill, and to move its Second Reading. This is now the fourth Bill which has been presented to this House for the better government of Ireland. My difficulty in following the great sponsors of the Bills of the past, whose expositions remain historic and are ornaments to the records of this House, will be easily appreciated, even though I have had the advantage of the exhaustive statement of my right hon. Friend and colleague (the Prime Minister) at the close of last session. It was made clear in that statement that the Government, in fulfilment of its pledges, was determined to present to this House, and to carry through definite proposals which would be an honest and sincere attempt to settle, once and for all, this age-long difference and close for ever an unpleasant chapter, a chapter remarkable because it is unique as well as unpleasant, in the history of our government of our great Empire. This is not the time, even if it were desirable, to enter into the realms of controversy, but the fact remains that, while peoples of old and new civilisations all over the world live proudly and contentedly in common Imperial bonds with us, the people of our kin, nearest to our shores, have demanded by a majority a change in their Imperial connection. Whatever else may be said, no one can gainsay the fact that the spirit of our Imperial purpose has been sustained by a breadth and generosity which cannot be equalled in the history of any other nation of the world. No one can deny that in the years that have passed we have been magnanimous in all material things towards Ireland, even if we have failed to appreciate what the historians, when dealing with her, call the impalpable.
926 The schemes which were put forward in the past, like the scheme which we now put forward, were put forward in good faith by a great party, but they failed. They were the schemes of a great party, defended by them with conviction and courage just as they were opposed by the other party with equal conviction and equal courage. Much has happened since 1914 when the Home Rule Act was passed and placed upon the Statute Book. A new spirit of conciliation and co-operation has entered our political life. Since then, while no one has wanted the Act of 1914, there has been a general desire in all parties that something should be done. When this Act of 1914 was placed upon the Statute Book, my right hon. Friend, the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith), gave us an undertaking that it should not be put into operation until another Act had been passed dealing with the acute question of north-east Ulster. If I remember aright, my right hon. Friend, the Prime Minister, in his speech on December 22nd, stated not only that this undertaking was given by my right hon. Friend, but that it was assented to by the representatives of Nationalist Ireland. It was, therefore, an undertaking that was recognised by all parties and was bound to be honoured. I need not now go into the reasons for this, but, broadly speaking, there was a general hope that the burning question should be settled in the interests of Imperial and domestic peace, and a feeling that if what was described as "a fairly solid, homogeneous, and loyal population in the north-east of Ireland, alien in sympathy, alien in tradition, alien in religion," desired—it was in the days before the common use of that barbarous word "self-determination"—to govern themselves, in complete loyalty to the Crown, in their own way it would be an outrage in the name of self-government, to use the Prime Minister's word, to place them under the remainder of the population. I think my right hon. Friend the Member for Paisley described the coercion of Ulster as "unthinkable." If the non-coercion of Ulster be recognised, it is equally recognised that the secession from the United Kingdom or from the Empire of Ireland, in whole or in part, can never be tolerated. Those who unthinkingly and in a spirit of bravado clamour for secession or complete separation from 927 the Empire do not, it is true, consider Imperial interests, but have, they ever considered the interests of their own country? Even from the material point of view, there could be no more suicidal policy. I am not going to discuss now the material prosperity of Ireland, which is notorious all over the world. The incontrovertible fact remains that its prosperity is due, and due alone, to the Imperial connection. If that connection were severed, not only would Irishmen, who in so very many cases have deserved well of the State, become aliens under the last Aliens Act, but such a severance would, among other things, alienate the sympathies of Ireland's best customers, tend to destroy her best economic interests, and close for ever the Imperial, civil, colonial, and fighting services of the Empire, which have been for so long such an important outlet for the youth of that country. Accordingly, it is maintained in the Bill that—Notwithstanding the establishment of the Parliaments of Southern and Northern Ireland, or the Parliament of Ireland, or anything contained in this Act, the supreme authority of the Parliament of the United Kingdom shall remain unaffected and undiminished over all persons, matters, and things in Ireland, and every part thereof.From what I have said, it is clear therefore that the Government had to approach this question of giving complete self-government to Ireland in all her domestic concerns under new conditions. For the reasons which I have given, it had inevitably to be decided that there should be two parts, each with complete local autonomy in its own territory—a Parliament for Southern Ireland and a Parliament for Northern Ireland. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in his statement on 22nd December put forward four altenatives for the respective areas of these Parliaments, and after the most anxious and careful consideration of all the facts and circumstances the Government have come to the conclusion that of these alternatives the soundest and most practical is the one which was discussed if not decided upon in 1914, certainly it was decided upon in 1916, namely, an area of 26 counties for the Southern Parliament of Ireland and six counties for the Northern Parliament of Ireland. I cannot do better than state the powers, and, if I may say so, the infinite 928 possibilities, given a chance of these Parliaments, as described by the Prime Minister:We propose, he said, to clothe the Irish Legislature with full constituent powers, so that they will be able, without further reference to the Imperial Parliament, and by identical legislation, to create a single they Legislature, discharging all or any of the powers not specifically reserved to the Imperial Parliament. It will then rest with the Irish people themselves to determine whether they want union and when they want union. The British Government will have nothing further to say in the matter. If the Irish electorate so determine they can return a majority in each province of Ireland with a mandate, even at the very first election, to bring about a union of the North and the South." [OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd December, 1919, Col. 697, Vol. 123.]I now come to the first main proposal in the Bill—I refer to the council of Ireland. The division of Ireland, I need hardly tell the House, is distasteful to the Government, just as it is distasteful to all Irishmen, and I may say, as was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) in 1916, when he brought forward a proposed settlement involving a similar provision:There are features in the proposed settlement which none of us voluntarily would have chosen, one or other of which for different reasons all of us dislike. This was inevitable in any arrangement which did not involve the complete triumph of one set of ideas over another.Again, on the 25th May, 1916, after my right hon. Friend had returned from Ireland after the rebellion, he said:I venture now to make an appeal to the House. The Government of Ireland Act is on the Statute Book. No one, so far as I know—I have said so repeatedly in the past—has ever desired or contemplated its coercive application by one set of Irishmen to another."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th May, 1916, Col. 2310, Vol. 82.]Again, on the 10th July, 1916, he said:To relieve any possible doubt on that point, let mo say, speaking for those who, like myself, look forward and are anxious for a united Ireland, that we recognise and agree in the fullest extent that such union can only be brought about with, and can never be brought about without, the freewill and assent of the excluded area."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th July, 1916, Col. 61, Vol. 84.]In this statement the right hon. Gentleman reluctantly contemplated the division of Ireland, and recent events, I am sorry to say, have only strengthened the view that an undivided Ireland for the purposes of legislation of this kind is in the meantime impossible. All of us hope 929 that the division may be temporary only, and our arrangement has, therefore, been to frame the Bill in such a manner as may lead to a union between the two parts of Ireland. It is quite obvious that we cannot impose union against the will of one part or the other. Union must be a free and voluntary thing. In the very nature of things, division must give rise to many inconveniences, and ordinary men of commonsense will be anxious to remove them. Wise and prudent administration and legislation on the part of these Parliaments and the new Government will, we hope, remove and break down the distrust that may be felt in the one part for the capacity and fairness of the other. Relying upon these considerations, we propose to establish a Council of the whole of Ireland, as a link between the two Parliaments and as a bridge to bring together men of each Parliament, to enable them to discuss face to face matters of common national interest to the whole country. Irishmen of opposing views have before now, with undoubted success, sunk their differences and settled their controversies in circumstances such as these, and we are justified in hoping for similar results from these new proposals.
The Council is, in the first place, to be a purely advisory body, except in regard to two matters which I will deal with later. It may consider any questions which appear in any way to bear upon the welfare of southern and northern Ireland, and make suggestions thereon. Its first duty is to take into consideration what Irish services ought in the common interest to be administered by a general body having jurisdiction over the people of Ireland, and what transferred services ought to be transferred to the Council by identical Acts. As a matter of practical business it would, of course, be in the interests of administration and of economy to transfer many Irish services to the Council, such as the Department of Agriculture, the Local Government Board, the Fisheries, the Registrar-General, Census and Statistics, and others. The same applies to some of the reserved services, the postal service, the Post Office, the Savings Bank and stamps, and the Public Records Office. These are matters upon which suggestions can be made to the Parliaments by the Council, and if the 930 Parliaments choose to adopt the suggestions of the Council, they are empowered to transfer to the Council by identical Acts the powers that it is suggested the Council should have. The two matters upon which the Council have original jurisdiction are the following: (a) in order to secure uniform railway administration in Ireland, the Departmental powers as to railways now exercisable by any Government department will be exercisable by the Council, with power to legislate generally upon these matters. (b) under Clause 7 the Council are empowered to deal with and pass private Bills affecting the interests of southern and northern Ireland. This will prove a very valuable power enabling many useful private Bills to be introduced and passed expeditiously without having to incur the expense of introducing and passing these Bills at Westminster. To give any wider original powers—and we tried hard to give them—would be a violation of the fundamental principle laid down by the Prime Minister. It would mean placing the six counties and their administrative bodies under a legislative body or Parliament acting outside the six counties. This cannot be done without the assent of the six counties, and the Bill offers every facility and inducement for the six counties to come in and co-operate if they think fit. It will be open to each Parliament to delegate powers to the Council by identical Acts. The Council may thus become a real stepping stone on the way to the union. If its initial efforts are successful its powers may be increased by the two Parliaments until it becomes itself virtually a Parliament for all Ireland, and from that stage to complete union is but a very slight and very easy transition. The Council is to consist of a President, to be appointed by His Majesty, and forty members, twenty chosen by each House of Parliament from its own body. The appointment of members of the Council is to be the first business undertaken by the two Parliaments, so that the Council would come into operation at the earliest possible date, and commence its deliberations before either Government was finally committeed to separate administrative proposals. It is difficult to see how the constitutional powers of the Council could be improved. Every member will have to be elected by a constituency in some part of Ireland which he represents. Nobody nominated by any 931 executive authority could carry the same power or the same weight. The Bill further expressly provides that the Parliaments may themselves by identical Acts alter the constitution of the Council, and may, if they think fit, provide for its members being elected by the constituencies direct. The Government are prepared to listen sympathetically to any suggestions for improvement of this body upon the existence of which so much depends, because in the judgment of the Government while superficially it may appear to have very little power it is a medium which may become a great mediator and a great unifier in Ireland.
It may be convenient if I attempt now to point out the differences between this Bill and the Act of 1914 with respect to the powers transferred to the Irish Parliament. Let me take the excepted matters first. The matters in respect of which the Irish Parliament in the Act of 1914 and the two Parliaments under this Bill have no power to make laws are practically identical; the crown, the succession, and so on, except that under the Bill submarine cables, wireless telegraphy, aerial navigation are expressly mentioned, whereas under the Act of 1914 the Irish Parliament would have little or no jurisdiction, as the matters in question, for the most part, would come within exception as to matters not exclusively relating to Ireland. Again, under the Bill the postal service is a reserved matter until, and only until provision is made by the two Parliaments for a joint postal service. Under the Act of 1914 postal communication between one part of Ireland and another, and any other postal services completely executed in Ireland was to be transferred automatically. Let me take the reserved matters. Land purchase. Both under the Act of 1914 and under this Bill, land purchase will be reserved indefinitely, but the Bill excepts from the reservation the conclusion and recovery of purchase annuities and all the powers as to land purchase vested in the Congested Districts Board, other than the power of requiring advances made to them. Let me come to the police. Both the Act of 1914 and this Bill reserves the Royal Irish Constabulary, the Act of 1914 for six years and this Bill for three years, or until Irish union, whichever is the sooner. On 932 the other hand, the present Bill reserves the Dublin Metropolitan Police and the appointment, remuneration and removal of resident magistrates for the same period as the Royal Irish Constabulary, whereas under the Act of 1914 the Dublin Metropolitan Police was transferred automatically. The Imperial Government are determined to safeguard the rights of the police, the resident magistrates and ail the loyal servants of the Crown. The Bill also provides for the constitution of a body, on which the Irish Governments are represented, for the administration of the police force during the period of reservation. There was no such provision in the Act of 1914. Then as to savings banks. Both the Act of 1914 and this Bill reserve the savings banks, the Act of 1914 for a maximum period of ten years, and this Bill until provision is made for the joint administration of the services. Health insurance, friendly societies, unemployment, labour exchanges—these matters are reserved by the Act of 1914, but not by this Bill. Under the Act of 1914 the Irish Parliaments would obtain a transfer of these services on passing a resolution to that effect, but in the ease of friendly societies, not before the expiration of ten years. The Public Record Office is reserved by this Bill, but not under the Act of 1914. Under the Bill it is only reserved until provision is made for joint administration.
Now as to taxation. Under the Act of 1914 the imposition, levying and collection of all Imperial taxes remained with the Imperial Parliament and Government of the United Kingdom, the Irish Parliaments being given power over a certain number of taxes. The levying and collection of all taxes, whether Imperial or Irish, under the Act remained vested in the authorities of the United Kingdom. Under the Bill, on the other hand, the power of imposing, levying and collecting Excise Duties and Customs Duties on articles manufactured and produced, Income Tax, Super-tax, and Excess Profit Duty, is reserved to the United Kingdom, but the Irish Parliaments are given power to vary the rates of Income Tax upwards or downwards. The imposition, levying and collection of all other taxes are transferred to the Irish authorities, who will therefore have full control over death duties, stamp duties and entertainment duties, excise licence duties (with certain exceptions), and independent taxes 933 not being substantially the same in character as any of those duties or taxes, and at the date of Irish union there will be extended financial powers. Provision is then made for the consideration of the transfer to the Irish Parliament and Government of full powers as regards Customs and Excise, and the method by which payment of the Irish contribution to Imperial expenditure can best be secured. Somewhat similar provision was introduced into the Act of 1914, in the event of the Irish accounts of revenue and expenditure balancing each other during three consecutive years. Subject to the foregoing resolutions, Ireland's fiscal autonomy is complete, and as the White Paper shows, even where taxes are reserved, Ireland is credited with the proceeds of taxes paid by the Irish. That is to say, though the Imperial Parliament can impose taxes on the Irish, it cannot tax them for the benefit of Great Britain, nor is that the end of the matter. In addition to the whole disposable balance of the yield of Irish taxes, including the future growth of revenue, Ireland gets the tenant purchase annuities which at present amount to £3,500,000.
I said a few moments ago I would say a few words about land purchase, which from the point of view of the great majority of Irish people, is one of the great outstanding questions. Under this Bill the general question of land purchase is reserved to the United Kingdom Parliament and Government. It has always been recognised that no proposal for an Irish settlement can be regarded as complete unless some provision is made for the settlement of the land question. In 1886, Mr. Gladstone coupled with the Home Rule Bill a comprehensive scheme of land purchase. He laid down the proposition that it was an obligation of honour and of policy that Great Britain should undertake the settlement of this question, and in the Bill of 1893, in the Act of 1914, land purchase was reserved to the United Kingdom Parliament and Government on that same principle. During the discussion on the 1914 Act, my predecessor, Mr. Birrell, said the following to the House:—What the Prime Minister is most anxious to have said to this House is, that this Committee and everybody must cleary understand that it follows as a corollary from the reservation of this most vital subject, that this Government, at all events, absolutely recognises its full and complete 934 responsibility, quite apart from the future fate or fortune of the Bill now in Committee. Whatever may happen to that, whatever can happen to that, and quite apart from that, the Government take upon themselves to make such alterations as can be made, to facilitate and accelerate land purchase.And again,I would undertake to say that, in my judgment and for the moment, and only for the moment, the completion of land purchase is more important than Home Rule itself.The land question was originally a question of rent and relations between landlords and tenants, and throughout the greater portion of Ireland this question has been solved through the beneficent operations of the Land Purchase Acts, and principally through the great Act of my predecessor, George Wyndham, to whose memory I am glad to pay this tribute—the Act of 1903. The result has been to transfer the land to the tenants and other occupiers and to convert them into fee simple proprietors. Land purchase is now at a standstill, owing to the fact that sales, instead of being cash transactions, as they were under the Wyndham Act, have to be carried out on the basis of a 3 per cent. land stock issued at its par value. That is to say, a vendor, instead of receiving £1000 purchase money in cash, would receive £1000 3 per cent. stock, which at the present market rate would be worth only £497 10s. No landlord can afford to sell on these terms, and a new scheme of land purchase is therefore essential, which will enable the unsold land to be brought within the Land Purchase Acts.
It is a matter of extreme difficulty to frame a scheme which would be fair and acceptable to both landlord and tenant, but I am glad to be able to think that among the many noteworthy achievements of the Irish Convention, one of their best achievements was the formulation of a scheme for compulsory land purchase. The Sub-Committee of the Convention which dealt with that subject was composed of distinguished Irishmen belonging to all shades of opinion and representing various Irish interests. It included Lord MacDonnell, Mr. Barrie, Mr. Clancy, Lord Oranmore and Browne, the Bishop of Boss, Mr. Knight and Mr. Stewart. This Committee's Report was adopted unanimously by the whole Convention. The scheme which they put for ward would undoubtedly remove the impasse and provide for a speedy completion of land purchase on 935 terms equitable and fair between landlord and tenant. The Government, recognising as it does that it is under an obligation to introduce a land purchase scheme, has decided to adopt this scheme of the Convention as its basis, and will introduce a purchase Bill upon the lines of that scheme immediately.
In these circumstances I might be allowed to say just a few words about this scheme, as it is germane to the subject, and indeed it is part of the subject which we are now discussing. Take, first, the landlords' position. The Convention felt that it would be impossible to revert to payment of the purchase money in cash, as it would involve too great a loss to the State. On the other hand, the landlord could not be asked to accept 3 per cent. stock at par. They have proposed, therefore, that payment should be made in a new stock bearing dividends at such a rate that the market price of the stock might be expected to stand a little below par, and the vendors should be required to take this stock at its face value in payment of the purchase money. As regards the tenant, the purchase money should be fixed at such a sum that the purchase annuity payable by him in liquidation thereof, and taking the place of the rent which he pays at present, would represent the same average reduction as compared with the rent which other tenants in the county had obtained by purchasing under the Wyndham Act. The bonus would be adjusted on a graduated scale, so as to secure that where the number of years represented by the purchase money is small the bonus might be proportionately large. The scheme is a comprehensive one and provides not only for what I have said, but for the automatic vesting of all unsold land outside the nine congested districts in the Land Commission, and all untenanted land in the nine congested districts in the Congested Districts Board.
A few words about the finance. I hope that the House will bear with me as these matters are rather complicated. The present financial relations between Great Britain and Ireland are entirely different from those of 1912, and they confront us with a problem which is in many ways much more difficult. In 1912, expenditure upon Ireland exceeded revenue by something like £1,500,000, and therefore the 936 financial scheme of the 1914 Act was based on the assumption that Ireland could not pay her way and must receive from the Imperial Exchequer an annual subsidy equivalent to the expenditure, together with a moderate margin, varying I think from £500,000 to £200,000, to provide for the additional cost of the new-government. In these circumstances there could of course be no question of Ireland contributing to Imperial expenditure. It is true the Act did contemplate that at some future date the Irish accounts of revenue and expenditure might possibly balance, and it provided that if and when that contingency occurred and continued for a certain number of years to occur, then Parliament might re-open the question of financial relations with a view to securing a proper contribution from Ireland to Imperial expenditure, and extending Irish taxing powers.
What seemed a remote contingency in 1914 has actually occurred, and at the present time the revenue from Ireland not only meets the expenditure on Ireland but leaves a very considerable surplus available as an Irish contribution to Imperial expenditure. We are therefore faced with two new problems which did not arise in 1912 and could then be conveniently postponed for future consideration at some distant and problematical date. The first question is that of the Irish Imperial contribution. We propose in the Bill that normally the Irish contribution is to be based on the relative taxable capacities of Ireland and the United Kingdom, and this we believe to be fair and just, notwithstanding the fact that the proportion fixed on this basis may seem minute compared with the proportion contributed by England and Scotland. The total amount would be £600,000,000 as the Imperial charge borne by Great Britain. The Imperial charge borne by Ireland under this Act would be only £18,000,000. In other words, for every £l4 13s. 8d. per head of the population of Great Britain, it would be only £4 2s. per head in Ireland. We propose that the actual proportion shall be normally fixed by a joint Exchequer Board consisting of two members appointed by the Imperial Treasury, one member appointed by the Treasury of Southern Ireland, one by the Treasury of Northern Ireland, and a Chairman appointed by His Majesty.
937 The task of ascertaining the revenue actually contributed by each part of the United Kingdom, of determining the taxable capacity of Ireland and of the United Kingdom and fixing Ireland's contribution accordingly, is a very formidable one and would necessarily take a very considerable time to complete. If we were to initiate such an inquiry now, no full or satisfactory result could be obtained for probably one or two years. If, therefore, we are to pass this Home Rule Bill at the present time as an urgent measure, it is necessary to fix as well as we can, from the information at our disposal, a sum for the Irish contribution in the interim, pending the determination of a sum according to Ireland's taxable capacity as determined by the Joint Exchequer Board. This we have done in the Bill from the facts at our disposal. We have fixed Ireland's contribution as £18,000,000 for the first two financial years after the passing of the Act, and thenceforward the amount will be fixed at quinquennial periods by the Joint Exchequer Board. This sum has been fixed by reference to the sum which Ireland is in fact contributing at the present moment, as is explained very ably and in detail in a White Paper. It may be asked, why should Ireland pay any Imperial contribution? In the judgment of the Government an Imperial contribution is a necessary consequence of Ireland's remaining within the Empire. A provision for an Imperial contribution was made, I think, in the Bills of 1886 and 1893. No country can expect to have all the expenses of Army, Navy, Debt, and Foreign Relations found for it by another set of taxpayers. Given that such a contribution is to be made, the transitional sum of £18,000,000 has been arrived at on a basis very favourable to Ireland, allowing her an ample margin for growth of expenditure in the immediate future.
The second question is the granting of further fiscal powers to Ireland, and here we are met, as we were not met in 1914 or in any of the previous Bills, by the fundamental condition which involves two Parliaments and two Governments in Ireland. This condition precludes the concession of such fiscal autonomy as might have been granted to a United Ireland. A grant of Customs duties, necessitating a Customs barrier between Southern and Northern Ireland, would be impracticable, a disuniting influence and 938 possibly nugatory, and, in my judgment, would very likely set up an almost insurmountable obstacle to future union. Excise duties on articles manufactured or produced are really inseparable from Customs duties. Subject to this and certain limiting conditions we have given, as I said, to the Irish Parliaments the maximum of fiscal independence.
I will deal now with the question of the judicature. It is proposed to establish two parliaments, each with sovereign authority in its own territory, and the Government feel that if these parliaments are to be established it was desirable, indeed it was necessary, that they should have the signs and symbols of their authority, namely, the Courts of Law. It is proposed to establish a Supreme Court of Judicature of Southern Ireland and a Supreme Court of Judicature of Northern Ireland, exercising in their respective areas the jurisdiction now exercised over the whole of Ireland by the present Supreme Court, which would cease to exist. Each of the new Supreme Courts is, like the present Supreme Court, to be divided into a High Court and a Court of Appeal. The Southern High Court is to consist of the Lord Chief Justice of Southern Ireland as President, and six other judges; and the Northern High Court is to consist of the Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland as President and two other judges. The Judicial Commissioner of the Land Commission is to be an additional judge of both High Courts for the purpose of his land purchase jurisdiction. As the jurisdiction of the Land Commission is not to be divided, the Judicial Commissioner, who is at present a judge of the existing High Court, must be made a judge of each of the new High Courts in order to retain his jurisdiction throughout Ireland. The Court of Appeal in Southern Ireland and the Court of Appeal in Northern Ireland are each to consist of the Lord Chief Justices and two Lords Justices of Appeal, with power to call in additional judges from their respective High Courts.
It is also proposed to establish a High Court of Appeal for the whole of Ireland, to which appeals will lie from any decision of the Court of Appeal of Southern or Northern Ireland. The High Court of Appeal is to consist of the Lord Chancellor of Ireland as President and the Chief Justice for each of the new Supreme 939 Courts with power to the Lord Chancellor to call ill two additional judges, one from each of the new Supreme Courts. The High Court of Appeal will thus exercise jurisdiction throughout Ireland, and will form an important link between the two new Supreme Courts, securing uniformity in the interpretation of the Law and the application of legal principles.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
He will be appointed by His Majesty; it will be an Imperial Office. It is proposed that the Lord Chancellor shall cease to be a political officer and be given judicial tenure. This change was recommended by the Convention. It necessitates the transfer of his executive functions, including the custodianship of the Great Seal, to the Lord Lieutenant. The Master of the Rolls is ex officio custodian of Public Records in Ireland, and head of the Public Record Office. Seeing that the Public Record Office is to be a reserve service and will not be divided between Southern and Northern Ireland, and that the Master of the Rolls will be attached to one or other of the new local Supreme Courts, it is necessary to transfer his functions with respect to Public Records to the Lord Lieutenant. The existing judges of the present Supreme Court are to be transferred automatically to corresponding positions in the Supreme Court of Southern Ireland on the appointed day, but each judge is given an option of being transferred with the approval of the Lord Chancellor, to the Northern Supreme Court instead of the Southern Supreme Court, and a further option of retiring on pension before the appointed day, subject to His Majesty's approval, if he does not wish to be transferred to either of the new Supreme Courts. The present members of the Irish Bar are to have right of audience in both the new Supreme Courts, and the present Solicitors of the existing Supreme Court are to become Solicitors of the new Supreme Courts and the new High Court of Appeal. The new Supreme Court and the new High Court of Appeal, with the Court offices and departments, are to be reserved matters. This reservation and 940 the whole of the foregoing provisions for separate Supreme Courts and a High Court of Appeal are temporary arrangements only pending the union of Southern and Northern Ireland. The establishment of the Supreme Court on this basis and a common High Court of Appeal can be supported generally on the analogy of Canada, where there are separate Superior and District Courts for the provinces and a Dominion Court of Appeal.
Let me now say a few words on representation in the united Kingdom Parliament and in the local Parliaments. Under the Home Rule Bill of 1886 Ireland was not to be represented in the United Kingdom Parliament. The Bill of 1893 as introduced provided for the representation of Ireland in the United Kingdom Parliament by 80 members instead of 103, and contained an in-and-out provision which prevented Irish Members taking part in any proceedings which did not affect Ireland directly. This latter provision was struck out in Committee, and the Bill as it left the House of Commons gave Ireland 80 representatives with unrestricted rights. In the Act of 1914 Ireland was given 42 Members in the United Kingdom Parliament. On the population basis the number would properly have been 64, but the number 42 was selected, not on any logical principle, but as a sort of adjustment to meet circumstances that might arise in future, including a scheme of devolution. As the Irish representation was so much reduced at that time it was not proposed to give any representation to an Irish University in the United Kingdom Parliament.
The present Bill follows the Act of 1914 in assigning to Ireland 42 Members, who will be elected by the existing Parliamentary counties, boroughs, or divisions, or groups of these. A comparison between Part II of the First Schedule to the Act of 1914 and the Second Schedule to the Bill will show that one or two changes have been made in the present Bill. These are due to the following two causes. First of all, it is impossible in the present Bill to group any county in Northern Ireland with a county in Southern Ireland for the purposes of representation. For instance, in the Act of 1914 Donegal and Fermanagh and Monaghan and Tyrone were grouped together, but in the present Bill it is 941 necessary to group Fermanagh with Tyrone to form a single constituency in Northern Ireland and to leave Donegal and Caven as two separate constituencies in Southern Ireland. By the Redistribution of Seats (Ireland) Act, 1918, the boroughs of Newry, Kilkenny, and Galway lost their separate representation, and were merged in the Parliamentary counties of Down and Armagh, Kilkenny and Galway, respectively, and accordingly they are not dealt with separately in the present Bill. By the same Act the County of Waterford became a single constituency and the divisions of East Waterford and West Waterford were abolished. This has necessitated a regrouping of the constituencies of which the abolished divisions form part under the Act of 1914. Further, the three Members assigned to the Borough of Dublin have been distributed in the Bill amongst three groups of existing Parliamentary divisions of the borough, instead of being assigned to the borough as a whole, as in the Act of 1914, and the four Members assigned to Belfast have been distributed amongst four groups of existing divisions in the same manner. This re-grouping is necessary in order to fit in with the scheme of representation in the local parliaments. All the constituencies thus formed for the election of Members of the United Kingdom Parliament are single-member constituencies, with the exception of seven which return two members each.
§ Major O'NEILL
Under what system, in the case of constituencies returning two Members to this Parliament, are those Members to be allocated?
§ Captain REDMOND
On what ground does the right hon. Gentleman embody the boroughs of Derry and Limerick and Waterford in the county constituencies?
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
The basis is population. We could not do it otherwise. Under the Act of 1914 the Irish House of Commons was to consist of 164 Members of whom two were to be returned by Dublin University. The remainder were to be elected by the existing County and Borough Constituencies, and in any constituency returning three or more Members the elections; were to be on the proportional representation system. This applied to nine constituencies only, and 942 all the others were one or two-member constituencies. In the present Bill it is proposed to apply the principle of proportional representation to all elections to the Irish Parliaments, and as it is necessary for that purpose to have large constituencies the same constituencies have been taken for the Irish Parliaments as for the United Kingdom, a larger number of Members for the Irish Parliaments being assigned to each on the general principle that four Members are to be returned to the Irish Parliaments for every one Member returned to the United Kingdom Parliament. Thus the largest number of Members to be returned by one constituency will be eight and the smallest number three. Dublin University and the National University will each return four Members to the Southern Ireland Parliament and the University of Belfast will return four Members to the Northern Ireland Parliament. The total number of Members of the Southern Ireland Parliament will be 128 and of the Northern Ireland Parliament will be 52, or in all 180. There remain two or three smaller points about which I must say a word. The Government have made effective provision for safeguarding existing Irish Officers, and the provisions for this purpose are based on those of the Act of 1914.
§ Major O'NEILL
The right hon. Gentleman did not answer my question which was, in the case of constituencies returning two Members to this House under what system were those Members to be elected, as proportional representation only applies to the Irish Parliaments?
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
Those are not to be elected under proportional representation but in the ordinary way. The law is in no way altered. We are increasing the transitional period during which an existing officer may voluntarily retire on pension from five to seven years. In cases of compulsory or permissive retirement the pension to be awarded may range from a certain minimum basis up to a maximum of two-thirds of his salary, and we are introducing representation from the existing Irish officers on the Civil Service Committee to be set up under the Act. These additional safeguards are being inserted to meet representations which have been made to the Government by the general body of Irish officers themselves. During the discussions on the 1914 Act there was a good 943 deal of doubt as to what was meant by the appointed day. The Act is to come into operation generally on an appointed day, this day being fixed with reference to the month in which the Act is passed. The day expressly contemplated by the Act is the first Tuesday in the eighth month after the month in which the Act is passed. If it is found necessary in any way to anticipate or postpone this day, this can be done by Order in Council, subject, however, to this limitation—that the appointed day cannot be fixed earlier than one month and not later than fifteen months after the passing of the Act. Different days may be appointed for different purposes and for different provisions of the Act. There is, however, one dominant provision, namely, that the Parliaments of Southern Ireland and Northern Ireland are to be summoned by the Lord Lieutenant to meet not later than four four months after the Tuesday expressely mentioned in the Act, that is to say within twelve months after the Act is passed, and the appointed day for holding elections for the two Parliaments must be fixed so as to enable the Parliaments to meet within that time.
Finally I come to our proposal with regard to the Irish Executive. The Office of Lord Lieutenant will continue to exist but there shall be no longer any religious disability attaching to it. It will be open to all subjects of the Crown irrespective of creed. We have fixed the term of office for six years without prejudice, of course, to the power of His Majesty to revoke appointments, and with the intent, to use the words of the Clause, that the continuance in office of the Lord Lieutenant shall not be affected by any change of Ministry. There is no provision in this Bill, nor was there in any of the others or in the existing Act, for the continuance of the historic, but dubiously delectable, office of Chief Secretary. These words of mine, may, therefore, very well be the "Lay of the Last Minstrel."
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
And I would end them with an appeal. I ask the House of Commons, with every confidence, to give this Bill a Second Reading, and to carry it through. Much depends on it. I 944 would beg that it be considered on its merits, without the spirit or rancour of party. The situation is too grave for that. Fortunately, balanced and dependable men in Ireland, and wise men of good-will in all parties in this country, realise that gravity; and sinking in the interests of world and Imperial peace, and of the internal happiness and contentment of our country, their long-cherished antagonisms, are determined to support this measure, which alone holds the field, which alone has any chance of success, and which alone, by facing hard realities and providing for their gradual abatement and ultimate obliteration, can secure what we all desire, a united Ireland within the Empire, who shall flourish in prosperity and peace as the mistress of her own destiny.
§ Mr. CLYNES
I beg to move to leave out the word "now", and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."
I am sure the House desires to express its indebtedness to the right hon. Gentleman for the lucidity, and unusual speed for such an occasion, with which he has explained the provisions of this rather lengthy and complicated measure. My name is associated with a Motion on the Paper asking the House to give a Second Heading to this Bill on this day six months. In moving that Motion I am conscious that other men who have discharged a similar office in previous years have done so because they were opposed to self-government as it has long been demanded in Ireland. I am not opposed to self-government. I firmly believe in the justice and wisdom of extending the fullest possible measure of self-government to that country, and I am here to move this Motion because I am convinced, and those for whom I speak, that this Bill, if forced into law, will fail completely in this object. I doubt whether this Bill either now or in the immediate few days or weeks during which it may be discussed in this House, will excite in Ireland any more interest or concern than the suppression of one of the ordinary political meetings very frequently suppressed in that country. We are discussing this matter at a most inauspicious hour, and I agree with the right hon. Gentleman in his appeal that we should endeavour to set aside all considerations of party rancour and endeavour to treat this measure on its 945 merits as expressed in this Bill. We are discussing it at a time when most abominable outrages are being committed in Ireland, but they are being committed, unhappily, when the vast majority of the people of that country look upon their present form of Government as the most abominable form of government that has ever ruled in Ireland. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"]
Ireland never was more prosperous. Measured by any standard of material advantage, Ireland, I suppose, was never doing better than she is at this moment, but that is not to say that there is not a great deal of the very worst type of poverty and privation and suffering, but if Ireland were to be a thousand times better off than she is now materially that material prosperity would not dispose of the national and of the patriotic claim. We ought, therefore, not to deceive ourselves with the thought that any such measure imposed on Ireland and forced by this superior Parliament will allay that patriotic demand or settle this century-old claim. Two Parliaments are no substitute for the one Parliament which Ireland has so long claimed. I marvelled that that part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech covered no more space of time than one minute, that part which dealt with this principal feature of this extraordinary proposal, the feature of the two Parliaments. The position of Ireland not merely in relation to this country but viewed in its relations to the world at large is provoking amazement in many other countries and particularly in those lands for whose freedom and self-determination this country has expended so much in recent years. We cannot consider the Irish situation without specially noting the ill effects of that position upon the relationship between America and this country. Into that I am not going now, but I do mention it as one of the most serious of the evil by-products which the present system of governing Ireland has produced. The respect for law in any country must be sought only and expected in so far as that law rests upon the consent of the vast majority of the people in that country Respect for the law in any degree whatever in Ireland was destroyed by the events of 1913–14 more than by any other recent events of modern times. Since that time we have drifted in Ireland into a form of government by 946 imprisonment, by deportation, by arrests, by incarceration without trial until recently we have found that the surest way to an Irish prison was to get elected in Ireland by the Irish people for any office in Ireland. But that method of government has so completely failed that that policy is reflected in the tone and terms of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman; a good man, valiantly struggling with adversity, who has shown in his speech this afternoon how completely the system of trying to rule Ireland by coercive measures has failed. In keeping with the usual terms of all Chief Secretaries, with few exceptions, he distinguished between those parts of the population which he described as loyal and those which are not, but the loyalty of Ireland as we speak of it must be determined by the view of the people in relation to their alien Government. You would have in the other parts of the Empire the same symptoms of so-called disloyalty if you had the same conditions of government. Ireland gave many of her best sons when the needs of the British Empire called for them during the Great War, and all Members in the House at the time must ever vividly recall the appeals made from these Benches by uniformed Irishmen who had chivalrously played their part in defence of the great cause of the Allies, and I take leave to bring before the notice of the House references in the petition which some two or three hundred Irish officers who had served in the War presented to His Majesty the King when that War was over. Indeed, the figures which I have seen on this point show that the percentage in relation to the total population of men of Irish blood who fought in the War was equivalent to that of Canada and Australia and not far short of that of Great Britain, and in this petition, expressing their natural desire as Irishmen for the freedom of their countrymen as they had been fighting for the freedom of this and other lands, these Irish officers said:The Home Rule Bill, by virtue of the Royal Assent, became the formal sovereign legislative Act of the Three Estates of the Realm. Thus was a great pact of international appeasement ratified. Thereupon, and as the first fruits of her new rights and obligations, Ireland rallied to the cause of the British Empire of which she had become at least an enfranchised and self-respecting 947 national unit. By 'a free gift of a free people,' as the Prime Minister of England then described it, she sent an abundance of her sons, for whom we speak, to bear arms against the common foe.They go on to speak of the defeat of the Central Powers and of the unhappy situation in which they found their country at the close of the War. Finally, they say:That there has been a violent emotional upheaval in Ireland, with political reactions, is a result that could have been foretold with mathematical precision; and it is our knowledge of the widely organised efforts to brand Ireland with the stigma of these consequences, as well as of the true conditions at present existing in Ireland, which lead us to present this, our petition, to Your Majesty in so much detail.I said that the Chief Secretary—and I think it is a very serious blemish in an otherwise exemplary speech—scarcely attempted any justification, and presented no argument in defence of the main principle of this Bill, namely, the imposition of two Parliaments upon Ireland, but to claim, as he did, that the leading feature of this Bill is the Council is to overlook the real facts, and present what is really a secondary matter as the matter of outstanding and primary importance. Incidentally, if the right hon. Gentleman argues, great good would accrue from bringing Irishmen of opposite political views into one Council, there commonly to discharge duties relating to their country, why not begin by putting them in one Parliament? Why drive them into two separate and probably opposing institutions and then at the same time provide that they shall do good by being brought together within one Council? The comment that I would like to offer on another feature of the right hon. Gentleman's speech is in regard to the points he made as to further land reforms laying behind the measure which he has explained this afternoon. This Government, like other Governments, will be deceived if it expects that provisions of this kind will be equal to mooting the demands of the country for the fullest measure of Home Rule, and incidentally the right hon. Gentleman may be reminded that all these measures of social improvement and of land reform in Ireland can be traced throughout the past generation to the exertions and to the exactions of hon. Gentlemen from Ireland 948 who came to this House for a period of more than 30 years, backed by a great Nationalist and constitutionalist electorate, to seek redress for their country, and in spite of the good results of their labours, that great constitutional party was finally sacrificed to the follies of the existing system of governing Ireland.
This House can pass this Bill. The Prime Minister has a sufficient majority for any purpose, and is able to get anything through the Lobbies of this building; but no one in the House, not even the Chief Secretary, would claim that anybody in Ireland who is anybody at all, with any influence or authority, or who is a representative person, can be found to accept this Bill, to welcome it, to say a good word for it, or to suggest that it would be a settlement of this thorny problem. The Bill is accepted by a few people, I grant, but it is approved by none. Many efforts have been made in different parts of Ireland to procure manifestations of support for the Bill, but I say that neither in press, nor in pulpit, nor in public meeting, nor in organisation of workpeople of any kind, can the Chief Secretary turn and look for anything like approval of the measure which is now before the House. What public body in Ireland has manifested its assent to, or its support of, this measure? Incidentally, is there any organisation of workers, in the north, or in the south, or in any part of the country, which has indicated its belief that a measure of this kind would either settle their demands or compose the differences which exist between the different sections of that country? Two Parliaments, in the judgment of those for whom I speak, would inevitably create rival and separate interests, delaying rather than hastening the period, which I think most hon. Members in this House desire, when there shall be one Parliament speaking for one united Ireland. Can the Prime Minister say that, throughout his long labours following the course of the War, he ever proposed to impose any similar provisions for self-determination as are contained in this Bill on any other people in any part of the world? Surely he has a right to think in terms of the conditions and the needs of people who are nearer the shores of this country than any other part of the world, and I doubt whether it can be shown that, in order to reconcile 949 internal differences within the borders of any country, he thought fit to compel the residents of that country to accept not one, but two, separate and rival parliaments.
Reference has been made by the Chief Secretary this afternoon to the declaration made, I think, somewhere about 1913 or 1914, and often repeated since, that Ulster must not be coerced. No one wishes to coerce Ulster, but why responsible Statesmen who are answerable for the enforcement of the law, and whose first business it is to maintain the dignity of Parliament, should go out of their way to announce beforehand that they are not going to enforce a law if it is carried is beyond my comprehension. There was the beginning, there was the start, in the official encouragement given to Ulster to resist a law which was distasteful to them. I do not think Ulster Members themselves would openly and officially claim that they, more than their countrymen, have a right to resist the law, have a right to be placed in a privileged position and not to be expected to conform to the law if it is the law.—[HON. MEMBERS: "Yes, they would.]—This tender consideration for Ulster has gone far gravely to confuse these issues and to increase the difficulties of the men who have been at the head of our successive Governments, and this attempt now to reconcile Ulster probably will fail, as the other appeals to its observance of the law and to its loyalty to this Parliament have previously failed. I await with a great deal of expectation and interest the eager welcome that is to be extended to this measure from those who represent what is termed Ulster opinion. In their speeches I think we shall see other signs of the futility of trying to settle this question on the lines of the half measures or of the double courses which are presented within this Bill.
My colleagues for whom I am speaking wish me to say that we oppose this scheme of self-government, because it provides a form of partition founded on a religious basis and recognises neither the historic unity of the province of Ulster nor of Ireland as a whole. It gives to Ulster complete control over the fortunes of the rest of Ireland by giving to the Ulster Parliament the right to veto on the assumption of any powers by the Central Irish Council. It establishes, in statutes and in assemblies, Ulster domination by giving the excluded area a repre- 950 sentation on the Irish Council equal to that accorded to the rest of Ireland. The scheme reserves to the Imperial Parliament control over the financial affairs of Ireland by retaining the imposition and collection of the three great taxes, namely, Income Tax, and the duties of Customs and Excise. The control of police is reserved to the Imperial Parliament for a period of three years, and of the judiciary until an agreement is reached between the two Irish Parliaments. For these reasons, we believe that the Bill would not remove, but deepen, the friction which has long prevailed. Further conflicts would be aroused, and vested interests would be created which would be more difficult to remove in the future than it is difficult to remove them now. The Bill concedes to a minority of the country the selection of the form of Government which it denies to a majority.
If it be that there may be found in Ireland a voice to arise in favour of this measure, it will be the forced voice of some Ulster speaker who announces that he is quite willing to accept this measure and give it a trial, but the Bill does not even meet that point of view. Ulster is an expression which has misled a great many people. The Bill proposes to take some two-thirds of Ulster and separate it from the remaining one-third, and give to two-thirds a separate Parliament. The other part of Ulster must be within the Southern Parliament. You compel, therefore, representatives from the North to travel to Dublin and there participate in the general work of the Southern House of Commons. Upon what basis is this principle adopted? Is it geographical, religious, or political? No one of those points was touched by the Chief Secretary. And what is to be said of that minority of Catholics who exist in the six counties? Are you, on the assumption of this being a wise and just settlement, to place the minority of Catholics in the six Protestant counties in the keeping of their Protestant fellow-countrymen on conditions that would leave them in a state of permanent minority and helplessness so far as the work of the Northern Parliament was concerned? And if you turn to the Protestants in the South, what is their position? Are we to cancel all the arguments that have ever been used in this House, and in the 951 country at large, as to the pitiable position of the Southern Unionist and Protestant, who is to be left to the mercy of the Dublin Parliament, whose life and property would be in danger, and whose faith and the rights of worship would be undermined by the decrees of a Parliament in Dublin? What becomes of all those arguments? These are the arguments which, in the past, have justified the refusal of the one Parliament in Ireland, and, strangely enough, are now the arguments which justify the imposition of two Parliaments. Neither the Catholic minority in Ulster nor the Protestant minority in the southern parts of Ireland can feel any sense of security from this measure.
No doubt we shall be asked, "What would we do?" I deliberately remind the House of that, although I know that the question has often been put and answered in something like this form: "We are not in power. It is the business of an Opposition to oppose. It is the duty and responsibility of the Government to formulate satisfactory measures, and we are here to criticise them." I go beyond that. I think at such a time as this, especially in view of developments in Ireland, it is essential that all parties should make their attitude towards that country clear. These are hardly the days for ordinary criticism. We have an extraordinary Irish situation. There should be conceded to Ireland the maximum of national self-government compatible with the unity of the Empire and the safety of the United Kingdom in time of war; the fullest financial and economic liberty, subject to an annual contribution towards the cost of expenditure which is common to us all, and which, by the way, I think some of the more remote outposts of Empire have not fully met in past years. There should be adequate protection for the Ulster people from any sense of danger to their life, their property, or their faith. There should be the recognition of Ireland's rights to discuss and decide in one elective assembly her own constitution and her own financial arrangements. These conditions, with all the terms which have ever been made on the faith of a Home Rule demand, would literally amount to self-determination, limited only 952 by the requirements of Imperial unity and defence, and would ensure fulfilment even of the British pledges to Ulster.
Upon these lines we believe Irish unity can be secured. Irish unity cannot be secured by expecting the South to yield points which the North is not called upon to yield at all. There must be something of give and take between the two contending elements in Ireland if ever the rival claims of that country are to be satisfied. But this Bill we believe in practice would be the cause of even still deeper division, and would stamp the two sections with a claim of having certain rights based upon religious grounds alone. I think we are entitled, in view of developments, particularly in the North of Ireland, to ask what place has Labour opinion? Surely, if the world is to travel as speedily as most parts have travelled in the last few years, we cannot expect Labour in Ulster to stand where she was. Labour opinion is taking shape in Ulster, and, as the Leader of the Opposition said very distinctly only a few days ago, the questions to be settled in the future are economic, industrial, and social questions. Those divisions which have made men foolishly fight and wrangle in the past can be allayed, and we are not as likely, I think, to proceed to smash each other's heads in the future, for the love of God, as has been done in the past. The shipyard workers, the linen workers, and the agricultural workers in the North of Ireland are, I think, in the years immediately ahead of us likely to be more concerned about the condition of their houses, their general social and industrial conditions, and their standard of livelihood than about most of these things, important as they are, which have unfortunately divided them in the past.
The remedy, as we believe, for this Irish trouble is to cease governing Ireland by force, not next month or next year, or after this Bill is passed, but to cease governing Ireland by force now. It is really a wonder if the Prime Minister expects us and expects Ireland seriously to surrender our and her energies to a consideration of the question at a time when you have a condition of government in Ireland such as we would say any foreign country ought to be ashamed of if a similar condition of government were imposed by them. We must drop coercion. 953 Political prisoners should be released and we should reverse the whole system of Irish administration. I do not know how many Members of Parliament in Ireland are in gaol without trial. As I said at the beginning of my remarks, the sure way to get to an English prison is to get elected for an Irish constituency. You need not commit crime; you need not incite crime. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Hon. Members will have their opportunity to deal with these observations. As I was speaking as a Labour man, if I may mention it, I have particularly in mind the case of Mr. O'Brien, the respected head of the Irish trade union movement, brought over from Ireland without charge, without trial, and resting in an English prison. What would any hon. Member of this House think if it were possible for that to take place in his case? I am sure his constituency would be the first to offer some protest against illegalities and wrongs of that sort, and we are entitled to say that Labour men ought not to be subjected to these indignities if we ourselves have a right to resent them in the case of other men.
Labour would apply to Ireland the principle of self-determination, as I have described it, and as it is practised in the self-governing dominions. A constitution conferring self-government on Ireland should not be revised by the Irish people until after an agreed number of years, during which, under the broadest system of self-government, they would be able to return to a normal state of mind. It is no trifling to say that the mind of Ireland at this moment cannot possibly be in a normal state. When Ireland is free from the anger and bitterness which now exist—and she could be so free by reversing the existing system of governing Ireland by coercion—then would be the moment to offer, not merely just, but, I would even say, generous terms for self-determination and self-government such as she has long rightly claimed. Dominion self-government, with full protection for minorities, which all of us are ready to concede, would mean unity both in substance and in sentiment as against the animosities and hostilities which this proposal for partition will certainly engender. But if this line is not acceptable to the Government, there is an alternative which is well worth their consideration, in spite of the failure of the 954 attempt to get Irishmen themselves to frame a constitution—I mean the failure which resulted from the sittings a year or two ago of the Irish Convention. That failure, by the way, was almost anticipated, if not evoked, by the statement that, unless there was a measure of agreement, if not unanimity, nothing could result from the deliberations of that body. It is a pity that the body itself was constituted as it was, and the greater pity still that its deliberations were anticipated by the statement I have just made. An alternative to the Bill of this Government might well have been sought by assembling an Irish constituent assembly representing the whole Irish people and elected upon some basis of Proportional Representation. The assembly could be charged with the task of drafting the new constitution within the terms of the principle of self-determination, and it could make full provision for the protection of minorities, for questions of defence and for foreign relations being reserved to the imperial Parliament.
§ Mr. CLYNES
I think the answer to that question is, Is it likely that the Sinn Feiners would convene or have anything to do with this half-hearted Parliament set up under this particular Bill? I am suggesting to the House—and I believe it is as near a certainty as it can be—that the great body of Irish opinion—leaving out what might be termed, in this instance, the negligible quantity of irreconcilable extremists who may accept nothing—would respond to the course I have suggested. Given a reversal of coercion, given a complete change in the attitude of force towards Ireland and the convening of a properly-elected body of this kind, I believe the great mass of Nationalist and Unionist opinion would respond to such an approach. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about the Sinn Feiners?"] I have already answered the question put to me as to the attitude of the Sinn Feiners in Ireland.
§ Mr. SEDDON
Has the right hon. Gentleman got the figures for the last municipal elections in Ireland?
§ Mr. CLYNES
If I had those figures I should have to consider them in relation 955 to what is the conduct of the British Government in Ireland now. Hon. Members evidently have not caught what was in my mind. If we want a change in the attitude of Ireland we must begin by changing our own. It is only by a reversal of the position of our Government in relation to the mass of the people—I do not, of course, mean in relation to those who commit crime, of those who are violating the normal law. I do not mean that, but I say if we want the mass of the people to respond to our friendly approaches for setting up a system of Home Rule in Ireland we must begin by altering our own attitude towards them.
Finally, I say that the growth of labour opinion in Ireland, which clearly has been neglected by those who have framed this Bill, makes for a more forcible assertion of the right of the Irish people to have one Parliament. Opinion changes in Ireland, in the North of Ireland as well as in the South, as well as in this country. The right hon. Gentleman, the Prime Minister, who has fought so many fights in the cause of religious freedom, ought never to have touched a measure of this kind, which surely will deepen those differences and religious animosities which he, no doubt, would himself desire to allay. We have one right and only one as the Imperial Parliament to withhold any longer the demand of the vast majority of the Irish people, and that right is might. It is the only thing which gives any claim whatever to refuse what has been asked. However good your government may be it never can be a substitute for a government of the people of Ireland by themselves. The best of government is not a substitute for self-government. We who fought against might when it was exhibited by the Central Empires, and expended so much blood and treasure—including Irish blood and treasure—in that fight against might, ought not to rest our claim in reference to Irish demands upon what is a wrong, namely, the use of the power of might by a great nation against a smaller one. Let us view this matter from a higher level. After the experience and history of 100 years let us reach the conclusion that there can be no settlement of the Irish question unless it unites opinion and contending parties in Ireland. You cannot, by officially dividing and 956 separating them, ever hope to attain anything like the unity which all of us desire.
§ Lord R. CECIL
The House always listens to my right hon. Friend who has just spoken with the greatest possible interest, and, I believe, with a genuine desire to agree with him if it can. He is so persuasive and so moderate that everyone feels, against his better judgment, perhaps, that there must be really a good deal to be said for his point of view. As to his general conclusion, I do not know that I should find myself so very much out of sympathy with him. I agree with him that this is a very bad Bill. I agree with him that no final settlement in Ireland is possible except by agreement. I agree that force is in itself no remedy. When, however, he asks, as I understand him to ask, for a sudden and immediate removal of what he calls coercive measures, I must point out to him that if we were to cease governing by force, may we not say, as the French proverb has it, "Let the murderers begin." In face of the terrible news which has been coming through from Ireland, I do not believe any responsible Government, even made up of the party to which the right hon. Gentleman belongs, would hesitate to say that the enforcement of the law is the first duty of any government in Ireland at the present day.
§ Lord R. CECIL
I do not think that is a very illuminating observation. Of course, there is law. Substantially there is no difference to England in the law as applied to the ordinary relations of life. The same body of common law exists in Ireland as in England. The difficulty is that it is not enforced in Ireland. However, I shall come back to that part of the topic in a moment. Nor do I agree with the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Clynes) in his attacks or depreciation of Ulster. Really, I am not going to argue it now, but it is really to me astounding that anyone who speaks for the principle of self-government should fail to see that every form and section of opinion has an equal claim to self-government, whether it is large or small. When we are taxed with using our might to oppress a small 957 nation in Ireland, surely it is just as bad to use our might to oppress a small section of that nation.
I propose, however, to approach this subject from a rather different point of view. This is called a Bill for the better government of Ireland. That is the real question. Is the Bill going to be for the better government of Ireland? My right hon. Friend who initiated the Debate did not—if he will forgive me for saying so—argue the case for the Bill at any length. It was his business to expound the provisions of the Bill. The only thing he said was that this was a Bill to settle once and for all the age-long chapter of our differences with Ireland. I do not know what other hon. Members may think, but I think it would be quite safe to say that whatever else this Bill will do it will not settle the Irish question. Everyone agrees—I agree as strongly as anyone else—that the settlement of the Irish question is one of the greatest political objects of the present day. The real question is, will this Bill, or will it not, bring that settlement nearer? My right hon. Friend has pointed out to the House what, of course, is quite well known, that Irish opinion, speaking broadly, is solidly against this Bill as it stands. I know there is other opinion, which, if I recollect rightly, has gone so far as to say that it would not take the responsibility of rejecting the Bill, but I do not recollect any single phrase amounting to an approval of the Bill as it stands. I have studied the correspondence column of the "Times." Here a number of very interesting letters have appeared. Many of them are written more or less in support of the Bill. But when you come to examine them there is not one that does not demand drastic alterations in the Bill. Anyone who has followed them will find that if these alterations were granted they would convert the neutrality of my hon. Friends from Ulster into one of very definite hostility. Therefore you may say with some confidence that this Bill has not one single atom of Irish opinion behind it.
I remember the Prime Minister, in his speech last Session, put forward as one of his great objects that of conciliating American opinion. I do not know at all what sources of information the Government may have, but I doubt very much whether he will advance materially towards the conciliation of American 958 opinion—if that be a proper object of our policy—unless you carry Irish opinion, or a very considerable section of Irish opinion, along with you. After all, I am not sure that our policy in dealing with a domestic subject should be governed very much by what is thought on the other side of the water.—[An HON. MEMBER: "It is not a domestic subject."]—I do not think I shall be suspected of any want of sympathy with the idea of drawing nearer the English-speaking peoples, but I am quite sure you will only achieve that friendly feeling if you achieve respect. I believe that you will get the respect of the people of the United States—I am not talking of the politicians, or those who govern the proceedings of that strange body, the Senate, but the great body of opinion in the United States—you will get the best chance of getting their approval, and their affection, if you do what is the right thing from the point of view of justice and good administration, and leave American opinion to follow and understand what your action is without considering that opinion too much. I therefore come to the main question: Is this Bill going to improve the government of Ireland or the British Constitution? [An HON. MEMBER: "No!"] Well, now, as to the British Constitution. I am not going to deal with that at any length, but only in one or two observations. To my mind it is, and always has been, illogical to have any Bill which should concede anything like a large measure of self-government to Ireland, and yet allow 40 or 50—I do not care about the exact number!—Irish Members to deal here with purely English questions. Just now it may be a matter of very small importance. The overwhelming majority which the Prime Minister and the Government have at their backs make it of very little importance whether they are here or not. But in an ordinary time, when the two parties are evenly, or as nearly as possible evenly, balanced, it is utterly intolerable that on some purely English question—it may be a question of English education—that Irish Members should have the power to put in or turn out a British Government. That is all I desire to say about the British side, although I think that side is often neglected in these discussions. Now I come to the Irish side. What is the present condition of Ireland? It is simply 959 appalling. We have these terrible and spectacular crimes like the tram murder, when a respectable aged public servant was hauled out of a tramcar in broad daylight and shot in the street, and not one person has the courage to come forward and give evidence, because they are apparently afraid to run this terrible risk without police protection. These spectacular crimes are only symptoms of a wide-spread and terrible disease. I have had an opportunity of reading a number of the Judges' charges which have been given quite recently all over Ireland. I will read just a few phrases which I have picked out. Mr. Justice Moore says:The black record has increased six times.Mr. Justice O'Connor speaks ofOpen contempt for the law.Mr. Justice Ronan says:People Sympathised with crime and the community is terrorised.The Chief Justice speaks ofan orgy of crime.Mr. Justice Gibson speaks ofFigures more formidable than for many years.There is scarcely a judge who has charged a jury during the last three months in the south and west of Ireland who could not give testimony of a similar character. The thing is made all the worse by the fact that at many assises in other parts of the country the Judges have been presented with white gloves because nobody has been brought before them, although these crimes have been specially reported to them by the police. I think that is a shocking state of things. My right hon. Friend, the Chief Secretary for Ireland, in a speech delivered on the 4th of March, made this abundantly clear, and I hope every hon. Member who did not hear it will read that speech, if they want to know what the responsible Minister thinks about the state of Ireland. He said:It is quite obvious that 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.I do not think any more thorough condemnation of a part of the British Empire 960 has ever been uttered by a responsible Minister than that, and it is a terrible disgrace to the British name. Here we are in this House, accustomed, and rightly accustomed, to boast of British justice, and of the skill and success with which we have brought peace and order to the many lands which form part of the British Empire. We succeeded in dealing with the ancient enmities of Egypt, and the barbarism of Africa, and the problems raised by a few of our self-governing Possessions. In all those cases we have no serious difficulty in enforcing the pax Britannica wherever the British flag flies. When I was in Canada I remember being struck with the pride of the people there at the success with which law and order and justice was enforced. I remember one of them telling me how two cowboys came up from the Wild West for the purpose of "painting some town red," and my Canadian friend explained how the Canadians put an end to that disreputable desire; nor have we always failed in Ire land. In 1906, at the end of the Unionist administration, Ireland was, on the testimony of Mr. Birrell, more peaceful than it had been for six hundred years, and that was so. Not that it was prosperous, but political passions were dying away. Had that happy state of things gone on, and had it not been reversed for political reasons—
§ Lord R. CECIL
No, Sir. My hon. Friend knows as well as I do that the entry of the Liberal Government into power was the signal for a recrudescence of crime in Ireland.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that after the Liberal Government had been in power for nearly ten years, on the historic night when Sir Edward Grey made a speech when Ireland was absolutely immune from crime of any sort or character, he said that Ireland was the one bright spot in this gloomy and dark situation?
§ Lord R. CECIL
I am the first to acknowledge the great services which the late Mr. Redmond rendered to the Empire, and I do not wish to diminish them, and I have not the slightest doubt that he spent his life for the good of his 961 country and the good of the Empire. It was the Unionist Administration which terminated in 1906 which had produced peace and order in Ireland, and this was achieved by the rigid and impartial enforcement of the law coupled with well-devised beneficent legislation. Therefore I say the first duty of the Government at the present time is to restore order, and I ask myself whether this Bill will help to do it. I do not think we can suggest for a moment, and I do not think we shall hoar anything of it from the Treasury Bench, that the Government are going to shuffle off their responsibility. We cannot get rid of our responsibility. We are bound to restore order in Ireland, which we hope will become a self-respecting nation Will this Bill help in that direction? This is an exceedingly complicated measure, and every line, I venture to suggest, shows the result of a conflict and a difference of opinion in the Cabinet. The result has apparently been to have three authorities. There is one overriding authority, and that is the Imperial Authority. As we learned this afternoon, that Authority appoints a Lord Chancellor, but I do not know whether or not it appoints through the Lord Chancellor, the judges.
§ Lord R. CECIL
Then you have the National Authority, which is the Council, and a great deal has been made of that by my right hon Friend. The Council is a very remarkable body. It consists of forty members, twenty chosen from one part of the country and twenty from another, but its main function seems to be that of a national debating society, and it is not to have any powers except private Bill powers and certain other powers. No one will have failed to perceive the great contrast there is between the elaborateness of the construction of this body and the functions which it has to perform. There are the two provincial Parliaments, each of which will have very large powers. Besides all this, there are two other authorities. There is the Exchequer Board, which is the great Authority over finance, and there is the 962 Police Committee, a very strong body, which for three years has the control of the police, and which consists of two Members nominated by the Secretary of State, one by each Parliament and a chairman nominated in such a way that I cannot make out whether it is an Imperial appointment or not. That Committee is for the next three years after the passing of the Bill to be the chief guarantee for the preservation of order in Ireland. I think the general provisions of this Bill justify one in the conclusion that it must seriously weaken the strength of the Executive.
Let me take two instances, the police and the magistrates. They are to be appointed under the Bill under sentence deferred for three years, at the end of which time they are to be transferred to the control of the respective Parliaments. Assume that the Southern Parliament consists mainly of Sinn Feiners, who are, in my judgment, as far as I read the evidence and according to the very distinct and definite statement of the Chief Secretary, directly responsible for the orgy of crime now existing in Ireland. I think the majority of the Southern Parliament will presumably be Sinn Feiners. Therefore, the police and magistrates are to be dependent for three years upon this body, subject to the control of this curious Police Committee. Can anyone suppose, and can my right hon. Friend really tell me, that that is going to make the administration of the law in Ireland easier? Let any one of them get up and have the courage to assort that that will really make it easier to detect crime and punish criminals. I cannot think that they really believe it.
Let me take the Customs That is a reserved service; that is to say, Customs are going to be collected by Imperial authority. There will have not only to be Imperial authorities at the ports, but coastguards all round the coast to prevent smuggling. How do you suppose these Imperial coastguards are going to carry out their duties under the jurisdiction of a Parliament elected by a Sinn Fein majority. I venture to say if this Bill passes, Ireland will be a paradise for smuggling. Every smuggler will say that never in his wildest moments has he conceived his occupation could be carried on under conditions so favourable to success. This is all 963 assuming that the Bill comes into force, and that the Parliament is elected and sits. Suppose that does not happen. Suppose one of two things; suppose a majority of the electors in the South and West of Ireland refuse to elect a Parliament. What is going to happen then? What is the policy of the Government to be? Are they going to revert to the present system of government? Are they going to carry on the present system, seriously discredited as it will be by the fact of this Bill being actually on the Statute Book and nominally in force, and with a Parliament existing in the other part of Ireland adding greatly to the difficulties of administration?
Or suppose another thing happens. Suppose they are elected and declare for an Irish Republic. What are you going to do then? Are you going to re-conquer Ireland? What is your policy to be? I venture to say that this Bill, to put it very mildly, must produce immensely increased difficulties for the Government of Ireland. I shall be told perhaps, "Yes, but consider the moral effect. You will have granted self-government to Ireland, and you will be entitled to rely on public opinion to support you." If you have public opinion behind you, you will have gone a long way towards solving this whole difficulty of the Irish question: indeed, nothing is more borne in upon my mind as I grow older, than the fact that it is public opinion which is the real guarantee of order and security in this country far more than any specific legislation. By what right do you suppose you are going to get public opinion behind you by reason of this Bill? Why should it rally to the support of a measure condemned by every single soul in the south and west of Ireland?
§ Lord R. CECIL
That has not been proved. It is a question altogether of speculation. I asked a little time ago if the Government would give me a return of the Crimes Committee since the 1st January last. I regret very much that, owing to misunderstanding, that return has not yet been presented, and therefore I am not yet in a position to say authoritatively what is the full extent of crime which has taken place since the 1st January. But I have been furnished with certain figures drawn from the news- 964 papers. They only go up to the end of February this year. I find these facts, and I have every reason to believe they are correct, that taking the crime of murder for the whole of 1919, down to the declaration of the policy of this Bill by the speech of the Prime Minister outlining the Bill and laying it before the people of Ireland, there were in the whole of that year 14 murder crimes. In January and February this year there were 11, an enormous rate of increase, and in March the increase, very unfortunately, is much greater than that. Then I come to the woundings. These are serious crimes of course.
§ Lord R. CECIL
No. I am trying to show that the announcement of this Bill, so far from producing a soothing effect, or rallying public opinion to the support of the law, has, as far as one can tell, had an exactly opposite effect, and, therefore, the enactment of this Bill will have no tendency to rally public opinion to the support of the law. The woundings during the whole of 1919, numbered 16, and in the two months at the beginning of 1920, the number was 18. Raids and outrages numbered 41 during 1919, and 48 in January and February this year, and if you add March the contrast is still more striking, as I have reason to believe. There were in all 71 serious crimes in the year 1919, while 77 are recorded for two months in 1920. I really do not understand how anyone can believe in the face of figures of that kind, and in face of the arguments I have laid before the House, that this is really going to be a Bill for the better Government of Ireland. Who are we asked to sacrifice? Really, it is scandalous. Remember we are asked to sacrifice 350,000 or thereabouts of the so-called loyalists in the South and West of Ireland. I know my right hon. Friend the Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) says that if you remove the forces these men will be safe. I would like to ask what these men really think. I do not think that they will agree with the right hon. Gentleman for a moment. And these are the men who furnished by far the larger proportion of the recruits who fought for us in the War.
§ Lord R. CECIL
I do not think my hon. Friends opposite would be very happy under the Government proposed to be set up under this Bill.
§ Lord R. CECIL
Who else besides the loyalists will suffer? The police will be in danger. We are going to hand them over absolutely defenceless te this new Government. I cannot conceive that this House, oven on the Prime Minister's immense authority, will really accept such a proposal. To my mind this scheme has no chance. I can see no chance for it. It is not founded on any definite principle. It is a series of expedients just adapted to meet this or that difficulty as it arose during the discussion. I cannot think that this is the way in which the reputation and authority of the British Empire have been sustained. I shall be told that this is merely negative criticism. Yes, but we have to decide whether we will approve this Bill, and before hon. Members vote aye or no, they have to see whether it will do good or harm. Do not tell mo it is no part of the duty of a Member of Parliament to indulge in negative criticism That is a doctrine invented by this Government. We are never to say anything about any measure unless we are prepared immediately, without their official information, without the advantage of their information, without any of those means which the constitution furnishes for the purpose of promoting legislation, to forthwith produce a cut and dried scheme superior to their own. I utterly repudiate that idea. So far as Ireland is concerned, I say, on broad general lines, I am not averse to a well-considered and even generous scheme for Ireland, provided, and that is where I differ from my right hon. Friend opposite, the principles of self-government are applied in all its parts.
I make two conditions, and these are the last words I shall say to the House. There must be some prospect of the acceptance of the scheme, I will not say by the whole of Ireland, but by some considerable body of Irish opinion. It is nonsense, fantastic nonsense, to enforce any scheme of self-government on a country that utterly rejects it. What kind of self-government is that which the whole people of a country refuse? The other condition that I put is that you 966 must not try constitutional experiments until the elementary functions of government are operating normally. So far as I understand, my right hon. Friend agrees with me there. He thinks it can be done by ceasing all measures of coercion. I am not concerned to defend everything done by the present Government. Some of its measures of coercion certainly appear to me such as I thought they had abandoned years ago as unsuccessful. But you should enforce, and enforce rigidly, the ordinary criminal law, and so amend your procedure as to take care that it is enforced. Until you have reduced Ireland to order and given liberty to all law-abiding subjects, I say that to attempt this constitutional experiment is gambling with the fate of the subjects of the Empire.
§ Mr. T. P. O'CONNOR
This is a moment so grave and so tragic in the history of Ireland, in the history of England, and in the history of the world, that I deem it my duty to keep a curb on every strong feeling I have as regards the proposals of the Government and to discuss them in what I hope will be a perfectly calm and candid spirit. I might have been tempted to make observations on some parts of the speech of the Noble Lord who has just sat down, as, for instance, when he described the golden era that ended with the Conservative administration of Ireland in 1906, and the disorder which followed, and when he attributed that disorder to the proposals of the thon Liberal Government, I might have been tempted to give other reasons. But did I do so I should got into the region of controversies which for the moment I would regard as past. I am not going to say anything at all that may bring my hon. Friends from the opposite side, who represent the North of Ireland, into collision with me. I feel about Ireland, not merely as an Irishman, but, if I may so call myself, as a citizen of the world. On the very first night I took my place in this House, after 13 months in v America, I warned this Parliament that there was rising in America an anti-English agitation which would prove more powerful than anything we had experienced before. My warnings were unheeded. My hon. Friends and myself warned the right hon. Gentleman's Government that their policy in Ireland would bring the results which we see here to-day; but we have not been listened to, 967 and I have no hope that any words I may utter to-day by way of warning will receive any greater attention from the Government than those which they have neglected in the past.
I will dwell very briefly upon some of the points which have already been so well discussed by previous speakers. I need not dwell upon the point that this Bill has not the support of any section whatever of Irish opinion. Take the Southern Unionists. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Lieut.-Colonel Guinness) has put down a Motion against the Bill, and so has my hon. Friend the Member for Rathmines (Sir M. Dockrell). I understand that a meeting of Southern Unionists, held in the precincts of this House, condemned the Bill. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Dublin University (Mr. Jellett) is so alarmed by the Bill that he is actually asking for a subsidy from the Government to enable him to emigrate. The Nationalists, represented by my few hon. Friends here on these Benches, are against the Bill. The Sinn Feiners regard it with such contempt that I doubt if any of them have ever read a line of the Bill. So far as the Gentlemen who represent the Orange Constituencies in Ulster are concerned, we have not yet heard their policy definitely announced on the Second Reading, but if I am to draw any inference from the previous utterances of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Duncairn (Sir E. Carson) and his colleagues, they are willing to submit, but not to support, the Bill. Swearing that they will never consent, they consent to the Bill, but they will not support it. It is an extraordinary phenomenon, unparalleled in the history of Ireland or any other country, that this Bill for the better government of Ireland, as it is called, will be carried in this House, perhaps by a large majority, without a single Irishmen voting in its favour. If you talk of imposing a Bill upon a country, I do not know of any more extraordinary form of imposition than to impose upon Ireland a Bill which has not a single Irish vote in its favour, nor a single section of the Irish people.
It is said that the rights of minorities will be protected. That question will be stated much better than I can by the Southern Unionists; but what becomes of 968 all the vaticinations about the future of Protestantism and of the Protestants in Ireland? A favourite cry when this struggle began, many years ago, was that Home Rule was Roman, and that all the Protestants, therefore, would be deprived of all their personal and religious liberty. In face of that cry, the big Protestant brother of the North abandons his weaker brother to the mercy of all those bigots and persecutors who mean to interfere with his religious and personal liberty. I may allude to another minority. What about the Covenanters of Donegal and Cavan and Monaghan? I understand that if any particular item in the Covenant is more vehement or more resolute than another, it is that, under no circumstances or conditions whatsoever, should that Protestant minority of Donegal and Cavan and Monaghan be abandoned by their coreligionists in the six counties; yet the Covenanters of Donegal and Cavan and Monaghan are given up to the Papists and Nationalists. It may be a surprise, to some English hon. Members at least, to hear that there is a considerable Catholic and Nationalist minority in the six counties. Moreover, do not run away with the idea that my hon. Friends the Members for Belfast represent all the Protestants in the North. In my opinion they do not represent the real spirit of Protestantism at all in any county, but perhaps I should not have made that observation, as I am not dealing with religious opinions. The Unionists were not able to carry an anti-Home Rule resolution in the annual gathering of the Presbyterian clergymen of Ulster, and they had to withdraw the proposal. That, at any rate, is my information, but I will take it that the minority in the six counties represent only Catholics and Home Rulers. That minority is left entirely at the mercy of the Northern part. My hon. Friends must pardon me for saying this, but in my opinion the only minority in Ireland that is oppressed today is the Catholic minority in the North of Ireland. I will not, however, dwell upon that; I will leave that to my hon. Friend the Member for Falls (Mr. Devlin), who knows much more about it than I do. This Bill, which rests upon the protection of the rights of minorities, is full of proposals to abandon all the minorities of Ireland.
Let me take another point in which I cannot see that the Bill carries out its 969 alleged intentions. The Noble Lord opposite (Lord E. Cecil) dwelt, and very properly dwelt, on this Bill as professing that it will restore order in Ireland. Will it restore order m Ireland? How is it going to restore order in Ireland? There is to be a Southern Parliament. Of whom will it consist? I start with the proposition that these proposals of the Government are regarded, not merely as unsatisfactory, but as so unsatisfactory as to be an outrage upon the national feeling of Ireland. Every Member sent to that Southern Parliament will be sent there with the purpose of breaking up these proposals, and substituting for them, not a sham executive, but a real executive—not a sham parliament but a real parliament. As that will be its object, the process will take the most violent form. I agree with the Noble Lord that what the Government wants in Ireland to restore order is, above all, the support of public opinion. I believe that that can be got by a proper policy. I do not believe that this mood of reckless, tragic, terrible madness is permanent in Ireland. I believe it is the result of causes into which I have promised not to go, and I believe that, both in Ireland and America, there is a large body of sane opinion which might be gained for a real and genuine measure of self-government. What will this Southern Parliament consist of? Either of two things will happen. I think the Sinn Feiners will stand for the constituencies, if only for the purpose of keeping other people out, and in every, or nearly every, case they will be returned, and you will have a Sinn Fein Parliament. What is that going to do? Under the Bill it has to take the oath of allegiance. By their policy and their pledges to their supporters, they are bound not to take the oath of allegiance, and they will use that parliament, not for the purpose of helping towards the creation of a united or a peaceful Ireland, but they will use it for Sinn Fein purposes. You will have a Southern Parliament nominally with the responsibility and the power of governing to a certain degree—a very insufficient degree, as I hold—26 counties of Ireland. That is a formidable weapon. But supposing—to use a horrible phrase which has been introduced into our vocabulary—they do not function, then they will not even be able to preserve order, and, therefore, even if they had the will to govern Ireland and restore it to peace 970 and order, they would not have the power. Who is going to keep peace and order now? Dublin Castle? They cannot keep peace and order in Ireland now. Will Dublin Castle be better able to keep peace and order in Ireland, when side by side, within a few yards of it, there is a legislature created by this Bill, almost certainly with co-equal authority so far as the support of the country is concerned? If over you had a condominium leading to an increase of disorder and crime, and the paralysis of all government, you could not have it in a more pregnant form than in thus putting Dublin Castle on the one side to govern Ireland and a Sinn Fein Parliament on the other to present it. The Noble Lord (Lord R. Cecil) gave some figures with regard to the amount of crime in Ireland. His figures were not brought up to the last week or two, but they show a steady increase of crime.
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
I am going to tell the Noble Lord a fact which is even more remarkable than that general statement. There never have been so many crimes, or such open crimes, even in this year, as in the interval since the Noble Lord's figures. Almost the worst crimes we have ever had have been within the last fortnight or three weeks. I call the right hon. Gentleman's attention to this fact. Everybody knows that the Dublin correspondent of the London "Times" is a well-known and very able Conservative journalist in Dublin. I say that lest any of the hon. Gentlemen should scoff at his testimony. [Interruption.] I always understood he was a Conservative. Anyhow, he cannot be described as a Nationalist or a Sinn Feiner. When he sent to his paper the other day a very careful, but at the same time, alarming account of the state of feeling in Ireland, and especially in Dublin, after that unfortunate affray with the soldiers, he attributed the electrical feeling in Dublin largely to the bad impression made by these proposals. If this Bill passes into law, if the southern legislature comes into existence I ask the Prime Minister, and still more the Chief Secretary, to put his hand on his heart and say, "I can withdraw one single soldier from Ireland." Can he? Not one. It is more 971 probable that he will have to increase the number of soldiers in Ireland. Therefore, so far as this is described as a Bill for the better government of Ireland and to restore civil order, it is a Bill for worsening the government of Ireland and increasing the disorder.
I come now to the case of Ulster. Perhaps my hon. Friends from Ulster will be surprised to hear the statement from me that, being a man of peace and a man of compromise, I have always been anxious to go to the very farthest lengths I could to mitigate their hostility to the self-government of the land which is theirs as well as mine, and which I am sure they love as well as I do. Therefore I was a party, with the Prime Minister, to the negotiations of 1916, the breakdown of which is partly responsible for the terrible position we have in Ireland to-day. These proposals imposed upon us especially two propositions which in quieter times we should have rejected, but, although we agreed to the exclusion of six counties of Ulster, we did it under special conditions. There was one thing we never contemplated and for which we never provided. I am not sure that some hon. Members opposite may not have contemplated or wanted it themselves. I know there are many Orange representatives from Ireland who, instead of desiring to build up buttresses standing between the enclave of Orangism in the North of Ireland and the rest of Ireland, would be only too glad if they could remove the obstacle of bitter racial and religious feeling which unfortunately divide the two peoples. We never contemplated anything like permanence. We should have rejected the proposal if it had been contemplated that they should be permanent. Upon my word, intimately as I thought I knew the mind of the Prime Minister, and I think I have had as many opportunities of knowing his mind as a personal friend for many years as any man in this House, I cannot imagine what came into that mind when he made these proposals with regard to Ulster. There is not a line of these proposals which does not almost make certain the permanence of the separation between the six counties and the rest of Ireland. In the first place it is called a Parliament. Why a Parliament? It is only extraordinarily big or rich countries that require two Parliaments Why not councils? The word "Parliament" was deliberately chosen to 972 put the stamp of permanence upon it. Indeed, the Chief Secretary avowed it. He used the words "sovereign Parliament." When any of us in the old days talked about a Parliament on College Green for the whole nation and casually used the words "sovereign Parliament" we were immediately pounced upon as making a deadly attack upon the sovereignty of the Imperial Parliament and the unity of the Empire. And, said the right hon. Gentleman, so that there might be no mistake as to his meaning, "in order to mark the sovereignty of the Parliament we are resolved to give it the signs and the symbols."
What are the signs and the symbols? They are to have a separate judiciary. They are not satisfied with one Lord Chief Justice in Ireland. They have two. There is a Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland and a Lord Chief Justice of Southern Ireland. There are puisne judges in the North of Ireland and puisne judges in the South of Ireland. As there is a Parliament, I assume there will be a Speaker, a Chairman of Ways and Moans, and a Sergeant-at-Arms, and there will be Cabinet Ministers and Crown Prosecutors. Since Jupiter wooed Danae with a shower of gold there has never been anything so bounteous as the bestowal of offices in this Parliament. I see some of my hon. Friends opposite who, like myself, pursue the arduous but precarious profession of letters. Let them be quite easy in their mind. They can drop their pens. They can throw away their typewriters. They can dismiss their secretaries. There will be jobs to go all round. There is a famous passage in one of the lectures of Thackeray, I think in the "Four Georges," where he made a pathetic contrast between the man of letters in peace time and the man of letters in the days of Queen Anne, when Addison got his £300 a year as Commissioner of Excise and Dick Steele got his £300 a year and a gazetteership for writing the "Christian Hero" and being the Governor of the Royal Company of Comedians. My hon. Friend opposite has always got a Christian hero in his leader, the right hon. Gentleman (Sir E. Carson), and I am sure there are plenty of comedians in Belfast who accept him as their governor. The rosy days of Queen Anne are coming to the journalists and men of letters in the North of Ireland. My hon. 973 Friend says they have nearly all got jobs. I disagree with him. Not even omnipotence itself could create as many jobs as the lawyers of Ireland desire. There is one judgeship which is not Northern or Southern, but both, and a great many changes are made in that judgeship. In the first place, the holder of it ceases to be an executive officer. He now becomes merely a judge. As he ceases to be an executive officer of course he does not go out with the Government. He gets permanence. Who is the present Lord Chancellor of Ireland? My hon. Friend knows nothing about him. He may know his name, but that is all he knows about hint. He does not know his dark and guilty history. He has taken good care of himself under this Bill, or the Government have taken good care of him.
Here you have every inducement to create vested interests and to make that partition permanent instead of trenchant. Does that make for Irish unity? However, all these objections disappear because we have an Executive Council. I am quite prepared to treat my hon. Friends of Orange principles from Ulster as men and brothers, but I will not treat them as super-men with higher rights than men of other creeds or other politics. But this Bill makes them all super-men. Nietzsche in his wildest moments never thought of creating a super-man like the Orangeman. What is he? He is at once a minority which must be protected and a majority though he is in a minority. He is not merely an individual man claiming all his rights as an individual, but he is an individual of one section of religious opinion and political thought who is equal to five or six men of another set of religious opinions and political thought. I do not believe the Orange community of the North of Ireland is more than one-sixth of the population. There are in Derry 42 per cent. of Catholics and 46 per cent. in Armagh. That is a very considerable minority. We never hear anything about them. We only hear of the homogeneous community. In Fermanagh and Tyrone, two of the counties excluded under the Government proposal, you have actually a Catholic and Nationalist majority. But the Catholic majority becomes a minority when it is opposed by Orangemen. That runs all through the scheme. This sixth of the population, which is the richer section according to 974 the statement, gets exactly the same amount to start with, £1,000,000, as the majority of five-sixths of the people. Why should not the super-men have super-money?
Look what these supermen can do under this Bill. The Executive Council is described as the bridge and the link between the two Parliaments. I do not know whether that exhausts all the phrases used by the Chief Secretary. I was surprised that he did not say it was a great liaison or some such thing. This Council consists of forty members, twenty of whom are given to five-sixths of Ireland and twenty are given to Ulster. Am I not right in calling the Orangemen supermen under this Bill. Not a single step towards creating a sham power into a real power, or of creating partition into unity, can be taken by this Executive Council of forty without the will and approval of the twenty who represent one-sixth of the nation. I tell the Prime Minister, as I have told many an English statesman before, that he is doing wrong to Ireland and doing a greater wrong to England by proposals of this sort. I have spent twenty-one years of my life in Ireland and the remaining 50 years in England, and as one who knows the characters of the two peoples, I say that it is unfair to what I believe in my soul to be the generous, the freedom-loving, and the fair-play loving Englishman to present him in this guise to the Irish people-In the old days, what did England mean to Ireland? What did Englishmen mean to Ireland? All they knew of England was a soldier with a bayonet and a rifle driving them out not to voluntary but to involuntary emigration, and all they knew of England was the cruel law of England that was destroying their country and driving their millions to other parts of the world. All they know of England, represented by the proposals of this Bill, is that there is a small minority of the Irish people who, because they happen to have the same religion and something of the same blood as the people of England, are made the masters and arbiters and oppressors of the majority of Irish people. It is this attempt to establish an English garrison in Ireland, with all these artificial, exaggerated powers, that makes so many Sinn Feiners successful in their appeal to the young 975 people of Ireland, when they say that England has always been and will always be the perfidious masters of the Irish people against the will of the majority.
This executive council is to have ridiculous and farcical powers. In these matters the right hon. Gentleman is not only behind the opinion of Ireland, but he is behind the opinion of England, and he is behind the opinion of the House of Commons. In Ireland, opinion has gone beyond the Act of 1914 towards a republic. I do not see any possibility of a republic being established either by consent or revolution. Public opinion in England has gone beyond the Act of 1914.
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
The Act of 1914 has been disparaged a good deal. Give me the Act of 1914 with the few Amendments which were contemplated in the Act itself, and with the due safeguards for Ulster, which I am quite willing to accept.
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
The hon. Member ought not to make so irrelevant an observation. Of course, the Act of 1914 has broken down in its finance. The finance of the Act of 1914 was made at a time when Ireland produced in taxation £1,500,000 loss than it cost the Imperial Exchequer, and the Imperial Exchequer accordingly made a condition limiting the financial powers of the Irish Government until this money was paid; but in Section 23, which is the finance section of the 1914 Act, it is provided that if that system of indebtedness by Ireland to England ceases for three years, then all the finance of that Act was to be revised, with a view to giving greater power to the Irish Government. As everybody knows, Ireland now produces two or three times beyond what she costs. Therefore, the state of things contemplated by Section 23 comes into existence, and the necessary modifications would have to be made. If the right hon. Gentle man had approached this subject with the vision and courage which I expected from him, he would have done what Section 23 contemplated. He would have given to Ireland, as contemplated by the section, fiscal autonomy 976 without which political autonomy is no use. Compare the Act of 1914 with the provisions of this Bill. In the first place the Executive Council cannot stir hand or foot towards the union of Ireland or towards the creation of a real legislature except with the permission of hon. Gentlemen opposite. I am not arrogant, but when I am told that, as an Irishman, I cannot move hand or foot unless I get the consent of one-sixth of my countrymen, then my sense as a free citizen revolts against it, and so will the sense of all the southern people of Ireland, without distinction of politics or creed. This Executive Council is a sham. There is no power for it to act in the way I have indicated, unless the representatives of the majority of one-sixth of the people are graciously ready to give the power.
The Act of 1914 was a solemn bond between England and Ireland. It was a treaty of peace between England and Ireland. By this Bill the right hon. Gentleman proposes to repeal that. That is the only effective Clause in all these proposals. My hon. and gallant Friend (Brig.-General Croft) ought to know something about Ireland before he interrupts an Irishman who has spent over 40 years in the House of Commons trying to get into heads as intelligent as his own something as to the realities affecting Ireland. The Act of 1914 was regarded as a solemn Act of reconciliation between the peoples of England and Ireland. It was on the strength of that treaty of peace giving liberty to Ireland that my hon. and deceased Friend (Mr. Redmond) was able to make his appeal to Ireland to stand by the Empire in its hour of agony, and no longer to act on the old phrase that England's difficulty was Ireland's opportunity, except in the sense that it gave Ireland an opportunity of standing by England when she was fighting the battle of freedom against militarism all over the world. It was on the strength of that treaty that tens of thousands of young Irishmen fought and tons of thousands of young Irishmen died, and if the right hon. Gentleman succeeds in repealing that Act, Ireland will regard his action as one of the most perfidious betrayals which she has ever had to endure at the hands of England.
§ The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Mr. Chamberlain)
I no not know whether I shall be too sanguine if 977 I express the hope that this may be the last of a great series of historic debates on proposals for the better government of Ireland. I confess that to me the opening of the Debate is rather tragic and rather pathetic. Coming once again to the consideration of this subject after the close of the immense struggle in which we have been engaged, and coming as one would have hoped with new minds, with a fresh outlook and forgetting something of the old controversy and anxious to make a new peace, we are back again traversing the old difficulty, with a repetition of the old taunts, and with the hopeless possibility of finding any solution. I hope this Debate will take a more hopeful aspect as it proceeds. I trust that as the new recruits to this House who have spent less time in the midst of Irish controversy, offer their contribution to the Debate, that we shall find that we have moved forward, that we are nearer a solution, and that we may in the passage of this Bill through Committee so shape it that, though it may not be immediately acceptable, it may yet by its own merits bring healing to this long open sore and prove a solution of our longstanding difficulty.
The Prime Minister has recently been taken to task about the coalition, and for the statement that under present circumstances this country can only be governed by a coalition. For the moment there is a coalition against this Bill. That coalition consists of the right hon. Gentleman who moved the rejection of the Bill (Mr. Clynes), my right hon. Friend, the Member for Hitchin (Lord R. Cecil), and the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. O'Connor). They are absolutely united in their opposition to this Bill, but there agreement stops there. The earlier speakers agreed upon the condition of Ireland; that it is shocking and grave enough, but they do not agree about the remedy. The right hon. Gentleman who spoke for the Labour party, finding the horse out of control, proposes that we should throw the reins on its neck and that it shall sometime or another come to rest without having smashed itself or anybody else. My Noble Friend on the contrary finds that the patient is ill and in a condition which is a danger alike to himself and others, and he proposes to put a straight waistcoat on him, and do nothing until he calms down, while the hon. Member 978 who spoke last thinks not in terms of the conditions of Ireland to-day, but in terms of long past controversies. And he is satisfied that if we would only entrust him with power and give him control he would quickly unite all parties by the simple expedient of taking the Act of 1914 with Amendments as he himself would think proper to make.
The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Clynes) when challenged for an alternative, said that he was prepared to give one. My Noble Friend said that he might be challenged for an alternative, but that that was no business of his. But there was not much difference between them, on that point at any rate, for the alternative of the spokesman of the Labour party was so vague, so general in its terms that though I could not undertake to be bound by my interpretation of it, as I listened to it, yet I should be surprised when I see it in print if there was anything in it which I could not myself accept. The right hon. Gentleman lays down that the powers and rights of the Irish Parliament must be circumscribed by such limits as are set by the safety of Great Britain, and that its powers must be such that full protection is given to minorities. They must be of a kind to secure that Ireland makes a fair contribution to the common expenses of the Empire. Very well; I accept all those principles. Our Bill is founded upon them. The powers given are the most generous that are compatible with the existing divisions in Ireland. They are automatically revisable if and when Ireland likes. When Ireland by union has shown herself fit for further extensions of power, and shown that power can be given to her and enjoyed by her not to the detriment of the Empire, but to its strength, then Ireland can come with a good grace to this House with demands for which she can expect to receive friendly and sympathetic consideration.
My Noble Friend, if I may deal in rather greater detail with his speech, compares the conditions in Ireland now with the conditions in Ireland when the unionist Government went out of office in 1905. I have nothing to repent of my past Unionist faith. I am not here to say that I think that the policy which we pursued was wrong. But I ask my Noble Friend, does he think that that is a possible policy to pursue now? I think that if it were a possible policy it would 979 be the right one. But I think that it is no longer a possible policy, and therefore it is the part of wisdom and of statesmanship to find an alternative. The Unionist policy broke down for one good reason, because our countrymen would not support it through good report and ill-report for a sufficient length of time. It demanded for its success the continuous support of this country, and when the Irish question became an acute factor of division between parties, when it became the very centre of the fiercest party struggles of our countrymen, divided as they were, so evenly between the great parties, it ceased to be possible to expect it to have that continuity of support which was necessary to secure its success.
§ Lord R. CECIL
I do not know whether my right hon. Friend will allow me to make an observation. I was not considering, at that period of my speech, the policy, whether good or bad. All I was pointing out was that it was possible to restore order in Ireland, and that it had been done at that time.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
If that was the full bearing of my Noble Friend's reference, I accept it, but that carries me a stage further. I take it he is agreed, as we are all agreed, that the Government must do everything it can to uphold law. It is easy to talk of coercion. What is the meaning of coercion? Is it coercion when you hang a murderer? If that is coercion, the trouble in Ireland is not that there is too much, but that there is too little. Of course, it is essential to do everything we can to restore respect for law and protect life, and we will do it. But I do not think that it is useful to turn the Debate on the Second Heading of this Bill into discussion on law and order in Ireland, the methods of the police, the efficiency of the executive, or such other methods of administrative action, important as they are, as are involved in those questions. What I was dealing with is the objection, which I thought my Noble Friend had taken, and which Unionists may take, to reversing the old policy. Nobody likes to be asked to recant his faith. I invite nobody to recant his faith, whether I agreed with him before or not. But I invite hon. Members to recognise facts as they are, to bring as open and impartial mind as they can to the consideration 980 of a problem which, though in many respects the same, yet has so changed during the last four years that it presents itself to us to-day as a new problem requiring a new solution. My Noble Friend and other Unionists must remember that the Home Rule Act is on the Statute Book. The alternative to an amending Bill is that that Act comes into force. Nobody can say that there is any other alternative.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
If my hon. and gallant Friend says that it is possible at this time of day to deal with the Irish question by simple repeal of that Act, he might as well be living in the dark ages. I am not going to waste time in arguing what I conceive to be the idiosyncracy of an individual Member.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
A single Member who has a whole party to himself. We are told that union amongst Irishmen must be the basis of any proposals that we make. When has there been unity among Irishmen on anything except when we deprive them of the offices that they ought to enjoy, and when we actually hear the hon. Member for the Scotland Division make it one of the grievances of this Bill, that there will be so many offices which Irishmen may occupy in their country, I cannot think that the opposition to this Bill is quite so vehement as he describes it.
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
Has the right hon. Gentleman ever known me or any member of my party either to ask for or to take an office under the Government?
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
I do not know when the hon. Gentleman was last in Ireland, but I think that he will find that members of his party are not altogether anxious to refuse offices for themselves in that country.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
I think not. Look at all the appointments by county councils and borough councils, whether under the control of other people or under the control of the hon. Member's own particular section. I do not think that there is anything unfair in that.
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
I do not think the right hon. Gentleman would consciously say anything unfair, but I think that he is lacking in generosity in not recognising the fact that during all the existence of the Irish party, for nearly 50 years, there was never a member of that party in this House who had asked for himself or anybody else any office in this House.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
I never suggested that members of the party to which the hon. Gentleman belongs were anxious to accept office from any Government. I think that it is to be regretted. Had they done so they might have contributed to the solution of our difficulties. You cannot safely repeal the Act of 1914. You cannot safely allow it to come into force. Not a soul in Ireland wants that Act. I listened to the hon. Member for the Scotland Division and, if he had his own sweet will, then when he has cut this out and when he has put that in, and when he has clipped the horns of the supermen, then he would put it into force. Where then is the union of Ireland or of Irishmen which is to be the successful basis for the working of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman makes the same plea. He says that we are dividing Ireland. It is a paradox of ours that the only hope of union in Ireland is to recognise her present division. The right hon. Gentleman says that this Bill is dividing Ireland on religious lines. It is not we who are dividing Ireland. It is not we who made the bitterness of religious strife. It is not we who made party coincide with the religious differences. Those are facts of the situation which have embarrassed every English statesman who has had to deal with Ireland. Those are difficulties which no Statesman can remove. The cure lies in the hands of Irishmen themselves. It can come only from them.
For the first time in its history since the Act of Union, if this Bill passes, it will be in the power of Ireland to create for itself, unhindered and uncriticised by us, a common Parliament for the whole of Ireland. The hon. Member was not always consistent himself. He said that he knew many were desirous, not of buttressing up the old differences, or creating a new war of separation, but of breaking down the separation that existed, and bringing Irishmen together. 982 That is the task which now lies before us. The solution of it will be within their own power. What is needed? Confidence, the confidence of one Irishman in another. How is that to be won? If murder stalks in the streets of Dublin in broad daylight, if Southern Ireland gives its sympathy or lends a passive countenance to disloyalty and treason, there will be no united Ireland, and I say, thank God for that. But if Southern Ireland—I was going to say recovered its sanity—if the sane men recovered their power—
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
We have given you the chance. If the real feeling of Irishmen expressed in this House within the last few years by the two brothers Redmond, if that feeling comes to life again and asserts its strength, as I believe it will, then what you cannot do with force and what you ought not to do with force, you may do by affection, by sympathy; you may win Ulster, and make Ulster one of the proudest ornaments in the Parliament of Dublin. The right hon. Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) objected to any coercion in Ireland, except the coercion of Ulster. Why does he draw that distinction? He said it was a fatal thing that the right hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) should have promised that Ulster would not be coerced. Does the right hon. Gentleman think that he and a Labour Government would like to take on the task, as the first olive branch and the first sign of their statesmanship, of coercing the six counties of Ulster? I think the right hon. Gentleman would find that there was wisdom in the promise of the right hon. Member for Paisley, and that that promise is now as binding on the British Government as the word of any Prime Minister spoken in the most solemn circumstances, spoken for value then received, and spoken not only for himself but for his successors The hon. Member for Scotland Yard—(Laughter)—I mean for the Scotland Division of Liverpool. In my young days in this House there were two unfailing jokes. One has, unfortunately, owing to change of habit, passed out of our reach. It was when a Member in the middle of his speech sat down on his own hat. The other was to allude to the hon. Gentleman as the hon. Member for Scotland Yard.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
The hon. Member said the passing of the Act was a solemn bargain. Not less solemn was the pledge by which it was accompanied, that Ulster should not be coerced. What does the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Clynes) offer as his solution? The threat of the coercion of Ulster in the background—a cessation of all immediate coercion only to be resumed if Ulster becomes recalcitrant. What next? The calling of a new Convention. Would the new Convention be more successful than the old? We invited Irishmen to come together and agree, but they were unable to reach agreement. Sinn Feinism, which he quotes against this Bill, refused to take any part in the Convention. Suppose a Convention did take place and suppose that Sinn Fein had a majority, is the right hon. Gentleman prepared to accept whatever solution Sinn Fein may propose? Suppose they carried at the Convention a resolution in favour of a Republic. The right hon. Gentleman would reject it. Suppose they decided in favour of an Irish army. The right hon. Gentleman would reject it. Suppose they refused to make a contribution to Imperial expenses. The right hon. Gentleman would exact it. Is not the right hon. Gentleman a little rash in saying that he will never move in Ireland without the assent of Irishmen? He will have to govern Ireland for a very long time before he is happy enough to secure unanimity on his own terms. After all, what the House must do is to face the facts. Is it likely that there would be immediate union between Ulster and the South? Is it likely that those who opposed Mr. Redmond will fall at once on the necks of those who, in his day, when he was fighting for the Empire and for freedom, persecuted him and saddened the last years of his life? It is not likely. It was not likely even before these things happened.
I say what is notorious when I state that at the time of the Buckingham Palace Conference the leaders of the Nationalist party and the leaders of the Ulstermen felt that the proposal to bring them together in conference was a mistake, for it was impossible to expect either of them to accept beforehand such a solution as both of them might have acquiesced in if it was 984 settled for them. It is obvious that that must be so in a struggle which has been so bitter and so long drawn out. You cannot expect the contending parties to lay down their arms at once; you cannot expect the combatants to shake hands and be friends and to trust one another completely with such bitter memories so recently in their minds. Confidence is a plant of slow growth. You have to tend it and care for it before you can see that union which this Bill makes possible, which may make the cry of "Ireland a nation" not merely the battle-cry of a party, but a real fact in the world's history. It is in the belief that by a measure of this kind, generous in all that concerns the relations of this country to Ireland, generous in its trust that wiser counsels will prevail and the best spirit in Ireland take the lead—it is in the hope that a Bill of this kind may so work for the peace of Ireland and the strength of the Empire, that we have laid the proposal before the House. And we shall do our best to pass it into law.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer expressed a hope that the speaker who followed him would be able to speak more hopefully with reference to the Bill than those who had preceded him. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman will be able to place me amongst the pessimists or the optimists after he has heard me. I felt almost like a blushing girl when I heard the Chancellor of the Exchequer beseech hon. Members opposite to woo and win us Ulstermen. Why do hon. Members opposite want to woo and win Ulster? Why are the Nationalists and Sinn Feiners not content with powers of their own m 26 out of 32 counties in Ireland? Why do they deny to those who hold views diametrically opposed to them on almost every conceivable subject the right to govern themselves or to remain a part of the United Kingdom? It is because in any Home Rule Government in Ireland the position of Ulster, with the comparative wealth of Belfast and the surrounding country, will be very useful to hon. Members. There has been a great deal said in this Debate about the time when there is to be union between us. It has been said that this Bill lends itself to the union of Ulster and the rest of Ireland. I would not be fair to the House if I lent the slightest hope of that union arising within 985 the lifetime of any man in this House. I do not believe it for a moment.
I will ask hon. Members of the Labour party, who are the chief allies and the best friends of the Nationalist party in this House, who have, I understand, pledged themselves practically to follow the Nationalist party wherever it may lead—I ask them to explain why we should be willing to ally ourselves with the Nationalists? Do the Labour party deliberately ask us to throw in our lot with the men who are predominant in Ireland to-day, the men to whom murder is a daily task, men who are devastating Ireland as rapidly as they can? If they do ask, let me say, once and for all, that under no circumstances will we ever do so.
I propose to confine myself very strictly to the attitude which Ulster takes with regard to this Bill or at least the attitude which I take, and I believe that attitude represents the view taken, or to be taken, by a very large percentage of the inhabitants of that province. With the prospect of this Bill passing into law, we Ulstermen find ourselves face to face with a most extraordinary paradox. While on the one hand our hatred and detestation of Home Rule and all connected with it is as great as ever it was, and in fact more so owing to the action of the predominant party in Ireland to-day, yet on the other hand, we do see in this Bill the realisation of the objects which we aimed at when we raised our volunteer force and when we armed ourselves in 1913 and 1914. Our enemies at that time said that in taking those steps—unconstitutional steps I am quite willing to admit—we were doing so in order to attempt to prevent the Nationalist part of Ireland from attaining their ideal, Home Rule, for that part of Ireland. That charge was utterly false. We did nothing of the kind. We knew from the state of political parties at the time and the trend of political events that the Home Rule Bill was bound to pass into law. All we ever attempted to do and had in mind to do was to prevent Home Rule from being imposed upon Ulster. Fortunately our volunteers never came into contact with the forces either of the Crown or Nationalists or anybody else. The War intervened and put a stop to our domestic quarrels as everybody knows, and our thoughts were 986 turned to other and more important matters. What would have happened if war had not intervened probably only the right hon. Member for Paisley can tell. We do not know, but it is safe to assume that the Government at the commencement of the War realised that it could not with impunity impose Home Rule, with a Dublin Parliament, on practically a million of the Kingdom's most loyal and patriotic citizens.
With impunity, and that covers a whole lot of things. If the hon. Member would like to know exactly what I mean, I will tell him. If the Ulster Volunteers had come into contact with the forces of the Crown, and I thank God they never did, I believe that the very first loyal Ulsterman who would have been shot and the very first drop of Protestant Ulster blood which would have been shed would have aroused such a howl of indignation, not only over England, but throughout the whole British Empire, that the Radical Government and the then Prime Minister would have been swept away like leaves before the wind. Fortunately that did not happen. War broke out and the Act of 1914 was put on the Statute Book. How it got there I do not intend to waste time in recounting. But when it was put on the Statute Book, a pledge was given that when the War was over no attempt would be made to impose it until Amendments had been added safeguarding the position of Ulster. The Bill to-day is the Amending Bill which was promised at that time, and because it gives Ulster a Parliament of its own, and sets up a state of affairs which will prevent, I believe, for all time Ulster being forced into a Parliament in Dublin without its own consent; because it does those two things, I say that the Bill practically gives us everything that we fought for, everything that we armed ourselves for and to attain which we raised our Volunteers in 1913 and 1914. As the House is probably aware, the Ulster Unionist Council, which is the mouthpiece of Unionist opinion in Ulster, has recommended the Ulster Members not to vote against this Bill, but at the same time to take no responsibility for passing it into law. I took part in those 987 deliberations, as did most of my friends sitting near me, and I entirely agree with the line of action recommended by that body, and I intend to act on it.
I feel, however, that the fact that an Ulster Member, especially one who has fought against Home Rule for eighteen years in this House, should abstain from voting against a measure of Homo Rule merely because Ulster is excluded from it, requires more than a passing explanation. I say quite frankly, if I thought the defeat of this Bill would end the whole of the controversy I would move heaven and earth to have it defeated, but I am under no such delusion as that, and I have to confess sorrowfully but definitely that I believe Home Rule in some shape or form, either now or in the immediate future, is inevitable. If one wanted any further proof of that there is the speech which has just been made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the fact that the Government are determined to pass this Bill. That they should bring forward such a Bill at a moment when the overwhelming majority of the Roman Catholic population of Ireland is in practically open rebellion against this country, and when outrage stalks through the south and west of the country almost absolutely unchecked, and when officials of the Crown are murdered day after day, and not only officials of the Crown, but the King's own private subjects, and when, in fact, Ireland is groaning under a condition of lawlessness, the like of which has never been known before, I say if any proof were needed that Homo Rule is inevitable it would be the fact that the Government have introduced this Bill and have confessed themselves determined to carry it into law at such a time as this. If they do that at this time, how much more would they do it in five or six years' time when Ireland has been reduced once more to a peaceful condition. I am arguing and trying to show why I consider Home Rule absolutely inevitable.
Before the War the whole of the Liberal party and the Labour party were in favour of Home Rule without any partition. To-day, I very gratefully acknowledge that the Liberal Members of the Coalition have recognised the right of Ulster to separate treatment. But while 988 from the Ulster position that is a great advance, from the point of view of the inevitability of Home Rule we must recognise that the whole of the Unionist Members of the Coalition have abandoned their opposition to Home Rule and are now prepared to vote for Home Rule. That is a very significant fact. It is true that a certain number of Unionist Members have lately developed a certain activity in opposition to this Bill and I understand that a certain number of them have interviewed the Leader of the House on the subject, but they must know perfectly well that such action as that at such a time is perfectly futile. If they were really opposed to the Bill the time to have raised their voice in opposition to it was over a year ago when the lines on which this Coalition Government was being formed were being discussed. They did not do that, and therefore I say they are out of court and their action will be futile in seriously opposing the Bill to-day. There is another section of the Unionist party, influenced I believe by the Unionists in the south and west of Ireland, who, I understand, are opposed to the Bill containing separate treatment of Ulster. Frankly, I cannot understand the attitude taken up by those hon. Gentlemen, because I should have thought if there was any one thing that would have been said to have been in the forefront of the Unionist programme more than another it was the safeguarding of the interests of Ulster in case of any Home Rule Bill being introduced into this House. There fore, I do not greatly fear the efforts of those Gentlemen to interfere with the position which has been accorded to Ulster in this Bill.
The inevitability of Homo Rule is seen in the constituencies also. I have had to deal with an organisation that has had to send out speakers on the Ulster position and speakers against Home Rule. I found almost without exception that whilst speakers who are prepared to put the Ulster case before a constituency are welcome, speakers whose intention it is to speak against Home Rule as a whole are not wanted. Under those circumstances, and taking those facts into consideration, is it to be wondered at that I and my colleagues for Ulster have come to the conclusion that all parties in the State have determined to pass the Home Rule Bill and that Home Rule either 989 new or in the very near future is absolutely inevitable? Having arrived at that conclusion, I take it that the duty of Ulster's representatives is to see that the position of Ulster is made as secure as possible.
§ 8.0 P.M.
I will deal with that in a moment. When the Government made it known that a Bill was to be introduced giving separate treatment to Ulster, three problems of the gravest character faced the Ulster Members of Parliament and the Ulster people. The first of those was the attitude which we were to take towards the Bill, and that I have already dealt with; the second was as to the area of the excluded area; and thirdly we had to ask ourselves the question, Were we to ask for a Parliament of our own in Ulster, or were we to ask to be loft as part of the United Kingdom, sending Members as at present to this House? We would much prefer to remain part and parcel of the United Kingdom. We have prospered, we have made our province prosperous under the Union, and under the laws passed by this House and administered by officers appointed by this House. We do not in any way desire to recede from a position which has been in every way satisfactory to us, but we have many enemies in this country, and we feel that an Ulster without a Parliament of its own would not be in nearly as strong a position as one in which a Parliament had been set up where the Executive had been appointed and where above all the paraphernalia of Government was already in existence. We believe that so long as we were without a Parliament of our own constant attacks would be made upon us, and constant attempts would be made by the hon. Member opposite (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) and his friends to draw us into a Dublin Parliament, and that is the last thing in the world that we desire to see happen. We profoundly distrust the Labour party and we profoundly distrust the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith), We believe that if either of those parties, or the two in combination, were once more in power our chances; of remaining a part of the United Kingdom would be very 990 small indeed. We see our safety, therefore, in having a Parliament of our own, for we believe that once a Parliament is sot up and working well, as I have no doubt it would in Ulster, we should fear no one, and we feel that we would then be in a position of absolute security and that we could remain in that position until such time as we of our own volition and desire wished to join the hon. Member (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) opposite. That contingency, I repeat, is some considerable way off. We do not know how long, if we did not take a Parliament, our Unionist friends in this country could hold the fort against the forces which would be brought to bear upon them, and we know that the attempts on our liberty would be repeated time and again, and therefore I say that we prefer to have a Parliament, although we do not want one of our own. Our position under such a Parliament will not be as good as it is at the present moment, for we should be then, to a certain extent, separated from England, and our businesses would undoubtedly suffer, though I admit readily that on the other hand the removal of the menace of a Dublin Home Rule Parliament would do very much to stimulate trade and commerce, which has undoubtedly suffered from the fact that this sword of Damocles has been hanging over our heads for so many years.
I come now to the third and the most distressing of the problems we had to face, and I refer to that of the area. As hon. Members know, the area over which the North of Ireland Parliament is to have jurisdiction is the six counties of Antrim, Down, Armagh, Londonderry, Tyrone and Fermanagh. The three Ulster counties of Monaghan, Cavan and Donegal are to be handed over to the South of Ireland Parliament. How the position of affairs in a Parliament of nine counties and in a Parliament of six counties would be is shortly this. If we had a nine counties' Parliament, with 64 Members, the Unionist majority would be about three or four, but in a six counties' Parliament, with 52 Members, the Unionist majority would be about 10. The three excluded counties contain some 70,000 Unionists and 260,000 Sinn Feiners and Nationalists, and the addition of that large block of Sinn Feiners and National- 991 ists would reduce our majority to such a level that no sane man would undertake to carry on a Parliament with it. That is the position with which we were faced when we had to take the decision a few days ago as to whether we should call upon the Government to include the nine counties in the Bill or be satisfied with the six. It will be seen that the majority of Unionists in the nine counties' Parliament is very small indeed. A couple of Members sick, or two or three Members absent for some accidental reason, might in one evening hand over the entire Ulster Parliament and the entire Ulster position, for which we have fought so hard and so long, to the hon. Member and his friends, and that, of course, is a dreadful thing to contemplate. Nothing—and I say this with all sincerity, and I am sure everybody will believe me—nothing was more heartbreaking to us than to take the decision which we felt we had to take a few days ago in Belfast when we decreed more or less that our Unionist fellow countrymen in the three counties of Monaghan, Cavan and Donegal should remain outside the Ulster Parliament; but in judging our action we must ask hon. Members to try and place themselves in our position. They must remember that we are charged with the defence of the Ulster position, and surely that carries with it the duty of undertaking the government and the defence of as much of Ulster as we can hold. We quite frankly admit that we cannot hold the nine counties. I have given the respective figures of the Unionist and the Sinn Fein and Nationalist inhabitants in those three counties, and from them it is quite clear that as soon as the Ulster Parliament was set up, the first task which the Sinn Feiners would set themselves, in those three counties at any rate, would be to make government there absolutely impossible for us. They have made it impossible for the English Government in practically the whole of the South and West of Ireland, and we recognise facts sufficiently clearly to know that they could make it impossible for us to govern those three counties. Therefore, we have decided that, in the interests of the greater part of Ulster, it is better that we should give up those three counties rather than take on a bigger task than we are able to carry out.
992 I knew that the accusation would come sooner or later that we had broken the Covenant which we signed in 1912, when we bound ourselves—all the Unionists in all the counties of Ulster—to stand by one another in the crisis which then threatened. There has been a great deal said on this question of the breach of the Covenant by those of us who voted in favour of the six counties of Ulster, and I am quite prepared to admit a technical breach of that Covenant. But I say to those who charge me with that, that if I kept the Covenant in the letter as regards the excluded counties, I should be breaking it in the spirit, and true meaning, to the six counties. I see an hon. Member opposite shake his head. I would like to ask him what was the first object of the Covenant? It was to prevent a Dublin Parliament being imposed upon Ulster, and I would like to ask him how we could carry out the intention of that Covenant by assuming the government of such a large area in Ulster that we could not hold it, and in the course of a month or two, or possibly a few years, that area had to be handed over to the Dublin Parliament? Obviously, when we set ourselves to safeguard Ulster and to prevent Home Rule from being imposed upon us, the best way to carry that pledge into effect was to save as much as Ulster as we knew we could hold. To try to hold more than we could hold would seem an act of gross folly on our part, and in the difficult circumstances, I have no hesitation in saying we took the only commonsense business decision we could possibly take. On that matter I leave those who come after us to judge whether we took a right or a wrong decision.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer practically admitted that the policy of the Unionist Party had entirely changed with reference to Home Rule. I am not going into any recriminations about that fact, as fact it is. I recognise it, and it is that which makes me state plainly to-night that I look upon Home Rule as inevitable. If it is inevitable, surely it is my duty as an Ulsterman to do the best I can for Ulster. I admit that Ulster has been treated in a generous manner in this Bill. I am not referring to finance, because the financial Clauses of the Bill are, I regret to say, obscure, and the data upon which the finance is founded is not forthcoming, in 993 spite of the White Paper which was issued a few days ago. But that is a matter for Committee. I say in other respects the objects which we set out to attain in 1914 have been in a very great measure attained, and are included in this Bill. Therefore, while I take no responsibility for the Bill, and while I cannot understand how the Government have the folly to introduce, or to think of passing and putting into force, a Home Rule Bill while Ireland is in the out rageous position she is, to-day, and while I shall not vote against the Bill, I and my colleagues will do our best to improve it so far as possible in the Committee stage.
§ Mr. ALLEN PARKINSON
The hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just sat down made one or two remarkable admissions. He said that, although they are not in agreement in accepting a Parliament for Ulster, they really agree to it because they have been able to make such an arrangement as will give them a majority in the Ulster Parliament.
§ Mr. PARKINSON
If I understood the hon. and gallant Gentleman aright, he said if the whole nine Ulster counties were in the Ulster Parliament they would only have a majority of two or three, but by excluding three it would leave them with a working majority of ten. That does seem to me to show that there has been some bargain with a view to imposing on Ulster a Parliament. He also made one other admission, and that is that they are prepared even to desert their own people and Unionist comrades in order to secure a working majority in their House. I think that is not altogether a right spirit to exhibit, at least, to some of their own people, and if a Parliament for Ulster is to be an accomplished fact, I think it ought to be accepted in the true sense of the word to make the best out of it, and not to throw over a number of their own people to gratify their own desire. We are to have two Parliaments according to the Bill, and one is to be imposed upon Ulster. Ulster has not asked for it. The people of Ulster have never distinctly stated that they desire to leave the Imperial Parliament, but, under the present conditions, they are pre-pared to accede to these proposals. To 994 me the question is, do the two Parliaments in Ireland guarantee a better order of things than we have at the present moment? That, to my mind, is the first consideration. The second is, will they be able to restore law and order; and, thirdly, does it tend to bring the North and South closer together? The present condition of things in Ireland is certainly very unsatisfactory. I do not think there is a Member of this House who would not say at the moment that things are in such a state that some remedial measure ought to be brought forward; but whether this is the right thing to bring forward or not, I am not altogether satisfied. I feel that at the moment we are drifting from bad to worse, and that the condition of things in Ireland is very far from what any Member of this House would like to see. The people of Ireland are smarting under, and bitterly incensed against, the present administration. That may be from many causes, but I think they feel bitterly that the promises already made have not been carried out, and they are suspicious of British administration. I think it can be said that British administration at present appears to be deliberately provocative. One does not say that it is. We do not see that effort made by the Imperial Parliament to overcome the difficulties in Ireland, and at present there are no safeguards either for political or personal liberty.
The hon. Member said he had no confidence in the Labour party or the right hon. Member for Paisley. It does not make very much difference whether he has much confidence in the Labour party or not. The Labour party have a policy, and that policy they are going to pursue, and do their best for the greatest possible number of people. We on the Labour Benches feel that the people of Ireland ought to have been taken into consideration in this matter—at least the great majority of people who have not been considered at all. I might make it clear that the Labour party is not, and by its own nature never can be, a separatist party. It is a federalist party, and far from wishing to detach the Irish people from the English, it aims at establishing the closest possible relations between both, and all the workers of the modern capitalised world. It recognises, as fully as the Irish people do, that such relations must be free rela- 995 tions, that is, relations in which the national rights of the parties are fully established. Therefore to say that the Labour party are deliberately advocating a separatist policy is very far beyond the mark. At the moment certainly the Irish question involves a new constitution for Ireland. Whether constitution included in this Bill is or is not the right one remains to be seen. We do not think it is. We think there ought not to be two Parliaments imposed upon one country. In view of the changed conditions the new constitution should, at least, be up-to-date. But it ought to be wide in its application, and acceptable to the majority of people. I do not think we can say that this Bill is acceptable to the majority of the Irish people, because not only have not the majority of the Irish people been consulted in any sense of the term, but it has been imposed upon them to take the place of the Home Rule Bill of 1914 which was never put into operation. Of course, it is fully understood that government nowadays is a much more complicated business than it was even in 1914. During the last few years the War has brought many problems forward which otherwise would never have been seen. The Bill ought to have a new constitution embodied in it of all the best possible elements with a view to making the business as simple and as easy as possible to the whole of the people concerned.
Personally I feel that military rule must give way. Coercion must cease if happier relations between the two nations are to succeed. We have had many stories of prosecutions. Many have been mentioned here to-day, of people being arrested without a charge, and brought to English prisons, where they are still lying. What I would like to suggest is that this thing might be remedied to some extent by a change in Dublin Castle rule. We should have some modifications in that rule, or some alterations in the personnel of the Irish Executive, because, as has been pointed out by the Noble Lord (Lord R. Cecil), crime is increasing heavily and rapidly, and until we have some effort made to bring more confidence to the Irish people, and the Irish people to have more confidence in the Government, we are not likely to have any lessening of crime. 996 Coercion has always led to crime. Coercion and repression still breed crime. In place of coercion and repression we must have mutual trust and confidence, and this cannot prevail under the present régime. Whether it is possible for the present Government to alter the constitution of the personnel of Dublin Castle, and of the Irish Executive, with a view to improvement it is not for me to say. But we do believe that steps in that direction ought to be taken. At the moment, I believe, it prevents the Irish people from solving their own difficulties. It is keeping the nation divided. It is driving them further apart than ever they have been before. It is preventing the realisation of their national aspirations. If we are to have a contented Ireland we must, at least, have something in order to give opportunities for the aspirations of the Irish people to be realised.
Replying to my right hon. Friend (Mr. Clynes) the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that if he had the proposals of my right hon. Friend in writing he thought he would be able to accept the suggestions made. If I understand my right hon. Friend he suggested that a full measure of Dominion Home Rule should be given, with a provision for minorities and Imperial defence. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer is prepared to accept that, can he accept it on behalf of the Government, or will the Prime Minister accept it in the sense in which my right hon. Friend has put it? If he will, of course it will go a very long way to fulfilling the desires of the people on this side of the House. Ulster has been spoken about. But Ulster is not really solid. The people of Ulster do not want this Bill. The heads or the leaders of the people of that particular province have agreed to accept it. But in Ulster even Sinn Fein and Labour are making headway. That has been evident in the recent municipal elections. It was also pointed out during the last Parliamentary election. The Ulster Workers are finding out that they must stand along with their Southern brethren or fall. The Catholic workers of the South can no longer be played off against the Protestant workers of the North. That is becoming understood among the people, and the strength of Labour organisations in Belfast to-day is greater than ever in the history of Ireland. It has been 997 realised, I believe, that Labour is the real bond that will make partition impossible.
This Bill, said the Noble Lord (Lord E. Cecil), whatever it does, will not settle the Irish question. We on these Benches quite agree with that statement. We do not think that there is in this Bill that which will bring about a satisfactory settlement. We still believe it will keep divided a great nation which ought to be united in spirit and acting as one. Irish opinion is solidly against the Bill. The Noble Lord also said that the first business of the Government was to restore law and order. He stated also that public opinion was the best guarantee of good government. I think we all accept the statement that public opinion is the best guarantee for law and order and for good government. But in view of the Bill, as presented now, and as adumbrated by the Prime Minister before the last Recess, and having been in Ireland in the meantime, I must say that during the whole of the tour of the Labour Delegation, we found that not a single organisation we met accepted the provisions of the new Bill outlined by the Prime Minister. We met no individual nor organisation who welcomed the measure. It did not satisfy any section of the community. As a consequence we feel that to proceed with a Bill of this kind is in entire opposition to the desires of the Irish people. What we should like to see would be for the Government to withdraw the Bill for the time being, and having withdrawn the Bill to consider fully, along with representatives of the Irish nation, Dominion Home Rule. We believe if they introduced a new measure on the lines of Dominion Home Rule, as outlined by my right hon. Friend the Member for Platting, that would be a right course to take, and would be coming much nearer a settlement of this great question than we have ever had before. We believe, that is the Labour party, though there is just now so much trouble and unrest in the Irish nation, that with a little bit of friendship, and by the Government holding out the right hand of fellowship to seek to secure the confidence of the Irish people, we should be getting much nearer a foundation for settlement than ever before. The present military régime, without doubt, is a cause of many of these crimes. We all deprecate crime. No one agrees with it. We 998 think crime is entirely wrong. At the same time we believe that if the Government would introduce a really bold measure, a measure which, as I have said before, would hold out the right hand of fellowship to the Irish nation as a whole, we should get much nearer to securing the confidence of the Irish people and towards the realisation of their great desire and aspirations. At the same time they would do all humanly possible to help to put into operation any scheme of Home Rule which might be introduced into this House.
§ Mr. SEDDON
When the records of this day's proceedings come to be read it will be found that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer has added to his reputation, not only as a Parliamentarian, but as a Stateman, by the speech he has delivered to the House this afternoon. I listened to it with the greatest possible pleasure, and if ever there was a sincere speech aimed at the solution of a difficult problem, I am convinced that that speech was delivered this afternoon. The last speaker said that if we would only try kindness in this particular case all would be well, and that the present troubles of Ireland would pass away. I am afraid he has not been studying Irish history, and his recent visit has not added to his knowledge of the condition of that country. I want to ask him a very straight question. He said that he was associated with a party that was anti-separatist. I think I am quoting him correctly when I say that he said that his party was against separation. A few weeks ago in the Debate in this House I made an interjection when the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Spencer) was speaking, and I asked whether he agreed with a republican form of Government in Ireland, and I think he replied, "Yes, if the Irish people decide and vote for it." Evidently there is a clear division of opinion on this point amongst the Labour party.
One hon. Member said that if the Irish nation or the Sinn Feiners by a majority voted for a republican form of government, then the party opposite are prepared to grant it. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Miles Platting (Mr. Clynes) was also a little bit severe on this point. His speech was temperate in most of his remarks, but 999 when he began to speak about the Lord Mayor of Dublin I think he claimed too much. He seemed to assume that Alderman O'Brien was just an ordinary trade union leader doing his work effectively, that he was languishing in gaol as a trade union leader, and that he would be just as indignant if any other trade unionist, like the Lord Mayor of Dublin, were in gaol at the present time. I would like to remind the right hon. Gentleman that Mr. O'Brien's name has only cropped up in the labour movement within the last few weeks. I would take the right hon. Gentleman back to the dispute which took place in Dublin during the Larkin period. On that occasion Mr. O'Brien was the lieutenant of Larkin, and at that time they were in process of creating an array and were forming their ideals for a republican form of government, and therefore Mr. O'Brien is not the innocent trade union leader which the right hon. Gentleman has made him out to be, and I am sure he would repudiate even the right hon. Gentleman himself if he tried to dissociate Mr. O'Brien from the Sinn Fein movement in Ireland.
§ Mr. CLYNES
May I point out to the hon. Member that Mr. O'Brien is not the Lord Mayor of Dublin, and he seems to be confusing two different persons. My point was that whatever Mr. O'Brien had done did not justify him being put into an English prison without a charge being preferred against him and without trial.
§ Mr. SEDDON
The Mr. O'Brien I refer to is in Wormwood Scrubs, and the impression that the right hon. Gentleman left on my mind was that this man was languishing there without trial and that he was purely a trade union leader. I think it will be discovered that Mr. O'Brien is considerably more than that, and he would repudiate being dissociated from the Sinn Fein movement of Ireland. The last speaker said that during his visit to Ireland he never found anybody who was in favour of this proposal, but he did not say that he found the workers in favour of this Bill in the South. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Adamson) was not over pleased with his visit to certain parts of Ireland, and I think he will agree that his party were not very cordially received by the Sinn Fein 1000 element. May I just call attention to what was said about the visit of the Labour representatives to Ireland by "The Watchword," a publication that represents the Irish Labour party and the Trade Union movement in Ireland. In the issue following the return home of the Labour representatives, after they had issued their interim report and their further report, the same publication denounced the report as "a miserable failure," spoke of "The sickening action of the party," called it "A tragic failure" and "hugging a delusion." There was also this comment on the visit of the right hon. Gentleman and his friends:With reference to Dominion Home Rule, the Labour party in England would not find two supporters for it in Ireland. A Republic alone will satisfy the Labour movement of that country.So that I think the right hon. Gentleman will at least have to modify his view that Dominion Home Rule is going to satisfy the Sinn Feiners. They are out purely and simply for a Republican form of government, and it is that we are dealing with. Most of the Debate that has taken place this afternoon merely deals with things that are passed. It is an unreal Debate, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Miles Platting made a strategic détour from the real things we ought to be discussing. The remark was made that you could trust Ireland at the present time. I happen to have the result of proportional representation in the recent municipal elections, and the Sinn Fein and the Labour movements, which are synonymous to a very large extent, returned 184 candidates while the Nationalists only returned 46. Whatever may be the position of the National party towards this Bill or the question of Home Rule, it is clear and unmistakable that so far as the votes in Ireland in municipal elections, so far as the claims of the Sinn Fein party, are concerned, nothing will satisfy them but a Republican form of government, and I am convinced that there is no party in this country prepared to go to the country on the plan of giving a Republican Government to Ireland at the present time.
For many years every effort that has been made has been dogged by cruel pervisity. In 1795 Lord FitzGerald's mission was made abortive through an 1001 accident. In 1885 and 1893, when the hopes of Ireland were strong, another unfortunate mistake took place which threw back for another 35 years the cause of Home Rule. In 1920 we find the Sinn Fein movement, which is a recrudescence of the former history of Ireland. I deplore just as vehemently as the Noble Lord (Lord R. Cecil) the present state of Ireland and the cruel, cowardly murders that are being carried on, but listening to the speeches one would imagine that this was the first time in the history of Ireland that there had been cruel murders, and that of all the Governments that have ever tried to settle this thorny question the Coalition Government is the greatest sinner, and because of its sins crime is rampant in Ireland at the present time.
§ Mr. SEDDON
In 1832 there were 242 homicides, and in 1879 there were 64 in Ireland, but I find that in 1881 in Galway there was one policeman for every 47 adult males and one soldier for every 97. So that in years gone by, so far as crime is concerned, it has been as rampant and it would have been as cowardly, because I can think of nothing so cowardly as men lying in ambush in order to shoot innocent people. In 1881 we had a similar state of affairs. What was said by Mr. Gladstone at that date? He, surely, will be given credit as a friend of Ireland. He spent a large portion of his life in trying to solve this very difficult and thorny question. This is what he said:The worst of it is that, unlike O'Connell, the leaders fail to denounce crime.To-day you will not find a single Sinn Feiner who is denouncing these crimes. Crimes are being perpetrated, and even reverend gentlemen dare not denounce them. I was astounded to be told during a visit to Ireland that in the county of Wicklow a Roman Catholic priest who had denounced one of these wanton cold-blooded murders on one Sunday morning found on the next Sunday morning that no man, woman, or child attended his church, thus proving that even the church 1002 is losing its power over those who are being terrorised by the Sinn Feiners as well as over the Sinn Feiners themselves. Look at the Universities. I find Professor MacNeill devotes his time between lecturing on the Gaelic language and producing manuals of tactics of warfare for the Sinn Fein Army. In 1882 Mr. Gladstone made reference to a situation such as we are facing at the present time. He said that while they had ample strength to cope with a political revolution yet if it should turn out that in Ireland there was to be a fight between law on the one side and sheer lawlessness on the other then, he declared without hesitation, the resources of civilisation against its enemies were not yet exhausted.
We have had a good many speeches to-day. We have had the rhetoric of my hon. Friend the Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool, but after all, we are dealing with a new situation, and it is necessary we should make our position clear to the rest of the world. It has been stated time and again, on both sides of the House, that this Bill is the fulfilment of a promise. It is said that no one wants it in Ireland, but that does not relieve us from the duty of carrying out our pledges. Great Britain has during the past suffered in reputation abroad, because of the conditions that exist in Ireland.
When one speaks to men of our own race across the Atlantic—when one has been privileged to discuss these questions with leaders of other nationalities, these people have all paid the highest possible tribute to our colonizing efforts and to the building up of the British Empire, but, when Ireland has been referred to, they have always asked how it is we cannot settle this great question. The Chancellor of the Exchequer told us he was not going to recant anything which he believed in, but he made the confession, if it was not a recantation, that because of the divisions of the people in this country and in Ireland, we had been unable to settle this issue, which has brought misunderstanding, and has not improved the reputation of Great Britain in the world. If that be so, we are faced with this position. The United States has got a great Irish population. We have great Irish populations in our own Colonies. We want to prove to the world that what has been promised shall be 1003 given to Ireland, and that is the power of self-government. If the North refuse and if the South refuse it, then we shall have this satisfaction, that our national honour will be clear at least, for we shall have attempted to carry out our promise to give Ireland self-government, a question on which there have been pitched battles between political parties in this country for at least a century. This is not the time for balancing party chances. So far as the position in Ireland is concerned no one deplores it more than I do, and I am sure every Member of this House deplores it equally with myself. Much as been made of the fact that in Ireland no section accepts this Bill. I find that in June, 1918, the "Daily News" took up much the same attitude when it said that the election of a Home Rule Parliament now was practically impossible from the point of view of British statesmanship, because it would be agreed that a Parliament with an overwhelming separatist majority, such as that Parliament, would have to be dissolved almost as soon as it began to sit. Therefore so far as our attitude is concerned it appears to me it is clear we have to fulfil our promise.
I want to put a question which has been exercising my mind during the whole of this Debate. It has arisen out of my own personal experience and out of my reading as regards Ireland as it exists to-day. We have been led to believe that these horrible crimes are the direct fruit of misrule and bad government by this country. The question I want to ask is this. How is it that in the North-east corner of Ireland you have trade unionists who are as good trade unionists as any men in this country, who are paying to their trade union lodges and are paying for their politics separately, because they cannot associate with the party to which their trade union is affiliated? There you have in that corner of Ireland those men, good solid trade unionists, opposing this idea of one Parliament for Ireland, subject to the same law—for there is no distinction between the law that governs the North and that which governs the South of Ireland—and yet, under the same laws, you have Irishmen in the North, where there is no crime, while in the other parts crime is rampant at the present time. Therefore 1004 I venture to say that it is not so much the laws that are the cause of the crime; it is the determination of an irreconcilable body who have taken the name of Sinn Fein, and who are out to destroy the unity between this country and Ireland. I should despair if, having set our hand to the plough, we were not able to settle this problem, or to try and settle it, once and for all. I believe that two Parliaments will create a greater rivalry in the desire to come nearer together than could be done by the imposition of one Parliament upon Ireland at the present time. I believe that at the present moment we in this country have a very real need to settle this great problem. Yesterday I was reading the "Life of Gladstone," and I visualised the scenes of former days, when he and the other great gladiators of Parliament crossed their swords in this House upon this very question. As I was reading the record of those mighty conflicts I came across passages where, either on the one side or on the other, there were hopes that this one blot upon the escutcheon of the honour of this country would be finally removed; yet those hopes have not been realised up to the present time.
We are facing a new world, with gigantic problems. All the nations of the earth are in travail, and we want all our strength, and all our time, to settle those economic probems, and that great landslide of tradition, that now demand that is facing the world from every section in every country. It would ill become us at this time, when both north and south, by the shedding of the blood of their best sons, have done something to save us from the tyranny of a foreign yoke, have done something to cement the unity of the British Empire, if it is beyond possibility to bring those two sides together. Never has there been a more favourable opportunity; never has there been a greater necessity for the unity of that country with this country, and with the British Empire as well. We have seen men who fought implacably against each other in days gone by become comrades in arms. I cannot understand the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) in the action he has taken. The very genesis of this Bill came from his association with the Nationalist Party and the Unionist Party in Ireland. Whatever may be his reasons, they will pro- 1005 bably be given when he speaks to-morrow. So far as I individually am concerned, I am prepared to give whatever support is in my power to bring to Ireland a settlement which will ultimately bring them nearer together, and make, in reality, Ireland "A Nation Once Again."
§ Captain REDMOND
I do not desire to follow the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken throughout the lengthy ramifications of his conversion to division in Ireland as a means of bringing about unity to the Empire. Sub-section (2) of Clause 70 of the Government of Ireland Bill reads as follows:—The Government of Ireland Act, 1914, is hereby repealed.That is the kernel of the whole proposal, and that is why, as an Irish Nationalist representative, I desire to utter my most emphatic protest against the action that the Government are taking. I may say, at the outset of my remarks, that, so intensely do I feel upon the question, that, were it physically possible for me, as an Irish Nationalist, by force of arms to defeat the Government in the object of their proposal—as I personally, along with tens of thousands of my fellow-countrymen, endeavoured to defeat Germany by force of arms when Germany treated another Treaty as a scrap of paper—I for one should not shrink from doing so. Recognising, as I do, however, the impossible position of a small nation like my own pitted in open warfare against a great Empire like yours, I take the only opportunity available, and that is here, in your Imperial Parliament, to utter my emphatic protest against your betrayal of my country. There are two obvious objects in the introduction of this Bill, The first is the repeal of the Home Rule Act, and the second is the permanent dismemberment of Ireland. The repeal of the Homo Rule Act may strike hon. Members who were not in previous Parliaments, and even those who were in previous Parliaments, but do not come from Ireland, as something merely to be smiled at. It has, however, a very serious meaning for me and for those with whom I am associated in Ireland. It is a breach of faith; it is a broken treaty; it is a betrayal of the word of the British Prime Minister of 1914. It is the breaking of public pledges, and I do not hesitate to say that it is the keeping of secret undertakings. Public pledges were given to three-fourths 1006 of Ireland when War broke out in 1914, in order to enlist the young life-blood of Nationalist Ireland in the struggle for the liberty of the world. Yes, Irishmen were very useful in those days. But I am also firmly convinced that other undertakings were given to other people in Ireland, that, if they rallied their powers when we did emerge from this War, the Home Rule Act would be torn up, as it is being torn up to-day, and treated as a scrap of paper.
It has been said by various hon. Members, in the course of this Debate, that these proposals do not find favour in any part of Ireland. With that I disagree. I do not say that the Ulster Unionist Members are going to openly support and march into the Division Lobby and vote for these proposals. Upon the very face of the proposals themselves is written the whole campaign of Unionist Ulster, Why should Ulster not approve of these proposals? The Ulster Unionists are getting from the Government of to-day more than they ever asked from the Government of yesterday. When we are told, as we were by the last speaker, that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Asquith) and others assented to partition, did he mean to insinuate that it was the partition that is proposed in this measure? Nothing of the kind. The partition that is being proposed in this Bill was never proposed in any other Bill with which Ireland was concerned. It was never even proposed in the 1916 negotiations. That form of partition was a contracting-out Clause to enable a certain portion of Ireland to contract out of the Home Rule Act, but it was not a Clause erecting in Ireland itself a second nation and building up a permanent barrier against the unity of the Irish race. This partition proposal is very nice indeed. Six counties are to be carved out of North-East Ireland. I wonder on what principle the Committee, in which the Lord Chancellor exercised such great influence in such a purely impartial way, owing to his previous Irish career, decided to carve out six Counties Why did he not carve out more of Ulster, and why was county option dropped? The answer was given only the other day when the Ulster Unionist Council itself turned down the very Covenant by the signing of which they came into existence and refused to fall in with their fellow cove- 1007 nanters in the remaining counties of Ireland, and insisted upon carving out for themselves this little territory where they are to reign supreme for ever more. In fact, the Government's motto is a splendid one. We used to hear a great deal of great British parties in the past having "such mottoes as Fiat justitia ruat coelum. But to-day it is a far finer one than that. Fiat Ulsteria ruat coelum. It is fashioned splendidly according to the arranged plan.
It is sometimes thrown in our face, as it was by the Chancellor of the Exchequer this afternoon, that the people in Ireland themselves find fault with the Home Rule Act. What is the fault which has been found with the Act in Ireland? It is the fact that it was not put into operation long ago and it is the fact that the Irish people were led gradually, by the action and conduct of the Government, to suspect that it never would have been put into operation, and now we see that their distrust was well founded. We have examples of the Government's insincerity. We know that throughout the War there were many occasions when the Irish question could have been settled. We know that the negotiations of 1916 broke down at the dictation of the Ascendancy Party in this country and now the Government say, "You in Ireland will not have the Home Rule Act so here is something not half as good." It reminds me very much of what would take place if a person legitimately demanded say, half a loaf of white bread, and if he were not satisfied with it the other person said, "Here take a quarter of a loaf of black." That is the substitute that we are getting for the Home Rule Act. Neither nationally, nor financially nor economically do these proposals approach the Home Rule Act from our point of view in nationalist Ireland. There are very few hon. Members who know the provisions of the Home Rule Act. It was not by any means the high water mark of our demands here for 40 or 50 years. Nevertheless we accepted it as a settlement of the Irish question and now we are being offered something that does not approach it in any of these respects. There is one thing at any rate to be said for the Home Rule Act. It recognised the principle of Ireland as a nation. It recognised Ireland as one. It is perfectly true that there may have been promises made by 1008 the late Prime Minister in 1914 that an Amending Bill would be brought in to exclude a portion of Ireland. But it is a very different thing to exclude a portion of Ireland from the operation of an Act which recognised the unity of the nation from setting up two Parliaments and thereby recognising two nations. That is a thing that we Nationalists will never tolerate.
As regards the financial position of these proposals, the Home Rule Act was passed at a time when the expenditure happened to be greater than the revenue. But the Act itself actually provided for the contingency which has since arisen. It provided that when the revenue exceeded the expenditure, as it does to-day by a very large sum, the Members were to be summoned from Ireland to this Parliament in full force with a view to amending the financial provisions of the Home Rule Act. Therefore, it is no use saying, as an excuse for repealing the Home Rule Act, that the financial conditions of the two countries have changed since then. Look at the position from the economic point of view. Look at the unnecessary expenditure. Look at the enormous duplication of offices and positions, legal and otherwise, which will be entailed by the setting up of these two Parliaments. Personally, I object to these proposals more than anything else, because the Government do not ask us to create two Councils with a Supreme Parliament, but to create two Parliaments with the mere shadow of a Council. Ulster is to have a permanent veto upon the future growth and development of our country. The Northern Legislature, representing only six out of the thirty-two counties in Ireland, is to have equal representation with the Legislature representing the remaining twenty-six counties. Every man in that shadow Council coming from Ulster is to have four times the power of a man coming from the rest of the country.
Ulster must be appeased. That is the be-all and end-all of this Bill. Ulster up to this has blocked the way of every Irish settlement, but Ulster has blocked the way by political action, by constitutional action, and by unconstitutional action. This Bill gives to Ulster a statutory veto upon the further development and progress of our country. The hope has been expressed by many members, I am sure 1009 sincerely, that at some future date Ulster will join with the rest of Ireland. The hon. and gallant Member for South Antrim (Captain Craig) said that he believed and he hoped that Ulster would never consent to come into any Parliament with the rest of Ireland, and, unfortunately, I am inclined to think that is an accurate forecast of the future, After all, what inducement is there to Ulster to come in and shake hands with their fellow-countrymen? What inducement is this Government holding out to them to do so? Absolutely none. On the contrary, it is setting up a permanent barrier. It is creating enormous vested interests. It is spoon-feeding them, as was described so interestingly by my hon. Friend the Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. T. P. O'Connor), and there is no reason why in their own interests Ulster should ever desire to join up with the rest of the country. An hon. Member cheers that statement. It is the reason, above all others, that I and those associated with me will not have our country mutilated by this Parliament and why we are opposing this Bill. It may interest the House to hear the views of the Prime Minister himself upon this question of two nations in Ireland and the setting up of two Parliaments. As late as February 25th, 1918, the present Prime Minister, addressing a letter to Sir Horace Plunkett, who was then presiding over the Irish Convention, used the following words:At the same time it is clear to the Government, in view of previous attempts at a settlement, and of the deliberations of the Convention itself, that the only hope of agreement lies in a solution which on the one side provides for the unity of Ireland under a single Legislature, with adequate safeguards for the interests of Ulster and Southern Unionists, and, on the other hand, preserves the well-being of the Empire and the fundamental unity of the United Kingdom.Those were the views of the Prime Minister in 1918. What has happened in the meantime to change them? In the course of that letter, he went on further to say:They understand, further, that it has been also suggested that a safeguard of Ulster's interests might be secured by the provision of an Ulster Committee within the Irish Parliament, with power to modify and, if necessary, to exclude the application to Ulster of certain measures, either of legislation or administration, which are not consonant with the interests of Ulster. This appears to be a workable expedient whereby 1010 special consideration of Ulster's conditions can be secured and the objections to a single Legislature for Ireland overcome.That is a very different proposal from that which the same Prime Minister brings forward to-day. The proposal today is the exact contrary from the statement that he then made, and I would like to hear from him an explanation of his two policies. We do not admit for a moment that there is any ground for the fears or the apprehensions that people in Ulster have had and expressed in the past concerning their future under an Irish Parliament, but still we have agreed, both during negotiations in this House and finally in the Irish Convention itself, to provide adequate safeguards for the Ulster minority, provided that there is recognition of our nation as a whole. This proposal not only does not recognise the unity of Ireland but it actually gives to the people in this specially selected area, the inhabitants of the new pale, with Ulster as its centre, instead of Dublin, the power of prohibition against the future development and growth of the whole country, and certainly that is a thing which we can never tolerate.
Before I sit down I would like to put the case from the point of view of an Irish soldier. I was not a soldier before the War, and I had no intention of ever becoming a soldier, but when War broke out the Home Rule Act had been passed and had been put upon the Statute Book, and I believed, as many tens of thousands of my countrymen did, that the Government of the day was in earnest and that the word of England was its bond. I went to France along with tens of thousands of my follow countrymen, believing that I was fighting for my country as well as for yours. I went there believing that when I came home I should come home to enjoy the fruits of victory in my own country under the self-government of Ireland, and here is the result. Think of the feelings of those thousands of fine young Irishmen who went to France, Flanders, Gallipoli and throughout the world, fighting for what they believed would be a free Ireland on their return. It is very unfair that, in view of the political conflicts on other matters, including the fact that we would not have conscription in Ireland—there was no conscription in Australia, and the same view is not expressed in regard to Australia—we scarcely get any 1011 credit in Ireland for what we did during the War. We have statistics, and they will be published shortly, showing that the deaths of Irish-born men during the War were as numerous as either Canada or Australia could show. It is only fair that hon. Members and the country generally should recognise the sacrifice that these men made, and should realise that these men ought not to be treated in the way in which the Government is proposing to treat them. The Prime Minister is not present. I wish he was, because I would certainly put this point to him. I do not think he is a sporting man, but I should think he would recognise the little sporting term I am about to use, and I hope he will take it in a sporting sense. There is a certain term used in sport in regard to the gentleman who takes money and will not deliver the goods. He is called a welsher. In the eyes of the demobilised Irish soldiers and those who are left in the Army the Prime Minister is a welsher. They believe that they have paid the price for their country in their brothers' blood, and they have not got the goods. They have fought for their country, they have fought for your country. They went out and fought together. I was pleased to fight shoulder to shoulder, on the Somme and elsewhere, with my fellow-countrymen from the North of Ireland. We fraternised, and we thought that when we came home we would not bicker again, but that we would be happy in Ireland, with a Parliament for our own native country. We did not want two Irelands at the Front; it was one Ireland, whether we, came from the North or from the South, Perhaps I may be pardoned for speaking with some intensity, though some hon. Members are inclined to laugh, because I feel, in common with thousands of my countrymen in Ireland, that I and they have been cheated out of the fruits of our victory. We placed our trust in you and you have betrayed us.
It may be said that there is crime in Ireland. Yes, there is crime in Ireland, and it is increasing and will continue to increase so long as the present régime continues. Nobody deplores the crime more than I do, but if you complain that the King's Writ does not run in Ireland my reply it that while the King's Writ may not run there the King's word does not hold there. The King's word was 1012 the Home Rule Act, and the Home Rule Act is now broken, and that is the feeling of the people of Ireland. Therefore, I desire most emphatically to protest against this breach of faith. It is breaking another treaty with Ireland. I believe that it has not the support of the masses of the people of England, just as I believe the present House of Commons has not the support of the masses of the people of this country. I am confident that if you embark on this sea of trouble in Ireland you will have a far stronger and far fiercer gale to overcome than you have had in any previous attempts at bringing about an Irish settlement. I cannot believe in my heart and conscience that this is an attempt to bring about an Irish settlement. I can only put my own construction upon it, and that is, that it is the price that has been paid to the right hon. Member for Duncairn (Sir E. Carson) by the Government which is beholden to him.
§ Colonel Sir ROBERT WILLIAMS
The last speaker may be quite assured that there is nobody in England who does not fully sympathise with all that Ireland did for freedom in the War, and to represent England in any way as slighting what Ireland did is an entire misrepresentation. The masses of the English people thoroughly appreciate what the Irish people did. The hon. Member used strong language about the King's Writ and the King's word. He said that this Bill was breaking the King's word. What was the King's word about the Home Rule Act? It was that it should come into force when safeguards were made for Ulster.
§ Captain REDMOND
I cannot allow that statement to pass. That is not the King's word. The King's signature is on the Act of Parliament, the Government of Ireland Act, 1914, and in that Act there is not a single word about any amending Act. The Amending Bill was a Bill promised by the then Prime Minister. It is not embodied in the Act of 1914. When I said that the King's word does not count in Ireland I meant the King acting through his Ministers.
§ Sir R. WILLIAMS
I quite agree. I was going on to say God help England if that is the language uttered about the King's word. If you say the King's word means the King as represented by his 1013 ministers, the King's word was the pledge given by that Act. I was perfectly correct in what I said. We have heard something about what the Prime Minister said in February, 1918. This Bill exactly carries out what the Prime Minister said he would do, and if the hon. and gallant Member will read that speech and compare it with this Bill he will see that it carries out exactly what the Prime Minister said he would do. This is to satisfy the English people that Ulster shall be safeguarded. We talked about a Committee for Ulster. It came to what everybody knew would happen, a newfangled constitution with a House of Commons for part of Ireland and a Committee for another part of Ireland to be independent of the Irish House of Commons, because the Irish House of Commons would have a Nationalist majority and therefore it was feared that Ulster would not get fair play. The hon. Member says there was no fear whatever in regard to Ulster, because the Nationalist party would hold out their hands in reconciliation; but England rightly regarded the safety of the Loyalist Members of Ulster, and the constitutional way of doing it is that both parts of Ireland should have their own Parliament. We are told that this is dividing Ireland into two halves. If the hon. Member would check his historical memory a little better he would not call this the Ulster pale, because it would not be the pale of Ulster at all. There would be no line of demarkation in the form of a Customs barrier between the two. To call her a pale with all the opprobrium that attaches to the word is not fair. There is nothing like a pale proposed by this Act. The hon. and gallant Member and the hon. Member for the Scotland Division criticised the Bill sharply because it provides that there are to be two legislatures until these two legislatures decide that there should be one Parliament.
England has tried for I do not know how many years to have Home Rule Bills. I have been in the House for 25 years and every time that there was a Home Rule Bill I have heard the same speech as that of the hon and gallant Member, threatening all sorts of evils and dangers if something for Ireland was not done. We have had four or five Home Rule Bills and the Buckingham Palace Conference. We were told by both the 1014 leaders of the Ulster and Nationalist parties that there was no use in going to that conference because they never could accept anything except what was imposed upon them by the English people from outside, and we know that this was the reason why the conference failed. The right hon. Gentleman who moved the rejection of the Bill said that we should have an Irish convention. We had an Irish convention and the late Mr. John Redmond was on the point of carrying everything with him. Well, I will leave it to those who were at the convention to say why it failed and whether it was due to outside influences or due to the real wishes of the people of Ireland as a whole. Unfortunately Mr. Redmond died and the convention did not succeed. What is the position of England now and why am I, who was for 25 years against Home Rule, supporting this Bill now?
§ Sir R. WILLIAMS
I think that it is a Home Rule Bill, and therefore I support it. Why? There has been a great War, and the whole world has changed from what it was before, and it is the duty of England to do something to satisfy the legitimate aspirations of Ireland for self-government. This is the one proposal which we have had which gives self-government to Ireland, only reserving those exceptional matters which are necessary, like the Customs, the Navy and Army. No Members from Ireland object to that. The Sinn Feiners would object, but they will cut the painter altogether, and if such a thing were ever proposed I am sure that we should have the support of the civilised world in resisting it. That was the issue on which was fought nearly sixty years ago the great internecine war which resulted in the great nation that we see in America to-day. This Bill goes further and follows the logical consequences of the situation more than any other Bill has ever done. We have heard protests to-day against what was called the fantastic spectacle of two Lords Chief Justices and a double judiciary; but if you were to have the one set of judges for the whole of Ireland, they must be appointed from England. Otherwise if you have judges in Dublin you must have judges for Ulster, as well as for every other part of Ireland.
1015 The hon. and gallant Gentleman and the hon. Member for the Scotland Division referred to what they called the shadowy Executive Council. This body is not an executive body. It is a consultative body with merely a few powers for legislation on matters which affect all parts of Ireland, and both parts of Ireland are to be equally represented upon it, and it represents what I believe the English people generally desire. The right hon. Gentleman does not represent the views of all England. He only represents the views of a certain section of England. Even if he represented the views of the whole of the trades unionists of the country, which it is notorious he does not, the trades unionists are, after all, a minority of the country. Therefore their opinion cannot fairly be said to represent the opinion of the people of England. I am supporting this Bill because I think that we must do something to settle this Irish question, and, as we have been told by the leaders of the two parties, it must be settled from outside, because they cannot make up their own mind, because the Irish people have proved themselves over and over again to be incapable of making up their own mind. If two or three Members would get together to settle this matter, nobody would welcome it more than I, but they cannot do it. They have proved that they cannot do it. They have proved it to-night. They will not do it. If Ireland could come to this country with agreement between the views of both sides and say, "We are going to settle this business ourselves, we have got a plan to do it," England would carry it thankfully to-morrow.
§ Sir R. WILLIAMS
Unfortunately, of course, that is exactly what we cannot possibly do. I did not know that the hon. Member was in favour of cutting the painter altogether and having a Sinn Fein Republic.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
The hon. Member has stated that if a number of Irishmen come together and arrive at an agreement, whatever agreement is arrived at will be carried out, but the reason we do not come to an agreement is that you English politicians are always interfering with our affairs.
§ Sir R. WILLIAMS
That is exactly the thing of which I have been complaining. We are raking up old things as if they were not all passed. If Irishmen will settle things for themselves we do not want to interfere, but they compel us to interfere. We have therefore introduced this really statesmanlike attempt to settle the problem. Of course, it wants improving, but it will be improved by good will, not by criticism. We have heard a good deal about oppression and the, shocking state of crime in Ireland. When did it begin? It began after the Prime Minister had sketched what the Bill was going to be. Is it straining things too far to suggest from past history that it was the hope of some misguided people in Ireland that by a recrudescence of crime they might frighten England into giving Ireland what it wanted? They have tried that before in Ireland. Is it too late to appeal to the Nationalist Members for Ireland to stop it?
§ Sir R. WILLIAMS
I have not muzzled the sober people. I will explain what I mean. Mr. Bell was murdered the other day in broad daylight in the view of a tramcar full of people, and not one of those people, be they Nationalist, or Sinn Fein, or anything else, dared to come forward and give any evidence, although the miscreants must have been known to someone. The whole feeling of that part of Ireland was either in favour of murder or the people were terrified. They leave it entirely to the Irish Government, and then they say it is all the fault of Great Britain. I do not think that that is the way to induce the people of Great Britain to help Ireland. This Bill will have to be imposed by this Parliament, because it is the only Parliament in the world which can give anything to Ireland. It is a measure which gives the two portions of Ireland absolute self-government. It provides, as no other Bill has provided, for the coming together of those two Parliaments, and it sets up all the machinery for the one Parliament and one Government as no other Bill has done. That is why I, an anti-Home Ruler of 25 years' standing, support this Bill.
§ Captain WEDGWOOD BENN
I listened with very great interest and respect, as I suppose every Member did, to the speech of the hon. Gentleman, who has for so long been a distinguished Member of this House. But really a speech of that kind and speeches of the kind we have heard this afternoon fill one with despair. What did the hon. Gentleman say? He appealed to the hon. Gentlemen opposite, whose disappearance in large numbers from this House is the direct result of the conduct of himself and of the party to which he belongs, to stop crime in Ireland.
§ Sir R. WILLIAMS
The hon. and gallant Gentleman should be fair in his quotation. I appealed to the sober part of Ireland generally.
§ Captain BENN
Yes, to the sober part of Ireland generally. If hon. Gentlemen will put away from their minds for a moment the idea that I and my Friends either countenance or approve of crime, it will simplify the issue. Take the case of the Lord Mayor of Cork He denounced Sinn Fein crimes. That is the evidence of the Chief Secretary's own witnesses. He received two visits on the one night, the first from those who murdered him, and the second from the Castle to arrest him. That is what the hon. Gentleman calls appealing to sober opinion. Sober opinion has been put in gaol by the Chief Secretary.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
Does the hon. and gallant Gentleman mean the House to infer that the Government had anything to do with the murder of the Lord Mayor of Cork? Does he: will he answer me?
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
This is a matter which can be answered categorically, "yes," or "no." Does the hon. and gallant Gentleman mean the House to infer that the Government was responsible for that murder?
§ Captain BENN
I was going to answer the Chief Secretary. The matter of the murder is being examined now by a coroner's jury. [HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw, withdraw," and "Order, order!"] This crime is being examined. I shall wait for the verdict, and I shall accept 1018 the verdict. I have never the least intention of prejudging the verdict. But why should the Chief Secretary get up on quite another issue? Here is Mr. MacCurtain, who denounced crime, and the same night the Chief Secretary orders that he be arrested. Then the hon. Gentleman opposite says, "Why do not the sober-minded people of Ireland help to put down crime?" The answer is, because they are in gaol, and because the Chief Secretary has put them there.
§ Captain BENN
Yes. It is an infamy to bring in assassination. Then why does the Chief Secretary arrest the man who protests against the shooting? It is impossible to deal with the question of the administration of Ireland without being carried away by passionate outbursts. Please God, people who love liberty will never allude to administration in Ireland without being carried away by passion. The whole problem is to crush crime in Ireland by getting behind the machinery of government the good feeling of the majority of the people of the country. There is nothing in it but that. Crime is detestable. It should be denounced by every honest man, and is, but that does not prevent the national claim. I heard the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord R. Cecil) say that on account of crime in Ireland he laid aside the national claim. I remember the Noble Lord as a great patriot in the War. The Crown Prince and Princess of a great Empire were murdered at Sarajevo. Did that affect the claim of Serbia to freedom? There is no answer to that. Of course it did not affect that claim. The problem before the Chief Secretary and people of all parties is how in Ireland you can harness the feeling of the sober people, to whom the hon. Gentleman referred, to the machinery of government. The right hon. Gentleman spoke about the unpleasant story of Ireland. Ireland is the only country in Europe which in the last hundred years has diminished in population under English rule. All the newly-enfanchised small countries—Esthonia, Finland, Bohemia, Poland—have increased in population. That is due to the fact that the Irish never have received what they all desire, and have never ceased to desire, namely, the right to, 1019 govern their own affairs, and that is the fault of English statesmen.
The question we have to consider is, does this Bill give to Irishmen the right to govern their own affairs? It is a most amazing feature in this Debate that speakers in all parties have admitted that self-government in Ireland is a necessity. That is a great gain. Does this Bill give it? As the hon. and gallant Member for Waterford (Captain Redmond) said, you must test this Bill by its actual powers, and not by any potential powers which Ireland may gain at the mythical date of an Irish union. I think those who study the demands of the Irish people, know that there are two things that they regard as essential attributes of autonomy. One is power to shape Irish industry and trade in what the people of Ireland conceive to be in their interests, and the other is fiscal autonomy. The Convention nearly came to an agreement on that, and I believe a majority, now including the Southern unionists, were prepared to accept the proposition of fiscal autonomy for Ireland. We say that trade follows the flag. If that is true, surely it is not unreasonable for the Irish to believe that by the management of their own affairs they could improve Irish trade. There is a great deal of this in the demand of Sinn Fein. When I say Sinn Fein, I am speaking of the intellectual Irish patriots at the head of that movement who have been much traduced by the Chief Secretary, and who are men of courage and love their country. Their mind is largely turned by the question, "Does this new form of government give us power to control and manage Irish trade." They take what may be regarded as small points perhaps. They give us an example that Irish fisheries are declining, but British fisheries are increasing. They realise that the needs of Ireland are quite diverse from the needs of England. I think everybody will agree that the Old Age Pensions scale, for example, was quite unsuitable for Ireland, and that it was somewhat more liberal in view of the cost of living in Ireland at that time.
§ Captain BENN
It is inadequate also in this country now. In such questions as insurance and many other industrial 1020 matters, the needs of Ireland are absolutely different from those of this country. Ireland is a country in which indirect taxation is the main source of revenue, as it is agricultural and not so much manufacturing. The White Paper gives the figures as 23 and 12 which are very different from those in this country. In the Convention one of the demands made was for power to pass legislation against dumping. I have no particular passion for legislation against dumping, but surely hon. Gentlemen who are in favour of the little nursling which is to appear after Easter will not consider it unreasonable that the Irish should desire a power which they think would be good for their own country. I remember the Leader of the House saying on one occasion, that no country would benefit so much from tariff reform as Ireland. I disagree with him, but if he says that surely it is not unreasonable for Irishmen who are thinking of Ireland to ask that they should be given the power to shape the fiscal policy of their own country. In those two things, power over trade and over the purse, this Bill fails utterly to give self-government to Ireland. Agreement with other countries as to trade is a reserved power. By Clause 20 customs, excise, income tax and excess profits, all points of the fiscal instrument, are to be reserved and taken away from the power of the Irish Parliament. The reason we are told that you cannot give power to do that is that Ireland consists, some say not of a nation at all, but of two nations. If there were one legislature to control the whole of Ireland the difficulties to which I have been referring would disappear and there would be no trouble about giving a customs barrier to the island as a whole, just in the same way as in the Dominions. But of course there is considerable trouble about giving two customs barriers to the two Parliaments. The Government say it is necessary to have two legislatures and that is the reason for the denial of what is the kernal of any true system of self-government for the country.
I do not know that it is necessary for me to say very much about the question whether Ireland is a nation. The new policy is that Ireland is two nations, but I remember that The Lord President of the Council Used to say it was ridiculous to say that Ireland was a nation. I myself have never understood on what possible 1021 principle or on what facts that statement could be made. It would weary the House, although it is an interesting exploration, to go through all the references that occur in literature and by English visitors to Ireland, from the time of Edmund Spenser, the poet, right down through the ages, to Ireland as a nation. If we take the legislation that we pass in this House, only a part of it is applicable to what is called the United Kingdom. Out of 1,089 Acts of Parliament in the 20 years from 1891 to 1910, only 547 were generally applicable to the United Kingdom, the others having to be modified or altered for Ireland, and if that is not due to some elements of nationality in that country I do not know to what it is due. The land legislation is on a totally different basis; there is no divorce, and there are many other illustrations of the fact that there is something in Ireland which demands special treatment and which partakes of the character of nationality. Take the Irish language. Even before the great recrudescence of Irish nationality that we have seen as a result of repression in the last few years, before the War, in nearly half the schools in Ireland, the Irish language was being taught—in 3,000 out of the 8,000 primary schools in 1909—and, of course, there has been an enormous progress since then. The number of men you see wearing the little sign for those who speak the native language is very considerable. As to the national consciousness of Ireland, the history of Ireland is one long story of its struggle to express its national unity, the description of their struggles all through the 18th Century, the whole story of Grattan's Parliament, and, above all, the story of the last five or six years. In the Easter rebellion of 1916, 600 people, I believe, took part. The Chief Secretary told us the other day there were now 200,000 people enrolled as an army—
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
The hon. and gallant Member will remember, because he gets his information from the same source, that the American delegates who came from America, the Sinn Fein authorities there, in the first paragraph of the American delegates' report told the very fact which I told the House, namely, that there were 200,000 men in arms in Ireland for Sinn Fein.
§ Captain BENN
I do not think it affects the point I am trying to make, which is 1022 that there has been a steady growth in all the outward signs of Irish nationality, and the House will believe me that I do not want to make a controversial point. I would rather read some words written by Mr. Russell. Some people might sneer at Mr. Russell, but I do not think most Members of this House will. He is speaking of the Irish Nationalists to-day.They are inspired by ancient history and literature stretching beyond the Christian era, a national culture, and distinct national ideals, which they desire to manifest in a civilisation which shall not be an echo or imitation of any other.That sums up in a most concise and interesting way the spirit of nationality which pervades Ireland to-day. The answer I know that the Government make to this is, "Oh! there is not one nation in Ireland; there are two nations, and these two nations can never be reconciled, and the fact, therefore, has got to be met." I should like to ask the hon. and gallant Member for Mid-Antrim (Major O'Neill) to which of the two nations do the O'Neills belong?
§ Captain BENN
The O'Neills were Kings of Ulster, and Ulster was the most Nationalist of all parts of Ireland.
§ Captain BENN
The hon. and gallant Gentleman will not deny that he is an Irishman, and proud of it. What about his hon. Friend, the Member for Canterbury (Mr. R. McNeill)? To which of the two nations in Ireland do the McNeills belong? We are told that the religious bitterness in Ireland is so great that it is impossible to allay it. I should like someone with historical knowledge to tell me this: During the time when the fires of Smithfield were crackling, how many martyrs were burnt in Ireland? Not one. Yet surely there were Papists, and what a unique opportunity to roast people! But they neglected it. These wild Irish—you cannot even civilise them up to the point of an auto-da-fé! They are an impossible people. When you talk about two nations in Ireland, why, Ireland has shown a capacity which no other country has shown for absorbing those people who have been sent over as planters and settlers. You talk about the great Irish Nationalist movements such as 1782 and 1023 1798. All those are historical facts, but the leaders of the Irish nation were Protestants—that is the amazing thing. Robert Emmet, a Protestant, Wolfe Tone, a descendant of a Cromwellian settler. What talk is this about two nations? Swift, Flood, Grattan—all the sons of English officials, sent over to govern Ireland. Smith O'Brien and Parnell—the descendent of Cromwellian settlers—and Father Mathew, the descendant of a Cromwellian settler. We must seek elsewhere for an explanation of the division of opinion in Ireland. It is not because there are two nations in Ireland. It is because this country has always had some party in Ireland prepared to do the work of England.
What is it the leader of the Ulster party said? That we, the men of Ulster, were put there to maintain the connection: they have done it honourably, and they would do it even at the cannon's mouth. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Quite so! That is the ascendency party. That is the whole history of Ireland. If you examine the history of Ireland you will find that one ascendency has been established after another ascendency. You first had the ascendency of the Episcopalian Church, then the Presbyterians were taken in, then the landlords, then the Ulstermen, and then the present Ulster party. In return for their ascendency in Ireland they have come to this House and voted for every reactionary measure proposed in this House. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"] Yes, they have! Does the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Major O'Neill) deny it? If he does, I have documentary evidence here, but I did not want to take up the time of the House.
This is a Bill for partition. Partition which has been denounced by every Unionist leader—by Mr. (now Judge) Campbell, the First Lord of the Admiralty, the leader of the Ulster party; in the convention it was specifically repudiated by Mr. Barrie in a special Report. In the latest speech of the Leader of the Ulster party he said:Keep Ulster in the United Parliament. I cannot understand why we should ask them to take a Parliament which they have never demanded, and which they do not want.The object of partition is to save minority, and this involves in its natural course the oppression of many other 1024 minorities in all parts of Ireland. The Southern Unionists are deserted. Tyrone and Fermaugh protest. The Catholic Bishop of Derry protests. So do others. The Bill really presents more difficulties, than it removes. The Divisions are unnatural Divisions. The real safeguard for minorities in Ireland is to give back to Ireland a normal public psychology [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I will explain what I mean by that—to try and get the people of Ireland to think in the terms in which we think.—[Laughter]—I am sorry that I fail to make myself clear. Let me try again. I mean this: In Ireland there is only one question. It does not matter whether you are a labourer, or an agriculturist, or a town dweller, or whether you are in favour of temperance, you are only tested by the one shibboleth: "Are you a Unionist or not?" That is a very unnatural division. If once you could get Ireland to attend to national affairs, apart from this great issue of Union or non-Union, you would get a more natural division. I do not know whether you might not get a change in the representation; you might have a Labour party created in Belfast. The farmers in the South and the North would join again as before—the Labour people of all parties would join with the temperance people of all parties. The Anglicans of all parties would join; and you would get a more normal distribution of opinion in Ireland, instead of the present bitter test as to whether or not a person is in favour of the Union.
The real reason, however, why the Ulster party consented to the partition of Ireland, and the real reason why the Government have adopted this as their policy, is because it will destroy the possibility of self-Government in Ireland. The leader of the Ulster party said:They need fear no action of Ulster which would be in the nature of desertion of any of the Southern provinces. If Ulster succeeded Home Rule was dead. Home Rule was impossible for Ireland without Belfast and the surrounding parts as a portion of the scheme.He said on another occasion:To-day Belfast was the key. Failing the inclusion of Belfast in a Home Rule scheme, Home Rule would be impossible.We have heard to-night from one of the Members of that party that they do not intend to unite with the other parties. I think, therefore, we are justified in deducing from that that the real reason 1025 that they have given an assent, and the answer to the question of why the Government have selected this peculiar form, is that it deals the death-blow at the insistent demand of Ireland for national self-government. Many people will ask, What form of solution would you propose yourself? I am not particularly well qualified to express an opinion, but I would take the same form as has been recommended by nearly everybody on the Front Bench. I do not want to weary the House by quotations, but everybody has said, "Give us the Union if you cannot give us the Colonial form of self-government." Lord Carnarvon was one of the very first to recommend this course. John Bright Said the same thing, for when he was asked, "If you were a Home Ruler, what would you do?" he said, "I would give Ireland the fullest form of self-government." The late Mr. Joseph Chamberlain said, "If Ireland was 1,000 miles away she would have had what Canada has had for so many years." The Leader of the Ulster party said the same thing, and so did the Lord President of the Council. The Leader of the Ulster party said that if you are going to do away with the Union, the only thing you can substitute is a really autonomous form of Colonial administration.
§ Mr. RONALD McNEILL
As the hon. and gallant Member has referred to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Duncairn (Sir E. Carson), I do not think he ever used that argument. I know he has said that there is no half-way house between the Union and complete separation, and that if you depart from the Union you must go to the full demand of complete separation.
§ Captain BENN
The words used by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Duncairn, were:There can be no half-way house between the full system of self-government that prevails in the self-governing Colonies and an united Parliament here.If the right hon. Gentleman thinks that is the right thing once the Union has gone, why does he not support it now? It is admitted by everybody that the Union has gone. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I submit that the form in which this Bill has been introduced is the very worst form in which a settlement could have possibly been outlined, because you deny all the things that are worth having 1026 to a sovereign Parliament. You deny them the power of the purse and the power to shape and control their trade. What will be the result? I think the Sinn Fein Members will be in a large majority in the Southern Parliament. Suppose they wish to turn this instrument which you have provided against you, what is the check? Is there any fear of losing anything, because they have nothing to lose. If the powers of the sovereign Parliament were considerable, then I think anybody, Sinn Fein or others, who attempted to use it as an instrument for another purpose, would incur the displeasure of the great body of sober opinion in Ireland. If that be the fact that the powers are trumpery and trivial, then I think it is possible there will be no one in Ireland who will care what happens to the Southern Parliament. It cannot possibly satisfy these desires. We have been told by a speaker for Ulster that the two Parliaments will not unite in order to get a system of real self-government for the whole of Ireland. What this Bill really means is giving statutory power to the ascendancy of Ulster, and instead of the old ascendancy, which was merely an ascendancy conferred by this House, it will be a statutory ascendancy conferred by Parliament. If this Bill passes you are going to endow by statute the Ulster veto—that is the real objection to this Bill on the part of those who desire self-government for Ireland. I do not want to weary the House: the subject is too painful for me to desire to do that. Many of us feel, although we are not so qualified by experience as my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Waterford, much concerned about losing the fruits of the War. During the War we had some of the noblest, speeches made by statesmen of this country—speeches which really stirred us. The Lord President spoke ofthe cause of small States which desire to develop their own civilisation in their own way, following their own ideals without interference from any insolent and unauthorised aggression.That is an expression of the ideals towards which they were moving. The Prime Minister himself spoke of these ideals of the War in a still more touching way. He said:If this is the day of great empires, it is also the day of little nations. … Around them the greatest struggle for liberty centres.1027 As far as I have been able to gather, my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Waterford agrees with these ideals. The Irishmen who went to the War were fighting for those ideals as applied to their own country.
§ Captain BENN
I need not remind the House of the many great deeds done by Irishmen in the War. The first shot in the War was claimed to have been fired by an Irish regiment. There was, too, the battle of the Aisne and the landing from the Clyde in which so great a part was taken by Irish troops, by the Dublins and the Munsters and the London Irish and the Connaught Rangers.
§ Captain BENN
I am glad to pay a tribute to that gallant Member and to all other hon. Members who were killed in the War, and do not let it be imagined that I draw any distinction between their patriotism. In the battle of the Aisne an officer named Sarsfield was killed. That is an historic name in Limerick. What I venture to impress upon the House is that all of those Nationalist Irishmen were fighting, not so much for this conception as for the conception of liberty for their own country. Just before the War the late Mr. John Redmond passed down Birdcage Walk, and the Guards' band played "God Save Ireland." I think they were reproved for it. I can imagine someone, who wished to make a point in this House, saying that "God Save Ireland" refers to the murder of policemen. At the battle of Mons they sang the same tune. "The Bold Fenian Men" was another song sung at the battle of Mons. When the King reviewed the 10th Division, an Irish Division, at Basingstoke, the band played "A Nation once again." In regard to Suvla Bay, where I had the honour of serving with the same Division, who were massacred and slaughtered by the fire of the Turks, a non-commissioned officer writes:—We got into a splendid order on the double, and each man in a very short space of time picked out his objective. Two minutes afterwards the air was filled with the moans of the wounded, but amidst the din of battle you could hear our lads shouting, 'A nation once again.'1028 A late hon. Member of this House, Mr. Kettle, expressed, if I may venture to say so, very beautifully his conception of what his ideals of the War were, in a little poem which he wrote four days before he was killed:To my Daughter Betty—the gift of God. Know that we fools, now with the foolish dead,Died not for flag or King or Emperor,But for a dream born in a herdsman's shedAnd for the secret scripture of the poor.'That was the fine ideal that inspired Irish patriots who went to fight for their country in the great world battle. This Bill denies them the main attributes of nationhood; it divides the country that they love; it erects and entrenches ascendency; it destroys their one charter of emancipation. For that reason I shall vote against the Second Reading.
§ The MINISTER of PENSIONS (Sir Laming Worthington-Evans)
The hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just sat down commenced his speech with a question. He asked whether this Bill gave self-government to Ireland. After an excursion in various directions, he answered the question by saying that it did not give self-government to Ireland, and that the Government has selected a particular form of Bill because they knew it would destroy self-government. In order to arrive at that conclusion, he put certain tests. He said that the Bill should be tested by the powers which it gave, and not by potential powers. I am perfectly prepared to test it in that way. He was not very fortunate in his selection. He said there was no power to deal with Old Age Pensions or Insurance. As I understood him, he said that neither of those was included; and also that it should be tested by the power to deal with trade questions and finance.
§ Captain BENN
I apologise for interrupting the right hon. Gentleman, but I instanced Old Age Pensions and Insurance as two cases where the natural needs of the two countries were very diverse.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
That is what I thought him to say. The hon. and gallant Gentleman complained that Ireland would not have power to deal with old age pensions or insurance.
§ Captain BENN indicated dissent.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
Then there was no point in his observa- 1029 tions. I understood him to say that the requirements of Ireland were so different from those of the United Kingdom that they ought to have power to deal with these questions, and unless they had there was no true self-government. Curiously enough, under the Act of 1914 there is no power in Ireland to deal with either of these two questions, but in this Bill so much further have we gone that power is given to deal with both these questions, which I agree with him may quite well be dealt with differently in Ireland and here. He also said there was no power in the Irish Parliament to deal with dumping, nor is there in any State Parliament in any of the Dominions or Commonwealths of the Empire.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman (Captain Redmond) laid stress upon the fundamental difference between this Bill and every previous attempt. He quite truly pointed out that the 1914 Act and every other Bill had proceeded upon the basis that Ireland was one nation united in the demand for a particular form of self-government, and the Bill or Act attempted to set up a national Parliament with wide powers over all Ireland. There is a fundamental difference. That was what was done by previous Acts and Bills, and in every case it failed because it did not recognise the real fact that in Ulster, if not a separate nation, you have at least a separate people with different views, which must be recognised and reconciled before any form of self-government can be set up which is likely to be a permanent success. The hon. and gallant Gentleman thought that in this setting up of two Parliaments there would be a permanent dismemberment of Ireland. Permanent dismemberment in a Bill which provides every opportunity for the two Parliaments to come together if they choose! Permanent dismemberment by whom? Not by this House, because this House has provided the means by which they can come together and form one Parliament at any time. Permanent dismemberment, then, by whom? By the Irish themselves? And yet he told with much force of the tale of the Nationalists and the Ulster-men, soldiers fighting shoulder to shoulder in the trenches, and then to say that the people who can join and fight shoulder to shoulder in the trenches are to be permanently dismembered when they are invited and almost under the Bill com- 1030 pelled to come together time after time for the purposes of their common affairs! The Bill, I believe, recognises the lesson to be drawn from the failures of the previous attempts at Home Rule. It recognises that a single Parliament for all Ireland can only be set up by consent or coercion, and coercion is out of the question for the Liberal party, and it has never been in question for the Unionist party. I think it is also out of the question for the Labour party.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
By coercion I mean, as the right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well, the bringing of Ulster people under one Parliament when they have declared over and over again that they are not willing to be so governed. I am not talking of coercion of crime. That is a totally different matter. I should like to know what the answer to that question is. Is the Labour party prepared at any time to enforce the bringing together of all people in Ireland under one Parliament by coercion if necessary?
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
I think not. I think on the other hand that coercion is recognised to be out of the question and consent is the only way by which ultimate unity can be reached in Irish self-government. Meanwhile, the Bill offers to each part of Ireland self-government in all local affairs. It sets up two Parliaments subordinate to the Imperial Parliament. Each of these Parliaments is freely elected, and neither can interfere with or thwart the other. The Bill does much more. It leaves to the two Parliaments the decision when, and for how long, they shall continue as separate Parliaments or whether and when they shall unite in one Parliament. It does still more. It leaves to the two Parliaments full powers by identical Acts to settle the terms of union. They can prescribe the number of Members of the Irish Parliaments, they can settle the constituencies, and they can regulate the legislative and financial relations between the two Parliaments. All this can be done without further reference to the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Is not that self-government? 1031 Whenever they like, without any reference back to us, they can form the one Parliament. Even before union, they can, if they choose, combine in the Irish Council to consider questions of common interest, and here I want to deal with the most interesting and amusing speech of the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. T. P. O'Connor). He drew the picture of the super-man in Ulster who is to veto the action of the Southern Parliament. What right have they to veto anybody? They do not get it under this Bill. Each Parliament is perfectly independent of the other. They come to the Council if they like, but neither can prevent either Parliament operating, and, even if they do not come to the Council, they can carry on in their separate Parliaments. Why should we suppose that they will be unwilling? As the hon. and gallant Member for Waterford (Captain Redmond) said, they fought shoulder to shoulder in the trenches. Why should we imagine that they will not meet in council on matters of interest to them?
It has been said that the Council should have wider powers. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Platting Division (Mr. Clynes) said that it was a Council of very little importance. I am not quite sure that he did not call it a sham. If the Imperial Parliament gave the Council wide powers, it would be said at once that the Imperial Parliament was destroying the utility of the two Parliaments, the Northern and the Southern Parliaments. The more power you give to the Council, the less power each independent Parliament has regarding its own local affairs, and the objections I am sure would be strong and loud if anything were done which destroyed the powers of the Northern and Southern Parliaments. We have left the Northern and Southern Parliaments by agreement, to give just whatever powers they choose to the Council. They can not only give the powers, but they can set up executive and administrative machinery under the Council, and they can assign such taxes as they choose for the purposes of any work that is sent to the Council. In fact, the criticism on the powers of the Council is premature. The Council will be exactly what the two Parliaments choose to make it. It is not for us to say what that Council 1032 should be. It will be exactly what the two Parliaments make it, those Parliaments having been given self-governing powers for that purpose.
I want to deal with the question of the Imperial Contribution. No one has disputed, unless my hon. Friend (Mr. O'Connor) intended to dispute, the liability of the Irish Parliaments to make contributions to Imperial expenditure.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
I think the hon. Member did mention it, because he referred to the 1914 Act and said that in that Act a provision was included which after three years would call for a rearrangement of the finances under that Act and I think he went on to say that that would deal with everything that was necessary to be done in the changed financial conditions as between England and Ireland. It would be interesting to know whether he means that there is to be an Imperial Contribution or there is not to be an Imperial Contribution. It has not been denied up to the present. At the Irish Convention the majority of the Nationalists certainly were willing that there shall be; they recognised the obligation of Ireland to contribute according to her means. How is the contribution to be fixed? The outstanding feature of the financial position to-day is uncertainty. We do not know what the normal expenditure will be. We do not know what the future naval and military expenditure will be. It does not depend upon us alone. It depends upon what the safety of the Empire demands. Our expenditure on services for the War debt is at present a matter which cannot be dealt with. We do not know what the net total of our War debt will be; we know what the gross total will be, but there are claims to be set off against that, and assets still to be realised. Moreover, a good deal of our debt is floating debt, and the interest on it varies from day to day. Therefore, it is impossible to say exactly what would be fixed as a reasonable contribution by Ireland. The Bill provides that an amount shall be taken temporarily, and it lays down principles upon which the future contributions shall be settled. To-day Ireland is contributing about 1033 £22,000,000 towards Imperial expenditure, but we are not proposing to take the whole £22,000,00. We first allow £4,000,000 for the increased cost of new services, such as old age pensions, bonuses and excess stock for pending land sales, housing, insurance, and education. After deducting this £4,000,000 from the present contribution of £22,000,000 we arrive at the £18,000,000 in the Bill. But the whole of the £18,000,000 is not being taken as contribution because there is a further amount of £3,250,000 on the land annuities which will presently amount to £3,750,000. Therefore the actual amount of the Imperial contribution which will be taken under the Bill at the end of the second financial year after the passing of the Bill will be £14,750,000 millions gradually declining to £14,250,000, and the contribution is apportioned as between the Southern and Northern Parliaments as to 56 per cent. by the Southern and 44 per cent. by the Northern. At the end of the second year the Joint Exchequer Board will find the proportion of the Imperial expenditure which is to be borne by the Irish Governments, but the annuities will always remain as a free gift from Great Britain to Ireland.
The right hon. Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) objects also to this Bill because the United Kingdom controls the finances. The hon. and gallant Member for Waterford (Captain Redmond) also objects to the Bill on the ground that it is not so generous financially to Ireland as the 1914 Act. The latter statement I feel sure he cannot substantiate. The Bill is infinitely more liberal to Ireland than the Act of 1914, and it is infinitely better as a financial instrument with which Ireland can regulate her own house. The Bill provides that the true revenue from all taxes raised in Ireland, after deducting the Imperial contribution, shall be available for expenditure in Ireland. There will be deducted the cost of the reserved services which are being administered by the Imperial Parliament, and the balance will be paid over to the Irish Exchequer under the control of the Irish Parliaments. The Income Tax and Super-tax are retained in the hands of the Imperial Government, and the collection will be made by Imperial machinery. That was also complained of, but if that was not so, if the levying and collection 1034 of Income Tax and Super-tax were transferred to the Irish Parliament, the whole of our system of deduction of Income Tax at the source would be broken up, and there would be a loss of many millions a year without any corresponding gain to Ireland. Indeed, there would be a loss to Ireland, and the retention of the central levying and collection of the Income Tax is just as much in favour of Ireland as it is of ourselves. Moreover, were it transferred, there would be almost insuperable administrative difficulties arising from double taxation, owing to the vast number of transactions which take place between Ireland and England. But the Irish Parliaments are given powers, and wide powers, of varying the rate and the incidence of the Income Tax. So far as Ireland is concerned, they can reduce the tax by giving a rebate to any class of individual they think should be relieved of taxation, or they may increase the amount by a surtax on persons resident and domiciled in Ireland. The Irish Parliaments then have as much freedom as is possible without breaking up our present Income Tax system, and they have in that a wider power and a much more elastic power than was given under the 1914 Act.
Customs and Excise are not being transferred. The hon. and gallant Gentleman (Captain W. Benn) seemed to lay a great deal of stress upon that. No doubt the Nationalists have always laid a great deal of stress upon the possession of powers with regard to Customs and Excise. They have always regarded it as one of the recognitions of their status as a nation. They have always regarded it as a badge and symbol of nationality and not merely as a financial instrument. It would be quite impossible to give the two Parliaments, while there are two Parliaments, powers to levy Customs and Excise. No such powers are given to any provincial government in Canada or to any State in America. Not merely would it mean customs barriers between Ireland and England, but a customs barrier across Ireland itself. When, however, union has taken place, a totally different question will arise. Ireland may then be able to show that the power to levy and collect customs and excise is necessary or desirable for her commercial development, and she may then be able to propose some other method of securing a 1035 contribution to Imperial expenditure. When that day comes Ireland will be united, and it is not the least likely that she will fail to receive for any such proposal the consideration it will deserve.
There are other powers of taxation transferred by this Bill which were not transferred in 1914. For example, there are death duties, stamps, excise other than on commodities, and miscellaneous income. The actual taxing powers under the 1914 Act were very slight indeed. They were practically limited to increase of existing taxes, laid on by this Parliament, to an extent calculated to raise not in excess of one-tenth of the tax. We are giving a far greater power than was given under the 1914 Act. In addition, this very important fact must not be overlooked. The Irish Government benefit by the Income Tax being levied by us, it being cheaper for them that it should be so; they benefit from any surplus arising on customs and excise. Under the 1914 Act they did not get that surplus. Under this Bill, if there is any increase in the yield of taxes, or any new taxes levied by this House, they will get the whole of the difference after having paid the Imperial contribution. At first they will receive about £10,500,000 of Income Tax and Super-tax, and about £6,000,000 of customs and excise, after allowing for the Imperial contribution. On the present figures the Irish Parliaments will receive, first, £1,000,000 each to pay preliminary expenses. The hon. Member for the Scotland Division (Mr. O'Connor) wanted to know why the smaller Parliament should receive an equal sum with the larger Parliament. It must be obvious that there is no unfairness in that. The cost of setting up a legislature and the offices in the North will be just as great as the cost of setting them up in the South. In the South, at any rate, in Dublin, there are buildings available. In the North most of that expense will have to be incurred from the start. Each of the Governments is to have £3,250,000, rising to £3,750,000, as a free gift to land annuities, compared with £500,000 dropping to £200,000, which they would have received under the 1914 Act; and then they are to have the full advantage of the greater yield of taxes. I want to say to my Unionist friends that they have got to remember that the 1914 1036 Act is on the Statute Book, and while it is true that we have always opposed Home Rule in the past, because that proposal sought to set up one Parliament for all Ireland on the basis that Ireland was one nation, and every Bill ignored the patent fact that there was in North-East Ireland, if not a separate nation at least a separate people who refused to be compelled against their will to be ruled from Dublin, this Bill ensures for North-East Ireland self-government, which perhaps they may say they do not demand, and it also ensures them freedom from any coercion by an alien Parliament, which has been for so long the object of their resistance. The Bill is not merely negative. It gives immediate self-government to the whole of Ireland, and it enables the Irish Parliaments to unite without any further legislation from the Imperial Parliament. If I may say a word to others who are not Unionists. I would say that you have supported Home Rule in the past, and you have shown that you prefer one Parliament for all Ireland. Since 1886 that has been your policy and your faith, but union is only possible by coercion or by consent. Coercion has gone and union by consent alone is left. Here is your chance after thirty-three years of endeavour. Your policy may now succeed by consent of both Parliaments in Ireland. A few years of separate Parliaments and constant intercourse through the Irish Council may bring both self-governing States to your conclusion. Their fears and suspicions may be removed. They may consent, and I hope they will consent, to unite in an Irish Parliament and take their place as one unit in a Federation of the United Kingdom.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Debate be now adjourned," put, and agreed to.—[Mr. G. Thorne.]
§ Debate accordingly adjourned; to be resumed to-morrow (Tuesday).