§ Debate on the Motion by Viscount PEEL for the Second Reading of the Bill resumed (according to Order).
§ LORD CARSON
My Lords, I think I shall be expressing the views of all your Lordships if I say that we welcome the Lord Chancellor back to his place to-day. I have been frequently told that I speak too bitterly upon this surrender in Ireland. All I can say is that I never speak so bitterly as I feel, and, after a political life, now ended, in which I have given all my energies, for no personal object—as I hope your Lordships will believe—to try to maintain the unity of the United Kingdom, which has seemed to me at all times, at the heart of the Empire, to be the very pivot upon which that Empire turns, your Lordships cannot expect me to adopt the placid, self-confident, and self-satisfied tone of the noble Viscount who introduced this Bill, who has had little or nothing to do with Ireland, and who spoke of it as a kind of ideal country, without any knowledge of the realities of the situation.
As I came into this Chamber just now, I happened to look at the telegrams which are in the outer Chamber. I read that four of the Royal Irish Constabulary, whom it had not been possible to remove when the rest were evacuating the district at the orders of the Government, and were left behind in hospital, were in hospital murdered last night. How long is this to go on? And who is responsible for it? His Majesty's Government, and, if not His Majesty's Government, the Provisional Government, which you have illegally set up in the place of His Majesty's Government— and, mark you, the Provisional Government to whom under this Bill you are going to hand over, without this House having even the opportunity of discussing them, all such powers of government and extended government as they think fit by Orders in Council, which you will never have seen.
You may say to me: "What can the Government do? "I, of course, have no powers, and I have no authority, nor, indeed, is my advice worth much, but if I had anything to do with it, if I had any recollection of the great traditions of the country to which we all belong, I should at least say to these men to whom 568 you have abandoned Ireland: "Unless all this stops we go no further." Do something, and make some effort. But is it not a hideous travesty of civilisation and government that these things are taking place under your responsibility? Yet one is almost lectured if lie dares to call attention to it. Believe me, you will not get rid of Ireland by ignoring it, and you imagine that you can save yourselves trouble and anxiety by the course the Government is taking. It is only twenty miles from your shores, and if you were to pass a thousand Bills you cannot take it further away. And that is a fact which His Majesty's Government seem to forget.
Last night, during the debate, I could not help having many curious reflections. Your Lordships' House has never before agreed to pass a Home Rule Bill, even of a constitutional character. You refused to do it in 1893; you refused to do it in 1914, even after the Parliament Act had been passed to curtail your powers, in order that the then Government might pass it over your heads. And now what has happened—and I really think that this is one of the only useful objects of this discussion at all—now what has happened? We have now learned from a great constitutional, Coalition Government, composed of all the greatest men of all Parties, that you never wanted an amendment of the Parliament Act at all, that you never wanted the consent of the House of Lords at all; all you had to do was to make an arrangement with those who wanted to rule in Ireland, call it a Treaty, and bring it down to the two Houses of Parliament, and say: "I defy you to alter a single word of it."
But the Coalition—and this will not be the end of it—have abolished constitutional government. They have abolished Parliamentary Government, and they have laid it down that by Executive action you can bring about not merely constitutional changes but revolution which is fraught with the most far reaching consequences to every citizen of the country. I read speeches of the members of the Government from time to time, and I am told that Labour is not fit to govern. I see letters. "Unite against Labour as a means of keeping the Coalition together." That, in passing may I say, seems to me to be one of the most mischievous propositions that you could possibly put forward, but when I am told that we are to be afraid of Labour, 569 I ask: What can Labour ever do that can in any way equal or come up to the shattering of the Constitution, the precedent for which has been laid down by His Majesty's Government in the present instance?
I suppose that at some time in the future Labour will be in power. After all, the meaning of this Bill, or this Treaty as you call it, if it has any meaning, is that by throwing responsibilities upon people you make them profit by those responsibilities and induce them to restrain themselves. But if Labour is in power and they find a difficulty with your Lordships' House, let us say when there is a strong feeling prevalent in the midst of a strike, with concerted action between the great trade unions, and the whole country is in turmoil and anarchy, and on the very verge of revolution—then Labour comes forward and says: Thank God all this trouble is going to cease. We have settled it all. Here is the Treaty. But if you alter a word of it you will be back to the anarchy, you will probably be back to revolution, and therefore we warn you that if you do anything of that kind yours will be the responsibility for the state of the country that may subsequently ensue." What will be your answer? You have given way to assassination and outrage, and you will be told: "You have given way to assassination and outrage in the case of Ireland, and why are you not to give way to us when we tell you that the only way we can settle anarchy and outrage in this country is by entering into the Treaty which we now throw upon the Table of the House."
I do not believe anyone here has sufficient imagination to conceive what will be the result of the action of the Government in this case. Let us look at Ireland at the present moment. Not only has the Government thrown over all previous constitutional precedents and safeguards, but the Conservative and Unionist Party have broken every pledge that they have ever given to the South of Ireland and to the North of Ireland, and they are proud of it. That is the strange part of it. I am a mediævalist because I dare to think what the Government were thinking a few months ago. Recall what has happened since your Lordships entered into these Articles of surrender. Take the North of Ireland, which is your last foothold in that country. Instead of challenging her, vilifying her, maltreating her, 570 and breaking your pledges to her, you ought to be throwing the whole weight of your authority into furthering her interests, and in showing at least that you will take care that those who want to stand by us we will stand by.
What is going on? Murder, outrage, gun-men, assassination, life unsafe almost anywhere in the City of Belfast. What a contrast, as some of your Lordships may know, to the condition of affairs previously. I once was the leader of an Ulster Party, and I am proud to think that for the nine or ten years that I acted in that capacity—even while the Horne Rule Bill of 1912–13–14 was going on— in the midst of provocation; when there were pogroms and attempts to draw us into lawlessness, during the whole of those years there never was even a street not involving assault upon a single individual. For this reason—the people had confidence that I would not betray them, and they also had confidence in the Unionist Party and in the pledges that had been given to which the noble Viscount was a party, but to which he never thought of referring in his able speech of yesterday.
Now, that is all changed. They are surrounded with treachery, with evil example, the example of His Majesty's Government. You have told the people of the South and West: "We have to give way to you because you commit murders. We will agree with you to put Ulster into this Dominion Parliament for which you ask, though we must in decency give them the right to vote out. But if you have known how to bring the British Government to their knees surely you can do the same with Ulster, and then they will never vote themselves out." All that is going on, the war that is going on in Ulster to-day, is upon the head of the British Government, because they have laid it down that if you only murder enough, assassinate enough and do outrage enough, then you can get it from the British Government and if you can get it from the British Government why not from that poor Parliament that you set up with such pomp and ceremony last year in Ireland, and which you are now doing your best to destroy and discredit?
The noble Viscount spent most of his speech yesterday in showing how hopeless is the position of your Lordships' House. It is. Do not imagine that I am such a blind enthusiast as not to know it. To use 571 a common phrase, "the game is up." I know well, as every man knows, that when your superior officers have opened the gates of a beleaguered city to the enemy, and allowed their troops to enter, the position is hopeless. And that is what our leaders have done. I am not going to argue before you, my Lords, because it would be a false argument, that you ought to throw out this Bill. The mischief has been done, hideously done, and done in the worst way. One would have thought that before you ran away, you would at least have tried to set up something which would have had the semblance of government and which would have given some slight ray of hope to those who have been faithful to you and whom you have so readily abandoned.
When I heard the noble Viscount's speech I could not help thinking of him in other days when he and I were on platforms together. We were much concerned about the fate of the loyal minority in Ireland, some 350,000 souls, and we were much concerned about the pledges to Ulster. From the beginning to the end of his speech—not that it would have been worth much, but it would have shown at least that there was some semblance of his former self—I heard not one word of hope or sympathy extended to these people. I heard not one word of elucidation as to what is going to happen to those officers, civil, police, and military, who have served under you and have been doing your work, although at our very doors they are holding meetings protesting against the starvation you are throwing upon them by the non-fulfilment of the obligations you undertook.
The noble Viscount, in laying stress upon the position your Lordships' House is in, seemed to have entirely forgotten that a great deal has happened since December, 1921, when this matter was hurried through the House. There was a great air of hopefulness at that time. All crime was suddenly at an end; that was the great value of the surrender. I cannot help recalling the words of the Prime Minister. They show how right the noble Viscount was in declining to prophesy. At the very date when we were passing—no, you were passing; thank God, I was not—the Treaty in this House, the Prime Minister, in another place, used these words, which were perhaps more than a prophecy; a statement of its effect. He said— 572By this Agreement we win to our side a nation of deep abiding and even passionate loyalties.…It would be taking too hopeful a view of the future to imagine that the last peril of the British Empire has passed. There are still dangers lurking in the mists. Whence will they come? From what quarter? Who knows? But when they do come, I feel glad to know that Ireland will be there by our side, and the old motto that 'England's danger is Ireland's opportunity,' will have a new meaning. As in the case of the Dominions in 1914, our peril will be her danger, our fears will be her anxieties, our victories will be her joy.And three months after that we have the murder of four policemen because they serve His Majesty's Government!
The Prime Minister had hardly uttered these words when the Irish Parliament had to be summoned for the purpose of ratifying the Treaty, and there, at all events, one would have thought that within a few hours of this great settlement of reconciliation between the two countries you would find some real justification for the Prime Minister's hope. Your Lordships probably read the wonderful proceedings of that august assembly. What happened? There were four or five signatories—I forget which—to the Treaty. How did they deal with it when it was signed? There was not one of them who accepted the Treaty as a finality—not one. There was not one of them who did not say that he looked upon the Treaty only as a stepping-stone towards the further and ultimate independence which they were claiming; and they have reiterated that view up to the present time. Do not dare to alter a line of the Treaty; that would be a breach of English honour! But they had hardly got home when one of the signatories went over to the other side. Does that vitiate the Treaty? He joined Mr. de Valera, and he and all the others said they had signed this Treaty only under compulsion in Downing Street. They did not know His Majesty's Government as well as I do, or they would not have made that statement.
What is the position now? I pray your Lordships, at all events, in what we do let us know what we are doing, because, after al], I suppose there is some responsibility even upon a House of Lords that has been so long threatened. Here is the latest declaration, dated Sunday, March 5. It was said that "the Treaty had been brought back." This is Mr. Collins, whom I think my noble and learned friend last night described as the Provisional Govern- 573 ment, which is probably about true. He is reported as saying that—it had brought and was bringing such freedom to Ireland in the transference of all Government powers—Now mark this!—but above all in the departure of the British armed forces, that it had become safe, and simple, and easy and courageous, to stand now for what was surrendered in July because the British armed forces were still here.And Mr. Griffith is reported to have said that "the difference between themselves and their critics was, as they admitted themselves, the difference of a shadow."
What you have got in the attachment of this Dominion to this country is, as regards its position as a Republic, only the difference of a shadow from the existing thing and what may come. Mr. Duffy, another signatory of the Treaty, is reported as saying—The Irish people would be in a better position to resist aggression, to increase their power, than ever they were before. It would be the duty of those who framed the Constitution to frame it according to the will of the Irish people"—That is what the noble Viscount told us last night. Mark this, and contrast it with the eloquent words of your Prime Minister. Mark this as showing the passionate loyalty of which His Majesty's Government has laid the foundations in Ireland—and it would be their duty to relegate the King of England to exterior darkness if they could, and they could do that if they liked. Their internal affairs, so far as the Constitution was concerned, were left to themselves, and any Government worthy of the name would be able to place the foreign King at a respectful distance from the Irish people.That is all you have achieved. That is the passionate loyalty that you have won in betraying all your friends. That is the passionate loyalty to which you are looking forward even, as I hope I shall show in a moment, at the cost of the grossest betrayal that has ever taken place, in the case of Ulster, whom you set up as a separate Government last year, and whom you have ever since been trying to destroy.
I cannot help asking myself: What is the good of this Bill at all? Why bother about it? Why not let them take it over as it is? Why not let them set it all up for themselves? Our friends would be no worse off, and you would not have to go through this process, which, both in the House of Commons and here, is apparently to be nothing but a farce. 574 I watched the proceedings in the House of Commons. I think the "Die-Hards"—of whom I am very proud—made a most excellent fight, but it was a very hopeless one. The Secretary for State for the Colonies—a very apt person, having regard to his antecedents, to send there to put them down—stated openly and broadly: "It is not a question of argument; it is not a question of right or a question of wrong; those have no consideration for me at all. It is a question of Michael Collins. What would he say to us? "Mr. Collins is not only paramount over England, but he is paramount over right, paramount over wrong, paramount over logic; and that is the only thing the Colonial Secretary was thinking about. And may I say, in order that there may be no mistake, that I know he was right in that? It is the only way you could carry it through, and no one was more conscious of it than he was. If you set yourself, in a case of this kind, to do a bit of dirty work, you have to do it; and he did it. But what is the good of the Bill?
Do any of you know what is really going on in Ireland now? Very few, I suspect, because it is not allowed to get into the English papers, and the Government never tell it. I wonder how on earth the Chief Secretary and those other officials are earning their salaries. I cannot imagine, for they do not appear to be made to do anything. What is going on in Ireland now? I will tell you. There is a Republic there. You know it, and you have consented to it. You are prepared, the moment this Bill passes, to consent to one if they, the day after this Bill passes, proceed to set it up. You have to do it. I know there have been loud-sounding phrases. "Never," said the Colonial Secretary, "will we consent to the establishment of a Republic in the South and West or any part of Ireland." They said exactly the same thing about these very provisions only two or three months ago. Yes, and the curious part of it is that the more the Provisional Government, that you have put there, proclaim a Republic as their ultimate goal; the quicker you remove your troops from the country. That is a nice way of showing your earnestness in maintaining this part of the country as part of the British Empire.
Proclaim a Republic! Why there is a Republic there! And do you mean to 575 tell me, when you have announced to the Empire and to the world that you have not got the men, nor the money, nor the means, nor the backing, to put down murder and outrage in Ireland, when you are in possession of the place, that if they make this difference of a shadow (to use Mr. Griffith's words) and say: "instead of a Free State we are now a Republic" —do you think you will then come forward (I do not say this Government, because it is only a matter of a few weeks before it disappears), do you think that any Government will come forward and say: "Just for the sake of a difference in the name, and because it is necessary for us to claim this as part of the British Empire, we have all of a sudden found men, means, money, backing, and everything"—to do what? Not to put down crime and outrage in a country of which you are in occupation, but to go back and invade a country from which you ran away, and, what is more, to put down a Parliament and a Government which you yourselves created, and which, in the process of the creation, announced to you that they intended to turn, as they have turned, into a Republic.
It is ridiculous, and well they know it. I do not know whether any of your Lordships read their papers. They are proclaiming from day to day: "This is the hour of England's difficulty. Look at her hands full in India, look at her hands full in Egypt, and her hands full in Mesopotamia and Palestine, and these various other difficulties that surround her. Look at the declarations of English Ministers that they had not the money or the men to put us down when we committed crime before; and why now should we not, when once we have got them out of the country, join together"—as, believe me, as sure as I am standing here they will join together—to create a Republic and make themselves an independent nation within twenty miles of your shores. I do not know that that is anything worse. These half-way houses are very curious constitutional places, but do be honest about the matter. Do tell the people openly, honestly and aboveboard, that in creating a Free State, as you are pleased to call it, you did it with the knowledge that these men were going to create a Republic, and that Englishmen must be prepared to look forward to a Republic being constituted within twenty miles of their shores.
576 I have said that there was a Republic in Ireland at present, and so there is. I have here Mr. Griffith's statement which he made on the occasion when they agreed not to have the Elections for three or four months, which, of course, like other things, His Majesty's Government had to swallow. Mr. Griffith said that Dail Eireann remained as the supreme authority, and he would maintain it until an Election occurred. To whom has he taken the Oath, and to whom has every man in it taken the Oath? To the Irish Republic. The Irish Government, which is carrying on affairs in Ireland so far as they are carried on at present, have every one of them taken the Oath to the Irish Republic.
You have a kind of Oath in this Bill. It is a wonderful piece of draftsmanship. It really is one of those curious compromises which men think they can make by paper and ink, so that you can be half loyal and half disloyal, and then each of you has had a triumph. The man who wants to be loyal says: "Oh! look at the Oath," and the man who wants to be disloyal says: "Oh! look at the Oath," and both are equally satisfied. My Lords, there is no compromise in loyalty. You are either loyal or you are not loyal, and all this that you take the trouble and expense of printing is mere eye-wash. But such as it is, although you called a Parliament together to ratify this, and out of it made a Provisional Government, which you placed over your most loyal subjects in Ireland, has any one of these members who are now the Provisional Government, to whom you are handing over money, ammunition, guns, motor-cars, and all the paraphernalia of war—have any of these gentlemen taken this anaemic Oath? Not one. No, the more one goes into this the more disgusted one gets at the examination of it.
I would have respect for His Majesty's Ministers, though I would hate their policy, if they had boldly come down to the House of Commons and to this House and said: "We are beaten in Ireland and under the existing conditions of taxation and burdens in this country we cannot go on," and if they had openly said: "We have allowed the people to settle the matter as they like themselves." But when the bells ring and the flags fly because of the great Treaty that has preserved Ireland for England, it is hypocrisy pure and simple, and it is merely the strategy of politicians who are afraid of the consequences of their own actions.
577 I wish the noble Viscount had given us a little more information yesterday. May f say how grateful I am for the speech of my noble and learned friend (Lord Sumner), and I am sure the House welcomed the strong logical speech of the noble Marquess (Lord Lansdowne) who, for so long, was the greatest ornament of this Assembly, Had we been dealing with realities and not a farce I should have thought that no Government would have allowed yesterday to pass without attempting some answer to those statements which were so ably and so reasonably set forth. What I would have expected the noble Viscount to do is this—and I venture to hope that your Lordships will insist upon its being done before this debate concludes—that he would have told us what is the relation of the Act of 1920 to this Bill, how much of it is repealed and how much of it remains in force. There is no express repeal of any section.
Let me illustrate what I mean by giving one or two instances. Probably your Lordships are not aware that since the Provisional Government came into power, they have turned out the Education Board in Ireland. That Board consisted of a number of pre-eminent educational experts, including Bishops, the Provost of Trinity College, and various other such people. They turned them out just as you would turn out a burglar if you could get hold of him. Then there is in Ireland an office called the Public Trustee just as we have in this country, though for a different object. The office of Public Trustee in Ireland was created when the Land Acts were passed in order to keep possession of the money of landowners whose land was in settlement and where there was no trustee or other person entitled to be paid the capital. The Public Trustee pays the interest on that money. At the present moment he has in his hands something like four or five million pounds belonging to estate owners who have sold their land to their tenants. They came into his office the other day, as, of course, they' could at any time if they liked, and they said: "You know you will have to go out of this; you must hand us over the four millions." That is the kind of Government to be proud of, is it not? "You must hand us over the four millions!" Will that be a power that will be handed over? But it does not matter whether it is handed over or not, because all they have to do is to go in with a rifle or a re- 578 volver and say: "There you go!" And that is what they are doing.
And what about Trinity College, Dublin? That is almost the one institution of which this country may be proud in the success it has had as a sister University of Oxford and Cambridge. It was founded over three hundred years ago; and when the Home Rule Bills of 1912 and 1914 were going through Parliament, with the assent even of the Nationalist Party, a clause was put into those Bills stating that without their consent and the consent of the governing body they were not to be interfered with. Is that gone? Yes, it has gone; at all events, they are going in there now and saying: "You must change your whole governing body, and you must change your whole curriculum to suit the present needs" of Michael Collins, and Griffith, and others. Are your Lordships going to allow that ancient institution, which has been such a credit to this country, to be pulled down by these people and turned to their own uses? And so I might give many other instances. Before this debate is over I want to know what protection there is, if there is any, for these ancient and honourable institutions in Ireland. How glibly and easily we in London do away with all those things and then go out to the theatre to enjoy ourselves. Can your Lordships picture what the people in Ireland who care about these things are thinking when they see everything they revere and care for demolished by a stroke of the pen, solely and only because they were loyal institutions devoted to you and to your country?
Then I think it would have been well had the noble Viscount told us something about the provisions in this surrender Treaty which deal with the Army and the Navy. It is a very serious matter. They are going to have an Army. I remember that the Prime Minister said only a few months ago that if you allowed people in Ireland to have an Army you would have to have conscription in this country. That was only a few months ago, but now, not only have you enacted, or are about to enact, that they shall have an Army there, but you are reducing your Army in this country. And equally good reasons are found for both policies, though I cannot believe they are both right. We never know where we are. The noble Viscount did not say a word about the Army or the Navy, but let me refer to what the Prime 579 Minister said about this matter. I cannot find the quotation for the moment, but it conies to this—that if you had allowed them to have an Army and Navy, having regard to what we ascertained during the last war and what we suffered from Ireland, you never could have carried on the war at all. And speaking as one who held, at the most difficult time of the war, the position of First Lord of the Admiralty, I say that I do not believe, if you had not had full control of the ports in Ireland, that you ever could have won the war.
It may be said that, after all, you have a provision here that in war-time you are to occupy the ports. More eye-wash. And why do I say that? Imagine one of His Majesty's ships going into an Irish port with a hostile Irish Army in the hills surrounding, and having the whole place torpedoed. The thing is ridiculous. You may laugh, if you like. Some of you I dare say will. You will say: "What do you know about it? "But I say here—and I should be glad to have it on such record as it will obtain, even if it were never read again— that in giving the Irish an Army and in giving them a Navy within twenty miles of your shores, after you have known that they were in league, as the Prime Minister said, throughout the whole of the war, in the most critical time of your history, with the Germans, your enemies, you are doing an act which is treacherous not only to this generation, but to generations still unborn.
There is one other matter with which I must deal—namely, the provisions in the Bill with regard to the boundaries of Ulster. I want to be very careful in putting the facts before your Lordships. In the first place, Northern Ireland has her own Parliament. It is a strange commentary on the setting up of Parliaments by this country that in a question which involves the taking away of more or less of their territory you never even consulted the Parliament that was set up. Would you do it in any other part of the world? Go and try to annex a part of Canada to America, and I think we should hear something about it from the Colonial Secretary—at least I hope so. Why, you would not take away (and I ask your special attention to this) a, portion of the territory of any local body in this country without their consent, or, at all events, without an overwhelming case being made on an occasion when they would be heard. 580 Go and annex Hove to Brighton to-morrow without asking Hove, and hear what she will say. But you have flouted Ulster. You are always saying as regards Ulster: "What does it matter? She is always loyal to us. Look at the way she helped us in the war, when the people in Dublin were fighting our troops. She is all right, and therefore we can do what we like." And so you did not even consult her Parliament. You treated her as a nullity. She is no party to your Treaty, and, if I read the warning words of her Prime Minister aright, with which I entirely agree, she never will be a party to your Treaty. You cannot set up a Government as you have set it up in Ulster, and then say: "We will take no account of the views that you have." If you attempted that throughout your Empire, your Empire would not last a year. Then why do you do it in relation to Ulster?
It does not even rest there, because I can show your Lordships the grossest breach of pledge that you could conceive in relation to this question. Just let me take you over the sequence of events. In the first letter that the Prime Minister wrote to Mr. de Valera he said that any settlement that was made must allow for full recognition of the existing powers and privileges of the Parliament and Government of Northern Ireland which could not be abrogated except with their own consent. And now you propose to do it without their consent. At a later date—this was a few days before the signing of the Treaty, and I ask your particular attention to it—Sir James Craig, the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, came over here. An attempt was being made at that time to force Ulster under the Sinn Fein Parliament in Dublin, and he refused. Certain other proposals were made. And all this time the negotiations were going on at 10, Downing Street.
Then a statement was settled between Sir James Craig and Mr. Lloyd George, your Prime Minister, and here it is, as repeated and never denied, and on the whole basis of this Sir James Craig worked—By Tuesday next either the negotiations with Sinn Fein will have broken down, or the Prime Minister will send me new proposals for consideration by the Cabinet. In the meantime the rights of Ulster will be in no wise sacrificed or compromised.Yet, within a few days, this Treaty, in the dead of night, was signed, without one word in furtherance of that promise having been 581 said to Sir James Craig. I say that that is a fraudulent transaction; I say it is an outrage upon Ulster; I say it is unworthy of this country, and more unworthy of the Prime Minister himself. When I see the excuses that are given for this I ask myself to what depths of degradation has public life sunk. "Oh," said Mr. Chamberlain the other day, "it is rather unfortunate, but there really was not time to consult the Prime Minister of Ulster." I must leave the matter there to you. This is one of the matters which we will fight out in Committee.
I beg your Lordships to ask yourselves how much of all that has happened in Ulster at the present time, with all the misery of invaded households, raided shops, murdered policemen, and sniping from roofs of houses, is to be laid to the charge of His Majesty's Government? Did your Lordships, when you voted on December 15 last, mean to countenance this breach of pledge to Ulster? Did your Lordships mean to make yourselves participators in this flaunting and flouting of a Parliament that you helped to create? Is your Lordships' House so parlous, so feeble, have your Lordships so little courage, that you will not get up and say: "Never will we allow, without their consent, one acre of land to be taken away from these men in contravention of what we ourselves deliberately did only two years ago in conferring upon them this Parliament which they did not want, but which they so loyally accepted?"
Some members of the House of Commons at all events did not understand that this betrayal was going on. I found the other day something that was said by Mr. Bonar Law during his only visit there since his return after his illness. May I say how much I deplore that illness, which took him away from the Government, for from the day he left until the present matters have been going from bad to worse. He said—Within the last week or two, since the Treaty was ratified by the House of Commons, the claim has been made that what is meant is not adjustment of boundaries but practically the breaking up of the Northern Parliament altogether. That is the claim that is made.Your Lordships will remember that was the claim that Michael Collins said he was told lie could make under the Treaty. Mr. Bonar Law went on—well, it was not on that understanding that I voted for the Treaty, and it was not on that understanding that the House of Commons voted for it, and, more than that, the Prime Minister, 582 before the vote took place, and while discussion was going on in Dublin—and he could have been contradicted if he was wrong—made it perfectly plain that all that was intended was simply a readjustment of the boundaries.The noble Viscount in his speech yesterday spent sonic time saying: "What unreasonable people these Ulster men are; they are not satisfied with our assurance that it will only be a rectification of the boundaries."
We are not satisfied. Why should we be satisfied? It is not you who are going to regulate the matter, it is the gun-men; and Mr. Michael Collins has declared that unless Ulster comes in, and stays in, he will himself take away what he calls his counties or his places. And who will prevent him? I believe Ulster will. But do you want her to? Is that what you are aiming at; is that what you are to get out of this Treaty? Here is a Bill before your Lordships' House, your Lordships being legislators. One side has made one claim as to the meaning of the Treaty, another side has made another claim as to its meaning, and your Lordships are told that you are in such a position that you cannot even say in the Bill which is right and which is wrong. Put the shutters up there is nothing for you to do if you cannot do that much. When I said: "Why do you not put it in the Bill?" the noble Viscount replied: "Oh, I cannot interfere with the Chairman." Consider for a moment what that means. It means that the person who takes away, or does not take away, the territory from the North of Ireland is not the House of Commons, or this House, or the King, or all three in conjunction, but is a Chairman. All I can say is that if you do not set that matter right you will in my opinion be shirking the first and most elementary duty of a legislative assembly.
I now thank your Lordships for listening to me. A good deal has been said about the unity of Ireland. I have never said a word against the unity of Ireland, on terms. Are they unreasonable terms? Let the South and West acknowledge themselves loyal subjects of the King. Let the South and West show that they will tolerate those who differ from them, and that they will make life and property secure in their districts. Let them yield to Ulster the same as they demand for themselves. Let them show an example of good government, not by shooting policemen in hospitals, not by pouring 583 petrol over another policeman and setting fire to him as they did only a few days ago, not by always trampling upon the Union Jack and belittling your Empire, not by always proclaiming their hostility to and their hatred of this country and of everybody who cares for it. If these things are abandoned, and if they really mean, as the Prime Minister said they did mean, to come forward and take their place within the Dominions of the Crown as loyal and faithful subjects, I will promise them that they will be welcome in every corner of Ulster.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF YORK
My Lords, it is not an easy thing to follow the noble and learned Lord in debate. He speaks with a glow of passion and a skill of advocacy that are most effective, and it is not easy to return from the spell which he creates to the realities of the situation with which this House at this present time is confronted. What the noble and learned Lord said vas, as we all felt, most moving and, of course, most eloquent. If the speech had been delivered three months ago it might have had a great effect upon your Lordships in deciding whether or not you would register your endorsement of the Treaty; but with the exception—and I say it with all respect—of the few words in which he admitted that it was useless now to challenge that deliberate decision almost the whole of his moving and most eloquent speech was irrelevant to the issue.
It may not be presumptuous for me as being connected with no political Party in this House or in the country, or in Ireland, to attempt for a short time to recall to your Lordships the position in which we, as a matter of fact, stand. It is simply We are not here now to discuss the Treaty. It has been accepted not only by the contracting Parties but solemnly and deliberately by both Houses of Parliament. We are here simply to give effect to what has been done, and to see that what has been done shall not be undone. It was this fact that invested with a certain unreality the able speech delivered yesterday by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Sumner. It is true, as I gather, that he did not suggest any amendment of the Agreement but only Amendments to this Bill. But the greater part of his speech was devoted to a caustic, almost a satirical, criticism of the provisions of the Agreement itself. In so far as he proposes to confine 584 his efforts to amendment of the Bill let it be done, if it can be shown that this Bill does not do what it proposes to do—namely, give effect to what Parliament has decided.
With regard to the legal and constitutional dangers which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Sumner, seemed to think lurked in the Bill I have no doubt that the Lord Chancellor will be able to deal with them, and it will be presumptuous on my part to discuss them. I will only say this, with regard to the picture which the noble and learned Lord drew of the chaos which might be created by a whole series of Orders in Council dealing with the transfer of government, that I imagine that His Majesty's Government is already, in the case of the Northern Ireland Parliament, most familiar with the process of transferring the functions of government under circumstances much more difficult than this. In that case, there were the complications due to the reservation of many of these functions of government to the Parliament of this country. I should be much surprised, therefore, if we cannot be assured that the Government, with all this experience, has a procedure to deal with the South of Ireland which is both simple and ready.
I do not know what Amendments the noble and learned Lord, and those who agree with him, may produce, but it seems to me that some of the Amendments he foreshadowed would very directly affect the Agreement itself. For example, unless I am wrong, the noble and learned Lord foreshadowed the importation into the Bill of some gloss upon the use of the word "Treaty," or even upon the form of the Oath which is there prescribed. It will be obvious that it is too late to make a change of that character, and it would gravely imperil the chances, which are still suspended in the balance, of the ratification of the Agreement in Ireland. I suggest that it is very doubtful wisdom at the present stage to introduce into this Bill any Amendments which would affect the substance of the Agreement.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF YORK
Then I beg the noble and learned Lord's pardon. We are in this position that we have not seen the Amendments he may 585 produce. All I am anxious to insist upon that anything inserted in the present Bill which would have the effect, directly or indirectly, of affecting the Agreement would most obviously very seriously imperil its chances in Ireland. No legislative assembly likes to be told of any proposal before it that it must either take it or leave it, but the necessity of considering this Agreement as a whole lies upon us through the unprecedented circumstances of the case. Unless this Agreement had been a whole in every part—most carefully balanced there would have been no chance of its passing. It was one of those occasions when a moment had to be seized or lost, and if lost, then lost for ever. It is impossible for us now, under the guise of Amendments to the Bill, to disturb the balance carefully and laboriously formed which secured its Agreement, and this without the knowledge or presence here of the other side.
Therefore. I suggest to your Lordships, in spite of all that has been said by the noble and learned Lord, that the alternative before us is not between accepting and amending this Bill, because an Amendment of the Bill which would in any way vitally affect the provisions of the Agreement itself, would very probably involve rejection. The real alternative is between ratifying the Agreement and making such provisions in this Bill as to secure that that ratification is properly carried out, or else gravely imperilling the chances of its acceptance. What the consequences would he if that risk matured and the Agreement were not accepted in Ireland, none of your Lordships would care to contemplate.
It is this that I would like to press upon the noble and learned Lord, who has just sat down, and upon those who agree with him. I am sorry, though not surprised, that the noble and learned Lord is not now in his place, so that even I, as representing a considerable body of citizens in this country, may press it upon him. I understand the position taken by the noble and learned Lord. Who could fail to do so? It must be gall and bitterness to him to contemplate a Treaty made with those whom he has regarded as his enemies. It must be bitter indeed for many to seem to desert the cause to which they have devoted the greater part of their lives. But I cannot help asking myself the question: "To what purpose is this 586 long, reiterated and dramatic denunciation I of the Agreement now addressed?" It cannot affect the situation with which we are now confronted. It may, if it is prolonged and spread through the country, very gravely endanger the peace both of Ireland and of this country. I do not know that anything has occurred fundamentally to change the situation since your Lordships gave your deliberate assent to this Treaty. It is said that the situation has been changed by reason of some misapprehension—the noble and learned Lord used a much stronger word, betrayal—with regard to the question of boundaries. Over these boundaries, to anyone who is not an expert in Irish affairs, there are certainly written the words: "No Trespassers," and I should be a fool if I attempted to trespass in a matter about. which no one knows better than I that, as the noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne, said, the problem may be insoluble.
I cannot help saying, as a man who has tried to look at the thing as dispassionately as possible, that. I find it difficult to understand why the Government of Northern Ireland so bitterly resents, or suspects, or fears the clause in the Agreement dealing with this boundary question. If it is their wish to remain outside, one would have thought that it was to their advantage to eliminate the areas in which the difficulties of their Government would be increased. They find it— I say it with great respect—very difficult to deal with minorities who are not friendly to them within their own assured area. I do not see what advantage it would be to them to complicate their already difficult problem by dealing with areas in which it can be proved that a large majority of the people had no desire to be brought within their jurisdiction. I find it very difficult therefore—it may be my ignorance—to realise why it is that the Government of Northern Ireland is so apprehensive about this clause. If there be any breach of faith, that is a matter not for me but for the Government to answer; but merely on the merits of the case, I find it very difficult to see why, given the impartiality that you have the right to expect of such a Commission, this result might not be very greatly to the advantage of the unity, coherence and peace of the Government of Northern Ireland.
It is said that what has occurred since this House registered its decision about this Agreement is that there have been 587 these attacks and invasions of boundaries. The noble and learned Lord who has just spoken began his speech with his usual dramatic skill, by reminding us of what is happening upon these boundaries. But I have yet to be told that the Provisional Government is in any way responsible for these outbreaks. How can you expect of any country which for all these years has been seething with disorder that all at once, at a mere touch from the magic wand of the passing of this Agreement, the whole spirit of disorder shall be exorcised, and perfect peace and calm shall reign in Ireland? The point of great importance is that the very men who once were concerned in fomenting disorder and in stirring up that spirit are now responsible for restraining it, and are exercising that responsibility. It seems to me that the only possible way in which you can secure the cessation of these outbreaks of crime, arson and murder in Ireland is to transfer to the representatives of the Irish people themselves the responsible task of quelling these disorders. So long as that is merely left to those who represent to them an alien rule and an alien spirit, it will never be accomplished. The only way is to do (imperfectly, because how could it be done otherwise than imperfectly?) what is being done now—namely, to leave it to the Government which represents the consent of the people of Ireland to undertake the suppression of these disorders.
There were many things said by the noble and learned Lord which I should have been very much tempted to answer. He spoke of the example which has been set to the people of Belfast and of Ulster by their fellow countrymen in other parts of Ireland. But other examples have been set, and it is a little difficult to forget the example that might have been set by Ulster when it made a claim that it was entitled to arm itself and to protect its own interests. The last thing I wish to do is to indulge in these recriminations. I wish they could be abandoned, but it is impossible to allow the speech of the noble and learned Lord to pass and to let it be supposed that we consider that it is wholly and entirely upon one side that the spirit of disorder and rebellion has been evoked in Ireland. What we rather have to see is in what way we can all of us co-operate in bringing about a new spirit, a new moral tone in that unhappy country.
I return to the question of boundaries. Surely, what we have to do is to decide— 588 for it comes to that—whether or not it is better to risk the Commission, being really impartial, failing to carry out the intentions of the Treaty, or, by interfering with that clause, to run the risk of a real breakdown of the whole settlement. I suppose there are some, the noble and learned Lord himself among them, who would not break their hearts if the settlement were broken, but what I kept asking myself all the time I was listening to the noble and learned Lord was: What is the alternative that he and his friends propose? Does he mean by this speech, as it has been delivered in your Lordships' House this afternoon, to ask this country to challenge the Agreement that has been passed, to bring it back again into the sphere of discussion and of debate? Surely, he cannot contemplate what would happen if this country were now in any serious manner to go back upon its word.
It is very easy to see what would be the effect of that upon Ireland. If it could be said that this country was contemplating in any sort of way going back upon the word which it gave, who would triumph in Ireland at the present time? Why, manifestly, Mr. de Valera and his friends. And if they triumph, if any encouragement is given, not merely by an Amendment introduced into this measure but by things said by responsible leaders in this country—if they are encouraged, and, on what is still, I suppose, a somewhat doubtful issue, they gain the assent of the Irish people as against Mr. Michael Collins and his friends, what will be the consequences? They may be more grave than it is possible to describe. Indeed, I venture to say that the consequences of public opinion in this country rallying to the kind of thing said by the noble and learned Lord this after, noon, may be far more lurid than any of the pictures which he drew of the actual state of affairs.
It seems to me that we have, in view of what has been said during this discussion, to ask ourselves that question, and to come back to it again and again: What is the only alternative to persevering with the Agreement as it stands? The only possible alternative is reverting once again to the old policy of force. What is the only chance of that policy? The only chance is that it shall be thorough and sustained. Is it possible, now, that this country would allow a policy of force which will be either thorough or sustained? I believe there is 589 not enough public opinion in this country to stand behind a policy of that kind. I think it is true to say that probably no decision was ever reached by Parliament, which commanded a wider assent by the people of this country than the decision to which both Houses came last December.
It is true that among political organisations there may be some who are already rebelling against that decision, but I think I speak for the great mass of the people of the country when I say that probably no decision has ever been reached which has commanded more generally the assent of the people of this country. If that be so, if the Agreement were to break down through any act done in Ireland, it is just possible that the people of this country might set their teeth and say these appalling consequences must ensue; but if the Agreement were to break down through anything done, and possibly anything said, in the Parliament of this country, then I do not think that the people of this country would support the policy to which that attempt at a breakdown would inevitably lead.
I am certain that we are, so to speak, playing with fire when we are merely rehearsing, as was done this afternoon, in the passionate language of the noble and learned Lord, the arguments that can be used against this Treaty itself. That is why I almost deprecate the continuance of discussions upon the merits of the Treaty. It is because, both in this country and in Ireland, they prevent the Agreement having that sense of finality which is essential to success, that I am convinced the people are determined that the great and very risky adventure into which this Agreement has brought us shall be allowed to have an unfettered chance.
If the noble and learned Lord had been here, and I am sorry he is not—but one noble Lord is here who shares his confidence, and the confidence which the people of Northern Ireland have in them both—I would have ventured to make an appeal. I would have appealed to them not only as loyal and devoted representatives of Ulster, but also as—what I know the noble and learned Lord himself is most of all—Irishmen, that they should be able to recognise that there are some things that are accomplished and cannot be undone—that they should be willing to accept the fact that a new era has come, not only in the history of Ireland but in the history of the relations between 590 this country and Ireland, that they should use their great powers not to embitter but to assuage the religious and racial rancours that have marked that country in the past; and that the patience and persistence which the noble and learned Lord has shown in the service of Ulster should now be devoted to bringing about a united Ireland, united in itself and united with the other nations of the British Empire.
One point remains, and then I have done. There is another kind of criticism which happily has not been so far expressed in this House, but which has been heard on other occasions and is frequently to be discovered in the Press. I mean the criticism of those who, if I. may say so, with one hand uphold this Treaty and regard it as the one hope of peace in Ireland, and with the other hand stir up on every available occasion misunderstanding and suspicion, or involve the Government in discredit for the action it has taken in the past, or even during the conduct of the Treaty. I think this sort of criticism may be very natural, but having regard to the gravity of the issue it seems to me to be singularly out of place. I do not know what their object is, unless it be to discredit a Government which they dislike. I have no brief for the Government. I think they are very open to a great deal of criticism, and on other matters it is most legitimate that that criticism should be as free, and, if von like, as caustic as has been customary in the Party system of this country. But I suggest that it is singularly out of place in a matter of this gravity.
In the old days the Irish problem was the arena of Party conflicts in these Houses of Parliament. That has been its haunting curse from the beginning. Some of us had hoped that the Treaty had lifted the Irish problem out of that arena altogether. It seemed as if at last the Irish problem had been lifted out of this cock-pit of party discussion. Let it be kept outside. There are other fields open and most suitable for the practice of manœuvres, and of sustained, and it may be justifiable, attacks, but is it too much to ask that the Irish question shall be kept open, so that the forces of generosity and trust can have their chance? There comes a time in the relations of States, as of men, when trust with all its risks is the only way.
591 In an impressive passage the noble and learned Lord who spoke before me said: "There is no half way; you are either loyal or disloyal." There is not one of us who did not cordially agree with that portion of his speech in which he expressed the hope that after all Ireland, South and west as well as North, might be won to loyalty. At the present time—and that is the only reason I have intervened in this debate—the only way to win Ireland to loyalty is to trust it with generosity, and therefore I would venture to urge, in spite of all that fell from the eloquent lips and passionate heart of the noble and learned Lord, that there is only one course before this House to-day and fig all citizens in this country. It is perilous to go back. It is almost equally perilous at the present time to hesitate or to stumble in our steps. The only thing to do is to let the dead past bury its dead, to take courage and trust into our hands and to go forward.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
My Lords, I feel a certain amount of diffidence in venturing again to trespass on the indulgence of your Lordships in regard to this question; and I need hardly say that I listened with sorrow, if I may use the expression, to the remarks which fell from the most rev. Prelate. It would be presumption on my part to attempt to find fault with anything he said and I should not think of doing so; but I would like to appeal to him to realise that the atmosphere in which he lives in this country is totally different from that in which we live in Ireland, and that whereas the phrases of which he made use would probably suffice in normal circumstances, I do not feel that he realises that we, in Ireland, are living under conditions absolutely different from those which any of us in our lifetime ever contemplated would exist in Ireland, or have experienced in any other portion of His Majesty's Dominions.
There is a novel method of asserting British authority contained in this and other measures which have been brought forward by the Government and it is a precedent which, I hope, will not be followed. Magnanimity has always been a characteristic of British policy in all parts of the world, but never before has British magnanimity been confused with cowardice, ineptitude, and impotence. That, briefly, rightly or wrongly, sums up the situation in Ireland. Mr. de Valera 592 is convinced that he has beaten the British Government to its knees, and in Ireland he has a great following which shares that view. Mr. Collins gives us no real indication that he holds any different opinion, and your Lordships may remember that one of the first communiqués which came from the Provisional Government contained the memorable words—"The surrender of Dublin Castle." This mode of transferring anything, whether it be arms and ammunition, or bricks and mortar, is associated with conquest and defeat, and if your Lordships required any proof of the attitude of a large number of the Irish people towards this country, that very brief announcement would be a most eloquent expression of it.
At this moment we are floundering in a political morass. It is deemed better to endeavour to reach the far side than to return to the bank which we have left. In fact at the stage we have reached something in the nature of an expedient is necessary. All I would beg of your Lordships is that in attempting an expedient on this very important matter good care should be taken to launch it on very sound lines. The most rev. Prelate who has just addressed your Lordships looks upon this matter as if there were only two alternatives—one is the putting into force of this Treaty with no reservations and no restrictions, apparently; and the other is the alternative of force and repressive measures. I agree with the most rev. Prelate that this country would not tolerate the repressive measures at which he hints. I believe this country considers that it is in honour bound and committed to give this experiment an opportunity of succeeding.
But there are very different ways of launching this experiment. If the British Government launches it with the suggestion behind it that it has no power of enforcing anything it may desire, if, in fact, it abdicates its authority in regard to Ireland, I think I can prophesy with fair accuracy that the experiment is doomed to failure. On the other hand, if this experiment is launched and the Irish people know full well the concessions which they will receive and the limit of your patience, I believe there is a chance of achieving some slender success. I need hardly say that I sincerely hope that in launching this experiment—pregnant as it is with immense possibilities—the prin- 593 ciple and plan of the British relationship with Ireland will be established and will also be maintained. That is what has never been clone. The British attitude towards Ireland has never been a consistent one. At times it has been an attitude of good-natured indifference; at others, of unmeasured generosity. Fits of annoyance have been followed by repressive measures, and then, en more occasions than one, there has been a servile bid for the Irish vote to assist in the promotion of British legislation in the House of Commons. A more demoralising treatment of a country or of an individual could never be imagined.
This uncertain relationship must now cease. Ireland must be made fully aware, as I have said, of the limit of your concessions and of your patience, and must realise that failure on her part to justify these hopes by sound administration will be followed by the resumption of the powers of the Government by the British people. We cannot tolerate this period of prolonged uncertainty, when no one dares to express an opinion for fear of jeopardising Mr. Collins's position before an Election places him in possession of a majority. Although. I may be accused of condoning what I believe to be wrong, or of not using all the means at my disposal to defeat this measure—and I will endeavour to show your Lordships why I believe it to be wrong—I would venture to give expression to a warning. I cannot believe that people's lives, ideas, habits, and instincts are so thoroughly disorganised by five years of battle that all those principles which have guided nations for centuries in the past must go by the board. Empires have disappeared; institutions have vanished; disintegration, destruction and eclipse fill many pages of history from the very beginning, and every such event can clearly be attributed to the disregard or the non-observance of cardinal principles.
Are we to disregard all such principles in respect of Ireland, and, I might add, in respect of the Empire? I am not endeavouring to persuade your Lordships by my arguments to reject this measure, but I should be wanting in my duty if I failed to point out the many dangers and difficulties which I see so clearly and of which, perhaps, in 'Ireland I have more opportunity of judging than many of your Lordships whose minds are fully taken up with unravelling political problems both at home and abroad What I would venture to bring before your 594 Lordships is this—that at present Ireland is in a state bordering on anarchy. The British Government, although the King's Writ does run—at least we believe the King's Writ still nominally runs in Ireland—appear to have no power whatsoever to maintain the law. We are told to wait and see, and that in time all will be well. But in the meantime chaos reigns, and crime, if not increasing, continues day by day.
I wonder if your Lordships realise—I feel sure from the most rev. Prelate's speech to-night that he does not realise even in a small degree—the atmosphere in which your fellow subjects exist in Ireland. The Colonial Secretary, in another place, drew a pleasing picture of urban and rural enjoyment as existing in Ireland at this moment. He is right in a sense. We hear that hunting continues, and that various other pastimes are carried on under certain conditions, but behind this veneer of pleasure lie the realities of the situation. There exists a knowledge all over Ireland of the much depreciated value of human life and property, and, in fact, of everything that counts for anything in Ireland or elsewhere. There is a tense feeling of anxiety, both in the North and in the South. The great majority of people, terrorised as they are by the extremists, are earnestly awaiting sonic finality, awaiting a time that will show that somebody at all events has got some definite plan. What do you suppose are the feelings of the population who inhabit the boundary? The most rev. Prelate said that he could not understand the anxiety of the population existing on the boundary.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF YORK
What I said was that I did not understand the grave anxiety of the Government of Northern Ireland.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
The Government of Northern Ireland is responsible for the people, and I am glad to think is thoroughly sympathetic with the feelings of the people for whom it is responsible. But there are individuals who exist in large numbers on the boundary, who do not know now whether they will in future exist under the jurisdiction of the Northern Government—which receives but little assistance from the Government of this country—or whether they will be members of what is now termed the Free 595 State, but what they are convinced in a short time will become the Republic. And I think the most rev. Prelate will realise that there is a certain amount of anxiety in our minds as to whether some of our loyal fellow citizens are to be handed over to the tender mercies of the Republic, or to be allowed to remain under the jurisdiction of the Northern Government. I need hardly say that my own friends on the boundary interest me most. But can anyone suppose that there is any prospect of peace on either side of the boundary when the British Government appear not to know their own mind upon this very crucial point?
I do not know whether your Lordships are aware that the Government of Northern Ireland is being continually taunted with its inability to maintain law and order within its own jurisdiction. Suggestions are continually made that the loyalists had better take the law into their own hands and protect themselves. Your Lordships are doubtless aware of the danger of this suggestion, and I can only repeat a warning that I endeavoured to issue in the Senate of Northern Ireland the other day. I stated as a fact that these inflammatory speeches which have been delivered by people in the Six Counties suggesting that we are impotent as a Government, and are unable to protect the lives and liberty of those within our jurisdiction and that the loyalists had better take the law into their own hands—these inflammatory speeches have been followed by outrages in Belfast, and it was for that reason that I hoped that we should receive the full support, not only of your Lordships here, but also of the British Government, in enabling us to maintain the law which we so earnestly desire to see observed.
The provocative acts and the apparently unquestioning subservience of the British Government and a section of the British press to Mr. Collins have exasperated the very sorely tried patience of the co-religionists of the victims of these Sinn Fein outrages. I do not know whether your Lordships estimate at their full value the difficulties which surround the maintenance of law and order when more than the ordinary means at the disposal of the authorities is required. According to the King's Regulations the military can be called in only when the police have found it impossible to deal with the situation, and under these conditions the various anomalies 596 arising from this circumstance must be very obvious, even after one moment's consideration. No portion of Ireland can be said to be existing under normal conditions. Normal conditions certainly do not prevail in the area around Belfast or even in the Six Counties. Consequently, a situation of this kind arises. An outrage is perpetrated, a policeman is shot, or a bomb is thrown, or—what has already happened more than once—business premises are raided by armed men who fire indiscriminately at the manager and clerks in their office. To cope with these outrages cannot be said to lie within the ordinary avocations of the police, and, moreover, there are not police in sufficient numbers to deal with situations of this kind in addition to their other duties. The military, acting under the recognised practice, agree to act. Various points are occupied in the disaffected area. Peace is restored, and peace probably reigns for one, or two, or three days. The posts are then evacuated, and the police again assume control.
In regular sequence these events have frequently occurred. The remedy is the recognition that a state bordering upon rebellion exists and the utilisation of the military for preventive purposes. We have pressed for the recognition of our difficulties, and I hope now that that recognition will be forthcoming. But many valuable lives have been lost by this system of dual control under which we are a Government and yet not a Government, because the control of the means of maintaining law and order resides in an authority not under our jurisdiction. The military to whom we have had to resort have done all they could for us, but under the Regulations existing and, I suppose, under the orders which they have received, they have not been able to give us that full measure of assistance to which I think we are entitled.
I should not think of condoning any of the crimes which have recently been committed. I deplore them very much, and I am glad to take this opportunity of expressing my abhorrence of the crimes —crimes and outrages, I regret to say, perpetrated by both sides. I should be the last person to plead that any amount of provocation justified any one of these crimes, but I cannot help feeling that they are the result of your timorous and uncertain policy, and, as a Minister of the Northern Government, responsible naturally for what occurs, and also as a native of 597 Northern Ireland, I long for the time when the British Government will appear before us as a wise and firm Administration instead of what they now appear to be, a group of opportunists clutching at any flimsy straw to escape from the difficulties which they themselves have created. I know these are very harsh words, but I venture to put before your Lordships the growing feeling of bitterness and despair in Ireland at the continual concession, the continual delay, and the apparent absence of finality upon every single question of policy handled by your Government.
There is an authority which England for all time must actually, and not only nominally, exercise over Ireland. This is the necessary corollary of the geographical situation of two islands, one larger and one smaller, and it is this authority which the greater and stronger must exercise over the smaller and weaker. The noble Viscount, in his eloquent speech yesterday, referred to this particular matter, but he put it in another way, as I have often heard it put, and that is that Great Britain will be able to exert pressure, direct and otherwise, to compel Ireland into agreement or submission. But I venture to say that the knowledge of this vague overmastering power is hardly conducive to the friendly relationship which everyone so earnestly desires, and, in addition, it is a demoralising inducement, especially to the Irish nature as I know it, to ascertain how far Great Britain will go before taking drastic action to carry out her wishes and policy. It is my desire to impress upon your Lordships the definition of your authority and the definition of your powers, because Ireland wishes to know what your powers and what your authority are.
I wonder if the Government have considered how far they can be prepared to allow Ireland to go in the direction of Republican government, which is certain to be the policy of the Opposition in the Irish Parliament. Oppositions—not at the present time it is true—have a habit of changing places with the Government. I do not see the prospect in Ireland of indispensable Coalitions, actuated by the highest motives like our Government here, controlling the destinies of Ireland for all time. And this must mean that in a comparatively short space of time you will be faced with a further demand for greater independence. I should not like to pretend 598 that I can follow the policy of the Government at the present moment.
It is obvious to all that the Government are very unwilling to hamper Mr. Collins. They assume—and until it is proved to the contrary they have every right to assume—that Mr. Collins proposes to govern Ireland for the benefit of Ireland and of the Empire. But I would suggest to the Government that in their vacillating and weak policy—and that is the manner in which their policy is construed in Ireland—they are really assisting Mr. de Valera and the Republican Party, and that if only they could realise that a strong and firm administration here would have its reflection in the future administration in Ireland, they would bring about the state of affairs which they hope to see. A firm and a just attitude on their part would be far preferable, and far more acceptable than the vague and mysterious attitude which they are adopting at the present moment.
I have ventured to explain that I have no great sympathy with your recent policy with regard to Ireland, but I am prepared to face facts as I see them, and to do what I can to suggest to your Lordships the manner in which this Treaty, when it comes into existence, will have the best chance of success. This Treaty between Great Britain and Ireland is practically in existence at the present moment, and I think that the Government have made almost every mistake that it is possible for them to make. In the first place, there is no precedent for the name of Treaty being given to this Agreement. The Act of Union, which was termed a Treaty, was under totally different conditions, because in 1782 and also in 1783, the British Parliament renounced all control over Ireland, deliberately renounced all control over Ireland, as we appear to be doing at the present moment. Consequently, the arrangement of the Union was a Treaty between two independent States, united only by the existence of a common Sovereign. I am given to understand, and I have no reason to doubt the accuracy of this statement, that the official view of the Treaty of Vereeniging has consistently declined to treat it as a Treaty or to give it that name.
But when it is decided that there should be an Agreement, it appears to me that by far the best course to pursue is to make the wording of the Agreement and the provisions it contains so clear that there can be no 599 misunderstanding whatsoever. As far as I can judge, the Government take quite a different view, and have denied to Parliament, by every means in their power, the right which it is entitled to enjoy—namely, the power to amend as it thinks fit. This is an intolerable attitude to take up, and the negation of good government.
There is also the question of the date when what is known as the "Ulster month" comes into operation. If your Lordships require information on this point—which I can give—I might be, allowed to say that the "Ulster month" is a misnomer, as some infinitely shorter space of time will suffice to withdraw Ulster from the Parliament, in which, against all your pledges, you have temporarily included her. I sincerely hope that when we reach the Committee stage the Government will be able to define this point more clearly than they have done hitherto. The noble Viscount in his speech mentioned this matter, and. I was not able to obtain a clear answer from him, an answer for which we are waiting. It is true that there is an idea that the "Ulster month," as it is called, will not come into operation until after the Bill framing the Constitution of the Free State has passed, but I submit to your Lordships that this really is not a matter for the opinion of a Minister, and that it is necessary that the actual legal interpretation of these words should be made clear to everybody whom it may concern.
This curious anomaly might arise: A certain amount of time might elapse from the passing of this Treaty and, after that, we might be told in Ulster that the month had elapsed, and that we were included in the Parliament in Ireland. For that reason I think that perhaps it will be wise for us to pass our Resolution in both Houses as soon as this Treaty is passed whether that is in accordance with the opinions held by individual Ministers here or not.
There is a very material point which the Government seem to ignore, but which I hope your Lordships do not ignore, the recognition of which was not the least important factor in the policy of the Union. As a Union England and Ireland were mutually helpful, Ireland deriving many advantages from Great Britain and Great, Britain benefiting in many ways from Irish resources. It is customary, especially in Ireland, to concentrate on grievances, some of them centuries old, 600 and to ignore everything else, but, the Army, the Navy, the Civil Service, the Mercantile Marine, in fact every branch of commercial and other activity pays an eloquent testimony to mutual benefit, and it is a matter of the deepest anxiety to me that your new policy undermines, if it does not destroy, this tremendous Imperial asset. Let us have no false delusions about this.
From whatever angle your policy is viewed it is a policy of disintegration, and a wholly different policy from the one which has enabled us under Imperial conditions to promote progress and civilisation throughout the world. It is this complete disintegration which I am desirous of avoiding. I look on this measure as merely a palliative, but I am hopeful that, notwithstanding the form of government in Ireland with which I disagree, this complete disintegration may be avoided. It is certainly desirable. But I am not one of those who consider that the present Government is immortal, and I have every hope that we shall once again have an Administration in this country who, recognising their responsibilities in regard to Ireland, will be capable of governing that country through whatever institutions may gradually be evolved, in accordance with the recognised rules of successful administration.
I should not think of asking your Lordships to divide on the Second Reading of this Bill for the reasons I have already put before you. Not, as you will have gathered, because I have any admiration for the measure, but because I feel that we are committed and in honour bound to give this experiment a trial. I dissociate myself entirely from any responsibility in the matter, in the same way as I shall not claim to have had a hand in achieving success, if success attends your efforts, as I sincerely hope it will. I can only claim to have loyally worked for many years for peace and prosperity in Ireland in the sphere in which my duties and responsibilities lay, and I can assure your Lordships that my efforts in that direction will not be diminished.
§ VISCOUNT ASTOR
My Lords, your Lordships have listened, during the last two days' debate, to some powerful speeches made by most distinguished members of this House. You have heard to-day a powerful speech from the noble and learned 601 Lord; powerful not only because of its eloquence and the ability with which he marshalled his facts, but powerful also because of the obvious sincerity with which he spoke. You have also heard a speech from the noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne, and others who have held distinguished positions in this House. My only claim to take part in the debate is that I am as earnest as any of your Lordships for an early and complete restoration of peace in these islands.
I think I understand and appreciate and sympathise with many of the fears of Ulster. The noble Marquess who has just sat down referred to the atmosphere in Ireland. He described it as being abnormal. The atmosphere of the whole world is abnormal at present, and we have to bear this in mind when we discuss important and vital questions affecting peace in any portion of the world. As I understand it one of the chief charges brought against the Government is that they have altered the area of what we call Ulster, without consulting Ulster. The word "consulting" has been used. If by "consulting" your Lordships mean agreement, then those who make the charge have complete justification, because Ulster has not agreed to the modification of the boundary of Ulster which is contained in the Treaty. But if it is contended that Ulster was not aware that it was proposed to modify the boundary, then I would remind noble Lords who put forward that plea of the letter written by the Prime Minister to Ulster on November 10.
He wrote to Ulster saying, in fact, that preliminary negotiations had been in process for some weeks and months with representatives of Southern Ireland, and that as far as His Majesty's Government could tell there was the possibility of an understanding, an agreement, being arrived at between the Government and the leaders of Sinn Fein. He also said that various points would arise when that Agreement was drawn up, and he notified Ulster that one of the points which would arise would be the question of the boundary of Ulster. His Majesty's Government may have been wrong—I am not discussing that now—in agreeing to any modification of the boundary without the previous consent of Ulster, but the letter of November 10 makes it quite clear to the people of Northern Ireland that His Majesty's Government did contemplate a revision of the boundary.
602 Let me turn to the more general charge that has been made—the charge of broken faith, the charge that His Majesty's Government and the people of this country have let down their friends in Ireland; a very serious and grave charge. It seems to me that His Majesty's Government found themselves—I am not, certain whether it was in the early hours of December 7 or in the late hours of December 6—in the position in which the leaders of Ulster found themselves in the early part of the year 1920. His Majesty's Government had to decide on the grave issue whether they would snatch at a real opportunity then placed before them of agreement leading to settlement and to peace, or whether they would break off negotiations with a certainty of chaos, disturbance and war. I think the Government, as Ministers responsible for the peace of the country, were quite right in deciding that they ought to take the opportunity then offered of bringing about a settlement. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Carson, referred to a speech made by Mr. Bonar Law in another place last December. May I also refer to that speech in this connection. Mr. Bonar Law made it quite clear that in his opinion, if His Majesty's Ministers had not signed the Treaty on December 6, negotiations would have broken off; that it would have been impossible to renew negotiations; and that it was a question of making a settlement then, or losing the opportunity of doing so.
The responsibility of His Majesty's, Ministers on that occasion seems to me to be very similar to that by which the leaders of Ulster were faced early in 1920. They had then to decide whether to insist upon a definition of Ulster as including the whole of the nine counties, or whether to agree, reluctantly, to a definition of Ulster which limited that area to six counties. The issues were a probable peace or probable disturbance in Ireland. As Captain Craig said in another place, in answer to his critics—We knew that the accusation would come 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. I am quite prepared to admit a technical breach of the Covenant.On that occasion Captain Craig wound up by saying—We took the only common sense, business decision we could possibly take,603 That is to say, they decided to agree to a definition of Ulster which would limit the area to six counties, even though that meant agreeing to the exclusion of something like 70,000 loyalists in the excluded three counties.
The leaders of Ulster took upon themselves a grave responsibility when they agreed to that. Speaking for myself, I think it was the only thing they could do in the wider interests of peace in Ireland. I think they had a responsibility, not merely to the loyalists in the three excluded counties but to the whole of the inhabitants of Ireland, and I think they were quite right when they took that decision, even though, in the words of Captain Craig, it meant a technical breach of the Covenant. There are occasions when leaders of great movements, like leaders of Governments, have to take upon their shoulders the gravest responsibility and to make the gravest decision. A year ago, as your Lordships will remember, we were faced with a very serious coal strike. One of the difficulties, as I see it, in effecting a settlement then was the inability, or the unwillingness, of the leaders of the coalminers to carry on negotiations and to put their names to terms of agreement without constantly going back and consulting their followers.
THE MARQUESS OF DUFFERIN AND AVA
May I interrupt the noble Viscount for one moment? Ulster did not come to this decision without consultation with the Unionist Council. The whole question was put before the Unionist Council first.
§ VISCOUNT ASTOR
I do not want to say anything to imply that I am in any way unsympathetic to the people of Ulster, but I am sure the noble Marquess will not maintain that the sanction and authority of the 70,000 excluded loyalists in the three counties was obtained. The point I am trying to make is that, in the wider interests of peace in Ireland, the leaders of Ulster, without having obtained the approval of the loyalists in the three excluded counties, did come to this decision.
Reference has been made during the debate to the unsatisfactory condition of Ireland at the present moment, and to the fact that only yesterday brutal murders were committed. Nobody could suggest that the condition of any part of Ireland, North or South, is satisfactory at the present moment. But when you have people, particularly in the South, who for a long 604 period have been armed and who have been accustomed to using their arms, when you have private feuds and private vendettas going on, you cannot be surprised if horrible and atrocious murders are committed. It does not mean that the Provisional Government in the South of Ireland condones or is responsible for these murders, any more than anybody would suggest that the Government in the North of Ireland is responsible for the outrages that are taking place there. It seems to me that the main difference between the state of Ireland as we see it now and as it was in December, 1921, when the Treaty was signed and when your Lordships agreed to it and ratified it, is not the fact that there are still murders or a larger number of murders. It seems to me that the most important fact, so far as this country is concerned, is that Sinn Fein is now completely split into two. In December, 1921, when your Lordships agreed to this Treaty, Sinn Fein was united. Now Sinn Fein is split, and on the one side you have the Separatists, Republicans; Bolsheviks, or whatever you choose to call them, and on the other side you have the Party which is led by Mr. Griffith and Mr. Collins, who are trying, as far as they are able, to carry through the Treaty to which we have given our consent.
We have to ask ourselves in this country, as the Southern Unionists have to ask themselves, and as those in Ulster have to ask themselves, what part we ought to take in the conflict that is going on between these two sections of what used to be known as Sinn Fein. Ought we to stand by and possibly see Mr. Collins and those whom he leads devoured and overthrown by the Separatists and the Republicans? Or ought we to give such support as we can to the Provisional Government, weak, situated in a most difficult position, and attempting to give effect to the Treaty to which we on this side and they on that side have agreed? It seems to me that we ought to use such influence as we possess to try to help those people in Ireland who are attempting to give effect to this Treaty, who are fighting for its ratification and its acceptance by the people of Ireland as a whole. I am not suggesting that by anything we say or do we should condone any of the past crimes for which it is alleged that the leaders even of the ratification Party have been responsible in the past. What I do suggest is that we should give them such support as we can to 605 prevent their being overthrown by the Republicans and the Separatists. If this happens, you will have a state of affairs in Ireland far worse than the unsatisfactory conditions which we see to-day.
It has been suggested during the debate, both yesterday and to-day, that your Lordships should consent to Amendments of this Treaty. I understand proposals will be put forward for the amendment of the Bill to which your Lordships are now asked to give a Second Reading. A strong case has been put forward from the legal point of view, and an equally strong case from the logical point of view, but do not let us omit to take into consideration the psychology of Ireland in coming to a decision on this point. The proposals will be, not merely to amend the Treaty which has been made, by His Majesty's Government, but to amend a contract to which your Lordships agreed only last December: to modify a contract which was sanctioned, authorised, passed and ratified by both Houses of Parliament. Consider what ammunition will be supplied to the Separatists and Republicans in Ireland if we are to go back on our contract by amending this Bill.
As I see it, if we were to amend this Bill there could be no alternative but an immediate Election. That might or might not be a desirable thing, but if we are to have an Election as the result of the amendment and rejection of this Bill, the issue before the country would not be: "Will you have this Treaty, or will you have another and a better Treaty?" So far as I can see, there is no one in Southern Ireland who is in any position whatever to offer to this country better, more generous and more satisfactory terms of Treaty. No, if we have an Election as a result of the rejection of this Bill, the issue before the country will be: "Will you have this Treaty or will you have Civil War—and a war of reconquest?" During the last few months I have been speaking to a large number of different audiences. For matrimonial reasons I am in contact with a constituency to a greater degree than is any other member of this House, and therefore I can claim to have been in contact with, and to have tested, public opinion on this issue. I say, without hesitation, that when the people of this country are faced with the alternative of this Treaty or Civil War they will vote overwhelmingly in favour of the Treaty.
606 I do most earnestly appeal to your Lordships to stick to the Treaty you have already agreed to, and to give such help as you are able to those people in Ireland who are taking big risks, and showing great physical and moral courage, in trying to give effect to the Treaty to which they and we have agreed, and who, I believe, whatever their past may have been, are attempting for the future to be partners and members within the Empire.
§ VISCOUNT CAVE
My Lords, I will not keep you for very long because I want to deal with one aspect only of the question before the House. I do not propose to discuss the merits of the Agreement, not because I am in sympathy with it—I should not be frank if I did not say that I am not—but because in my view no useful purpose would be served by my discussing it at the present moment. The Agreement has been signed, it has been approved by a majority in both Houses, and, so far as we are concerned, it has been to a large extent carried out by the evacuation, the very perilous evacuation, of Southern Ireland by our troops. We have to live with the Treaty and to make the best of it, and I do not propose to criticise it to-day.
I want to deal as briefly and as temperately as I can with a practical and urgent question, which this House must decide in the course of next week, and it is this: What is the position of Northern Ireland under this Bill and the Treaty; are there really difficulties to be met; and can we, and should we, meet them by Amendment? That is a question raised both by the most rev. Prelate, the Archbishop of York, and by the noble Viscount who has just spoken. May I say this to begin with? It is little more than a year since we set up the State of Northern Ireland. It is less than that since His Majesty, in Belfast, bade that Parliament God-speed. It is a little State, small in area, small in population, great only in the virile spirit of its people. It is friendly to this country, and when others were hanging back Ulstermen fought in our cause. We owe to Ulster at least fair treatment. I think we owe her something more.
I am not going to deal with the greater difficulties caused to Northern Ireland by this Treaty and this Bill—with the fact that we have set up on her borders a State greater in population, and I am afraid far from friendly. I want to deal practically, and as an Englishman and a member of 607 this House, with the position which is caused by the ambiguities and silences of the Treaty and the Bill. I shall take only three or four points and ask your Lordships, and His Majesty's Government, to consider before next week whether and how they should be dealt with. I am sure the noble Viscount will believe that I do this not because I have the least desire to attack a Government of which, not many years ago, I was a member, but because I am genuinely anxious about the position brought about by the Bill, and as to the line which this House should take in dealing with it.
I take first the question of what is called "the Ulster month." I confess I have always taken the view, on reading the Treaty and the Bill, that the period of a month allowed to Northern Ireland for declaring itself out of the Free State would begin to run from the passing of this Bill into law. I have never been able to understand any other reading of it. The only alternative suggested is that the month will run from the passing, by this Parliament I suppose, of some future Bill, confirming the new Constitution for the Irish Free State. I can find no such Bill even referred to in the Treaty, although there is a passing reference in Clause 17 to the future Constitution of the Irish Parliament, I hold that when the Treaty says that the time runs from the ratification of the Treaty, and this Bill says the Treaty shall have the force of law, then that is ratification and the time runs from the passing of this Bill.
I am told that the late Attorney-General has expressed a contrary view. I have the greatest and most genuine respect for the abilities of the present Lord Chief Justice, and I should, if I had seen his opinion and knew whether it contained any conditions or qualifications, feel, what I do not now feel, in a position to comment upon it. But I think I am entitled with moderation to say this—that when no fewer than three of those who in your Lordships' name administer justice in this Chamber have expressed a view the other way, and when I know that those three do not stand alone, there is, at all events, some doubt on the matter, and a doubt which it would be wise to resolve. It would be a cruel thing if the Northern Parliament, acting on the opinion which has been expressed by the Government, were to postpone their election until after a month from the passing of this Bill, and 608 it were then to be held, by some Tribunal having power to decide the matter, that the time for taking that step had run out; and it is surely only fair and just to put into this Bill some clear statement as to the meaning of that provision.
What your Lordships will put in is, of course, another matter. If I had to consider the matter I should think that the sooner this question was decided the better for every one. But that, of course, is a matter for the consideration of noble Lords who are more familiar with Northern Ireland than I am. Of this I am sure, that it is only just and fair that in some way or another the doubt should be resolved. We are told by the noble Viscount, and by others, that we must consider the psychology of Ireland and that if we make the meaning of the Treaty clear, even in this small particular, war may ensue. I really do not believe it. I do not think it is an essential term of the Treaty that it should remain obscure, and it seems to me that when Parliament is asked to ratify an agreement Parliament is really entitled to know, without the possibility of doubt, what it is that it is ratifying. It seems to me that unless your Lordships deal with this point you abandon one of the main functions of this House.
There is a second point which I will put quite shortly, because I agree it is not of so much importance, and that is the position of the Council of Ireland under this Bill. As the House knows, the Council of Ireland, under the Act of 1920, consists of an equal number of members appointed by the Northern and Southern Parliaments, with an independent President. It is charged with the duty of dealing with Private Bill legislation in both parts of Ireland, and with the administration of the law relating to railways, fisheries, and matters of that kind. I have carefully looked at the Treaty and at the Act of 1920, with it, and I am disposed to think that when this Bill passes, or, at all events, when the Northern Parliament declares itself out of the Free State, the Council of Ireland can no longer function in Southern Ireland, but that it can and will continue to function in Northern Ireland. Let us see what the position is that is so created. Members from Southern Ireland will be entitled to intervene in the business of Northern Ireland, but there will be no reciprocal right for the representatives of Northern Ireland to deal with the same 609 matters when they arise in Southern Ireland. That is a very one-sided and unfair arrangement, and I confess I do not think it would interfere in the least with the Treaty if a matter of that kind were set right by a short clause in this Bill.
I will not refer in more than a few sentences to another matter—the position of the Court of Appeal for Ireland. That Court consists of the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, the Chief Justice of Northern Ireland, the Chief Justice of Southern Ireland and other Judges who may be appointed. As I read the Treaty, I feel great doubt whether there will be any such Court in future. If that be so, the right of everybody in Northern Ireland to appeal from the judgments of the Tribunals of that State will have disappeared and no one will be able to go either to the Court of Appeal of Ireland or to this House. That might be set right by a short clause giving, perhaps, a direct appeal from the Court of Appeal of Northern Ireland to this House. But I do not dwell on that because it is only an illustration and is not in itself, perhaps, a matter of the greatest moment.
I would add only a few words upon the last point to which I wish to refer, and that is the question of the Boundary Commission. A Commission is to be set up and is to determine the boundaries of Northern Ireland. I am not going into the question with which the noble Viscount dealt as to whether that provision should have been made without consulting the Government of that State; I am not dealing with matters of that kind because they have been dealt with already. But I want your Lordships to consider the position under that Article. It is a matter of dispute whether that Commission is to be set up for the purpose of laying down what is sometimes called a "give-and-take" line, to make small adjustments of boundaries on one side or the other, or whether, as Mr. Collins contends, it will have power to transfer a large territory containing counties from one State to the other.
The noble Viscount who moved the Second Reading of the Bill said that to make that point clear would be to infringe upon the duties and obligations of the Chairman of that Commission. With great respect to him, I think, in saying that, he mistakes the point. When the scope of the inquiry is clear it is, of course, for the members of the Commission and, if need be, for the Chairman, to settle what decision 610 they shall take under the instrument of reference. But neither the Chairman nor any member of the Commission has power to say what the scope of their reference is; and it is as to the scope of the reference that the doubt arises. I do not think Parliament would leave it to anyone, to any Tribunal, or to any Chairman, however impartial, to say what it is that is referred to them; and that is the point which I should like to have determined in the course of the passing of this Bill.
My noble and learned friend, Lord Sumner, suggested that the point might be met by reserving to the two Houses the right of approving the name of the Chairman of the Commission. With great respect to him, I do not think that would quite solve the difficulty. I have no doubt that the Government would submit to the House some name which would be beyond the possibility of exception; but I would not like to leave, even to such a man, the decision of the question whether certain counties in Ireland shall or shall not be transferred from one State to the other. And I would venture to suggest that the right way, or one way at any rate, of dealing with this matter is to reserve the terms of reference themselves for approval by the two Houses. If that were done, we should know before the Commission is appointed exactly what it is that is to be referred to it, and your Lordships would have a chance of pronouncing an opinion upon it.
I will not trouble you longer. There may be other points, but I think I have said enough to show that there is something which this House ought to consider when we go into Committee. I am sure that it is just to determine these doubts and difficulties before the Bill passes, and I earnestly hope that His Majesty's Government will not interpose any obstacle to their being considered by the House. If they do so, I can only say that they will render very difficult indeed the position of those who, while willing and anxious that, in the difficult times which are upon us, this country should show a united front, are yet resolved that, if it be possible, justice shall be done to Northern Ireland.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (VISCOUNT BIRKENHEAD)
My Lords, having regard to the indication that has been given that none of your Lordships proposes to challenge a Division upon this occasion, I shall not think it necessary to make an elaborate traverse of the whole position in an argu- 611 ment, but shall content myself in the main with an attempt to deal with the more important of the specific points upon which explanation or information has been desired. I do not know whether my noble and learned friend who has just resumed his seat is anxious that the Treaty should succeed, or is anxious, as others are, that the Treaty should fail, but the very generous list of Amendments—of varying importance, I agree, but in the aggregate very considerable importance—which he has adumbrated is of a character, I am bound to say, expressing the impression I have immediately formed, which would necessarily be destructive of the Treaty itself. I shall, of course, consider these matters with the respect which my noble and learned friend's authority will always command in this House when I or the noble Viscount in charge of the Bill have had the advantage of seeing any Amendments which appear on the Paper, but I ought at the outset to make it perfectly plain that I should entertain, wishing the Treaty to succeed, the gloomiest forebodings of the result, if your Lordships were to adopt the course indicated with so much lightness by the noble and learned Viscount.
As I listened to the whole course of this debate I could not help reflecting that any member of His Majesty's Government must indeed be of great conceit in relation to his own character and ability, and the character and ability of his colleagues, if those qualities survived the experience of a debate in your Lordships' House. No one could sit, as I do, for long periods in the circumstances, without becoming more and more painfully aware of his own imperfections—a realisation which is only partially compensated by the experience he constantly gains of the more lively of our controversial epithets. I shall not attempt in any way to add to the temperature of the House. A drowning man must clutch at straws, and I was grateful even for the courtesy with which Lord Carson greeted me on my return to the Woolsack. It is not a matter which, rightly looked at, either calls for or justifies the exhibition of heat. The matters are far too serious which require decision. I am making no complaint of those who, deeply moved, as we observe them in every sentence and almost in every tone of the voice to he deeply moved, take part in these debates. But, after all, we have not all exactly the same justification for surveying this question through eyes of such deep emotion, 612 and I will try, at least, in the few general observations that I make to-night, not to use an expression or an argument which could legitimately wound the feelings of anyone.
Several speeches were made yesterday, and notable speeches, which I had the advantage of carefully reading this morning. My noble and learned friend, Lord Sumner, in one of those careful and interesting speeches which he contributes to our debates, dealt with a variety of topics. Most of the criticisms, or a considerable proportion of the criticisms, which he made were not, if I understood him aright, founded upon impressions or conclusions which he had formed himself and intended to recommend to the House, but they were statements of that which had been alleged in the Dail by some persons, or that had been said on other occasions by other persons in Ireland; and, if I am right, the purpose of the noble and learned Lord in calling attention to these matters was to show that there existed some general and dangerous confusion as to many points which were of importance in the Treaty. I have before, in a phrase which Lord Lansdowne last night recalled, described this Treaty as a fallible and imperfect document. We should, of course, have been more than inspired draftsmen if, in the circumstances in which these conclusions, as each of them was painfully evolved as the result of compromise and negotiation, were expressed, we had been able to produce a complete masterpiece of constitutional law. We neither expected, nor did we attain, to any such degree of success.
But I was not, I confess, particularly impressed or alarmed by the illustrations, which seemed to me to be perhaps the principal illustrations, contained in the speech of the noble and learned Lord. I think the apprehension that the use of the term "Treaty" will involve us in friction with, or justify the interference of, the League of Nations is an apprehension which need not be seriously entertained. I myself certainly do not so entertain it. I think that the eccentricities of nomenclature and the use of metaphors may be pressed too far if upon them are based apprehensions of this kind. We call this a Treaty for reasons which I suppose will have occurred to the minds of everybody. Other people spoke of that which took place at Kilmainham as the Treaty of Kilmainham. But the juridical dis- 613 tinction between an instrument of this kind, entered into in the circumstances in which this was entered into, and those international instruments with which we are familiar under the term "Treaty" is, I should have thought, so apparent as to need no further elaboration.
The noble and learned Lord also at some length called attention to the illegal character of the Government which, under circumstances of generally admitted difficulty, is discharging its functions in Dublin to-day. The noble and learned Lord is perfectly right. I myself called attention to that many weeks ago. It has been, if I may say so, frequently referred to in discussion. It has happened at moments of great constitutional crisis, both in this country and almost in every country which has a political history, that there have been times when a regularly constituted Government could not be settled, and has not, in fact, been settled. There were such periods in the time of Oliver Cromwell. There were such periods at the time of the Convention Parliament, and many such instances will occur to the minds of those who have at all closely studied the development of our history.
They are, of course, an illegal Government, and the functions they discharge will be discharged for a period of time, which happily is not prolonged, in circumstances which are known to all of us, and in circumstances in which, as it seems to me, the object of all of us should be to render their task easier and not to render it more difficult. Certainly that ought to be the view of all those members of both Houses of Parliament who have applied their minds to this question, and who, so applying them, came to the conclusion, with doubt and difficulty, that this Treaty was an experiment which it was worth the while of the Parliament of this country to make. The noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, in one of his most weighty speeches, dealt with this subject, and the noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne, dealt with the matter with perhaps rather a larger survey. I could, I think, see that his great difficulty and anxiety was the extent to which decision upon these matters was denied to Parliament by the course which has been adopted.
To-day, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Carson, has expressed his own anxieties and apprehensions upon this point. The case which Lord Carson made was in effect 614 that if this method of Parliamentary legislation is adopted and becomes general, there is no conceivable measure which could not be carried through without the slightest opportunity of a Parliamentary discussion of its details. The answer, I think, to the case as made by the noble and learned Lord—I will refer, if I may, to Lord Lansdowne's argument in a moment—is this. When an appeal is made to Parliament to adopt a method which must be conceded by everybody to be inconvenient and perilous, those who make that proposal must justify that which they propose by the extent to which they can persuade Parliament of the adequacy of the grounds upon which they are proceeding. In this case we came to the conclusion that there existed clear reasons for adopting a method like this.
In a sentence or two I will remind your Lordships of what the circumstances were. Everybody remembers that there was a state of armed, though in many cases subterranean, rebellion in Ireland. Everyone remembers that the problem became more and more formidable. How were we to deal with it? Everyone remembers—I do not shrink from the admission; I have made it before—that we were not, with the resources which, at the given time, were at our disposal, successfully coping with the forces of disorder. The noble and learned Lord is never tired of saying that we have been beaten, that we have surrendered, and that we have been driven from the South of Ireland. There is a difference between open warfare, and the kind of massacre with which it was necessary for our forces to deal, and there was a lesson, as we thought, to be drawn also from the general financial and other exhaustion in which this country found itself as the result of the gigantic exertions which we had made in the war.
If it is to be put as a cause of shame that in the condition in which this country found itself those who were responsible for advising and organising reached the conclusion that it was their duty, in the existing circumstances, to see whether there was not another and a pacific solution, then I accept, with my colleagues, as I must, the responsibility for that decision, and I most humbly offer myself as a target for the contempt of anyone who holds adverse views. But when we had once made up our minds that we should enter into negotiations with the parties, surely it is obvious, in a matter in which every clause 615 had to be made the subject of the kind of debate and discussion that takes place when there are two parties, whether they be nations or individuals, holding sharply contrasting views upon twenty or thirty acute and difficult questions, that the only form which their concluded Agreement can ultimately assume, whether you call it a Treaty or not, is something which is comparable in its character, and in its necessary finality upon fundamental points, to that which in international affairs we call a Treaty. Where there has been a nice process of detailed negotiation, is there any man who in his own private affairs has ever carried out a complicated bargain, that will really suggest, having reached an agreement upon the details of that bargain, that you could submit those details to a public body like Parliament? You could not even submit details in a case of that kind to a meeting of shareholders.
Parliament is not helpless. I do not think that it is an accurate statement of the case to speak of the helplessness of Parliament. These terms were published, and they were made the subject of very great discussion before the matter came before the Houses of Parliament. Every sensible person, I will venture to say, who is familiar with these matters, knew perfectly well that it was not possible by Amendment in this House or by Amendment in the House of Commons, with corresponding Amendments going on in Dail Eireann in Ireland, to preserve the integrity of this instrument, or, indeed, to keep it in existence at all. Everyone knew that in those circumstances it was our duty, and it is a duty most faithfully discharged by the noble and learned Lord and others, to examine this instrument when it came before this House for approval in the first place, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Carson, spared neither the Treaty nor its authors.
Those who spoke fastened on particular clauses, fastened, I should say with complete accuracy, on all the clauses that had been subject to much consultation and debate in the course of our discussion, and they stated their objections and tried to persuade Parliament to reject the instrument. When the long debate was concluded a Division was taken in which those who were opposed to this Treaty recorded their protest, and those who wished it to become law supported it by their votes. In those circumstances I cannot admit that there is great reasonableness in the objection with which I am dealing.
616 A further observation must be made upon the point most specifically made by Lord Lansdowne—the point, namely, that even when the Constitution is drafted in Ireland we shall be entirely helpless. That is only true with a qualification which, in my judgment, possesses importance. That Constitution must be within the terms of the Treaty. If the Constitution is not within the terms of the Treaty it would be quite wrong to say that Parliament is helpless. A complaint can be made in this House, in which there are many persons very qualified to give your Lordships advice, and it can be tested and a decision reached on the matter.
A great number of individual topics have been referred to by previous speakers, and if I select some of those which have assumed perhaps greater importance, in the few further observations for which I shall ask your attention, it must not be assumed that I am rejecting for discussion many of those points that have been mentioned. It has been indicated that many of these questions will form the subject of proposed Amendments. They belong to the Committee stage rather than to the principal stage, and I, therefore, should not think it right to trouble your Lordships with observations upon them now.
When I come to the major case which is made by opponents of this Treaty, I would ask your leave to make one or two more serious observations. It is spoken of as if we had passed through some inconceivable degree of shame and humiliation. I know that view is honestly held. After all, there is an Irish point of view, and there is an English point of view; and I do not admit that those two points of view are necessarily and always identical. I can assure the noble and learned Lord that there are large numbers of English people who, so long as Imperial security is safeguarded and so long as they discharge what they conceive to be their obligation of honour to the population of Ulster—so long as these two conditions are satisfied—do not wish to be troubled at all with the South of Ireland; who do not wish that their sons should continue to be killed in the quarrels of the South of Ireland, and who would infinitely prefer that the duty of maintaining order should be discharged not by Englishmen in Southern Ireland but by Mr. Collins, or some successor, whoever he may be, of Mr. Collins, who holds the same view.
617 Let me give an illustration. The noble and learned Lord—I am always very unfortunate in addressing your Lordships on this subject—read a telegram describing a shocking occurrence which has recently taken place at a hospital in the South of Ireland. I have received confirmation of that occurrence; and the confirmation deepens my horror and detestation. But, as the noble Viscount who has spoken this afternoon has said, it is as grossly unfair to blame Mr. Collins or Mr. Griffith for this episode as it would be grossly unfair to blame the Government of Northern Ireland for the incidents in Belfast. I know it will be found that Mr. Collins and Mr. Griffith will exhaust every effort, as Sir James Craig and Lord Londonderry do in Belfast, in attempting to bring these foul criminals to justice.
The truth is that there is in Ireland to-day a very large number of turbulent and criminal persons who have got out of hand in the course of all that has taken place during the last two or three years. I have made it plain before to your Lordships that one of the principal difficulties in the way of Mr. Collins and Mr. Griffith is that their control of such military instrument as is available is incomplete. Had it not been for the terrible news we have received of this occurrence I should have been in a position, although I had intended to make the statement most cautiously, to say that for the first time for many months a whole week had passed without one single man violently losing his life in the South of Ireland. Until this occurrence happened it was possible to make that claim.
Pursuing for the moment the topic with which I was dealing—that it is far better in their own interests, and even more in our interests, that Irishmen should undertake this duty for themselves, subject to the two qualifications I have expressly made—let me take an illustration from what has recently occurred on the Rand. Supposing we had not given self-government to South Africa, what would have been the position of the Colonial Office in the terrible disturbances which have convulsed the Rand and almost brought about revolution? The responsibility would have been ours. Downing Street would have been in an uproar, and we should have had to hurry troops from every part to assist in its repression. What actually happened? They have been given the responsibility of self-government, and we find a number of distinguished 618 generals, all of them with Dutch names, marching at the head of troops indifferently composed of Dutch and British levies, who have put down this disturbance without the slightest anxiety or expenditure of blood and treasure on our part.
I say, from the English point of view, that if there are to be disorders among the turbulent fellow-countrymen of the noble and learned Lord it is not we who are making these disorders. We have been paying for them by the expenditure of blood and money for many years, for many generations. We paid for them in the days of Queen Elizabeth, and even before her time. Does the noble and learned Lord really imagine that if some one had presented Queen Elizabeth with this alternative—if they had said to her: "Would you rather send Lord Essex and British troops to put down the turbulent population of the South of Ireland or would you rather deal with a man who is prepared, with Irish troops, to do it for you; who is prepared to acknowledge allegiance to yourself and who will relieve you of further anxiety and responsibility in the matter—that she would have hesitated? I know what that sagacious statesman would have said in the first place. She would have said she would at least try it before she sent her own expedition, and look with infinite pleasure on every illustration from Ireland that Mr. Collins and Mr. Griffith are attempting to place themselves, under great difficulties, at the head of such forces as are available in order that they may restore law and order among the countrymen of the noble and learned Lord. I, as an Englishman, rejoice to see them making this effort.
If there are to be struggles and fisticuffs, and if blood is to be shed, then in the first place it ought to be Irish blood and Irish fisticuffs that are expended. I make, as before, two qualifications. Where the Imperial security of this country is concerned, or where our honourable commitments to Ulster are concerned, then it may well be that we must at all cost resume activities there. Short of these two qualifications I hope sincerely that these duties will be undertaken by Irishmen. I would much rather hear Mr. Michael Collins called a traitor by Mr. de Valera than hear myself called a traitor by anyone else. That is the kind of political development which I observe with great pleasure, and which is being followed at this particular moment.
619 The noble and learned Lord quoted from a speech Mr. Collins made the other day in Dublin as if there was something detestable and treacherous to the Treaty in it. I ask your Lordships to read it tomorrow in the pages of the OFFICIAL REPORT. I absolutely deny that there was anything which implied the slightest disloyalty to the Treaty in the passage quoted from Mr. Collins' speech. He was taunting Mr. de Valera and his friends—a process which always affords me satisfaction—and what he was saying was: "Yes, you are Republicans now, because under the arrangements made by us the British Army is going, and it is easy to proclaim the Republican doctrine in the streets of Dublin; you were not Republicans when I was, and it is I who, by the Treaty which I have made and by which I stand, have made it possible for you to be Republicans to-day." It was a bitter taunt, but it was in no way unworthy of the part which Ur. Collins has played. I wish that some of your Lordships who read the Irish papers would read the whole of the speech which Mr. Collins delivered. It fills some four or five columns of the newspapers. It was delivered to a very large meeting in public, an occasion upon which even grave persons have been sometimes known to say more than they perhaps intended when they began. But although this was the occasion, I would venture to predict that any one of your Lordships who reads the whole of that speech, delivered by a man without political education and so far as I know without very much other education, will consider that it is a speech which, whether you examine the form of its literary expression, or its judgment of affairs, no member of this House need be ashamed of having delivered, and I cannot but think the noble and learned Lord referred to it without having read it. Of course, there are passages in the speeches of all these men to which we object. Mr. Griffith, Mr. Collins and all of them have thrown out a phrase here and there to the effect that this is an approach to the ultimate ideal.
We have all had experience of elections, and know of the difficulties of men who are engaged in a particular and bitter quarrel. Surely, we are not going to sacrifice the Treaty because a man holds a particular ideal. What we want to know is what is their conduct going to be—are they going to stand by this instrument honestly or are they not going to stand by it honestly? 620 The noble and learned Lord has no doubts upon that point. He has expressed his opinion very plainly. He says: "You have a Republic now, and you are going to have a Republic in the South of Ireland." I absolutely dispute both of these statements. We have not a Republic now in the South of Ireland; we are not, in my judgment and expectation, going in any event to have a Republic in the South of Ireland, because in my view no Government in this country, not a Labour Government, not even one so guilty as this, could ever propose or will ever propose, having regard to the problems of maritime security and to the peculiar situation of Ulster, to assent to this demand. I rule it out with finality for ever, so far as one can attempt to speak with finality in such a matter.
But then, it is said, and it is really feared, that that which we have already given has made it impossible to resist the larger claim, if that happens which the noble and learned Lord anticipates, and these two Parties combine to press the larger claim upon us. I say, first, that it is a prediction which no one could confidently make that these two Parties will ever combine. My experience has been that if you start by differing from an individual or a group of individuals on a matter of politics, your differences with them are apt to grow greater and not less as time goes on, and my anticipation is that, so far from these two Parties joining together, by the time an Irish Election has really pursued its normal course and the rival candidates and their supporters have expressed their true opinion of one another with the freedom and richness of invective in which that country rejoices—my opinion is that the differences between them will be more serious and not less serious than when they began.
But let us assume—so that everything may be faced—that they do come together, and that the South of Ireland revolts front the Treaty and approaches us with the united demand that we should concede to them a Republic. It is ludicrous to listen to the kind of talk that takes place concerning this contingency. It is spoken of as if, at the time when it arose, we should be a weak, helpless little country, lacking in resources, and that Ireland would have swollen in some unaccountable way to a position in which she was able to dictate to us on the gravest of all grave issues. What is the true position? Ireland is so 621 economically dependent upon us that, almost without uttering the word blockade, you could bring her whole life to an end within a week. I do not know whether your Lordships have the figures in mind. In the last year, out of £203,000,000 of Irish exports this country consumed £201,000,000. For the same year—I do not give an exact figure because I do not carry it in my mind—Ireland purchased altogether some £200,000,000 imports, and of this amount £167,000,000 imports were purchased from this country. In other words; she was able to buy these things, indisputably necessary to her, only because of the almost exclusive market which we in this country furnish. That we should plunge ourselves through morasses of humiliation because we have given way to a country whose population compares with ours in the ratio with which your Lordships are familiar, and whose resources compare with our resources in the terms which I have described, seems to me, I confess, to show a sense neither of proportion nor of humour. If and when that demand is made, if and when the gloomiest prognostications of all are fulfilled, then we shall find that the resources of our civilisation are, in the old phrase, not completely exhausted.
Let me add this. We, or rather certain members of this House, approach this question more and more in a spirit of determined pessimism. Many things have occurred which have greatly disappointed and saddened the authors of this Treaty upon our side since the Treaty was signed. We think that we have been in many respects distinctly unfortunate. We do not think that so great a degree of prescience could have been expected at our hands as that we should have foreseen that Mr. de Valera, who appointed the Plenipotentiaries and selected them, would have refused to hold himself bound by the Treaty to which they had set their hand, and would carry with him so large a dissentient section of the Dail when the matter was brought for a decision. We were very unlucky in that respect, but there are other respects in which, in our judgment, we have been fortunate, and there are other respects, in our eyes at least, in which the situation is not, even at this moment, without promise.
We believe that a divergence of opinion, not to be quickly or lightly removed, has disclosed itself between the extreme and irreconcilable section, which no doubt will always be Republican, and that body in 622 Ireland which aspires only to, and will be completely content with, the Dominion Government which is given to the great outlying parts of our self-governing Empire. He is, indeed, a rash man who will predict as to the result of the Irish Election, held in the circumstances of the present time. But it is the fact that our advisers in Ireland are confident that when that Election takes place in Ireland those who are in favour of the Treaty, those who have put their names to the document will be returned to power by a majority which will make them the masters of the destinies of Ireland for a very considerable period. If that expectation is realised, and if the terms of the Constitution, when they are examined by your Lordships with the care which you will naturally bestow upon an instrument so important, are found to correspond with the spirit and tenour of this Treaty, then we should be taking a deep responsibility if, either at this stage or at a later stage, we were to introduce a matter not contained in the Treaty, possibly to be misunderstood in Ireland and certainly to be misrepresented by Mr. de Valera, and which might even be, in the disastrous sequel, destructive of that which we have undergone so much in order to attain.
There are other topics upon which, however, I will not touch, important as they are. It has been made plain that a specific proposal will be made to your Lordships upon the subject of Ulster, during the Committee stage of the Bill. If I am favoured with the patience of the House I shall take that opportunity of saying that which I have to say upon this extremely delicate and important topic.
Before I sit down I must correct two or three wrong impressions, no doubt unintentionally, conveyed by Lord Carson. He said, if I understood him aright, in the first place, that the Public Trustee in Dublin, who was the custodian of some four or five million pounds, had been approached by the Provisional Government, I think his expression was, with a demand or demands or inquiries for these millions of pounds, of which he is the custodian. This was a very surprising statement to make, and it was to me rather shocking, though a little incredible. I have made inquiries since then from those to whom at the Treasury it would be the duty of this gentleman to make immediate report of anything that was said or done to him 623 which jeopardised or endangered funds committed to his charge, and his superior has received no such complaint, and is absolutely confident that no such threat has ever been uttered. He points out, with irresistible force, that the millions of pounds, on which it is supposed Mr. Griffith or Mr. Collins would lay their hands, are under guarantee by the British Government.
Now, your Lordships may judge of the precise probability, at this stage of all others, of Mr. Collins or Mr. Griffith proposing to lay their hands upon these millions of the British Government, at the very time when they, as well as the Northern Government, are approaching us and asking for financial help. Your Lordships may form your own conclusions, but I hope that in the meantime you will not be unduly alarmed.
Another point was as to the authorities of Trinity College, Dublin, and their reasonable apprehensions. The noble and learned Lord is one of the most distinguished of the former students of that illustrious and ancient foundation, which he said, and truly said, rivalled in prestige, whether in athletics, or in learning, its sister universities at Oxford and Cambridge. But he certainly conveyed, to a mind which was making every effort to follow him, that here again the hands of depredation were menacing the foundations, and, I think he intimated, the income.
§ LORD CARSON
No, I beg the noble Viscount's pardon, I did not say anything about that, because I know well that the attempt is to divert the income to other purposes.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I assume that he is satisfied that persons of irresponsibility had made the attempt to divert the revenues of Trinity College, Dublin. I can only say that if that be so I should be extremely astonished. I was present at some of the discussions which took place as to the future of Trinity College, Dublin, and I believe I am correct in saying that up to this moment, whatever black and vindictive thoughts may fill the bosoms of those referred to, they have taken no overt action, and therefore what they propose to do must lie in the realms of speculation. I am, however, in touch with the representatives of Trinity College, and I have had discussions with Mr. Griffith 624 upon the subject, and whatever else may be said about him he is a scholarly man, and he expressed a degree of admiration for the traditions of Trinity College, Dublin, which could not have been exceeded in warmth even by the noble and learned Lord himself. I therefore ask your Lordships not to be unduly alarmed by what one hears as happening in Ireland.
Only the other day Lord Dufferin rose, and in dealing with the police question, complained in a tone of bitter indignation of the contempt with which the police were treated; and when I said I had no information, and would make inquiries, he said that the matter was known all over Ireland. I have here a copy of an official letter from those who make all the arrangements, and General Tudor, and it shows that the police were treated with the greatest consideration and respect, and that so far as laying aside their uniforms—
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
No, but the noble Marquess conveyed the impression that they were treated with contempt, and I was pointing out that they kept their uniforms until they actually reached the steamer. I suspected at the time that the noble Marquess was not well informed, and I shall be pleased to place the letter at his disposal. I go into these matters only because of the circulation of stories and charges which, upon examination, do not prove to be well founded, and if your Lordships either hear a statement made in conversation, from sources of apparent authority, or see them repeated in newspapers—statements which seem to be grave—I would most earnestly ask that they may be made the subject of inquiry, in order that they may be tested. Some terrible things do happen, but if they do, then even by this Government they will be fully and frankly examined. In conclusion, I will only say that the occasion is still an anxious one, that the future is still obscure and uncertain, but I am myself still hopeful that this arrangement will work, and if I had to sign to-night, at half past twelve, the document to which I set my hand three months ago, knowing all that has happened since, I would still sign it.
§ On Question, Bill read 2ª, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.625