§ Debate resumed (according to Order) on the Motion made by Lord Arnold yesterday, That the Bill be now read 2a
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
had given Notice to move, as an Amendment, after "That," to insert the words: "this House, having taken note of the opinions expressed in Parliament and elsewhere in connection with the passage into law of the Irish Agreement Act, 1922, by the members of His Majesty's Government who were signatories of the Irish Treaty, that Article 12 of that instrument contemplated nothing more than a readjustment of boundaries between Northern Ireland and the Free State, and believing that no other interpretation is acceptable or could be enforced, resolves that."
The noble Marquess said: My Lords, when your Lordships separated last evening I think it is true to say that you appreciated the extreme difficulty of the particular situation with which we 592 have to deal in this Bill much more completely than you would have done had you merely relied upon the speech of the noble Lord, the Under-Secretary for the Colonies. The noble Lord delivered, as he always does, a very lucid speech, but had the whole explanation of the situation been left as he left it we might have concluded that the matter was a very simple one, that here was a case where a very important Act of Parliament had been defective in one particular, where there was what the noble Lord called a casus improvisus as to what was to happen upon the non-appointment by the Northern Government of its Commissioner, and that all that had to be done was for Parliament to make good that omission.
I think the Under-Secretary himself probably became convinced, if he really needed convincing, when he listened to the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Grey of Fallodon, who immediately followed him, that the case was not anything like so simple as he had suggested to your Lordships. On the contrary, he must have been satisfied that here was a very difficult matter, involving, as it did, issues touching the honour of the country and of your Lordships' House which could not be solved in a summary fashion and, indeed, which it was impossible to solve at all with any satisfaction to any of the parties concerned. He spoke of a casus improvisus. I am not quite sure what the exact legal meaning of that Latin phrase may be, but if he means that the case was unforeseen then he is inaccurate. He relied upon a White Paper. I have a great respect for White Papers, but they do not always contain everything, especially when they are compiled in rather a hurry. I think that if the Under-Secretary had had his attention directed, not to the White Paper but to the debates in your Lordships' House from which the White Paper quoted, he would have been convinced that this particular case was thoroughly foreseen by your Lordships and that the matter was raised in debate and was the subject of reply by the representative of His Majesty's then Government.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
Yes, but the noble Lord said that the reply of the then Lord Chancellor was quite con- 593 clusive. He is wrong. It was quite inconclusive. The then Lord Chancellor said that he did not imagine for a moment that Ulster would refuse to make its appointment, but that if it did a new situation would arise which would have to be met by new methods. Is that what the noble Lord considers conclusive? I think it is clear that what the Lord Chancellor said was that he declined to say what would happen in that event. I do not think you could have had a more inconclusive answer. It is clear that what was suggested on behalf of the Government was that this situation which your Lordships had fixed upon might arise and that the matter would have to be considered upon its merits when that situation arose. That being the case, the matter is now presented to us, and we have to deal with it.
I think also probably the noble Lord will have been convinced that your Lordships feel, what he did not seem to feel, the obligation under which we stand to Ulster. The speech which followed his, the speech from the noble Viscount, Lord Grey, was a very striking one, very weighty and very fair. Lord Grey's political upbringing has not been one which would lead you to suppose that he would be biased in favour of Ulster. On the contrary, I suppose that moat of his political life he has been speaking and voting in a direction which was not favourably regarded by Ulster. But he said he was bound to confess that as the matter was judicially submitted to his mind—his impartial mind—the obligation to Ulster was proved up to the hilt and was so great that in his opinion it took precedence of any other obligation in connection with the solution of this question. As your Lordships are aware, he used the very strongest phrases in sustaining that conviction.
In these circumstances, as this matter was unsettled—not unforeseen, but unsettled at the time the Bill was going through—it is necessary that I should trouble your Lordships for a moment to consider the situation in which your Lordships stood at that time. This has been already referred to in debate, and I will only repeat it in a sentence. We were told that any Amendment to the Bill would destroy the Treaty, and it was under that sort of duress that your Lordships were called upon to discuss the Treaty in Committee. It was very 594 difficult for the majority of your Lordships to ignore such pressure as I have described. Personally, I did not share the view of the majority. I should not be honest if I did not say that I have always thought that the so-called Treaty with Ireland was a deplorable mistake. I still think so, and what I heard in the debate last night confirmed me in that conviction. It would have been wiser if your Lordships, in spite of the pressure which was placed upon you, had amended the Bill, as you were asked to do by many of us who were in a minority. But I cannot deny that that would have been a very formidable task to undertake, and I am not surprised that the majority of your Lordships shrank from it. But if we were under that duress which was successfully applied, it becomes most important that we should realise upon what considered and upon what implied conditions the Irish Free State (Agreement) Bill was passed into law through this House and another place.
I know that something was said in the debate yesterday as to the comparative insignificance of what was stated at the time. It is commonly said, especially by noble Lords of legal minds, that what is important is not what was said in debate, but what was actually passed into law, and of course it is true that what is passed into law is much more important than what is merely said in debate. But when you are called upon, as we are to-day, to alter the law, then the spirit in which the principal Act, if I may use that phrase, was passed becomes a very important matter, and it is vital to enquire in what spirit the Irish Free State (Agreement) Act was passed into law. Therefore, I must ask your Lordships to allow me to quote one or two phrases used by Ministers who were signatories of the Treaty, and who stated in Parliament and elsewhere what they understood by Article 12 of the Treaty. I am not going to make an exhaustive statement on this question, but I want to quote one or two phrases that are very material to the Motion which I shall subsequently have the honour of submitting to the House.
The then Prime Minister, Mr. Lloyd George, in the House of Commons on December 14, 1921, said: —We were of opinion—and we are not alone in that opinion, because there are 595 friends of Ulster who take the same view— that it is desiraible, if Ulster is to remain a separate unit, that there should be a readjustment of boundaries.Then there is Mr. Churchill, who was the Minister in charge of the Bill. He spoke of the "general question of rectifying the boundaries which is entrusted to the Boundary Commission." Mr. Austen Chamberlain, another signatory, spoke of readjusting "the boundary line which nobody pretends is an ideal line." Sir Laming Worthington-Evans, another signatory to the Treaty, said:This Commission is a Boundary Commission to settle boundaries and not to settle territories.Though it is not strictly germane to the point, let me remind your Lordships of one phrase used by Mr. Bonar Law. He was not a signatory to the Treaty, he was not in office at the time, but he spoke in the presence of the signatories in the House of Commons and, of course, everything he said carried great weight. The passage has already been quoted, and I will therefore only quote two lines. He spoke ofa spirit worthy of the Agreement, which means not the possibility of throwing out a county but a real adjustment of boundaries.All these were members of the House of Commons.
I have also a quotation from a speech by the noble and learned Earl, Lord Birkenhead, who was responsible for the Bill in your Lordships' House. It is a famous passage which your Lordships will recognise at once. Speaking on March 21, 1922, on the Irish Free State (Agreement) Bill, the noble and learned Earl said this:Let me say what I have to say as plainly as I can. It is not for me or any member of this Government to lay down for the Tribunal to which we, in common with another set of persons, are the opposing litigants, canons or rules of construction. I have not the authority to do the one, and I have not the power to do the other. But I will say this plainly—in relation to a matter on which doubt never arose until the period I have indicated—that in my judgment a Commission which deals with boundaries is one thing and a Commission which deals with the transfer of territory is another and a different thing.Your Lordships will see that all these quotations, coming as they do from different members of the then Government, and all of them, with the exception of Mr. Bonar Law, signatories to the Treaty, were insistent upon the distinction between anything like a transfer of 596 territory and the mere adjustment of boundaries, and when they asked your Lordships and the House of Commons to pass the Irish Free State (Agreement) Bill into law they did it on those grounds, and Parliament passed the Bill on those grounds. There was to be, so far as they contemplated, only an adjustment of boundaries.
Has the case weakened since then? If there were strong reasons then why there should be nothing like a transfer of territory, but only an adjustment of boundaries, are the reasons less strong now? I submit that almost every month that has passed since the Treaty was signed has strengthened the case in favour of reducing so far as possible the adjustment of boundaries which is provided by Article 12 of the Agreement. I was very much struck by a passage in the speech of the noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, last night—and may I be allowed to say how greatly I admired the completeness of the case he made out and the moderation with which he urged it? Last night he pointed out what a tremendous thing it was to ask the Northern Government to transfer loyal adherents of that Government from their jurisdiction to the jurisdiction of the Free State. He indicated how much worse off they would be if such a transfer took place, and he dwelt upon the feelings of Ulstermen forcibly transferred from one Government to the other. Let your Lordships' minds go back over the history of the last few years. I think it was in the mind of some of those who supported the Irish Treaty that we were going to get an idealistic condition after it was passed into law, that henceforth all the ill-blood was to be gone, that there were to be two friendly Governments, both loyal to the British Empire, and that it was a matter really of minor importance—the sort of thing that figured in the speech of the Under-Secretary of State last night—as to which Government they lived under. But experience has shown that these rosy views were entirely ill-founded.
The transfer of loyal Ulstermen from Ulster to the Irish Free State is a transfer from a loyal Government to one which is—shall I say not friendly to this country? I will not put it higher than that. What is the good of pretending?
597 We know quite well that there is no love lost between the Irish Free State and the Imperial Government. All that we have done for Ireland in the past, all the efforts we have made, and all the money we have spent in Ireland, though that is a minor matter, have been entirely forgotten, and many of the things we hold most sacred are treated with contempt by the Free State Government. Can you be surprised that Ulstermen shrink with horror from the possibility of being transferred to the jurisdiction of such a Government, even apart from the adverse administrative conditions under which they will be placed and to which Lord Londonderry so successfully referred last night?
I spoke just now of the unfriendly character of much that is in the Irish Free State towards this country and the British Empire. There is, indeed, a section, and a very important section, of opinion in the Irish Free State which professes Republican opinions and which is intent upon producing a Republic in that country and separating from the British Empire. I admired the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Grey of Fallodon, last night, but I cannot quite follow him in some of the observations he made with regard to that issue. I should look upon it as a matter of the most profound importance if the Irish Free State were allowed to proclaim a Republic and separate itself from this country. It would be so important as to be a disaster of the first magnitude.
There are, unfortunately for them, a large number of loyalists still left in the South of Ireland, loyalists with whom I have always felt the most profound sympathy. Are they to be handed over to a Republic? Is their allegiance to this country to be lightly broken? Are we to accept a situation in which 200,000 or 300,000 fellow subjects of our own are to be forcibly separated from their allegiance to the King and to become citizens merely of a small and rather contemptible Republic? That of itself would be conclusive, but I am afraid that even on Imperial grounds we could not accept it for a second. My noble friend Lord Grey said that so long as provision were made for the Navy that was the only important matter. I cannot think so, and I cannot even think that it would be easy to provide for the proper 598 protection of the Navy in those circumstances. These arc contingencies which I myself—and I believe I speak for all my noble friends is this matter—cannot contemplate with anything except profound dismay and a determination that, so far as in us lies, they shall never be accomplished.
I hope that your Lordships will forgive me for that parenthetical passage. I come back to the obligation under which this country admittedly stands towards Ulster. I have said that I agree with Lord Grey in his statement of that obligation. How can we fulfil it? How can we show that your Lordships entirely support the view of the signatories of the Treaty, which I have just quoted to the House, as to the spirit in which Article 12 was submitted to the judgment of the House and was accepted by the judgment of the House? The first and obvious way is to insert an Amendment in Committee. That is a plan which was mentioned many times in the debate yesterday. I have had a great deal of experience, as have many of your Lordships, in inserting Amendments in Committee of this House, Amendments which have to go back to another House for that House to agree to, and it has often been my lot to have to deal with a case where the House of Commons disagrees with a Lords Amendment, and even to be so bold as to give counsel to your Lordships as to what course ought to be taken when, the House of Commons having disagreed with a Lords Amendment, a Bill comes back to this House, and it becomes a question as to whether this House should insist upon its Amendment. So often has that happened that it has become necessary for us always to consider, when we are inserting important Amendments into Bills, what course we shall take thereafter if, upon disagreement by the Commons, it becomes a question whether we shall insist upon our Amendment.
When the course to be taken upon this Bill became a matter of consideration amongst us we, of course, faced that particular issue. If we insert an Amendment in Committee which will carry out the doctrine laid down by the signatories before Parliament, what course shall we take if in another place they disagree with this Amendment? And they certainly will disagree with the Amendment. I do not think that there is any doubt about it.
599 The noble Viscount last night said that they would disagree, and I did not hear any sound of dissent among your Lordships. I am sure that all of your Lordships are convinced that this would happen. In that case what course should be taken? The noble Viscount said that he was not prepared to suggest that your Lordships should insist upon such an Amendment. Speaking for myself and, I believe, for a great many other people too, upon a vital question of this kind, upon an Amendment which goes to the very centre and heart of the Bill, if your Lordships saw fit to insert such an Amendment in Committee I personally should not be prepared to abandon that Amendment if it were disagreed with and the Bill came back from the House of Commons. I think such a course would be unworthy of your Lordships' House and—I think this is almost as important— it would have a very bad effect outside. Notably, it would have a very bad effect in Ireland, both in the North and in the South.
Accordingly, just as did the noble Viscount last night, I discard as an unacceptable alternative that we should put such an Amendment in—even if we could frame it—and abandon it upon disagreement by the House of Commons. As a matter of fact, I see great difficulty in even framing the Amendment, and I think that many of your Lordships who have devoted yourselves to that particular point will share my view that it would be a very difficult Amendment to frame in Committee. I say, however, that, if it could be framed and if we inserted it, I should be disposed to recommend your Lordships to insist upon it. What would be the consequences of that? It would amount to the rejection of the Bill— because we know that we should not prevail—and further, it would mean that the consideration of this Bill would be transferred from Parliament to the hustings. We know that, unless we are all very much mistaken, a General Election is not very far off, and I am certain that, if your Lordships in effect rejected the Bill in the way I have described, there would be an immediate General Election either upon that issue alone or upon a mixed issue, as the case may be. At any rate, the matter would be transferred to the hustings.
I cannot believe that this would be a satisfactory result. I do not believe that 600 the representatives of Ulster desire that this question of Article 12 and of the Commission should be a pawn in an electoral struggle. That is the last thing that any of them could desire, it would be extremely indecorous and, moreover, it would be a. very difficult issue to deal with in the country. Unless I am very much mistaken, the views of the country are not quite simple in this matter. I have no doubt that the electors would desire that this Bill should pass into law. That is very natural and very English. I am certain that they do not desire any injustice to Ulster. On the contrary, the people of Great Britain would desire that justice should be done to Ulster. But they would not be able to see all the subtleties and difficulties which we have to contemplate. The broad issue which would be submitted to them would be: "Ought this Bill for making Article 12 operative to be passed into law or ought it not?" I should be very doubtful as to the answer which they would give on that particular issue.
All these are very important considerations, but, above all, opinions which have been submitted to me personally and by persons whose opinion I am bound to respect go to show that in their judgment such a result would not be in the best interests of Ulster. But it is for Ulster that I am desiring to act in this matter. It is Ulster who has been badly treated. It is to Ulster our obligation stands. Therefore, to take a course which, in the opinion which I have mentioned, and which I am bound to respect, would not redound to the profit of Ulster, but would have the reverse effect, would seem to be a course of action not to be undertaken by any of us. In present circumstances, in the situation in which we are placed, we have therefore come to the conclusion that to submit an Amendment in Committee, and to insist upon it, and allow this matter to be transferred from Parliament to the hustings, would not be in the interests of Ulster, and not a course that we could advise your Lordships to pursue.
Then, my Lords, how are we going to support the signatories, the members of His Majesty's then Government, who signed the Treaty? How are we going to support their view and do our utmost to help forward that interpretation and reading of Article 12? I suggest that 601 it can be done if your Lordships are good enough to assent to the Amendment to the Second Reading which I have placed upon the Paper. I have no doubt that your Lordships have read it; it was given notice of last night after having heard the debate which then took place, and it is in your Lordships' hands. Let me say one word upon the form of it. It is an Amendment to the Second Reading. We are very familiar in Parliament, in both Houses, with Amendments to the Second Readings of Bills which have the effect of rejecting the Bill. It is a very common proceeding; indeed, it is the almost universal proceeding to move an Amendment to the Second Reading in order to reject it; and I think it stands to reason that if you move an Amendment giving your reasons for rejecting a Bill on the Second Reading, you may equally move an Amendment giving your reasons for passing a Bill on the Second Reading. The two proceedings are precisely analogous, and even though there is no precedent for the exact proceeding which I am suggesting, I do not think it makes any difference. A Question is submitted from the Woolsack and your Lordships can amend that Question. That is continually done when the Question is the Second Reading, and the Amendment is in the negative sense, and there is no reason in the world why a similar proceeding should not be adopted when the Amendment is not in a negative but in an affirmative sense.
I should like to add that in substance there is a precedent, not precisely for what we are doing but for something very analogous. Your Lordships may remember that on August 4 last we passed a Resolution upon going into Committee on the Housing Bill, and that, in turn, was founded upon a precedent in the last century, when a Resolution was passed by this House at the time of the Second Reading of the Bill abolishing purchase in the Army. I need not go into the circumstances of that procedure but it was done, and a Resolution was passed by this House. I think, however, that we want to go a step further in the present case. We want to have reasons associated with the actual passage of the Bill itself— reasons which stand upon the records of the House as the spirit in and condition upon which Parliament has passed the 602 Second Reading. So, founding myself upon what I have said is not a loose analogy but a strict analogy of the ordinary Second Reading Amendment, I am going to ask your Lordships to pass the Amendment in my name, which gives the reasons why, and the spirit in which, the Second Reading of this Bill is assented to, if your Lordships do assent to it.
So much for the form. Now for the substance. In the first place, I ask you to say in absolutely distinct terms that what is contemplated is a readjustment of boundaries and not a transfer of territory. That stands upon the face of it. "Readjustment of boundaries" were the words used in one form or another over and over again by the signatories in their speeches to Parliament at the time when the Irish Agreement Bill was passing into law. In the second place, I ask your Lordships to say that no other interpretation would be acceptable; that is to say, that you are not prepared to endorse any other interpretation of Article 12. Lastly, I suggest that you should say that no other interpretation can be enforced. That is no doubt a statement of opinion, but it is one upon which I do not suppose there will be any difference of opinion in any quarter of the House. I am perfectly certain that no other interpretation has the slightest chance of being enforced in Ireland. That is a statement of absolute fact upon which I challenge contradiction, although I do not deny that to place this upon the face of the Second Reading Is an important step. I should not have asked your Lordships to do so if I had thought otherwise. I believe it is a. matter of the greatest importance that your Lordships should state in perfectly clear terms that the Article means only a readjustment of the boundaries and that only as such it should be accepted or can be enforced. I think that is of the greatest importance.
I know, and I have already said in the course of my observations, that some minds, and especially legal minds, are inclined rather to make light of these Resolutions which do not have legislative force. I do not agree with that view. We live in a country which is governed by opinion more than by law. I believe profoundly that it is by the expression of responsible and authoritative opinion that real influence is exerted. I believe that a statement such as I have recited, if your 603 Lordships pass it, will bring comfort to the hearts of these anxious fellow-citizens of ours in Ulster. After all, we must sympathise with them and pity them. We can conceive the anxiety with which they must be regarding the proceedings of Parliament at the present time. It is all very well for us in England. Nothing is going to happen to us one way or the other. But to these Irishmen the thing is vital, and when they read that the House of Lords in its legislative capacity has laid it down in absolutely clear terms that there are certain conditions, and certain conditions only, upon which they think that Article 12 ought to be interpreted, I believe it will have a great effect, a most important effect, upon the feelings of our fellow-citizens in Ulster.
The Amendment which I suggest has one other value. It represents the opinion of this country. It is in that spirit really that this country would desire to see that the Irish Treaty is carried out. We in your Lordships' House occupy a very difficult position, but one of our principal duties is to interpret the feelings of the country. We interpret it and we accept its guidance, and I say with perfect assurance that, though I believe the country is anxious that this Bill should pass into law in order to implement Article 12 of the Treaty, yet they only desire it in the spirit which is represented in the Amendment, and it is only by passing the Amendment that your Lordships will really interpret the public opinion of the electors of Great Britain.
§ Amendment moved—
§ After ("That") insert ("this House, having taken note of the opinions expressed in Parliament and elsewhere in connection with the passage into law of the Irish Agreement Act. 1922, by the members of His Majesty's Government who were signatories of the Irish Treaty, that Article 12 of that instrument contemplated nothing move than a readjustment of boundaries between Northern Ireland and the Free State, and believing that no other interpretation is acceptable or could be enforced, resolves that"). — (The Marquess of Salisbury.)
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, it may be convenient that I should rise at once and state the attitude of the Government to this Amendment. I listened with the closest attention to the speech of the noble Marquess who has just addressed the House. I always admire 604 his speaking. There is a candour about it which in these days is refreshing. He always tells us what he thinks, but to-day it struck me that he was more troubled than I have usually found him. The noble Marquess never does one thing; he never conceals the cat which he has in his bag, and to-day he let the cat out. The substance of his speech was this, that he did not like the Bill at all, that he would fain have put in an Amendment, if, indeed, that Amendment could have been framed—a question on which he did not express any distinct opinion—although if your Lordships did so there was a disadvantage. If the Bill were rejected, or if it were amended, then, he said, it would pass out of the hands of Parliament, and go to the country at a General Election. On that I find myself in agreement with the noble Marquess. Undoubtedly, if your Lordships throw out this Bill to-day, or if you destroy it by any Amendment which makes it useless for its purpose, then the matter will come before the country, and an Election will take place which may involve even other questions than those confined to Ireland. And therefore I admire the Parliamentary instinct of the noble Marquess, who did not let those things escape, him but saw them quite clearly and thereby took a very different line from the line that has been taken by one or two other speakers in the course of the debate.
I rise to ask your Lordships to come back to realities. We are not discussing an abstract Bill, some amendment of the Constitution which we can accept or reject. This Bill embodies a truce upon the battlefield.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The battlefield of Ireland. Your Lordships' memories lose their grip of what was happening in 1921 and 1922. I am not one of those who have ever thought that it would be impossible to conquer Ireland if it rose in rebellion. I have gone into that question with those who are more competent to judge than I, and I think it would be quite possible, but at such a cost in blood and treasure that I shrink to contemplate it. And because of my vivid memory of the state of things that prevailed only four or five years ago I cannot bring myself to discuss this Bill on the easy-going footing which some of your Lordships have been 605 adopting, as though it were something which we could either take or leave according as we liked. We have been face to face with a very grave crisis in our history. We have been face to face with one of the most difficult periods that we ever had to deal with in connection with Ireland, and the provision in the Treaty represented a settlement of a bloody conflict which was raging through Ireland. I do not say that on any footing of thinking that we ought to surrender when we are in the right. I do say it on the footing of our doing the best that we can do, particularly when it is not abundantly clear that we have been in the right.
What is this Bill? It is a Bill to settle a, boundary. How does it come before Parliament and before the Empire? It comes in this way. The settlement of the boundaries within the Empire is a matter which, in point of principle, belongs to the Prerogative of the Crown. But of late years—I have known it myself in at least two instances, the case of Heligoland and the case of the boundaries of Canada, and there were others—it has been our practice not to do those things by a mere exercise of the Prerogative of the Crown, but to transfer the exercise of that jurisdiction or right to Parliament, which has made the settlement by Statute in those cases. Accordingly, in the present case there was an attempt at a settlement by Statute Ulster, I may remind your Lordships, is part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Ulster is not a self-governing Dominion. Ulster is within Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and Ulster is consequently a place of which the boundaries are within the jurisdiction of the Crown and of Parliament. In saying that I am not suggesting—and I desire carefully to guard myself from being misinterpreted—that we are not under the very greatest obligation to take care of Ulster in all such matters as that before us. We are under the deepest obligation. We are under obligations such as the noble Viscount, Lord Grey, spoke of, and the only point on which I would like to qualify what he said is a point which I am coming to in a moment.
There was no way of getting peace in Ireland excepting by this Treaty. We secured a settlement by this Treaty, and Article 12 of the Treaty contains the words by which peace was obtained. What does 606 Article 12 do? Ulster elected to go out, and to remain out of the Irish Free State, and to remain part of the United Kingdom. Then it was provided that the boundaries, between Southern Ireland and Ulster should be settled by a Boundary Commission. It was to be constituted of three persons—a representative of Ulster, a representative of Southern Ireland, and a third representative, to be appointed on the recommendation of the Imperial Ministers, the object being to get as impartial a member as could be obtained. What was this Commission to do? It was to draw the boundary having regard, first of all, to the wishes of the inhabitants; secondly, to geographic conditions and, thirdly, to economic considerations. Those are the three things that the arbitrators had to take into account. Who can say a prioriwhat the Commissioners are likely to decide? It is true that the words are wide and that the Commissioners may draw the boundary in such a way as to take from Ulster territory which Ulster does net want to have taken from her, or they may draw it in such a way as to make it a mere geographical settlement. That is not a question which can be decided a priori and it is not a question which can be decided unless you look closely at the circumstances underlying it.
If that is so, why should we attempt to forecast now what the arbitrators will do? They may take a very large view. If they do, it is just possible—I am not expressing the smallest opinion about it —that the principle suggested in a letter written by the noble Earl, Lord Birkenhead, to Earl Balfour in 1922, and recently printed in The Times, may be the true construction. If it is so, that is a matter which can be tested in the Courts. Upon the other hand, if the boundary when it is drawn is one which does not greatly affect Ulster, which does not tear anything out of her vitals but merely adjusts matters in accordance with the three considerations I have mentioned, then it may be that no question of substance will arise. But how do we know what the arbitrators will do? There will be somebody who will represent Southern Ireland, and we know who that will be. If this Bill passes there will be somebody who represents Ulster—
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
—and I wish to state that we regard ourselves as trustees for Ulster, and that in acting as trustees we shall endeavour to make such an appointment as will be as nearly as could be what Ulster would have desired had we not intervened. Then we know who the third member will be. He is an impartial Judge brought from a distant part of the Empire, and he, so far as we know, has not expressed himself in any way in regard to the matter. That being so, the case of contact with realities of which I spoke would make it expedient that we should hear what the arbitrators decide before we speculate upon the consequences. It may be that the consequences will be very disastrous. It may be that Southern Ireland will declare itself a Republic. I listened with great interest to the speech of my noble friend Lord Grey. I do not know whether there is any likelihood of that taking place or not, but I confess that I feel, with my noble friend, much, less alarm about a name than a good many of your Lordships appear to do.
But whether they do that or not, it is something which will make very little difference between Southern Ireland as it is at present and Southern Ireland as it will be then. The name of the Sovereign will drop out. But any part of the Empire having Dominion status can walk out of the Empire if it likes, and then we can consider the question as to whether it is worth while going to war to get it back. I am not suggesting that is a course that we may have to take. I am suggesting that it is not a course about which we need tax our wits unless it should be forced upon us. I am urging your Lordships that none of these questions may arise. I earnestly hope they will not. These investigations of the Commissioners which must take some time will have some effect in bringing the parties near to each other and, in so far as they will be looking at concrete facts, will lead to good. I am sure of this, that the matter will have consideration in a way in which it has not been considered up to now.
All sorts of abstract arguments have been put before us. All sorts of legal arguments have been put before us. I listened to the speech of my noble and learned friend, Lord Sumner, and I could 608 not help thinking, if he will allow me to say so, that it would have been more appropriately delivered at your Lordships' Bar than in the House itself, and to some of the legal conundrums which he raised there is no doubt we should have listened with very great interest in such circumstances. Here we have to consider great questions of principle and policy. We all hope that in the end Northern and Southern Ireland will come together. I listened yesterday with admiration to the speech of the noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, because I thought it was a speech in which he put his very strong view as reasonably as so strong a view could be put. But it is a process which must take time. It is a thing which certainly will not come about at once. It is a thing which the intervention of this Commission, if it is set up, may materially facilitate.
In Heaven's name let us get away from the abstract arguments and speculations to which we have been listening in the course of this debate. Let us face the facts which must be taken into account by the Commission if it is set up—the wishes of the inhabitants, the economic considerations and the geographic considerations. What boundary they may draw I have not the smallest idea. I am sure that I shall be in a very much better position to discuss it when I know what it is than I am while I do not know what it is and have not the smallest chance of knowing what it is. If that is so, I think the noble Marquess was very wise, while holding the views he held, not to attempt to decide what this boundary must or must not be.
I do not know whether an Amendment will be put forward, but I trust we are not to receive one in the course of debate to-morrow. We have before us now an Amendment the like of which I never saw before and which I believe to be contradictory to the spirit of our procedure. I do not think that in the more stringent view of the other House it would be allowed to go forward because it is not an Amendment which goes to the root of the question. It does not oppose the Second Reading of the Bill. On the contrary, it gives reasons why the Bill should be read a second time and then offers what are realty considerations for Committee. It agrees to the principle and then suggests that the 609 application of that principle ought to be qualified by certain clauses which would be discussed in detail. Instead of that these things are shovelled into the middle of a Motion which does not propose the rejection of the Bill on Second Reading but agrees to the Second Reading. I can only say that I have been a good while in Parliament, and that I have never seen such an Amendment before. I believe it to be entirely contrary to the spirit in which we have hitherto carried on our procedure.
The members of this House who are supporters of the Government are very few—I think seven or eight. I am not without hopes that my noble friend Lord Beauchamp may give us some assistance. Whether it will be much or little I am not able to say, but we are bound to vote against this Amendment. Our reason for taking that course is this. This Amendment amounts to a pre-judgment of the case which is going to be arbitrated upon. I myself do not express any opinion as to the merits of the case which has to be arbitrated upon. Far be it from me to prejudge, because legal tribunals should decide. In the first place, it is a question for the arbitrators, and if it is thought the arbitrators decide something which is not within their competence to decide, then, recourse may be had to the Law Courts. I do not know how any decision will be enforced. Enforcement is a matter upon which I decline to speculate, for the good reason that the question of enforcement may never arise.
I stand here asking your Lordships to do what I consider to be a right thing, and that is to avoid doing anything which can in any way prejudge the matter. To pass this Amendment would be to create a state of feeling in the Free State which I do not like to contemplate, because I cannot see its consequences. To pass any other Amendment at the same time would probably give rise to the same state of feeling in Northern Ireland. This is not a time to embark upon a matter which is within the province of the arbitrators. We do not know with what we have to deal until we see the award that the arbitrators make. Until then we cannot tell how we ought to stand. At any rate, the Government would regard this as an Amendment of most evil import, and I ask your Lordships not to agree to it.
THE EARL OF DUNRAVEN
My Lords, I am not sure whether I am speaking on the Amendment of the noble Marquess or upon the Bill, but I will confine the very few remarks that I want to make to the Bill that is before the House. In itself the Bill is a very simple one, and is complicated only because of the difference of opinion as to the construction that should be placed upon the wording of Article 12. Your Lordships know what the practical effect of that wording is. It enables the Government of Northern Ireland to make the clause inoperative by refusing to appoint a Commissioner. I can scarcely believe that the clause was so worded intentionally. Surely, we cannot be asked to believe that the Agreement entered into between the representatives of Great Britain and the Irish representatives was to the effect that if the Northern Parliament exercised their privilege to opt out a Boundary Commission could be set up if they consented to it, but if they did not consent to it a Boundary Commission could not be set up. All your Lordships must know perfectly well that that would never have been accepted by the Irish representatives, and would never have been agreed to without challenge by the Irish public.
I cannot believe that when responsible Ministers were advocating the Ratification Act in this House, and were making, speeches in the country defending this particular clause, and giving reasons why a Boundary Commission should be set up, they were perfectly aware all the time that the Northern Parliament had only to say "No," and that the whole clause then became practically null and void. To me that is incredible and I do not believe it. I feel certain that the result produced by the wording of the clause was accidental, and is a consequence of faulty machinery and of drafting. It is the bounden duty of this. Government, or any Government, to supply machinery that will make the clause workable, or else face the consequences of taking advantage of an obvious misunderstanding, or of a technical defect in drafting, in order to destroy an Article of the Treaty. That seems to me to come very near asking Parliament to denounce the Treaty which it ratified only two years ago.
611 I find it difficult—I dare say I am very stupid—to understand why the Northern Parliament refuse to appoint a Commissioner on a Boundary Commission with such a very conservative or, shall I say, preservative reference. It can only be, I presume, in order to enable them to maintain their attitude of absolute negation which is: "We will not give up one inch of our territory, and we are justified in that refusal by pledges and promises, and by our legal and constitutional rights." I do not myself attach enormous importance to so-called pledges. After all, nobody, not even a Prime Minister, can do more than pledge himself to do, or not to do, certain things. Nobody can bind Parliament. One Parliament cannot make any pledge that will bind another Parliament. I do, however, attach very great importance to honourable understandings, and I do think that the Northern Parliament has the very strongest moral claim. That claim was strongly urged last night by Lord Grey. I think he was quite right. I think an honourable undertaking should be recognised. The people in the North-Eastern counties did honestly believe that in making a great sacrifice they, at any rate, secured that they were quit of their troubles for ever.
Whether they were quite justified in coming to that conclusion is another matter. But I think the noble Viscount, Lord Grey of Fallodon, went a little too far when he argued that honourable obligations to the six counties override equally honourable obligations that have since been incurred, and he went much too far in assuming that the long negotiations that led to the Articles of Agreement constituting the Treaty and the ratifying Act that eave validity to the Treaty can all be thrown upon the scrap heap if they interfere with what the Northern Parliament considers to be a debt of honour due to it. There is a debt of honour to the six counties, but is there not also a debt of honour to any one else? Has the Free State no moral claim 1 It has observed absolutely all its obligations under the Treaty and at a cost, both to individuals and to the Free State Government, which no one can understand except those who are intimately acquainted with all that has occurred in Ireland during the last two or three years. Are there no honourable obliga- 612 tions towards the Irish Free State? They have treated us honourably; are we not to treat them honourably?
I gather that Viscount Grey of Fallodon thinks that perhaps the most honest course would be for us to say to the Free State, in effect: "It is true we negotiated a Treaty with you. It is true that Parliament ratified the Treaty, but we are sorry to say we find it impossible for us to carry it out. We must denounce the Treaty, and, if you like, open negotiations again." Your Lordships know perfectly well that if Great Britain does not carry out her obligations under the Treaty a demand for a Republic in Ireland on the ground that Great Britain can never be trusted will become irresistible. And what is to become of the men, not an inconsiderable number or a negligible quantity, who accepted the Constitution of the Free State? Why did they accept it? They accepted it because it was the Constitution of a Dominion. They are still part of the great Commonwealth of nations that constitutes the Empire. They have all the rights of a Dominion, a right to be considered in such matters as peace and war, and great matters of State. They have the ample protection which that great Commonwealth of nations provides; and they accepted citizenship under the Free State because it gave them that position and assured them in it. Am I to be told now that we know of no debt of honour at all to these men; that they are to be put in this position, that they must either leave their homes and country or become citizens of what the noble Marquess aptly described as an insignificant Republic? I do not deny the moral claims of Ulster. I do not deny that there are obligations that ought to be considered, but I assert that there are other obligations which should also be considered.
I should like to have gone into the constitutional question, but I will not. My friends in the Northern Government cannot have everything they want both ways. They claim practically the independence of a Dominion, and at the same time they are part of the United Kingdom and are represented in the United Kingdom, and in those circumstances they are still subject, in spite of the local autonomy given to them, to the United Kingdom. Parliament has particularly reserved its authority in the Act 613 of 1920. It also reserved its authority in the Act of 1922 in the case of the Free State, but the reservations are different in character. So far as the Free State is concerned Parliament reserved the right to legislate in all cases where, according to constitutional practice, customs, and usage, laws can be made affecting Canada.
As regards the Northern Parliament the reservations are much more clearly expressed. The Act says:Notwithstanding the establishment of the Parliament of Northern Ireland, or anything contained in this Act, the supreme authority of the Parliament of the United Kingdom shall remain unaffected and undiminished over all persons, matters and things in Northern Ireland and every part thereof.It is a generalisation I admit, but it is a much stronger expression of the reservation of the authority of Parliament. And the Act goes further than that. It makes a specific reservation. It says that the Parliament of Northern Ireland shall not have:power to repeal or alter any provision of this Act (except as is specifically provided by this Act) or of any Act passed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom after the appointed day and extending to the part of Ireland within their jurisdiction, although that provision deals with a matter with respect to which the Parliament has power to make laws.I do not know what legal construction can be put upon it, but to the plain man it is perfectly obvious that the Imperial Parliament thought it right to declare that the Parliament of Northern Ireland could make no alteration in any law passed by the Imperial Parliament. The Imperial Parliament must have had in mind the possibility of being obliged to legislate. I do not suggest that Parliament should legislate, but the claim of the Parliament of Northern Ireland that they can keep up this attitude of complete negation, and that they are within their legal and constitutional rights in doing so, cannot be maintained.
I agree entirely with what Viscount Grey of Fallodon said at the close of his speech yesterday. I am very sorry that this discussion has had to take place. The one thing I detest more than any other for Ireland is partition, and perhaps it would have been better if the question of boundaries had been left somewhat vague. At the time the setting 614 up of a Boundary Commission was absolutely imperative. I regret, however, that this discussion ever became necessary. I wish to Heaven that my fellow-countrymen in the North of Ireland could have seen their way to have come in instead of opting out, keeping all their local autonomy and exacting any pledges that they liked to impose. Your Lordships know that peace and war in Ireland are trembling in the balance. My friends in the North know that as well as I do. I think they must know too that, if it is to be war, they cannot isolate themselves from its consequences, and I am sure that they know as well as I do that if they could have seen their way to come in, to throw the great weight of their authority into the balance of peace, then peace would have been absolutely assured. That was not to be. I regret this discussion also because the very suspicion that Great Britain will not be true to her word is the strongest possible lever we can place in the hand of fanatics in Ireland who want to overthrow everything in order to build up something new, and a very strong lever in the hands of people in this country who also wish to destroy existing conditions in Ireland in the hope of reconstituting a form of government which they could not reconstitute even if they were prepared to send an Army Corps to Ireland.
The one thing that appears to me to be clear and imperative now is that we must carry out the manifest intentions of the Act and of the Treaty, and that a Boundary Commission must be set up. That Boundary Commission is not going to settle the question. I am sure that it cannot. What its findings may be I do not know, nor does anybody else, but the award will be the award of a just and impartial Tribunal. It is perfectly certain that it will not satisfy both parties, and I think it is safe to prophesy that it will not be entirely satisfactory to either party. But I think it may do this. I think that the fact of such an impartial Report being presented must tend to soften asperities between the two parties and may point the responsible leaders of both parties to the advisability, if not the necessity, of making considerable mutual concessions. I even go so far as to hope—I would almost say to believe —that the result may be to lead to 615 amicable discussion and to bring about that which we all desire, a settlement by consent.
§ LORD CARSON
My Lords, a correspondent from Cork wrote to me the other day and reminded me that General Smuts, in speaking on the Irish question after the Treaty, had given this advice to Southern Ireland: "Do not mention the name of Ulster for the next five years." I think that this was very sagacious advice, and if the Free State had taken the trouble to put their own house in order and to prove the loyalty to this Kingdom which they profess we should see a very different state of things between the North and South of Ireland at the present moment. One thing I must admit at the outset, and that is that the present Government are not liable for the crisis over this Bill. That fact has a great deal to do with the course that I intend to take in acquiescing in the Motion that has been made by my noble friend Lord Salisbury rather than proceeding to move an Amendment such as was moved in the House of Commons and defeated by the comparatively small majority of fifty.
I ask myself this question: If this Bill is thrown out and there is a General Election—I do not trouble to say how the question will be represented or misrepresented at the Election—should we be any better off, taking it at the best, if a Conservative Government were returned to power? I feel that if a Conservative Government returned to power the Conservative Party would propose and insist upon the very Bill that is now before your Lordships' House. And why? Because all the eminent men of the Conservative Party are up to the neck in the original Treaty which, through its ambiguities, has led to the present situation. Accordingly, I am not prepared, speaking here as having .an interest—I cannot say more than that—in Ulster, and having been their leader in previous times for many years, to say: "Prolong this controversy and leave us in this state of turmoil which is threatened from day to day in Ireland. Go to an Election and try to explain this complicated thing to the electors." If the Conservative Party obtain a majority they will come back and do exactly what the Labour Party are doing at the present time, though I am not at all certain that they 616 would show the same amount of courage in the kindly way in which they would desire to treat us.
I say this perfectly frankly and perfectly fairly, because I am in this position. For years I have been approached by Conservative colleagues on one occasion and another to try to bring about a settlement of the Irish question, particularly in relation to the North of Ireland. I am bound to say that upon every occasion I have been absolutely betrayed. In 1916, of course, there was a Coalition, but it was crammed full of Conservatives. In 1916 the whole settlement broke down because of the duplicity Conservatives. In 1916 the whole settlement. One side was told that a settlement as regards the North of Ireland was to be permanent. Another side was told that it would all be reviewed at the end of the war. It is all very well to come down and claim to have an agreement after giving different promises to each side. The moment you come to put it into force you find yourself in a worse state than at the beginning. Every attempt at settlement in relation to Ireland has broken down, or largely broken down, because of the duplicity of English politicians.
Is not the present debate in this House absolutely unreal? What are you thinking about? You are not thinking of the rights or wrongs of this question at all. You are really thinking about the General Election that is going to follow upon another question. You are thinking of Party considerations. When I assented on behalf of Ulster to the Bill of 1920—the letter was read out in this House to try to induce the passage of that Bill—I said one of the reasons why I did so was to try once and for all to bring Ulster altogether outside Party politics in this country. At how many settlements of the Irish question have I been present? How I remember the 1920 settlement, when I was struggling hard with the Coalition to leave Ulster with the Imperial Parliament and not to set up any Parliament in Ulster—to set up a Parliament in the rest of Ireland but to leave Ulster, in accordance with what was and always had been her ambition, with the Imperial Parliament. What was the answer that I got from Mr. Lloyd George, Mr. Bonar Law, and I do not know how many others—"Do you not see what a strong position you will be in, because once a Parliament is created the 617 Imperial Parliament can never interfere with it or with the basis upon which it has been founded." That was the great argument used over and over again, and here we are now in the same old turmoil, the same old strife, with the same vista of lawlessness and anarchy—all that keeps back the prosperity of a great industrial population such as is the democracy of the North of Ireland.
I must say that the one thing that I looked forward to in the speech of the noble Lord who moved the Second Heading of this Bill, and which I also hoped for in vain in the speech of the noble Viscount on the Woolsack, was that they would tell us where are the precedents, throughout the whole history of the British nation—the greatest colonising nation in the world, which has spread her governments through every part of the habitable globe—where are the precedents in which the Imperial Parliament, having created a Parliament, has then attempted to interfere with the area granted to that Parliament by Act of Parliament. There is no such precedent because no country, and no part of a country, would accept a Parliament, with all the obligations and responsibilities imposed upon those who take up the Government, if the very day after you had created the area you made a claim to diminish that area to such an extent, or to any extent that would diminish the resources upon which they had to rely as a Government.
This Bill is introduced by the noble Lord and is spoken to by the noble Viscount in Ms most placid judicial tones, if I may say so without disrespect, as if it were a small thing. They tell us that arbitration is set up by the Treaty and that this Bill is merely carrying it out. I protest against that way of putting forward this case. What is the Bill? It is a Bill to turn a voluntary arbitration into a compulsory arbitration. Is that no organic change? The very fact that it becomes compulsory puts upon you eventually the obligation, after the compulsory arbitration has taken its course, to use such coercion towards Ulster as may drive from under the present Prime Minister and the present Parliament of Ulster half of the population given to them by the solemn Act of 1920. The funny part of it is that while you are prepared so readily to do that, when the Bill was going 618 through the following words were uttered by Mr. Churchill.
When the Irish Free State (Agreement) Bill was going through the House of Commons and he was asked to alter something in it to make it clear, Mr. Churchill said:The matter is settled, absolutely settled You cannot go back or alter the description of the instrument, nor can you alter in any particular its provisions. On behalf of the Government I cannot possibly agree to any Amendment which alters, modifies, extends, explains, elucidates, amplifies, or otherwise affects the text of the instrument which we call the Treaty. The Treaty is incapable of amendment.Was that true? Was that the basis upon which it was passed, and, if so, why are we here now? What are we doing now? Not only are we altering, extending, changing, but turning what was voluntary into compulsion and coercion. Can there be a greater change than that? You compel people to do something which was to be done voluntarily before, and, believe me, it is only by voluntary arrangement, and not by compulsion, that you will ever get Ulster to agree to the policy that you wish to succeed. Those were the words of Mr. Churchill.
It is said by the noble Viscount that Ulster will be represented on the. Commission. Ulster will not be represented upon the Commission, and the Government have only to read their own Bill to see that she will not be represented upon the Commission. The British Government are going to appoint a representative and in the words of this Bill he will be "deemed to be'' a Commissioner appointed by Ulster. Was there ever such a farce? No, you are going to the very root of this Bill the moment you create compulsion and coercion, as you are doing in relation to Ulster. But how many of these Bills are we to have? Is this the last? Will the noble Lord tell me that it is the last? I am going ask him a few questions to which I hope I shall get a real answer, because I am going to show your Lordships now, and I believe I shall demonstrate it to every fair-minded man in the House, that this Bill smashes the whole Act of 1920. That is a bold assertion. But before I come to that let me ask this quest ion on the Bill.
This Bill is a mere skeleton. What is to be the procedure under the Bill? There is no procedure set up by the Bill.
619 Is there authority given to these Commissioners, and, if so, where, to go into Ulster at all if they are ordered out? Is there authority to these Commissioners to summon a single witness? If so, where is it? Is there authority for them to get a single document? If so, where is the authority in the Bill? They are to take the wishes of the inhabitants. How? I suppose some of you know something about Ulster. Is it to be done through the ballot box? Under what law is the ballot, or an election by ballot, to be set up, and in what way are you to take the opinion of the inhabitants of Ulster, and of what inhabitants? I ask all those questions because, believe me, they will be back here with another Bill when they begin to try to put this Bill into force. And do look at the vista of strained relations, even between Ulster and this country, if, in such a state of facts as that, the Ulster Government, or somebody in Ulster who is affected, or likely to be affected, by the investigation of these Commissioners, applies to His Majesty's Courts there to restrain these proceedings, and the Ulster Courts get at loggerheads with your Executive here. No man can conceive of such slipshod legislation as this.
But let me tell you why you are smashing the Act of 1920. The Act of 1920 compels Ulster—who does not at all wish to get out of it—to contribute forty-four parts out of one hundred of what is taken to be the whole contribution from Ireland. That is to say, these despicable six counties contribute 44 per cent., and the twenty-six counties pay 56 per cent. That was one of the conditions upon which the Bill was passed. If territory is taken away from Northern Ireland does it go on paying that contribution? The contribution is fixed upon the basis of six counties. Supposing, according to the extreme view taken by Sinn Fein, two counties and, I think, the, half of another two counties, are taken away, does the contribution go on? And, if not, where is the provision in the Bill? None at all. There will be another Bill which your Lordships will have before you.
And may I say, in passing, that Ulster has paid her contribution? She has paid something like £14,000,000 to the Imperial Exchequer since you put her into a Government there against her will, because 620 she wishes faithfully to carry out her duty towards this country. But I would ask these politicians who are so anxious for the honour of Great Britain, what about Article 5? Has the Free State paid its contribution under Article 5? There was to be a Commission set up so as to determine the method and the manner in which they were to pay their share, estimated at 56 per cent. No Commission has ever been set up. No, you have yielded to the dictation of the Free State Government to set up this Boundary Commission, and you have yielded to the dictation of the Free State Government not to set up the other Commission. That would not suit their pockets. Instead of that, you are giving them large grants. I ask, then, how do we stand with regard to the contribution?
Then I come to the next point. The Government was taken over, and the taxation was left for the House of Commons—because Ulster is taxed by the British House of Commons just the same as England and Scotland are—and for that purpose Ulster was to have a certain number of representatives in the House of Commons, as it has. Supposing two counties were taken away and given over to the Free State, what would be Ulster's representation in the House of Commons? Will they thereby be deprived of two Members, who are specifically stated in the Act to be given for Tyrone and Fermanagh? That is one of the conditions upon which we submitted to the taxation. The retention of those counties was one of the reasons for which we submitted to the payment of this quota to the Imperial Exchequer. Am I not right in saying that you are smashing the whole foundation of the Act of 1920?
Let me take another point. What is to happen in such a case as this. One of the places on the border is Newry, a town that is always brought in as a bone of contention between the North and the South. It is one of the towns specifically set out in the undertaking given to me in 1916 by Mr. Lloyd George. Newry is very near the border. The Belfast water supply, upon which that City has spent about £2,000,000, and is spending £1,000,000 there now, is just outside Newry. Will the Commissioners be entitled to take away the waterworks into the Free State under this provision? If so, is compensation to be given to the 621 Belfast waterworks, or are the Belfast waterworks to be compelled, to derive their water from the Free State? That, however, is merely an illustration. The public buildings and county organisations are separated in various parts of the country. If there is a poorhouse or any other institution in the part that is to be taken away from Ulster, particularly where they claim half counties or parts of counties, is the rest of the county to get compensation? And where is it in the Bill? Not a line, not a word. The truth of the matter is that your whole Bill is impracticable, and, as I venture to prophesy, if it is ever put into operation, this is only the first of a series of Bills which it will be necessary to pass from time to time in order to try to make workable this ill-considered policy.
The noble Viscount said he hoped that there would be no Amendments. I intend to put down one Amendment only, and it is this. The Bill says that this Bill, when it has been passed, is to come into force when it has been confirmed by the Parliament of the Free State. I propose to add as an Amendment "and also by the Parliament of Northern Ireland." Are they not concerned in it? What right have you to say: "We allow the Free State Parliament to confirm the Bill, and we admit[...] we allow no right in Ulster, who is going to have some of her territory filched from her, according to the construction some people put on those words in Article 12." I shall bring forward that Amendment because I think it is important, as a constitutional matter, on every occasion to fight for the principle that having created a Parliament you must not interfere with it from day to day without its consent.
The one bright spot in the debate yesterday was the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Grey of Fallodon. I would give a great deal to have been able to make that speech myself. The noble Viscount summed up the whole question in a few words. In effect, he said: "You have pledges and understandings with Ulster which were made before ever the Treaty was entered into, and you have pledges, it may be, with the South of Ireland. You cannot fulfil both. What are we to do?" And he added:—I would rather face a demand from the Free State to be a Republic than see the understanding with Ulster broken.622 So would I. My noble friend Lord Salisbury, to whom I look up more than to any other man in this House, has stated that this would be a terrible thing to contemplate. If he knew Ireland as I know it he would see nothing terrible in it at all. There is a Republic there already. They may not call it a Republic, but there is a Republic there already. One noble Lord dissents. I know that my noble friend who speaks, with great earnestness for the South, and naturally so, likes to be under the impression that such property as he has there is still under the British Government. Whether that does him any good or not I do not know, but I will say a word about it in a moment.
There is already a Republic in Ireland. Does anybody deny that the Free State has gone from under the Flag? You would not be allowed to fly the Union Jack either on Parliament House or any Government building in Ireland. I do not know whether you would be allowed to fly it anywhere, even on your own private house. At the great National games held there the other day the flag of every country in the world was exhibited excepting the Union Jack. They have gone from under the Flag, and therefore they are no longer under this country. Perhaps you will say that that is merely a sentimental matter. Well, there is a great deal in sentiment regarding the country you live in and the Flag you live under.
What else have they done? They have blotted the King's name out of every single proceeding that the Government has to take in Ireland. We talk of the King's writ running in this country. They have abolished his name, as that of a foreign King, from every legal proceeding. In no way that I know of do they acknowledge the King. I know that they call North of Ireland people and people from this country strangers and foreigners. In addition to that, if any man from the North of Ireland—I am speaking especially of the Protestants of the North of Ireland—were put under the Sinn Fein Government, he would have to contribute to the pensions that have been allocated by the Dublin Parliament to the men who committed all the murders before the Treaty. Every good old murderer has got his pension. More than that, if people came down into the Free State 623 they would have to send their children to schools in which, although it might be their ambition that their children should be Ulster children and go out elsewhere to try to make the Empire great, one thing that would be compulsory upon them would be to learn Irish. I have seen protests by the Bishops of the Episcopal Church of Ireland against the Protestant children going to schools there having to learn Irish, but of course such protests are vain, because if you are in a country you must do as that country wants you to do.
Then they have passed a law that nobody but citizens of the Free State can enter into their Civil Service. Your Lordships are all debarred from entering it; if any of you wanted to try your hand there you could not do so. I do not believe that such a condition prevails in any other part of the Empire. Then they have their own Army which does not swear allegiance to the King. It is not the King's Army; it is the Irish Republican Army. There is no such thing as the, King's Army there. In addition to that they have claimed, and have been granted by His Majesty's Government under the Treaty, the right to send their own representatives to foreign Courts, to bring about peace, I suppose, and not to create complications.
What is left? There is Article 5 which you dare not enforce; that is the Article which deals with contributions. My noble friend and others who come from Ireland say, and it is not unnatural that they should say it: "We prefer to be under the British Government and we look to the British Government to preserve our rights." The British Government has absolutely failed to do that. Just before the Recess there was a debate in your Lordships' House, in the course of which hundreds of cases in which compensation had been awarded were brought forward, and in which, owing to every kind of trickery on the part of the Free State, not a penny had been paid. They do not intend to pay. Where is the protection of the British Government? We had, first, a Coalition Government in power with a good many Conservatives in it. We then had a Conservative Government, pure, simple and unadulterated, and I am bound to say that the worst of the lot in doing anything in response to the efforts I made on behalf of some of my old friends 624 whom I had known since I was a child in Ireland was the Conservative Government. It never did anything at all. I am bound to say that since this Government came into power I have been able to get a thousand per cent, more done than the Coalition Government or the Conservative Government did. The Coalition Government were not in power very long after the Treaty, but in regard to giving protection to or doing anything for the loyalists in Ireland the Conservative Government were far the worst.
Therefore, I say, what is the good of being frightened by a Republic? When anything goes wrong over there now speeches are made by their great speakers, who put it down to the fact that they have not got a Republic. A change in the name without any change in reality would make no difference. That is how Irishmen, including myself, think. We cannot help it. Do not be deterred by the threat of a Republic. You know very well that that is the very threat that has prompted this Bill at this most inopportune moment. It is said that if you do not pass this Bill there will be a Republic, but when you have passed it there will be a further demand for this and for that, and you will be told that if you do not accede to that demand there will be a Republic. You will have the Republic pistol held at your head for every contribution and for everything else that is wanted, and the sooner you face it the better.
My noble friend Lord Grey, in his able speech, said that the only way in which a settlement can come will be by a union between the North and the South. I think I have given your Lordships some indication as to why there has been no advance in that direction. The North is not prepared to go from under the Flag. The North is not prepared to wipe out the King's name from every document used in connection with carrying on the Government. The North is not prepared to adopt a system of pensioning murderers and others. Ever since the Treaty, North and South have gone farther and farther apart, instead of coming nearer and nearer to one another. We are asked: "Why do you not make up your differences?" Both in this House and in the House of Commons we are often asked that. I ask your Lordships this 625 one question. Do those who talk in that way want us also to become Sinn Feiners? Is that what they mean? Do they want us also to haul down the Flag? Do they want us also to imitate the actions of the Free State towards the King and towards this country? If they do, let them say so plainly. Tell Ulster you do not want her loyalty, which is what many are already suggesting. Tell her you have no recollection of her action in the war when the troops in Dublin were shooting your troops on their way out to the Front. Tell her all that, but do not talk in generalities about unity and try to throw the blame upon Uster. Heaven knows I wish there was unity, but there never will be unity in Ireland between North and South until the South gives up the rôle of being an enemy of this country, prepared at every opportunity to insult its King, and in every way to degrade him.
This is a serious matter. I beg your Lordships to look ahead. The noble Viscount on the Woolsack said it is time enough when the difficulties arise. That is the kind of thing we say in a case very often—"wait till that point arises." But in this matter you must look ahead. The problem before you is a very simple one, though the solution of it goes to the very foundation of your Empire. If Ulster refuses to accept the findings of the Commission, what is your policy? Ought you not to know that now? Would you be prepared to advise that His Majesty's troops should be sent over there to compel Ulster to give up the territory which has been attempted to be taken from her by the Commission? My noble friend quoted the phrase used by some of the Irish speakers on the other side— "Will you be prepared to deliver the goods?" That situation may arise a year ahead or more. Picture the condition of this country if His Majesty's troops embark for the purpose of attempting to drive out by force—for they would certainly be resisted—these men who have been loyal, and have been governing Ulster under an Act of this British Imperial Parliament assented to by His Majesty. In such circumstances, are His Majesty's troops to go over there to drive out the people of Ulster from that part of the territory which was given to them as a trust? Could any greater calamity fall not merely upon this country but upon 626 all the Dominions which constitute the Empire?
I ask your Lordships to look forward. If the Free State refuses, what is to be the result? I read a speech made a few days ago by Mr. de Valera, Supposing this boundary is settled satisfactorily to the North, is that to be an end of the matter? Here is what Mr. de Valera is reported to have said about it a few days ago:There would never be prosperity in Ireland until she had perfect freedom.The newspaper report of this states that a voice from the crowd shouted: "What about the boundary? " and that Mr. de Valera replied:As far as we are concerned, there is no boundary question. Partition was not the policy of our Cabinet, and it is not our policy to-day either.Their position was, he continued, that they would never make a treaty except for the whole of the island. They would never under any circumstances whatever see the sovereignty of that island contracted by a single inch.
Are you quite sure that Mr. de Valera's Party are not in the majority? Are you quite sure that they will not be in the majority in a very short time? There have been signs in Ireland of the shirking of elections. There are many vacancies for which they cannot hold by-elections. With the best will in the world Mr. Cosgrave's Government cannot restrain such forces as these. What, then, will happen? Will another Bill be brought into Parliament, and will it be said: "For Heaven's sake, do not let us have a row in Ireland; give Mr. de Valera what he wants. There are only four counties left; give him another county this time." Let that be done and in another year there will be a demand for the remaining counties. There must be some finality.
I plead to-day with all my heart on behalf of these people in Ulster who have one wish, and one wish only, and that is to stay with you, to be worthy of your race and to form part of the Empire to which you belong. They have done nothing to forfeit your confidence. They have been at all times ready to accept all the burdens that you put upon them, and now, once more, you drag them into the arena of your politics when you had pledged yourselves in 1920 to leave them alone. We must look forward ourselves if 627 we can get no assurances from you. As I told the Ulster people, they must rely upon themselves. There is, believe me, a greater Ulster throughout the Empire, and particularly in Canada, New Zealand and Australia. There are thousands and thousands of our men from Ulster out there; I get hundreds of letters from them. Whatever the South of Ireland has done, the North of Ireland has mainly preferred, in the question of emigration, to go to Colonies under their own Flag. We appeal to them and will continue to appeal to them. They at all events, using what force and power they may possess, will not leave us desolate to be sacrificed for the sake of political interests and political Parties in the Mother Country.
§ THE EARL OF BIRKENHEAD
My Lords, my noble and learned friend who has just addressed the House has spoken with the emotion and feeling and the power which he always exhibits when discussing a topic to which he has devoted so much of his life. Had my noble and learned friend thought it his duty to move the rejection of this Bill it would have become necessary for those who lie under responsibility in the matter to examine more closely than I find it necessary or useful for me to do those parts of his speech which were controversial in character. That some considerable truth underlay his indictment I am the last man in the world to deny, but equally I must be allowed to say that in some respects I think it was over-coloured, and that once again as I listened to him I felt, what I have frequently felt when listening to Irishmen who held opinions different from those of my noble and learned friend, that no Englishman ever will understand Irish mentality or Irish methods of reasoning.
He quoted a speech made by Mr. de Valera. I really should have thought that whoever else might be relied upon in this House or elsewhere as an expression of contemporary Irish opinion it was not Mr. de Valera, After all, his fellow Republicans have only just let him out of gaol. His fellow Republicans placed him in gaol for many months, and accepting the view which my noble and learned friend has put forward as to the character of the present Irish Government, they have since the Treaty was passed shot some fifty or sixty of their old friends as rebels against their own Government.
628 They have imprisoned many hundreds on the ground of rebellion against their Government, and it would seem to me, if we were dealing with any other country than Ireland, that one was at least entitled to advance with some plausibility of argument that there must be at least two Parties in Southern Ireland at the present time. If there are two Parties, what are they? It may be, indeed, that one is growing in numbers and that the other is weakening in numbers. I do not know whether that is the fact or not, but that there have been two Parties in Southern Ireland since the date when the Treaty was signed would seem to me, on the plain facts of what historically has happened, to be incontestible.
I intervene in this debate because I was a signatory to the Irish Treaty, because I had in this House and in the country responsibilities, which I shall not seek either here or hereafter to evade, for the recommendations which I gave to this House at the time when this House made itself also responsible for the Treaty. And while I observe, as everyone must, the many events which have happened since that Treaty was signed which fill us with depression and may well occasion the gravest alarm for the future, and while making no attempt to attentuate them, I, nevertheless, even at a moment which is not fraught with any special promise in the Irish situation, venture to call attention to the fact that there are one or two elements in the situation which ought not to be completely forgotten when we weigh on balance the advantages and disadvantages of what at the time was admitted to be a doubtful and disappointing course, but, nevertheless, was a course which, applying our finite and human minds as best we could under almost insuperable difficulties, presented itself to us as the course which was the wisest and most statesmanlike to take.
When we read of the mischiefs and disadvantage, let us not close our eyes to the fact that there is another side. Let me give two illustrations. There was no one in this House of any Party whom I ever heard in debate at the critical period who did not feel repelled by the terrible necessity to which we were being driven, day after day and week after week, of meeting violence with violence. Who has forgotten the date on which it first 629 became apparent that the ordinary police were no longer sufficient in numbers to deal with the forces of insurgency and rebellion? Who has forgotten how gradually it became necessary to reinforce them with numbers of those who became known as the "Black and Tans," and who were recruited from ex-Service forces in this country? And surely our memories are not so short that we cannot remember that week after week and month after month we had debates in this House in which even noble Lords, who to-day would feel great sympathy with the speech of my noble and learned friend, came down to this House to make complaints of excesses, actual or alleged, on the part of this instrument which we found it necessary to employ? And at the time the Treaty was made—I for one did not believe, even on the day on which we first entered on negotiations, that any such Treaty would be found to be practicable—at the time when that Treaty first became a subject of serious consideration in this House we had, as your Lordships well know, military advice to the effect that it would be necessary to raise an Army of, I think, 100,000 volunteers and spend I know not how many millions upon the task of subjugating Ireland.
It may sound as if it were a counsel of cowardice to say that we did not undertake this task because of its cost in blood and treasure, but surely there is another consideration upon which one may lay stress. I certainly was bold enough to lay stress upon it at the time. It was this: that even if it did not exceed our resources and strength to reconquer Ireland in the condition in which it was at that date, when we had reconquered it what wore we to do? We should have had to reach some adjustment with a reconquered Ireland, we should have had to reach some adjustment with an Ireland in which the exceeding bitterness would have been greatly inflamed, and I only ask your Lordship, in fairness to these of us who had to undertake this grave responsibility, who were then, and are now, answerable to your Lordships for the advice we rightly or wrongly gave, to be allowed to remind you of the difficulties by which at that time we were confronted.
Since the Treaty was signed two results at least have happened. In the first place, the repression of disorder which 630 has taken place — and it has been very considerable—has taken place at the instance of one set of Irishmen at the expense of another set of Irishmen. The imprisonments and executions have not been carried out by Englishmen, they have been carried out by Irishmen. In the second place, we have removed from the House of Commons the risk of having some eighty or ninety Members who belonged to the Sinn Fein school of political thought and the existence of whom in the late House of Commons would have prevented even the possibility of a Conservative majority. What the political reactions of such a body of men sitting in the House of Commons, perhaps allying themselves with the extremer elements of the Socialist Party, might have been upon our politics in the last few years, I do not know.
While I say all this, I must make it completely plain that I do not share the view of the noble Viscount, Lord Grey of Fallodon, who spoke to your Lordships last night in what is described to me in all quarters as a memorable speech, but which I was unfortunately prevented from hearing. I do not share his view that it matters little whether Ireland becomes a Republic or not. I take a very different view. I do not think that, in fact or in substance, Ireland has up to the present become a Republic If, as a consequence of the taking of any step on the part of this Government or this country which we conceive ourselves entitled to take, the Irish Government were to declare themselves to-morrow a Republic, there is hardly any step that it was within our power to adopt from which I should shrink in order to correct and to alter the state of affairs which under that hypothesis they would illegally have produced. I think it makes an immense difference whether they are, or are not, still a part of the British Empire.
I agree that many things have happened most disquieting to those of us who hoped that the making of the Treaty would lead to an earlier effacement of memories so ancient and so unhappy. I admit at once that there have been many failures on the part of the Irish Free State to carry out the Treaty in the spirit for which we had hoped, and I have always taken the view that it was a great loss to this country, and a great loss to the Irish Free State, that the two 631 men who in Southern Ireland took the greatest risks in procuring the acceptance of the Treaty should have lost their lives at the very moment when they had most opportunity of contributing something to the policy and the difficulties of the years that were to come. I remember still the moment, the precious and fugitive moment, in which we were all of us encouraged to hope that the conversations which had taken place between Mr. Collins and Sir James Craig were likely to lead to a fruitful conclusion, and your Lordships may recall that an official announcement was made in the Press that, on the very subject of this Boundary Commission, discussion had already proceeded a great length and that there seemed to be some reason to hope that they might attain a successful end.
Those hopes were disappointed in the event, but if I am to be perfectly frank with the House, as, indeed, it is my duty to be upon the whole question of this Treaty, I say quite plainly, speaking for myself, two things which, so far as I know, I have not had occasion to say before. I say, in the first place, that it was always my hope, perhaps my too sanguine hope, that this boundary question would in the last resort be determined by agreement between the parties. It has been to me a source of profound disappointment that in this respect I proved to be too sanguine. I wish to make my own view perfectly plain. President Cosgrave seems to me to be a man who, amid great difficulties, has given many evidences of his desire, so far as those difficulties permit him, to carry out the Treaty as he understands the Treaty. Sir James Craig needs at my Hands neither eulogy nor defence in this House, nor, indeed, do I know whether he would permit it if I attempted it, but his reputation for prudent statesmanship has been known to all who have been associated with him in politics for twenty years.
The tragedy of this story is illustrated by that which I think every member of this House knows in his heart to be true, that if President Cosgrave and Sir James Craig were in this matter able to emancipate themselves from all the prejudices of those upon whom everything which they stand for depends in the South and the North of Ireland respectively, I have no doubt that those two men could reach 632 a settlement with reference to this Boundary Commission. It is one of the eternal tragedies of the eternal Irish question that the sincere views passionately held upon each side of the boundary have had the result of sterilising and rendering impotent .the honest, sincere and conscientious wishes of the leaders of each party.
I said that I had two admissions to make in relation to Article 12. Let me make it perfectly plain, so far as I am concerned, that it never, directly or indirectly, entered my mind, at the moment when that Article was framed, that in the long result it would appear wise to those who are responsible for the Ulster position to refuse to appoint a Commissioner. It is very easy after the event to censure for carelessness men who were working under great pressure and in presence of very great anxieties. I agree that, had we been gifted with complete prescience, had we perhaps had all the leisure which more protracted negotiations might have afforded, this possibility might have occurred to our minds. It never, so far as I know, occurred to the mind of a single negotiator of that Treaty, nor do I recall that, amid all the criticism to which we were subjected in the earlier days of Parliamentary discussions, this particular apprehension was ever specially emphasised in the debates in this House.
I mention this circumstance only because some very wounding suggestions have been made in certain sections of the Press that those who drafted this Article 12 deliberately drafted that Article with the idea in their minds that this contingency might arise which has actually occurred. Your Lordships will, I know, fake it from me—and, so far as I know, I attended every meeting in which this Article 12 was discussed—that it never occurred to the mind of any English signatory of that Treaty, and I do not believe that it ever occurred to the mind of any Irish signatory to that Treaty, that Ulster would refuse to appoint a Commissioner. The observation that I make upon this point must not be construed as any reflection upon the discretion which Ulster has thought proper to exercise in this matter. I have never concealed my earnest wish that it might be possible for the Ulster Government to appoint a Commissioner, but equally I have always tried to understand the attitude and the forces which 633 have made the very experienced men who are responsible for the Government of Northern Ireland decide that it was not possible for them to appoint a Commissioner. Those considerations have been stated in this House by many who have far more right to express them than I have, and I make no further reference to that.
But what were we to do when once it was determined that Ulster would refuse to appoint a Commissioner? As I understand the matter, in no quarter has it been recommended that your Lordships should not give a Second Reading to the Bill. As I understand it, with the exception of the one Amendment of which my noble and learned friend spoke, and which can be dealt with at the moment when he moves it, no one has hitherto indicated an intention of moving an Amendment subversive of the whole substantive purport of the Bill. My own position must be made plain. However painful it might be to dissociate myself for a moment from the views of those with whom I have so long associated in politics, had an Amendment subversive of Article 12 been proposed—an Amendment, in other words, which substituted a procedure not contemplated by Article 12, or which declared an interpretation which from the very nature of the case must be an additional interpretation to that contained in the actual words of the Treaty, and which was to be operative and effective as the result of that which was done in this House—I could not have been a party to it, for reasons which in justice to myself I must make very clear.
Rightly or wrongly, those who signed the Treaty had agreed upon the words of Article 12. We are sometimes condemned for incompetent and slovenly draftsmanship. Nobody has ever, so far as I have studied the history of treaty instruments, succeeded in drafting a complicated treaty without incurring the same kind of censure as that to which we have been so much exposed; but I ask your Lordships, to remember that from the very nature of the case, we had not the advantage which is conceded to those who draw up great international instruments in the ordinary course. If any of your Lordships had gone, as I had occasion to go sometimes, when the Treaty of Versailles was being fashioned, you would have found five or six skilled draftsmen whose whole lives 634 had been spent in drafting and in giving true expression, in technical and highly competent language, to the sense desired by the negotiators. The very nature of that which we had to negotiate, the very uncertainty whether even at the last we should succeed, the very secrecy of the discussions, made it impossible that we should have among us such expert draftsmen. I am supposed to have some familiarity with the law. I have never pretended to be a professional draftsman. The hurry which was unavoidable, if a treaty was to be carried into effect, undoubtedly deprived us of the advantages which those often concerned in these instruments have enjoyed.
I then stand in this position. We agreed, rightly or wrongly, to Article 12. My name was set to that Treaty, and in no circumstances, whatever the consequences to myself, can I have it said of me that having assented to the Treaty, and having put my name to it, I had at a later stage in any way deviated from that to which my signature committed me. Therefore, had a substantial Amendment been moved which had the effect of substituting for the decision of the Commission the decision of some other body I could not have assented to such an Amendment, because what we put our names to in the Treaty was this—that if, and when, the boundary question was decided it should, be decided by a Boundary Commission, and we denned the constitution of that Commission. We did not say it should be decided by an effective Amendment either introduced in the British Parliament or in the Irish Dail. We agreed, and this was the condition of our bargaining, that this should be decided by a Commission for whose constitution we made provision. The provision we made has failed, but nevertheless the fact is that two contracting parties have agreed upon a substituted machinery. I am not going to argue upon the justification of that measure simply because the Second Reading of this Bill is not, as I understand, to be opposed in this House, but it is relative to my argument that there is agreement between two of the original parties as to the machinery. There is no such agreement between the parties that we should pass an effective Amendment which should bind the Commission and 635 attempt to define that construction which, under the terms of Article 12, was reserved for the Commission.
I have then to ask myself, having made plain why I should not have supported an Amendment which would have asserted our right, in fact, to alter the interpretation in a manner binding upon the Commission—while I could never have assented to that, I have to ask myself what course I am to adopt in relation to the Amendment which Lord Salisbury, in a very forcible speech, has indicated that he would propose. I think I ought to make an observation in the first place upon the difficulties which the noble and learned Viscount who sits upon the Woolsack made technically as to the admissibility of such an Amendment. The noble and learned Viscount knows, none better, and indeed he said so in the plainest language from the Woolsack, that in this House, I suppose almost alone among the legislative assemblies of the world, we retain a power, which I believe is very seldom abused, of determining our own rules of order. Therefore, it is open to any one of us to reach a conclusion upon a matter of this kind in the light, in the first place, of logic and common sense, and of our common and historic practice in this House. I examine this proposal in the light of all those matters, and I certainly find nothing inconsistent with the spirit of that which has always for so many generations, and indeed centuries, determined our practice in this House.
A reasoned Amendment that the Second Reading be denied has always been the common practice in this House, as in another place, and I see not the slightest objection to a reasoned Amendment explaining the circumstances in which this House is prepared to give a Second Reading to a Bill. I have already made it plain, as I think your Lordships understand, that the only effect that such a reasoned Amendment can have is to give an expression of opinion on the part of this House. It can bind no one. It cannot bind the Commission. No one can get up in the Dail and say: "We no longer have a Commission empowered to deal with the matter, because the English Parliament has shackled and fettered it." All that Parliament and the House of Lords are doing is to give a strong expression of 636 opinion as to the meaning of Article 12 and the spirit in which it was agreed.
I have, on every occasion, when called upon to express an opinion, made my opinion absolutely plain as to the true meaning of Article 12. I have equally made it plain that I am not a Commissioner and that Parliament has committed it neither to me nor to any of your Lordships; but whether or not my opinion is well founded, I have the right of expressing that opinion. I have never failed to exercise that right. I exercised it immediately the Treaty debates began in this House, I exercised it without protest from either Mr. Collins or Mr. Griffith, who equally on their part stated their conception of the meaning of Article 12, which was not entirely consistent with that which I have presented in this House, and nobody made any grievance about it. And, indeed, why should not any signatory of that Treaty exercise the right of explaining the construction which he places on any particular Article? I have never varied as to the necessary and true construction of Article 12. I stated my opinion to your Lordships very much more than a year ago; I adhere to that opinion to-day.
If I have the right of expressing my opinion, if Mr. Griffith and Mr. Collins had the right of expressing their opinions, why in the world should not we as a body have the right of expressing our opinion? I believe that the proposal of the noble Marquess does, in fact, represent the view of almost every member of this House, though there are some members of this House who may say with perfect truth —and I submit myself absolutely to the criticism—that the Article was lacking in the clarity that could have been given to it, had the circumstances permitted more detailed consideration, an expression of , perhaps more convincing lucidity. While many may hold that view, I do not believe that there is one competent judge in your Lordships' House who would say that, construing that Article as a whole, it does not bear the meaning which my noble friend seeks to put upon it in this Amendment.
In these circumstances I see not the slightest reason why your Lordships should not make it quite plain what is the state of mind, if I may so express it, in which you apply yourselves to this Bill, and give it a Second Reading. Had the 637 proposal of the noble Marquess been less moderate, had it gone further, had it— for let me make myself absolutely plain— had it, in fact, imposed the slightest effective condition or shackle upon that which has been conceded, any condition or shackle upon the Commission, I should not have supported it, because I should have been false to the signature which I gave when the Treaty was signed.
Your Lordships have borne with me with the greatest indulgence on this question, as so often when I have addressed this House upon it, and, believe me, I am grateful for it. I know to-night as well as I knew it at the date when I thought it to be my duty to recommend the adoption of this Treaty to this House, that it was a proposal which, on its real merits and according to your Lordships' real views, never much appealed to the sympathy and the support of this House. Your Lordships acted through a sense of public duty, as, believe me, we in our turn, and at an earlier stage, though with a deeper and more primary responsibility, equally from a sense of public duty recommended this Treaty to the assent of this House. This House, like another place, accepted it, and we must make the best of that which we persuaded you to accept, and which, at our persuasion, you accepted. I can never sufficiently express my gratitude for the repeated kindness with which your Lordships have listened to me on a matter on which I know that my views are unpalatable to so many of your Lordships.
§ VISCOUNT FINLAY
My Lords, I desire to make a few observations upon this Bill and the course which I shall take with regard to it. My noble and learned friend Lord Carson said that the Bill was impracticable. I think that is the kindest thing that has been said about the Bill in the course of this debate. I believe that the legislation of which this Bill forms part is legislation which is capable of having most disastrous consequences. I pray that those consequences may not ensue, but I regard this legislation as bad. But, for all that, I think that the situation in which we find ourselves is such that this House has no course but to allow this measure to pass.
It was with a sense of the greatest pleasure that I listened to what was said 638 by my noble friend Viscount Grey of Fallodon, and I cannot help thinking that we ought always to have present in our minds a sense of what we owe to Ulster, and a sense of the binding nature of that pledge which has been so forcibly explained to the House by my noble and learned friend Lord Carson. We never can forget the undertaking that was given, the undertaking that Northern Ireland should consist of the six counties and the two Parliamentary boroughs. We must ever have that undertaking in mind, and we ought to be careful that in the future we do not enter into any engagements with other people which are inconsistent with it. It was, indeed, a pleasure to listen to the way in which Lord Grey stated the case. It reminded me of what was said by a very great constitutional authority, Mr. Hallam, speaking on another subject, the British institution of trial by jury, that the verdict of the jury in court was like a fountain of living water springing from the lap of earth. There was a spontaneity and a directness about what Lord Grey said which appealed to me, and, I think, must have appealed to everyone in the House who heard him, and will appeal to everyone who reads his speech.
The legislation with which we are concerned belongs to a class which, to my mind, is very objectionable. It is legislation to give effect to Treaties already made. "Articles of Agreement for a Treaty" they are called in the present case. Surely, Parliament ought not to legislate in that way. Parliament ought to say what it means itself directly, and in its own language. It is not for Parliament to say "ditto" to any agreement which parties unauthorised have made between themselves. Of course, we are familiar with legislation in connection with railways or industrial enterprises, where the parties concerned have entered into an agreement to which they want to give legislative effect. There such legislation is in place. As applied to Imperial matters it appears to me to be altogether out of place, and to be fraught with danger of misunderstanding, and I trust that the results which have flowed from following that course on the present occasion may tend to discourage the increase of the practice.
A good deal has been said on the question whether Ulster acted properly in 639 refusing to take part in this arbitration by appointing one of the arbitrators. In my opinion Ulster was perfectly within her rights in refusing to make that appointment. Ulster was no party to the Agreement. It had been entered into by Great Britain and by the Free State to deal with Ulster's territory. How can it be suggested that Ulster is in fault if Ulster says: "We never asked for any such arrangement; we do not want it, and we will not take part in the arbitration." The effect of Ulster's not taking part in it is that the Agreement became inoperative and unworkable, and it was absolutely necessary for those who are concerned in bringing the Agreement into action to come to Parliament for fresh powers. The refusal of Ulster to appoint an arbitrator made the creation of the Tribunal impossible, and the British Government, acting in its own interests, and in the interests of the Free State, has come to the Imperial Parliament, asking that the gap in the Tribunal left by Ulster's refusal should be filled up.
What I want to do is this. I desire to point out that the necessity for the application puts Parliament in exactly the same position with regard to the terms to be imposed as Parliament would stand in when a Bill for giving effect to any Agreement was first proposed. Supposing that certain persons enter into an agreement with regard to a public or private matter and come to Parliament for an Act to give effect to that agreement, Parliament is entitled to examine, and is bound to examine, the nature of the agreement and whether it is proper that it should be made legally binding and enforceable, and may impose such terms as are proper for the purpose. When the parties concerned—the British Government, in particular—came back to Parliament to have this Agreement rendered operative, Parliament was entitled in exactly the same way to ask: "What is it that you want to do under this Agreement? "
It transpired, and it has been referred to over and over again, that the two sets of delegates, the British delegates and the delegates of the Free State, took absolutely different views of the effect of this Agreement. The view of the British delegates was that they were entering into an agreement for dealing only with such minor transfers of territory as would be 640 incidental to the rectification of the frontier. That being so, binding force must be given to these transfers, small though they be But when this application is made after the difference has emerged, one party asserting that it is not confined to such minor alterations but applies also to large transfers of territory, and you come to deal with it, you must ascertain whether the parties are ad idem —whether they agree to that. They had both agreed that it should be applied to the minor alterations incidental to the rectification of the frontier; but, in addition, it is now evident that there is a desire that under this Agreement claims might be made and granted for large transfers of territory. Unless the vacancy on the Commission is filled up the Commission cannot get to work at all. Is it not as clear as daylight that when Parliament is asked to render the Commission operative it is just as much entitled to see whether it is right that it should do all that is claimed for it as it would have been in the first instance had the parties come to Parliament and asked for power to do certain things?
I cannot imagine any question being rightly raised as to an Amendment raising that point being in order. It was said repeatedly that no Amendment of the kind could be drawn, while others said more cautiously that there was great difficulty about it. I do not think there is any difficulty at all. Supposing, in the first instance, they had come to Parliament and said: "We want a Commission to decide whether there should be either or both of two things—first, a rectification of the frontier with minor transfers incidental to that rectification, and secondly, considerable transfers of territory based upon the wishes of the population and on economic and geographic considerations such as are alluded to in the Agreement'' —Parliament, of course, would have said whether it was proper that power should be given for such larger transfers as were regarded as desirable. So, this being not an application to put a construction upon the Agreement but an application for a fresh power to bring the Agreement into effect, it is surely beyond question that Parliament may examine the point for itself. Had it been an application to place upon the Agreement a construction in harmony with the views of one of the parties and contrary to the views of the 641 other, I conceive there would have been very great difficulty about it, because you would be saying that the Agreement shall mean what one of the parties desires and what the other party does not desire. That is a very different thing. What is asked here is for fresh power, and it is absolutely within the competence of Parliament to impose such terms as it likes in conferring that power.
I have looked a good deal into this matter and have prepared an Amendment confining the functions of the Commission as constituted under the Act to the minor transfers incidental to the rectification of frontier, on which both sides are agreed. Both sides are agreed that the rectification of the frontier may be desirable and any rectification of frontier involves, of course, some transfer of territory. But though the parties are agreed on that, they are absolutely at difference on the question of other and large transfers. You might perfectly well grant the smaller thing upon which they are agreed, while saying: "We cannot grant you the larger thing on its own merits or on the circumstances which are before us as to the history of the negotiations in this case." I have prepared an Amendment on these lines, but after most careful consideration I have come to the conclusion that it is not desirable in the interests of Ireland and in the interests of peace that any Amendment should be made which would entail the loss of the Bill if persisted in. The Amendment which I have prepared would have exactly the same effect as an Amendment putting a Parliamentary construction upon the Agreement would have had. For that reason I have made up my mind, after consideration, not to place that Amendment on the Paper.
I may say the same thing with regard to another Amendment which I have prepared and which seems to me most desirable. It is this. Under this Agreement there are three Commissioners to be appointed. One will be nominated on behalf of Ulster, and from what the Government has said it is plain that he will be nominated as one not unfriendly to Ulster. Another is already appointed, we are told, by the Free State, and I suppose we may take it that his view will be not unfriendly to the Free State in the arbitration. If these two differ, one Judge, Mr. Justice Feetham, the Chair- 642 man, must decide; so that it comes to this, that on matters of enormous importance, the decision of which may involve the peace of Ireland, on questions of the utmost gravity you have the decision of a single Judge. However eminent and thoroughly trustworthy any Judge may be, it does appear to me that it would be eminently desirable that there should be the possibility of an appeal from his decision. You would feel much greater confidence in the working of the Tribunal, and I think it would command the Confidence of the public if there were the possibility of an appeal by the Free State, or by Northern Ireland, or by the British Government to the King in Council. The mere existence of that appeal would create confidence in the Tribunal. Its existence would be a valuable check which would create confidence, and it might, on occasion, set right a grave error which would work untold harm if it were not corrected in time.
The Lord Chancellor, whom I regret is not at the moment on the Woolsack, said: Wait till the award is made. But when the award is made it may be too late. I am not going to enter into a discussion as to how far the decision of the Commission—that is to say of the Chairman of the Commission, along with one of his colleagues—is final upon all points. Very nice questions may arise as to whether or not in a particular case the Tribunal was acting intra vires, as it is called, and I am not going to enter into a discussion of a matter which the Lord Chancellor did not touch upon, but which may arise in conceivable circumstances. It is not desirable to enter into these matters in advance. All I say is that it is very remarkable that it should be said that the cure for everything is to wait until everything is done. When the thing is done it may be past remedy. The whole question is whether something cannot be done beforehand to prevent the mischief which is apprehended.
It only remains for me to say, holding the views that I do, that I cannot but support the Second Reading of this Bill. At the same time, I am quite unable to vote for the Amendment which has been proposed by my noble friend the Marquess of Salisbury. We have heard a great deal about it being the right of every individual Peer, and of the House as a whole, to have an opinion. Yes, but 643 the opinion of an individual Peer is one thing, and the opinion of the House, expressed by the House as a body, is another thing, and I confess that, with every wish to vote with my noble friend, with whom I have, I think, almost invariably acted while I have been in this House, I cannot bring myself to vote for his Amendment, which expresses the opinion of the House upon a subject which is really not before us. But I do not desire to go into details on that matter. It is with regret that I have to say that I have to support the Second Reading, which must be carried to avoid greater mischief, without what seems to me the unnecessary and somewhat objectionable attachment to it of this declaration.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
My Lords, although his name has not been mentioned in the course of this debate, I cannot help thinking that the late Viscount Long of Wraxall must have been present in the minds of most members of your Lordships' House, and I hope that it may be allowed to me, although a political opponent, to pay a tribute of respect to his memory. Ireland was one of the two great political causes to which he devoted his life, and few people had a longer record of public service. There was no one interested in politics who had a more honourable record of public service than he during the time that he was serving his country. I cannot help adding, as an inhabitant of an agricultural county, that it would, indeed, be a great misfortune if, with the development of rural life at the present time, that class from which Lord Long came was unable to supply men to take part in the public service of their country, in Parliament as well as in local affairs.
I turn now to the Bill that is before us, and would say at once that while promising your Lordships not to detain you at any great length, I shall not offer either of the apologies that the hour is late, or that the debate has been lengthy. Nor, indeed, do I propose, as has been done I think quite sufficiently already, to delve into the ancient records of Hansard in order that I might find quotations that might confound political opponents. I do not think it is impossible, with a little research, to have found a considerable 644 number which might have exploded the unanimity which has brought reunited friends together again. My reason for not doing that is that I think what we need in this matter is a general atmosphere of good will. What we need perhaps more than anything else is to try to bring the pressure of public opinion here in England to bear upon those responsible statesmen in Ireland so that they may feel that it is the unanimous wish of the public opinion of this country that they should come to an arrangement among themselves for the settlement of this question. Therefore I do not bandy about the words "honour" and "honesty" which have been used, perhaps too much, in this connection. As it appears to me, this is a-n unforeseen contingency which has arisen, and in these circumstances I shall certainly do my best to support His Majesty's Government in this connection. I regret the necessity for any legislation at all, but, as the legislation is necessary, I shall certainly vote for the passage of this measure.
The Amendment which we are more particularly discussing at this moment is an interesting innovation. Let me say something on the subject of the matter contained in it. I confess that I deplore the introduction of the Amendment more on the score of the matter which it contains than its actual manner. Surely the introduction of an Amendment of this kind is almost a direct incitement to the other Parliament, which is passing a similar Treaty, to pass an Amendment of the same kind, putting forward perhaps a very different point of view to that contained in the Amendment of the noble Marquess. I cannot help thinking that incitement of that kind is not calculated to settle the matter. I regret it, therefore, on that ground. It is, further, surely an attempt to prejudge what has been left quite deliberately by Parliament to the judgment of the Commission. I need not remind your Lordships—you have been reminded of it already to-night by others—how important it seemed to be at the time when the Treaty was passed that this matter should be left to the judgment of the Commission itself. We leave, therefore, entirely to the Commission the duty of interpreting the Treaty, and of carrying it out in the way that they think best. I should greatly deplore the consequences if, as the result of the 645 passing of this Amendment by your Lordships' House, there were to prevail in any part of Ireland an idea that there is a desire on the part of your Lordships' House to alter in any way the contents of the Treaty.
With regard to the manner of the Amendment, which has been somewhat severely commented upon by other noble Lords, I confess that I find myself in no state of quarrel with the noble Marquess. I rejoice in our freedom from Standing Orders in this House, and the Amendment seems to me to be a very amusing and highly ingenious method of expressing an opinion which certainly would not be open to the House of Commons to adopt. But I do not regard the contents of the noble Marquess's Amendment with the same equanimity. It seems to me an illustration of the old saying: "Willing to wound, yet afraid to strike." It will have, in itself, no practical effect. I wish to say nothing which is provocative. I should blame myself if I thought anything I said could be held by moderate men on either side to be in any way intended, or likely, to lead to a continuance of highly acute controversy on this matter. I prefer to confine myself, therefore, to praising the statesmanship of those who were responsible for the introduction of the Treaty and especially those Unionist members of the Coalition, the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition and the noble and learned Earl, who with rare courage and sagacity signed the Treaty and induced your Lordships to accept it.
We want no talk of coercion or surrender, no warlike talk or any rattling of sabres. We want this matter to be settled in a different atmosphere altogether from that. We realise the difficulties of the problem. It commands the co-operation of men of good will, and especially of moderate men. Have we not in India an example of the misfortune which follows when things get too much into the hands of extremists? One of the underlying ideas at the base of the Indian reforms was that they would secure the co-operation of men of all classes. Unfortunately, they have not succeeded in doing that; some have stood outside and are wrecking measures which we introduced. That is one of the chief causes of the unfortunate position which exists there. We need to avoid the same 646 mistake in regard to Ireland. We want the more moderate men to get together, settle the matter and impose their settlement on the whole country. If it were generally understood in Ireland that the chief wish of the people of this country is that there should be a settlement by Irishmen among Irishmen it would go a long way towards settling the matter.
During the discussion too much stress has been laid upon the question of the actual pledges which have been given in the past by the Parliament of this country. None of us like the idea that pledges should be broken, but I wonder what some noble Lords who have taken part in this debate would have said in regard to a certain Act to which I should like to draw their attention. In the year 1783 an Act of Parliament was passed for "preventing and removing all doubts which have arisen," and one of the clauses reads as follows:That the said right claimed by the people of Ireland to be bound only by laws enacted by His Majesty and the Parliament of that Kingdom … shall be and it is hereby declared to be established and ascertained for ever and shall at no time hereafter be questioned or questionable.If ever there was a pledge directly given that seems to me to be one. I wonder what would have been the action of noble Lords when the Act of Union came to be discussed and they were told that they were unable to deal with the matter because so many pledges had been given by the Parliament of this country.
One of the most hopeful features of the discussion was the latter part of the speech made by the noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, who insisted upon the desirability of direct negotiations between Mr. Cosgrave and Sir James Craig. We do need something of that kind; I hope it may take place. It is quite evident that the Commission may not be, in itself, conclusive of the whole matter. Many alternatives may present themselves. There may be one Report, there may be two Reports, or even three Reports, but I hope that at the very worst these Reports will form the basis of an agreement between the two sides to this controversy.
What we need in England is to have more information on this question. That is the tendency of the day. When there is an industrial dispute in this country we set up a Court of Inquiry, not only in 647 order that the President of the Court may give an award but that the information gathered in the course of the Inquiry may be given to the public. Public opinion is thus focussed upon the very heart of the matter, and is able to bring all the weight it possesses in order to secure a settlement of the dispute in the best possible way. This does not apply only to industrial disputes at home. It is relevant here to draw attention to the fact that His Majesty's Government have been a party to a discussion in Geneva— I am not sure how far they have gone In agreement—to decide that in all cases of international disputes the aggressor shall be the person who has refused to take part in arbitration on the point. That is a warning which those who are unwilling to take part in arbitration under this Commission may very wisely take to heart. Public opinion throughout the world seems to be focussing itself on the point that the man who refuses to submit his case to arbitration commits a general offence and puts himself in the wrong, and he is not likely to be supported by public opinion if he determines to proceed with the dispute.
Lastly, may I say this to the representatives of the Irish Free State? I can imagine nothing that would be more likely to injure their status than the inclusion within their borders of large numbers of people who wish to be governed by Ulster. All history is an example of that. Alsace-Lorraine may be quoted as a particular example. The presence of a hostile population within your own borders is a constant festering sore which, can only hurt the country in which it occurs. That is what I say to the Free State, and I hope I shall not be considered guilty of partiality if I say that it applies equally to Ulster. I cannot imagine for either one or the other country anything more likely to retard development than the presence of an unwilling population within the borders of these respective States. Though this would be admitted in regard to every other country there may be controversialists in this particular case who might say that it did not apply to them. Whether that is so or not, I believe that in this matter our chief hope lies in bringing public opinion in this country to bear on the controversy in Ireland and impressing upon Irishmen the desire we have that they should, by themselves, settle their own disputes.
THE MARQUESS OF DUFFERIN AND AVA
My Lords, I would not trouble your Lordships at this late hour except that I feel that Ulster people would not quite understand it if only one noble Lord from Ulster took part in this debate. We are really more interested in this question than anybody else in this House. Everybody who desires peace in Ireland and that cordial relations should exist between the two countries cannot but regret that this question of the Boundary Commission should be raised at the present time. I think that lately the relations between the North of Ireland and the South have been better than they have been for months. I presided some six weeks ago at a dinner given in Belfast in connection with some cycle races at which there were a, number of competitors from the South of Ireland. At this dinner the Belfast hosts gave three cheers for the Free State, and they were heartily responded to by the Southerners. But I am very much afraid that this good feeling must come to an end now that this issue has been raised.
I cannot understand why it was necessary to raise it at all just now. Mr. Cosgrave himself, of course, took full responsibility for having raised this issue. I think that the Government might have refused to be driven by Mr. Cosgrave into this position, and should have told him that they thought that this was an occasion where, for the good of the Empire at large, it would be better to "let sleeping dogs lie.' Yesterday, the question was asked why the Government pressed for the opening of this question now, but no answer was given. I think I can give the answer. The answer is that the Government have adopted that miserable policy of placating your enemies at the expense of your friends. Is it worth it? In Ulster you have the most enthusiastically loyal people in the whole of the Empire. All the time they are trying to get closer and closer to Great Britain, and Government after Government is trying to push them away. And why? Simply to placate the people who hate you, who always will hate you, and who mean to cut themselves adrift from you on the very first possible occasion.
I am going to speak only for a few minutes. Although there are several other things that I should have liked to 649 say I will not detain your Lordships longer. The noble Earl, Lord Mayo, yesterday drew a picture of the South of Ireland which, I must confess, surprised me. He told us that they were so busy with their agricultural pursuits that they took no notice at all of the boundary question. All I can say is that their editors must be rather inefficient, because editors are usually very careful only to give articles and news in their papers which are of interest to the public who read them. In the Southern newspapers there is nothing but the Boundary Commission and what they are going to do with the two counties when they get them. They have almost begun to start planning houses for them. I can assure your Lordships that the reason why they are claiming these two counties is not so much that they wish to acquire territory as because they wish to destroy our Northern Government. The fact that we have a Northern Government has always been a source of intolerable irritation to them, and they are out to do away with it.
They will tell you that they are anxious for the welfare of their co-religionists, but I am perfectly certain that if a secret ballot were taken on this question not one-third of the Catholics in Fermanagh or Tyrone would be willing to change their status. Why should they? What have the Free State to offer that our Northern area has not? I honestly can think of only one advantage in being in the Free State, and that is that if you have a Sunday morning thirst you can slake it there, as you cannot do under the benign rule of our Government. Beyond that I really do not think that there is any possible advantage in being in the Free State.
When, the other night, I saw and heard Mr. Asquith, with his hand on his heart, imploring the people of Ulster to agree to a Commissioner being appointed on the ground that it was for the peace of Ireland and for the vindication of England's honour, I could not help wondering whether, were Mr. Asquith—a loyal subject of the King as he is, and devoted to the Empire—in one of the border counties, he would be so anxious gaily to resign himself and his family to becoming part of a people who are antagonistic to the Empire and to all that the Empire means, and whose whole view will clash with that 650 of any loyal man. His existence would be miserable, and, of course, he would agree to no such thing. It is so very easy to ask people to make sacrifices when there is no likelihood of your being called upon to make those sacrifices yourself. Beyond that, the people of Ulster also have their code of honour, and part of that code is that they think it wrong and unworthy of them to allow one single brother Protestant to be transferred from the Northern area to the Southern area against his wish, or to allow one single acre of their territory to be filched from them. They will resist such a demand with every lawful weapon at their command.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
My Lords, I do not venture to trespass upon your Lordships' indulgence again except for the reason that my noble friend who sits behind me has moved an Amendment of which the procedure has been questioned by no less an authority than the Lord Chancellor, and I do feel, in my representative capacity, that I should be lacking in gratitude if I did not express to the noble Marquess my sincere thanks for the manner in which he has given proof of the support which he is always prepared to give to the people of Ulster. The Amendment is one which, perhaps, does not go so far as some of us would desire, but when it comes from the noble Marquess we know that he has the interests of Ulster at heart and that he feels, after consideration of the whole question, that the manner in which it can be best dealt with is by this procedure, which, as I have said, has already been questioned by the Lord Chancellor.
I intended in the remarks which I made yesterday to show that we in Northern Ireland feel that we have no right to dictate to your Lordships, or even to go so far as to influence your Lordships in the steps that you may take with regard to Irish affairs. We cannot expect that you should concentrate upon Irish matters to the exclusion of those considerations which affect your Lordships' House and other matters which come before your Lordships' view, and that is the reason why I feel that we owe a debt of gratitude to the noble Marquess for having brought forward this Amendment. I would only venture to say that the remarks which I have made do not in any sense indicate 651 that I am any closer to the acceptance of this Bill. Nor do they imply that I recede in any degree from the position which I ventured to take up before your Lordships in the speech which I was permitted to make yesterday. I would, however, like to thank the noble Marquess for having given this expression, and a very valuable expression it will be, to the opinion of your Lordships' House with regard to the Commission which will be set up if this Bill becomes an Act.
§ THE MARQUESS CURZON OF KEDLESTON
My Lords, I understand that my noble friend Lord Beauchamp, in the opening sentences of his remarks, which I unfortunately did not hear, paid a well-deserved tribute to a noble Lord who has recently passed away from our midst. I speak of Lord Long of Wraxall. Although I did not hear my noble friend's words I am confident that I shall endorse the spirit of everything that he said. There can be no more appropriate occasion on which to mention the noble Lord whose loss we deplore than in a debate about Ireland. No warmer friend of Ireland, no more successful Irish Secretary, ever existed in our midst. Lord Long of Wraxall was a man of unchallenged integrity, of the utmost courage, and, in spite of the definiteness with which he expressed his views, of universal popularity. He was one of that type of men who lend savour to public life and whose loss is a loss not only to Parliament or to the House of which he was a member, but to the country as a whole.
I cannot hope at this stage of a debate in which such full, and I think on the whole moderate, expression has been given to every point of view, to add anything material to the discussion. The only duty, I think, that devolves upon me is to record the impression that has been produced upon myself by the debate, which has now lasted over two days, and to justify the action which my friends and I have taken in placing this Amendment upon the Paper. If there is one remark more than another in the whole discussion with which I am in cordial agreement, and with which I am in closer agreement after the debate than before, it is the observation that fell yesterday from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Sumner, that Ireland is an incomprehensible country. We do our best to comprehend her, but we seem almost 652 invariably to fail. Anyhow, we seem not to be able to handle, and as a rule to mishandle, the situation.
Various reasons have been advanced for that state of affairs. Lord Carson says it is entirely due to the duplicity of politicians. I do not know whether he intended to confine that aspersion to English politicians. If he does, I must protest against the limitation. As a matter of fact, as I look back upon the experiences of the past, now nearly ten years, for the greater part of which I have been a member of the Government, when I think of the long but patient hours that we have devoted to the consideration of this Irish question, when I recall the days in which I was a colleague of the noble and learned Lord, and in which over and over again, with that passionate ability which characterises him, he defended the cause of his people before the Cabinet—when I recall all those things I can only feel that each one of us, in his own way, has done his best to do justice to Ireland. We have never thought of ourselves, and have never had it in our minds to deceive. Above all, we have had it in our minds to keep Ireland within the Empire.
Allusion has been made by more than one speaker to a particular passage in Lord Grey's speech—a passage which I heard with dismay and which I repudiate with all the strength at my disposal. The same implication was in the speech of Lord Carson to-night—namely, that it did not- very much matter whether the Irish Free State declared itself a Republic or not. It matters a great deal. It is not so much a question of the degree of their independence. Canada, Australia, New Zealand enjoy a measure of independence upon which we place no check, but that is a very different thing from saying it makes no difference if they go out of the Empire; and if any attempt is made by the Irish Free State to declare itself a Republic, and to sever itself from that Empire to which many of the inhabitants of the Free State, including many noble Lords in this House, are just as proud as we are to belong, I hope that that attempt will be met with the most unflinching resistance by the whole of the Party to which I belong, just as I am certain it will be resisted by this country as a whole.
653 I have only one other observation, upon a point referred to by Lord Carson. While his general opinion of politicians is very bad, while of our general depravity he was convinced, he seemed to think that he and his friends had received less consideration from the last Conservative Administration than from any other Administration. Yet Lord Salisbury, whom he told us he regarded with greater respect than anybody in this House, was a pillar of that Administration, and I recall many occasions when the cause of Ulster and of Ireland, and of Lord Carson, was successfully pleaded by Lord Salisbury before the Cabinet; and when he says that we did nothing for his people, does not Lord Carson remember the Committee which was set up by that Government, of which Lord Eustace Percy was Chairman, and Which devoted itself day after day and week after week to considering the claims of our loyalist fellow-citizens in Ireland and endeavouring to obtain justice for them? That is all that I need to say upon that part of the speech of the noble and learned Lord.
I said just now that I think the reason that we have failed to deal satisfactorily with the Irish question arises not from any duplicity on our part but from the complexity of the question itself. Whenever we make our successive attempts to deal with it a sort of imp of misfortune seems to dance after our footsteps, and to vitiate our best efforts. Take the case of the proceedings in which Lord Birkenhead took part. It is easy now to see that that Government, of which I was a member although I was not personally involved in the negotiations, committed mistakes which have been responsible for a good deal that has since happened. I think it was a great mistake, although it may have been inevitable for reasons stated, that while the discussions were going on for drawing up a Treaty Ulster was not consulted at all. I think she should have been informed Whether it would have been possible to bring her into the council chamber I cannot say, but at least she ought to have known what was going on.
I think it was a pity, as it turned out, that words so vague and loose with regard to the determination of the frontier as were adopted were applied. I mean the words which make the test which the Commission were to apply the wishes of 654 the inhabitants, and the geographic and economic considerations. And here I speak perhaps with some little right because a good deal of my official life, both in India and at the Foreign Office, has been spent in superintending the work and issuing the instructions to Boundary Commissioners, and I have always felt that the first condition of the success of such Commissions was to define in precise language the duty which they were called upon to discharge. And I entirely agree with the criticisms that fell, I think, from Lord Carson to-night, when he said: How are you to determine the wishes of the inhabitants? What machinery are you to set up?; and so on. Geographic and economic conditions— how are they to be appraised and ascertained? It will be, if the Commission meets, a most difficult and onerous task, and I could wish myself, although I believe there was high authority for the words, that language more definite and more precise had been chosen.
Take another point. I think, as it has turned out, it was a mistake—perhaps, again, it was an inevitable mistake—that when the Treaty was concluded and came before Parliament in the shape of a Bill the matter should have been treated as so sacrosanct that, as we have more than once been reminded in the debate, Ministers told both Houses of Parliament that not a line, not a word, not a comma, could be altered. And taking that line, as we did, we certainly expose ourselves to the retort that we are now asking Parliament to amend a Bill which we declared at that time was unalterable and incapable of amendment. I accept that charge. I think it fair. And for the same reason I think it most unfair to taunt Ulster with the fact that, when the Bill came before Parliament, they did not succeed in persuading either House of Parliament to define more precisely the terms of reference to the Commission. They tried it, both in the House of Commons and in this place, and they were met with a double answer—first, that the Bill was unalterable, and that His Majesty's Government could not be responsible for changing a word or a line; and, secondly, that the views that they put forward were the views entertained by His Majesty's Government, and that therefore it was unnecessary to embody them in any form in the Bill. I think 655 that put Ulster in a very strong position, and that they are quite justified in complaining if they are now assailed for not having more successfully vindicated their position at that time.
There was another point in which we now see that mistakes were made, and about which the noble and learned Earl, Lord Birkenhead, discoursed to-night, and that was the point that the signatories of the Treaty did not contemplate a situation in which Ulster would decline to appoint a Boundary Commissioner. That, perhaps, ought to have been foreseen, but, as he pointed out, it did not occur to anybody; and, anyhow, he successfully dispelled the illusion, if indeed it existed, that there was any malignant purpose behind that omission. Further, we now see what a pity it was that, when all the signatories agreed upon one interpretation of the duty that lay upon the Commission, no attempt was made, other than by speeches, to translate that agreement into legislative and binding form. Clearly, it would have been desirable to do so, but, as a matter of fact, I take it the explanation was this —that all the persons concerned were in such terror of the Agreement breaking down, as we know that it very nearly did, that they preferred to leave in words as to the interpretation of which they were individually in no doubt, although it has since turned out that they were capable of interpretation in another way by other people, and have really proved a stumbling block rather than an assistance.
These are, I am quite ready to admit, some of the mistakes that we have made, and that enforce the remark with which I began that really, when we grapple with these Irish problems, we almost always make mistakes. But I do not think that we are the only people who make mistakes. The Irish Free Staters have been guilty of greater mistakes still. If the Irish Free Staters, or, at any rate, some of them, had taken a different line, if they had not pitched their hopes and expectations so high, if they had not uttered the wild and whirling words to which some of them have given vent, the situation might have been very different. And I am astonished that they have taken that line for this reason, that it seemed to me that the worst policy for the Free State would be 656 to do anything, or say anything, that would alarm or alienate Ulster. Why, the whole case of the Free State is that it looks as its ideal to a united Ireland. And yet the language that some of these men have adopted seems to me to be setting up entirely unnecessary barriers against that unity which they proclaim to be their ideal. It seems to me, therefore, that, as regards mistakes, if we are guilty, an equal, perhaps a greater, measure of guilt rests upon the other side, too.
I said just now that I would like to state the general impression that has been left upon my own mind by all the speeches to which we have listened and of which I have heard every one. This debate has done a good deal to clear the air in these respects. Firstly, there cannot be a shadow of doubt that one meaning, and one meaning only, was attached to the words employed by the signatories of the Agreement. You have had the White Paper that has been published by His Majesty's Government. You have had the statements made by Mr. Chamberlain, Sir Laming Worthington-Evans and Mr. Lloyd George in another place. You have had the statement of Lord Birkenhead here this evening, and there can be no question that one interpretation, and one only, was in the minds of all those responsible persons. It was not an afterthought on their part; it was the object and intention with which they acted throughout. My second point would be that Parliament was in the same position as the signatories, that Parliament believed that in passing the Bill into law—I speak of this House as well as of the other—one thing, and one thing only, was in contemplation. If you look at the White Paper that has been circulated you will find that the words employed were always these— "adjustment of boundaries," "readjustment of boundaries," "minor rectification of frontier." You will not find a single other or larger phrase. And nothing, I think, can be more indisputable than this, that it did not enter the minds of any responsible person in this country—or, at any rate, I can speak for Parliament—it did not enter their minds that the terms employed for the setting up of this Commission might result, or could result, in any more extensive transfer of territory, or in any solu- 657 tion that would involve what would amount to a dismemberment of Northern Ireland. The Irish Free State may have hoped that, they may have read that interpretation into the words, but it was not so read by a single man, I venture to affirm, in either House of Parliament.
Further, although not much has been said about it in this debate—but it is material—revision of some sort, but revision on the scale of which I have been speaking, has all the while been considered as not only desirable but necessary by both parties. I have heard Sir James Craig argue the case with great clearness and force. He has always been anxious for revision of the character that I have described, and I was glad to hear the noble and learned Earl, Lord Birkenhead, in his speech this afternoon, recall the fact, which has not been mentioned before in this debate, that on one occasion Sir James Craig and Mr. Collins proposed to dispense with the Commission altogether and to settle the boundary by themselves. What a pity, what a misfortune, that that occasion was not taken advantage of, and that the evil imp of destiny to which I referred appeared upon the scene and frustrated those efforts.
There is another thing that has transpired from these debates. Some doubt has been expressed in the Press and in Parliament as to whether pledges were really given to Ulster. Can it be doubted now? I am not now going to give quotations or anything of that sort, but anybody who has listened to this discussion, and has heard the references that have been made, cannot have a shadow of doubt that one of the passages from a letter of Mr. Lloyd George and the comment that was made upon the situation by Mr. Bonar Law in the House of Commons were regarded, and were justly regarded, as pledges by Ulster. The noble Lord, Lord Arnold, was in rather a difficult position about this, if I may say so, the other night. He recognised the pledges given by Mr. Lloyd George when Prime Minister. Then he went on to say: "Oh, but there are other pledges that were given in the Treaty and we, the Government, had to choose between the two. We could not be loyal to both, and on the whole we prefer to be loyal to the Treaty rather than to be loyal to Mr. Lloyd George." Well, that is, 658 perhaps, a not unnatural attitude on the part of His Majesty's present advisers; but I submit that you cannot treat the pledge of an English Prime Minister in that way, and that when the Prime Minister, Mr. Lloyd George, gave those assurances, as he did, to Ulster, Ulster was entitled not only to rely upon them at the time but to insist upon their being implemented now.
I heard some one say to-night: "Are any of these pledges binding? The pledge of one Government does not bind another. The pledge of one Prime Minister does not bind another." There are certain obligations of honour into which Governments and responsible Ministers of this country are in the habit of entering which are equally binding upon their successors and upon themselves. And when a great community like Ulster receives an assurance of that sort, and an assurance not only in the particular phraseology in which it was given but an assurance confirmed in a Treaty, I think they are entitled to bring the charge of bad faith if the assurance is broken.
I have listened to the speeches of the noble Lords who come from Ulster in this debate, and I confess to great sympathy with their position. I do not see any element of bluster or bravado in the line that they take up. I did not find myself in harmony at every stage with the speech of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Carson, because it was tinged by an emotion, natural to an Irishman but which as an English politician I do not entirely share. But, broadly speaking, I think I understand the position of Ulster, which is this. They are not taking an unreasonable attitude. They are only asking for the fulfilment of the pledge. They are acting in a spirit of loyalty to their own people.
People talk about this Commission, and they are in the habit of suggesting the following. They say: "You get a responsible body of persons with an impartial Chairman, and why not accept the result?" But look at what would happen if the result of such a Commission were a decision unfavourable to Ulster. If the decision were unfavourable to the Irish Free State—that is to say, if the Irish Free State got nothing, or next to nothing of the territory of Ulster—what difference would it make to them? They go along. Their unity is not impaired. They con- 659 tinue to exist. Their independence remains unaffected. But if the Commission gave a decision in a large sense unfavourable to Ulster, a decision which would wrest from her a large portion of her territory, it would be to deal her a mortal blow. That is the whole difference in the situation between Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland. And that explains, I think, the passionate intensity of apprehension with which the men of Ulster regard the possible decisions of the Commission to which I have referred.
Now, of course, we have to consider in the next few moments the course which we will adopt. Naturally, in moving the Amendment of which my noble friend Lord Salisbury has given notice we on this side have considered very carefully what we ought to do. I suppose that we might have moved an Amendment identical with that which was rejected, as we have been reminded, by a majority of fifty only in another place. Had we moved such an Amendment here I think it quite likely that it would have been carried. We might have moved other Amendments of a somewhat similar character. But I think that the noble Viscount, Lord Grey of Fallodon, was right in deprecating any action on our part which, if persisted in, would have involved a direct collision with another place, which might have exposed us to the charge, however unfairly, that we were trying to run away from the Treaty that we had embodied in the form of a Statute and which, on the other hand, if we receded from it after rejection by the House of Commons, would certainly not have added to the strength or dignity or reputation of your Lordships' House.
My noble friend Lord Salisbury said something about the attitude and action of the House of Lords in dealing with Bills that come from another place. This certainly would not be the occasion on which to attempt any definition of the functions of a Second Chamber, but, broadly speaking, my own recollection would support this view, that sometimes we introduce Amendments into a Bill coming from another place which are intended to improve the form and structure of a Bill. So much is that the case, that on many occasions we are asked to introduce them by the House of Commons where bad drafting or unskillful 660 management has sent up a Bill in a very inadequate or imperfect form. That is a very common action on our part. Then sometimes we introduce Amendments which express convictions to which we adhere so passionately that we do not propose to depart from them. Then, again, sometimes we introduce Amendments in order to give the House of Commons an opportunity of considering the grounds on which we have put them forward and argued them and, possibly, of reconsidering their own attitude, and sometimes we do that with success. Sometimes, again, we introduce Amendments here with a view, which although tactical is not ignoble, of having some form of compromise with another place. What happens? The Bill goes down again and there ensues a sort of engagement with another place. Sometimes it takes the form of a friendly palaver. Sometimes there is a more open conflict, and in the end either a compromise is arrived at, or one party or the other decides to give way. That, I think, is a fair summary of our ordinary procedure.
I do not think that this is one of the cases to which any of those considerations apply. If we introduce an Amendment of the character that I have spoken of into this Bill, we know that it is foredoomed to failure, and if we persist in it—I do not take the point for the moment of what would be the effect at a General Election which might be forced upon that issue; I take the point, which one noble Lord made to-night—if we persist in it, what good do we do to Ulster, what good do we do to Ireland, what good do we do to peace in Ireland? That is the real consideration which we ought to bear in mind. In the public interest, viewed through the spectacles of warm sympathy with our friends in Ireland, how should we advance their cause if we introduce an Amendment here? It is rejected in another place; it comes back here, and we desire to adhere to it. No advantage accrues to anybody. If, on the other hand, we give way, as we have sometimes had to do, we have to consider the circumstances and surroundings of a surrender on an issue like this. I confess that if we marched out to the battle to-day, and marched back again to our tents the day after to-morrow, I think the result would not be to the credit or the dignity of your 661 Lordships' House. Therefore, I hold that the course which we are adopting is the best in the circumstances.
Now, may I comment for a moment upon the criticisms that have been passed upon this Amendment? It has been treated with scant respect by the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack, and it was severely handled by Lord Beauchamp in the remarks to which we have just listened. What were the objections that were taken by those noble Lords? The Lord Chancellor said that it was inconsistent with the spirit of Parliamentary procedure. I have not the slightest idea what the spirit of Parliamentary procedure is. It seems to me to be one of those large and vague but far from illuminating phrases which we sometimes hear from that quarter, which have an imposing sound, but do not admit of analysis. And I was amused on that point, to know that that was an objection which was brushed aside by Lord Beauchamp, who said, as to matters of form, that the more irregular we are the better. He said, in effect: "I like to see the House of Lords going about doing things that nobody else does." I do not say that that process may not be attended with some danger, but in this case I confess I think the operation is a harmless one, because, after all, what are we doing?
If you take this Amendment the first thing we propose to say in it is, that we take note of the opinions expressed in Parliament and elsewhere by certain persons. We have taken note of them. Why should we not say we have taken note of them? We must have been very stupid people if we had sat for two days and listened to all these speeches and had not taken a note of what was in them. Then we go on to say that we believe that "no other interpretation is acceptable or could be enforced." Do we believe it? I believe that that is the sentiment of the vast majority of your Lordships' House. Why should we not say it? I am not in the least disturbed by the charge that we are prejudging the work of the Commission. We are doing nothing of the sort. We are only committing the House of Lords. We are not even committing the House of Commons. The House of Commons will not touch this Amendment. They will have nothing to say to it. All we are doing is putting, in condensed form, that which has been the 662 substance of every speech that we have listened to in this debate, and stating to the public for our own satisfaction what are the reasons which impel us to give a Second Reading to this Bill. It seems to me that in passing the Amendment we are not really running any of the risks as to which an attempt has been made to frighten us, but we are really doing a duty to ourselves in letting the world know why the House of Lords gave a Second Reading to this Bill. That this action on our part is going, as was suggested by the Lord Chancellor, to create great feeling in Ireland, or to embitter an already troubled issue, I cannot for a moment bring myself to believe.
It only remains for me, before sitting down, to say one word about the Commission. I listened to all the speeches that have been made about the Commission, and, with I think two exceptions, of which Lord Beauchamp supplied one, all the speakers have spoken in a despondent tone about the work this Commission is likely to do, and the effect its work is likely to produce. I wish that I could feel more sanguine about the matter myself. I certainly do not envy them their task. When they cross the border, if they do so, how are they to begin to work? How they are to ascertain the information which they are charged to endeavour to procure I am at a loss to understand. And even if they succeeded in doing so, now that we know that the Irish Free State is to be represented by a strong partisan on that side, and that the Government have stated their desire to appoint somebody with equally strong Ulster propensities on the other side, think what a burden that casts upon the unhappy man who is going to be Chairman. Tributes have been paid in every quarter to his character and impartiality. I believe they are well deserved, but you are placing upon the shoulders of that eminent man a responsibility that any human being might shrink from bearing.
This is the situation. Are there any grounds for hope? As I conceive, there is only one, and that is that this Commission, presuming it to be set up, may occupy so much time in conducting the Inquiry with which it is charged—and I hope myself it will be as long as possible, and that they will go to work as slowly as possible—that a breathing space may 663 be created in which men on both sides will insensibly draw nearer to each other, and perhaps in time produce some approximation to that ideal of a common agreement which everybody has in view. Lord Carson talked a great deal this evening about the disloyalty that exists, and to which expression is often given, in Southern Ireland. I suppose that is true, but even in Southern Ireland I imagine there to exist a considerable loyalty, if not to Great Britain at any rate to Ireland, a devotion to Irish interests, that sort of Irish patriotism to which expression has often been given by the representatives of Ulster both in the House of Commons and here.
If that be so, if this great devotion to the interests of Ireland equally exists in all parts of Ireland—and I should be the last to contend that there is a monopoly of it either in the North or in the South— then I think that the only hope lies in the consideration that time may be taken, that the procedure will be slow, that opportunities may be created during which, as the Commission realise that their work is either difficult or impossible, we may resume the situation to which I referred just now when Sir James Craig and Mr. Collins were prepared to meet. I think the only justification for this Commission, which as I say is fraught with potential trouble, will be that in time it brings about a state of affairs in which the outstretched hand of Sir James Craig, and it is outstretched at this moment, is grasped by some fitting representative of Southern Ireland. That is the only hope in the situation. The responsibility for this Bill is not ours. The responsibility for acting upon this Bill will not be ours;
|Bath, M.||Cave, V.||Biddulph, L.|
|Curzon of Kedleston,||M. Cecil of Chelwood, V||Blyth, L.|
|Salisbury, M.||Chilston, V.||Cable, L.|
|Churchill, V.||Carew, L.|
|Birkenhead, E.||FitzAlan of Derwent, V.||Carson, L.|
|Chichester, E.||Hambleden, V.||Cheylesmore, L.|
|Clarendon, E.[Teller.]||Hood, V.||Clinton, L.|
|Derby, E.||Milner, V.||Crawshaw, L.|
|Devon, E.||Novar, V.||Danesfort, L.|
|Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.)||Younger of Leckie, V.||Deramore, L.|
|Drogheda, E.||Ampthill, L.||Fairlie, L. (E. Glasgow.)|
|Eldon, E.||Annesley, L. (V. Valentia.)||Forester, L.|
|Harrowby, E.||Armstrong, L.||Gage, L. (V. Gage.)|
|Midleton, E.||Atkinson, L.||Gisborough, L.|
|Morton, E.||Balfour of Burleigh, L. [Teller.]||Glenarthur, L.|
|Onslow, E.||Hardinge of Penshurst, L|
|Powis, E.||Banbury of Southam, L.||Harris, L.|
|Roden, E.||Berwick. L.||Lawrence, L.|
§ it will be that of the Commission. But in registering, as I hope you will, the Amendment of which my noble friend the Marquess of Salisbury has given notice, I think we are doing a duty which I personally should be very sorry if the House of Lords were to shirk.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The original Question was: That the Bill be now read 2a, since which an Amendment has been moved to insert, after the word "That," these words: "this House, having taken note of the opinions expressed in Parliament and elsewhere in connection with the passage into law of the Irish Free State (Agreement) Act, 1922, by the members of His Majesty's Government who were signatories of the Irish Treaty, that Article 12 of that instrument contemplated nothing more, than a readjustment of boundaries between Northern Ireland and the Free State, and believing that no other interpretation is acceptable or could be enforced, resolves that." The Question is: That these words be there inserted?
§ On Question: Whether the proposed words be there inserted—
§ Their Lordships divided:—Contents, 71; Not-Contents, 38.665
|Lawrence of Kingsgate, L.||Penrhyn, L.||Sumner, L.|
|Leigh, L.||Queenborough, L.||Swansea, L.|
|Merthyr, L.||Ranfurly, L. (E. Ranfurly.)||Trevor, L.|
|Monkswell, L.||Redesdale, L.||Walsingham, L.|
|Montagu of Beaulieu, L.||Stuart of Wortley, L.||Wigan, L. (E. Crawford.)|
|Muskerry, L.||Sudeley, L.||Wynford, L.|
|Haldane, V. (L. Chancellor.)||Arnold, L,||Kilbracken, L.|
|Ashton of Hyde, L.||MacDonnell, L.|
|Lincolnshire, M. (L. Great Chamberlain.)||Buckmaster, L.||Marchamley, L.|
|Clwyd, L.||Meston, L.|
|Denman, L.||Monteagle of Brandon, L.|
|Beauchamp, E.||Elgin, L. (E. Elgin and Kin-cardine.)||Morris, L.|
|Buxton, E.||Muir Mackenzie, L. [Teller.]|
|Chesterfield, E.||Farrer, L.||Olivier, L|
|De La Warr, E. [Teller.]||Fingall, L. (E. Fingall.)||Phillimore, L.|
|Mayo, E.||Forteviot, L.||Rathcreedan, L.|
|Portsmouth, E.||Gorell, L.||Sandhurst, L.|
|Granard, L. (E. Granard.)||Shandon, L.|
|Allendale, V.||Hemphill, L.||Shuttleworth, L.|
|Kenry, L.(E. Dunraven and Mount-Earl.)||Stanmore, L.|
|Aberconway, L.||Terrington, L.|
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.666
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.
§ House adjourned at twenty-five minutes before eight o'clock.