§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ MR. O'CLERY
, in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said, it 1904 proposed to authorize the enrolment of Volunteer Corps in Ireland, to be established on the same principles and subject to the regulations at present controlling the Volunteer Corps in Great Britain and the Colonies. The Bill was drawn exactly on the lines of the English Volunteer Act of 1863, and it imposed no restrictions whatever except those to which the English Volunteers had submitted during the 25 years of their existence. It would extend to Ireland a great military organization similar to that of which Englishmen were so justly proud. Last year, when the Estimates were under discussion, he had endeavoured to get Ireland exempted from the payment of the £85,000 a-year she was at present compelled to contribute towards the cost of the English Volunteers; and the Secretary of State for War, in the debate on that occasion, stated that, speaking as a military man, he saw no reason why some such step as the formation of Volunteer Corps in Ireland should not be sanctioned. This was an age of armed nations, and all put forth their strength; but Great Britain could hardly be considered to be in a complete defensive condition so long as 5,500,000 of her subjects were forbidden to bear arms for the national defence. Before the Volunteer Act was passed Englishmen, equally with Irishmen, were denied that right; but, now that it had been conceded to Englishmen, it was a grievous wound to the Irish people, who were essentially and pre-eminently a military and, at the same time, a loyal race, that they should be deprived of it. He would not say more, but would simply move that the Bill be read a second time.
§ MAJOR O'BEIRNE
, in seconding the Motion, trusted that before the end of the Session the Government would see their way to making this concession to Irish sentiment. The fact could not be ignored that the denial was inflicting upon the Irish people a very unmerited insult and stigma. No doubt, there were reasons why Lord Palmerston, when the Volunteer Forces were established 25 years ago, refused to sanction their extension to Ireland; but since then there had been great legislative and other changes, which had altered the relations between the two countries, and rendered such a distinction no longer justifiable. The charge that Ireland 1905 was disloyal was undeserved. There had been no agitation there for the last 12 years, except agitation of a very Constitutional character; and it was adding insult to injury to compel Ireland to pay part of the £485,000 annually spent on the Volunteers, while refusing to allow her to take an active part in the formation of the Force. He did not, however, lay so much stress upon that as upon the denial to Ireland of the advantages that had been derived in England from the infusion of a military spirit among the artizan classes, a proof of which had been lately afforded by the evidence of 10,000 Volunteers being ready to offer their services for the defence of the Empire. At the present moment, almost one-third of the British Army consisted of Irishmen, and yet they were not trusted to bear arms as Volunteers. He trusted the Government would give the question their most serious consideration; because the Irish people felt deeply the stigma of being held up to Europe as a people who could not be trusted.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. O'Clery.)
§ COLONEL KING-HARMAN
said, that as an old soldier, an Irish landlord resident in that country, and an old Volunteer, having been a member of a corps from the commencement of the Volunteer movement in England, and having served in every grade till he had become Adjutant, he should support this Bill. He had, during the time he had served in the Volunteers, seen several of the Irish Volunteer regiments in England, and he would safely say that they were composed of Irishmen. They stood second to none in the Volunteer Service as excellent and good soldiers, and as loyal servants of Her Majesty, not only in England, but in Scotland also; and even in Glasgow and Liverpool, where Party spirit among the large Irish population ran very high, there were Irish regiments composed exclusively of Irishmen. There were Orangemen and Roman Catholics among them, but no disturbance was ever heard of, and the men were never found using their weapons against each other. In Canada, too, there were Irish Volunteers, and upon the assurance of Lord Monck, the entire defence of the Dominion was in- 1906 trusted to these Volunteer Corps; and though Party spirit existed there between Orangemen of a most bigoted type and Roman Catholics, there was not the slightest antagonism manifested in the Volunteer Service. When a Fenian invasion was threatened, Volunteers of both Parties came to their standard with the same desire to defend the cause of law and order; and were the advantages and privileges of the Volunteer system extended to Ireland, he was convinced that Her Majesty would find no more faithful subjects, or more loyal people, or more staunch friends of law and order than She would find among the Irish Volunteers. If Parliament distrusted the Irish people, and said they ought not to be drilled because they might use their organization against Her Majesty's Government and the power of this country, his answer was that they had already drilled the lower stratum of the Irish people by passing them through the Militia, and sending them out as drilled soldiers, who had been reported upon by inspecting officers most favourably, as able to compete with soldiers of the Line. Then there were the Pensioners, than whom a more loyal body of men did not exist. They know that at the time of the Fenian scare a certain class of people were drilled; but that was not the class from which the Volunteers would be taken, but a lower class, who would not be able to afford the time and expense which service in a Volunteer Corps necessarily involved. On the other hand, the respectable class had not at present the opportunity of drilling, not having the power of acting together, which had been one of the greatest benefits arising from the Volunteer movement in England. Nothing had been more common in Ireland than at Petty Sessions to hear of cases in which two, three, or four active young men of the lower middle class had been attacked on the road home from market by three or four desperadoes, or, as they would be called in England, "roughs." The presiding magistrate constantly asked the victims of such assaults—"What did you do?" and the reply generally was—"We ran away." If these men were accustomed to stand together they would not run away, but would stand shoulder to shoulder to beat off their assailants. There was another thing to be said in 1907 favour of the movement from a social point of view. Unfortunately, there were not to be found in Ireland, as in England, cricket-fields and other provisions for out-door amusement in every parish, and the higher and lower classes did not meet together in friendly rivalry of games and athletic sports as they did in England. He believed that the Volunteer movement would draw the different classes together in Ireland much in the same way, and cause a friendly, as well as a loyal and orderly, spirit to grow among the officers and men. He would not suggest that the Irish Volunteer organization should be placed at once on the same footing as the movement had obtained in England. The position in which the English Force now found itself was very different from what it was when the movement was first started. He would suggest that the Irish Force should be allowed to spring into existence very much in the same manner that the English Force did. It was not nourished, fostered, or pampered at the start. It was allowed to work its way up almost by its own unaided efforts; and the English people showed, unassisted and slighted as they were, their right and ability to bear arms by the manly way in which, giving up their time and money, they devoted themselves, in spite of neglect and derision, to becoming an Army with whom the defence of the shores of England might be left in case the Regular Army should be wanted for foreign service. It had been said that if arms were put into the hands of the Irish people, they would first shoot the landlords and then shoot one another. But it would be found that in almost every county in Ireland, and even in almost every barony, the landlords and the resident gentry were the most active promoters of the Volunteer movement. The idea of the people, when they became Volunteers, using their weapons in quarrels among themselves was perfectly childish. It was the constant endeavour to prevent fighting that was the real cause of half the disturbances amongst soldiers, and he really believed that many men would not fight with each other' at all if they were not pretty certain that they would be stopped. In illustration of this theory, he might quote an anecdote of a certain Irish Militia regiment that was noted for barrack-room fights. One morning two 1908 of the men were brought before the Colonel for fighting over night. The Colonel, instead of ordering them three days days' drill, called two Serjeants and said—"Take these men round to the back of the huts and make them fight;" upon which the men were taken to the back of the huts as directed, and in cold blood, and on a very cold morning, they had to strip off their shirts and fight it out. From that day there was no more fighting in that regiment. It was a slur to say that the people of Ireland were not to be trusted to defend their country. In every part of the Queen's Dominions, except Ireland, there were Volunteers; and in South Africa, when an Irishman came forward as a Volunteer, he was not asked whether he was an Irishman or a Roman Catholic, but only whether he was willing to bear arms for his country. Upon what principle could it be maintained that Irishmen in Canada, in Australia, and in South Africa were fit to be trusted with arms, but that in Connaught they were not? The position was illogical and absurd, and calculated to drive people into sedition. He could not suppose that Her Majesty's Government could adduce a single argument against the Bill which had been brought in that day. He hoped they would not attempt to do so. He believed that there was a good spirit abroad in Ireland; but if such a feeling did not exist, he believed that the refusal of the measure would create a much worse feeling.
§ MR. O'SHAUGHNESSY
said, he hoped this measure would receive the assent of the Government, and pass. Whether it did so or not, however, the mere fact that so kindly and rational a speech had been made on the subject by an Irish Conservative Gentleman, was a matter on which the House and the country might be congratulated. It showed the advance which kindly and genial feelings were making in Ireland; for, 10 years ago, such a speech as they had just heard would have been almost impossible from the Conservative side of the House. To reject the Bill now, would be simply to give additional strength and force to the feeling of distrust which the Irish people were conscious was held towards them by the authorities under whom they lived. There was in this Bill a complete safeguard against any possibility of the 1909 powers conferred by it being used for disloyal purposes. In the Schedule there was an oath by which every Volunteer bound himself to be loyal to Queen Victoria, and to save Her Majesty against Her enemies. Anyone who knew the peculiar character of Irish disaffection, the dislike which disaffected Irishmen had of any form of English rule, their aversion to making any admission of allegiance or loyalty to the Queen, would know at once that no Irishman of Fenian tendencies would take that oath. He did not fear any danger from intrusting the people with arms; they had only to bring Protestants and Catholics together for a common object, trusting them equally, and treating them with no favour, in order to dispel any fears of disturbance. If the people of Belfast were armed under the provisions of this Bill, it would be the best guarantee of order, for no man clothed with the Volunteer uniform would disgrace the name of his country by being a party to unseemly disturbances. But there was a yet more important point in connection with the question. How could anyone who had looked at the effect which the Volunteer movement had produced in England as an educational measure, possibly deny such a system to Ireland? Hon. Members spoke of moral education and of mental education; but they sometimes appeared to forget that there was such a thing as physical education. Health exercise, in the way of drill or otherwise, turned many minds away from the dissipation in which they might otherwise be tempted to indulge. With regard to the observations that had been made as to the proposals of Lord Monck, the worst fate which could befall a measure like the present was that the Legislature should turn it into a class measure; and he hoped that nothing would be done, either directly or indirectly, to prevent Catholics from taking an equal part in the movement with Protestants.
§ SIR JOHN HAY
said, that the debate had been maintained exclusively by Irish Members, and therefore he, as an English Member, desired to say that he should support the second reading of the Bill. He felt confident that the arguments which had been advanced in favour of Volunteer Corps in Ireland were arguments which could not be met 1910 by denial. The advantages of drill and discipline to the classes of persons who would join the Volunteer movement in Ireland, would be evident to all who saw the good effected by the Volunteer movement in England and Scotland. He was sure Her Majesty's Government had no desire to deny those advantages to the Irish people. They could have no better class of special constables than the Irish Volunteers would prove for the best preservation of peace was to enlist the sympathy of the population. He trusted the Attorney General for Ireland would permit the Bill to go to a second reading; and that he would, having charge of the peace of the country, take care that, if there was anything wrong in the Bill itself, it should be duly and properly amended in Committee.
§ MR. STACPOOLE
joined the right hon. and gallant Member who had just spoken in the hope that the Government would support this Bill. He ridiculed the idea that the Volunteers in Ireland would not be as loyal as the Volunteers of England and Scotland. He referred to the fact that when the Indian Mutiny broke out a vast number of Irish Militia regiments volunteered to give their assistance to the Imperial Government in quelling such mutiny. The Government had now an excellent opportunity of making a concession to the Irish people; and he trusted they would avail themselves of it, and place the Irish people in this matter on the same footing with their English and Scotch fellow-countrymen. He suggested that the Militia Staff might be utilized for drilling the Volunteers.
§ MR. ISAAC
said, that as an English Member, representing a large constituency, he should give his hearty support to the Motion for the second reading of the Bill. He did not believe that the creation of a Volunteer Force in Ireland would constitute in the slightest degree a political or a religious danger; and he thought that men ought to be allowed to join the Force quite irrespective of politics or religion. The extract read by his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Sligo (Colonel King-Harman) was not from the Report of Lord Monck's Committee, but would be considered as coming with far greater force to the minds of Englishmen, when it was seen it was from one of the leading articles in The Times of last year, and was 1911 strongly in favour of the Volunteer force for Ireland. The natural aptitude of Irishmen for military life had been clearly proved by the services they had rendered to their country whenever their services had been required—in the Peninsula, at Waterloo, in India, and Africa, from the field-marshal to the private in every rank and in every station, they had deservedly had the thanks of Parliament and their country accorded to them. We must not go into past history, or the troublous times of old. England had had its Civil War, Scotland was not always as peaceable as now, and Ireland would be as loyal as either, if it was shown that we had confidence in its people. It was quite clear that the days were past when any feeling of distrust existed in this country with regard to Ireland. So long as we admitted Irishmen into our Army, our Navy, and the Volunteer Corps in England, Scotland, and the Colonies, there was no justice or consistency in denying them the right of organising themselves as Volunteers to defend the natural interests in their own country. He might quote some statistics from a Return obtained by the hon. Baronet (Sir Patrick O'Brien) which would show the large Irish element in the Army. There were in the Army 5,738 English, 785 Scotch, and 1,386 Irish officers, and 124,708 English, 14,235 Scotch, and 39,121 Irish non-commissioned officers and men. The recent admission of the Secretary of State for War that, from a military point of view, there was no reason why a Volunteer Force should not be extended to Ireland, was a good augury of what might be expected from the present Government in respect to this matter. He was satisfied, from his experience of the Volunteer Force in England, that it had tended to a good end, and he had sufficient faith in his Irish neighbours to believe that if the Government would allow a Force to be established in their country, the same good end would be arrived at. He agreed with what had fallen from the hon. and learned Member for Limerick (Mr. O'Shaughnessy) when he said that he thoroughly believed that if the Volunteer Force should be established in Ireland, it would be one of the means of securing the result so much desired—namely, the breaking up of the present ill-feeling existing between Orangemen and the Roman Catholics of 1912 the North. He agreed with the hon. and learned Member that the sooner they could bring those contending parties together in the same citizen service of soldiers the sooner they would get rid of the difficulties which at present existed, and the sooner they would find Ireland peaceable in name, as he believed it to be in reality. He hoped the Attorney General for Ireland would give the subject his best consideration, and would, at all events, allow the Bill to be read a second time, in order to give it a standing in Parliament; and that having done that he would, with his ability and knowledge of his country, make changes—if changes were necessary—in Committee, enabling them, during the present Session, to pass a Bill which would be an act of justice to Ireland and a credit and honour to England.
§ MR. SHAW
said, he hoped the Government would allow the Bill to be read a second time. He confessed that he was not greatly in favour of the proposals of the Bill; but he considered that the House, with the sanction of the Government, ought to read the Bill a second time, in order to remove the stain of the invidious position in which the law at present stood in regard to Ireland as compared with England. He could not see why they should not have the power, if they had the will, to form Volunteer Corps in Ireland. He hoped, however, that there would be a very material re-construction of the Bill in Committee; because if they proceeded on the present lines of the Bill there would be some danger of creating another element of division and suspicion in the country. None but men of comparatively easy circumstances could join these Corps. A certain amount of money was required to keep up the style and performance in which Volunteers indulged. In Ireland they had not the same proportion of the population who could afford either the time or money as they had in England or Scotland. Hence the difficulty and danger. If Corps were composed of the better classes in the North and South of Ireland, they would only have a feeling through the country that this was another piece of machinery for keeping down the people. Therefore, he thought it was necessary when the Bill got into Committee to materially re-construct it. He found, for instance, that the officers of the 1913 regiments were to be appointed by the lord lieutenants of counties. Now, nearly all of the lord lieutenants of the counties in Ireland belonged to one party in the State—so much so, that in some counties they could not get a magistrate appointed of a certain class or a certain complexion of politics. In fact, in some cases they did not even receive an answer to their application for such appointment. In re-constructing this Bill it was most essential that another element of suspicion and doubt on the country should be avoided. Personally, he did not believe in the Volunteer movement in England; in fact, he looked upon it as one of the greatest absurdities that could be imagined. ["Oh, oh!"] He did not suppose that was a popular sentiment; but it was one he wished to give expression to. They were all officers in Ireland. Every man was a captain. They never had less rank than captain. They always made it a point to give a man, when speaking of him, the benefit of a grade higher than he really was. His impression was that if this Bill were carried all the population of Ireland would be officers. It was really a most dangerous thing for the other sex that the House, after resolving to abolish the safeguard of action for breach of promise, should proceed to throw into the market should proceed to throw into the market such a mass of military aspirants as it was proposed to do. There was no possibility that the Volunteers would ever be asked to step to the front to defend their country. They met on Saturday, followed their drums; they were admired, and that was the beginning and the end of the whole thing. At the same time, he was in favour of the second reading of the Bill. But in Committee he intended that it should be completely re-constructed.
§ MR. BRUEN
said, the speech of the hon. Member who had just sat down showed that the subject was not so perfectly simple as some supposed. There were difficulties surrounding it, and of such a nature as to form a sufficient excuse for the action of the Government hitherto in regard to this question. A great deal had been said about the suspicion and distrust which had been manifested by the fact that the Volunteer movement had not been extended to Ireland. Well, if that were so, who was to blame? He could not understand any Government extending the 1914 Volunteer movement to Ireland when I the country was in a state of rebellion. No one in his senses would have advocated the extension of the movement to Ireland at the time of the great Rebellion of 1798. Therefore he said that, although there might be an evident mistrust, the English Government were not to be blamed for it. He was perfectly aware that of late the circumstances of the Irish nation had changed; and although it was felt requisite and necessary at one time to prohibit the establishment of Volunteer Corps in that country, it did not follow that it should always be resisted. This was not a Party question; because whichever political Party had occupied the Treasury Benches the same feeling had always prevailed—that of disallowing a Volunteer Force to be established in Ireland. The House ought to remember that this was a question which had been considered carefully by this and preceding Governments. When he came to deal with the proposition at the present time he felt that the question rested entirely with the Executive Government to decide; because they had the means of acquiring knowledge which private individuals did not possess; and if the Government should feel that they were able to recommend the House to assent to the second reading he should be delighted. He was prepared to say that, if he were asked to give any sort of explanation as regarded the state of opinion and feeling in the part of the country with which he was acquainted, he should say that there was no feeling that the extension of the Volunteer movement to Ireland would result in any danger. At the same time, he thought that the practical application of the movement ought to be, in some degree, tentative. It ought to be commenced in the way in which it was begun in England, and every safeguard should be taken that persons only should be admitted who were willing to support the Government of the country. The propensity of the Irish people to indulge in faction fights had been advanced as an argument against the Bill; but he was not at all sure whether it might not be advanced on the opposite side, because they might hope to find that drill and discipline would conduce to order and less conflict among the people. There was considerable force in the argument that after 1915 men had been drilled and subjected to discipline, it was less likely that they would indulge their passions or anxiety to insult each other, which sometimes occurred when they were not drilled and placed under discipline. As to the difficulty of making this movement at all popular, he could not see how it could be possibly done unless the Chancellor of the Exchequer could make some advance. The Volunteer companies must be clothed and armed, and until that was done by the Government it must be done at the expense of the men themselves. That rule must hold good in Ireland as in England. Therefore, there must be a certain amount of expense inevitably attached to the Volunteers. If that were so, he could not see how it was possible for the very poorest among the people to join the movement. It was impossible that this could be a completely popular movement, extending to all classes of the community. He hoped that whenever the time came for the establishment of Volunteer Corps the distrust and suspicion which the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Shaw) had predicted would not be found to exist; and he trusted, likewise, that the hon. Member would not repeat to his own constituency the views he had expressed today, for by so doing a great deal of harm would result. He believed that the real effect of binding the men together in Volunteer Corps, officered by men of their own level and acquaintance, would be the creation of a very valuable feeling in Ireland. The Bill which had been now introduced was one which he should certainly not oppose unless he were recommended to do so on the authority of the Government. He should reserve his decision as to his vote until he heard the opinion which would be given from the Treasury Bench.
§ MR. MITCHELL HENRY
said, the establishment of a Volunteer Force in a free country might be considered as the crown and glory of the edifice, and he could not agree with those who spoke in disparagement of the Force. Anyone who remembered the condition of this country before the general appeal was made to the manhood of England to defend their own shores, must agree that no more glorious advance in Constitutional history was ever made than by the establishment of the Volunteer Force. At the time when they were in 1916 dread of a probable invasion from France, he recollected perfectly well how, almost every morning, the people got up, not knowing what would be the result before evening. Such was the popular belief, that the people thought the Emperor of the French would change the views he had hitherto professed, and find it to his interest, and consistent with his wishes, to declare war against this country, and to commence an invasion of it. Those who had read the last interesting and touching volume of the life of the lamented Prince Consort, would find in it some reference to the Volunteer movement, and to the effect which it produced on the country. He believed, from all he could learn about the Volunteers, and from his own knowledge—having served with them a good many years ago, and taking some interest in the movement now—that the Volunteer Force of this country was a tower of strength to England; and that, very far from being merely a Force which desired to parade itself in fine clothes and peacock's feathers on a Saturday, it was a Force which could be thoroughly depended upon to defend its own home. And then came the question whether a similar Force should be enrolled in Ireland. He presumed that the result of these ample appeals to the Executive Government would be the second reading of the Bill; but he should be sorry if the House were led away by the belief that such a measure as the present, or any measure to establish a Royal residence in Ireland, would in any way mitigate the evils of the condition under which the Irish people lived. Parliament refused to the Irish people the most ordinary privileges; they refused to them an equal franchise; they refused all those privileges for which the people had asked again and again. Only last night he had observed that, in "another place," a Bill from the people in the North of Ireland for the right to make a railway on the narrow gauge was thrown out by consent of both sides of the House. Noble Lords, both Liberal and Conservative, agreed that the Irish people should not be permitted to make a narrow-guage railway in the county of Donegal. It was absurd to suppose that such a decision would not cause great discontent in Ireland. It would, therefore, be a very great mis- 1917 fortune if the House of Commons was cajoled into the idea that there was a spirit of perfect contentment with the Government of the country. There was no such thing. The Irish people were thoroughly discontented with the manner in which they were treated. They were discontented in being denied equal franchise; they were discontented with the fact that, year after year, the House of Commons denied them other of the ordinary privileges of citizens, which were given to the people of England. The Bill would, perhaps, be allowed to pass the second reading, and then that fact would be appealed to as a proof of how ready the House was to put confidence in the Irish people; but it would be sure to be strangled in Committee. He believed that in time a responsible Government would be established in Ireland to regulate its internal affairs, and then a Volunteer Force would be established which would be popular in Ireland, no viewed with great alarm the proposal to use Volunteers as special constables in Ireland, as he was convinced that it would be fraught with evil results. There were too many persons in Ireland already engaged in keeping the peace. Let England really make it the interest of Ireland to be thoroughly loyal to their country; give them the same institutions that they enjoyed themselves; give them the same reason for loving the Queen as Englishmen had; let them be treated in like manner with the rest of Her Majesty's subjects; let them really form one portion of the United Kingdom by a union of hearts and interests, and, believe him, they would then establish a Volunteer Force, consisting, not merely of the regiments, who might be composed of lord-lieutenants and of persons who would be able to buy their uniforms, but they would have a loyal people rising in arms to defend their common country against every form of foreign invasion.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
said, he had listened with great interest to the debate. It was the most striking debate he ever heard on an Irish question. Members on both sides of the House were unanimous in opinion in favour of the Bill. When Members like the hon. Gentleman who represented Sligo (Colonel King-Harman) and Carlow (Mr. Bruen) supported the Bill, he thought it was most suggestive. He 1918 found himself very much in the position of the hon. Member for Carlow, though without his knowledge of the condition and social position of the people of Ireland. That hon. Member said he should be guided in his action by the opinion expressed by the Executive Government. Now, if that was the view of an Irish Member, he thought still more so should it be that of an English Member. This, as the hon. Member for Carlow had said, was no Party question, for both Parties had hitherto been agreed in withdrawing from the Irish people the liberty of forming Corps on the Volunteer system. One could easily understand that in times of plotting and conspiracy, when it was necessary to suspend the Habeas Corpus and pass Peace Preservation Bills for Ireland, it would not have been proper or consistent to make any proposals for raising a Volunteer Force. But everyone must feel that if there was nothing in the social condition of Ireland which would make it dangerous to law and order, then every argument was in favour of Ireland being put on the same footing in this respect with England and Scotland. That was a matter which must be within the cognizance of the Government; and it must rest with them, as it had rested on former Governments—for it was throwing no new responsibility on the present Administration—it must rest with them to say whether, in their opinion, it was or was not safe to adopt the Volunteer system in Ireland. Unless they were prepared to say that such an adoption would lead to public disorders, then, it seemed to him, every argument was in favour of admitting the principle of the Bill. It weighed strongly with him when he heard the hon. Member for Carlow—speaking from a knowledge of his own country—say he had no objection to it; and the hon. Member for Sligo had also used arguments of considerable weight. He said—and political and social experience confirmed the truth of his observations—that men became enlisted on the side of order when they had accepted the training and discipline of Volunteers. That was the tendency among these Corps. Something had been said about their being used for the purposes of the repression of civil disorder. Now, that would be a most unwise thing. He did not say it was not within the power of the Crown 1919 to do that; but every prudent Government must be extremely averse to it. The employment of the Yeoman Cavalry for the purpose of keeping public order in the case of the Peterloo riots was an experiment which had been attended with such consequences that he did not suppose any Government would wish to repeat it. But there was no apprehension of such a thing. The police in Ireland were extremely efficient; and the House ought, as much as possible, to put out of sight the possibility of Volunteers being used for civil repression. He did not agree with the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Shaw) in his humorous disparagement of the Volunteer movement in England. They had been a great social and political advantage; but, no doubt, as it had been shown by English experience, there would be in Ireland a danger in the direction indicated by the hon. Member for Cork. The Volunteers must necessarily—and they always would—fall into the hands of the well-to-do people, and they must be on a very different footing from the Militia. Thus in Ireland it must become, more or less, what had been called a "Class Force." It certainly could not fall into the hands of the poorer classes. There was in Ireland a tendency to draw a broad line between the rich and the poor—a distinction more or less connected with religion. No doubt, this question was connected with some slight danger in this respect. The hon. Member for Galway (Mr. Mitchell Henry) had introduced into the discussion some considerations which ought not, in his opinion, to weigh with the House in determining the question immediately before it. He spoke, and with him he concurred, of the right the Irish people should have of determining how or when their own railways should be made. He (Sir William Harcourt) quite agreed with that; and certainly would give every support to a proposal for giving that control to an Irish body, independent of the English Parliament. A proposal for the management of Irish railways by an independent body having control of railway legislation he should consider most reasonable, and he would be prepared to give it cordial support. But that need not be taken into consideration on the present question. It would be extremely unfair for anybody on the front Bench to put pressure on the Government on 1920 this subject. He felt the responsibility rested with them. They had knowledge of the condition of Ireland that nobody else could have, and it was for them to say whether they considered such a proposal safe or not. If they were not prepared to say the condition of Ireland was such as to make the measure inconsistent with public security, then every argument was in its favour. In view of the concurrence of opinion among Irish Members—both those on the Conservative side and others—the principle was deserving favourable consideration. He had not had an opportunity of considering the details; but it appeared to him that the framers of the Bill had guarded the matter considerably. By the 2nd clause the Crown had power to accept the services of any number of Volunteers. The Crown was not compelled to accept if, in the opinion of the authorities, it was unsafe or undesirable to form the Corps. The Crown had power to accept through the lord lieutenant of the county; therefore, it would be for the lord lieutenant to say whether or not it was desirable to raise any Force. The next safeguard was found in the provision that all officers were to be commissioned by the lords lieutenant of the county, and he imagined it was within the discretion of these officers to say who were to be appointed or not. The 12th clause gave power to the Crown to disband a Corps; therefore, he thought it was left entirely with the discretion of the Crown how far, or how little, the powers given under the Bill should be exercised. That was the proper course to pursue. He could not agree with th.6 hon. Member for Cork on this point, and the provisions seemed most essential. He did not know what would be the scheme of the hon. Member, whether men should appoint themselves and their officers whenever they thought fit; but by such a plan, so far from putting Irish Volunteers on an equality with those of England, they would be under a totally different system. Volunteers were one of the Reserve Forces of the Crown, just as much as the Army; and it must be left entirely to the control of the Crown to say how, and where, and when, they should be appointed. All he could say was that, echoing what had been said by the hon. Member for Carlow—unless Her Majesty's Government were prepared to say 1921 it would not be a safe thing to adopt, he thought the measure was entitled to the favourable consideration of the House.
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA
said, he thought it must be gratifying to the Government to find from both sides of the House a desire to defer to their judgment. He was diffident in speaking on the subject in the presence of so many Volunteer officers, not hitherto known to them in that capacity; but he did not think he need be under any apprehension from their frowns, and he had no desire to escape from their fair censure. The hon. Member for Galway (Mr. Mitchell Henry) had referred to what had taken place in "another place" on the subject of narrow-gauge railways; but he did not see what that had to do with the subject. If any great mistake had been made on the subject of Irish railways—which he did not believe—in "another place," he could not see how it could affect this question whether the condition of Ireland would justify Her Majesty's Government in sanctioning a Bill for the establishment of a Volunteer Force in that part of the United Kingdom. It seemed to him that when the Volunteer Force was established by law largely throughout Great Britain, it was an invidious distinction, not justified on grounds consistent with the self-respect of Ireland, that she should not be allowed the same privilege. If Gentlemen from Ireland came forward and bore testimony to the fact that the condition of the country was such as justified the establishment of such a Force, he failed to see upon what grounds the House could object to the second reading of this Bill. If there were grounds for this invidious distinction, they should be openly stated; if not, the Bill ought not to be opposed. Of the principle of the Bill he cordially approved, although it might be possible that the details of it might require consideration in Committee. For instance, he would rather place his trust in the War Office than in the lieutenant of the county; though be freely confessed that if he knew that every county was as well provided with a lieutenant of such knowledge and judgment as the county where he had the honour to serve as deputy, then he would say the appointments could not be left in better hands than the lieutenants of the counties. But he had no such assurance. But he had complete confidence in the Crown in such 1922 cases. With respect to the fears that these Forces might be used as a civil Force for the repression of local disturbances and rioting, he believed that, except under the last extremity, no Government of either Party would commit so grave a mistake as to use the Volunteer Force for civil repression. He dismissed that as an imaginary danger. With respect to the arguments used by the hon. Member for Galway, he was sorry they had not heard something from his hon. and gallant Colleague (Major Nolan) on the subject of Volunteer Forces in Ireland, and whether he had the same distrust which appeared to pervade the mind of the hon. Member (Mr. Mitchell Henry).
§ MR. MITCHELL HENRY
I did not express distrust. On the contrary, I said that Ireland should be treated in the same way as England.
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA
accounted himself as fortunate in his observation, as he had been the occasion of his hon. Friend putting his sentiments in a form much clearer than he did on the former occasion. He trusted he had said nothing in the least degree reflecting upon his hon. Friend. No one could be less disposed to do so than himself. He had spoken from the impression on his mind; and if he had misrepresented his hon. Friend, he apologized and withdrew the remark. He confessed it would be a species of affront to Ireland if the Bill were refused a second reading. The matter had been recommended to the Government under circumstances having no precedent in the House with regard to the establishment of Volunteer Forces. Conservative Gentlemen from widely different parts of the country, and with great knowledge of the districts they represented, had expressed their confidence in the condition of the people being such as to make it quite safe to carry the Bill into law, providing Her Majesty's Government had not strong facts to urge on the contrary. One word on the subject of Volunteers being "a Class Force." In some sense, it was so in England. No one having had experience of the Volunteer Forces would doubt that the personnel was much superior to that of the Militia; and, without disrespect to the Army, rather above the personnel of private soldiers. With respect to Ireland, he ventured to say there would not be so great a distinction between the 1923 lower substratum of society and the class in the Volunteer Corps as that which existed in England. Some of the under classes would be proved men, of respectable habits, having tastes for military exercise, and fond of companionships in an honest, upright way. These men would, no doubt, find admission into the Force. He concluded by giving the Motion for the second reading his hearty support.
§ SIR GEORGE BOWYER
said, the Government would not hesitate to consent to the second reading, and for the reason that he thought nothing would be more prejudicial to the peace and prosperity of Ireland than an idea that the Government distrusted the people. Such a mistrust would be most unjust, and the slightest knowledge of the country carried with it a rejection of the charge. No more disloyalty existed in Ireland than in England, and disloyal persons in either country were not those who became Volunteers. He was not quite sure whether the Volunteer movement would prove such a success in Ireland as it had been in England, for there was such a large proportion of Irishmen in the Army—and it was to the benefit and glory of the British Army that that was so—for he thought in that way the instincts of the people found an outlet. Still, it was most desirable that the option of forming themselves into Corps should be enjoyed in Ireland as well as in England. Having for many years represented an Irish borough, he had, in the words of Spencer, become Hibernior Hibernis, and was proud of it. Thus nationalized he had become a member of the London Irish Corps, which mustered as well as any other Corps in the Service, and in point of discipline and efficiency was not inferior to the Regular Army. It was commanded by an Irishman—the Marquess of Donegall—and was composed of Irishmen of all sects and parties; but there was not on that account any difference between them. On the other hand, they were united by a feeling of esprit de corps. If, in London, Irishmen could raise such a well-disciplined, well-officered Force, and of such numbers, surely there was reason to believe they could do the same in Ireland. Ireland was now in a state of profound peace, and was ready to supply at home a body of Volunteers equally loyal and efficient 1924 as were their countrymen in the London Corps. With regard to the appointment of the officers, he thought that should rest with the lords lieutenant of counties, subject to the approval of the War Office. He trusted the Government would cheerfully assent to the second reading, leaving details for Committee. He congratulated his hon. Friend on the Bill, and hoped it would become law.
§ MR. H. A. HERBERT
said, the formation of Corps of Irish Volunteers would not only be beneficial to the Empire in time of danger, but would be useful to the nation by bringing the various classes into closer sympathy, and thus paving the way to a better social understanding. In the discussion upon the appointment of officers, it should be borne in mind what was the practice in the English Corps. When first established, Forces were raised in various parts. Great manufacturers, landlords, and others took a leading part, and from time to time these Forces were banded together. They elected their own officers, and in some cases the Colonel appointed their officers. In many of the Corps, however, the men elected their officers. One of the most important points in connection with Volunteer Corps in Ireland was that the men should have some voice in the selection of their officers. Anyone who knew the feeling of esprit de corps existing among men of one district would know that these men would willingly join Corps officered by gentlemen whom they knew perfectly well. With reference to the class comprising the rank-and-file, of course the poorer classes could not be expected to pay the expenses of uniform, &c., without help. He believed that in England they had a big fund by which a poor man was assisted. In Ireland he believed the movement would take its rise in the large towns, but by degrees other Corps would be formed; and gentlemen of the county, tradesmen, and those who could afford it, would join together and form Corps in different localities. One of the things they required in Ireland was the opportunity of associating together. They were few now. There seemed to be some strata of society that would not blend together. In his part of the country threatening letters were entirely unknown, although he would not say that 1925 that was the case in the whole of Ireland, for, unfortunately, it was not so. He had heard just now a remark made by one hon. Member that the Volunteers were hotter than the Army. He had some experience of both Volunteers and the Army, and must say that he thought the Volunteers ran the Army very close, both in effectiveness and discipline. He had heard no arguments which he thought were valid against the Bill; and, therefore, should support the second reading of it, and hoped that the Government would not only give their support to the Bill, but would afford facilities for passing it through Committee.
§ MR. BULWER
looked upon any institution such as that of the Volunteers, which required of those who joined it submission to discipline, fostered in them habits of obedience, and; at the same time, involved no sacrifice of independence or self-respect; and which was calculated to make men better citizens and more loyal subjects, as, in tin's sense, eminently a conservative institution, and he, therefore, supported the Bill. He did not see any practical difficulty in officering such a Force in Ireland. The only objection he had heard urged against the proposal was that it was a dangerous experiment to try in a country where Party spirit and religious feeling ran high; but, for his part, he had not any fear on that score, as the men who would join the Volunteer Force would not, he hoped, belong to that class of Irishmen who indulged in processions and Party fights.
§ MR. ANDERSON
wished to say one or two words with regard to the Bill now before the House. With respect to his experience in the Scotch Volunteers, he knew that in Glasgow many of the members of the Volunteer Corps there were Irishmen, and he must say that he had never known the Irish members of the Glasgow Volunteer Corps to fail in their duty in any way whatever. Neither in discipline or in ability in shooting were they below any other of their comrades. He could not, for his part, conceive why the Irish people should be worse when in their own country than they were elsewhere. The Irish were, as a general rule, fond of good shooting; and he must confess that he could not see what reason there was to prevent such facilities being given to them to 1926 enjoy good shooting which were given to the people elsewhere. So great was the feeling to belong to Volunteer Corps on the part of persons living in Ireland that he had known Irishmen who were living in Ireland join Volunteer Corps in the South of Scotland for the purpose of taking their drill. He thought that showed the great desire the Irish had for joining Volunteer Corps. It was a mere dream, all this talk about the disloyalty of the Irish who were not to be trusted with rifles. He certainly was of opinion that the best way to make men trustworthy was to trust them; and he believed that if they wanted to make the Irish a loyal people, it could only be done by trusting them in all respects as they trusted the people of England and Scotland. A remark was made by one hon. Member that the Volunteer movement would be "a class" movement; but he entertained a very different idea. He knew that in Scotland, and also in England, many of the best Volunteers belonged to the working classes, and he hoped that when they agreed to establish Volunteer Corps in Ireland they would in no respect whatever be considered to be a class body, from which the working men were to be excluded, and he thought if that course were adopted it would be a most unfortunate thing in every respect. With regard to the appointment of officers, he thought that the plan which was followed out in this country ought to be followed out in Ireland—namely, that the men should elect the officers, subject to the approval of the lords lieutenant of the counties. That seemed to him to be the proper course. He did not wish to detain the House any longer; but he might say that he should give his support to the Bill, and he hoped that Her Majesty's Government would also give their support to it.
§ MR. GREGORY
observed, that if the present condition of Ireland was favourable to the enrolment of a Volunteer Force there, such had not been at all times the case; and the contingency of the possible return to such a state of things ought not to be lost sight of in legislating upon the matter, lest they might be putting arms in the hands of those who might make a bad use of them. Officers would naturally be inclined to make their force as numerous and efficient as possible, without regard to the political opinions of recruits. He 1927 would suggest that some precautions should be taken in selecting the places where arms and ammunition should be deposited; that they should either be parts of the police barracks or closely connected with them; and that the regulations for returning the arms to such places after parades or firing practice should be of a stringent character.
§ GENERAL SHUTE
said, he should vote against the Bill, because he did not see that there was the least necessity for the establishment of Volunteer Corps in Ireland. Still, it was only fair he should say that there were no more loyal men in the Army than the Irishmen after they had been subjected to military discipline; and that he believed that learning their duty as citizen soldiers would do much to render the people of Ireland peaceable and orderly and less liable to be influenced by political agitators, who were the curse of their country. He did not believe in any difficulty as regarded obtaining superior officers; many would be found glad enough to be called colonels, majors, and captains; but where the subalterns were to be found was another affair, or men such as it was desirable to embody. The class from which we draw our Volunteers in England, he might almost say, did not exist in Ireland. He had always been in favour of the Volunteer Force, because he felt that, in this country, it had proved a most valuable link between the Army and the population, and had created a kindly feeling between them. He did not think the Bill was required, and, therefore, it was not desirable to try a somewhat doubtful experiment.
supported the Bill. He had no fear whatever of arming and drilling Irishmen of even a lower rank than those who might be expected to join the Volunteer ranks; and as one the grandest things which ever happened for England was the establishment of the Volunteer Force, he did not see why the same results should not follow in Ireland if the Bill were passed. He therefore trusted that Her Majesty's Government would accept the measure.
§ SIR PATRICK O'BRIEN
, having opposed the proposal in 1861, wished now to state that he had altered his opinion upon the question, as the circumstances of the country had changed. He did not think the concession would be re- 1928 ceived with any degree of enthusiasm in Ireland. Still, he thought Ireland should be placed on the same footing with regard, to the establishment of Volunteer Corps as the rest of the United Kingdom. The Bill would require some alterations in Committee. He supported it because he thought that the same justice and privileges which were extended to England and Scotland ought to be extended to Ireland.
§ MR. W. HOLMS
thought that the Irish people should have the same facilities for the establishment of Volunteer Corps as the English and Scotch had. The object of having a Volunteer Force was to show to the whole world the advantage of being prepared for any emergency; and there was nothing raised the prestige of this country so much as the fact that we had 200,000 Volunteers giving their money, time, and service for their country. It appeared to him that the arguments in favour of establishing Volunteer Forces in England and Scotland applied with equal force to the case of Ireland. Ireland was never as peaceful as at present. But should any Irish regiment become disaffected, the Crown had power to disband it. Were he an Irishman, he would feel that a gross stigma was placed on his country by its being kept in a different position from England and Scotland in this respect. Every fourth man in the British Army was an Irishman, and the Irish in the Army were not less patriotic and loyal than the English and Scotch.
§ MR. R. E. PLUNKETT
thought it somewhat astounding that the Government should accept this Bill, when they heard the Irish Members who sat below the Opposition Gangway state that if an Irish Force were sent to Zululand they would fight for the Zulus. It was, therefore, a matter of some moment that the House should understand whether this Volunteer Force which it was proposed to raise was to be a hostile or a friendly one? It was clear that those Gentlemen must either give up saying things of that kind, or else consent to be taken at their word. In his opinion, there was not in Ireland one-tenth of that disloyalty which those Irish Members who at public meetings talked nothing short of treason would lead them to believe. Those Gentlemen ought to be more careful in their lan- 1929 guage, and give up the luxury of talking treason, if they wished the House to pass measures of this kind.
§ MR. FRENCH
rose to Order. He wanted to know whether the hon. Member for West Gloucestershire was in Order in alleging that any Member of that House talked treason.
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, that if the hon. Member had imputed treasonable intentions to hon. Members for what they had said in that House, he would be out of Order; but the hon. Member appeared to be referring to speeches which had been delivered outside that House.
§ MR. R. E. PLUNKETT
said, that was exactly what he was doing. On one occasion, when he had reminded a supporter of this Bill of language used by him when advocating it in Ireland, he had been told that he must not attach much weight to it, because nobody meant what he said in that country. In this country we were in the habit of meaning what we said, and he trusted that in future Irishmen would be more cautious in the language they used. If this Bill were to pass, perhaps when Irishmen began to feel that some little importance was attached to their utterances, they would become more guarded in the language they used. If the measure became law, he hoped to see the restriction removed that prevented Volunteers in one part of the United Kingdom from being available in another in the case of invasion. He could not, however, conceal from himself the serious responsibility which the Government were taking upon themselves in agreeing to the proposal. He believed if the officers of the Force were not carefully selected they would have American filibusters coming over to officer it. It was true the Queen could disband any regiment which showed signs of disloyalty; but there was not any provision made for getting the arms out of the hands of the men disbanded. He should not, however, divide the House upon the question of the second reading of the Bill; but he would do all in his power, at a subsequent stage of the Bill, to introduce into it such safeguards as appeared to him be necessary.
§ MAJOR NOLAN
observed, that the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken had had the good taste to select an English constituency instead of an Irish one; but he had not forgotten Ireland. He 1930 had taken advantage of the absence of the hon. Member for Meath (Mr. Parnell) to attack him. As a general rule, the hon. Member for Meath was able to take care of himself, and if the hon. Member for West Gloucestershire repeated these attacks, the hon. Member for Meath would, doubtless, be prepared to reply. If, however, the English-Irish Gentleman, who represented an English constituency, had attacked the Bill, he was glad to say that the English Members, who represented English constituencies, and the Scotch Members, who represented Scotch constituencies, had received the Bill with the greatest kindness. It seemed to be a general feeling that they should be put in the same position as England and Scotland in this respect. Should the hon. Member for West Gloucestershire watch his opportunity, it might be possible for him, by objections and Amendments, to make the measure perfectly worthless, by rendering it different from the law in England and Scotland. What was the object of the Bill? It would enable the Government to get 42,000 additional men to defend the country; and, secondly, it would remove a stigma from Ireland. Our Fleet might be shattered in an hour, as the result of some new invention. If our Fleet should be destroyed in any way, the country would feel a greater loss from want of numbers than from anything else. The Volunteer Force of England he believed to be efficient. He would not say that any Volunteers were equal to men who gave their whole time to military drill; but in a couple of months' consecutive training they would, perhaps, be quite as good; and he believed it to be most unwise for any country to deprive itself of the services of from 40,000 to 50,000 men. If some hon. Members were jealous of Ireland, could it be wondered at that some were jealous of England for being strong? If such a spirit of jealousy were encouraged, could they wonder that the feeling could be reciprocal? However, he wished to see existing not a policy of mutual distrust, but a policy of mutual confidence.
referred to disaffection in Ireland, and said, that when in this century we had three or four risings against the Imperial power—when the greater part of the Press of Ireland had breathed disaffection and 1931 disloyalty—and he was sorry to say, that the Press was very largely read and circulated among the people who were likely to form the Volunteers—when he saw that those who ought to repress those feelings did nothing but encourage the people in their dislike of the Saxon and their hatred of Imperialism, he might be permitted to say that it was something of a risky experiment to expect the Irish Volunteers to be as ready to fight for the defence of the country against a foreign enemy as the Scotch or English Volunteers. Was it the case that in England or in Scotland three cheers would be given for the Zulus? Was it the case that in England or Scotland men would not be content to wait for Constitutional remedies to obtain their rights, and not to resort to force? He must say he thought it would be extremely dangerous to arm a people who might not always be loyal, and put in their hands the rifle and musket. It had been said that the arms need not remain in the hands of the Volunteers; but if they were not Volunteers to be relied upon, what was the use of them? It had been said that the arms should be in the hands of the colonel; but what could he do if, during a contingency, his men were disaffected, and his house was surrounded by, perhaps, 100 men, who would have nothing to oppose them but a few servants? How could he keep the arms from the men? He did not know how safeguards were to be inserted for the purpose of preventing, as the hon. Member (Mr. Plunkett) had said, the appointment of officers returning from America, with the intention of taking part in a disloyal movement. He did not want to speak against his country. God forbid that he should! For he was an Irishman to the core of his heart, and he only wished he could see Ireland placed on the same footing with England; but he could not say that Ireland was altogether loyal. It was not the case; and it had been stated, over and over again, that it was not the case. He recollected having to present a statement, some three or four years ago, and an hon. Member said that matters had come to such a pass in Ireland that they could not get a man to accept the Queen's shilling and enrol himself under the flag of the country. That was laughed at; but the people had been preached to all over Ireland—"Do not 1932 enlist. You are only assisting a corrupt Government to trample upon your liberties." As long as such a doctrine as that was preached it was dangerous to arm the people, who among themselves were constantly fighting. In his own Province of Ulster they would soon hear of an engagement taking place between a regiment of one county and a regiment of another. He confessed, however, that no one would be more delighted to see these uncomfortable ideas completely dissipated than himself.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. GIBSON)
observed, that certainly there had been a singular unanimity of opinion either in favour of the second reading of the Bill, or else, putting it more moderately, that the second reading should not be opposed, and that in Committee of the House the time should be selected for making Amendments, and for providing such further safeguards as were necessary. He did not think the debate, on the part of any hon. Members, had been characterized by any immoderate tone; but he had not found it shown that there was any feeling in Ireland in favour of this movement similar to the sentiment that prevailed in England in 1859. Some of them very well knew that this great Volunteer movement was encouraged in England; that it was supported and pressed forward in England with a great amount of enthusiasm; and that a great feeling of zeal in the movement prevailed from one end of the country to the other. Now, no one suggested that there was a parallel to this in Ireland, and it would be absurd to say that in Ireland there was any such feeling with reference to the Volunteer movement. There was nothing of the kind. He did not believe there was any great feeling on the part of any section of the people in favour of this movement. He himself was disposed to think that, assuming this Bill should finally go to a second reading and pass into law, the movement was not likely to be made anything like the large use of that had been the case in England and Scotland. He did not think this would be found to be otherwise than the fact; and he did not think any Member from Ireland would differ from this expression of opinion. The real basis of the movement, advocated so moderately and temperately, 1933 was the desire to get rid of anything like exceptional legislation, and the desire to remove, as far as possible, what might be regarded as a stigma on Ireland. He thought this was more the feeling which underlay the discussion than any feeling that there was really a practical grievance for redress, and that was a sentiment which he himself largely, whenever he reasonally could, was glad to sympathize with. As an Irishman, he was always glad when it devolved upon him, as the spokesman of the Government, to make any reasonable concession. As everyone knew, the question was not as absolutely simple as some hon. Members appeared to think. There were circumstances connected with. Ireland which might not render it impossible for them to pass this measure, but which surrounded its consideration with the necessity for caution. It was obvious that he should not enter into details, and it was not a matter for any one Party or any one man. But occasions might arise when it was most necessary that those who had the heavy responsibility and grave duty cast upon them of watching over the peace of the country should regard with serious attention any measure which might lead largely to giving arms to a large section of the people. He did not want to express more than that, or to deal more in detail with the question. Again, as long as there was a substantial portion of the country—and he was glad to say that it was diminishing—under the Peace Preservation Act, that fact further introduced some difficulties and interposed considerations which indicated the necessity of precautionary measures, and showed that the matter was one not absolutely simple. It was desirable that the Bill should go into Committee, and that it should be examined very thoroughly, to enable the Government, and those who thought in the direction in which they thought, to introduce Amendments which they might deem necessary as further safeguards and qualifications, giving the War Office and Executive Government direct and ample control over the movement. Some of the hon. Members, however, who had spoken of the necessity of looking at the measure with caution, he thought, had not considered deeply the qualifications already contained in the Bill. The Bill did not authorize the formation of Volunteer bodies under any 1934 person. It was an organized and regular movement that must be systematized strictly under Government. No one could be received as a member of a Volunteer Corps without the full sanction of the commanding officer, and that would be a check on the character of the ranks. He also believed there was a most complete check over the officers of a Volunteer Corps; and he believed it would be entirely impossible for those gentlemen from America, to whom his hon. Friend the Member for West Gloucestershire (Mr. Plunkett) referred, to come here and get subsistence as Volunteer officers, because he found that the 4th clause of the Bill provided that every Volunteer Corps should be officered by persons appointed by Her Majesty's approval. He thought an officer who came over from America to take command in a Volunteer Corps would be bound to show that he was worthy of the position in order that he should have the confidence of Her Majesty's Advisers. Again, it should be remembered that the Militia of Ireland were a body of men well-formed and well-behaved and respectable, and yet they came from a far lower class than the Volunteer soldiers would come as a rule. Also, the Militiamen lived among the people during the interval between the training periods, and they had an opportunity of using their organization against the law; but, as a matter of fact, it had been found that they had not abused their opportunity. He should think that in the case of the better class they would not be found either to forget or abuse the privileges confided to them by any such measure as this. He thought it had been well pointed out by the hon. and gallant Member for Sligo (Colonel King-Harman) that the movement in Ireland, assuming it to be inaugurated, must begin as quietly and as moderately as it commenced in England. The English Volunteer movement had in it the spirit of growth. It carried with it a facility for growth; and the English Volunteers showed by self-sacrifice, by the sacrifice of time and money, that they desired to be made capable and vigorous and a useful organization. Well, if there had been any indication on the part of any section of the Irish people to identify themselves with this movement, he thought they should begin with the 1935 quiet beginnings that had characterized England; and they should show, by their own conduct and their own desire to work and to advance in the movement, that they really did require further facilities to be given for such a movement. It was clear, however, that the Bill before the House demanded immense changes to be made in it. He understood the effort was not to present a measure perfect in all its features, but to have a Bill which would, nevertheless, express a principle; and that the hon. Gentleman who introduced the Bill would be content with having that principle affirmed, and would leave the details afterwards to be dealt with. He therefore hoped that the hon. Member would hereafter give a careful examination to the clauses of the Bill, and make substantial changes, which would in his leisure moments occupy and amuse him for the next few weeks. Many of the clauses of the Bill were, as they stood, extremely singular. In one instance, the Chief Commissioner of Works, a purely English official, had power given him to select places for drill; in another the mode of procedure was that prescribed in an Act of Will. IV. for facilitating the conveyance of workhouses in England and Wales; in another, reference was made to an Act of Geo. IV., which authorized the disposal of unnecessary prisons in England. Then, again, from the beginning to the end of the Bill, no reference whatever was made to the Lord Lieutenant or the Chief Secretary. Another assumption was that there was in that country a perfect turnpike system. Such matters required a good deal of change, and there were also others which he had not mentioned, and to the correction of which the hon. Member would have to devote some of his spare time. The Chief Secretary for Ireland had given consideration to the Bill; and he (the Attorney General for Ireland) was happy to be able, on the part of the Government, to accept the second reading, subject to the observations that he had thought it his duty to make.
§ MR. O'CLERY
accepted the conditions under which the second reading would be taken, and said, that as to the Bill itself, his first duty was to present proofs to the House sufficient to show that he wanted no change whatever in the system which applied to England and 1936 Scotland. He only regretted that he had not the advantage of his right hon. and learned Friend's name on the back of the Bill, as it might have saved him from all the little errors that crept into the measure. Unfortunately, they were printers' errors.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed for Wednesday 28th May.