§ (5.32.) DR. CLARK (Caithness)
I beg to move as an Amendment—To leave out, from the word "That," to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "in the opinion of this House, in order to increase the efficiency of the Imperial Parliament to deal with Imperial affairs, and in order to give speedier and fuller effect to the desires and wants of the respective nationalities constituting the United Kingdom, it is desirable to devolve upon Legislative Assemblies in Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and England, respectively, the management and control of their domestic affairs.Sir, last year when I moved the same Resolution as I now propose, I brought before the House a number of facts and figures to show the congestion of Public Business and the utter impossibility of the Imperial Parliament being able to carry out the work it should do. I do not intend to bring again before the House those facts and figures except to say this: that of the many measures then referred to affecting Scotland that could not be considered for lack of time they all stand now in the same position as they did last year. As an instance, I may point out that we are just as far off having legislation on the principle of the Bill of my hon. Friend the Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Hunter) as we were nine years ago when it was first introduced. My hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. M'Lagan) has not been able to bring his measure affecting the liquor traffic before the House, and there is every reason to suppose that another Parliament will have passed away before the Scotch Members will have an opportunity of having that important measure affecting Scotland considered by the House—a measure which the majority of the Scotch Members are in favour of. Last year I was told that we were not suffering from the disease of congestion of business, as I 1685 pointed out, but that what we were suffering from was the disease of obstruction, and that since the Home Rule movement began there had been an attempt made to obstruct the business in this House and prevent Parliament from doing its work. Sir, let us look at the facts. It was in 1871 that Mr. Isaac Butt was elected a Member of this House, and the agitation for Home Rule, from a Parliamentary point of view, began. Now, I hold that facts prove that before the Home Rule agitation began there was the same congestion of business, and the same inability to carry out what the Government and private Members desired. And I will read one or two extracts from a speech made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) in 1871, at a time previous to the election of Mr. Butt and the existence of the Home Rule Party in this House. Mr. Gladstone was receiving the freedom of the City of Aberdeen, and in a speech which he made in reply to the honour conferred upon him, be used the following words about the then condition of affairs. He said—I admit, without the least hesitation, that the present condition of the action of Parliament with regard to Scotch business is unsatisfactory. You have much reason to complain or at least to regret, and I have deep reason, as have my colleagues, to regret, that we have not been able to deal with several subjects interesting to the feelings of Scotland, and material to its welfare, with the promptitude that we should all have desired.So that before Mr. Butt appeared in this House and began the Home Rule agitation, the then Prime Minister admitted that there was congestion, and that he regretted it. But what did he say in explanation of that condition of things? He said—The difficulty is a very great one. Parliament is overtaxed, it performs a great deal more work, and has probably at all times—most certainly for the last 40 years—performed a great deal more work than any other Legislative Assembly in the world. … The amount of demand upon Parliament, the province marked out by public opinion for legislation, is greatly enlarged, and that which was, even when my life began, quite sufficient for the strength of the House of Commons, has now grown to such a height and mass that that strength is insufficient to meet it. Parliament is now expected to regulate the relations of life between different classes, and to provide 1686 for public want and against public evils of a description that were formerly believed to lie altogether beyond its competence and its power. Legislation upon health, legislation upon atmosphere, legislation upon water, legislation upon drainage, legislation upon labour in all its relations—these are topics which in a few words contain the key to a vast mass of work waiting to be done, and which it has not been found possible to overtake.I think that disposes of the argument that it is the obstruction of Irish Home Rule that has brought about the congestion of business. What has happened since the speech of the right hon. Gentleman makes, I think, his arguments much more powerful. Since then there has been a greater development of science, more growth of commerce, and greater progress of democracy, which have increased the work of this House. Since the Reform era, since the death of Palmerston, it has been impossible for this House to do its work. The result is that we have been muzzled, and have been giving up bit by bit all our rights. We have had a splendid specimen of that to-day with the Government proposal for practically taking away all our time except three hours twice a week, and five and a half hours on Wednesdays. Important questions are coming up for discussion, but there is no time to spare upon them. The result is that the House must scamp its work. And, Sir, I think the House must look at this question from the Imperial standpoint. We have given Home Rule to our Colonies, and I have very much sympathy with the views and wishes of a number of Gentlemen opposite who desire to bring the Colonies and the Mother Country closer together by other ties than those binding us now. But it will be impossible to have co-representation in this House while you discuss for days main drains for Belfast, bridges in Glasgow, and questions of that sort. As far as the great self-governing Colonies are concerned, we have given them Home Rule, and we cannot hinder them as far as local affairs are concerned; but in Imperial affairs they feel they are neglected, and they complain sometimes that they are betrayed, and that for the purposes of the Mother Country their interests are sacrificed. We have no time to consider them as we are situated at present, and other questions of im- 1687 portance have to be neglected. For instance, there is Pahang, where war is taking place, a country under our suzerainty, but whether the Rajah is an enemy or a friend we do not know. Servants of English companies are being murdered there, but we have no time to discuss the matter. Then there is the difficulty in Uganda in connection with one of the Chartered Companies. But we have no time to consider matters of that kind. I have put down in my Amendment Ireland first instead of England, and I see that that mode of arrangement has caused some little surprise. Well, I think we want to devolve the control of affairs upon Representative Assemblies in Ireland because the Irish people desire it. If the English people were in the same frame of mind as the Irish upon this question I should have suggested that England should come first; but England is only beginning to look at this question, whereas Ireland has demanded and requires it. So with regard to Scotland; Scotland is demanding it, and after a Dissolution, and Parliament meets again, there will be a larger number of Members in proportion from Scotland for Home Rule than you have now from Ireland for Home Rule for Ireland. As to Wales and England, I know the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian lives in Wales a good deal, and I remember when this question came up long ago he used these words:—If doctrines of Home Rule are to be established in Ireland, I protest on your behalf that you will be just as well entitled to it in Scotland; and, moreover, I protest on behalf of Wales, in which I live a good deal—and where there are 800,000 people who, to this day, such is their sentiment of nationality—speak hardly anything except their own Celtic tongue—a larger number than speak the Celtic tongue, I apprehend, in Scotland, and a much larger number than speak it, I apprehend, in Ireland. I protest on behalf of Wales that it will be entitled to Home Rule also.I find nearly all the Members from Wales during the present Parliament agree with the right hon. Gentleman, and upon these grounds demand Home Rule; and I hope that when he comes back to power he will consider the claims on behalf of Wales which he has suggested. What I want to discuss is the kind of Home Rule we are going to have. When we go to the country a majority will come back in favour of Home Rule, and the 1688 question is: What is the kind of Home Rule we are going to have? We had a Bill brought in by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian in 1886 which provided for a dualistic form of Home Rule. I hope we shall not have that proposed again. The right hon. Gentle man wanted Home Rule for Ireland very much on the same lines as it exists in Austro-Hungary and Sweden and Norway. Now, I personally am very much opposed to any Home Rule of that kind, and in voting for the Second Reading of that Bill I voted for the principle of Home Rule; and if the Second Reading had been passed, I should have attempted in Committee to have entirely changed the character of the Bill. There is another form of Home Rule. I refer to that which obtains in Switzerland, where there are three races speaking three different languages—French, German, and Italian—and where there exist different religious faiths with keen feeling in reference to them. There you have a form of Home Rule which has been successful. The same thing occurs in America, under different conditions, and it has lately been adopted in Germany. If we have a Home Rule Bill on the same lines we may be able to settle this Home Rule question in a manner that will be permanent, and, at the same time, add to the stability of the Empire. I do not think there is any agitation for a dualistic type of Home Rule in Ireland. Daniel O'Connell at one time sought to bring about the Repeal of the Union, but before he died he gave up his aim for Repeal, and Repealers are now as much a thing of the past as Fenians are. I might read to the House the view expressed by O'Connell when he gave up Repeal, prior to throwing in his lot with the Federalists, as they existed in Ireland then. It is contained in a letter addressed to John G. Porter, the secretary of the Federal Home Rulers. He says—The Federalists appear to me to require more for Ireland than the simple Repealers, for, besides the local Parliament in Ireland having full and perfect local authority, the Federalists require that there should be for questions of Imperial concern, Colonial, Military and Naval Policy, and of Foreign Alliances, a Congressional or Federative Parliament, in which Ireland should have her fair share and proportion of representation and power. It is but right and just to confess that in this respect the Federalists would 1689 give Ireland more weight and importance in Imperial concerns than she could acquire by means of the plan of the simple Repealers. For my own part, I will own that since I have come to contemplate the specific differences, such as they are, between simple Repeal and Federalism, I do at present feel a preference for the Federation plan, as tending more to the benefit of Ireland and to the maintenance of the connection with England than the mode of simple Repeal.Now, since the time of O'Connell—apart from Stephens and the Irish Republican Brotherhood, who were not Constitutionalists—there has been no Constitutional statesman in favour of simple Repeal. Eighteen years ago the first Motion in favour of Home Rule for Ireland was discussed in this House, and on that occasion Mr. Butt said he did not go in for Repeal, but that he wanted every one of the Irish Members to remain in the Imperial Parliament for Imperial purposes. He only asked that there should be a Legislative Assembly in Ireland for the purpose of controlling local and national matters. This nation has been built up as much by the Irish as by ourselves, and they have as much right to claim their share in deciding Imperial matters as we have. The late Member for Cork, although he said some strong things, was never in favour of simple Repeal; but he got £10,000 to carry on his agitation on Federal lines. Now, Sir, what do I propose by my Motion? Why, simply that the House do not repeal any Union, but that it should create subordinate Legislatures, with full powers of control over all local and domestic and national affairs, and that the Imperial Parliament shall remain as at present. What I should also propose is that the House should take the present constituencies as they are in Ireland and in Scotland, and also in England and Wales for local purposes, and that the Imperial Parliament should be constituted not of 670 Members, but that every two seats should be linked together for Imperial purposes, and that you should separate in England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales local from Imperial matters. Only in that way can the Imperial Parliament do its work. But there have been other suggestions. We had a Bill before the House giving a Convocation of Scotch Members the right to meet in Edinburgh and consider and discuss all Scotch matters. Well, I 1690 should have been very glad to see that Bill passed; but the only difficulty that presents itself to me is that we should not be able to have a Dissolution on purely Scotch matters, such, for instance, as the question of Disestablishment of the Church of Scotland. I do not know how we are going to solve that question very well, except on the lines of Home Rule. When the English and the Scotch Parliaments were united, it was laid down as a fundamental principle of the Union that the Church should be maintained. The Scotch Church is in quite a different position from the English Church which was thrust upon Ireland, because the Church in Scotland is the Established Church of the people of Scotland, and nine-tenths of the people of Scotland belong to it. But I do not say that because our forefathers determined that a certain thing should be a fundamental principle that we should be bound by it. At the same time, I say it is impertinence in English candidates to raise the question of Scotch Disestablishment. I deny the right of the English people to determine this question at all, and I say that it can only be determined by the Scotch people and by the Scotch Members when it comes before them in a Constitutional way. The best way—the only legal way—to change any of the conditions which our forefathers made a fundamental principle of the Union is to constitute either a Commission of the whole of the Scotch Members or a constituent Assembly of the Scottish people for the purpose of determining these questions. I am in favour of Disestablishment, but I do not think it should be rushed through, and I will object to it until the people of Scotland have had the question placed before them and have given their decision in reference to it. I am not going to raise the question of what you should give to Ireland. I do not speak for Ireland. But what you give to Ireland we shall claim for Scotland, and anything less we will not have. The hon. Member for Renfrew (Mr. Shaw-Stewart) has an Amendment on the Paper which sets forth that to require the attendance of Irish, Scottish, Welsh, and English Representatives in local Legislatives Assemblies would tend to diminish or destroy their proper influence and control over Imperial legislation. I wonder if my hon. Friend since he 1691 became a County Councillor has had his influence destroyed for the House of Commons. If these local assemblies met at the same time as Parliament, it would, of course, be ridiculous and absurd to expect Members to be in two places at once. I cannot see what he means by this Amendment, unless he really misconceives what we want. We want to separate local from Imperial measures. I look on Federalism as having been the greatest possible success. We are not asking for something that has never been tried. It has been tried for over 500 years in Switzerland, and has been a success; it has been a success in America for a century, and it has been a success in Canada, though there may have been local corruption. Wherever Federalism has been tried, it has been a success. We must make some change; and if we adopt Federalism, I believe it will be as successful here as it has been in other countries, and we shall be able to solve local and Imperial problems on lines which will tend to strengthen and develop the Empire rather than to weaken it.
§ *(6.5.) MR. LENG (Dundee)
I rise to second the Motion proposed by the hon. Member for Caithness (Dr. Clark), and I do so because the pressure of Imperial business and the innumerable details of local affairs render progress with Scottish legislation so very slow and unsatisfactory. We are so accustomed in this House to much talk and little practical work that I think we do not sufficiently estimate the waste of time that actually occurs, and the number of years spent in the discussion of Bills, without leading to any practical result. I do not know that I can bring this more clearly to the House than by referring to the last list of Public Bills for the Session, 1890–1. It begins with the Access to Mountains (Scotland) Bill, and the record is Second Reading—dropped. Then comes the Acquisition of Land by Local Authorities — Second Reading—dropped; Child Life Insurance Registration (Scotland)—withdrawn; Building Feus and Leases (Scotland) Bill—Second Reading—dropped; Building Land Scotland—Second Reading—dropped; and County Councils Purchase of Land—Second Reading—dropped. Then I come across one brilliant exception, the Crofters' (Scotland) Grazing Bill, the record 1692 opposite which is—Royal Assent. I might go on page by page with a succession of Bills dropped or withdrawn, but the general fact is that there were 40 Bills introduced last Session relating to Scotland, and of these 32 were dropped or withdrawn, one was thrown out on the Second Reading, and only seven out of the forty received the Royal Assent. It might be said by those who have not examined the figures that the proportion of Bills carried was as good for Scotland as for other parts of the United Kingdom, but it is not so. There were, altogether, 229 Bills introduced last Session, of which seventy were passed, nearly equal to one in three, whereas of the Scotch Bills just over one in six was passed, so that, in the scale of proportion, only one-half the number of measures was passed for Scotland that were passed for the other parts of the country. I have no wish to detract in any way from the importance of the Bills that were carried, but I can say with accuracy that there were other Bills with which no progress was made of still greater importance. This Session we have thus far had 36 Bills introduced; five of them have got to the Committee Stage; and one—introduced by the Member for St. Rollox—has passed, but the others have not yet reached the Second Reading stage; two have been withdrawn, and one has been practically set aside by being counted out. Not a few of these may be spoken of as hardy annuals, for they come up year after year without making any advance in the way of legislation. Under the present conditions, what chance is there of the majority of these Bills ever passing? Before they can pass, many whose hair is now perfectly black will be grey, many whose hair is now abundant will be bald, and some of us will be dead and gone out of this House. Every Bill has its merits or demerits, and if its merits exceed its demerits it ought to be passed, and if its demerits exceed its merits it ought to be extinguished. But this system of continually dangling in the air measures which have no chance of passing is a system of false pretences. We ought to make the system a reality, and adopt some method by which, if Bills are desirable, they should go on the Statute Book, and, if not, there should be an end of them. As a Representative of a 1693 Scotch constituency, I say that the Scotch people have a right to complain of the present state of things. If the Scotch Members constituted a Legislature of themselves all these questions could be rapidly disposed of, and we should avoid the coming up year after year of the same measures. But if it is thought that there should be some check on Scottish legislation, that could be easily accomplished by giving to the Secretary for Scotland the power of vetoing Bills which he thought infringed the limit with regard to national and local measures. I came into this House as a Home Ruler, and I hope as a sensible Home Ruler, and I regard Home Rule as giving to each division of the Kingdom control of its own strictly local affairs. I am not one of those who think that while Home Rule would be good as physic for Ireland it would be poison for Wales and Scotland, for what I would claim for Scotland I would willingly give to any other part of the United Kingdom. I would give to each division of the country the control of affairs that are left to the State Legislatures of the United States, or to the Legislative Assemblies of each province of the Dominion of Canada. It has been said that it would surpass the wit of man to discriminate between what are Imperial and what are local or national affairs, and when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian makes a remark of that kind Gentlemen on the other side of the House do not fail to note it, but without quoting many other things he has said in favour of Home Rule. I would reserve to the Imperial Parliament all those Imperial questions which are reserved to the Federal Congress of the United States. With respect to Ireland I would give to every Irishman at home the same political privileges he would enjoy if he settled in one of the cities of the United States, and that, I believe, would put an end to that strong and continued agitation on the other side of the Atlantic on behalf of Home Rule for Irishmen at home. But again it is asserted that it would be a mischievous thing to sever the control of the Imperial Parliament over any part of the United Kingdom, and it is also said that it would be a grander thing to be a citizen of the United Kingdom than of one part of it only. 1694 All that we propose is that we in Scotland should cease to interfere in the local and strictly national affairs of England and Ireland and Wales, and that, on the other hand, you should cease to interfere in the local and national affairs of Scotland. So far as Imperial affairs are concerned, every man in every division of the United Kingdom would remain as much interested in them as he was before. The fact that a man is a citizen of the State of Illinois, or California, does not diminish his interest in the affairs of the great American Union. When I was in America I found wherever I went that each citizen of each State was anxious to produce the most favourable impression with regard to his own State, and to crack up and magnify it, and was proud of its achievements and growth in all matters; but while he did that he was still prouder of and spoke with greater warmth and intensity of feeling with regard to the great Union of which his own State was a component part. And you will tranquillise the great mass of the people in each division of the United Kingdom if you give them more perfect control of the management of their own affairs; and though they will be attached to, and proud of, the division of the Kingdom to which they belong, that feeling will develop itself into still greater loyalty to the United Kingdom. If this tended to division or separation, I would not say one word in its favour; but I do not believe that it does, and I can quote the case of Canada in support of the idea. The Dominion was organised by a Conservative Government, for it was the late Lord Beaconsfield and the late Lord Derby who, in 1867, passed the measure which united the Provinces of Canada into one Dominion. They solved the difficulty of discriminating between Federal and Provincial affairs, and the same thing can be done with regard to our own country. I am satisfied that if Party prejudices were dismissed and the matter were looked at fairly with regard to the interests of the country alone, and if the use of phrases intended to distract attention from the real merits of the question ceased to be used, and we looked at the matter practically not only with reference to what has been done in Switzerland, but what has occurred in our own Colonies and in 1695 the great American Union, then we should cease to be alarmed at the bogie of Separation. We should consider Home Rule merely a true and legitimate development of the principle of Local Government giving to each large division of the Kingdom a more perfect control over its own local affairs. That, I have contended before, would not alienate any section of the population from another; but under wise safeguards, which I am certain do not pass the wit of man to devise, it would make us, instead of being a separate, a more united, a more loyal, and a more prosperous people than we are now; and for these reasons I cordially second the Motion which has been submitted to the House.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "in the opinion of this House, in order to increase the efficiency of the Imperial Parliament to deal with Imperial affairs, and in order to give speedier and fuller effect to the desires and wants of the respective nationalities constituting the United Kingdom, it is desirable to devolve upon Legislative Assemblies in Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and England, respectively, the management and control of their domestic affairs,"—(Dr. Clark,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ *(6.26.) MR. SHAW-STEWART (Renfrew, E.)
It seems to me, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that both the Mover and Seconder of this Resolution have each their own plan of Home Rule; but they speak under the disadvantage of not having any well-considered general plan that they can advocate, and I think it is also a matter on which they should receive condolence that their words have fallen on deaf ears, so far, at all events, as the almost empty condition of the Opposition Front Bench shows the very little interest taken in this question by their Leaders. The hon. Member for Caithness. (Dr. Clark) asked us to look at this matter from an Imperial standpoint, and that is what I wish the House to do. I put an Amendment on the Paper, but by the Rules of the House I cannot move it, but there is, I believe, no reason why I should not refer to it. It is in these words—To leave out all after "House," and insert— 1696To require the attendance of Irish, Scottish, Welsh, and English Representatives in Local Legislative Assemblies would tend to diminish or destroy their proper influence and control over Imperial legislation.The hon. Member for Caithness says he does not understand why his proposal should diminish the control of the various Representatives over Imperial questions. I should have thought this was one of the most obvious complications which would arise if his proposal became law. If you send down to the various centres of nationality the popularly-elected Representatives, you must take away a certain amount of their time which is now devoted to the discussion and supervision of Imperial questions. If they are to sit in the various centres of the United Kingdom for three months, it is obvious that you diminish by that amount the time at their disposal for sitting as an Imperial Parliament; and unless you intend to largely increase the time for which Members sit at present you reduce their control of Imperial questions from six or seven months in the year, as it is now, to three months, or even less. I contend that we cannot in these days afford to compress the time which is allotted to us for the discussion of Imperial questions. If anything, we ought to amplify the time for the discussion of Imperial questions rather than shorten it. I have pointed out that the Motion proposes to take away part of the time—when we should be sitting in Scotland—which Scotch Members could devote to Imperial affairs, and I am sure the hon. Member would be the last person to say that Scotland is not pre-eminently concerned in colonial and foreign affairs. There is not a British colony or dependency where Scotchmen are not doing good work, not only for themselves and for their adopted country, but indirectly for Scotland also. The time of the Imperial Parliament for dealing with these affairs would be limited to about three months in the year; and though the English Parliament might during the other part of the year be sitting at Westminster, no question could be asked in it about colonial or foreign affairs; in fact, it would be an injustice to Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, if such questions could be asked while the representatives of those countries were elsewhere. Foreign questions continually arise in 1697 this country, and doubtless many of them are quietly disposed of by a strong Foreign Minister; but if the time should come when we should have a weak or incompetent Minister, while the nationalities were discussing local affairs, he could be involving the country in complications which, if Parliament were sitting, the representatives of the people might have had a hand in checking. Even when a strong Minister is in power there are at times difficult questions on which he is glad to be backed up by the strong feeling of the British people concentrated in their Representatives in Parliament. The Imperial Parliament also is not merely for legislative purposes; it ought to have control over the different Departments of War, the Navy, Finance, and the Home Office; and if you diminish the time during which the Members are to attend the Imperial Parliament, you diminish their control and influence over these Departments. The time may come when we can afford to spend less time in anxious deliberation over foreign ane colonial affairs. The time may comd when we shall have less to do with the different parts of the world and exert less influence, but that will only be when, by a series of disintegrating measures, we have lost our hold on our Colonies, perhaps on India, and on those ports and dependencies which are scattered all over the world. Then we may indulge in the luxury of breaking the Kingdom up into sections by setting up Parliaments to discuss local affairs, and then we in Scotland shall not quarrel whether we shall meet at Glasgow or Edinburgh, for in those days we may well hide our diminished heads in the wilds of Caithness. We are told that Parliament is over-weighted, but since the speech of the right hon. Member for Midlothian quoted by the hon. Member was delivered, we have had County Councils set up throughout Scotland which deal with local affairs; and it is understood on all sides that they will be considerably strengthened and have further powers given to them. There is also the possibility, if hon. Gentlemen opposite would allow of its discussion, of framing a measure for relieving Parliament by a system of Private Bill procedure. But, considering the time at the disposal of Parliament, I do not think it is impossible to deal with the questions that arise. 1698 If the small number of hon. Gentlemen who speak oftenest and longest were to exercise a little self-control, and do a little violence to their vanity, it would be to the advantage of the House. As a Scotchman and a Scotch Member, I not only object to the proposal of the hon. Member, but I resent it as depriving Scotland of a considerable amount of her power and opportunity of discussing and controlling Imperial affairs, and I condemn it as a proposal that would have a destructive and disintegrating effect on the constitution and character of the United Kingdom, with the strength, prosperity, and happiness of which the future of my country is inextricably bound up.
§ (6.40.) MR. R. T. REID (&c.) Dumfries,
Although it is true that this Motion has not enlisted the sympathies of a large number of Members, or of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Opposition Bench, it is a question which will attract a considerable amount of attention in future, and one which must be dealt with before we can expect to properly transact Public Business in Parliament. If the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Shaw-Stewart) has put forward all the arguments of the Scotch Unionists against Home Rule for Scotland, I think we may fairly expect that in a short time he will join our ranks. He has raised four objections: The first is, that the Mover and Seconder have not agreed as to the form of Home Rule they desire. I am not sure that they have not agreed, but the proposal does not profess to formulate the form of Home Rule. There are several ways in which it can be dealt with, and it would be unreasonable towards the gentlemen who may be in office in a short time to commit ourselves now to one or other form, and so foreclose the decision, of the Members of the next Parliament as to the particular measure of Home Rule they may think fit to adopt. The principle is a matter on which we can all agree or dissent. The hon. Gentleman said that the Members who sit here cannot conveniently sit in Scotland to discuss local matters, because they might be wanted in two places at once.
§ MR. SHAW-STEWART
I said if you require the attendance of Scotch Members in Scotland at a certain time in 1699 the year they would not have that time at their disposal for the consideration of Imperial questions.
§ MR. R. T. REID
That is what I understood the hon. Gentleman to say. But the Motion does not require that the same individuals should represent Scotland in the Imperial and in the Scottish Parliament. That is wholly a matter of detail, and there is no necessity in law or convenience that they should be the same persons. The hon. Gentleman said that Scotland was interested in colonial affairs, and that no Scotch Member would consent to deprive her of a full share in their management. But nobody proposes that because domestic affairs in Scotland are to be disposed of by Scotchmen, we are, therefore, to be deprived of what we claim as a right—an equal voice with other parts of the country in dealing with Imperial matters. The hon. Gentleman suggested that things might go wrong while we were discussing local matters if we had a weak Foreign Minister, but he must remember that for more than half the year, as things now are, the Minister has the opportunity of leading us into infinite trouble and difficulty if he is so unwise as not to avoid it. If that is the array of argument to be placed before our somewhat hard-headed countrymen in discussing this question, I am not surprised that there is a considerable increase of feeling in favour of this movement in many parts of Scotland. Speaking for myself and my constituents, I wish to say that it is obvious that in this matter Ireland must come first, as she put forward the first claim. The effects of this government have been very serious in Ireland; we in Scotland have not suffered more misfortunes than England. There is great bitterness in Ireland, the result probably of historical causes, which prevents Ireland regarding England with the same loyalty and goodwill which is universal all over Scotland with respect to the Southern Kingdom. Therefore, as far as Scotland is concerned, there is no trace of bitterness or national resentment so far as regards Home Rule. We have nothing to look back on in history which we cannot contemplate with complacency. But Scotland has a great grievance peculiar to herself. For many years the practice of the House was not to over-ride Scotch opinion in regard to Scotch measures. The prac 1700 tice dates certainly from the last century and was continued down to 1886, when the present Government unfortunately broke the continuity of the practice. Since 1886 we have been repeatedly outvoted, notoriously in the instance of a Bill dealing with the questions of lighting, loads, police, and other purely Scotch questions. We were outvoted by English Members in twelve Divisions in a manner calculated to be most offensive to Scotch feeling. We were outvoted by Members who did not hear a word of our arguments, who stayed systematically out of the House during our speeches, and who treated our protests and arguments with contempt. We warned the Government in all good faith that the necessary result of that would be to raise a strong feeling in Scotland for the management of Scotch affairs by Scotchmen in Scotland. Our views have proved to be absolutely true. I ask the hon. Gentleman if he approves of his countrymen being outvoted in this House on Scotch questions by English Members?
§ MR. R. T. REID
The Scotch Members have no chance of holding their own on Scotch affairs. What would the feelings of the English Members be if the Church of England were disestablished by a Scotch vote? That is what is being constantly done by English Tory Members with regard to the views of Scotch Members who are as loyal and orderly as themselves, and it is a matter which is deserving of the consideration of Parliament. There is another grievance we share in common with the rest of the United Kingdom, and that is the congestion of business in this House. It seems to be a formal and elementary proposition of Government of whatever form — whether Despotic, Republican, or Constitutional Monarchy—that there should be some authority which can deal promptly with grievances as they arise. That was once the case with this Parliament, but no one can now reasonably pretend that we have in this House machinery which is capable of dealing with the wants of the country with reasonable promptitude. Take, for example, the measure for cheapening the transfer of land in England. All sections of the House agree that that is a Bill which ought to be passed, and, though 1701 it was agitated for forty years ago, it cannot be dealt with, because the other business prevents the possibility of the House dealing with it. Then, if there is one question which the Scotch people care more about than any other it is the liquor question. The hon. Member opposite places his name at the back of the Bill, introduced by the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. M'Lagan) in 1884, and read a second time, but the hon. Member has been unable since then to get even a discussion on the Bill. It is a question on which every single burgh in Scotland, and every county, I believe, would go for the Bill; and I do not think even the hon. Member for Renfrew (Mr. Shaw-Stewart) would stand for his constituency if he pronounced against the Bill. What have we done to alter this state of things? During the last four or five years we have amended our procedure; we have introduced the Closure and Grand Committees, and the time of private Members has been ruthlessly taken away. There were protests at first, but they have all ceased, for we all know that it is necessary that the Government should have the time, and yet we are no better off than we were before. The hon. Gentleman intimated that the present state of things was the result of obstruction, but I do not think that in his cooler moments he will say that there has been serious obstruction this Session. It is not the necessity for reform, or unwillingness to carry it on, which has caused the arrears of work, but the utter incapacity of Parliament to discharge its duties. This state of things has produced serious results inside the House. I am not surprised to hear that many Members are not going to seek reelection, and that it is becoming more difficult every day to get suitable candidates to take part in the business of Parliament. Energetic men, such as we desire to see in the House, are prepared to see their views overruled, but they are not prepared to spend the whole of their time without an opportunity of these questions being disposed of, and to waste their best energies in forwarding measures which they feel almost certain will never have an opportunity of becoming law. There is a growing apathy also in the constituencies; they feel that there is not the machinery for getting 1702 through the work, and Parliament will lose that confidence which centuries of good work have earned for it. Thoughtful men will not deny that something is needed for the reform of procedure in the House. I wish to ask the hon. Gentleman what is the meaning of the remedy to which he refers. Does Local Government mean County Government, or the Government of Town Councils? Why, the hon. Gentleman must know very well that nobody proposes to give them legislative powers at all. How then will they relieve the congestion of legislation in this House? The hon. Member referred to another proposal—namely, that the procedure in reference to Private Bills should be simplified in the method proposed by the Government. Though I differ from many of my hon. Friends on this side, and am rather sympathetic to the proposal of the Government as to procedure on Private Bills; yet, that proposal, if carried out, would not remedy the congested condition of business. Is there anything to be hoped from the legitimate use of Grand Committees? I do not think there is. Only one stage out of five will be got rid of by sending a Bill to a Grand Committee, and we have tried Grand Committees. I do not at all deny that they have done some good; but although they have done some good, they have not been effective for the purpose of preventing that great arrear of business which is now almost choking this House. I say there is only one other remedy that can be considered, and that is the distribution of business—call it devolution if you like—to some other Assembly than this. I think most lawyers will agree with me that you cannot destroy, if you wished to do so, the Imperial supremacy of this Parliament. I am strongly in favour of maintaining that supremacy, and I am not aware, so far as I know, that anybody wishes to destroy it. But, as I have said, you cannot destroy it, even if you wished, according to Constitutional Law. That being so, how do you propose that the business should be distributed to other Assemblies? It seems to me to be absolutely necessary so to distribute it; and in no other way than according to the natural line of cleavage that exists in this country. You have in Ireland and in Scotland—I say nothing in reference to 1703 Wales for the moment, I do not see many Welsh Members present—but with regard to Ireland and to Scotland in their relation to England you have this: they have different laws administered by different Judges, they have widely different histories, they have different religions, they have different customs, and, especially with regard to Ireland, they have different races, for, of course, it is well-known that the great bulk of the people of Scotland are Anglo-Saxons, and belong exactly to the same race as the Northern inhabitants of England. But, however, there are racial differences, and racial differences of a very pronounced character. Now, I beg to say that in my opinion those differences show a line of cleavage by which alone any devolution of Public Business can be effected. Nobody wishes that I am aware of in any way to interfere either with the Sovereignty of this Parliament, or with the full presence of Scotchmen and Irishmen in this House, to take part with Englishmen in the administration of all that concerns the common good. But what we feel in Scotland—those whom I represent, and I feel it myself as strongly as any of them—is this: In the first place that we cannot get our business sufficiently done as things are; and, in the second place, that if we had the opportunity we are not only able but willing heartily to transact our own business in a reasonable, conciliatory, and temperate spirit towards all sections of opinion in Scotland. We are also prepared, in addition, to take our full and equal share with Englishmen and Irishmen in the administration and conduct of business common to the United Kingdom.
§ *(7.7.) MR. ATHERLEY - JONES (Durham, N.W.)
I cannot help thinking that those of us who favour the establishment of Home Rule in Ireland would be likely to be opposed to it if we could see that the necessary corrollary of the establishment of Home Rule in Ireland was to be the establishment of three domestic Parliaments, with three domestic Prime Ministers and three domestic Lord Chancellors, and so forth in the Kingdom, for Scotland, for England, and for the Principality of Wales. I do not however regard the Motion of my hon. Friend as pointing in that direction. I gather that his Motion is a declaration, perhaps couched in somewhat infelicitous 1704 language, that it is desirable that there should be a devolution of the functions of Parliament in respect of certain domestic matters upon certain bodies constituted ad hoc in Scotland, England, Ireland, and Wales. I must say I could not follow the speech, in sympathy at any rate, of my hon. and learned Friend who last spoke, in his somewhat gloomy jeremiad over the condition of Scotland. My hon. and learned Friend adverted to the great want of time which was suffered by Scotland for the transaction of its own domestic business. Now, I am bound to say that with the single exception of the question connected with a very debatable subject—that of the liquor traffic—he did not advance one single instance of a Scotch measure ripe for legislative treatment which has been neglected by the Imperial Parliament.
§ Mil. R. T. REID
I beg my hon. Friend's pardon—I only quoted one instance; but my hon. Friend was not in the House when a long list was given to the House by the hon. Member for Dundee.
§ * MR. ATHERLEY-JONES
My hon. and learned Friend is inaccurate. I was not in my seat, but I have learned from an hon. Friend what took place, and I say that no question ripe for legislative treatment of capital importance has ever been neglected by this Imperial Parliament. But I admit that undoubtedly there is a very considerable arrear of urgent and pressing business relating to all parts of the United Kingdom. I admit that there are many measures, especially as regards social reform, to which the people of this country look for legislative treatment; but the hon. and learned Member and those who have spoken upon this question must remember that we have been passing through a singularly abnormal period in the history of this country, that the time of this House has been almost monopolised by the great Irish question, and I altogether deny the main premiss of my hon. and learned Friend that the House of Commons is a mere legislative machine. My hon. and learned Friend said there was not time for passing measures, and referred to the great waste of time in talk. What I contend is this, that primarily—or at any rate it is hardly of secondary importance—the function of this House is to debate serious questions 1705 and so bring them into a condition ripe for legislative treatment. Has my hon. and learned Friend considered what the establishment of a local Parliament in Scotland means? Does he consider that it means a Parliament with an Executive responsible to the Crown, does he consider that it means a Parliament which will have its alter ego in this Parliament and that it will undoubtedly make this Parliament a battle-ground for continual exactions, for continual fresh concessions? Undoubtedly the whole of the integrity, continuity, and symmetry of the domestic policy which is pursued by this country, would be utterly and entirely destroyed. I should like to ask my hon. and learned Friend, and those who think with him, what would become of this Parliament when domestic Parliaments had been established in the three Kingdoms and the Principality of Wales for the purpose of dealing with all those domestic questions which pertain to Home Government? What I conceive would be left to this Parliament would be a wrangling for further concessions to those various countries, and a mischievous and unnecessary interference with the affairs of our Colonies and with foreign affairs. I am bound to say that I do not look with anything but dismay to the idea of establishing four effective Parliaments in the United Kingdom with four effective Executives, depending upon the Sovereign of this country. I think the proposition only requires to be stated in order to show its absurdity. On the other hand I well recognise the desirability of the devolution of Business.
§ * MR. ATHERLEY-JONES
Well, I think the suggestion made by the late Mr. Bright was a very excellent suggestion, and that is the creation of Grand Committees for Scotland and for Wales. I altogether sever and differentiate the case of Ireland from that of Scotland and Wales.
§ * MR. ATHERLEY-JONES
Let my hon. and learned Friend show that there is any strong desire on the part of the people of Scotland or the people of Wales for a local Parliament. Why, this very Debate comes off to-night only by the most strenuous and factitious exertions of hon. Members, and already we are threatened with 1706 extinction. My hon. and learned Friend says why not for Ireland? Because Ireland has had a history altogether different from the history of Scotland or of Wales in relation to this country. I am not going to discuss the question of Home Rule in Ireland. Theoretically the question may be open to very grave and perhaps doubtful arguments. But I am dealing with the question as a question of practical politics, and I say that there is no doubt that as a matter of practical politics, if my hon. and learned Friend can prove to demonstration such a volume of public opinion extending over such a long series of years, in spite of every effort, both conciliatory and anti-conciliatory, on the part of the Government of England for the concession of a local Parliament, then I say he might have made out a case worthy of the consideration of this House. It is for this reason that I support the Motion of my hon. Friend. I support it in the sense in which I understand it to be, not a declaration in favour of the establishment of separate Parliaments, but a declaration in favour of the devolution of peculiarly Scotch business to Committees and bodies appinted for dealing effectively with those matters which at present are so much neglected.
§ (7.20.) COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
I am glad that the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has concluded as he has done, and that he is going to vote for the Motion of the hon. Member for Caithness. I also, in voting for this Motion, share the views of the hon. Member for Durham, and claim the same amount of liberty. I intend to vote for it as I read it, or rather, perhaps I should say, as I choose to read it. I am very glad that this question has been raised. At any rate, for one thing it has elicited the expression from the Scotch Members that they also desire Home Rule, and I am very glad of that expression upon their part, because I think it will strengthen the Irish demand. I am glad also that the hon. Member for Caithness said that he thought the minimum amount of Home Rule that should be given, either to Ireland or any other part of the United Kingdom, was that expressed in the Motion on the Paper before the House, that is the Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for South Armagh. So that in many respects I consider this Motion a satisfactory one, as ventilating an important question. 1707 However, I may fairly say, having some experience of the history of Home Rule in this House, and possibly out of this House, that it must be allowed on all hands that the demand from Scotland has not been up to the present as strong and as urgent as it has been from Ireland; but there is also no doubt that the demand for some sort of Home Rule—not necessarily the same as in Ireland but some sort of Home Rule—in Scotland is a growing one. I have no right to speak from what I know of the Scotch people; but certainly from what I know of the Scotch Members—having been for 20 years in the House—I must say that every year a larger and larger number of Scotch Members seem to be anxious that some sort of Home Rule should be established for Scotland. So far as Ireland is concerned, I must, to a slight degree, differ from the hon. Member for Caithness. He seems to think that Ireland is especially enamoured of the Federal principle. I have no right to put myself forward as the exponent of the opinion of the whole of Ireland; but I give my own opinion and the opinion of my constituents in the West of Ireland. They do not reject repeal of the Union. They would be very glad to have repeal of the Union; but, of course, if they had repeal of the Union, their position would be extremely anomalous—they could not then have a Regent and could not have an Executive. The Irish people accepted the Bill of 1886 as an honest solution of the question, though not all that they wished or desired, but as an honest, fair solution of the question. The Federal system, as pointed out by the hon. Member for Caithness, is an excellent one. He gave an excellent example of it in relation to New York and the rest of the United States. We should be very glad to take the position Canada has in regard to the United Kingdom. That, perhaps, is asking far too much, or at least more than we are likely to get; but without being particularly in love with the Federal system, I think it is a good one, and I think any one who desires Home Rule can very properly and fairly vote for this Resolution. The hon. Member for Caithness has done one thing in framing his Motion; he has put Ireland first. As he fairly said, Ireland has brought this question to the 1708 front, has worked for it for a long time, and four-fifths of the Irish Members have repeatedly voted for something in that direction. The hon. Member for Dumfries shared the views of the hon. Member for Caithness. He said that the case of Ireland ought to come even before that of Scotland and for the same reason, that Ireland had made many sacrifices and had worked strenuously for the last 18 years. I think the Scotch Members have brought forward this question in a perfectly fair and legitimate way, and I think they ought to receive all support from the Irish Home Rule Members. The English Members are apt to make light of this question of Home Rule, and to say that this question is of no importance; but the explanation is a very simple one. The English people have got Home Rule at present. The English Members are about two to one of all the other Members put together, and they could carry any question they liked through the House. There was only one dread I had with respect to this Resolution, and that has been, I must say, completely removed by the speeches of the hon. Member for Caithness and the hon. Member for Dumfries. I was afraid that it might possibly be taken as a pretext to put off Home Rule in the next Parliament, and that a Party might spring up and say, "Let us elaborate a complete Federal system before we give Home Rule to Ireland." That would be very dangerous, for it has already taken 18 years to bring the Irish question to the front, and to thoroughly thresh out and ventilate the question.
§ (7.30.) MR. MARK J. STEWART (Kirkcudbright)
My hon. Friend the Member for the Dumfries Burghs has made the congestion of Scotch business the gravamen of his complaint. He has said that there are many Bills like the Liquor Veto (Scotland) Bill and the Land Transfer Bill which have been before the House for many years, and for which no time could be found for discussion. If the question of Home Rule for Ireland had not been started and carried on in the way in which it has been by hon. Gentlemen opposite, there would have been ample time for the discussion of these and other interesting Scotch measures; but so long as hon. Members choose to indulge in hobbies that can never be realised, so long will 1709 they prevent real business being done. The system of devolution is undoubtedly a valuable help. The Grand Committees on the Public Health Act, the Bankruptcy Bill, and other measures have saved endless hours of discussion in the House, and good legislation has been the result. As far as local business is concerned, I have always thought that the present Government have done more than any preceding Government. They have brought in and passed measures of Local Government for England and Scotland, and it is therefore absurd to say that nothing is being done, and that nothing has been done in this direction. The congestion of business comes through many Members on both sides of the House not wishing Bills to be carried. Although the House does not pass a great amount of Scotch legislation, when any Scotch question comes up for discussion, and it is felt that it ought to be dealt with, the Government in power are bound to take it up, and this is to a large extent now done. Many questions are decided in this House, which, though they cannot be called exclusively Scotch questions, have a strong bearing on Scotland; and, on the whole, I consider that Scotch business is well attended to. That is, indeed, the opinion of the Scotch people, who would not care to have a Parliament in Scotland. They would sooner send to London a man who had time to attend to questions of an Imperial character than send him to Edinburgh to attend to local matters, and it would be extremely difficult to get gentlemen of leisure to attend a provincial Parliament held in Edinburgh and the Imperial Parliament held in London. If, on the other hand, they paid their Members, what would the ratepayers say? For these and other reasons I need not go into, I am satisfied that there is no real feeling on this question in Scotland, and that the agitation for Home Rule is propagated and maintained by agitators. The empty Benches to-night, especially the Front Opposition Bench, which is deserted by all save the Member for Berwickshire (Mr. Marjoribanks), proves that no real interest is taken in the question.
§ (7.40.) MR. BARTON (Armagh, Mid)
I desire that there shall be no mistake or misunderstanding as to the attitude which the Ulster Members take up on this question. We are opposed to any 1710 interference with the legislative authority of the House, and we object to this Resolution because it is undoubtedly intended to enlarge the demand for Home Rule. I was astonished to hear hon. Members say that Ireland was more entitled in this matter to separate treatment than Scotland. For hundreds of years Scotland had a separate King, a separate Army, and a separate Navy, as well as the power of sending her own Ambassadors to other Courts. But nothing of the kind has ever occurred in Ireland. Almost from first to last the history of Ireland has been one of feuds and factions, and the only continuity Ireland has received has been from the Union. There is, however, one part of Ireland which has had a continuous history, and which, if racial and historical differences are considered, would be entitled to separate treatment—a part of Ireland which will have to be counted with if this question of Federalism is taken up—and that part is Ulster. This Debate, however, can hardly be regarded as serious, except that everything Scotch is serious to some extent.
§ (7.44.) MR. THOMAS ELLIS (Merionethshire)
I desire to strongly support this Motion, because the number of social, industrial, and political questions which have arisen has produced a congestion of business in this House which can only be increased in future years. The late Mr. Parnell took as keen a measure as any man of the possibilities and capacities of the House, and he said that it was impossible for it to do the work of four Assemblies. The Motion we are now considering indicates a step which must be taken in a few years. The arguments used about Scotland are equally applicable to the case of Wales. The vast majority of the Representatives of Wales are constantly being voted down, and their actually unanimous voice is repeatedly being overwhelmed by the voices of Members for other parts of the Kingdom. It is for these reasons that I support the Motion of my hon. Friend, and I hope to be able to follow him into the Division Lobby.
§ *(7.46.) THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. RITCHIE, Tower Hamlets, St. George's)
I do not think it will be necessary for me to trouble the House at any length. As the hon. Member for Mid Armagh said, 1711 it is really difficult to treat this Motion quite seriously, looking at the condition of the House. It is evident, from the small number of Members present, that no great demand exists for Home Rule in Scotland, Ireland, or Wales, and it is impossible for me to come to the conclusion that the statements in the Resolution can at all be borne out. The thinness of the House shows that the interest in the matter is extremely small in three of the nationalities. Last year the hon. Member for Caithness brought forward a Resolution in almost the same terms, and the result was that not 40 faithful Members could be found to assist in carrying the Debate to a conclusion. So it was on Tuesday night last, when a Bill was before the House dealing with the same question; again not 40 faithful Members would support the hon. Member in charge of the Bill to bring the Debate to a conclusion.
§ * MR. RITCHIE
Yes; but there are the Irish Members, and surely that remark comes with a bad grace from a Member of the Party which attaches most importance to this question, as it affects Ireland, and says Ireland must come first. Judging from the fact that there is not a single Member from Ireland on the opposite Benches; that there are very few from Scotland, and only two from Wales, I think there is pretty good evidence of the fact that a demand for Home Rule does not find expression in this House. It will be admitted that a proposal of such a vast and drastic character is only warranted by two things—the existence of grievances which cannot otherwise be remedied, or the existence of a demand so general as to render it necessary that it should be considered. Even if we were to admit the justice of every single complaint that has been made by hon. Members opposite, no unprejudiced person would say that anything like a case has been made out for trying an experiment so dangerous as that proposed. What do the complaints amount to? The hon. Member for Dundee cited names from a list of Bills, and said—The Access to Mountains Bill has not been passed; that is a reason why we should have a separate Parliament.He named other Bills of trivial importance, and said that the failure to make progress with them was an argument for 1712 the creation of five Parliaments. No doubt there has been delay in Scotch business, as in other business, so far as legislation is concerned, but what has been the reason? The hon. Member for Dundee frankly stated that the reason of it was that if there were a Parliament for Scotland the Scotch Bills would be passed in a short space of time; but I could not help thinking what a terrible thing it would be for Scotland if the result contemplated were realised. The House of Commons does not exist simply for the purpose of legislation; it exists largely for the ventilation of grievances and debates upon topics that are ripe for discussion. It must not be supposed that because a Bill is not passed, discussion upon it is wasted, or the object of its promoters is not advanced. So it is with regard to Motions—a cause may be advanced by a Debate which appears to come to nothing. Many measures have been passed unanimously which at one time it was difficult to get a small majority to support. Never was so great a change as this proposed upon such small and trivial grounds. The hon. Member for Dundee said that very wisely no details have been given of the plan proposed in the Resolution. No doubt it was wise from the Mover's point of view, and from the point of view of those who desired to support this abstract proposition; but if ever there was a question which ought to be put before the House in detail, it is this question of separate Parliaments for Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. The practical difficulties of the question are enormous. It would be extremely difficult to get a sufficient number of good men to fulfil the functions of Imperial and National Parliaments, and also of the County Councils which happily exist in England and Scotland, and which we hope will soon exist in Ireland. Then there might be enormous friction between the Imperial and the National Parliaments. You might have an Imperial Parliament of a totally different complexion, politically, from the Parliaments in Ireland, or Wales or Scotland.
Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ * MR. RITCHIE
When the interruption took place I was venturing to point out the inconvenience, to say the least of 1713 it, that would propably arise in cases where the Imperial Parliament and Executive were of different political constitution from the local Parliaments. It would not require much elaboration to show that in cases of that kind there might be much and frequent friction; and especially in the case where a local Parliament was not satisfied with the limited power conferred upon it, every opportunity would be taken to demonstrate to the Imperial Parliament that more power ought to be given to it and further duties imposed upon it. And so with regard to all the various Imperial questions, all the matters connected with the Colonies, Foreign Affairs, Imperial Finance, and Customs and Excise—these would all give opportunities to gentlemen from all parts of the country to ventilate grievances of which they might think they had just cause of complaint. While hon. Members spoke mostly with regard to Scotland, they undoubtedly felt that of all parts of the United Kingdom Ireland was the one to which attention would have to be first directed. And, great as would be the difficulties in connection with any local Parliament, I think hon. Members will admit that the difficulties of the situation would be infinitely greater in relation to Ireland than in regard to any other part of the Kingdom. While it is impossible to night to enter into the many technical points connected with this subject, it is certain, however, that nothing short of the most complete freedom for dealing with the land, with the administration of justice, and with the constabulary will satisfy the demand of the Irish people; and although we have not, up to the present, got any plan from the Leader of the Opposition, and although we all know his original proposal has been dropped, would not be accepted, and is not likely to be revived, yet we do know that he has pledged himself that whatever scheme of Home Rule he brings forward should be a scheme which should receive the acceptance of the majority of the Irish Representatives and of the Irish people. Consequently we know that the concession must be to confer the administration of Ireland on those who have been elected by people the majority of whom possess sentiments certainly not friendly to this country, and that they would have the control of the most loyal and prosperous part of Ireland. I want to 1714 know whether those who propose these things imagine for a moment that the people of Ulster would rest contentedly under a Parliament elected largely under the influence of the Roman Catholic priesthood? ("No, no!") Well, I do not wish to enter upon that question now; but I defy contradiction when I assert that under the late elections which have taken place the Roman Catholic priests have exerted their influence to the utmost, both inside and outside the polling booth, in order to induce people to vote for the candidate they chose. I assert that the people of Ulster would never submit to any Parliament elected under such conditions as those. All I can say is that while we are prepared to consider all reasonable grievances, while prepared to extend the system of Local Government in all three countries—as we have done in Scotland, in England, and as we hope to do in Ireland—and that while prepared, when necessity arises, to increase the powers and responsibilities which have already been given to Local Bodies, we shall, whether in office or out of office, offer the most determined, energetic, and continuous opposition to any such proposal as that before us to-night.
§ (8.10.) Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 54; Noes 74.—(Div. List, No. 92.)
§ Main Question again proposed, "That Mr. Deputy Speaker do now leave the Chair."
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ SUPPLY.—Committee upon Monday next.