§ Bill, as amended, further considered.
§ *MR. VICARY GIBBS (Herts,) St. Albans
said, he rose to move in Clause 3, page 2, line 23, to leave out "legal tender," in order to insert "currency." The Chancellor, of the Exchequer, at an earlier stage, had stilted that he would consider whether any safeguards as to currency, and, if so, what, should be brought forward; and as they had since heard nothing from the right hon. Gentleman on the subject he thought he was justified in raising the question, so that the Government might have an opportunity of explaining their views on the matter. No harm would happen through giving the Irish Legislature power over the currency if they did not make an immoderate use of paper. But experience showed that every Government, at any rate, any needy Government always did resort sooner or later to an over-issue of paper. There was no precedent to be found in the civilised world that he knew of for a Central Authority delegating to a subordinate body the power of issuing an unlimited number of notes without providing security for their payment. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had said, in reply to the right hon. Baronet the Member for the University of Loudon (Sir J. Lubbock), that there was no necessity for any such uniformity of currency as would come into effect if the Amendment were accepted, and that if the Irish Legislature desired to issue £1 notes or £2 notes he did not see why they should not be allowed to do so. Such a currency already existed in Scotland, no doubt; but he thought it very desirable that they should do whatever they could to make the currency uniform. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his answer, appeared to miss the essence of the case. This was not a question of the form of the currency, but that the basis on which that currency was issued should be the same in the three parts of the United Kingdom. Speaking for the commercial classes, especially in the North of Ireland, he submitted that great injury would 439 be caused to trade and commerce if the Irish Government were suddenly to contract the right of private banks to issue notes and to over-issue Government notes. If a large issue of notes took place in Ireland it would have a tendency to drive out gold, and consequently to cripple the purchasing power of the country as well as trade between the two countries. He denied that the Amendment, if adopted, would be humiliating to Ireland any more than the Government proposal. It merely proposed to carry out what was admittedly the object of the Government, and was not in any way opposed to the spirit of the Bill. It could not be said that the Amendment was opposed to the general principle of the Bill, which was to give the Irish Government control over purely local matters. It seemed to him quite as important to safeguard the currency as to safeguard legal tender. He did not suppose the Irish Legislature would desire to issue its own notes; but if the Bill passed without this Amendment, it was probable that they would guarantee the notes of a State bank. As happened in other democratic countries, there would be an agitation set on foot for the establishment of a State bank, supported by the guarantee of the Irish Government, and the tendency would be to give it an undue preference over the existing Irish banks. The way in which it would be done would be this—the Irish Legislature would supplement the insufficient reserve which they would compel the State bank to keep against the issue of notes, by their own guarantee; they would stop the issue of notes by other banks, or increase the severity of the present restrictions upon such issue. The Irish people would be perfectly ready to accept the State bank paper, and a largo amount of it would get into circulation, there being no real reserve or protection to the holders of the paper, the security being simply the power of the Irish Government to tax the people. The establishment of such a system would give enormous power to a Government that would be stronger in eloquence than in finance—power in the matter of overdrafts and so on. A bank scandal might arise, everybody would rush to the State bank to convert their notes into gold. There would be enormous pressure for gold, and the State bank would get into 440 difficulties. That, however, would not be the worst. Pressure, which the House of Commons would be unable to resist, would be brought to bear in favour of repealing that part of the Bill which restricted the Irish Government from dealing with matters relating to "legal tender," and that not at the instance of the Irish Legislature, but of the holders of the State paper, who, obviously, would find themselves ruined. It was on this account, and because it seemed to him that it was a necessary and proper development of the proviso the Government had themselves introduced, that he ventured again to press the Amendment on the House. There would be, of course, many other inconveniences that would react on English trade resulting from interference by the Irish Government with the Currency Laws. How had the Amendment been received in Committee by the Irish Members? The hon. Member for the County of Dublin had spoken at length on the subject, and had poured forth the vials of his wrath upon the right hon. Baronet the Member for the University of London and the right hon. Gentleman the late Chancellor of the Exchequer for the manner in which they had argued in favour of that Amendment. The hon. Member had declared that the proposal was insulting to Ireland. That was an unreasonable statement, seeing that the proposal was only made in the interests of sound commerce. And the hon. Member had said that the Irish Legislature did not require to be lectured by Lombard Street; that England had degraded the currency—though he had omitted to say how—and that when Ireland got Home Rule she would teach banking to England. That was what he (Mr. Vicary Gibbs) was very much afraid of—that Ireland would give us very striking illustrations of how banking ought not to be conducted. He would suggest to the hon. Member the adoption of a little more modesty in the expression of his views—
§ *MR. VICARY GIBBS
said, he did not know that that course was out of Order, and he, therefore, apologised, for what he had said. He would only ex- 441 press a hope that the Government would recognise that the Amendment was not brought forward vexatiously, or with the idea of obstruction, but in the desire that the Government would see their way to carry out that which the Chancellor of the Exchequer led the Committee to believe they might hope to see carried out, and so remove a serious source of danger if the Bill became law in the form in which it now stood.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 2, line 23, to leave out the words "legal tender," in order to insert the word "currency."—(Mr. Vicary Gibbs.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words 'legal tender' stand part of the Bill."
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. E. GLADSTONE,) Edinburgh, Midlothian
As the hon. Member has pointed out, the Chancellor of the Exchequer stated that he would not lose sight of this question, but would endeavour to make sure that the enactment in the Bill was a sound one. Well, the result of the consideration of this subject promised by my right hon. Friend is that the Government think it quite right that there should be uniformity of tender and uniformity of coinage in the three countries; and to that proposition, as I understand, the Irish Representatives have given their cordial assent. But outside the question of coinage and legal tender there is the question of voluntary currency; and that voluntary currency exists in this country, in Scotland, and in Ireland under the authority of the State, but, though under the authority of the State, having no special virtue. There is no special wisdom in our legislation about the notes of private banks in any of the three countries; it is the result of accident and of the fact that great difficulties have been found to attend the removal of the system, which is a very indifferent system and has no particular recommendation at all, while it deprives the State, in point of fact, of a most legitimate Revenue to which it is entitled from the profit of this circulation. I myself, when Chancellor of the Exchequer, made a very earnest effort to try and amend that state of things; but on the Third Reading of my Bill I failed in the effort. That was about 30 years ago, and nobody since has thought fit to attempt the same invidious office. The 442 Irish Legislature may have a great deal more youthful vigour for this practical purpose than we have, and it is possible they may do good, and, without injustice to anybody, may secure a perfectly honest and unexceptionable Revenue from the voluntary currency in Ireland, though we have failed, or almost failed, to do it; and our legislation on the whole matter, though good in certain points—notably the Bank Charter Act of 1844—yet has not been developed, and has never been anything but a bungling business. I hope the Irish may manage these matters better than we have done—they cannot very well manage them worse. But, Sir, to take this matter out of Irish hands, in my opinion, would be most unjust; whether they manage it well or ill is a matter for the Irish to consider. They should be allowed to exercise their own discretion; and when they come to be invested with the power of domestic government, whatever may be the course taken by Ulster Members and anti-Nationalists, I believe they will stand up firmly for their prerogatives, and will endeavour to make honest gains at the expense of nobody, under sound principles of commercial law—of course, without invading the provisions of the Statute in respect of coinage and legal tender. The Government, therefore, are at issue with the hon. Member on this subject, and must adhere to the Bill.
§ MR. GOSCHEN (St. George's, Hanover Square)
Although I believe it is not so absolutely out of Order on the Report stage to refer to speeches made in Committee as the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board appears to suppose, I do not myself propose to allude to the Debate which took place on a previous occasion, except to refer, as the right hon. Gentleman did himself, to the declaration of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, on the force of which the Amendment was withdrawn. I regret that the Government have not seen their way to meet the views of the Opposition in any degree. What we put forward was this—that the powers which this Bill gives of issuing inconvertible currency ought not to be given, at all events—
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
Inconvertible currency means an instrument that cannot be converted, but is made so by the law.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
I do not know whether hon. and right hon. Gentlemen have thought out the force of that definition; but I think it will be admitted that generally speaking among financiers, in common parlance, the idea of inconvertible currency is a currency that cannot be converted into gold or silver when desired. However, the right hon. Gentleman objects to my words, and I will, therefore, put the matter into the plainest possible language. Under this Bill, the Irish Government will have the power of issuing any number of bank notes without holding any reserve of gold or silver for it. The right is to be given to this Government to issue paper money without its being represented by specie. I think that is a power which it is dangerous to give, not to Irishmen alone—for I do not suspect them in this case—but a Government which is likely to be in financial difficulties. ["Oh!"] Hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway say "Oh!" but I thought that was their view.
MR. ELYNN (Cork, N.)
You argue the other way.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
I think it very likely that the Irish Government may get into financial difficulties, and that we shall not get from them what we ought to get. The Irish Government might find itself in difficulties, and it is suggested that provisions should be inserted in the Bill which would remove the greatest part of the danger which we foresee. My right hon. Friend is opposed to the proposal not only from an English or an Irish point of view, but because he has an old quarrel with the issues of £1 notes in Scotland, and a still greater quarrel with the issues of private banks in this country. These banks defeated my right hon. Friend—I regret they did defeat him—a good many years ago, and he has since some prejudice against the existing banking system. But I think it will be a surprise to the public to hear from my right hon. Friend that we have a bad banking system, and that he looks to the representatives of the tenant farmers of 444 Ireland as more likely to establish a sound system of currency than the Imperial Parliament with all its great traditions, and under his own guidance. I cannot bear to hear my right hon. Friend always attacking his own reputation, because if the English banking system is bad why is it that we are not in a better position, considering that my right hon. Friend, apart from the question of private issues, has had universal power during the last 50 years? No doubt during the last few years my right hon. Friend has been very much occupied with other matters; but he has had greater opportunities than any other man in the House to carry out improvements in the banking system.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
But my right hon. Friend used the very words that we might, perhaps, take lessons in banking from the Irish Legislature. That is an attack, not only on the Parliament, which he now frequently indulges in, but an attack on my right hon. Friend's own past. But there is another consideration. What is to be the position of this country and of Scotland if Members from Ireland are to vote upon the English and Scotch currency system, while English and Scotch Members will not have power to interfere with the Irish currency at all? This might be done. In England and Scotland we may sustain the present system by the help of the votes of the Irish Members, while that very same system might be abolished in Ireland by the influence of the very same gentlemen; for while my right hon. Friend is anxious to give the Irish Members an entirely free hand to deal with the currency and banking system in Ireland, he will allow 83 of them to come over here, and perhaps affect by their votes the position of the Bank of England with which they would not be connected in any way. I can understand that each country should have power to deal with its own currency; but that Ireland only should be allowed to deal with its own currency, and that England and Scotland should be placed in a disadvantageous position in respect of theirs as compared with Ireland, is a thing I cannot understand. If this Bill should not pass, and Her Majesty's Government should introduce another, I hope they 445 will consider how the question of the currency may be dealt with in a manner less open to objection.
§ *MR. VICARY GIBBS
said, he wished to have the ruling of Mr. Speaker on a point of Order. It was whether he was in Order in referring, as he had done a while ago, to a speech made in Committee on the same question?
§ *THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. H. H. FOWLER,) Wolverhampton, E.
had objected to the hon. Member's remarks as being out of Order, and for the guidance of their future discussions he desired to have a ruling of Mr. Speaker on the point.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The practice is not to refer to previous Debates on other subjects in the same Session; but it is in Order to refer to previous Debates on the subject. It is a question of degree. The hon. Member referred in detail to a speech at great length, and in doing so he was scarcely within the rule of Order.
§ *MR. H. H. FOWLER
My reason for calling "Order" was that the hon. Member was replying to a speech delivered in Committee, item by item and argument by argument, and I submitted that that was not in Order.
§ MR. COURTNEY (Cornwall, Bodmin)
said, that he had not taken part in the discussion of this point in Committee, not because he had had no sympathy with the Amendment, but because he had looked forward with hope to the exclusion of the Irish Members from the Imperial Parliament under Home Rule; and, under these circumstances, he had felt some difficulty in asserting that the Irish Legislature should not have the power of dealing with the currency in their own country. But, the proposal to exclude the Irish Members having been defeated, they were now to proceed on the basis that the Irish Members were to remain in the House; and, that being the case, the point was whether the question of currency in Ireland should he referred to the Imperial Parliament, of which the Irish Members were to form a part, or to the Irish Legislature alone. With respect to the Motion he felt some difficulty. The hon. Member proposed to omit "legal tender" in order to insert "currency." He thought it difficult to exclude legal tender, although there was no difficulty in including currency in the excluded sub- 446 jects. The Irish Legislature might have power to determine what was legal tender without having any power to deal with currency. They might have an unlimited power of making silver money legal tender; but he doubted whether his right hon. Friend the Member for St. George's (Mr. Goschen) would think that that was a reasonable power to give to the Irish Legislature. Let legal tender remain, and then the question arose whether currency should be added to the subjects with which the Irish Legislature was not to deal?
§ MR. GOSCHEN
I look upon the word "currency" as including "legal tender." It will include any notes that would be legal tender.
§ MR. COURTNEY
said that, in his opinion, currency did not, include legal tender. But the question raised by the Amendment was whether the Irish Legislature should have the power of regulating the currency. The Prime Minister based his opposition to the Amendment on two grounds: first, the difficulty of making the currency of the three portions of the United Kingdom uniform; and, secondly, his own difficulty in completing Sir R. Peel's Act when he was defeated on the Bill he laid before Parliament in 1867. But the fact that they had not been able to make the currency of the three portions of the United Kingdom uniform was no reason why they should not press on to that end. Up to the period of the Civil War in America the note issues were regulated by each State, the laws varying from State to State; and the consequence was that a very considerable amount of confusion was produced in the internal trade and commerce of the American Union. It was the war legislation which provided national banks and greenbacks, and the national banks did then, for the first time, create a uniform system of currency throughout the American Union. Why should not we strive to make the law of the United Kingdom the same in all its parts with respect to the issue of notes? The Prime Minister referred in severe terms to the opposition that the bankers who had privileged issues brought to bear against the Bill of 1867. The right hon. Gentleman could never forgive those unfortunate bankers for having rallied their forces so strongly as to 447 defeat that Bill. But he must know that the position or attitude of private bankers, joint-stock bankers in England having privileged issues, was very different now from what it was in 1867—that a large number of such bankers had abandoned their privileges, and that it would be a comparatively easy matter now to take steps which should altogether get rid of the private privileges with respect to issue which were still enjoyed by the surviving bankers, and to establish, as far as England was concerned, a really State-regulated currency. He thought it might be possible, moreover, to bring Ireland and Scotland into the same system. What he conceived to be the real danger which would arise in Ireland in regard to this matter if the Bill became law in its present form was that probably something would be done in imitation of the national bank system in the United States, leading, perhaps, to a depreciated currency, which would operate very much to the injury of Ireland and the disorganisation of her trade with Great Britain. He did not see why the Irish Members should object to work with other Members in an effort to obtain a uniform law for the whole of the United Kingdom as to the issue of notes. The difficulties in the way of getting uniform legislation on this subject from the Imperial Parliament affecting all parts of the United Kingdom were not, in his judgment, so serious now as they had been, and he thought it might be obtained in a reasonable time, and in a manner which would be satisfactory to each part of the United Kingdom. It was certainly inadvisable that there should be a separate system of currency in different parts of the United Kingdom. He would support the Amendment if it were altered to include legal tender.
§ *MR. COHEN (Islington, E.)
said, he would not have the boldness of venturing to decide whether currency included legal tender or not; but they were desirous of depriving the Irish Legislature of the power of dealing with currency as well as legal tender, and he had the authority of the hon. Member for St. Albans (Mr. Vicary Gibbs) for saying that he would prefer to vary his Amendment so as simply to add the word "currency" to the words "legal tender." He had heard the speech of the Prime Minister with great surprise. Over and 448 over again the right hon. Gentleman had told them that the object of the Bill was to give Ireland the control of matters entirely affecting her domestic affairs, and to reserve to the Imperial Parliament all subjects affecting International relations. He could conceive no question—and he had some little experience in International Exchanges—which could more affect the International relations of a country than its currency. For his own part, he would prefer to withhold both legal tender and currency from the Irish Legislature; but if he had to make a choice he would give the Irish Parliament power to control legal tender, and certainly reserve to the Imperial Parliament, in the interest of Ireland itself, absolute, complete, unfettered control of the currency. The currency included paper money, and he ventured to say that no greater disaster could overtake a country than a depreciated paper currency. It was perfectly certain that if, no matter for what reason, there was to be an inflated and depreciated currency in Ireland, every farthing of gold or silver or other metal available for the currency would automatically and irresistibly leave the country, and this would possibly lead to a state of things from which Ireland would suffer terribly. It was, therefore, in the interest of Ireland that he urged the acceptance of the Amendment.
§ *MR. R. B. MARTIN (Worcester, Droitwich),
who was most imperfectly heard, was understood to say that the danger would be in regard to the concessions to banks all over the country for note issue, a system which, to a large extent, they had got rid of in England. Note issue by private banks was a very useful form of currency, but one that was dangerous for new Governments and opposed to the present doctrines of political economy. He thought there would be a great temptation to raise money by making concessions to banks for power to issue notes—a temptation that was not altogether for the good of a country. It was, probably, not generally known that in Scotland and Ireland there was no legal tender but the English sovereign. The £1 notes, which were so convenient in form and amount, and some of them so objectionable in personal appearance, were not a legal tender; and though universally accepted by the country as 449 being as good as a sovereign, they had had experience in Scotland that that was not always the case, and when there was some doubt and difficulty about accepting the notes of Scotch banks as sufficient. In Ireland it would be most inconvenient to the trade, and a source of great anxiety, if there was power granted to issue bank notes in one part of Ireland and power refused to issue them in another portion. He, therefore, hoped the Government would accept the Amendment, and not allow these difficulties to be introduced into Ireland. He hoped that the Government would include currency as well as legal tender in the exemption, leaving both of those matters to be treated by the Imperial Parliament, and not by any local Government set up either in Ireland, Wales, or Scotland.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR (Manchester, E.)
My right hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin (Mr. Courtney) has startled us all by suggesting the doubt whether this Amendment carries out the meaning it had in the minds of my hon. Friend who moved it, and us who intend to support it. My right hon. Friend seems to think a case might arise in which it would be possible for the Irish Government to deal with legal tender without dealing with currency, and the particular case he put forward was—could they not consider their currency a legal tender for all parts? I am advised that that would be a case of dealing with the currency; that in reality the words proposed by my hon. Friend not only carries out the meaning he wishes, but preserves the old meaning the Government desire to give to the Bill. I admit this is a question chiefly for lawyers, and that no general agreement of interpretation can, therefore, be accepted; but I hope that my right hon. Friend will not abstain from supporting this Amendment on the very doubtful ground he has taken, because, by the Rules of the House, I believe it would not be possible to substitute the new forms he suggests, and which, I am ready to admit, more satisfactorily carry out the object in view. Well, Sir, I leave that which is the question affecting the limitation of the Amendment, and come, in the few words I mean to make, to the line taken by the Government on this question; and I cannot help having a dark suspicion that the pledge or the 450 undertaking given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer was, perhaps, not very seriously considered between the day on which he gave it and the day on which it is to be redeemed. I do not greatly blame the Government, for I admit that occasionally I am brought face to face with some hasty observations of my own on previous stages of the Bill, and I do not wish to unfairly criticise or make any observations approaching bad faith as to the line they have taken; but I am forced to believe they have not very carefully considered this question, because, from the whole speech of the Prime Minister, it is perfectly evident, not that he did not see we bad a legitimate object in view, but thought this Amendment, if carried, would produce certain advantages of which he did not approve. He laid it down the Irish Government should be allowed to deal with the question of note issue from private banks—if you carried this Amendment it would prevent them. I will not argue the question whether the Irish Government ought to have that power; but I think it is arguable whether they should have that power; and if the Government had devoted much time and attention to this question, they could have found a method that would have left the Irish Government power to deal with this question of private note issue in Ireland and prevented them making that unlimited issue which, if not a legal tender, would be a customary tender, and which is the main danger we have to anticipate. So far as I recollect the speech of the right hon. Gentleman at the heal of the Government, he did not touch on the danger of this unlimited or excessive note issue; yet does not the whole history of the world, and the history of Ireland in particular, show that is a danger from which they may not have immunity? The right hon. Gentleman is fond of crediting the Irish people with special capacities for government—
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I merely protested against placing them on a level lower than that of human beings.
§ An hon. Member: Hottentots.451
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Hottentots are human beings, but I am not aware what the lower order of animals have to do with note issues or bank currency. I may be permitted to say that I do not think that what we know of Irish history indicates that they have exceptional aptitudes in the direction of commerce or trade. Their great gifts—and they have great gifts—lie in a less prosaic direction; and when the Assembly of this almost purely agricultural country has to deal with these questions of currency and tender, I do not see any reason for anticipating they will show greater wisdom than has been shown by their forefathers. Then let it be admitted, as it must be admitted, that if this Bill passes as it stands, it will be in the power of the Irish Government to make their note issue a customary issue, an issue which the habits and traditions of the people will make them readily accept as money, and make that either absolutely inconvertible or, it may be, far in excess of any metallic basis which may rest as the foundation of the note issue. If they did this Ireland would suffer from all the evils necessarily incident on convertible currency. So far as the great commercial interests of Belfast and Dublin require protection—so far as this country is concerned—if there was not an excessive currency, it would produce nothing but local injury, and they might be allowed to work out their own salvation in these matters, and go through a little experience of the local views of this question. But it would not be a local injury; an injury of this kind must spread to Great Britain, and would not only spread to Great Britain in the form of an interference with the trade between the two Islands, but probably would come before us in a far more concrete and dangerous form; and I certainly anticipate that now you have brought the Irish 80 Members into Parliament, if they find themselves in their own country face to face with the probable consequences of their own imprudence in these matters, they will come to us for relief. They will point out with perfect truth that it is not to the interests of the United Kingdom that one of its members should be insolvent; that it was an injury not to Ireland merely, but to Scotland and England, and they would say to you—"You, with your 452 great wealth behind you, must come and help us in our difficulties. We acted for the best, but they have not come up to our anticipations, and we ask you to relieve us." You would have to relieve them, and the result, therefore, of leaving to the Irish Legislature an unlimited power of dealing with a customary note issue—a power they would have a temptation to abuse—would be, in the long run, to inflict an injury not confined to Ireland alone, or to the commercial interests of England and Scotland, in so far as they are dependent on Ireland. The evil we should have to deal with within these walls, and it would touch the pockets of every taxpayer in Great Britain.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 187; Noes 145.—(Division List, No. 270.)
§ *MR. VICARY GIBBS
moved the following Amendment:—Clause 3, page 2, line 23, after 'legal tender' insert 'bills of exchange.'The hon. Member said that, although this Amendment was perhaps not so important as that upon which the House had just divided, yet he was convinced that if it were not adopted serious inconvenience to, and restrictions on, trade might follow. Bills of exchange at the present moment were governed by the Act of 1882, which codified the law and made it uniform throughout the Three Kingdoms; and it appeared to him, if this Amendment were not accepted, it would be in the power of the Irish Government to take a retrograde step against the interests of the general trade of the Three Kingdoms by making alterations in the law relating to bills of exchange, and so destroying the uniformity which they had been at so much pains to obtain, which had done so much to stop litigation on that complicated subject, and given so much satisfaction to the commercial classes. The Prime Minister said it was necessary that uniformity of Commercial Law should prevail throughout these Islands. If they had a separate Parliament for Ireland he (Mr. Gibbs) was sure it would not prevail, but, at the same time, he considered it their duty to make it prevail where it was at all possible to do so. When the attention of the Prime Minister was called to the 453 remarks to which he had referred, the right hon. Gentleman implied that these bills related to internal trade, and that what he had said had nothing to do with internal trade. But that was in contradiction to the remarks of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who, when certain inconveniences were pressed upon him that might result from alterations of the law in Ireland, pointed out that the Irish Government were prohibited from dealing with any matters of trade outside Ireland, so that this prohibition would apply to exchange of bills if they were matters of trade outside Ireland, as he (Mr. Gibbs) believed they were. They might be, as the Prime Minister had implied, matters of internal trade, but they were not purely matters of internal trade. What would be the position, if this Bill became law, of the holders of bills of exchange, whether drawn in Ireland on England or in England on Ireland? They had two classes of bills—English and foreign bills. They knew perfectly well when they were holders of either one or the other what their position and rights were. Bills after they were drawn and accepted were discounted and re-discounted, endorsed and re-endorsed, and they formed one of the principal features in modern commerce. What he wanted to know was, whether the Government had thought this matter out, and considered what inconveniences and disadvantages might arise if the Irish Government were to be allowed to deal with the laws as to bills of exchange as separate from the laws of the United Kingdom on the subject? Take the case of a bill drawn in Cork on London. The Irish drawer drew on an English acceptor and discounted the bill. The discounter now took into consideration not merely the credit of the English acceptor, who was the first person he could go against to recover the money expended in discounting the bill, but also the credit of the Irish drawer, whom he knew he could afterwards go against if the acceptor failed. But what would be the position suppose the Irish Government passed some law which had the effect of making it easier for the Irish drawer to escape his ultimate liability under the bill? Suppose they were to say that something should constitute laches in the action of the holder of a bill in endeavouring to recover 454 from the acceptor, and that something should release the drawer which did not release him now, the effect of that would be to make Irish bills drawn in Ireland on England of a different character from an ordinary inland bill; they would thus be less acceptable to the discounting houses, and consequently tend to restrict trade between England and Ireland, and would injure, pro tanto, the two countries. Take, again, a bill which was drawn in London on Dublin. The drawer drew on the man in Dublin, and then discounted the bill. When the time came for the due date of the bill, the holder sent the bill to Dublin in order to collect the money. Supposing that the money was not paid; that some Irish law was passed, and that under this law the holder, in the process of endeavouring to recover against the drawer, failed to do something, or did a thing which he should not do, and which again constituted laches according to the view of the Irish law on the subject. The effect of that would be to release all the solvent endorsers of the bill, and let them go free. If the Irish Parliament had a right to alter the law of bills of exchange, they might make such alterations as would put these bills of exchange in a different position from ordinary English bills, and thus constitute a third class of bills which City men would have to consider and learn all about. He could not see why the Government should not accept this Amendment. When the matter was discussed in Committee this subject of bills of exchange was coupled with the question of Irish banks, which were both put in one Amendment so as to save time. It appeared to him that there was an infinitely stronger case for depriving the Irish Legislature of the right of interfering with the law on bills of exchange than of depriving them of the right of legislation with regard to banks. It would be a great disadvantage to the commercial classes in England if an Irish Parliament were to be allowed to legislate separately on this matter. The Government might say that if the Irish Parliament altered the law, those who were interested in the matter should make themselves acquainted with the alteration. It was quite enough for them to be expected to know their own law, without being compelled to follow any operations of the law in Ireland connected 455 with bills of exchange. When speaking on this subject in Committee the Chancellor of the Exchequer said the exception of trade was an exception from the powers of the Irish Legislature which would be operative upon both classes of bills; and if the matter were connected with trade, as that was excepted, it would prevent it being acted upon by the Irish Legislature. Such being the case, he could not conceive any reason for the Government declining to accept the Amendment, which was certainly not in any way injurious or insulting to the people of Ireland. There was a much stronger reason now for its acceptance than there was when it was originally introduced, for since then a radical alteration had been made in the Bill. It had been decided that they were to retain the Irish Members in that House. These Irish Members would be able to express their opinions on the matter, point out any alterations in the law which would be of advantage to the people of Ireland, and their representations would have due weight in that House. He hoped, therefore, the Government would re-consider their position in the matter. He begged to move the Amendment.
In page 2, line 23, after the words "legal tender," to insert the words "bills of exchange."—(Mr. Vicary Gibbs.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words 'bills of exchange' be there inserted."
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I regret that the hon. Gentleman has found himself compelled by a sense of duty to raise anew this question, which was fully debated in Committee, notwithstanding the recommendation from the Chair that questions disposed of in Committee should not be revived unless in the case of principal points. I hardly suppose this will be said to be a principal point, and I am very sorry a recommendation from the Chair, in other circumstances so powerful, appears to be of very small value when it tends to expedite, or at least to relieve from the snail's pace—which appears to be the intended law of proceeding—the progress of the Bill. However, Sir, I will say a word or two in answer to the hon. Member. I think he has urged no argument whatever which ought to induce the Government to alter the Bill. His argument with 456 reference to the unlimited vote of the Irish Members would, if admitted, be an argument for withdrawing one by one all the powers conferred on the Irish Legislature by the Bill. The Bill has already been affirmed in principle, and Amendments like this seem intended to destroy it in detail. As to bills of exchange they are really a portion of internal trade. The first aspect of a bill of exchange is that of an instrument intended to facilitate internal commerce; and although the use of bills of exchange in foreign matters has become most important, and for all I know possibly predominating, yet that was not their orginal purpose. As regards inland bills of exchange, they are matters wholly, absolutely, and purely Irish; yet the hon. Gentleman seeks by his Amendment to take them out of the hands of the Irish Legislature. We have assented to withhold from the Irish Legislature the management of matters connected with foreign trade, but we cannot assent to the management of internal trade being withheld. To show how a question of this kind allies itself with the general question of self-government, I may point out that a few years ago we found it expedient in this House to introduce in our laws a system of what were called Bank Holidays, and they rest upon this legal basis: that bills of exchange presentable on days that are Bank Holidays are not to be paid on those days, but on the day following. Suppose that in Ireland the Irish Legislature were disposed to make any law of its own relating to Bank Holidays—and that, I presume, will not be considered a very startling or revolutionary proceeding—they would not be able, if this proposal were adopted, to make those laws. Under the Amendment they would not have the power to provide that bills payable on those holidays should stand over till the following day. The Amendment constitutes a pure and gratuitous innovation on the idea of self-government which the Government intend to apply to Ireland, and which the House, by repeated votes on questions of principle, intends to apply to Ireland. With regard to foreign bills, the whole argument of the hon. Gentleman proceeded upon the invidious—to use no stronger term—suggestion that the Irish Legislature would exercise its ingenuity to devise 457 means to enable debtors to evade meeting their obligations, and upon that Christian like supposition the hon. Member draws the inference that great inconvenience would arise to creditors of Irishmen who had the misfortune to live under a swindling Legislature. My point is that the hon. Gentleman has no right to impute anything of the kind to the Irish people. In my opinion the Irish, taken upon the whole, have been singularly remarkable for their willingness to meet their pecuniary obligations and for the sacrifices they have undergone in order to do so. I do not think there is any other country equal to Ireland in that respect. But putting that imputation aside, the same difficulties to which the hon. Gentleman refers are to be met with in the case of bills payable in France and other foreign countries. The hon. Gentleman said it was hard enough to know the law of his own country; but does he not require to know the laws of France, Holland, Germany, and other foreign countries and the law of every colony? I do not believe the hon. Gentleman has lost an hour's sleep in his life through any difficulty arising out of a want of knowledge on that point. The truth is, that it is the strong desire of every State on the face of the earth which pretends to civilised methods to forward and promote the use of these bills, and all have tried to construct a system under which their bills should work and run throughout the world. Why should Ireland be made an exception? Why should it be supposed that Ireland should endeavour to put a stop to a system which gives easy currency to bills of exchange? Notwithstanding the multiplicity of systems, no practical inconvenience exists or has ever been experienced since the Lombards invented their splendid system. The Government cannot accept the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
I regret that my right hon. Friend should, whenever a speech is made on this side of the House—especially if it is a speech of some detail going fairly and frankly into the whole matter—endeavour to create a prejudice against that speech by such observations as he is continually making, trying to arouse Irish feeling against what is said on this side of the House. Was it necessary in a case of this kind, dealing with 458 so dry a subject as bills of exchange, that my right hon. Friend should endeavour to exaggerate and put into the mouth of my hon. Friend behind me charges against the Irish people or the Irish Legislature which he never made, and which he never thought of making? My right hon. Friend has got the idea on the brain that in everything we say we are running down Ireland, and there is not a single point he can treat except from that view. And here, again, I will join with him if he wishes in commending the desire of the Irish people to pay their debts. But why dwell upon this as in contrast to Great Britain? It is as if the right hon. Gentleman had become so absolutely not the Prime Minister of England, but the advocate of the Irish people, that he can see nothing good in the English Parliament, nothing but what is offensive in the speeches of hon. Members on this side of the House, and nothing here which would afford a fair precedent for the Government which he proposes to establish in Ireland. I really regret that my right hon. Friend should have thought it necessary on this occasion to endeavour to create that feeling which, I am sure, most of us are not anxious to import into this discussion. Then my right hon. Friend censured my hon. Friend behind me, and alluded to observations from the Chair that it was undesirable that the same matters should be repeated again on Report which had been dealt with in Committee. I think that the number of Amendments on Clause 3, compared with the Amendments in Committee, will show my right hon. Friend that there are comparatively few matters that have been urged again. To-day we have urged two matters over again—namely, the questions of currency and bills of exchange. And why? Because in the case of currency the Chancellor of the Exchequer had given us some hope of amendment—not very definite, but which justified us in raising this point again, and I do not think we have dealt with it at great length. I will tell the Prime Minister why we have urged this point as to bills of exchange. We thought on the last occasion that we had almost converted the Government, and we thought that one little push more might really bring the Prime Minister to accept the Amendment. I believe there are many of his 459 hon. Friends behind him who would be glad if he would accept this particular Amendment, and I know there are few points on which I should like to pit myself in argument against my right hon. Friend, but I do say this: Before any trading constituency—not in the City of London, but any trading or commercial constituency in England or Ireland—I will argue that it is desirable to keep this subject of bills of exchange to the Imperial Parliament, and my right hon. Friend would not be able to convince his audience to the contrary. My right hon. Friend says this is an Amendment in a concerted movement. Surely my right hon. Friend will see that this is an Amendment which does not touch Ireland alone, but touches the relations between Great Britain and Ireland. My right hon. Friend has himself admitted that the question raised by the Amendment touches the relations between Great Britain and Ireland. He has told us that there are certain questions which should be either given or taken. We must either include such matters in the Bill or leave them as matters to be dealt with between the two countries. We say that it would be more convenient for all parties that legislation on the subject of bills of exchange should be left in the hands of the Imperial Parliament. By dealing with the question in this manner, I think it will be seen that no right of Ireland would be affected in the least. Surely the supporters of the right hon. Gentleman will see that it is desirable to have some general law in regard to bills of exchange. They must be aware of the tendency of all commercial countries to come to an arrangement, and to secure International agreement upon these topics. It is unfortunate that the system should be different in parts of Europe and America; but the whole tendency, as I say, has been for the codification of the law of bills of exchange. Simplicity in these transactions is a matter to which all traders attach the greatest possible importance; and I cannot help thinking that if my right hon. Friend were not so wedded to the idea that any change in the Bill might be derogatory to Ireland, he would see that, in the general interest of trade, this is a matter which ought properly to be confided to the Imperial Parliament. I do not argue the point from the idea that 460 the Irish Legislature would do wrong in the matter; but, looking to the commercial transactions between the two countries, and to the general tendency to consolidate the law, I believe it is better that the Amendment should be adopted. If it is insulting to a country not to have the right to legislate on this subject, if this Bill should pass into law, England and Scotland will be in that position, for English and Scotch votes will be overruled by the Irish. I do not, however, put it on that ground, but on general grounds. I say this is a case in which the Government might yield. I know for a fact that there are certain traders, supporters of Her Majesty's Government, holding the same general views as right hon. Gentlemen who, in matters of this kind, deeply regret that there should be any possibility of difference upon this class of legislation. There is, I repeat, nothing insulting to Ireland in the Amendment which has been moved, and I say with what I believe to be the greatest truth and conviction that I think it is desirable to have the most uniform legislation for the three countries that circumstances will permit.
§ *MR. JACKS (Stirlingshire)
said, there was one matter that he would like to point out to the Government which he thought, if it occurred—he did not say that it would, but if it did—would cause very great confusion. They had a three days' grace in the payment of bills of exchange. That was no doubt an absurdity and an anomaly which every thoughtful business man deplored. What he wanted to point out was that when the Irish Legislature was established—and he spoke with a knowledge of the business capacity and ability of Irishmen—it might, and likely would, pass an Act doing away with this anomaly. If that occurred, and if a bill were drawn by a trader in Ireland upon another in Ireland or elsewhere, and made payable in London, it might not be presented on the day upon which it was due, but after the three days of grace had expired; and if it was then dishonoured, it would have to be followed to its source. What would happen then? Would the question be tried by British or by Irish law? If by Irish law, the result was clear as to what would occur. He did not say that the Judges in Ireland would be incapable of dealing with the matter, as 461 in the case of foreign bills. Those who knew how the matter stood as regarded foreign bills knew that there was a difficulty; and he thought they would see that, although the matter as regarded Ireland would be cleared up, still there would be great trouble and inconvenience, to which the trader should not be subjected. It occurred to him that this was not covered, owing to the vagueness of the Amendment. The question to which he referred differed from that of banks, and he would like to know whether the Amendment could not be accepted in a form dealing with "bills of exchange payable out of Ireland"? That, he thought, would give the Irish power to deal with their own bills of exchange, and, at the same time, avoid the inconvenient results to which he had referred.
§ *MR. R. B. MARTIN (Worcester, Droitwich)
said, the question involved was one of the greatest importance. They wanted to have it clearly laid down how trade was to be affected, and to be able to consider whether any difficulty was likely to arise. They knew what the difficulties were in the matter of foreign bills. Were these bills to be subjected to the Irish Legislature, and to be treated as foreign bills in England, or were they to be treated as part and parcel of English bills? If they had an answer to that question they would know where they were. The question of the stamps on bills of exchange was one that would intimately affect the Chancellor of the Exchequer both of this country and of Ireland. He hoped the Government would make the matter clear to the House and to the country.
§ *SIR A. ROLLIT (Islington, S.)
said, he hoped, notwithstanding what the Prime Minister had said, the Government would even yet give consideration to the claims of this Amendment, or to the modification of it suggested by the hon. Member for Stirlingshire. He put forward this expression of hope on the ground of uniformity of action, for sake of which he had already voted against his own Party. The very gravest disadvantage would arise if this were not done. The Prime Minister said this was not one of the principal points of the Bill. Commercially, he thought it was a very essential and organic detail of the Bill, and he appealed to the arguments adduced to demand from the Government 462 some re-consideration of the matter. He knew that upon this, as upon some other details of the Bill, there was the very strongest feeling on both sides of the Channel. It was felt that there should be no variation from commercial practice, and that there should be security against a departure which would result in great disadvantage. One point had not yet been raised—that bills of exchange were creations of commercial custom, of the growth of commercial experience, and they must be guided by mercantile practice, which was joint between the two countries. They would see, therefore, that there was great danger in making any departure from that. A Member of the Government had said in a previous Debate that they should not deal with internal matters; but bills of exchange were matters of external trade. The Bill itself reserved such matters. He disliked the term "foreign" in relation to Ireland; but he doubted whether external bills would be within the purview of the Bill. He thought it ought not, at all events, to be left in doubt. The Prime Minister's observations with regard to the treatment of Ireland struck him as being out of place. It was very unfortunate that anything should be said which could enlarge the feeling of difference in both countries and in that House. They should do what they could, where it was possible, to come nearer a solution, and, if they could have security for joint action, an obligation rested upon them to endeavour to obtain it by both speech and act. This question was, he submitted, a commercial one, and from that point of view it was desirable they should have uniformity. He had, as he said, voted with the Government on similar grounds on another question, and he was of opinion that uniformity should be established here. Even in a modified form the Government should accept the Amendment and embody it in the Bill.
§ *THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir C. Russell,) Hackney, S.
I may say, Sir, in reference to what my hon. Friend who has just sat down has said, that I should be only too glad if any settlement of this question in the direction contended for by him would make any substantial advance towards agreement upon the vital matters involved in the Bill. Unfortunately, while the Government are 463 engaged upon what we believe to be an important legislative structure, hon. Gentlemen opposite, from conscientious motives, desire to overthrow that structure, and avowedly propose all their Amendments with that object. It is suggested that in this case the Irish Legislature would proceed to do away with the three days' grace. I do not think it is at all likely they will do so. It would not be in the interest of Irish traders. The case is put of a bill payable in London, and it is said that, owing to the abolition of the three days' grace, the bill might not be presented in time; but the conditions of that transaction would not be regulated by the Irish Legislature. In the case of a bill payable in London the law of the place would prevail; and if an action ensued, as the hon. Member for Stirlingshire (Mr. Jacks) now suggests, while Irish law might apply to the contract, payment would be regulated by the law of the place of payment. Therefore, Irish legislation would not affect the matter. The hon. Member below the Gangway (Mr. Martin) wishes to know if bills drawn upon Ireland were to be considered as foreign bills? Certainly not. Ireland would not be a foreign country, and will not be called such when this Bill passes. It will still be a part of the United Kingdom, and bills drawn upon Ireland will be inland bills. Any question as to the stamp duty in respect of bills drawn in Ireland will arise equally in the case of foreign bills. The Irish Legislature will not have any interest in legislating in a direction which would depreciate the value of their own negotiable securities; on the other hand, they will have every reason for making those negotiable securities as valuable as possible in the commerce of the world. Therefore we think this is not an Amendment which ought to occupy the time of the House.
§ *MR. MATTHEWS (Birmingham, E.)
After the admission of the hon. and learned Gentleman, the question at issue is one of small dimensions. It was admitted in Committee by the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir W. Harcourt) that if a bill were drawn in Ireland and accepted in England that was a bill about which the Irish Legislature could not legislate at all. After a good deal of pressure the Chancellor of the Exchequer also admitted that if a bill were drawn in 464 London upon au acceptor in Ireland, or even if it were payable out of Ireland, the Irish Legislature could not deal with it. So that all the invective of the Prime Minister applies simply to legislation applicable to the narrow class of bills drawn in Ireland upon an acceptor in Ireland and not payable in England. But a bill drawn in Ireland and accepted in Ireland may be endorsed in reference to a trade transaction in England. In what category would such a bill fall? Would it be a bill respecting which the Irish Legislature could not alter the number of days of grace? By the Bill as it stood, a large class of bills of exchange in which Irish traders were interested were taken out of the purview of the Irish Legislature. [Mr. W. E. GLADSTONE dissented.] I see the Prime Minister shakes his head, but I doubt whether the right hon. Gentleman was present in Committee when the Chancellor of the Exchequer accepted that position. But the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not deal with the third class of bills accepted in Ireland and payable in London, But the Attorney General has admitted this time—
§ *MR. MATTHEWS
Then the Attorney General is a most illogical person. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had not honoured them with his presence during this Debate, and it was a little inconvenient that in his absence they should be met by observations from the Treasury Bench to the effect that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had not known what he was talking about on the previous occasion. Was a bill drawn in Ireland and accepted in Ireland, but payable in London, a transaction with "a place out of Ireland," or not?
§ *MR. MATTHEWS
Then, commerce with England was not trade with a place out of Ireland. That was the exact opposite of the admission of the Government in Committee, and it showed how necessary this discussion was. They had proved that the Government did not agree among themselves as to what the Bill meant. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said one thing in Committee, and the Attorney General absolutely denied it on Report. That was not a satisfactory state of things, and it made it all the more necessary to press the Amend- 465 ment. It was unnecessary to urge the enormous importance of uniformity in trading matters between the three parts of the United Kingdom. Did they mean to attach to transactions with Ireland the disadvantage which notoriously attached to transactions with foreign countries? It was absurd to say, as had been said by the Prime Minister, that in these matters the Opposition were treating the Irish Legislature as a swindling Legislature. [Mr. W. E. GLADSTONE dissented.] The right hon. Gentleman did impute to his hon. Friend that he was dealing with it as a swindling Legislature. His hon. Friend did nothing of the kind. He merely pointed out the difficulties which every mercantile man knew were involved in dealing with a bill of exchange that was a foreign bill. Irish bills were foreign bills until 1882, and the Government were practically converting them into foreign bills again. One would have thought that, in the interests of Irish commerce, as well as of English commerce, they would have accepted the Amendment.
§ *SIR C. RUSSELL
said, he did not at all admit, as the right hon. Gentleman appeared to assume, that dealing with bills of exchange was legislating with respect to trade within the meaning of the 3rd clause. He had not said so, and did not think so.
§ *SIR H. JAMES
said, the Attorney General had stated that it was the desire of the Government to erect an edifice, and the desire of the Opposition to blow it up. Well, how they could blow up an edifice before it was erected he did not know. As a matter of fact, what the Opposition were doing was making sure, so far as they could, that the edifice, if erected, should stand upon a solid foundation. The Prime Minister had said that it was desirable that the great circle of trade should not be unduly interfered with. The Unionist Members agreed with that, and they were anxious to see that the law was framed so as to prevent the circle of trade breaking down. At the present moment, putting the statements of the Attorney General and the Chancellor of the Exchequer against each other, he had not the slightest idea what the state of the law affecting bills of exchange would be if the Bill passed. His only hope was centred 466 in the Solicitor General, who, if he would only bring his usual emphasis and clearness into play, might enable them to understand what distinction was to be drawn between the statement of the Attorney General and that of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. They could not control the law of foreign countries; but whilst they were delegating powers to the Irish Legislature ought they not to do their best to maintain uniformity in the customs prevailing amongst merchants in the different, parts of the United Kingdom—ought they not to take care that the law of Ireland should not be altered as against the law of England, seeing such alteration would affect something outside Ireland as well as inside it? He could not see that this should be other than a business discussion. There was nothing in the matter affecting the honour of Ireland. He was asking that a business view should prevail, and at present he was confident that the greatest confusion would exist in the minds of lawyers, even of Judges, as to the interpretation of the Bill, and the greatest complications would be occasioned in business. He was certain the object of the Government must be to prevent such complications arising.
§ SIR R. WEBSTER (Isle of Wight)
said, he was somewhat surprised that the Solicitor General had not thought fit to make some reply to the very moderate appeal of the right hon. Member for Bury (Sir H. James). He (Sir R. Webster) endorsed that appeal on two grounds. The Attorney General had expressed an opinion upon a matter of law—as he was perfectly entitled to do—and probably they might take it that his opinion on a point of law was of greater value than that of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
§ SIR R. WEBSTER
That was not a fair observation to make. They desired to know the interpretation put upon the clause as introduced into the Bill. The question was not his view of the words; but whether there was any doubt about the meaning of the words. It was desirable that the matter should be explained, in order that the fears entertained in many quarters as to the powers of the Irish Legislature might be allayed. The 467 Chancellor of the Exchequer, in Committee, had made a distinct statement to the effect that the exemption of trade would be operative in regard to both classes of bills, the Irish Legislature being unable to legislate upon them. The Attorney General now came down and, in order to secure the clause on Report, threw overboard the view of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He (Sir R. Webster) ventured to submit that there was one rule which, at least, ought to govern them in this kind of discussion; and although he could not hope to obtain the ear of the Prime Minister, he thought this rule was of more importance than endeavouring to import into the Debate the suggestion that the Opposition were prospectively imputing roguery or fraud to the future Government of Ireland. He referred to the necessity of having a definite statement from the Government when matters of this kind were under discussion. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had made a statement in Committee which might, and, no doubt, ought, to have had an influence upon the minds of hon. Members in recording their votes. But the clause was defended in Committee on one view of the law, and now, on Report, hon. Members had another and an entirely opposite view presented to them. That opposite view was given by one of the Law Officers of the Crown. Was it, therefore, unreasonable to appeal to the other Law Officer—who was present when the Attorney General gave his opinion—to confirm the view of his colleague? It appeared to him essential that, in order to allay the fears of the commercial community, there should be some authoritative announcement that the law regulating bills of exchange between Ireland and Great Britain should not be tampered with. With regard to the merits of the question, he should hesitate, as a lawyer, to express the opinion that the Irish Legislature would not alter the law in respect of bills drawn in Ireland; but when it was suggested that it would be impossible for the Irish Legislature to treat a bill drawn in England as a bill drawn in a foreign country, he pointed out that the words in the Bill were "trade with any place out of Ireland." It was, therefore, by no means impossible that the Irish Legislature might apply to bills from England some 468 of the conditions applicable to foreign bills. He had said enough to show that they ought to know on what horse the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury elected to ride when he desired to win in the Division about to take place. Was he going to abandon the law laid down by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and elect to stand on that laid down by the Attorney General?
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL (Sir J. RIGBY,) Forfar
said, he did not rise to engage in the discussion. He had merely to say that every word that had been uttered by the Attorney General with regard to the point at issue had his entire concurrence, and he had no doubt that what the Attorney General had said expressed the real state of the law.
§ MR. COURTNEY (Cornwall, Bodmin)
[Cries of "Oh!"] said, he would not detain the House for more than a few moments; but it appeared to him that the position now taken up by the Solicitor General, following the Attorney General, was in direct conflict with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and it brought before the House the substantial as apart from the legal question at issue. The substantial question, as had been stated by the Prime Minister on a former occasion, was that the great circle of trade between all parts of the United Kingdom was to be a complete unity, and the right hon. Gentleman said that he would not consent to anything which interfered with the preservation of that unity. It was, no doubt, in view of that principle that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had spoken, seeing that if these bills between Great Britain and Ireland were in any way made subject to the separate legislation of the Irish Parliament that circle would be broken. It was now admitted that they were to be made subject to the legislation of the Irish Parliament so that the circle would be broken. Under the circumstances some further explanation was due from the Government.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 156; Noes 190.—(Division List, No. 271.)
§ MR. HANBURY
said, he rose to move to insert in Clause 3, after "trade marks," the word "designs." He did so because, although both the Solicitor General and the Chief Secretary had 469 given a distinct promise, when the matter was discussed in Committee, that they would bring up words on Report to meet the difficulties that were then pointed out, they had omitted to redeem the pledge.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 2, line 25, after the words "trade marks," to insert the word "designs."—(Mr. Hanbury.)
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ *Mr. BUTCHER
said, he wished to move to insert in Clause 3, after Subsection 10—Or (11), the raising of moneys for State, comity, or borough purposes by means of any lottery or undertaking of a similar nature.His object was to prevent the Irish Legislature from repealing certain existing Imperial Statutes, and from sanctioning a peculiarly demoralising form of public gambling. There were some people who would look with horror upon the proceedings at Newmarket or Monte Carlo, and yet would not regard public lotteries with aversion. He would point out that in the United States of America public opinion had formed itself into definite and strong lines upon this question. In every single State except two, special provisions had been introduced into the Constitution to prevent the legalisation of lotteries. He might be told that this was an imaginary danger. But if the Irish Government should be in very considerable straits for money, to meet the demands upon them both the Government and the Municipal Authorities would be certain to resort to this method of replenishing the Exchequer. At present lotteries were forbidden in the United Kingdom by a series of Statutes, beginning in 1698, and in the Preamble of an Act passed in the reign of William III. in 1698 the evils that resulted from the existence of lotteries were very strikingly specified, and such methods of raising money were prohibited as being "a common nuisance." This Act, however, had been infringed for State purposes at the beginning of the present century. Since then no attempt had been made to raise money by means of public lotteries in this country. Under the circumstances he 470 thought it not unreasonable to insist that the Irish Government should not have power to repeal the British Statutes so as to make legal lotteries which had been unlawful for the past 200 years. One of the worst features of the Bill was that it would enable the Irish Legislature to repeal British Statutes; and the object of the Amendment was to provide that, at all events, that should not be done in regard to one of the most pernicious, demoralising, and discreditable forms of gambling.
In page 2, line 26, after the word "rights," to insert the words "or (11) The raising of moneys for State, county, or borough purposes by means of any lottery or undertaking of a similar nature."—(Mr. Butcher.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
MR. J. MORLEY
There is, I suppose, no difference between the hon. and learned Gentleman and anybody else in the House in reference to the description he has given of the practice of a public resort to lotteries. Of course, we are all agreed on that point. He says that such a practice on the part of any State or Municipality is pernicious, demoralising, and discreditable. Exactly because such a practice would be pernicious, demoralising, and discreditable, we do not suppose for one moment that the Irish Parliament will be likely to resort to it. Why does not the hon. Member add all the other practices to which Governments of a lower typo than we assume ourselves to be resort? Why does be not insist that the Irish Legislature should not make any laws permitting gaming, or allowing betting houses to remain open? Does he not see that to proceed to an enumeration of all these pernicious, demoralising, and degrading practices is a task beyond our competence? The Amendment is in the highest degree unsatisfactory from the hon. and learned Member's own point of view, as it ought to include a great many other things, whilst from our point of view it is entirely unnecessary.
§ MR. RENTOUL (Down, E.)
said, he believed most firmly that when an Irish Legislature was established a lottery would be established. It seemed to him that what was done in several other Catholic countries might be done in Ire- 471 land. He understood that there was no objection in the Catholic Church to the establishment of lotteries. He knew the German lottery system, and was certain that a worse system could not possibly be established. It tended to upset almost everyone for a couple of mouths every year—almost everybody talked about it during that period, servants clubbed together to buy joint tickets, and the thing worked a great deal of evil. If the Irish Legislature did not want to have anything to do with lotteries there could be no objection to having the Amendment inserted in the Bill. Why should they ask to have their hands left free in this matter? It was another case of Sairey Gamp—Do not ask me whether I will take any or not, but put the bottle on the chimney-piece and let me put my lips to it when I am so dispoged.He hoped the Government would reconsider the matter, and accept the Amendment.
§ MR. SEXTON (Kerry, N.)
said, the hon. and learned Member who had just sat down had enriched a very generous speech with a most refined and scholarly quotation. But he (Mr. Sexton) ventured to confirm the opinion of the Chief Secretary, and to say there could be no difference of opinion among Members of the Nationalist Party in the House of Commons as to the impropriety of resort by the Government of Ireland to lotteries for the purpose of raising money. The hon. Member for Down (Mr. Rentoul) had no doubt, if a Legislature were established in Ireland, it would proceed to start lotteries to support services that ought to be maintained out of the rates and taxes. He seemed to hold that opinion because the Catholic Church in Ireland, being a poor and voluntary Church, and having no support from the State, occasionally employed bazaars for the purpose of helping charitable institutions. The hon. Member tried to establish some occult association between Catholicism and lotteries. Evidently what was working in the foggy depths of the hon. Member's consciousness was that because Ireland was a Catholic country it was more likely to establish these lotteries. The City of Hamburg was the chief supporter of the lottery system, and he (Mr. 472 Sexton) believed that city obtained more money than any other in the world out of lotteries, and much of it came from Protestant countries. Hamburg was itself Protestant, and, at any rate, the case of Hamburg decidedly disposed of the connection the hon. Member supposed existed between Catholicism and lotteries. He (Mr. Sexton) must say, as far as his observation went in matters of betting and speculation, the Teutonic races did not yield to the Latin races. The suggestion of the Amendment was that the Irish Government would raise money for State purposes by means of lotteries. Having legal power to raise money for State purposes by national taxation, was it likely that if there was a connection between Catholicism and lotteries the Irish Legislature would ignore the power of taxation, and resort to a device the effect of which would be that Catholics alone would raise money which Protestants would otherwise contribute to?
§ MR. SEXTON
said, the hon. Member had suffered from the zeal of his supporter (Mr. Rentoul) in this respect. The hon. Member for Down had certainly suggested that because Ireland was a Catholic country there would be a special tendency to resort to lotteries. He (Mr. Sexton) had only to add that if the Irish Government were so silly and unprincipled as to do anything of the kind the Imperial Parliament, in the first place, could veto the Bill, whilst, in the second place, it could at any time pass a Statute preventing it from oontinuing in such a course.
MR. H. BLUNKETT (Dublin Co., S.)
did not think the speech the House had just heard was quite fair or ingenuous, the hon. Member for Kerry having imputed to the hon. Member for Down (Mr. Rentoul) certain statements which he (Mr. Plunkett) certainly did not understand him to have made. He was sorry the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) was not in his because on the 8th of June, in Truth, he had commented not only on the use of lotteries in Ireland, but on the circulation of Irish lottery tickets in England, and had said what the teaching of the Catholic Church might be as to the morality of gambling he did not know but on grounds of 473 expediency lotteries had been suppressed in England, and he trusted that a Home Rule Parliament would speedily suppress them in Ireland. It had, indeed, been necessary to suppress lotteries in England, as it had been in every one of the United States except two. The two exceptions were Kentucky and Louisiana. The last-named State still resorted constantly to lotteries, and it was considered a great national disgrace and grievance that lottery tickets from that State were sold all over America. He was certain that if the Irish Legislature were left to itself it would prefer to raise money by lottery tickets circulated in other countries than by taxes upon its own people.
§ *MR. GERALD BALFOUR (Leeds, Central)
pointed out that there was an obvious difference between State lotteries and gambling hells. The public lotteries in Italy brought in a large revenue to the State. But gambling and betting houses were, in the first instance, private undertakings, and intended for private profit, although, of course, it was true that a State might obtain profit from them by issuing licences. He was not prepared to say that Ireland would certainly adopt the lottery system, but he saw nothing in the nature of things to make it improbable. Ireland would unquestionably have some difficulty in raising the Revenue she required, and the lottery system had been resorted to by other countries in similar circumstances with a large degree of success from the purely fiscal point of view. If, however, Ireland chose to resort to an expedient which, in the language of the Chief Secretary, borrowed from the Mover of the Amendment, was disgraceful, pernicious, and discreditable, he did not think it was the business of the House of Commons to interfere.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ MR. MACARTNEY (Antrim, S.)
rose to move, in page 2, line 26, at the end, add "or marriage and divorce." He said, that no apology was needed in bringing this subject before the House, because it had been once described by the Prime Minister as a matter of awful, if not immeasurable, responsibility. But, apart from that great and high authority on the importance of the question, he also relied on the feeling which it excited amongst that portion of the population 474 of Ireland with whose political and religious opinions he was identified. He could hardly exaggerate the anxiety and alarm which had been aroused amongst the Protestants in Ireland by the decision which the House had come to in Committee on the question raised by his Amendment; and neither he nor his colleagues would have been justified in allowing the Report stage of the Bill to pass without calling the attention of the House to the serious responsibility they had incurred in coming to that decision. He was of opinion that the position which this question occupied in Ireland, and the still more important position which it would assume if the Bill were passed, had not been clearly before the minds of hon. Members when they arrived at their decision in the Committee stage; and, therefore, he thought he was amply justified in assuming that, far from treating this Motion as a dilatory Motion, hon. Members would be grateful to him for giving them an opportunity for revising a decision which they probably had arrived at hastily and without due consideration. The Prime Minister, replying to the hon. Baronet the Member for Wigan (Sir F. S. Powell), who moved the Amendment in Committee, relied on one argument only, and that was that, on a survey of the great English-speaking communities of the world, he was enabled to state that an attempt had never been made by Parliament to force any largo community or body of persons under one Marriage Law. He quite agreed with the right hon. Gentleman, and he said frankly that he and his friends did not desire that Parliament on this occasion should force the Irish community under one Marriage Law. But the British North America Act did not force the subordinate Legislatures of the Dominion under one Marriage Law. The Act which created a Representative Legislature for New Zealand did not force the inferior Legislatures of that country under one Marriage Law. Both these Acts gave merely to the Mother Parliament the right of revising or discussing any future legislation that might be proposed in these communities, and that was all he and his friends desired to do by this Amendment. The straits to which the Prime Minister was driven in his argument in Committee were well illustrated 475 by the reply he gave to the hon. Baronet, who had interjected the remark that in the case of Canada Parliament had taken the course suggested by the Amendment. "Oh," said the right hon. Gentleman, "Canada has not a large population; it does not contain a great number of people." But the Dominion of Canada, which was under the legislative control of the Dominion Parliament, had a larger population than Ireland. At the time the British North America Act was passed the population was 3,500,000, and surely the right hon. Gentleman would not deny that when Parliament passed that Act it must have believed it was legislating for a community that might in time rival even the United Kingdom in population. In the second portion of his argument the Prime Minister said that no uniformity of Marriage Laws could be found in any of the English-speaking communities—that there was no uniformity to be found in the United States; none to be found in the Colonies, and none to be found at home in the United Kingdom. But the right hon. Gentleman himself admitted fully and freely the enormous mischiefs and scandals that resulted in America from the diversity of the legislation on this question in the various States; and if it were true that the Colonies had freedom of legislation on this point, it was equally true that the United Kingdom had, over and over again, refused to follow the views of the Colonies in regard to the Laws of Marriage and Divorce. With reference to the United Kingdom, it was, of course, admitted that the Scotch law differed from the English and Irish law. But it was admitted on all sides that the Scotch Law of Marriage was an unfortunate law. The Prime Minister did not, certainly, apply to it the language of praise. Indeed, he had a distinct recollection that the right hon. Gentleman stated that it would be, a good thing for the United Kingdom if the Scotch law was made the same as the law of the United Kingdom. The Prime Minister had said that the facts were against the Amendment, and that, therefore, he was opposed to it. But the right hon. Gentleman had spent a great deal of time very unprofitably in looking to the facts of the rest of the world, while the right hon. Gentleman completely ignored the facts as they existed in Ireland, and yet it was upon 476 these facts that he claimed that the Amendment deserved the very serious consideration of the Government. What was the position in Ireland? The Marriage Law of Ireland was precisely the same—except in an unimportant detail—as the Marriage Law of England, and the Law of Divorce was also almost exactly the same. He wished to say here that he was not concerned much with the question of divorce, because all classes in Ireland of every variety of religious opinion were agreed that there should be, if anything, a restriction of the operation of the Divorce Laws. But the question of the Marriage Laws was in Ireland of the highest possible moment. The position which the Roman Catholic Church occupied in Ireland on this question was entirely different from the position which the Roman Catholic Church occupied in England, and for this reason—in the first place, Ireland was, in the view of the Roman Catholic Church, a Roman Catholic country. England was not regarded by the Roman Catholic Church as a Roman Catholic country. Therefore the Roman Catholic hierarchy of England were not obliged by the policy of the Church to attempt to force into the political arena those peculiar views which the Roman Catholic Church held with regard to marriage. But, as Ireland was a Roman Catholic country in the view of the See of Rome, there was an obligation on the rulers of the Church in Ireland to do everything they possibly could to force to the front, either in legislation or in relation to general social questions, the views the Church might hold, no matter how extreme those views might be. The difference between the Roman Catholic Church in England and Ireland in that respect was owing to the fact that the Decrees of the Council of Trent had been published in Ireland and had not been published in England. It was, therefore, absolutely necessary for the House to consider what effect the publication of the Decrees of the Council of Trent in Ireland would have on the legislation that might be presented to the future Irish Parliament. The views of the Roman Catholic Church in regard to marriage were stated by the Royal Commission which reported in the year 1868 upon the Marriage Laws of the United Kingdom. The Report stated— 477By the law of the Roman Catholic Church under the Decrees of the Council of Trent (which are now received throughout Ireland) the presence of the Bishop of the Diocese or priest of the parish (or of some other priest deputed by the priest of the parish) is made indispensable for the solemnisation of a marriage recognised as valid by that law; and every Roman Catholic marriage ought, according to the same law (though not under pain of nullity), be preceded by the publication of banns for three Sundays, unless dispensed with (as in Ireland it usually is) by episcopal licence. Of these matters, however (being requisites of marriage by the internal economy only of the Roman Catholic Church) the law of the land takes no cognisance; and if contracted in the presence of any Roman Catholic priest in Ireland between two Catholics, although contrary to the law and discipline of their own Church, would be legally valid.That statement was founded on the evidence given by Cardinal Cullen, Archbishop of Dublin, which received the imprimatur of all the Roman Catholic Bishops of Ireland, and the evidence was based on the Decrees of the Council of Trent. He would further remind the House that one of the highest authorities in the House—one who had in the field of theology, as in every other field, acquired a position of the first importance—had thus spoken of the policy of the Roman Catholic Church in this country—The intention of those who rule the ostensible rulers of the Roman Church to disturb civil society will doubtless be developed in a variety of forms as circumstances and seasons may serve; but at present it is nowhere conspicuous than in regard to the Law of Marriage.He had taken the quotation from the revised edition of the well-known pamphlet entitled, Vaticanism, published by the Prime Minister; and in the preface to the pamphlet the right hon. Gentleman further said—If there is one civil right and privilege which the population of the United Kingdom enjoy under the legislation of Parliament which is open to the offensive policy of the Church of Rome, it is the Law of Marriage.Now, what was it that the Roman Catholic Church was bound to attempt to carry out? Again he referred to the authority of the Prime Minister. The right hon. Gentleman had stated as his deliberate opinion that it was the peculiarity of the Roman Catholic authority to thrust itself into the domain of politics. Therefore it was not a dastardly violation of "the angelic theory," which found such favour with hon. Gentlemen 478 on the other side, for him to suppose that in Ireland under the Home Rule Bill the Roman Catholic Church would use all the powerful means at its disposal to make itself felt in the domain of politics. The views of the Roman Catholic Church with regard to the marriages which were not solemnised by its own ministers in its own Churches differed essentially in different countries. In a country in which the Decrees of the Council of Trent had not been published, such as England, these views of the Roman Catholic Church were tainted with a certain amount of liberality—
§ MR. MACARTNEY
said, he would use the word "toned" or "softened," as he did not wish to hurt the feelings of the hon. and learned Gentleman. That he was correct in that view any hon. Member would see on referring to the Royal Commission on the Marriage Laws from which he had already quoted, for it would be found there that the views put forward by the Prelates of the Roman Catholic Church in England as to their relations to the State were infinitely more moderate than the views put forward by Cardinal Cullen, speaking on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland, and that the difference in the two views was due to the fact that the Decrees of the Council of Trent had been published in Ireland and not in England. The view held by the Roman Catholic Church in regard to all marriages not solemnised by her own ministers in her own Churches was that these marriages were concubinage—
§ MR. MACARTNEY
said, the hon. Member for Cork evidently knew very little of the theology of the Roman Catholic Church, for in the third pamphlet published by the Prime Minister, in that particular portion of it in which he contemptuously referred to the "rusty toes" of the Vatican, the right hon. Gentleman wrote—It is true indeed that the 200,000 non-Roman marriages which are annually celebrated in England do not at present fall under the foul epithets of Rome. But why? Not because we marry, as I believe 19–20ths of us marry, under the sanctions of religion; for our marriages are in the eye of the Pope purely civil marriages; but only for the technical, accidental, and precarious reason that the disciplinary Decrees 479 of Trent are not canonically in force in this country. There is nothing, unless it be motives of mere policy, to prevent the Pope from giving them force here when he pleases. If and when that is done every marriage thereafter concluded in the English Church will, according to his own words, be a filthy concubinage.No one could deny that those views of the Prime Minister were supported by the accumulated evidence of the theological writers of the very highest authority in the Roman Catholic Church, and were perfectly accurate. Therefore in Ireland, where the Decrees of the Council of Trent had been published, it was held by the Roman Catholic Church—though for motives of policy the rulers of that Church did not publicly proclaim their views—that marriages, civil or otherwise, not solemnised in their own Church and by their own ministers were not marriages at all—
§ MR. MACARTNEY
said, that was the view held by the Roman Catholic Church, and that was the view supported by the Prime Minister. He saw that the Attorney General shook his head in doubt.
§ MR. MACARTNEY
said, that the Prime Minister wrote of "non-Catholic marriages." The argument of the right hon. Gentleman was that if the Decrees of the Council of Trent had been published in England the 200,000 yearly non-Catholic marriages would fall under the foul epithets of Rome. He, in order to enforce his argument, was not bound to show that the Church of Rome in Ireland would take legislative action in the Irish Parliament to carry out these views. It was sufficient for him to say that there was a possibility of their doing it—that there might be a possibility of it, and that, therefore, he was justified in pressing this matter on the attention of the House. The position taken up in 1868 by the recognised leaders of the Roman Catholics in Ireland on this question was absolutely different from, and at variance with, the views expressed by the Prelates of that 480 Church in England; and, therefore, the Protestant minority in Ireland had a right to claim from the House that protection in this matter which the Imperial Parliament had given to every other community in the Empire to which a Legislative Body had been granted—namely, a subordinate Parliament should not have the power of altering the Marriage Laws. In the proposed Irish Parliament the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church would find convenient malleable tools to carry out its policy; and, in the circumstances, he could not blame them if they insisted that the men whom they had returned to that Parliament by their absolute will should place the Church which they represented, and of which they were members, in the best possible position it could occupy. As in all probability this would be done, the Protestants in the country were entitled to protection in the all-important question of marriages. Over and over again hon. and right hon. Members on the Treasury Bench had given pledges to the country that the Bill should contain nothing which would interfere with the religious opinions of the Protestant minority in Ireland. At the re-election of the Chief Secretary for Ireland at Newcastle, the President of the Local Government Board assured the electors as a Nonconformist, and pledged himself, and, he presumed, pledged the Government, that nothing would be done under Home Rule in the slightest degree to interfere with the privileges of any Protestant community in Ireland. Unless the Government went behind those pledges, they ought to accept the Amendment. It was against the Marriage Laws that the power of the Church of Rome in Ireland would be directed under Home Rule; therefore, the Protestant communities of Ireland had every reason to ask from the House that protection in regard to the Marriage Laws which even Roman Catholic countries like Italy, France, and Belgium had given to their citizens.
In page 2, line 26, after the word "rights," to insert the words "or (11) Marriage and divorce."—(Mr. Macartney)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."481
§ *SIR F. S. POWELL (Wigan)
said, he had had the honour of submitting some observations on this question on the Committee stage of the Bill, and he would not have presumed to address the House again on the subject had he not had the privilege since the discussion in Committee of sitting on the Committee which had been appointed to consider the Marriage Laws of the United Kingdom, and of making a further investigation of the question. In the first place, he would call the attention of the House to the leading and most prominent passage of the Report of the Royal Commission on the Marriage Laws which sat in 1868—It must be universally conceded," said the Report, "that if it be possible to reduce the Marriage Laws in the United Kingdom to one uniform system, such an object is in the highest degree desirable.It was very satisfactory to be able to state to the House that since the publication of that Report considerable advances had been made towards uniformity and assimilation. In Scotland there had been some progress in that direction, and he knew that the state of the law was satisfactory to the Scotch community; but, at the same time, the Committee had had evidence from the Registrar General and his subordinates that there had been a great increase in irregular marriages in Scotland, which was a most unfortunate condition of affairs. Nevertheless, there was a tendency towards assimilation. During the discussion on this question in Committee he had referred to the condition of the law in regard to Canada, and had mentioned that the British North America Act of 1867 provided that marriage and divorce were amongst the subjects to which the exclusive legislative authority of the Parliament of Canada extended. He had been much surprised to hear the Prime Minister on that occasion speak with contempt of the population of Canada. Surely the most loyal of our Colonies, with its vast extent of territory, did not merit such a reference, and no argument could be fairly founded on its population. But it might be said that the great central and authoritative Act had not been carried entirely into force. He had examined with great care the Canadian Statutes in the Library of the House, and his labours had not been by any 482 means in vain. He found that in the Parliament of Ontario there had been two large Statutes passed of considerable bulk respecting marriage. He had read those Statutes with some alarm, but the alarm ceased when he found that those Statutes had been twice revised and consolidated since 1867—an example which might very well be followed by the Imperial Parliament—and that there was the following provision:—The Revised Statutes shall not be held to operate as new laws, but shall be construed and have effect as a consolidation of the law as contained in the said Acts and, parts of Acts so repealed, and for which the said Revised Statutes are substituted.It was also carefully provided that everything in those Statutes in contravention of the Central Legislature should be non-effective. The Dominion Parliament was therefore supreme as regards marriage and divorce. On crossing the border into the United States he found, as the result of his investigations, that there were between the different States differences so slight that they were not worth maintaining, and also inconsistencies so great as to produce serious and most painful embarrassments. For instance, in the State of Massachusetts he found, in the matter of divorce, that it was provided—When the inhabitant of this State goes into another State or country to obtain a divorce for any cause occurring here, and whilst the parties resided here or for any cause which would not authorise a divorce by the laws of this State, a divorce so obtained shall be of no force or effect in this State.The Court had, therefore, to investigate motives and decide what was the reason why a man passed from one state to another. He also found in some States that divorce could be established on the simple ground of felony; in other States felony was not sufficient unless it were accompanied by two years' imprisonment; and in Tennessee he found a condition of affairs which must cheer the temperance advocates, because there habitual drunkenness was sufficient to obtain a divorce. He also found that there was a great difference in the terms of residence to justify parties in seeking divorce. In some States it was six months, and in others 12 months. In fact, great mischief was wrought in the United States by the diversity of legislation in regard to divorce. He thought he had made out a strong case 483 for uniformity in this country. The Commission which sat on this subject in 1868 said they had found uniformity desirable. They had found under that the superintending eye of one Parliament, owing to the growth of public opinion under the guidance and governance of one Parliament, great progress had been made towards that assimilation which was so essential; and he did hope the Report of the inquiry of the Select Committee, when it was published and discussed in the country, would lead to the further assimilation which the Members of the Royal Commission so greatly desired. He believed if they did destroy this superintending and governing eye of Parliament, those diversities which had been diminished would be perpetuated and increased; the hopes which some of them entertained as to uniformity would be lessened, and the time would be rendered more distant than they could desire when the recommendations of that great and carefully-manned Commission of 1868 would be carried into effect. He felt himself, the more one inquired into these subjects, both by the investigation of documents and by such means as arose in the converse between individuals—the more one felt the importance of one common system of law in a matter so profoundly affecting the national life—the more anxious one must be to resist by every possible means the adoption of any procedure which might tend to further perpetuate differences and to postpone the period of that identity and similarity which he was sure must be the desire of every person who had given careful attention to this most momentous and important subject.
§ *SIR C. RUSSELL
said, he did not intend to follow at length the speeches of the Mover of this Amendment and the hon. Baronet who had just sat down, for the reason that this matter was fully discussed in June last; and if they were to have the continual repetition of matters which had been fully debated, the object of those who desired that no progress should be made on this Report stage would be accomplished. The hon. Baronet who had just sat down had expressed a wish that there should be a general uniformity in the Marriage Law in all the dominions of the Queen.
§ *SIR C. RUSSELL
But the hon. Baronet went on to discuss the law in the Colonies amongst other places, and certainly no argument in support of this Amendment had been drawn from them on the question of uniformity. Again, in the three Divisions of the United Kingdom there were wide differences in regard to the Law of Marriage. As regards the Decrees referred to, it might be important to consider them if in the United Kingdom they bound the conscience or dealt with the actions of others besides the persons who by their religious professions were supposed to be subjected to the obligations of those Decrees. Did the hon. Member gravely say that the Decrees of the Council of Trent had been put in operation in any compulsory course against persons not subject to them?
§ *SIR C. RUSSELL
All he could say was that the hon. Member had not given them Spain in his speech; and they were dealing with this country.
§ *SIR C. RUSSELL
He did not hear him mention Spain. However, let him correct the hon. Member on another point. The hon. Member seemed to think there was a great difference between the position of the Decrees of the Council of Trent in England and Ireland. But he was informed the House of Lords had decided that the Decrees of the Council of Trent were promulgated in England, or that the Common Law of England in important respects coincided with them. There were differences between the law of Ireland and the law of England not so very marked, and between the law of Scotland and that of Ireland the differences were of a very marked character indeed. Well, then, was any argument, founded for the withdrawal of this question from the cognisance of the Irish Legislative Body, based upon any legislative precedent? No; the precedents where Constitutions had been given to other countries, with hardly an exception, had treated this question of Marriage Law as essentially a matter to be dealt with by the local Legislatures. The hon. Member for Antrim then proceeded to a theological disquisition on 485 this subject. Without any disrespect to the hon. Member, and without himself professing to be an adept in such matters, he thought the hon. Member had not mastered the subject at all. As to the Catholic doctrine regarding marriage not as a civil contract merely but as a sacrament, he pointed out that that view was taken with due regard to the civil rights of others who took different views on that subject to those held by Catholics, and he really declined to consider further that theological discussion which the hon. Member had sought to introduce. What was the real difficulty apprehended by the hon. Member? He had read the speeches made in the preceding Debate, made for the most part by the same hon. Members and raising the same objections; and he really could not realise, and he did not think the House could realise, what danger was apprehended. Was the danger apprehended that the Irish Legislative Body was going to do something to outrage the consciences and interfere with the civil rights of the Protestant minority? ["Hear, hear!" from the Opposition Benches.] Very well, and did hon. Members think that in the state of public opinion, with Ireland so close to our doors, with so close an observation from day to day, with intimate association and knowledge of all that took place there, public opinion in this country—to say nothing of public opinion in Ireland—would for one instant tolerate such a thing? The idea was only one conjured up by the hon. Member as to which he could not conceive that he himself had any belief that there was any real danger—[Mr. MACARTNEY: I have.] Then ho differed from the hon. Member. As regarded the question of divorce, the speech of the hon. Member answered the speech of the hon. Baronet, because the hon. Member for Antrim at once said that so far as divorce was concerned he did not think there was any necessity for this, as the people of Ireland, to whatever religion they belonged, were practically agreed as to the absence of Divorce Law in Ireland. That being so, he did not seek to enter into that matter, and would conclude by saying that this was one other illustration of the way in which hon. Members—no doubt conscientiously and honestly—conjured up dreads and doubts for themselves which had no real existence.
§ Mr. J. Morley rose in his place, and claimed to move "That the Question be now put."
§ Question, "That the Question be now put, "put, and agreed to.
§ Question put accordingly, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 108; Noes 157.—(Division List, No. 272.)
§ MR. HENEAGE (Great Grimsby)
(for Mr. COURTNEY) proposed the following Amendment, which, he said, the Government had agreed to accept:—Clause 3, page 2, line 29, after "Parliament, "insert "or to prescribe conditions regulating importation from any place outside Ireland for the sole purpose of preventing the introduction of any contagious disease.
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
*MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
Does this, or does it not, cover quarantine? It seems to me most distinctly to do so, yet an Amendment regarding quarantine was rejected with scorn by the Government yesterday; and it is rather strange, therefore, that they should accept it this evening.
MR. J. MORLEY
Quarantine does not concern importation. This is an Amendment to extend the powers of the Irish Government in a direction to which, I think, nobody can object.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
*LORD G.HAMILTON (Middlesex, Ealing)
rose to move to amend the 3rd clause by adding a Proviso that the Irish Legislature should not have power to pass Resolutions or discuss any question connected with the subjects, enumerated in Sub-section 3 (Navy, Army, Militia, Volunteers, forts, arsenals, &c), unless the assent of the Lord Lieutenant, upon instructions given by Her Majesty, had been previously obtained. He said: In moving this Amendment, Sir, I do so for the purpose of enhancing the clause to which it is related. We have spent much time in discussing theoretical questions; we have discussed the real meaning of the words in reference to the supremacy of Parliament; but nobody yet—certainly no Member of Her Majesty's Government—has considered how practical effect is to be given to the supremacy of the Im- 487 perial Parliament, or the means by which it is to be enforced. This is the question to which I wish to to call attention—a question which is immeasurably more important than any question which has, up to the present, been discussed. Only one sub-section in the Bill relates to the Naval and Military Forces of the Crown, or the position in which they will be after the Bill has passed. Yet no one will deny that in certain contingencies the Military Forces of the Crown are the only instruments upon which the Imperial Parliament will be able to rely for the enforcement of its theoretical supremacy. There are a large number of hon. Gentlemen opposite who are pledged theoretically to the assertion of the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament, and who believe that, after Home Rule is passed, the forces at the disposal of the Imperial Parliament will remain unaltered. That is a great delusion and mistake. The Military Forces are the only forces—the only reliable forces— that this House can depend upon; but I contend that under this clause as it stands it is in the power of the Irish Legislature to fatally interfere with the Military Forces—to hamper their efficiency and action. In Committee my noble Friend the Member for West Edinburgh (Viscount Wolmer) proposed an Amendment providing that the Irish Legislature should be debarred from even discussing or passing Resolutions on certain subjects. The Prime Minister resisted the Amendment mainly on two grounds—that it would be very difficult, in the first place, to enforce the prohibition; and, in the second place, that it would deprive the Irish Legislature of the right of Petition possessed by every public body in the United Kingdom. Anyone who takes the trouble to look at the Bill will see that the other subjects reserved from the Irish Legislature under Clause 3 are in quite a different category from the Army and Navy; they are matters of constitutional and political character, relating to general legislation with which a Provincial Legislature ought not to deal. But it is evident that power should not be given to such a Legislature to tamper with the instrument which alone would be able, in certain circumstances, to keep it in a subordinate position. All the Civil and Executive authority in Ireland now behind the Imperial Government will, if 488 the Bill be passed, be transferred to the local Legislature. Now, in any difficulties which have arisen in recent years in Ireland or in any other part of the United Kingdom, the authority of this House and of the law has been asserted, not by Imperial instruments such as the Army and the Navy, but by domestic instruments such as the police and the Civil Authorities of the localities; and if the whole Civil and Police Forces which are now at the control of this Parliament are transferred to the local Legislature, in any collision or difficulty which may hereafter occur, not only would there be an enormous subtraction from the forces which are now at the disposal of the Imperial Parliament, but that subtraction will go to the augmentation of the strength of the only authority which can dispute the jurisdiction of Parliament. I do not know that the question has ever been argued out. The whole Executive authority now exercised by the Imperial Parliament would be transferred to the Irish Parliament, which will have the whole Police Force at its disposal in a short time. What remains of the Imperial authority behind this House? There is nothing but military power. Hon. Members who support this Bill should read the history of the great Civil War in America. At its commencement they would see how certain States announced their intention of repudiating the authority of the Central Power. The repudiation was treated with contempt; but we know what took place; we know that, in order to settle that matter, a certain number of Volunteers were raised for a few days, and that out of that arose the greatest war of modern days. How was it that the recalcitrant States were able to offer this resistance? Because in every case the Legislative Authority of the recalcitrant States carried with it the whole Executive forces of that State, the local Militia, and even the officers of the Federal Army, who were connected with the State. Well, what would be the position of the Imperial Parliament if this Bill should become law? Hitherto Parliament has had this great advantage in asserting its authority in Ireland—the Irish people have been divided into two sections, and there has never been a dispute between the English Government and the Irish people in which the former could not rely on one section to support 489 them. Now, however, the Government are deliberately repudiating the allegiance of that part of the population which has hitherto adhered to England. [Mr. GLADSTONE: Deliberately?] Yes, deliberately; for you propose to place the whole power and authority of Irish government in the hands of gentlemen who until recently have always been opposed to the power of England; and, therefore, any collision which takes place between this Parliament and the Irish Legislature must be a collision produced by hon. Gentlemen sitting below the Gangway, who will constitute the majority. Does the Prime Minister think he can appeal to a minority whom he and his friends had betrayed? [MR. W. E. GLADSTONE: Hear, hear!] Yes; betrayed! I have been many years in this House, and I have a tolerably good recollection of speeches of the Prime Minister, in which he declared how much he was indebted to the support of the Loyalist population of Ireland in putting down disturbances in other parts of Ireland. Some astonishing statements have been made in the course of the Debate from that (the Treasury) Bench. I heard the Chancellor of the Exchequer the other day speaking of the maintenance of the Military Forces in Ireland, and he seemed to think that the moment Home Rule is passed a great part of the Military Forces now quartered in Ireland ought to be transplanted into England. It probably did not occur to the right hon. Gentleman or to anybody on the Treasury Bench that the Imperial Army is based on a system of territorial recruiting, and that a large proportion of this Army—the solitary instrument left to us if we pass this Bill—is composed of Irish regiments which are recruited in Ireland, and whose headquarters, under the present system, are in Ireland. As soon as it becomes clear to the Nationalist Members in the Irish Parliament that there is but one single, solitary obstacle to the full realisation of their national aspirations—namely, the solitary obstacle of the Imperial Army—they will naturally, and from their point of view legitimately, do what they can to remove that impediment. This clause, in its present form, places in their hands a weapon by which they may vitally affect the efficiency of the British Army. They are not to legislate on the subject, 490 but they are to be allowed to pass Resolutions. Have right hon. and hon. Gentlemen ever heard of the unwritten law of the Land League? It is not remote in point of date, but there are some memories so conveniently constructed that they can forget what happened yesterday. The unwritten law of the Land League was in force in Ireland—[Cries of "Question!" "Hear, hear!" and interruption I am coming to the point. Will anybody deny——[Renewed cries of "Question!"]
§ MR. MACNEILL (Donegal, S.)
rose his place, and, apparently addressing Mr. Bartley (Islington, N.), said: Do not presume to mention my name.
§ *LORD G. HAMILTON
I was stating, Sir, that only a few years ago the Land League issued directions which were known as the unwritten law and were obeyed. If the gentlemen who issued that unwritten law are given the control of the Executive and the Police, can the House suppose that any Resolution passed by them will not be observed throughout the greater part of Ireland? The Irish Parliament will find that the Army is a territorial Army, recruited to a large extent from Ireland; and what will be easier for that Parliament, remembering the speeches of the Prime Minister supporting the theory of a distinct Irish nationality, than to propose by Resolution—if I were an Irish Nationalist, I would suggest it—that whilst Ireland is ready to contribute towards the expenses of the Imperial Army, she requires as a prior condition that the only regiments quartered in Ireland should be regiments which are raised in Ireland? [Cheers and laughter.] Hon. Members opposite laugh at that. You laugh at the mere suggestion; and yet you are raising this Constitutional structure on a foundation of a union of hearts, and when I test you upon it you repudiate it. Why do you repudiate it? Then the right hon. Gentleman would say, what is the harm of passing such a Resolution? Why, the right hon. Gentleman and his Colleagues on 491 the Treasury Bench have not thought out the A B C of the question I am arguing. I am putting myself in the position of a Nationalist. Supposing the Resolution which he has suggested might he passed were not assented to here, but were repudiated by the Imperial Ministry—and properly repudiated—would it not be easy for the Irish Parliament to propose another declaring that, inasmuch as the English Government declined to assent to this idea of the union of hearts, any man enlisting in an Irish regiment for Imperial purposes was an enemy of his country? [Laughter.] Yes; you laugh; but what, then, would become of your Irish regiments and your territorial system? I speak in this matter with knowledge of that part of Ireland which has hitherto been most favourable to the Imperial connection, and I say that if such a Resolution were passed under such circumstances it would have a tremendous effect—it would strike at once at the very foundation of the system according to which our Army is recruited. But there is another point which ought not to be overlooked. In an Army supported entirely by voluntary recruiting it is essential that desertion should be punished, and desertion cannot be punished by the Military Authorities unless the civil police co-operate with them. What could be simpler than for the Irish Parliament to pass a Resolution stating that in the strained conditions between the two countries they would decline to allow the police to assist the Military Authorities in stopping desertion? The Irish Parliament might resolve that in the strained relations between Great Britain and Ireland the police should not assist the Military Authorities in stopping desertion. Is that a risk we ought to run? Did hon. Gentlemen opposite believe in what they themselves say when they expressed themselves in favour of the theoretical assertion of the supremacy of this House? What is the use of supporting words which sustain the theoretical supremacy if you deliberately decline to support the only proposal by which means can be given for the practical enforcement of that supremacy? As I can speak only once, I must anticipate the arguments that may be brought forward in opposition to my Amendment. Everybody would admit that the position of the Lord 492 Lieutenant would be a very difficult one. He would go over to Ireland as the representative exponent and supporter of the Imperial authority of this House; but he would also go there to promote within the limits of this Bill self-government in Ireland. Suppose a Resolution such as I have suggested, which strikes vitally at the efficiency of the solitary Imperial instrument left for the assertion of supremacy is proposed in the Irish Parliament, and that hon. Members below the Gangway, who represent the Irish Government, do their best to oppose the Resolution as contrary in its spirit to their understanding of the Act, and that they are beaten by a majority—what will be the position of the Lord Lieutenant? He will be deprived of the Ministry who have opposed this improper Resolution, and he will send for the Leader of the Opposition, who has carried the Resolution, and ask him to form a domestic Government. That gentleman may say,—"I can only do so on the understanding that the Resolution is assented to by the British Government." He goes to another gentleman who gives the same answer. What is the Lord Lieutenant, under these circumstances, to do? The Irish Parliament will have deposed the existing Government by passing an anti-Imperial Resolution, and the unhappy Lord Lieutenant will not be able to carry on the domestic government of Ireland with the cooperation of Irishmen unless he, as an Imperial officer, assents to proposals which he knows are fatal to Imperial rule. It is to avoid all these difficulties that I have put my Proviso on the Notice Paper. The other night, when we were discussing the position of the Army under certain contingencies, the Prime Minister relied exclusively and entirely upon the words of the patent and commission of the Lord Lieutenant. He said that the Lord Lieutenant, by his patent and commission, would be omnipotent over the British troops which might be quartered in Ireland. Very well, I have adopted the suggestion which the right hon. Gentleman's argument implied, and I propose that no discussion can take place in the Irish House of Commons on this matter without the previous assent of the Lord Lieutenant, who will, under an instrument from Her Majesty, have control over the 493 troops. I cannot anticipate what objections will be taken to my Proviso. The Imperial Army and Navy are subjects forbidden to the Irish Parliament; they are forbidden fruit that may not be eaten. I propose that that fruit may not be touched or smell, for we know that the handling and smelling frequently engender appetite. My desire is that the Imperial authority should be something that can be enforced, and that will continue to act in all parts of the United Kingdom, and I therefore beg to move my Amendment.
Amendment proposed, after the foregoing Amendment, to insert the words—
Provided always, the Irish Legislature shall not have power to pass Resolutions or discuss any question connected with the subjects enumerated in Sub-section (3), unless the assent of the Lord Lieutenant, upon instructions given by Her Majesty, has been previously obtained."—(Lord G. Hamilton.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I think my first duty to the noble Lord is to thank him for the kindness and compliments he has paid to the Treasury Bench. The noble Lord has been so good as to suggest that those who are responsible for this Hill have not properly thought out the A B C of the question, which assertion was understood to apply to the Treasury Bench in general. The noble Lord has coolly addressed those words to men some of whom have been doing the best they can with their feeble faculties to serve the Crown and the Kingdom long before the noble Lord's eyes first saw the light; and then, no doubt in the most conscientious manner, the noble Lord proceeded, with that intuition which has been given to him, and with the wonderful power of accumulating the experience of a long life in the course of a short one, to instruct the Government upon this subject, discovering the shallowness and insufficiency of their knowledge. My next duty is to say that, except in the very last portion of the noble Lord's speech, I was at a loss to discover what was the relation between the Amendment and the oration which the noble Lord has delivered. Why has the noble Lord limited his Amendment to the 3rd sub- 494 section, making it, for all ostensible purposes, totally insufficient? Why has he introduced these most awkward, ill-advised, ineffective, and inexpert words? There are other sub-sections which deal with the Crown and succession to the Crown, with the making of peace and war, and matters arising out of a state of war, with Treaties and other relations with Foreign States. All these things the noble Lord, as the guardian of the State, will leave open, going from the A B C to the X Y Z of the situation. All these questions the noble Lord says, by implication in his Amendment, he will leave to the Irish Legislature, provided they only do not make laws. Well, the fact is the noble Lord would leave matters infinitely worse than they were before. I think the mouth of the Legislature ought not to be wholly closed on all these subjects. The noble Lord implies that the Irish Legislature are free to pass Resolutions on those subjects, but not on questions concerning the Army and Navy. If another battle of Waterloo were fought, would the noble Lord refuse to allow the Irish Legislature to pass a Vote of Congratulation?
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
That is a most delightful solution of the difficulty. What is it that gives value to congratulatory Resolutions of the House of Commons? It is because they are spontaneous. Here there is to be an official approbation or intimation, and then, with the stamp of that prior approbation, forthwith there may be an Address of Congratulation given on some great national victory. My answer to this is, that the Irish Legislature ought to be left free to congratulate Her Majesty on great national occasions and on great occasions of joy. For instance, an Heir to the Throne might be born, but under this proposal no Vote of Congratulation could be passed "unless upon instructions given by Her Majesty" through the Lord Lieutenant, whose assent must first have been obtained. There might be a great victory—a great danger overcome—a decisive victory. Not a word unless by the assent of the Lord Lieutenant. Why, it is approaching in spirit 495 the revival of the old Poyning's Law. Nothing is to be said by the Irish Legislature until the padlock the noble Lord would nail on them has been removed. That is a sober comment on this singular Resolution moved by the noble Lord. The noble Lord stated incidentally that, in a question of national danger, the minority in Ireland could not be relied on.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
The noble Lord can correct me if he likes. I would rather be corrected by him than by anyone else. He said that the minority had been betrayed by the Government. Evidently he meant that they could not be relied on by the Government; but did not he intend to refer to a body of persons so distinguished and trustworthy as my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham?
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
The noble Lord did a cruel injury and injustice to the minority, for I believe that in a case of difficulty they will not fail in their essential duties as loyal subjects. I say that in face of all the astounding speeches that have been delivered by various great authorities, excepting the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, who has never entered the ranks of those who have taught the lesson of disloyalty, violence, and rebellion. If the noble Lord's mind were in a glass bee-hive I should be most, curious to find out by what process he arrives at the conclusion, first, that the Army is the only instrument to be relied upon; and, secondly, that his reliance upon the Army is to take effect upon the proceedings of the Irish Parliament. My difference with the noble Lord is that the noble Lord thinks that the natural and necessary consequence of this Bill will be the most violent antagonism between the Irish and Imperial influences.
§ LORD G. HAMILTON
I only said—and it is admitted by a certain section of Nationalist Members—that there will be an attempt to remove the restrictions imposed on the Irish Parliament under the Bill.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I do not agree with the noble Lord. I do not believe the attempt would be made; but, supposing it were made by perfectly Parliamentary and Constitutional processes, what would the Army have to do with it? The noble Lord does not propose to check the attempt by forbidding Petitions, Addresses, or Resolutions. His Resolution is quite as much in defect as it is in excess. It sins quite as much by what it omits as by what it commits, and sins enormously in both. The noble Lord supposes the case of a Resolution to the effect that none but Irish-born troops shall serve in Ireland. That would not be a Parliamentary Petition for the relaxation of restrictions, but a Resolution which, if it meant anything, would appear to contemplate direct military action by an Irish force against the forces of the Empire. Does he really believe that, if Ireland were unhappily set upon any of these extreme, dangerous, and suicidal councils, his Resolution would prevent it? Under the sub-sections that he leaves uncovered, there is plenty of space for an Irish Legislature to do things infinitely more dangerous to the Union of the Kingdoms and the maintenance of the Imperial power than any Resolution such as ho describes would be. I am quite sure that if we wish the Irish Parliament to remain on safe lines in these Imperial matters we must show it a certain confidence; but if we begin with these little restraints and prohibitions, showing our desire to wound but fear to strike, it will be impossible to devise any methods more directly calculated to disturb the relations between the two Islands. Suppose the Irish Parliament passes this evil Resolution, how will the noble Lord proceed against it? Will he march down a regiment and repeat the process of Pride's Purge? Will he send colonels and soldiers to surround the Table in the Irish Parliament and make a selection of who shall withdraw and who shall remain? He cannot have so little of the sense of a statesman as to suppose that it is by this use of local authority and force that these, by supposition, terrible discords are to be met. The instrument to which the Government look for meeting this contingency, which is immeasurably remote, and unlikely as anything can be that is not absolutely 497 impossible, is not the Viceroy, nor the Forces stationed in Ireland, but this House. Under these circumstances, I submit that the noble Lord's Amendment is in its positive sense most mischievous, because it begins a work which absolutely requires some initial degree, at least, of mutual confidence and reliance by a proclamation which really flaunts in the face of the Irish nation and the Irish Legislature a belief that they are untrue to their declarations, and that nothing is to be expected from them but resistance and disturbance. But, besides that, the Amendment, in my opinion, is totally inefficient for the purpose that the noble Lord has in view. While he closes one door, and one, perhaps, rather small door, he leaves open other doors that are larger, and will admit of more dangerous and serious incursions. The noble Lord, therefore, totally fails in the object which ho proposes to attain, while he inflicts grave and serious damage upon those other and I think better aims which are the declared and fundamental objects of the Bill.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I had not intended to say a single word upon this Amendment; and, indeed, I had some little doubt whether I could possibly support it. I was inclined to think with my right hon. Friend who has just sat down that the Amendment was inapplicable, and while closing one single door left open many others, through which greater incursions upon the interests of this country might easily be made. But while I was reflecting upon the advantages of silence and of virtuous retirement, my right hon. Friend, to my intense surprise, sought me out to slay me with a sneer at my ability and the influence which the right hon. Gentleman supposes me to have with the loyal minority. I confess I am totally at a loss to know, when I was so inclined to keep out of the fray, why my right hon. Friend should use his most powerful weapons to demolish me. There is no encouragement to be silent.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
My right hon. Friend is under a misunderstanding. I had no intention of accusing him of having entitled himself to influence with the loyal minority by the means that are commonly in force. On the contrary, I desired to the best of my 498 ability to acknowledge the honourable abstention which, it appears to me, my right hon. Friend has practised in that respect in abstaining from those means of currying favour with the loyal minority which have been so much in favour with the Tory Party.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
That was the second reference which my right hon. Friend made to me, and for that I was extremely grateful. It was the first reference which aroused me from my apparent indifference, and in that my right hon. Friend, without rhyme or reason, made a sudden violent attack upon me. I really am at some difficulty to understand why I was suddenly sought out for the purpose of being held up as a terrible example to the House. I have, however, come to the conclusion that this is the usual course of my right hon. Friend whenever he has a bad case; and I feel it necessary, therefore, to look more carefully than I had intended into the Amendment which has been proposed. I remember perfectly well that on a previous occasion when the right hon. Gentleman had to throw over previous speakers and to climb down, he covered that operation, which most of us would not have indulged in with any grace or satisfaction, with such cuts and thrusts at his opponents all round, as if he was enjoying a tremendous triumph when he was really submitting to a tremendous defeat. No one admires so much as I do the rhetorical methods of my right hon. Friend; but he at once awakened my vigilance, and, having considered carefully my right hon. Friend's subsequent observations, I begin to see that there is very great force in the Amendment of the noble Lord. I still think that it does not go far enough, but that is an omission which can easily be repaired. One of the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman was certainly the strangest that I ever heard, even from him. The Prime Minister said—"What a deprivation this would be to the Irish Parliament, as they would thereby be prevented from passing a Resolution congratulating Her Majesty upon some event of great public interest;" and he actually took as a particular event upon which he thought the Irish Parliament would be in a state of almost unnatural eagerness to congratulate Her Majesty on the birth of an Heir to the 499 Crown. I may point out that before the Irish Parliament can congratulate Her Majesty upon the birth of an Heir to the Crown they must have an opportunity of congratulating Her Majesty upon the marriage of an Heir to the Crown; but, judging from what we have recently seen, judging from the conduct of one of the most popular and Representative Bodies in Ireland, the Council of the City of Dublin, I do not think it is at all likely the Irish Parliament would feel the deprivation. The Prime Minister says—"Suppose you prohibit the Irish Parliament from passing Resolutions. By what process are you going to make your action valid? Suppose they pass Resolutions in spite of you, what are you going to do? Are you going to bring your Army down to the Houses of Parliament, carry out another Pride's Purge, and say take away that bauble." That is, of course, if the Irish Parliament indulges in a Mace, which, I suppose, it will. Has it not again and again been represented to the Prime Minister that, although the Irish Parliament are prohibited from passing Acts on certain subjects, they may do it in spite of the prohibition? The Prime Minister's reply is—"You have an Army of 30,000 men."
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I do not say they are the exact words of the right hon. Gentleman, but they give the spirit of his reply. The right hon. Gentleman has pointed again and again to Great Britain's superior force. He has said—"You are 30,00,000 against 5,000,000." But this superior force is only operative through the Army. It is not because we are 30,000,000 that the Irish Parliament will pay the slightest attention to our wishes. It would only be because we have a force enough to carry out our wishes. The Prime Minister should see that, whatever weight is to be attached to the force to be employed, it applies exactly the same to Resolutions and to Acts of Parliament. If it be true that it is impossible to enforce a prohibition of Resolutions, then I defy the right hon. Gentleman to show how the prohibition of Acts of Parliament is to be enforced. If the Prime Minister's argument is a sound one, it cuts at the whole of the safeguards of the Bill; and Clauses 3 500 and 4 are not worth the paper on which they are printed. I certainly think my right hon. Friend cannot see how far his own argument goes, and I am hopeful that he may be willing to reconsider his position, and all the more because he has practically given a pledge on the subject. He said on the introduction of the Bill that it was his intention to prohibit the Irish Parliament from dealing with certain subjects and from doing any act in relation thereto. I am perfectly well aware that when the right hon. Gentleman was reminded of this on a previous occasion he said that he meant "Act of Parliament." But he could not then have had his own words before him; his actual words were "doing any act, "and if "Act of Parliament" were substituted for "act" in the sentence I have quoted, it makes nonsense. The right hon. Gentleman must have meant doing acts outside the ordinary legislative process of Acts of Parliament, and anyone would have understood Resolutions to be there included. That is common sense; but what is the sense of saying to the Irish Parliament—"You shall not pass an Act of Parliament on this or that subject, and you shall pass a Resolution, which will be as injurious to the British interests which we seek to protect as any Act that could possibly be passed"? In the case of any difficulty with a Foreign Power, will anyone say that a Resolution of such a Body as a practically independent and, at all events, a separate Irish Parliament sympathising with our enemies would not be as dangerous to British interests as any Act of Parliament? It is playing with the House to suggest that these restrictions are valid and worthy of support, and at the same time freely to allow the Irish Parliament to do other acts which are kindred in their character and certain to be equally mischievous. The last argument put forward by the Prime Minister was that the difficulty suggested by the noble Lord (Lord George Hamilton) was immeasurably remote. Why should it be so? The portion of the Irish people for whom the Government are legislating are opposed to all these restrictions, and declare that they will not rest until they are removed. Is it not certain, under those circumstances, that, if they could deal with the reserved subjects by Resolution, while 501 the restriction with respect to legislation obtain, they will take the opportunity? I do not know whether the Prime Minister has always held this opinion, but my right hon. Colleagues have not. I would remind the Secretary for Scotland of a speech he made in this House on the Second Reading of the Bill of 1886? He said of that Bill, and it is equally true of this Bill—"Do you tell us that certain subjects are reserved from the Irish Parliament? Do you flatter yourselves that yon can prevent the Irish Parliament from discussing these subjects and passing Resolutions upon them"? Then the Secretary for Scotland wound up by saying that separation would be better than such a state of things. The Secretary for Scotland was perfectly logical and sensible in that argument then; it will be a pleasure to hear him now. I dare say he would make a sensible and logical speech, but I think he would find it very difficult to justify the vote he is going to give. I do not hesitate to say that, although we are only dealing with a small branch of it, this question of passing Resolutions is at the root of the restrictions which the Government propose; and it is useless and childish to prevent the Irish Parliament from legislating on any subject, if they are left free to discuss and pass Resolutions upon it.
§ *MR. E. STANHOPE (Lincolnshire, Horncastle)
I hesitated a moment before rising, because I hoped that someone on the Government Bench would have replied to my right hon. Friend. I think the House will realise that I have some right to speak upon this subject by virtue of the office I held in the last Administration. It was most unworthy of the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister to pit his years and experience against the years and experience of my noble Friend, who has been a Member of the House of Commons for very many years, and who has been a Member of an Administration for more years than any gentleman on the Treasury Bench, with the single exception of the Prime Minister. The noble Lord has, moreover, in two Administrations had to deal with the Admiralty, and he has a right to bring forward a subject which he deemed of such importance to that Service. The Prime 502 Minister argued that the proposal of my noble Friend is insufficient. That is admitted. The Opposition would like the Proviso to be extended to all the restrictions in the clause; but they do not wish to waste the time of the House. The general question was discussed in Committee at great length; we were beaten upon it, and my noble Friend now takes out one particular case that was not discussed, and asks to have it debated, because he deems it—as we all deem it—of supreme importance to the interests of this country. After the extraordinarily vague speech of the right hon. Gentleman, perhaps I may be allowed to direct the attention of the Committee more closely to the point at issue. We have been told over and over again by the Government that this Bill will make no change in the position of the Army and Navy, and that they will still remain under the Lord Lieutenant as an Imperial officer. But what we contend is, that if a Home Rule Legislature cannot alter the position of the Army and Navy by Statute, it can alter it by Resolution. This is no idle fear. The right hon. Gentleman seems to think it is unreasonable to prevent the Irish Parliament passing a Resolution. But what has he himself done on the 16th clause? He has absolutely debarred it from passing any Address to the Crown on the question of Revenue. We say that the Irish Parliament not only could change the position of the Army and Navy in Ireland, but that the temptation would be in the direction of inducing them to make that change. We want securities against the time when there may be an apprehension on the part of the Irish Parliament that the Army and Navy are to be used in enforcing Imperial supremacy. The Home Rule Parliament might pass Resolutions which would hamper and harass the action of the Services. I will give three cases in which that might be done. Would it not be possible for the Home Rule Parliament by Resolution practically to prevent the Army in Ireland from obtaining any supplies? Again, can anybody doubt that a Resolution of the Home Rule Parliament might have an enormous effect on recruiting? Why, the action of the Home Rule Party has had within the last few years a very great effect on recruiting. If we believe the Report of the Inspector General on 503 Recruiting the National Party have done a great deal to prevent recruiting.
§ *MR. E. STANHOPE
I am quoting from the Report of the Inspector General on Recruiting, and that is an authority which I think the House will accept more readily than it will the statement of the hon. and learned Gentleman.
§ *MR. E. STANHOPE
In the third place, might not the English Army be placed in a very difficult position with regard to deserters if the Home Rule Legislature did its best to prevent the Civil authority from aiding the military in securing their apprehension? I challenge the right hon. Gentleman for some reply on these three points. The right hon. Gentleman says that, if we carry this Proviso, we shall not have complete security. That is true; but we want to get all the security Ave can, and this Amendment will give us some. It is a security which the Government ought not to deny to us, and if it is denied we shall be "entitled to say to the country that the securities given to the Imperial Parliament for enforcing its wishes are intended by the Government to be the shams which we believe them to be.
§ *SIR G. CHESNEY (Oxford)
said, there was one point not yet touched upon in the Debate, as to which he desired to say a few words. The Prime Minister, in replying to the speech of the noble Lord the Member for Enfield (Lord George Hamilton), twitted him with the incompleteness of applying the Proviso to one clause only—and asked why, if it were necessary to apply it to the Irish Legislature with regard to military questions, should it not be applied with regard to the much more important questions connected with foreign affairs and the succession to the Crown? The argument afforded its own refutation. There was this difference between the two cases: A Resolution passed by the Irish Legislature with respect to foreign affairs might be extremely mischievous; but, at any rate, it would have no Executive action. It would be inoperative except in so far as it exhibited the feeling of the Irish Legis- 504 lature. But a Resolution with regard to the Army quartered in Ireland might have an immediate executive and operative effect. Therefore, it was quite reasonable to propose this particular Amendment without necessarily attaching corresponding Amendments to all the other sub-sections of the clause. A Resolution of that kind passed by the Irish Legislature might at once bring the Parliaments of the two countries into conflict, and he believed that sooner or later such a conflict would come. It was all very well for the Prime Minister to say that they had no reason to believe that the Irish Legislature would show a spirit resembling that which had for many years been exhibited by the Leaders of the Irish people. The right hon. Gentleman had certainly given them no reason why they should entertain such a hope. But even supposing, for the sake of argument, that the hon. Gentleman who succeeded to power, in the first instance, would be actuated by the sincere desire to so work the new measure as to avoid grounds of conflict with the English Parliament, they might reasonably assume that those gentlemen would not hold power long, but would be succeeded by another set of Irish statesmen who would assume the natural part of playing on the excitable disposition of their countrymen. Then difficulties would begin to arise. A Resolution, for instance, passed by the Irish Legislature on some cause of difference between the two Governments, appealing, perhaps, to the supposed patriotism of the Irish people, might be fraught with the most disastrous consequences to the maintenance of peace between the two countries. The right hon. Gentleman had told them it was their duty to act in this matter on the policy of trust. But when a man was about to marry his daughter to a young man who, no doubt, was to be thoroughly trusted, they did not exhibit that trust in drawing up the marriage settlements. On the contrary, the family lawyer treated the young man as if he were a worthless spendthrift. If that was the principle that guided them in private affairs, they ought not to show less care and caution in conducting the business of the nation. While he should support the Amendment of the noble Lord, he did not believe it would have any strong effect, for if the power 505 of passing Resolutions was taken away from the Irish Legislature they might still express their will and wishes indirectly, and in such a manner in regard to the Army as would make the position of British troops in Ireland perfectly intolerable. He believed that if the Bill was passed it would follow, sooner or later, as a necessary consequence, that the Imperial Government would be required to withdraw the troops from Ireland as the only means of preserving peace, for they could find no example in history where a Legislature such as was proposed to be set up in Ireland had been placed side by side with a garrison belonging to a dominant and separate Government. Such an experiment had never been tried even in countries where they had no strife, no passion long pent up, no ill-will, and no ill-blood fomented in the past, and certainly, of all countries in the world, Ireland was the last in which it should be tried. The Amendment, though he thought it did not go far enough, was a step in the right direction, and on that ground he should support it. The Irish Parliament, if it meant to be thoroughly loyal, could have no objection to it; while if it had no such intention, they could not lose sight of the fact that it might do tremendous harm by passing Resolutions, and the stipulation became all the more necessary.
said, the Navy had been referred to as well as the Army, and, therefore, he felt bound to say what the Navy would think of any Resolutions passed by the Irish Parliament. The noble Lord had spoken of the difficulty which might be caused to the Army and Navy by the Irish Parliament passing a Resolution dealing with Supplies; and, of course, if he went to a Division, they would support him. But, as a naval officer, he would like to point out that naval men would be in a different position from the Army—they would be afloat. Every Captain would know how to handle his ship, and every Admiral how to handle his squadron, in spite of any number of Irish Resolutions. If an Irish Parliament attempted to pass any Resolution reflecting on naval men, or fettering their action, they would make short work of it. If they wanted Supplies, which were refused, they would do as Nelson did in a like case, when he said— 506 "If you do not send them we shall come and take them." They would simply send their boats ashore, and there would be no difficulty with the butchers or provision merchants. They were entirely apart from the Sister Service, and knew how to protect themselves.
§ COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
said, that after the speech of the hon. and gallant Admiral (Admiral Field) the noble Lord would probably withdraw that portion of the Resolution that affected the Navy. But ho did object to the Irish Parliament being prevented doing things which it was already in the power of Poor Law Guardians to do. Soldiers were occasionally brought before Boards of Guardians in Ireland for the purpose of obtaining an order that they should be sent to England, and, of course, Resolutions had to be passed. As to Volunteers the provision was unnecessary, as there were none in Ireland. But why should not a Resolution be passed in favour of military camps dealing with shopkeepers instead of with the stores? Again, if a foolish officer built a magazine so near a town as to be a source of danger, why should not a Resolution of protest be permissible? There were no arsenals in Ireland, and he did not see why Resolutions should not be passed in favour of having one. He did not believe that the passing of Resolutions on any of the subjects he bad mentioned would upset the Military Forces of the Crown.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 150; Noes 189.—(Division List, No. 273.)
§ Further Proceeding on Consideration, as amended, deferred till To-morrow.