§ [THIRTY-FIRST NIGHT.]
§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Executive Authority.
§ Clause 5 (Executive power in Ireland).
In page 3, line 14, to leave out the words, "or as may be directed by Irish Act."—(The Marquess of Carmarthen.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ MR. PLUNKET (Dublin University)
said, he had risen on the previous evening to continue the discussion, and he had done so for two reasons—in the first place, because of the extraordinary course that he thought was being adopted by hon. Members opposite, some of them apparently Members of the Government, who cried out "Divide, divide!" when there had been under discussion for only a few minutes an Amendment which he considered of extreme importance, and of great interest to all who were following the course of the Bill. He had risen last night to prevent the Debate being cut short in that way, and also to ask some questions on matters on which they had received no light whatever from the Government. The object of the Amendment was to leave out the last words of Sub-section 2 of Clause 5, in line 14 of the Bill, the words—namely, "or as may be directed by Irish Act." He wished to ask, in the first place, why it was that the Government had departed in this clause from the drafting, and, apparently, from the principle, of the corresponding clause of the Bill of 1886? The clause in the Bill of 1886 was as follows:—The Executive Government in Ireland shall continue vested in Her Majesty, and shall be carried on by the Lord Lieutenant on behalf of Her Majesty with the aid of such officers and such Council as to Her Majesty may from time to time seem fit.899 There was nothing in that Bill which indicated the intention on the part of the Government that the Irish Legislature for the future should have any power to control the exercise of the will of the Sovereign in the selection of Ministers who were to form the Executive Government in Ireland. He wished to know the principle on which this change had been made. Obviously, it was a very important change. The hon. Member for North Kerry, when he intervened for a few minutes in the Debate, stated that this was a power which had been conceded to every Colonial Government constituted by Act of Parliament; but he (Mr. Plunket) was curious to know if, in fact, any precedent could be found in any Constitution for such a provision as this. The 11th section of the British North America Act was as follows:—There shall be a Council to aid and advise the Government of Canada, to be styled the Queen's Privy Council of Canada, and the persons who are to be Members of that Council shall be from time to time chosen and summoned by the Governor General, and sworn in as Privy Councillors and Members thereof, and may be from time to time removed by the Governor General.It appeared to him that this was entirely inconsistent with any control imposed on the will of the Governor General by any Act which could be passed by the Legislature of Canada. But why had this change been made? There was, of course, a very important alteration in another part of the proposals of the Government from the scheme that was laid before the country in 1886, and that was the proposed retention of the Irish Members in the Imperial Parliament. He certainly could not find in that any reason whatever for the change in this part of the Bill. It would appear to him that so far as that alteration in the scheme of the Government was concerned it would rather point in an opposite direction, because the effect of the words it was now sought to strike out would be to a certain extent to limit the authority and power of the Sovereign should Her Majesty be advised by her English Ministers to interfere in this matter. He understood from what had been said by the Prime Minister that the power of choosing the servants of the Crown who were to advise the Lord Lieutenant in Ireland was one of those matters to be delegated to the Lord Lieutenant. He 900 wished, therefore, further to ask whether it was contemplated that the power of selection which was to be vested in the Lord Lieutenant as representing the Sovereign was to be conveyed to him by the instructions which he would receive on his appointment, and, if so, whether they were from time to time to be capable of variation by instructions issued to him from time to time by the authority of the Sovereign through Her Imperial advisers? For his own part, he objected to this change in the Bill. He tried to assume as well as he could that this measure might by possibility become law, and that those he represented in Ireland would have to live under it. He maintained that everything which removed them, to however small a degree, from the protection and, if necessary, the interference, of the Imperial Government added to the dread with which they looked forward to the possible consummation, and it was for these reasons and not with a view to delay the progress of the Bill that he ventured to submit to the Prime Minister the questions which he had now endeavoured to put. He should certainly support the Amendment.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
was understood to say that the retention of the Irish Members in the Imperial Parliament was no ground for the Amendment now proposed, that subject and the subject dealt with in the Amendment being entirely different. In reply to the last question addressed to him, no doubt the power of variation would exist, but it seemed to him to be a power little likely to be exercised. He admitted that the clause was in its terms a departure from the corresponding clause in the Bill of 1886; but he thought the right hon. Gentleman, however great his hostility to the present measure might be, would agree that it was the duty of the Government, during the six or seven years given to them for consideration, to make their examination of the case more thorough and their provisions more complete. The proposal in the Bill with regard to the formation of the Executive Committee was the result of that extended consideration of the subject. Such a provision would not have been necessary if the Irish Privy Council, as an instrument of government, held the same position as the English Privy Council. The English Privy Council, except on the accession 901 of the Sovereign, was, for all practical purposes, under the control of the Executive Government. On the occasion of the accession not only was the Privy Council summoned, but other persons in addition, amongst them being the Lord Mayor of London, and, he believed, the Officers of the Crown, who might not be Members of the Privy Council. He stated this because the proceeding was exceptional in its nature; but, speaking generally, the Privy Council was entirely under the control of the Executive Government. It should be borne in mind that the assent of the Sovereign would be necessary to any Irish Act relating to the Executive Committee of the Privy Council. The Sovereign, therefore, would not be excluded from the transaction. The Government thought it desirable to provide for an ample power of regulating the relation of the proposed Executive Committee in Ireland to the existing Privy Council, but also that they should provide for the alternative of Her Majesty having to call upon the Irish Parliament for its aid. He did not say whether the exercise of this power by the Irish Parliament would be necessary or not, but it ought, at any rate, to be in existence for the purpose of giving firmness and solidity to the position of the Executive Committee in relation to the Irish Privy Council. The Irish Privy Council ought to be as completely under the control of the Irish Executive as the English Privy Council was under that of the English Executive.
MR. J. LOWTHER (Kent, Thanet)
said, this was a matter the importance of which all sections of the House would recognise as being clearly demonstrated. Anybody who had had any practical knowledge of Executive government in Ireland would not contradict him when he said that the conditions which attached to the Legislative Authority in Ireland were in importance immensely and immeasurably less than those which surrounded the Executive power. He understood that, in the judgment of the Prime Minister, the words proposed to be omitted were required in order to enable Her Majesty and her Representatives to have recourse to the assistance of the Irish Legislature with the view of completing Acts which otherwise they would be unable to render legal and complete.
MR. J. LOWTHER
said, the right hon. Gentleman also seemed to think that the withholding or giving of the assent of the Crown to any Act of the Irish Legislature which was required for the purposes indicated would be an Act not of purely Irish concern, but an Act of Imperial import, a condition of affairs which would bring into requisition those provisions in the Bill which would enable the Crown to be advised on such matters, independently of the Irish Executive. That he took to be one of the main points of the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman, however, had omitted to bear in mind the very important consideration that Acts of the Irish Legislature might be submitted for the Royal Assent at different periods and under the auspices of two sets of advisers. While Her Majesty was advised in Great Britain by one set of British advisers, the Royal Assent would be given in Ireland under the advice of the British advisers for the moment, and might be given to an Act which would bind the Sovereign for all time, and bind the Imperial Parliament, equally with the Irish Legislature, for all time. The power of withholding of the assent of the Crown from an Irish Act was absolutely, under this hypothesis, illusory. There was nothing in the wording of the clause which would specify the category of office to be dealt with; that was to say, the Executive Committee would be of such numbers and comprise persons holding such offices as Her Majesty might think fit, or as might be directed by Irish Act. Well, was there anything to prevent the Irish Legislature from submitting to the approval of the Sovereign an Act which would attach to permanent offices conditions of Membership of the Executive Council? and those offices might be held during good behaviour, as distinguished from being held during pleasure. There was nothing in the clause to prevent that. Was he right in assuming that that would be permissible under the clause? [A pause.] He presumed from the silence of the Government that that was so. What would be the effect? Why, the Lord Lieutenant might be saddled with permanent advisers. That would 903 be a state of affairs quite unknown to any existing Constitutional system.
MR. J. LOWTHER
said, the official experience of the hon. Member for Longford—fortunately for himself—had not been learnt in Ireland; and he therefore thought these things were unlikely to occur. When he had been a little longer associated with those amongst whom his political lot was now cast, probably he would take a less decided view. Hon. Members, by their ironical cheers, seemed to indicate that his conjecture was absurd, but what he feared might occur was by no means impossible or even improbable. He trusted that the Committee would not lose sight of the enormous importance of surrounding with special safeguards the subject of the selection of Constitutional advisers in Ireland. He was not going to charge the Members of the Irish Legislature with any desire to bring ridicule on themselves or upon the Constitution of which they would form a part, but he did not think he was trenching on the impossible in this matter. The Irish Executive might, in part at any rate, be composed of persons who would be called upon to advise Her Majesty and her Representatives while holding permanent offices rendering them wholly independent of popular control, and he hoped the Committee would not part with this particular branch of the subject without fully realising its enormous importance.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBORNE (Rochester)
remarked that the discussion of the previous evening had been important in one respect, as it had drawn from the Solicitor General an account of what he believed to be the mind of the Government on this clause. That account, however, was very different from that which had been just given by the Prime Minister. He was not sure in what respect the Prime Minister meant the two methods of selection to be alternative. It was quite evident that the Crown, in accordance with all Constitutional usage, was able to select 904 its own advisers, and, therefore, he conceived that the Prime Minister intended that the two powers should be concurrent, and be used alternately by the Crown or the Irish Legislature. This was a very different proposition from that which had been laid down by the Solicitor General. The hon. and learned Gentleman's definition was inconsistent with the wording of the clause, but was a workable definition. The Prime Minister's definition, on the other hand, while it was no doubt consistent with the wording of the clause, would produce an absolutely unworkable state of things. It was conceivable that a person who might be appointed by the Crown to office might be distasteful to the Irish Legislature, and in that case the Irish Legislature would have an obvious method of setting things right from their point of view. They could pass an Act declaring that that office should no longer give Cabinet rank, and so would get rid of the obnoxious person. Conversely, the Irish Legislature might select a particular office as one giving Cabinet rank, and suddenly the Crown, for some reason relating to Great Britain, might exclude that office from Cabinet rank. This was a tremendous power for the Crown to possess, and one that was novel to our Constitution. It was not an ordinary veto, but a sort of suspensory veto to be used as occasion arose. The Prime Minister said that, if the Irish Legislature made mistakes in the Acts it passed, it would always be in the power of the Crown to veto such Acts. No doubt that was so, but what an enormous extension was being given to this Bill as it proceeded in Committee! How very different the veto of the Crown was to be in Ireland from the veto of the Crown anywhere else? It was quite clear that the veto of the Crown, in the view of the Prime Minister, could be used every day to correct the mistakes of the Irish Legislature. This appeared to be an enormous extension of the veto, such as he was sure the Government did not originally intend. Now that the Committee had heard the real meaning of the clause from the Prime Minister's own lips, it was quite clear that it would be unworkable, and that it would be far better to insert words to carry out the meaning suggested by the Solicitor General.
§ SIR H. JAMES (Bury, Lancashire)
said, he thought the Committee ought to understand what was the intention of the Government with regard to these words. He did not quite follow the explanation of the Prime Minister, that, in order that complete control of the Irish Privy Council should be retained in the hands of the Executive, it was necessary to give the Irish Legislature the power contained in the section. What would be the result of these words if they were retained, and in what position would the Legislature be placed? The contention of his hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General was that when once Her Majesty had exercised Her power under the clause, the Irish Legislature would have the power of settling the numbers and the offices of the Executive Committee.
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL (Sir J. RIGBY, Forfar)
It is obvious that that would not be intended, because we have already established that that power would be a recurrent power. I think I said nothing that would justify the conclusion stated by my right hon. Friend. What I did say was that an Irish Act might take the matter out of the hands of Her Majesty. If there is any kind of doubt about it I would refer to Clause 33, which says that an Irish Act may alter any provision in this Act when it is so expressly provided in this Act. I never raised the slightest doubt that, so long as an Irish Act does not intervene, Her Majesty may, from time to time, fix the numbers and offices referred to in the clause.
§ SIR H. JAMES
remarked that the Solicitor General had said very much what he had been understood to say on the previous evening. When the Leader of the Opposition used the expression "and afterwards" the Solicitor General did not contradict him, and he did not do so now, because he said that at any time it would be in the power of the Irish Legislature to pass an Act which would be contrary to the terms of the Order of Her Majesty, and from that time Her Majesty's power on the subject would be gone. He very respectfully said that he himself did not take the same view, and he could not find any lawyer who did. He agreed with the Solicitor General fully that the words "from time to time" must be read in 906 relation to the power of Her Majesty. Although when he (Sir H. James) had an Amendment down for the insertion of these words it was withdrawn, because it was said the words were unnecessary. What is the meaning to be given to the words "from time to time as may be directed by Irish Act?" The construction of the Solicitor General is that as soon as an Irish Act has been passed, from that time forth the words "from time to time" are to be struck out, and the power never can be exercised after that time, but afterwards only as directed by Irish Act. The argument against the Amendment comes to this: that the Judges are to read a Statute contrary to what is stated in it. It may be the duty of the Judges to construe doubtful phraseology; but it is not their duty to alter the meaning of an Act of Parliament, nor ought they to do that which is contrary to the intention of a Statute. Surely it is humiliating to Parliament to give to a Judicial Body power to alter what Parliament has done, whether intentionally or unintentionally. We are told the power of the veto, which is to be a living political force, is to be used as a weapon by which, say, a Conservative Ministry is to tell the Irish Legislature—"You shall not legislate according to the wishes of Irish public opinion." If we did that here in England it would be bad enough, but to do it in the case of Ireland would lead to inconceivable friction and turmoil. It would be entirely contrary to all the principles of the Liberal Party to give to the Crown the power of exercising discretion in respect of legislation by means of the living forcible exercise of the power of veto. I appeal to Irish Members to recollect the words of their late Leader. Mr. Parnell said that there should be no veto over the Acts of an Irish Legislature, except the Constitutional veto of the Crown, which was never exercised, and never was a real veto. I will ask hon. Members from Ireland whether they do not look with apprehension on the doctrine laid down, according to which a Conservative Government in Office with a large majority from Great Britain may veto measure after measure of the Irish Legislature, producing friction of the worst kind and causing great injury to that Legislature? Such an interference with the Legislature has never been, 907 and never will be, tolerated in this Country, and if applied to Ireland must prove injurious not only to the Government of that country, but to the powers of the Legislature.
§ MR. AMBROSE (Middlesex, Harrow)
said, he was sure the Committee appreciated the importance of the words under discussion—"or as may be directed by Irish Act." At the commencement of these Debates, when they were dealing with the Preamble, they heard a great deal about the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament. The Bill, indeed, was said to be saturated with supremacy. But what were they doing by this Clause 5? They had just passed words which would transfer to the Lord Lieutenant the whole of the powers of the Crown, or such of them as the Ministry for the time being thought fit to delegate. The Committee did not, in fact, know which of the prerogatives were to be delegated by the instrument which would eventually be laid on the Table of the House of Commons. He did not much care which was the true construction of the words—that put upon them by the Solicitor General, or that by the right hon. and learned Member for Bury; but he did wish to know if it was consistent with the pledges of the Prime Minister to place the prerogative of the Crown in the hands of persons appointed to Office by the Irish Legislature. He could quite realise that the Legislature should have some influence over the appointments to the various offices, in the same way as this House of Commons influenced the appointment of Ministers of the Crown, indirectly of course. But that the Irish Legislature should be allowed to alter its own Constitution did seem to be an un-Constitutional proceeding, and one suicidal to the maintenance of Imperial supremacy. [Nationalist cheers.] He did not know why Irish Members should howl.
§ MR. AMBROSE
said, he gathered that hon. Members would like to see the House pass a measure suicidal to the real supremacy of Great Britain, and he could quite understand their possessing such a desire. But the very reasons which prompted their ironical cheers caused him to dislike the proposal. The Committee should be 908 very careful before giving its assent to a proposal like this. They were going to have two Governments in Ireland; there would be the Imperial Government on the one hand, and the Local, or Irish, Government on the other. They must not forget the importance of the matters excepted by Clauses 3 and 4 from the jurisdiction of the Irish Legislature. How were they to secure that such matters would be properly dealt with unless they had in the Irish Cabinet someone nominated by the Crown? He construed this clause to mean that the Executive Committee which was to be constituted would, in fact, form the Irish Cabinet. The Members of that Cabinet would then be the advisers of Her Majesty. The Government of the Queen was still to run in Ireland; why, then, should not Her Majesty have an opportunity of choosing her own Ministers? and yet, under this clause, it would be competent for the Irish Legislature to nominate for high offices persons in whom the Queen could not have proper confidence.
§ MR. BLAKE (Longford, S.)
said, he wished to ask what was the practical danger apprehended by those who objected to this clause? It was that the Irish Legislature might pass an Act which would confer on holders of certain prominent positions the right of Membership of the Executive Committee of the Privy Council. What was it the Irish people had been struggling for during past years? What was it that was being given to them by this Bill? It was the political control of their own affairs by Ministers responsible to a popular Assembly elected by themselves. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Thanet (Mr. J. Lowther) stated—and truly so—that it was a monstrosity unknown in our Constitutional system that persons should by any other process become Members of the Executive of the country. It was, indeed, a monstrosity; but it was not unknown—it had existed in our own Colonies in times past, and the existence of it had produced agitation culminating in rebellion. It was just such an Executive as the right hon. Gentleman suggested—one not created by the people themselves, but forced upon them by Imperial authority, that produced disturbances in the old Province of Canada. It was just because they had a Legislature without an Executive 909 responsible to it that the people found they had not practical control over their own affairs, and they asked for power to create an Executive responsible to themselves. The methods of creation might vary; but the substance and result of their demand was that they should have a political Executive responsible to their popular Assembly. Having got that, they had self-government. And now it was suggested that when the Irish people had got the powers of self-government, they would prove themselves so unworthy as to forge the manacles which were to prevent them from governing themselves. The position of the Irish Members on the power of the veto had been freely and frankly declared. They recognised that the new Constitution was offered to them in order that they might govern themselves; but that if they committed a grave abuse of the powers entrusted to them the Imperial Parliament would be entitled to exercise the power of curbing them. He could not, however, conceive the possibility of an Irish Legislature using its powers to enslave the Irish people; but if they proved themselves unequal to their duty, and unworthy of the liberties entrusted to them, the best thing the Imperial Parliament could do would be not to exercise the power of the veto, but to take away from the Irish people the liberty of self-government.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR (Manchester, E.)
The hon. Gentleman has shown, with force and lucidity, what is his view as to the relations which should subsist between the Irish Executive and the Irish Legislative Assembly; but the Committee is not now concerned with that subject, which was discussed last night on the Amendment which raised the question whether the word should be "executive" or "consultative"; and I understand that until we reach the discussion of the clause as a whole the point has been settled. I will assume, for the sake of argument, that what is intended by the Government is that the Executive Council for Ireland shall be dependent on the Irish Parliament. But how is that carried out by the subsection we are now discussing? The words, as they stand, have been demonstrated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bury to be nonsense; they contain no sense at all. The Solicitor 910 General to-day, in language less clear than he used yesterday, stated the intentions of the Government. Here is The Times' report of what he said yesterday—Was it not obvious, however, that the intention was to leave the last word to the Irish Legislature and to give to Her Majesty's Government only that provisional direction as to the numbers and the offices that would be necessary to start the Executive Council"?I think the hon. and learned Gentleman holds the opinion that the Crown only should set the machinery going, but that matter should be regulated by the Irish Government. The words of the clause do not carry out the intention of the Government, because, as has been pointed out by the right hon. and learned Member for Bury, the words "from time to time" do not refer merely to the starting of an Irish Parliament, but to the setting up of the machinery which is to interfere from time to time, and which might upset the Irish Parliament in any action it might think fit to take. If that is the reading, ought it not to be made clear? Is it respectful to the Committee to rely on the Judges to properly construe it? Under the guidance of the Government we are giving up our functions in respect of discussing this Bill; and it may, therefore, become necessary that we should resolve the Judicial Bench into a Committee of this House to polish up and finish our incomplete work, to make sense where nonsense exists, and to turn chaos into order. I do earnestly impress upon the Government, whether they agree on the question of policy with the views of the Opposition or not, that they should turn the language of the clause into grammatical construction, so that it will not require to be forced by the interpretation of the Judicial Bench in order to make it harmonise with the common sense of practical politics. I turn now to the substance of the clause. I do not quite gather what the Government expect to gain by putting these words in. The Prime Minister has explained that there is a difference between the Privy Council in England and that in Ireland. The English Privy Council, as we know, is only summoned at the will of the Executive; while the Privy Council in Ireland have some initiative of their own, and may summon themselves. 911 Therefore, under this clause you may find the Privy Council appointing its own Executive irrespective of either the Lord Lieutenant or the Irish Legislature. In the case of England it is inaccurate to say that the Privy Council is under the control of the Executive, for the Executive of England is a Committee of the Privy Council. When the Prime Minister said that it was under the 'control of the Executive he might, therefore, have said that it was under the control of a Committee of the Privy Council; and that I take it is, broadly, the fact. But what is the case in Ireland? I presume the Chief Secretary called a Privy Council to un-proclaim certain districts in Ireland recently, and he summoned to that Council gentlemen in whom he had confidence and who he knew would carry out his wishes.
MR. J. MORLEY
I think the right hon. Gentleman must know what the procedure is in these cases. I have always understood the Clerk of the Council summons all the Members. At any rate, no selections were made by me.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
If the right hon. Gentleman will look back on the transaction he will find that only those were summoned who would carry out the views of the Executive. Had the Privy Council at large been summoned he would not have found himself in a majority on that occasion. The Privy Council in Ireland could not interfere, as the Prime Minister fears it might, with the new Constitution; and as there is no danger in leaving out the words, what is to be gained by retaining them? If we leave in the words we should, in the first place, make it possible for the Irish Legislature to make such provision with regard to these offices that the Irish Administration would not be under the control of the Irish Legislature, while a second objection to the words is that they unduly restrict the choice of the Crown. No such restriction is placed on the Crown in England. Why should it exist in Ireland? It appears to me that the proposal is perfectly unnecessary and wholly illusory. It may be that the Government think the Irish Legislature would have more complete control over the Executive if the Members of it hold office at its will, and are paid by it. If you carry these words, it would be possible for the Lord Lieutenant to say, 912 "Mr. So-and-so shall be Chancellor of the Exchequer for Ireland. You may refuse to give him a salary, but Chancellor of the Exchequer he will remain, and he can do without the salary." That you cannot help. I say you cannot, by these words, add any strength to the Irish Assembly, and you restrict the choice of the Crown, causing great inconvenience, which I am sure no one will have the hardihood to say will not occur.
§ MR. ROBY (Lancashire, S.E., Eccles)
said, he would interpose in the discussion for a few minutes, as he deemed himself competent to offer an opinion on the matter before the Committee. The Leader of the Opposition had referred again to what he said last night—namely, that the word" or "in the sentence was absurd and nonsense. If the right hon. Gentleman consulted any English dictionary—
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
What I said to-day was, that if you insert the words "Her Majesty may from time to time think fit, or," you do necessarily have two concurrent Bodies dealing with the subject-matter.
§ MR. ROBY
said, he would deal with that argument later on. The word "or" was capable of several different applications. The word in the present instance clearly meant to give another of two possible cases. They had one case given in the first part of the phrase, and another case given in the second part. The right hon. Gentleman had stated that the insertion of the words "from time to time" necessarily altered the sense into nonsense. In his opinion, the words did no such thing. The subsection declared "There shall be, as Her Majesty may think fit from time to time." That might go on for years. Clearly, the words "from time to time" were perfectly right. Then the sub-section went on: "or as may be directed by Irish Act." An Irish Act dealing with this question might deal with it in one of two ways. It might deal with it as a purely temporary arrangement. In that case the Act would provide, or leave it to be assumed, that Her Majesty's powers would revert after the particular time specified in the Act had expired. But the more probable case was that the Irish Act, in dealing with the question, would distinctly declare that it was a final arrangement, at least until altered by 913 another Irish Act. Therefore, he was unable to understand why lawyer after lawyer got up and treated an Act of Parliament as an instrument of such singularly little efficacy as to doubt whether it was supreme or not. He thought the Act would over-rule and prevent for the future the exercise of that power by Her Majesty. It therefore seemed to him that the sub-section was not only perfectly grammatical, but perfect common-sense, and that it would be so upheld in the Courts of Law. When they proposed to give a Parliament to Ireland, with powers necessary to discharge its duties, it was desirable that they should get the power, whether they exercised it or not, to deal with this question of the constitution of a Cabinet.
§ MR. MACARTNEY (Antrim, S.)
said, the result of the discussion was a fresh revelation of an extraordinary character to the opponents of the Bill. It would be admitted, too, that the criticisms in support of the Amendment had some weight on the other side of the House, for otherwise the hon. Member for Eccles would not have taken the trouble to reply to the arguments of the Front Opposition Bench. What was the position of the Committee with regard to this proposal? The Prime Minister had told them that this Bill differed from the Bill of 1886. It not only differed from the Bill, but it differed from all previous measures by which the Imperial Parliament had created representative Assemblies in the Colonies. The hon. Member for North Kerry had attacked the noble Lord the Member for Brixton for bringing forward an Amendment which he declared to be opposed to the principle which was embodied in every Statute creating a Colonial representative Assembly. But the hardihood of the noble Lord was not to be compared with the absolute ignorance of the hon. Member for North Kerry of all the Statutes which the Imperial Parliament had passed in relation to the Colonies. This Bill differed from the Bill of 1886—
§ MR. SEXTON (Kerry, N.)
As the hon. Member is about to pass away from the point of my ignorance, I wish to ask him whether he is aware that the North America Act gives to every Provincial Legislature the power of amending its Constitution?
§ MR. MACARTNEY
said, he had not passed away from the ignorance of the hon. Member, for it was of so large a nature that it would probably occupy a considerable portion of his observations. The Prime Minister had said that the reason which animated the Government in making this proposal was that there was a very considerable difference between the Irish and the English Privy Councils. The Leader of the Opposition had pointed out that, as a matter of fact, the difference was immaterial. The Chief Secretary appeared to be unaware that it was not the custom to summon every Member of the Irish Privy Council to each meeting. A friend, who had been on the Privy Council for eight years, told him that he had been only summoned twice during that time, though he was a supporter of the Government in Office, and that on each occasion the only business done was some trifling matter in connection with Local Government work. As a matter of fact, even the friends of the Government on the Privy Council were rarely summoned to attend meetings held for the purpose of discussing matters of State. There were two precedents which the Committee might follow in connection with the establishment of a Cabinet. Parliament, in establishing representative Assemblies in the Colonies, had never attempted, with the exception of the case of Canada, to define the functions of, or the persons who were to compose, the Cabinet. Every Governor of every Colony was advised by an Executive Council, which was created by Letters Patent, and had its functions regulated by Letters Patent. He declared that, so far as the Executive Committee was concerned in relation to all the Colonies, with the exception of Canada, it was entirely regulated by the act of the prerogative of the Crown. In the case of Canada Parliament, which passed the British North America Act, attempted to do what Parliament was now attempting to do in the case of Ireland, though it did not go quite so far. Parliament attempted to create a Privy Council in Canada, but they left its formation under the control of the Governor General. Though the Cabinet Council of Canada was the creation of an Act of Parliament, it was the only Cabinet Council recognised by law in the British Dominions, and the Parliament 915 which created it had carefully prevented the Parliament of the Dominion of Canada from interfering with its functions of the altering the persons who were called to it. Therefore, the case of Canada could not be quoted in support of the proposal of the Government. In the British North America Act the Parliament of the day was careful not to interfere in the slightest degree with the Royal prerogative. But a different course was proposed in the proposal before the Committee. It appeared to him that if the proposal were accepted, and if the Irish Legislature were ever established, endless friction would ensue. Opponents of the Bill who resided in Ireland had a very strong reason to urge against the proposal. The inevitable result of the Irish Legislature obtaining control of the Cabinet would be the curtailment of the power of the veto as exercised by the Lord Lieutenant, which the Loyalists had been told over and over again was their main safeguard. It was impossible to suppose, were the Irish Legislature to get the power of curtailing or altering the functions of the Representative of Her Majesty in Ireland in relation to the appointments to Cabinet offices, that power of the veto would not be seriously diminished, and, as a consequence, that the protection of the interests of the Loyalists would not be seriously impaired. For these reasons he hoped the Government would hesitate in pressing the adoption of these words on the Committee.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN (Birmingham, W.)
I think the Prime Minister will agree with me that this Amendment does not belong to that large class which on previous occasions he resisted because, in his opinion, they were intended to destroy the Bill. This Amendment is proposed on the assumption that the Bill will pass, and that if it is to pass it is desirable to avoid causes of friction between this country and Ireland. I differ a little from the hon. Member for Longford, who said that the meaning of the principal object of this Amendment is to prevent the Irish Parliament from appointing as Members of their Government persons who had any representative capacity. That is not the direction our thoughts are taking at the present time. What we do say is that under the clause as it stands you give concurrent and co- 916 ordinate powers to two authorities, and that if you do that it is almost certain that these two authorities will come into conflict. Last night when the matter was raised I must have misunderstood the intention of the Government. I thought from the observations of the First Lord of the Treasury that the special desire of the Government in this case was to preserve unimpaired the prerogative of the Crown. That evidently is not the case now. My right hon. Friend has explained to-day that he desires the retention of these words in order that the complete control of the Irish Cabinet or Executive Committee of the Privy Council should be retained by the Executive. By Executive I understand he means the Cabinet of the Government. That is to say, that the Government, as representing the Legislature, should have full control over its own composition. Under these circumstances, perhaps, in order to secure the impossibility of conflict between the Crown and the Executive in Ireland, and to carry out the intentions of the Government, what ought to be done is not to omit the words before the Committee, but to omit the words "as Her Majesty may think fit." Then we should have one authority only—namely, the Irish Legislature, who would alone be responsible as regards the creation of its own Government. Of course, that would be a strong thing to do. That would be the first attempt in the Constitution of the United Kingdom to impair, destroy, and put aside altogether the prerogative of the Crown. It would, indeed, be an entirely new departure in the way of Constitutional precedent. But, at the same time, it would be consistent with the view of the Government, and would prevent a conflict between the two forces. I must say I was not impressed by the speech of the hon. Member for Eccles. He may be a great etymologist, but he is not a great authority on law, and when he says he is quite certain that no difficulty would arise in the Law Courts I do not think it gives us any satisfaction. What is the state of things? According to what has been said, the Crown will, in the first instance, have to settle what will be the number of persons, and the offices those persons are to hold, who are to be Members of the Irish Cabinet. Assuming that the Crown fixes a certain number of persons and 917 certain offices. Assuming also—which, at all events, is not improbable—that at some time or the other the Irish Parliament desires a different distribution of offices and a different number of persons, and they pass an Irish Act which, when it becomes law, is in direct conflict with the previous decision of the Crown. Of course, the Crown can protect itself by vetoing the Act; but remember you will be in a great Constitutional conflict, which must of necessity produce serious irritation. The hon. Member for Eccles Bays this Act may be a permanent Act. Let us assume that the first Act of the Irish Parliament is assented to by the Crown, and that it is a permanent Act. Then under this clause the Crown may from time to time make a new arrangement; it possibly may appoint a substantive period, after which the Crown, dissatisfied with the working of the Irish Act, may again exercise the prerogative of the Crown in contravention of that Act or propose a new system. I think the Government are to blame, under those circumstances, for not making their meaning clear. If their intention and desire is that the Irish Legislature shall practically be supreme in the choice of its own Government, then I tell them that they ought to agree to omit the words which bring the Crown into the matter and raises possible conflicts between the Crown and the Irish Parliament. It is, however, a matter which more concerns the Government than ourselves.
§ MR. SEXTON
said, the hon. Member for South Antrim, who was not a very experienced Member of the House, or one distinguished for Parliamentary erudition, had called in question his contention that the Dominion Parliament under its organic Act had promised to amend its Constitution. Section 92 of the British North America Act gave general powers to the Dominion Parliament to amend its Constitution; and Section 63, while it set forth who were to compose the Executive Council in the first instance, gave power to the Legislature—a power which the Legislature had since exercised—to constitute the Executive Council.
§ MR. MACARTNEY
said, he could not congratulate the hon. Member on his knowledge of the British North America Act. The Privy Council was established by the 11th section of that Act. The hon. Member referred to Clause 63, which 918 related to the Executive Council. He had never said anything about the Executive Council—
§ MR. MACARTNEY
said, the hon. Member had declared that the Amendment attacked the principle of every Colonial Constitution. He declared, on the other hand, that a precedent for the Amendment could be found in every Colonial Constitution; that the only approach to the proposal of the Government was to be found in the 11th section of the British North America Act, but that even there the Privy Council was constituted in a totally different way from the way the Government proposed to constitute it under the Bill.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
We have endeavoured, in the interests of lucidity and grammar, to alter the words of the sub-section; but the Government, having objected to introduce lucidity and grammar into the sub-section, it is no further concern of ours, and I would recommend the Committee to pass on to the next Amendment.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
The next Amendment, in the name of the hon. and learned Member for Harrow, is out of Order. The next two Amendments standing in the names of the hon. Members for South Tyrone and Tamworth (Mr. T. W. Russell and Mr. Muntz), are not in Order, as they seek to impose ex post facto perpetual disabilities on individuals. The next Amendment, in the name of the hon. Member for East Somerset (Mr. H. Hob-house), is out of Order on this clause, and ought to come upon the Definition Clause. The next Amendment in Order is in the name of the hon. Member for Central Leeds (Mr. Gerald Balfour).
The following are the Amendments referred to in the Chairman's observations:—
Mr. Ambrose—Clause 5, page 3, line 14, after "Irish Act," insert "and the army, navy, and the supreme control of all the forces of the Crown, including the police and constabulary, shall be subject to the orders of the Lord Lieutenant, acting by and under the advice of the Chief Secretary or of Her Majesty's British Ministers.
Mr. T. W. Russell—Clauses, page 3, line 14, at end, add "but no person reported by the
Special Commission appointed under the fifty-first and fifty-second years of Victoria, chapter thirty-five, as having entered into a conspiracy, by a system of coercion and intimidation, to promote an agrarian agitation against the payment of agricultural rents, or who has been convicted before a competent tribunal of promoting the illegal conspiracy known as the Plan of Campaign or who has fled from justice, shall be capable of holding such office.
Mr. Muntz—Clause 5, page 3, line 14, at end, add "but no person who is known to have been associated with the formation or the conduct of the Land League or the Plan of Campaign shall be capable of holding such office.
Mr. Henry Hobhouse—Clause 5, page 3, line 14, at end, insert "such Executive Committee is in this Act referred to as the Irish Government.
*MR. GERALD BALFOUR (Leeds, Central) rose to move the following Amendment:—
Page 3, line 14, at end, add "Provided that no member of the Executive Committee shall sit or vote in either House of the Irish Legislature while he continues a member of the said Committee.
He did not, he said, conceal from himself that this Amendment if adopted would have a far-reaching and important effect. The Bill as it now stood contemplated an Irish Executive responsible to the Irish Legislature, and practically appointed by it. He should presently state his reason for thinking a system of that kind was unsuited to the circumstances of Ireland, however well-suited it might be to the conditions of this country and to our distant Colonies, and why he desired to substitute in place of it a system under which the Irish Legislature should be a Legislature and nothing else, and should have no power by a Vote of Want of Confidence or otherwise to displace an Irish Executive from power. He desired that the Executive should consist of Ministers of the Crown in the literal sense of that term—that was to say, of Ministers who should be responsible to and appointed by the Lord Lieutenant. He would first show in what way his Amendment would bring about that result. In the United States, in the Federal Government, and also in every one of the State Governments, there was a sharp distinction between the legislative and Executive branch of the Government, and that distinction was maintained by a provision similar to that contained in this Amendment, which prevented the heads of Departments, or, indeed, any officer of the Government, from sitting in either House of Congress or in any of the State
Legislatures. It was right to notice that, although under such a system it was impossible to establish a Parliamentary Executive, a non-Parliamentary Executive might exist even where the Constitution allowed the heads of Departments to sit in the Legislature. Germany afforded an example of this. There was nothing to prevent the heads of Departments from sitting in the German Parliament; nevertheless, the German Executive was responsible not to Parliament, but to the Emperor. The Prime Minister the previous day had called attention to the fact that the doctrine of responsibility to Parliament was not firmly established even in this country until after the time of Pitt, and that Pitt was called to be the head of the Executive by the will of the King, and not by the will of the Legislature. In fact, the Cabinet system as it now existed in this country was only the slow growth of two centuries, and it must always remain doubtful, until the experiment had been actually tried, whether it would succeed if transplanted to another soil. In Ireland there had never yet been an Executive responsible to an Irish Parliament. In Grattan's Parliament the Executive was responsible to the British Executive, and not to the Irish Parliament. It was not his intention to suggest that the Irish Executive should be, as it was in Grattan's Parliament, responsible to the British Executive, but simply that it should be responsible to the Lord Lieutenant, and that the American system should be substituted in Ireland for the system which this Bill proposed to set up. He had given an illustration to show it was not absolutely necessary for the establishment of a non-Parliamentary Executive that the Members of the Cabinet should be forbidden to sit in the Legislature; but there was undoubtedly a strong tendency for one form of government to pass into the other if they allowed the heads of Departments to sit in the Legislature. There were some very interesting remarks bearing upon this point in the work on the American Constitution by the Chancellor of the Duchy. The Chancellor of the Duchy went so far as to say that if the American heads of Departments were to take part in Debates, though, of course, without the power of voting in Congress, such a change would, in all probability, lead to the establish-
merit of a system like that which existed in this country, and the right hon. Gentleman gave a curious illustration of that. Not long ago, he said, the Norwegian Parliament compelled the King of Norway and Sweden to sanction the presence of Ministers in that Parliament, and the King, appreciating the full force of that change, from that time onward, appointed Ministers who were in sympathy with the views of the majority in the Norwegian Legislature. The object of the Amendment, therefore, was to set up a system under which the Executive should be responsible to the Lord Lieutenant and not to the Irish Legislature, and to secure that that should be a permanent and not merely a transitory condition of things. He took it for granted, after what had been said, that if they were to have an independent Executive of that kind, its continued existence could only be secured by preventing its Members from sitting in the Irish Legislature. He would now give his reasons for thinking that a Parliamentary Executive was not suited to the state of affairs existing in Ireland. The great advantage of the Cabinet system was the maintenance of harmony between the Legislature and the Executive. Its great drawback was the instability of government which it introduced, and the frequent inconveniences and disturbance which resulted either from a change of Government or from Dissolution, these being the two alternative courses open where a divergence existed between the Executive and the House of Commons in this country. He maintained that in Ireland the Cabinet system would not, and could not, give them the harmony between the Legislature and the Executive which it had produced in this country, and he further maintained, as regarded the question of instability, that one of two things would happen. If the Irish Government under this system were to be a stable Government and a stable Executive, then it would be a tyrannical Executive. If, on the other hand, there were to be an unstable Government, in that case he believed its instability would be far greater than anything that had been known in this country, and would more resemble the experience of our neighbours on the other side of the English Channel. He would take the question of the instability of the Government first. What were the conditions of
a successful working of the Cabinet system? So far as they had experience to guide them, the Cabinet system could not be worked with real success unless there existed two great Parties, and only two great Parties, in the Elective Assembly, and it was further necessary that between these two great Parties there should be something like a balance of power. If in the Irish Legislature, which was now to be erected, there were only two Parties, he thought it must be clear to everybody that there would be no balance of power as between them; that one of them would be permanently stronger than the other, and would undoubtedly make use of its power in a tyrannical fashion. If, on the other hand, as was not unlikely, one Party were eventually to split up into two, there might then be three Parties of approximately equal strength. In that case all stability would be destroyed, there would be constant changes of Governments and constant Dissolutions, and the main disadvantage of the Cabinet system would be more severely felt in Ireland than in this country—as severely, possibly, as it was in France at the present time. He would say a word or two on the question of harmony and co-operation between the Executive and the Legislature in Ireland, which it was supposed the establishment of the Cabinet system in Ireland would bring about and maintain. He had already remarked in the course of the Debates upon this clause that the end might possibly be attained if they were prepared to cut Ireland altogether adrift and to give her complete independence, or even such independence as our more distant Colonies enjoyed. But they did not propose to do that. The Executive they were setting up in Ireland by this Bill was to be of a threefold character. The Lord Lieutenant was to act sometimes on the advice of the Irish Ministers, sometimes on that of the Imperial Executive, and sometimes upon his own responsibility. That being so, how was it possible to restore harmony between the Executive and the Legislature in Ireland in the same way that they restored harmony between the Legislature and Executive in this country? It was manifestly impossible. The Lord Lieutenant, acting on the advice of the Imperial Ministers, might quarrel with his Irish Ministers, who would then
resign, and it might be that no other Government commanding a majority could be formed to take their place. What, he should like to learn, was to happen in a case of deadlock of that description? He would put another difficulty. Where there existed an Executive responsible to Parliament and removable by Parliament there it was found that the veto of the Crown, exercised on the advice of responsible Ministers, ceased to be a living and operative power, and practically became obsolete. It appeared to him if they set up in Ireland an Executive responsible to the Irish Parliament, the government of Ireland might be rendered so difficult that they would have to adopt one of two alternatives, and either have to revoke this fatal gift of Home Rule or be obliged to reduce the veto and power of control of the Imperial Government over the Irish Executive to a mere shadow and an empty name. Let it be remembered it was this power of veto and control which constituted the real safeguard of the minority in Ireland, and therefore they would be reduced to this position: that they would either have to undo the work they were doing by that Bill or they would have to betray the minority in Ireland and be false to the constituencies of this country, who expected, and were led to expect, a very different measure. Of course, he was aware that serious objection might be raised to this proposal. The Prime Minister would probably suggest, if it was adopted, that difficulties similar to those which he had indicated, might arise from a refusal by the Irish Legislature to grant supplies; or, again, the right hon. Gentleman might ask who was to be the Leader in the legislative work of the Irish Parliament? His reply was this: that this system had been tried in America, and, so far as he was aware, the stoppage of supplies had not been resorted to in that country; and in the United States they got on pretty well in the matter of legislation, although they had not a Prime Minister in the House of Representatives to lead them. But he repeated, and he insisted, that it was not for the Opposition to discover any scheme of Home Rule which should be permanently workable and successful. They had from the outset denied, and still denied, that it was
possible to find such a scheme. All they could do was, as between rival schemes of Home Rule, to point out that which in their opinion presented the least difficulties and was likely to last longer than any other system. All they could expect was a temporary measure of success, and he ventured to recommend this Amendment to the Committee, because he believed that, as compared with the system in the Bill, it presented fewer difficulties—difficulties of a less fatal character; and that, though he did not expect this or any other system of Home Rule to work permanently, yet he thought with an Executive responsible not to the Irish Legislature, but to the Lord Lieutenant, Home Rule would have a longer life than it otherwise would have, and would do less harm while it lasted. He begged to move the Amendment.
In page 3, line 14, at end, add "Provided that no Member of the Executive Committee shall sit or vote in either House of the Irish Legislature while he continues a member of the said Committee."—(Mr. Gerald Balfour.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
Nothing can be more easy than for the hon. Gentleman, from his point of view, to show that any proposition made in this Bill should fail; and that whereas, among other races and in other countries, the average common sense and right principle of communities are sufficient to make their Institutions work either well or tolerably, in Ireland the case is totally different, and there they would work badly or even worse. The hon. Gentleman proposes that no Member of the Executive Committee shall sit in either House of the Irish Legislature. But if ever there was a principle which has been worked out by our race it is the principle contained in the Bill, and the result is that after an experience of two centuries we have not only become rooted in the belief that this is one of the most vital principles for practical purposes in the English Constitution, but we have acted upon it in every Legislative Body that we have created. Irishmen, however, are to be an exception. The quidnuncs and wiseacres of other times did, indeed, think it wise to exclude Members of the Executive Government from the House 925 of Commons. When the operations of the Executive Government in those days were considered, it might have been thought that the presence of Ministers might corrupt the Legislature; and there was a great deal of excuse for trying the experiment of enacting by an Act of William III. that Members of the Executive Government should not be allowed to sit in the House of Commons. What was the experience of that system? In a very few years after—in 1705—that provision was repealed, and since then we have had Members of the Executive sitting in our two Houses of Parliament, and so necessary is this for the real working of government that in some Continental countries where Ministers are not required to be Members of the Legislative Chambers it had been found requisite to endow them with exceptional privileges, and to enable them to argue in those Bodies with all the freedom they would possess if they were Members, and likewise with the advantage that they can treat these Bodies more dictatorially than if they were Members.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
There is nothing in the Amendment to prevent Ministers taking part in the Debates of the Irish Legislature.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I say it does not refer to it. It leaves that part of the subject to take its chance. In any plan of ours, unless it is armed with all the panoply of elaborate provisions, it is always exhibited as a failure of the Government; but when I point out that the Amendment makes no provision for a certain thing, up gets the hon. Gentleman and absolutely boasts that it does not make any such provision. Unquestionably, it would contribute very much indeed to the comfort of the lives of the Members of the Executive in a country and in an age like this if they were prevented from sitting in Parliament. But they are the meeting-point between whose persons and minds the whole of the different conflicts and currents of opinion that prevail in a free and highly intelligent country have to meet and settle their accounts together. Instead of being done through the medium of crises and conflicts, it is simply done by the infliction of a process, not the most agreeable in the world, on the mental action of those persons who advise the Crown, which, in my own mind, I am apt to 926 compare with the sensation commonly experienced by passengers who cross the Channel between England and France, and who commonly have to meet with the confluence of two tides in the Channel, supposed to account for its wonderful capacity, even in that short journey, of producing the most violent sea-sickness. In discussing the last Amendment it was said that it was not an Amendment which was open to the charge that it would destroy the Bill. That was perfectly true; it had no such character. But I am afraid it is equally clear that this Amendment goes to the root of the whole Bill. I do not say it establishes an absolute system; but it would establish a hopeless dualism, a system which would be destructive of any system in the Bill which would offer not the smallest power of the solution of any difficulty, and which is, at any rate, a system vitally and essentially different from that contemplated by the Bill. The system that is contemplated by the Bill embodies one of the greatest practical discoveries in history—namely, the discovery of the principle of what is called responsible Government, which is the condition at once of efficiency, of true liberty, and of substantial harmony in the working of free Institutions. The hon. Gentleman can hardly expect to lure us away from a system of which we have had so much experience, and which in the hands of our own race, in countries where Irishmen largely enter into the operations of political society, have proved so successful, and, in its stead, to introduce a principle which would be fatal to the Bill, and cause it to be rejected.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I do not know how the right hon. Gentleman defines "our own race." I always thought that in that race were included the inhabitants of the great Republic across the Atlantic. That is not the view of the right hon. Gentleman. He says our own race have worked out and universally adopted the plan by which the Executive are to be Members of the Legislature, and are to be dependent upon the will of the Legislature. Well, Sir, the Americans, whether they be of our race, as I hold, or not, as the right hon. Gentleman holds, have worked out a precisely opposite system. They have worked under a system, and 927 live under it—and do not feel disposed to change it—under which the Executive is in no way dependent upon the Legislature in which they are not allowed to sit, though they are—as no doubt they will be under the plan of my hon. Friend—allowed to speak and explain their views in that Legislature.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE DUCHY OF LANCASTER (Mr. BRYCE, Aberdeen, S.)
The right hon. Gentleman will permit me to observe that he is in error. They are not so allowed.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Well, I will not quarrel with that. The right hon. Gentleman is a far greater authority on the matter. I thought there were circumstances under which it was competent for the heads of one great Department to come down and explain to the representatives of America the views of the Government. However, if I am wrong I withdraw that statement. It makes no difference whatever to the broad argument, which was that the Anglo-Saxon race, in one of the greatest divisions and under one of the most successful manifestations of self-government, have adopted the very system which the right hon. Gentleman now derides. Quidnuncs and wiseacres, he says, were foolish enough 200 years ago to establish this system in regard to England. Well, Sir, were the body of distinguished statesmen who framed the American Constitution quidnuncs and wiseacres? Do they deserve this accumulation of opprobrious epithets which the right hon. Gentleman has applied to them?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
But they did what the quidnuncs and wiseacres were supposed to have tried in England. The right hon. Gentleman, commenting on the plan of my right hon. Friend, said this plan had been tried by the quidnuncs and wiseacres in England 200 years ago, and had failed, and that it had been rejected by our race in every experiment of self-government. But the persons who framed the American Constitution were not quidnuncs and wiseacres; they tried this plan, and the plan succeeded. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say that the plan of my hon. Friend behind me will produce a dualism between the Executive and the Legisla- 928 ture which will make the whole machine unworkable, and that the experiment has never been tried with success in any civilised country. But there is a dualism of a far more profound character in Germany, and I have never heard that the German system is an unworkable system. There is a dualism embodied in this Bill which will produce consequences at least as disastrous as any known to any civilised Government in the world, and, in my opinion, the system proposed in the Amendment is the one which will land us in fewest embarrassments, produce the least friction, and lead to the fewest evils in the future.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
The right hon. Gentleman has corrected a slip which I made. Perhaps I might refer for a moment to the case of the United States. The difference is this: This Amendment is no plan at all; this is a mere negation: this merely excludes the Members of the Government from the Legislative Chambers. In the United States provision is made by their Constitution for supplying an Executive Government, armed with adequate power, by choosing them from the body of the people. Why does not the hon. Member propose to choose the Executive from the body of the Irish people? We would give the best consideration to any plan he might propose, though I am far from saying that we would adopt it.
§ MR. BLAKE (Longford, S.)
said, the effective Executive in the United States and the several States was a single man—the President of the Republic and the Governor of the State; and his Cabinet were much more in the position of officers, secretaries or clerks than any British Cabinet was with reference to the Sovereign. The Tory and Constitutional Party propounded an Amendment to adopt the Republican system. They were not content to stand in the ancient ways. The practical invention of responsible Government in its present efficient form had not been discovered at the time the American Constitution was framed. If anyone would compare the practical power of the Sovereign at that day and at this, the revolution which had been accomplished under the British system would be understood. At the time of the framing of the American Constitution, and still more at this time, thoughtful minds recognised the great evils 929 which were involved in the system of that day, and he would say, with reference to the great British Possessions which occupied the larger half of the American Continent, that there was not one, even the smallest and newest of those Provinces, in which there was not a convinced opinion that the more efficient, practical, and stable Constitution was the British Constitution. He was not aware of a single man in any one of the Provinces which stretched from the Atlantic to the Pacific who had ever suggested such a change as would be involved in the separation of the Executive from the Legislature as proposed in the Amendment. It was a commonplace among them to point out the superiority of the British system.
§ MR. DUNBAR BARTON (Armagh, Mid)
said, he could assure the hon. Member who had just sat down that the Amendment was not so absurd as he thought, because in the Australian Convention of 1891 it was seriously advocated by several of the Delegates that there should be a separate Executive, and not one according to the English system. It was true that in the end they came to the conclusion that they would follow the English system, but the proposal was seriously made and respectfully considered on all sides.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
said, it was a shock to him to hear that responsible Government was of modern growth in England. Why, before the Act of Settlement they had cut off Minister's heads; they could scarcely cut off their salaries now. What he called responsible Government was when a wrong-doing Minister was brought to his trial, condemned and punished, not merely when he was sent out of Office and his salary taken by somebody else. The responsibility he understood was the responsibility of Strafford. To the Chancellor of the Duchy he would point out the following from the Constitution of the United States:—No Senator or Representative shall, during the time for which he was elected, be appointed to any Civil office under the authority of the United States which should have been created, or the emoluments whereof shall have been increased during such time, and no person holding any office under the United States shall be a Member of either House during his continuance in office.930 That was no new invention of the framers of the American Constitution; it was a plant of English growth. The disqualification of pensioners and placemen had always been considered to be among the rights of the people of this country. It was introduced into the Act of Settlement, when a new bargain was made with the new dynasty. It was adopted by the United States, and he did not think the Government would deny that there was Ministerial responsibility in the United States. There was, indeed, true responsibility there, for the President and the whole of the Ministers were incapable of making a Treaty without the previous sanction of the Senate. Would the Prime Minister submit to the same responsibility? What would be the practical result of establishing the same system in the Irish Legislature as prevailed here? In the House of Commons there were no fewer than 36 Ministerialist placemen drawing a salary of £79,391 10s., which was paid to them to vote that the Government was always right. Why, this was the Government majority provided out of the pockets of the taxpayers. If the system was a necessary one, and if the Government were going to set up a similar system in Ireland, they must contemplate the importation into the Irish Legislature of 36 placemen, costing about. £80,000 a year.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ MR. T. H. BOLTON (St. Pancras, N.)
said, he wished to move the following new sub-section:—(3) There shall be a Secretary of State for Ireland who may be a Member of either House of Parliament, and who shall, by virtue of his office, be a Member of the said Executive Committee of the Privy Council of Ireland.He said, the Amendment could hardly be said to be antagonistic to the principle of the Bill. It was well within the scope of the Bill, and was of a practical character, assisting towards the proper working of the Irish Constitution. For at least six years very important subjects would be reserved for the consideration of this Parliament, and the Irish Members would have seats in this House. Clauses 3 and 4 reserved questions of great intricacy, delicacy, and importance for adjustment between this Parliament and the proposed Legislature in Ireland. The appointment of the Judges, and, to 931 a certain extent, the control of the Judges for a period of time, was reserved to the Imperial Government. The police were to be under Imperial control for six years, and it might be for longer. The Land Question was also reserved. The Acts of Parliament under which advances had been made were subjects of great interest. The control of the Post Office, again, was reserved for a period; and if the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government was to prevail, the Post Office would remain permanently under the control of the Imperial Authority. In a speech the right hon. Gentleman had made in 1886 he said that in his judgment it was desirable that the Post Office should not be interfered with. Then, again, the control and management of the finances, and the superintendence of Customs and Excise, were matters which would require close and continuous supervision and attention in this House. He mentioned these things to justify the statement he had; made, that the subjects remaining under the control of this Parliament would be so numerous and difficult that it was most desirable that they should rest in the hands of one responsible Minister. There was a Secretary of State for India and a Secretary of State for Scotland, and yet neither of those Ministers had such difficult, delicate, or important subjects to attend to as the Minister who might happen to be in charge of Irish affairs would have during the probationary period of six years, and, for what he knew, for a still longer period. If it was necessary to have a Secretary of State in the House to represent the interests of Scotch affairs, it was equally necessary to have one to watch the interests of Irish affairs, and, in his opinion, there should be one particular Minister in the House who would be specially charged with those affairs. It was more than likely that some amendment of this Bill would have to be made if it became an Act, and that afforded an additional argument. To suggest that these great concerns might be the subject of casual discussion between the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and individual Ministers at Westminster, and that some Minister might for the time being attend to Irish questions, seemed to him to fail to realise 932 the importance of the question. Would the Prime Minister of the day, on behalf of the Government, represent Irish affairs? As the whole Cabinet were to be responsible, the probability was that the Prime Minister would have to take charge of these affairs. Well, if the Prime Minister was to have these duties cast upon him in addition to the duties he already had to discharge, it would be putting a burden upon him heavier than any human being could effectively bear. He would urge on the Government that if the Bill became an Act, and was to work effectively, there must be some Minister in the House especially charged with Irish affairs who would be in constant touch with the Irish Administration. It was proposed under the Bill to re - constitute the whole of the present Executive system of government in Ireland in reference to its relations with the Imperial Parliament, and the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant would necessarily disappear. When such a change as that was made it seemed to him that it would only be adequately dealing with the question to create a Secretary ship of State for Ireland. They had been discussing for some time the question of the responsibility of Ministers of the Crown to the Legislative Body. It had been proposed by an hon. Member opposite that the Executive Government in Ireland should not be directly responsible to the Irish Legislature. How had he been met? Why, the Prime Minister had pointed out that having Ministers in the Representative Assembly, where they could be called to account, was the very essence of that system of free Parliamentary Government which had prevailed largely in consequence of its effective working in this country. To suggest that Irish business would not deserve the important and special representation which he was proposing was a proposition which would seem to show a want of appreciation of the great and difficult questions which would necessarily have to be brought before the Imperial Parliament and the Irish Legislature. This Amendment was not antagonistic to the Bill, and some provision of the kind would be necessary if the Bill became an Act, and if it was to work. Therefore, he hoped the proposal would receive not a Party 933 consideration, but a fair and dispassionate one.
In page 3, line 14, after Sub-section (2), to insert the words "(3) There shall be a Secretary of State for Ireland who may be a Member of either House of Parliament, and who shall, by virtue of his office, be a Member of the said Executive Committee of the Privy Council of Ireland."—(Mr. T. H. Bolton.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
MR. J. MORLEY
said, that even those who least liked the limit of time which had been set by order of the House to the Debate on this and other clauses would, he thought, agree that a less thrifty use of that time could not possibly be made than had been made by the hon. Member, not because he did not consider the question of how Ireland was to be represented in the Imperial Parliament a topic of importance, but because the subject had been discussed the night before last. Then, at least, the Committee discussed the subject in connection with a rational proposition, but this was an irrational proposition. If at the proper time it were proposed that the Government of Ireland would be better conducted by a Chief Secretary in the Imperial Parliament without a Lord Lieutenant that would be a proposal which the Leader of the Opposition had said there was much to be argued for, and for which there was, no doubt, a great deal to be said. But such proposal had no connection with the policy the present proposal laid before them. He was not going to contradict himself by making an unthrifty use of the time at the disposal of the Committee by arguing the present proposal. He would in one sentence convince the Committee how absurd it really was. The proposal was that there should be a Secretary of State for Ireland, who might be in that House, or who might be in the other House, or who might be in neither the one nor the other, and who was to be an ex officio Member of the Executive Committee—that was to say, of the Irish Cabinet. It might, therefore, be that the Secretary of State for Ireland might be in entire and direct antagonism to the Irish Cabinet. They proposed to foist on the Irish Cabinet as one of its Members an Imperial official who might 934 be entirely antagonistic to them. He could not allow himself to ask the Committee to listen to a word more upon the question.
§ MR. GOSCHEN (St. George's, Hanover Square)
said, he did not think the right hon. Gentleman had treated this serious proposition as it deserved. Making the thriftiest use of their very limited time, it was perfectly easy to show that some arrangement of the kind suggested by the Amendment would avoid much friction which would otherwise occur in the future. Questions relating to Irish land and finance and other subjects, such as safeguarding education, would remain Imperial questions, and it would be more convenient if some Minister, who was a Member of the Irish Cabinet, and, therefore, having intimate knowledge of Irish affairs, should be able to give the House all necessary information with regard to such affairs when they came under discussion. An important question was, who was to have the management of these subjects in this House? Yesterday they understood that the Home Secretary should have the management of them, but it was not certain. It was said that "presumably" it would be the Home Secretary. He had especially noted the word "presumably." He should have been glad if the Chief Secretary had told them whether it was really to be the Home Secretary who was to manage Irish affairs in the House. Was that the definite intention of the Government, or were they still to say that it would "presumably" be the Home Secretary? They were entitled to an answer—they had a right to know how Irish affairs in future were to be conducted in the House. It was not disputed that, at all events during the next six years, there would be numerous occasions on which Irish affairs could crop up. Then he held that it would be to the advantage not only of this House, but of the smooth working of the arrangement between England and Ireland if there were an official with a seat in this or the other House of Parliament who had official cognisance of all that went on in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman said it would be a mistake to foist an Imperial official on the Irish Government. He hoped the right hon. 935 Gentleman did not anticipate that there would always be antagonism between the Imperial Government and the Irish, and he thought that to have an official of the Imperial Government in the Irish Cabinet would promote a friendly feeling. Supposing the present Chief Secretary were "foisted" on the Irish Government, no doubt he would be able to give them some valuable advice and be able to tell them how certain matters that were Imperial were regarded in the Imperial Parliament.
MR. J. MORLEY
said, that no doubt the present Chief Secretary would be welcomed in the Irish Government, but the time might come when the Irish Secretary might be one of the right hon. Gentlemen opposite, and he should like to know what would happen if such a right hon. Gentleman had a seat in the Irish Cabinet?
§ An hon. MEMBER: Balfour, for instance.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, that, in his opinion, it would be a great advantage to the House if some person like the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, who knew precisely all that was going on with regard to these Imperial questions, did have a seat in the Irish Cabinet. What he desired was that the Minister who spoke in this House should have knowledge of the affairs with which he dealt; and how could he have it if he was not in close relation with the Irish Cabinet? Take the Land Question. It was "presumably" the Home Secretary who would have to deal with that, and it would be a subject with which, in all probability, he would have little familiarity. He said distinctly that he believed the Irish case would be presented much more favourably if the plan of the hon. Gentleman opposite were adopted than it would if were rejected. The very fact of this official being an Imperial officer sitting in the Irish Cabinet would impregnate him with the ideas of the Irish Cabinet. Generally speaking, they found that where there were two conflicting interests the closer the knowledge of each was brought to the centre of the other the more chance there was of an amicable settlement being arrived at. The right hon. Gentleman opposite might disagree with him or not, but, at 936 any rate, he did not think the idea was ridiculous. It was not opposed to the general spirit even of the Bill that there should be an official appointed as proposed in the Amendment. At any rate, he thought they were entitled to ask and to get an answer as to the way in which Irish affairs would really be dealt with in the House.
§ MR. HENEAGE (Great Grimsby)
said, he thought they had a right to complain of the altered tone of the Government since they had put the gag on. They thought they could deride and almost insult Members. [Cries of "Order!" "Question!" cheers, and interruption.] The Chief Secretary said this was an unnecessary Amendment, and that it was a mere waste of time to discuss it; but who was responsible for the waste of time? If the right hon. Gentleman had given a satisfactory answer to a question which he (Mr. Heneage) had put to him some two months ago on this very point this Amendment in all probability would not have been moved. In reply to his question on Clause 3 as to whether there would be a Lord Lieutenant or not, and whether the Minister responsible for Ireland in this House would be the Home Secretary, the Foreign Secretary, the Colonial Secretary, or any other Minister, the right hon. Gentleman had said that he would answer the query when Clause 5 came on for discussion. This question was raised again the other night, and what answer did they get? They were told that the Lord Lieutenant would apply for advice to any Members of the Cabinet of the Imperial Parliament. After that had been laughed to scorn they were told that "presumably" it would be the Home Secretary. It was not at all unnatural, after these different answers had been given, that the hon. Member (Mr. Bolton) should put down a definite Amendment. Irish questions would be continually coming before the Imperial Parliament if the Irish Legislature were established—and he doubted very much whether it ever would be; and clearly they ought to have a responsible Minister to deal with them. Such a Minister would certainly have as much, and probably a great deal more, to do than the 937 Secretary for Scotland had at the present time. If the Government had returned a satisfactory answer to his question put a couple of months ago, this Amendment would not have been moved. He agreed with the right hon. Gentleman opposite that there was another element in the Amendment that should be considered. If the Bill were passed he hoped that Ireland and Great Britain would work smoothly together, and in that view it would be an advantage if the Cabinet Minister who had charge of Irish affairs were an ex officio Member of the Irish Cabinet. He submitted that it was the Government and not the hon. Member who were responsible for the waste of time that had been caused by the discussion of the Amendment.
MR. J. LOWTHER
said, he hoped that a distinct reply would be given to the distinct inquiry put to the Government on this subject. The Chief Secretary had demolished—to his own satisfaction—the specific proposal now immediately before the Committee, but he had afforded no indication of the views of the Government as to the representation of Irish interests in the Imperial Parliament after the passing of the Home Rule Bill. He should be the last to suggest any addition to the lengthy list of offices under the Crown held by Members of this House. Some reference had been made to this subject; but he would suggest that, without adding to the numbers, there might be some readjustment of the Ministerial offices so as to permit of adequate representation being given to Irish interests. It was at the present moment, or used to be, the practice for one of the Lords of the Treasury to deal with Irish affairs. He understood the practice had fallen into disuse; but he was not aware that any legislative decision had ever been arrived at which contravened the old practice under which the three Lords of the Treasury were supposed each to represent one of the three portions of the United Kingdom. He desired to know whether it was intended that the representation of Irish interests in the Imperial Parliament should be allotted to a subordinate Minister, or whether the Secretary of State for the Home Department was to 938 be responsible for Irish affairs? Many years ago the Home Secretary was supposed to be responsible for Irish business, while the Chief Secretary was held to be a subordinate, and even to this day there was certain Irish business, such as the presentation of Papers by command, which was transacted through the Home Office. But that state of affairs had been found to work very unsatisfactorily, and the substantial connection of the Home Office with Irish business had long since ceased. If the Bill passed, however, occasions must frequently arise when statements would have to be made with respect to Irish business. Who was to be the Minister responsible for making such statements? It was not an unreasonable request to make that the Committee should be informed who the Minister was to be who was to take charge of Irish business in the Imperial Parliament.
MR. J. MORLEY
said, the right hon. Gentleman had assumed that the arrangements he had described were of a hard-and-fast character, but this was not historically true. There had never been any distribution of business in the way indicated, though the Irish Government did correspond at one time with the Home Office. Even now, on some matters, the Lord Lieutenant did correspond with the Home Secretary. But there was no longer any effective responsibility or any effective communication between the Irish Government and the Home Office. The answer to the right hon. Gentleman was simple and plain, and he had given it to the Committee the night before last. He had said that presumably the Minister who would answer for Irish affairs in the House of Commons would be the Home Secretary. My right hon. Friend who made a speech on that occasion said very fairly he never expected there would be a Minister whose sole object it would be to deal with Irish affairs. tinder those circumstances, my right hon. Friend will have to vote against this Amendment. The Government, as a whole, will, of course, be responsible; and they will from time to time, according to the emergencies of business and according to personal capacity and so on, appoint the Ministers who are to deal with Irish affairs.
§ MR. AMBROSE (Middlesex, Harrow)
said, that if anything were needed to show how completely the Government were prepared to throw overboard all the professions they made when the Bill was introduced respecting the maintenance of the supremacy of the British Parliament and the British Government, it was to be found in the way in which the Chief Secretary treated this Amendment. He (Mr. Ambrose) regarded the Amendment as one of the most favourable to the Government. It proposed that there should be some touch between the Imperial Cabinet on the one hand and the Irish Cabinet on the other. Was this desirable or not? Was it desirable that the Irish Cabinet should pull one way and the Imperial Cabinet another way, without anybody being able at the right moment to explain the policy of the one to the other? The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. J. Morley) was shocked at the proposal, because he said the Irish Cabinet might have foisted upon it a gentleman whose opinion might be hostile to it. But how would this affect the Irish Cabinet? The Minister would be there as the Representative of the British Cabinet, and he would probably be in a minority when the Irish Cabinet dealt with purely Irish affairs. His presence, therefore, would not prevent the Irish Cabinet having its way on Irish matters. It would be an advantage, however, to have someone who would be able to warn the Irish Cabinet before they committed themselves too far on any question. He would be able to tell them what the view of the Imperial Cabinet was, and they would then have an opportunity of feeling their way. The English Minister would also be regarded by outsiders as a sort of guarantee that there would be no attempt to overstep the bounds laid down by the Home Rule Bill. So long as the Irish Cabinet kept within the Home Rule Charter the English Minister would not interfere. He might give his advice, but would not attempt to obstruct the Ministers in any way whatever. If, when the Irish Cabinet entered upon a course of action of which the Imperial Government disapproved, the latter were to have no voice in the matter, what would become of the Imperial supremacy? In that case let them give up the pretence that the Irish Legislature was a subordinate 940 Legislature. There was another consideration to be borne in mind. The Lord Lieutenant, as the Representative of the Queen, would be able to do no act of State himself; everything would have to be done by a Minister. On the principle that the Crown could do no wrong, the Lord Lieutenant would be able to do no wrong. Whilst a Colonial Governor was liable to an action for anything he did unless he could justify it in point of law, the Lord Lieutenant would have the same immunity as the Sovereign so long as he acted in his Viceregal capacity. He must, therefore, have a Minister through whom to act. Supposing the Army had to be dealt with by the Lord Lieutenant, who was to give the orders that were deemed necessary? There must be somebody on the spot for the purpose. What could be more appropriate, then, than to have as a Member of the Irish Cabinet a Minister who would lend assistance to that Cabinet when proposals were made which were within the Home Rule Charter, but who would put his foot down as soon as the Irish Government attempted to go beyond that Charter?
§ MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
said, the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just sat down had uttered three sensible words. ["Oh, oh!"] Yes, just three. He had said, "Let us give it up." The sooner the hon. Gentleman and his friends gave up the most unintelligent obstruction in which they were engaged—
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, he had certainly understood the hon. and learned Gentleman to say that. The other day the Committee had a discussion upon the question whether or not there was to be in the House of Commons a direct Representative of the Lord Lieutenant. It was then stated that the Home Secretary or someone else would act as the Lord Lieutenant's Representative. He thought there was a good deal of reason in what was urged by the Opposition on that point; but nothing was decided. Now, the hon. Member for North St. Pancras (Mr. T. H. Bolton) had moved that which the Chief Secretary had described as one of the most absurd Amendments ever submitted to the Committee. 941 The Committee were positively asked to agree that there should be an ex officio Member of the Irish Cabinet. Well, supposing there happened to be a Conservative Ministry in power in Great Britain, surely a Conservative Minister would be nothing but a spy on the Irish Cabinet. Of course, his views would be disregarded by the Irish Cabinet, and he would then go blubbering to his Conservative Colleagues and tell them nobody would listen to him. The hon. Member (Mr. T. H. Bolton) based his Amendment on the necessity of having someone in the House of Commons to answer any complaints made with regard to the Lord Lieutenant, and yet the Amendment actually proposed that this remarkable Minister was not to be in the House of Commons at all. Therefore, this spy upon the Irish Cabinet was to sit in the House of Lords in order that he might answer questions in the House of Commons.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 229; Noes 274.—(Division List, No. 193.)
§ MR. BOUSFIELD (Hackney, N.)
said, he desired to move the omission of the 3rd sub-section, which made provision for the method in which the assent of Her Majesty should be given to any Bills passed by both Houses of the Irish Legislature. The Government had departed from the model in this respect which had been adhered to with reference to Colonial Legislatures from the year 1843 right down to the year 1885. Members of the Government, time after time during the past six years, had strenuously argued that it was essential to any scheme of Home Rule to reserve in full force the Imperial supremacy; and he was, therefore, somewhat astonished when, just before the last General Election, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian, in one of his election speeches, stated for the first time that the supremacy to be proposed was to be of the same kind as that exercised by Parliament over Colonial Legislatures—that it was, in fact, not to be a working supremacy. And when the Bill was printed they were still more astonished to find that the tie binding Ireland to England was to be looser than that which bound the Colonies to the 942 United Kingdom. The clause which he asked the Committee to substitute for the section he desired to have omitted exactly followed the lines of the clause inserted in Acts dealing with Colonial Legislatures. Ever since 1842, it had in all cases been provided that after a Bill had passed the Colonial Legislature it should be presented to the Governor for Her Majesty's assent. The Government had to declare whether he would give that assent or withhold it, or reserve the Bill for the signification of Her Majesty's pleasure, or, according to the latest model, whether he would grant that assent subject to certain specified Amendments. He held in his hands a number of these Acts constituting Colonial Legislatures; but he did not propose to trouble the House with all of them. The first was an Act constituting a Legislature for New South Wales, 5 & 6 Viet. c. 7, s. 31, provided that—Every Bill passed by the State Council shall be presented for Her Majesty's assent to the Governor, who shall declare according to his discretion, but subject, nevertheless, to the provisions contained in this Act and to such instructions as may from time to time be given in that behalf by Her Majesty, either that he assents to such Bill in Her Majesty's name, or that he withholds such assent, or that he reserves such Bill for the signification of Her Majesty's pleasure thereon.That model was followed in subsequent Acts, among them 13 & 14 Viet., c. 59, and 15 & 16 Viet., c. 72—the New Zealand Act—and he was bound to point out that in the latter case the provision applied not only to the Supreme Council but also to the District Councils throughout New Zealand. In 1855 it was applied to the new Constitution for New South Wales; and it was also to be found in Acts passed in 1857, 1862, and 1875—38 & 39 Viet., c. 53, relating to Canada. The last of the Acts passed was that in 1885, which provided for the Federal Council of Australasia, and in that it would be seen that precisely the same wording was applied with the addition of the words at the end—Or that he will be prepared to assent thereto, subject to certain Amendments to be specified by him.It would, therefore, be seen that they had universally observed that model as determining the relations between the Crown and the Colonial Legislatures on the question of Her Majesty's assent. Why had the model been departed from in the 943 present case? Why should there be less Imperial control in the case of Ireland than in the case of our Colonies? The section, as it now stood, provided that—The Lord Lieutenant shall, on the advice of the said Executive Committee, give or withhold the assent of Her Majesty to Bills passed by the two Houses of the Irish Legislature, subject, nevertheless, to any instructions given by Her Majesty, in respect of any such Bill.But it would be observed that no time whatever was allowed under this proposed arrangement for the Lord Lieutenant to communicate with the Imperial Government, nor was any power of reservation given to him as in the case of the Colonies. It seemed to be assumed that the authorities at home would have some cognisance of what was going on in the Irish Parliament, and would know the terms of a Bill before it was formally presented to the Lord Lieutenant for Her Majesty's assent; but he ventured to think that the Lord Lieutenant, under this clause, would have no locus standi to refer the matter home, but would be bound to act on the advice of the Executive Committee. To say that the Lord Lieutenant should give or withhold his assent on the advice of the Executive Committee was simply to place the power of granting that assent in the hands of the Executive Committee. The Lord Lieutenant should be given a locus standi entitling him to refer home for instructions before giving his assent to a Bill. It was strange that in this measure the Government should have departed from a practice which had governed our relations with the Colonial Legislatures for 50 years. Of course, the Committee knew the Government had promulgated the doctrine that the majority must prevail in a new form, and had also laid it down that they must satisfy the Irish Members; and it was easy to conceive, from their point of view, a justification for this departure from the Colonial model. He supposed that their object was to enable the majority in Ireland to pass measures when the Imperial Parliament was not sitting which it would not sanction if it were in Session. The majority in Ireland would probably seek to legalise the Plan of Campaign and agrarian combinations which were illegal now. A similar thing had occurred in our own history, for Trades Unions, which were once illegal, were legalised by Parliament. But if a power of reser- 944 vation were given to the Lord Lieutenant he could refer to this country for instructions as to his attitude towards measures of that kind. The Government, no doubt, thought that the views of the Irish majority ought to prevail on all subjects, and, therefore, favoured a plan under which Bills could be passed with great despatch. He probably would be met with the argument that Ireland differed from the Colonies in the fact that it was closer home and much easier of access. But this was not a question of time—the point was that there should be some power of reservation. He submitted that there was no reason at all for departing from the Colonial model, except that of giving way to the views of the Irish majority. He begged to move the omission of the sub-section.
§ Amendment proposed,
In page 3, line 15, to leave out sub-section (3), and to insert the words—"(3) Every Bill which has been passed by the two Houses of the Irish Legislature shall be presented for Her Majesty's assent to the Lord Lieutenant, who shall declare according to his discretion, but subject to the provisions of this Act and to such instructions as may from time to time be given in that behalf by Her Majesty, either that he assents to such Bill in Her Majesty's name, or that he withholds such assent, or that he reserves such Bill for the signification of Her Majesty's pleasure thereon, or that he will be prepared to assent thereto, subject to certain Amendments to be specified by him."—(Mr. Bousfield.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words The Lord Lieutenant shall' stand part of the Clause."
MR. J. MORLEY
The Government have considered very seriously whether it would be expedient to follow exactly the precedent of the British North America and other Colonial Acts. The hon. Member has not unnaturally hit on the strongest reasons which can be advanced against his proposition. The reason which has led us to dispense with this extra power of reservation is the proximity of Ireland. That proximity is an operative condition that governs all transactions between Great Britain and Ireland. The distance between the two Islands is less than the distance between some parts of Great Britain, and the facilities of communication between them are great. There seems, therefore, to the Government to be no reason why they should encumber the clause with powers 945 of reservation for the exercise of which, in all rational probability, occasion will never arise. Communication, whenever necessity arises, will be immediate as between the Lord Lieutenant and the Government of this country. I observe that the hon. Member, in this Amendment, has not included the power of disallowance. I am glad he has not, but that fact in itself shows he sees the impossibility of closely following the Colonial precedent.
MR. J. MORLEY
In the case of Colonial Acts there are three courses. The Governor can give or refuse the assent, or he can reserve the Bill while the Crown may disallow the Act even after he has given his assent. The hon. Member does not, as I understand, ask to have this power of disallowance put into the clause. But there is another reason, besides the question of proximity, for not adopting the Colonial precedent. In this Bill there is a long list of excluded subjects which are not excluded in the Colonial Acts. It follows from the fact that in those instruments there are no excluded subjects that the Governors of Colonies should have the power of reservation. My argument is that the Governor General has the power of reservation in a class of subjects not exclusively local, on which the Colonial Legislature might legislate in a manner which the Imperial Parliament could not approve. But that does not apply to Ireland under our scheme. We have taken out of the competency of the Irish Legislature a long list of subjects; and, therefore, there is no necessity that the Lord Lieutenant should have this power of reservation. The form in the Bill is the simplest, and, as the hon. Gentleman has not said that it is not effective, the more simplicity we have the better.
§ MR. BOUSFIELD
said, that, so far from the Federal Council in Western Australasia having wider powers, it had narrower powers than the Irish Legislature. The Chief Secretary said that there was no list of excluded subjects in Canada. But in Western Aus- 946 tralasia there were certain powers defined, which were much more restricted powers than the powers of the Irish Legislature, and the Federal Council could deal only with those powers.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
My right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary has spent some time of the House in rejecting an Amendment which evidently the Government reject with many qualms of conscience, for the most that can be said against it is that it would encumber the Bill with an unnecessary provision. My right hon. Friend has stated that in this Bill there are a great many reserved subjects, while in the case of Canada there are no reserved subjects. But in the case of the Canadian Parliament there are subjects which are practically withdrawn from its control, as, for instance, all diplomatic relations. With regard to the Provincial Legislatures the analogy is much closer. These particular subjects are given, the rest are reserved, and therefore there are more subjects reserved in the case of Canada than under this Bill; and, consequently, the reason advanced by my right Friend is not a good reason for rejecting the Amendment. The Amendment is moved with the view of giving the Lord Lieutenant, in certain cases, more time for consideration than he otherwise would have. If this power is not given, the Lord Lieutenant will have no ground for withholding his assent. Cases may arise in which the Government would desire to have ample time to consider whether they would or would not give their assent, and I cannot see how that time is to be obtained unless the Amendment is embodied in the Bill.
§ MR. DUNBAR BARTON (Armagh, Mid)
said, he thought the Government would not object to a Representative of the loyal minority in Ireland saying a word on this subject, because throughout the whole of the discussions on the Bill, whenever any safeguard was suggested they were always referred to the veto; and now, when they had come to the veto, they were told by the Chief Secretary this was to be a weaker veto than 947 anything in the Colonial Legislatures. When the Chief Secretary presented a form of veto weaker than that of Canada or of the Australian Colonies, he ought to have given better reasons than he had done. What reasons did the right hon. Gentleman give? He said, in the first place, that the distance between England and Ireland was short. But the question of distance, so far as it was any argument at all, was an argument against the Bill. Distance was a good reason for giving the Colonies separate Constitutions and responsible Governments; but that reason was entirely absent in the case of Ireland, which was nearer to England now by two days than it was in the time of Grattan's Parliament. In the case of Canada and Australia it was specially provided that there should be a period of two years during which reserved questions should be suspended. They might argue that in the case of Ireland the time of suspension of reserved questions should be six months or twelve months; but that was the only argument which, in the matter of distance, the Government could draw from the cases of the Colonies. If it were necessary to reserve questions in Australia and Canada, it was still more necessary in the case of Ireland, for the difficulties which existed in Ireland did not exist in those countries. The fact that in Ireland there were practically two nations, unfortunately opposed to each other—that there was the question of the land still unsettled, and other questions—made this reserved power 50 times more necessary in the case of Ireland than in that of the Colonies. Then, again, the argument of the excluded subjects in the case of Ireland was equally against the Government. Why, the excluded subjects were the very subjects on which it would be necessary for the Lord Lieutenant to have reserved powers, in order to have time to decide whether the Irish Legislature in their legislation violated the exclusions and restrictions in the Bill. It was to meet cases of the kind that the Governor General of Canada got the reserve power, because it was held that assent should not be given to any Bill on which he was in the least doubtful. Therefore, the argument that there was a large list of excluded subjects in the case of Ireland 948 was an argument for the insertion of the Amendment, and not an argument against it. On the subject of the veto, he wished to say that the veto of the Governors of Colonies and of the President of the United States was a very powerful veto, was frequently exercised, and exercised without hesitation or criticism. They could not expect to have the same kind of veto in these countries, because the head of the Constitution occupied a different position; but when the Government declared over and over again that the veto was a good substitute for the protection which the minority in Ireland had asked for they ought not to render that veto much weaker than it was in any of the Colonies.
§ MR. PARKER SMITH (Lanark, Partick)
said, there was another question besides the question of distance which entered into the case, and that was the question of doubt. The reason why special power should be given to the Lord Lieutenant for reserving his assent or dissent was that in cases of doubt he might have time for consideration. When the Government established in the Bill a Constitutional provision by which the Privy Council was to determine whether Bills passed by the Irish Legislature were ultra vires, it would be extremely convenient that the matter should be brought before them at once whilst it was in suspense, instead of waiting till a case arose under the Act in operation, and then carrying it into a Court of Law.
§ MR. GOSCHEN (St. George's, Hanover Square)
I hope my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary will not leave this matter to rest upon the few observations he has addressed to the House. We have now come to a totally fresh subject—the veto. My right hon. Friend has said that the veto was not necessary in the case of the reserved subjects, because those subjects could not be dealt with by the Irish Legislature at all. But our point is that there are a number of questions certain to arise in which it will be extremely difficult to know whether they were actually reserved subjects or not. These subjects are also certain to overlap with other subjects in many instances. The Government must see that it would 949 be better to stop at once any Act which deals improperly with the reserved subjects through the veto than afterwards to have it disallowed by the Judges, for if an Act is in force for any time, and is afterwards disallowed in the Courts, a great amount of confusion is certain to be created. Another point which has not been insisted upon in the Debate is that there is no machinery for bringing a matter about which there is any doubt before the British Cabinet at all. That is a substantial defect in the clause, and it is met by the proposed sub-section. If the Government look upon this as a small matter, it is a case in which they might meet the wishes of the minority in Ireland.
MR. J. MORLEY
It has been said that my argument of the excluded subjects goes against our case and not for it. But my point, whatever it may be worth, has been misunderstood and entirely ignored. I say that we have made a long list of subjects on which it is not competent for the Irish Legislature to make any laws, and that as regards those subjects the Lord Lieutenant can have no doubt about withholding his consent. That field of reserved subjects has not been mapped out in any of the Colonial Acts, except, possibly, the Western Australasia Act; and, therefore, the Governor General may have doubts regarding a piece of legislation, and would need time to set these doubts at rest. My right hon. Friend talks as if we were bound to provide some machinery on the face of the Bill for instant communication between the Lord Lieutenant and the Government at home. Can he doubt that we look upon this as a practical scheme—as a scheme, at all events, that will come into operation? I say that it is not necessary to put into the Bill a power of reservation, for if the Lord Lieutenant has any doubts about a Bill, he will be able by return of post to get the view of the Imperial Government on the question. Communication will be as simple and prompt as it is now, though it will not be as frequent and of the same nature as now.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Let me put the case to the right hon. Gentleman. Suppose the Irish Parliament is sitting at a time when this Parliament is not, 950 when there is no Cabinet and no means of summoning one without great inconvenience, and when there is no authority in England capable of deciding whether a Bill shall be suspended or not. There must be delay in that case, and is it not well to provide for the difficulty by giving the Lord Lieutenant power to suspend the Bill until he has consulted the British Cabinet?
MR. J. MORLEY
If the question became a Cabinet question the Cabinet will have to be summoned, however inconvenient it be. But the question will not ordinarily be a Cabinet question, although it may be a very important one. The Minister in such a case will deal with it on his own responsibility, being ultimately answerable, of course, to the Cabinet.
§ MR. BOUSFIELD
said, his point was that there was no provision in the Bill to enable the Lord Lieutenant to refer to the Home Government for instructions by return of post; and, that being so, he would be obliged to assent to a Bill on the advice of the Irish Legislature. All he asked was that it should be provided in the Bill that the time of reservation, while the Lord Lieutenant was applying to London for instructions, should be legalised.
§ MR. MACARTNEY rose to continue the discussion.
§ Mr. J, Morley rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 261; Noes 219.—(Division List, No. 194.)
§ Question put accordingly, and agreed to.
§ It being after half-past Five of the clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.