§ COMMITTEE. [Progress, 5th July.]
§ [THIRTY-SECOND NIGHT.]
§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Executive Authority.
§ Clause 5 (Executive power in Ireland).
§ VISCOUNT WOLMER (Edinburgh, W.)
said, he wished to have omitted from Sub-section 3 of Clause 5 the words "on the advice of the said Executive Committee," and he did so because there was no precedent for these words in any one of the great Acts with regard to the action of the Governors in the Colonies, nor were they to be found in the Bill of 1886. If these words were not found necessary in the Bill of 1886, nor advis- 979 able in any of the great Colonial Acts, what reason was there for inserting them in this Bill? It had not been found necessary to insert the words in the Act for the Government of New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land, nor were they to be found in Acts relating to the other Australian Colonies, to British North America, or to the Cape of Good Hope. By Section 31 of 5 & 6 Vict., c. 76, it was enacted that a Bill passed by the State Council, with or without amendment, should be presented to the Governor for Her Majesty's Assent, and that the Governor should declare,according to his discretion subject to provisions contained in this Act,whether or not he would withhold the Assent. In Todd's Parliamentary Government of the British Colonies there was a passage dealing directly with this point. It read—Whenever Bills are tendered to the Governor of a Colony for the purpose of receiving the Royal Assent he is bound to exercise his discretion in regard to the same, and to determine upon his own responsibility as an Imperial officer, unfettered by any considerations of advice which he receives from any Minister on the subject, the course he ought to pursue in respect of such Bill.That was the state of the law and the practice in every one of our Australian Colonies, in British North America, and at the Cape of Good Hope. The words which the Government had inserted in the Bill were contrary to the actual colonial practice, and that fact alone was sufficient to justify him in asking why the Government had departed from precedent by inserting words wholly new in the Bill. He begged to move the Amendment standing in his name.
In page 3, line 15, to leave out the words "on the advice of the said Executive Committee."—(Viscount Wolmer.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. E. GLADSTONE, Edinburgh, Midlothian)
The introduction of the words with regard to the Executive Committee in this Bill was an after-thought as compared with the Bill of 1886—that is to say, it is an obvious provision required for the purpose of carrying out Home Rule, and is the 980 result of a maturer consideration of the question. It is the carrying out of the principle which has prevailed all through the Bill of the division between local and Imperial questions. If the Government had simply presented a form of Executive Committee, without any directions as to what was intended to be its functions, they would have been severely and justly censured, probably even by the noble Lord himself. The Government cannot accept this Amendment.
§ SIR J. FERGUSSON (Manchester, N.E.)
May I point out that at the time the Act was passed to which my noble Friend particularly referred New South Wales was a Crown Colony with a nominative Executive. The last Act passed establishing a Constitution for a great Colony was that for British North America in 1867, and in Section 55 of that Act it is laid down that when a Bill passed by the Houses of Parliament is presented to the Governor General for the Queen's Assent, he shall declare according to his discretion when the Assent shall be given or withheld, or whether the Bill shall be reserved for the signification of Her Majesty's pleasure. There is no distinction in that Act between local and Imperial matters. The Governor General, as the Representative of the Queen, has unfettered discretion, and I do think that if this Irish Parliament is constituted the Viceroy's discretion should be equally unfettered. There is, surely, as much reason for leaving that discretion in the hands of the Viceroy in Ireland as in the hands of the Governor of the Dominion of Canada. It is not an insult to the Irish people to say that the Irish Ministry of the day might well be watched in local affairs by an Imperial officer acting in the Queen's name and according to his judgment under the circumstances of the case.
§ SIR H. JAMES (Bury, Lancashire)
If the Government thought it right to introduce an Executive Committee into the Bill, its duties ought to be set forth, and the question arises whether the duties placed in its hands by this sub-section are wise and politic or not. In the Bill of 1886 there was no Executive Committee, but there was a body composed of such persons as Her Majesty might think it right to designate. If this Executive Committee are to have greater powers than it was intended to give the Executive in 1886, the Committee should 981 be informed why these extended powers have been given. This is a concession to the Irish Parliament and the Irish Government as against the power of the Government of Great Britain. This Executive Committee will exercise the veto. Will the Committee consider what that means? This Executive will be all-powerful in Ireland. It must represent the majority of the Irish Legislature, for the Irish Legislature will determine who are to be the Executive; and to this Executive will be confided the power to veto the Bills of the Legislature. Remember that the veto to be given is to be a veto exercised by the Lord Lieutenant, acting on the advice of the Executive Committee. And yet it is expected that impartial advice will be given to the Lord Lieutenant about a Bill by the very men who had carried the Bill. They are to tell the Lord Lieutenant whether he ought to veto it or to pass it. Of course, there was no such provision in the Bill of 1886. There could not be, consistent with a liberal view of the question. In this country the Sovereign, following the advice of Her Imperial Ministers, never vetoes a Bill which they have allowed to be carried. In this country we have not the absurdity of Ministers passing a Bill one day, and next day advising the Sovereign to veto it. Therefore, practically no veto exists in this country. How different is the position in Ireland! The supremacy of this Parliament in Ireland is formulated in the word "veto," and hon. Members have often ejaculated "Veto," meaning that everything was to be left to that safeguard. But you are now going to give the veto to men who can never exercise it. You are going to reduce the Bill to an absurdity.
§ SIR H. JAMES
What does the hon. Member mean by saying we have discussed it over and over again? We cannot discuss it too often. [Ministerial cheers.] Notwithstanding the notice the Prime Minister is pleased to take of that observation, I repeat it—I can assure the Prime Minister that the subject will be repeated over and over again. Surely the better and more honest way of dealing with it is to repeat it in his presence.
§ SIR H. JAMES
I ask, again, what is the value of a veto given to an Executive Body in Ireland? The very men who thought it right to carry a Bill will be the very men who are to determine whether the Bill is to receive the sanction of the Lord Lieutenant or not. We are dealing with one of the greatest Constitutional questions it is possible for us to deal with. It is a question on which a temperate answer should be given to us, and I say that that answer has not been given. You also say that the Irish Legislature will be held in check by the double veto. I think that, in these circumstances, a second veto by the Crown would be a positive act of censure by the Crown upon the Lord Lieutenant and the Executive Committee. When is the second veto to come in? Is it to be after the Lord Lieutenant has taken the advice of the Executive Committee? Is he then to receive instructions from the Imperial Ministers that he is not to take the advice of the Executive Committee? Is he to be told, "Do not listen to your Constitutional advisers; we bid you not to exercise your own discretion; we bid you take your orders from us?" I say that the exercise of the second veto will inevitably involve friction between the Imperial Ministers and the Executive Committee. There would be no such friction if you made the veto here—as in 1886—the primary veto. But, as the Bill stands, the second veto will be regarded as the interference of a Foreign Power, and must be repudiated by the Irish Legislature, and I think rightly repudiated, if exercised.
§ MR. HALDANE (Haddington)
said, that his right hon. Friend the Member for Bury was so enamoured of the Home Rule Bill of 1886 that he (Mr. Haldane) would be doing him a real service if he could show him, as he proposed to do, that the provisions of this Bill and the provisions of the Bill of 1886 were substantially the same, and that accordingly the controversy between them was really a controversy about nothing. His right hon. Friend's proposition was that in this Bill there was contained something that was not contained in the Bill of 1886—something that was foreign to the nature of the Bill of 1886. The noble Lord who moved 983 the Amendment further said that it was not in any of the Acts of Parliament constituting Colonial Assemblies. That fallacy—for he should call it a fallacy—was an old topic of controversy. In this Constitution they never wrote out the whole of their provisions. There were numbers of unwritten practices and conditions, reflected from the British Constitution, and which were as much a part of the Constitution as if enacted and printed in the Act of Parliament. Take the Constitution of Canada which had been referred to. The nature of the veto of that Act which was passed in 1867 was exactly the same as the nature of the veto in the whole series of Statutes which govern the Australian Colonies, the last of which was passed in 1890. For the last 31 years it had been part of the recognised and written Constitutions of these Colonies that the veto should not be exercised by the Governor General except on the advice of the local Ministers, subject to this: that the matters dealt with were local and not Imperial, for in Imperial matters he was bound to consider Imperial interests. The noble Lord who moved the Amendment quoted from a work of great authority, Todd's book on Colonial Government; but he might have observed in it a very important Despatch, dated 26th March, 1862, and written by the then Colonial Secretary, the Duke of Newcastle, representing the Cabinet of the day, to Sir George Bowen, the Governor of Queensland. That Despatch stated that in all cases in which Imperial interests were concerned the Governor of the Colony was to consider himself as the guardian of those interests; but in matters of purely local politics he was bound, except in extreme cases, to follow the advice of the Ministry that seemed to have the support of the Legislature. Why was it that in the present case the Government had done something which they did not think fit to do in 1886? He took it to be this: The Irish Lord Lieutenant would be in close proximity to the Imperial Ministry; he would have possibly daily, and even hourly, communication with them; he would be able to take their advice almost on the spot. Accordingly, it had been found right in Clause 5 to provide two alternatives: the Lord Lieutenant might in local matters exercise the veto on the 984 advice of the local Ministry, subject to Instructions given by Her Majesty from time to time. These were exactly the words in the Bill of 1886. He had not a copy of the Bill with him; but, as well as he remembered, the words were—Subject to the Instructions which may from time to time be given by Her Majesty the Lord Lieutenant shall give or withhold his assent,the only difference being that in the present Bill the Lord Lieutenant would have expressly written-out duties and local advisers, which was the Constitutional practice in all the Colonies.
§ SIR J. FERGUSSON
I might be allowed to say, in reply to the hon. Member, that what I stated was this: that a Colonial Governor has instructions to rescind any Act opposed to Imperial interests during Her Majesty's pleasure.
§ MR. HALDANE
But that is not in the Act of Parliament. These are Instructions given from to time by Imperial Ministries.
§ MR. CARSON (Dublin University)
said, that Irish Loyalists had been told so frequently that they might rest perfectly satisfied with the powers conferred on the Irish Legislature, because it was positively certain that they would be protected by the veto from any unjust legislation, that he did not think they could too forcibly put forward and try to bring home to the country the fact that, notwithstanding all these promises, the veto conferred upon them was a veto vastly inferior in its effects to the veto given to every one of the Colonies. The hon. and learned Member for Haddington seemed, to his own entire satisfaction, to have demolished the argument of the noble Lord who introduced the Amendment. But he quite forgot that, in addition to the safeguard proposed by the Amendment, there were in the Colonial Acts a power of reservation which the Committee refused last night to give to the Lord Lieutenant, and also—what he hoped would be discussed later on—a power in Her Majesty to annul within two years of its passing any Act, even though it had received the sanction of the Colonial Governor. Therefore, the veto conferred by this Bill was, when compared with the veto conferred by the Acts creating Colonial Legislatures, mythical and vanishing in the extreme. The hon. and learned Member had read a passage from a letter written to a Colonial Governor—
The hon. and learned Gentleman must know that a letter written to a Governor and a Despatch written to a Governor are two totally different things.
§ MR. CARSON
said, he was quite willing to call the document by the technical name of a Despatch, and to give it all the power and authority of a Despatch. The Despatch stated that in regard to local matters the Governor General ought to act on the directions of the local Ministers; but he noticed that the hon. and learned Member for Haddington dropped his voice when he came to the words "except in extreme cases." What provision was there in the Bill that the Lord Lieutenant was to have any discretion whatever in extreme cases or in any other cases that were domestic? The Prime Minister had said that it would be the duty of the Lord Lieutenant to distinguish between Imperial and domestic matters. But it was of much more importance to the loyal minority in Ireland that the Lord Lieutenant should have a discretion in local matters in the extreme cases referred to. All the subsection said was—The Lord Lieutenant shall, on the advice of the Executive Committee, give or withhold his assent.Did that give a discretion to the Lord Lieutenant either in Imperial matters or in domestic matters? Whereas the words in the Colonial Act were that the Governor General must act on his own discretion, the words in this Bill were that the Lord Lieutenant must act on the advice of the Executive Committee. It was really reducing argument to an absurdity to ask them to read in this section words which did not exist, and words which were contrary to, the plain English words of the section. Then had the Lord Lieutenant any discretion in regard to the second portion of the section? He had no discretion. He could only act in respect to a particular Bill? He was not given the general Instructions which were given to a Colonial Governor. He had no discretion whatever, and unless he got Instructions in relation to any particular Bill, he was bound to act on the advice of the Executive Committee, 986 and forthwith give his consent. It might be said that acting on the advice of the Executive Committee was the same as the veto of Her Majesty in this country. But that veto was no protection and no safeguard. He asked the Government not to continue telling the Loyalists of Ireland that they were giving them a real protection and a real safeguard when they were only giving them the veto in this country which, it was admitted in this country, was no safeguard and no protection at all.
§ MR. BLAKE (Longford, S.)
The noble Lord who moved this Amendment read a passage from a work of very considerable authority, no doubt; but, of course, he did not read all the passages that bear upon the practical working of Acts of Parliament which in times past have been enacted with reference to subordinate Legislatures. When this Parliament sets itself to the task of rewriting the British Constitution in whole or in part and of applying it to modern conditions, it is well that it should apply it truly, to the extent to which it is applied at all; and the true application of the British Constitution to the conditions of the proposed Irish Legislature, with an effective safeguard in respect to Imperial interests and against gross abuse of power in the discharge of local affairs, is accomplished by the clause in hand. To propose a clause that in all matters the Viceroy should exercise his own independent discretion upon the question of assent would tend to give life to the veto in the normal condition of affairs, which is contrary to the recogised practice, not merely here, but in all subordinate Legislatures with which I am acquainted, and particularly in those with which I am most acquainted. The invariable practice in the great Dominion of Canada, with its seven or eight subordinate Legislatures, is that assent is dealt with—save and except in the cases I am about to allude to—on the advice of the Privy Council or the Executive Committee as the case may be. I hold in my hand a list of the numbers of Acts of Parliament that have been passed by various Canadian Provincial Legislatures from 1867 to 1891. They number over 13,000—the exact number is 13,114. Add to that the number of the Acts of Parliament of Canada in the same interval—which I am not prepared to give you now, but pro- 987 bably about 2,500—and it gives you 15,000 or 16,000 legislative Acts which have been dealt with under the Constitutional provisions which we work, as my hon. Friend stated awhile ago, according to the spirit of the British Constitution. And acting in that spirit with reference to this question which is now before us—not the question of reservation, not the question of disallowance, but limiting myself to the single question which is propounded by the Amendment of the noble Lord—namely, the method in which the question of assent or dissent is to be dealt with—I challenge an answer to the observation that in no case—I am not aware of any case—in which Imperial considerations did not arise was there any suggestion that the action of the Executive was to be otherwise than according to the advice of the Council, and my belief is that, with the exception of a very few cases in which the power of reservation was exercised under Instructions, and occasionally upon advice—some 20 or 30 cases perhaps—with that exception all these Acts, between 15,000 and 16,000, were assented to, and assented to upon advice, and not in the exercise of any presumed independent discretion of the head of the Executive. That is the theory of the British Constitution, which, whatever obsolete words may occur in the Acts of Parliament with reference to the discretion of your Governors, has been applied in the practical working of each of your Colonies, the theory under which they have been acting ever since, and under which, if you had not allowed them to act, they would not have been contented Colonies. It entirely consorts with the other branch of the proposition to say that what is important is that you should make the fewest possible opportunities for friction; that you should give the greatest possible measure of liberty of action; that you should reproduce as accurately as possible a transcript of the British Constitution as understood on this side with reference to local Irish Government, to just such an extent, and with no more limitations than are required for the particular purposes for which you want some guard and some check. And, therefore, you rightly recognise when you are writing down some part of the British Constitution, with truth and accuracy, in the first instance, that the 988 normal action upon the question of assent is to be action on advice, and advice of those responsible to that Legislature which has passed the Bill. You proceed to couple with that provision not a sham veto, not an illusory veto, but a veto, I maintain, made all the more prominent, all the more marked, all the more distinct and efficacious by the very insertion of those words to which the hon. Gentleman refers, by the distinction which takes place, by the limitation upon the power of effective local advice, which is expressly given in this part of the clause which he proposes to eliminate—a veto to be exercised upon Instructions; and those Instructions, it is complained, are to be Instructions with reference to any particular Bill. Of course they are; because it is believed by those who promote and those who support this Bill that the great mass of the legislation in Ireland will be legislation with reference to which there will be no call for Instructions at all. Just as there were the 15,000 or 16,000 Acts of legislation to which I referred occurring in the country from which I come, which, with the exception of some 20 or 30, concerned matters about which there was no question, no doubt, no Imperial interest, and no local interest of extreme urgency, or involving any special considerations, so you, believing that the normal action of the Irish Legislature will not be depraved, wicked, or malicious—as some hon. Gentlemen say, but will be constitutional and sound—have recognised the propriety of covering that normal action by general words. But Instructions being requisite only should a case of urgency arise which demands Instructions, therefore that Instruction is to be given specially in the case of any particular Bill which seems to demand it. I repeat what I have before stated, that the attitude of the Administration is thoroughly understood with reference to the spirit in which the power of Instruction is to be used. We fully recognise the view that in a case where an attempt is made to pass legislation believed to be injurious to Imperial interests, or in a case where there is an attempt to pass legislation which, though local, is a grave abuse of the powers entrusted to us, there is a right to instruct the Viceroy to refuse the assent to any such Bill, and that right is to be exercised by the Imperial Execu- 989 tive upon its responsibility to the Imperial Parliament. For these exceptional cases this Bill provides full power of action by the power of Instruction, while, at the same time, it recognises the normal, the ordinary, living position by making the British Constitution applicable to Ireland with regard certainly to the great mass, and I hope and trust and pray with regard to every Act, of legislation there.
§ MR. DUNBAR BARTON (Armagh, Mid)
said, the part which the hon. and learned Gentleman who Lad just spoken had taken, as Minister of Justice for Canada, with reference to this very subject, was most important, and one which the Committee ought to be aware of. In a State Paper the hon. and learned Gentleman, as Minister of Justice for Canada, pointed out that this veto was one which should be exercised on the advice of Colonial Ministers. But why? Because, the hon. and learned Member said, the true form of protecting Imperial interests—the true form of veto—was the form of disallowance, which was in the Canadian Constitution, but which was not in this Bill. If it was the wish of the Committee that this veto should be an utterly valueless one, then the hon. and learned Gentleman's present argument was a forcible and good one. But if the Committee intended this to be a real veto, then the hon. and learned Gentleman ought to have supplemented his speech by telling the Committee that the Canadian Constitution did contain that effective veto. That veto was by disallowance; it was in the Canadian Constitution, and had received the hon. and learned Gentleman's own approval in a letter to the Home Government, in which he described it as a fair means of protecting Imperial interests. But that provision was not in this Bill; therefore they were entitled to say that this was a wholly unsatisfactory veto, and that the hon. and learned Gentleman's statement was wholly incomplete. In the Canadian and Australian Constitutions there were three forms of veto. There was the simple assent, or withholding assent, as in this Bill; secondly, the reserve to the Imperial Government; and, thirdly, the assenting, subject to the power of disallowance, by the Imperial Government at home. The hon. and learned Gentle- 990 man, in his communication and State Paper to the Imperial Government, said that the form of the mere veto of withholding was less conformable to the spirit of the Constitution of Canada than the form of disallowance; and in the concluding part of this Despatch he said—This power of disallowance is a protection for Imperial interests sufficient for all purposes.What did that mean but that the hon. and learned Gentleman recommended it to the Imperial Government in the case of Canada, whilst he enjoined the Government not to put it in this Bill? There was another point. They were told by the Government that they ought to rely upon this Instruction to the Lord Lieutenant as being a protection for the loyal minority, and as giving this veto some effect. But what was the fact? This very matter had been the subject of Statute. There was an Act of 1865, called the Colonial Laws Validity Act, applying to every Colony dealing with this question of Instruction, and what did that Act say? It stated that no Colonial Act should be void or inoperative by reason only of any Instructions with reference to such law other than the Letters Patent or instrument authorising such Governor to concur or assent to the passing of laws for the peace, order, and good government of such Colony. He contended that if a Governor assented to an Act no Instructions that he received would render that Act void. No specific Instructions such as were mentioned in this clause, in reference to a particular law, would have any effect if the Governor chose to assent to any Bill; therefore, they had no protection whatever. It might be said that the Colonial Laws Validity Act did not apply to Ireland. Surely it could not be said that words which had had such a construction put upon them, because they related to the Colonies, were valueless or worthless in the case of Ireland. He held that his noble Friend was right when he described the veto as a sham protection. The Prime Minister had said these Instructions would be given by the Imperial Government and were not likely to be altered from time to time. But the hon. Member for Longford, when he was Minister of Justice for Canada, was himself instru- 991 mental in 1867 in having the general Instructions given to Governors altered and amended so as to give wider powers and discretion to the Colony, and further restricting and limiting the powers of the Imperial Government. He would point out, in the first place, that the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Blake) had himself recommended to the Home Government the form of veto which the present Government had omitted from this Bill, and which the Opposition admitted would have some weight; and, in the second place, the hon. and learned Gentleman had himself shown how these general Instructions—which were the only Instructions which would bind the Irish Lord Lieutenant—were likely to be weakened from time to time. The veto the Government offered to them as a safeguard was a mere sham and insult.
§ MR. BLAKE
said, it was quite true he had taken a somewhat active part in reference to the form of Instruction to Colonial Governors, not only with reference to Canada, but also to other Colonies. The occasion arose when the Imperial Government decided to re-cast the Commissions and Instructions, and to adopt a general form of Letters Patent for the constitution of the office of Colonial Governors. A general form of Commission and Instructions was to be drafted to be issued to Colonial Governors; and this being agreed to, once for all would serve, with such modifications as time might show to be necessary, for all time. The particular Governor from time to time was to be appointed by a short instrument peculiar to himself, and to take office under the general Commission and Instructions. The hon. and learned Gentleman showed but a superficial acquaintance with the position he (Mr. Blake) took and the points he recommended on that occasion to the Imperial Government. The argument of the hon. Gentleman was that he (Mr. Blake) considered disallowance the best and most convenient form of using the Imperial power. As a practical man dealing with the Commission and Instructions to be issued under an Act of Parliament, he thought it absolutely necessary to consult the Act itself, and be guided in the suggestions he should make by the powers and provisions which that Act of Parliament actually contained. So far from expressing an opinion in favour of 992 the power of disallowance as a convenient method of exercising the Imperial supremacy, he indicated as clearly as propriety in his position allowed a, contrary opinion. As the hon. Gentleman had given a paraphrase which was, no doubt unintentionally, extremely inaccurate, he would, with the greatest possible reluctance, trouble the Committee with the text of the document. He was dealing with Clause 9, which dealt with Bills to be reserved. The Committee would do him the justice of recollecting that, in the observations he had addressed to it a few moments ago, he specifically stated that he would make no reference to the question of reservation or the question of disallowance, because the Committee were not upon these questions; they were not contained in the Bill, and the Amendment of the noble Lord did not touch them. What he said was—It is beyond my province here to discuss the propriety of the clause of the British North America Act on the subject of the reservation and disallowance of Bills, or to touch on the principles on which the power of disallowance, while retained in the present form, should be exercised.So far from recommending it as a good thing to be kept, he indicated the opinion that the day might come when the Act of Parliament should be modified in that respect. What he went on to say was—This question involved another difficult phase of the problem of Imperial Government, but one that is not directly presented for consideration on this occasion, and on which, therefore, I express no opinion.Having so guarded himself most carefully against any implied assent to the view that these were most admirable provisions to be developed by extensive use in Executive action he proceeded to deal with the situation as it was—It appears to me that in all the classes of cases mentioned in the clause referred to it would be better and more conformable to the spirit of the Constitution of Canada as actually framed "(containing as it did the power of disallowance) "that the legislation should be completed on the advice and responsibility of Her Majesty's Privy Council for Canada, and, as a protection for Imperial interests, reserving the power of disallowance upon such completed legislation.He said so still. He believed it was a sufficient protection, but he did not believe it was the only protection. He did not say there were not other adequate protections; superior and more convenient protections. 993 On the contrary, he implied the converse of these propositions by what he had already said—I may shortly observe in support of this Bill that, irrespective of the general powers conferred on the Parliament of Canada, mentioned, its expressed powers are those of legislation on subjects comprised in these clauses. But in practice Bills on these subjects have been assented to without reservation; and this practice would appear to harmonise with the theory of the Constitution, as it is framed, containing this power of disallowance. It distributed the responsibility and powers on Her Majesty's Colonial and Imperial Advisers, laying all the responsibility on the former for the completion of Colonial legislation on authorised subjects, while it reserves to be exercised on the responsibility of the latter the Imperial prohibition of disallowance.Dealing with the Constitution as it stood, settled as it was by Act, which the Executive Government was not proposing to alter, but with reference to which it was, or ought to have been, framing a Commission and Instruction, he maintained the soundness of every one of these propositions which he made to the Conservative Administration of the day, and which were acted upon, and had been acted upon ever since. But nothing he said then was applicable to a Constitution not containing those words, and which provided in what was a more convenient form, considering the circumstances and conditions of Ireland, for that Imperial check and guard which they agreed should exist. He thought, therefore, that he had substantially answered the statement of the hon. Member.
§ SIR R. TEMPLE (Surrey, Kingston)
remarked that, as he had put an Amendment down many weeks ago which would now be shut out, he should like to say a few words before a vote was taken on the present proposal. He pointed to the admission by the hon. Member for Longford, to the effect that when the Lord Lieutenant exercised the veto he would do so solely on the advice of the Executive Council, which would be composed of men who were the Leaders in that very Assembly that had passed the Act under discussion. He contended, therefore, that such a veto was a sham. The hon. Member for Longford had expressed the belief that all the Acts of the Irish Legislature would be wise and sound, and would never need a veto. They (the Opposition) entertained the pious hope that such might be the case; but it was 994 because they feared that some of these Acts might be unsound, or tyrannical, or unwise, that they desired to have the safeguard and protection of a really effective veto. It was not fair to impute to them (the Opposition) a desire to charge their Irish fellow-countrymen with everything that was infamous and wicked, merely because it was suspected they might commit political errors. Whatever they might do might be from conscientious opinions, but these opinions might differ from theirs in this country, and without making any imputations whatever, they insisted upon having safeguards, and such safeguards could not exist unless there was an effective veto. Members on this side of the House were much instructed by what had fallen from the right hon. Member for Bury on this subject. Until the very end of these discussions in Parliament, for the protection of their fellow-countrymen in Ulster particularly, they should insist upon having not a sham but a real veto.
§ MR. ROSS (Londonderry)
said, they were obliged to the hon. and learned Member for South Longford for reading them the very able and eloquent Despatch he sent from Canada to the Home Government on one occasion. He thought the Home Minister who received the Despatch, if he had an ordinary mind, must have come to the conclusion that the hon. and learned Gentleman was a good deal in favour of the policy of disallowance of which he was not now so enamoured. But, however that might be, the disallowance power was not in this Bill, and the hon. and learned Member's words would have had very much more effect if such a power had been in the Bill. It was interesting to note that the hon. and learned Gentleman rose in that House on two occasions. When any admissions had to be made as to the contentedness of Ireland under this Bill in the future, the hon. Member rose and made the admissions which were never supported by hon. Members beside him; and, in the second place, when there was some safeguard proved to be absolutely worthless, the hon. Member got up and said it worked very well in Canada, or Australasia, or some other place. He protested against comparing the condition of such countries with the condition of Ireland. He could conceive of no more foolish procedure than the 995 idea of thinking that any light was thrown on these difficulties by comparing the operations of the safeguard in Canada or Australasia with the case of Ireland. If the hon. and learned Gentleman could point to any Colony where there were two hostile races, where the hostile race which was the majority had captured the English Prime Minister, and where by means of gagging the Representatives of the minority in the House of Commons it was possible to thrust through a Bill which the minority strongly protested against, his argument might be worth consideration; but in a case like the present, when such a Bill as this was being thrust upon the minority, he submitted that any such arguments as those which had been advanced by the hon. and learned Member were worse than worthless. Words had been introduced into this Bill which existed in no other Act, and the effect of which must be in every case to drive the Lord Lieutenant to act primâ facie on the advice of the Irish Executive. Why was he not given some express discretion such as was given in the case of the Colonies? The discussion showed not merely that this veto was much less effective than in the case of the Colonial Assemblies, but also that it was a veto which would be absolutely worthless and ineffective.
§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS (Birmingham, Bordesley)
said, this discussion on the powers of the Colonial Legislature was, no doubt, interesting; but he did not think the British public would care anything about such powers, and for this reason: they all knew that the Colonies were practically independent, and what the British public would be concerned to know was what would be the relations of the Irish Legislature to the Imperial Parliament? They must remember, in discussing this Bill, that the electors had never had an opportunity of knowing what it was. As was said by a working man at a public meeting in the Midland Counties a week or two ago, the Prime Minister had had this up his sleeve for seven years, and now wished to ram it down their throats. This was the first time the British electors had been able to know what was meant by Home Rule. It was only by these discussions that were taking place that the meaning had been re- 996 vealed—["Question!"]—and the discussions were revealing so much that he did not wonder at the cries of "Question!" and the desire to stop discussion. He had again been looking over the election addresses of hon. Members—[Cries of "Question!" and "Order!"]
I must call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to the fact that this Amendment is to leave out the words "On the advice of the Executive Committee."
§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS
said, if the Chairman had waited just one moment—["Order!"]—he thought he would have seen that his remarks were in Order. ["Order, order!"] He must ask to be protected from the disorderly conduct of Members opposite. ["Question!" and an hon. MEMBER: Remember 10 o'clock.] If there was one thing more than another in the promises and explanations placed before the electors by hon. Members it was that they would support no scheme for an Irish Parliament except it was a. subordinate Parliament, and that the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament was beyond all doubt. As to the question of supremacy, they had been told over and over again that the veto represented the true supremacy of the Imperial Parliament. But what did they see now? The Government admitted that the very men who had passed an Act through the Irish Parliament would be the men who would have the power to assent or withhold their assent to such Act. What, therefore, became of the supremacy in connection with the veto? He thought that hon. Members who made such solemn promises that the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament should be beyond all question would have to admit now that that supremacy was whittled down; that it was to be exercised not by this Imperial Parliament, but by the Lord Lieutenant, acting under the Irish Executive, which Irish Executive was responsible only to the very Parliament which would have passed the Act as to which there might be any question. What supremacy was that? The veto, therefore, was a sham and a delusion, and if the veto was a sham and a delusion it followed that the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament was a sham and delusion also. He should like to ask the President of the Local Government Board if that was the supremacy which 997 he held up to his hearers at Rossendale and in the Midland Counties? Did the right hon. Gentleman think that his audiences understood that that supremacy would be satisfied by giving the power of veto into the hands of the Executive of the Irish Parliament who passed the Act? They wanted the British public to understand exactly what a fraudulent Bill this was. It had been framed in close agreement with hon. Members opposite, and had been carefully kept from the knowledge of the British electors.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. H. H. FOWLER, Wolverhampton, E.)
As my right hon. Friend made a pointed appeal to me, I think the Committee will not deem it unnecessary for me to answer the question, although I had no intention of intervening in the Debate. My right hon. Friend asks me when I spoke declaring, practically, that I would not support any measure of Home Rule which did not conserve and maintain the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament, if I meant by that that the supremacy should be nothing else than the veto of the Lord Lieutenant to be exercised on the advice of the Executive Committee which would practically represent the Cabinet representing the Irish majority in the Irish Legislature? No, Sir; I said nothing of the sort and meant nothing of the sort; nor does the Bill contain any such proposal. Perhaps my right hon. Friend will allow me to point out, with all respect, in a sentence or two the confusion which prevails in his mind, and those of some of his friends around him with reference to the position of the Lord Lieutenant, the position of the Executive Council, and the position of the veto. The speeches which the right hon. Gentleman alludes to dealt with two dangers which had been pointed out by my right hon. Friend and others as likely to occur in any measure of Home Rule. The first was that the Irish Parliament would pass acts of injustice towards the minority in Ireland, and the second that the Irish Parliament might impair Imperial interests and interfere in matters of Imperial concern, and by so doing might affect or weaken the power of Great Britain in dealing with Imperial matters. There was never a question raised, and I apprehend that no sensible man would ever raise any question in 998 reference to questions of administration relating to purely local matters. No question was raised, by anybody in favour of granting the Irish people power to deal with their own affairs, that these matters should be controlled by this House. The essential principle of Home Rule is that Ireland shall not be controlled in such matters, any more than Canada, or Australia, or New Zealand is controlled. I said myself, again and again, and I say now, that I do not suppose the Irish Parliament will be characterised by infallible wisdom in its administration or legislation, but it will be a Parliament of the Irish people for dealing with Irish affairs; and if the Irish people are dissatisfied with them they will know how to get rid of them. But what we have to guard against—and which I attach just as much importance to as the right hon. Gentleman—are the two questions of Imperial interest and what the hon. Member for Longford called the grave abuse of those powers which this House is going to devolve upon Ireland. I contend this is not a sham safeguard, but a real safeguard; not a sham veto, but a real veto; and I do not know any other safeguard which even the wit of my right hon. Friend could devise under the Constitution which could prove more effective than the safeguard put into this Bill. If there is any legislation in violation of the elementary rights of every subject of the Queen or dealing unjustly with any class, however small, of Her Majesty's subjects, that being an abuse of power you do not expect the Lord Lieutenant to veto that on the advice of the Minister who passed it; but the Imperial Cabinet responsible to this House would interfere and prevent such a Bill ever becoming law at all. ["How?"] By instructing the Lord Lieutenant not to give his assent to it. There is only one other mode of dealing with the matter besides that of stopping legislation, and that is the final ultimate resort of repealing the Act. What the Government propose is that the Imperial Cabinet responsible to this House shall stop such legislation during progress, and I am content to stand by every word which I have said on this question which my right hon. Friend has alluded to. I think it is the duty of the House to protect the minority in Ireland, as it is their 999 duty to protect a minority anywhere in the Queen's dominions; and I believe if any such legislation were proposed it would be the duty of the Imperial Minister to prevent that legislation becoming an Act of Parliament. I believe in that way, coupled with the large reservations and prohibitions which this Bill contains, we have guarded those interests which the right hon. Gentleman appears to think I was very sedulous in defending in the country and very silent in defending in this House. I do not shrink from meeting that accusation in the most straightforward manner. My opinion may be wrong, but I conscientiously believe there is no other way—certainly I believe no better way—of grappling with that danger, if danger there be; and I can conceive of no stronger or more conclusive way of preventing such legislation than by retaining in the hands of the Imperial Parliament, acting through the Imperial Cabinet, the power of stopping such legislation before it has reached the point of becoming an Act of Parliament.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)
said, the right hon. Gentleman's speech had two distinct advantages. In the first place, it was as clear as crystal, and, in the second place, everybody could hear him, which, again, was an enormous advantage. The right hon. Gentleman said he recognised that it was the duty of the Imperial Parliament to protect this minority. [Mr. H. H. FOWLER: All minorities.] He was not going to take trifling matters relating to turnpike trusts and things of that kind, which nobody would expect to be outside the power of the Irish Legislature and Executive Committee, but he would put this case to the right hon. Gentleman. After the statutory period had expired the first question the Irish Parliament would probably deal with—and which, from their standpoint, they ought to deal with—would be the laud. Suppose they passed what would be called in this country a revolutionary measure in regard to the land. They knew perfectly well what the views of hon. Members opposite on the Laud Question were. [An hon. MEMBER: What about your own scheme!] He never held the view of the prairie value of laud, or that the Irish landlord was simply entitled to a first-class ticket to Holyhead, and those views were held, 1000 and had been announced, by hon. Gentlemen opposite. [Cries of "Question!" and "Go on!"] Nobody could go on because of the constant interruptions. ["Question!"] The Government might gag them by this Resolution, but they had no right to be gagged a second time, and, so far as he was concerned, he should not submit to it. It was enough to be gagged by Resolution without being gagged by interruption. Suppose a revolutionary land measure were passed by both Houses of the Irish Legislature, what was the Lord Lieutenant to do? He was to act upon the advice of this Executive Committee; and, inasmuch as the Executive Committee would be responsible for the Bill itself, of course they would advise the Lord Lieutenant to assent to it. The right hon. Gentleman on the Front Bench agreed with him. [Mr. H. H. FOWLER: No, no!] Let this matter be cleared up. Was he to act on the advice of the Executive Committee?
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER
said, that was assuming that the Lord Lieutenant would be either a rogue or a fool. If any revolutionary measure were introduced—he would not say a Land Bill, for that was not before them, but a confiscatory measure—he could not conceive of any great officer of the Imperial Government proceeding to deal with such a measure without referring it to the Imperial Cabinet to know what their views were upon it.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
said, he thanked the right hon. Gentleman for his explanation. But the clause said the veto was to be exercised on the advice of the Irish Executive Committee, who would be responsible for such a Bill as he had described.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
said, he would test the value of the veto from the standpoint of the instructions of the Imperial Government. The House would remember that there would be 80 Irish Members in Parliament controlling the Imperial Government; and he wished to know whether gentlemen sitting on the Treasury Bench would be prepared, in the interests of the Irish landlords, to face those 80 Irish Members? They would do nothing of the kind. He (Mr. Russell) was there as a Representative of a 1001 minority, and he had to look at this question from the standpoint of the ordinary politicians whom he met, and he knew what these gentlemen were. The loyal minority had little to hope for from the Irish Legislature, and less from the Imperial Government, if it was represented by men who, having not many years ago declared it to be a matter of honour, obligation, and duty to reserve the Land Question, now surrendered that question to the forces below the Gangway.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR (Manchester, E.)
We, who have listened to the defence of the sub-section as it stands, observe that there are two entirely different schools of thought, and that each appears to think its special wishes are carried out by the Bill. The President of the Local Government Board has expressed his conviction that there is an operative and living veto provided by the Bill, and that the practice with regard to Ireland would be essentially different from that pursued in the Colonies. But what is the line taken by the hon. Member for Haddington? He explains that when we are dealing only with a fragment of a large Constitution, that fragment must be interpreted with a view to the general practice prevailing in the working of that Constitution. What is the practice in the light of which we are to read the words of the Bill? It is that in every case of domestic legislation the Governor of a Colony shall give his assent in accordance with the advice of his Ministers. In Imperial matters he acts without that advice; and under the clause the Lord Lieutenant would be able and bound to veto Imperial matters.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I will come to that. We are dealing with a Constitution that has been changing, changing silently, from century to century, and, no matter what is said of 1862, we must read the words of this Bill. The Despatch of 1862 is obsolete. Last Session or the Session before the attention of the House was drawn to legislation affecting the interests of the labour population in the South Sea Islands. At that time, speaking on behalf of the Government, I expressed dissent from the tenour of that legislation, but said that we thought it impossible to impose the veto; and 1002 that sentiment was echoed by Members of the present Government sitting on these (the Opposition) Benches. That was a crucial and extreme case, and if in that case the House felt it impossible to exercise the veto on the legislation of a self-governing Colony, the practice of the Constitution was established, and it is in the light of that practice that we must read the framework of the Bill. The veto is a weapon inconsistent with our modern views of Democratic Government, and tends to become obsolete wherever it is tried. Have we not a claim, in view of that tendency, to ask for the introduction into the Bill of language stronger than exists in the case of the Colonies? Yet with the whole of the Colonial precedents before them the Government had deliberately used words incomparably weaker than is used in the case of the Colonies. Therefore, when the President of the Local Government Board points to the veto as a protection to the minority in Ireland he is running counter to Constitutional practice. Wherever we have, as we have in Amendment after Amendment, pointed out the dangers that will follow from the provisions of the Bill, we are told that the protection and safeguard against these dangers will be found in the veto. Through the mist of Government explanation and mystification the veto loomed very large before we got to it; but now that it is reached it shrinks into very small and very narrow compass, useful, if at all, for safeguarding certain Imperial questions, but absolutely useless for safeguarding the interests of the minority in Ireland. A Government of high public probity would, I think, stop such a revolutionary measure as that indicated by the hon. Member for South Tyrone; but what are you going to do with that large number of middle cases in which legislation might be directed against the minority, but in which it would be a strong thing to say that the legislation, in form, at all events, was revolutionary? Gentlemen below the Gangway are suspiciously expert and ingenious in such matters to destroy every interest in Ireland belonging to the minority without any revolutionary measures. I can suppose a Bill dealing with the land, of which nobody could say that it would be revolutionary—a Bill dealing rather with machinery than any- 1003 thing else, but which would have the inevitable result of destroying to the last farthing the property of every landlord in Ireland.
MR. MAC NEILL (Donegal, S)
We would, we would! [Laughter.]
MR. A. J. BALFOUE
I am not dealing with the future policy of gentlemen below the Gangway. I am dealing only with what I believe would be the result of such action on a Bill. Would this veto be any safeguard against that? The Government lay it down that the Colonial practice is to be followed, that legislation is to be free as air in domestic matters. I do not believe they would be able to exercise their veto in extreme cases, and if they did exercise it in extreme cases they would not be doing all that would be required of them to protect the interests of the minority. I hope that if the Government will not accede to the request of the Opposition, they will never again throw the veto in our faces. Let them, now that they have the opportunity, make the veto a reality, or let them for ever hold their peace. Let them choose one of two courses—let them make it a reality, or let them no longer tell us that behind the Irish Legislature we have a power that can be exercised by the Ministers of the Imperial Parliament.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
The right hon. Gentleman has said that the Government held out promises in respect to the veto in the case of Ireland which were of a perfectly illusory character. What were the promises we held out, and when was it that we described the veto as the one defence of the minority in Ireland? The cases the Government put were these, and they have been put again, and again, and again. Amendments have been proposed proceeding upon the principle that under this Act there would be upon the part of the Irish Legislature gross abuses of the powers given to them; and when it was proposed to provide what was thought to be a security against these gross abuses, by taking the subject-matter out of the province of the Irish Legislature, and when the Government had pointed out that they thought it ought to be left within that province, then we said—"Remember the defences provided, remember the responsibility of the Viceroy, remember the exercise of the veto, remember the re- 1004 ponsibility of the Imperial Government behind the Viceroy, and remember the action of the Imperial Parliament behind them all." We have not relied upon the veto exclusively, and no word can be quoted from the speech of any Minister or from any friend of the Bill to an effect corresponding to the declaration of the right hon. Gentleman. Gentlemen opposed to the Bill will not reconcile themselves to the idea, will not even contemplate the idea, that Ireland is to govern herself in local and domestic affairs. The intention of the Bill is to introduce that self-government. What is the counter-proposal? That the Viceroy should exercise what is called an independent judgment—that is to say, not the construction of the Irish mind, not of Irish public opinion, however deliberate, not of an Irish majority, however overwhelming and however permanent in its character, but the individual construction of the mind of the Viceroy is to determine the fate of legislation! The right hon. Gentleman says the veto can never be exercised. He did not deny that the intervention of the Imperial Government is provided for by the important restriction that the Viceroy is to act upon instructions from this country when occasion should arise. It is the duty of the Viceroy, as the right hon. Gentleman admits, to interpose where Imperial interests are concerned; but does he not recognise another duty of the Viceroy, which is admitted by the friends of the Bill? Did he not hear the speech of the hon. Member for Longford, who again declared, with the evident assent of his friends around him, that where the power given under this Bill was grossly abused it would be the duty of the Imperial Government to interfere? That is a fair and equitable basis on which to proceed. It is not the intention of the Government that the minority should govern Ireland, as it has heretofore done. What is the reason of the fears of the minority? It is not the fear of spoliation; it is the apprehension of the loss of power. Exactly the same thing was seen in Canada when it was proposed to grant free institutions to that Colony—the loyal minority cried out against the disloyal majority. [Laughter.] Yes; but gentlemen on those Benches should remember that this was before one of them was alive. I remember it all, Sir, and the 1005 strong feeling that was excited. The loyal minority existed just as much in Canada as in Ireland; and what did the disloyal majority mean? It meant simply the people who, since they have obtained power, have exercised it with moderation and justice. Certainly in Canada the loyal minority differed in one respect from a loyal minority in Ireland, for I do not remember the loyal minority in Canada ever claiming a monopoly in that name coupled with the condition that if occasion arose they should be entitled to take up arms against the law. Still, they were in pretty sharp antagonism to the mass of the community. But what has become of that deadly feud? The loyal minority have been fused into the general mass of their fellow-citizens, and absolute harmony prevails among them. There are differences of opinion, of course, as there always will be among a people; but in the main, for the purposes of Government, absolute harmony prevails. Well, Sir, while we lament that the gravest of the difficulties of the Government have been grievously stimulated and enhanced by the declarations of eminent men in this House and elsewhere, who have done all they could—and, perhaps, have succeeded—to raise the arduous nature of this problem to a stage still more arduous through their factitious apprehensions, the Government are sanguine enough to believe that the loyal minority in Ireland will find their apprehensions mitigated, and that they will finally disappear, as has been the case in every instance where differences of religion and race have prevailed. While these are the views of the Government, they contend that they have placed the matter on a rational footing, and that they have done all that can be done to keep alive the judgment of the Imperial Parliament and the Imperial Ministry upon the acts of the Irish Legislature. I believe that at a future time some gentleman in this House will be able to give an account, such as the hon. Member for South Longford has given to-day, of useful measures devised by the people of Ireland in conformity with their own interests and constituting a fabric of law and order conducive to their happiness.
§ MR. PLUNKET (Dublin University)
I do not think it was necessary at this moment, when the minority in Ireland are struggling as best they can to 1006 give some validity and force to the safeguards which the right hon. Gentleman himself has admitted the necessity of by his Bill, and the arguments by which he has attempted to sustain the Bill, for the right hon. Gentleman to take the opportunity to treat that minority with contumely and contempt.
§ MR. PLUNKET
Yes; the right hon. Gentleman tells us that the apprehensions which we put forward are factitious, and that what we really fear is not for our property, but for the loss of our power. The right hon. Gentleman at this moment is not himself in danger of the loss of his property or of his power; but there was a time when he was in danger, not of the loss of his power, but of not obtaining the power which he sought, and when he told the English people that in the circumstances of the case it would not be safe to expose the Party he was leading to too much temptation in this matter of the Irish vote. I tell him, Sir, that we have lost the power that once appertained to an ascendency. There is no ascendency now in Ireland, and the minority are only striving to preserve the rights and liberties which it was promised they should retain when that ascendency was taken away. [Cries of "Oh!" and interruption.] I have only one more word to say. The manner in which Opposition speakers have been treated this day by Members sitting below the Gangway has been disgraceful. The reason why we press that this veto should be made a reality is because we fear the action of Ministers under the circumstances described by the Leader of the Opposition, who, although in no danger of losing their property, may be very unwilling, as they have been in the past, to lose their political power.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 290; Noes 248.—(Division List, No. 195.)
§ VISCOUNT CRANBORNE (Rochester)
said, he wished to move, in page 3, line 17, after "Bills," to insert "or any part thereof." It would be hardly necessary for him to attempt to convince the Committee, after the Debate which had just taken place, that the veto was a very necessary provision, and that its 1007 exercise would be called for; but he ventured to show that whenever it was called on it would be resisted by Irish public opinion and the Irish Parliament, and that the Irish Parliament would adopt every method in their power to avoid its effect by adding the obnoxious provisions to other Bills that might be of a very proper and necessary character. Unless the words he proposed were inserted a means would be left open by which the Irish Parliament would be able to evade the veto in the simplest possible manner. There were many cases in which it might be necessary to exercise the veto. The Prime Minister had pointed out a case where the veto might have to be used—namely, if the Irish Legislature used their power unreasonably to appoint as Cabinet offices various offices in Ireland which might be created under the earlier sub-sections of this clause. But there were many much more important matters in connection with which the veto would, as he apprehended, be called for. He had made a study of the speeches of the Attorney General on the 4th clause, and had found a great number of cases where the hon. and learned Gentleman had admitted that the exercise of the veto would be necessary. The hon. and learned Gentleman had been asked a number of questions by Members of the Opposition. In the instance he was going to mention he did not pretend that there was any danger of the Irish Parliament doing precisely the act that was suggested. But the Attorney General was asked whether it would be possible for the Irish Parliament to enact the penalty of death for sheep stealing, and he replied that they would be able, under the 4th clause, to pass such an enactment. Now, what did that mean? Why this: that the whole question of penalties to be awarded for every crime, however slight it might be, would be within the competence of the Irish Parliament, and it might be that that power might be exercised most vexatiously. It was supposed to be one of the traditions of the Liberal Party that in order to resist oppression the proper course was to refuse to pay taxes. Well, in the event of oppression by the Irish Parliament that would be the method of resistance resorted to by the Liberal descendants of those who resisted taxation in the past 1008 —the loyal people in the North-East of Ireland. If the Irish Parliament had the power to impose any penalty they liked for refusal to pay taxes great tyranny might result. But that was not all, the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General said. He was asked if the Irish Parliament would have power to forbid Party processions, and he replied in the affirmative, which implied that it would have power to put a stop to Party meetings. If the Attorney General was right this meant considerable danger to the loyal minority under Clause 4. Then the Attorney General had said that it would be possible not to abolish the habeas corpus, but to very seriously modify the right. The hon. and learned Gentleman said on the 19th June—The section did not profess to exhaust every possible case that could occur, but it dealt with the great majority of cases by seeking to prevent anything like grievous injustice.The Committee would observe how moderate a statement that was; the section only sought to prevent grievous injustice. In the opinion of the Attorney General it would not prevent serious injustice, but only sought to prevent serious injustice. So that there would be a wide field left open for injustice against the loyal minority notwithstanding the safeguards of Clause 4. It was obvious, under these circumstances, that the exercise of the veto would be called for—and, apparently, in the view of the Attorney General, it would be called for. If the veto was to be exercised, ex hypothesi it would be an Act hostile to the Irish Legislature. If he desired confirmation, he would refer to the celebrated article written by the hon. and learned Member for Waterford in The Nineteenth Century of April. Hitherto, in speaking of the possibility of injustice being done, he had spoken of Irish and not of Imperial affairs. What did the hon. Member for Waterford say as to those affairs? He said—Last October I said all we want to have made clear and unmistakable is that in the daily life of our Irish Parliament the veto of the Crown will be exercised Constitutionally in accordance with the advice of Irish Ministers, and will not be made a pretext for interference by the Imperial Parliament and the English Cabinet in those purely Irish affairs which are committed to the charge of the new Irish Legislature. The existence of an over-riding veto we, of course, always recognised, but we believe 1009 the occasion for its exercise would never arise, and that its exercise would mean a deadlock, and could only occur in some cases which would be sufficiently grave to justify England in exercising her power to destroy the Irish Legislature altogether.He proposed, if the Committee agreed with him, to stop one loophole by which the Irish Legislature might evade the veto. One method they might adopt was to add to a Bill, otherwise necessary for the safety and good government of Ireland, a single clause which might do a great injustice. They might wish to extend the Land Purchase Act already in force. The Committee would agree that this was a most important subject, and one that affected the prosperity of Ireland. On a Bill of that kind they might introduce one clause which would be seriously objected to, but it might be thought that it would not be wise to reject a measure for the welfare of the people generally on account of a clause referring to one particular corner of the country, but doing great injustice in that corner. It might be necessary for the Irish Ministry to pass a Coercion Act—["No, no!" from the Irish Benches.] Well, that was a matter of opinion. If the Irish nation was anything in future like what it had been in the past it would be absolutely necessary for them to pass a good many such Acts. Well, one provision for such an Act might be as to imprisonment without trial. ["No, no!"] Oh, but yes; for the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister had himself passed such a provision. If the Imperial Minister had the Act before him, could he, or would he, advise Her Majesty to reject it because it contained this one extreme clause; or was he to swallow an injustice in order that the Bill might pass to meet the general necessity of the case? Then there was the case of attaching provisions to a Money Bill. They knew how this matter stood in England and the danger to the Constitution that might arise from the exercise of this power. Might not injustice arise in that connection in Ireland? He considered it very probable that the Irish Parliament would act in this manner. If they did would the Government then give assent? Would the Imperial Minister advise Her Majesty to assent? It was because of these considerations that this Amendment was introduced. He thought the Amend- 1010 ment would aid in making the matter clear. He proposed to allow to the Crown not only a direct veto on an entire Bill, but the power to veto a part of a Bill. This would give the Government—the Imperial Government—a real and effective control over the proceedings of the Irish Legislature. It might be said that difficulties would arise as to the result of vetoing a portion of a Bill, but there were many in the House who doubtless could suggest better than he a clause or provision meeting such a difficulty. The result of acting upon the terms of the Amendment would be that the Bill would be sent back to the Irish Legislature, and would have to obtain the consent of the two Houses before becoming law. That was his opinion as to the result. This would be following the British precedent by which this House reconsidered Amendments introduced in the House of Lords. If the veto was to be effective, it must be used in the face of the most hostile feeling of the people of Ireland. He thought that the Government would see that these were reasons why he should move this Amendment.
In page 3, line 17, after the word "Bills," to insert the words "or any part thereof."—(Viscount Cranborne.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
This Amendment has been proposed between 6 and 7 o'clock, when the Committee have only a few hours remaining of most precious time—[Cries of "Whose fault?" and "Hear, hear!"] Hon. Gentlemen should not ask me that question, or I may be provoked to give a very uncivil answer. Has the noble Lord considered the bearing of his own proposal? Common sense points out, and practice sustains, the doctrine that matters of difference should be discussed between the Parties before the Royal Assent has been reached. They should be settled by friendly negotiation and conference. Therefore, Sir, there is no occasion for introducing a general provision. Since this country has been a country, and this Constitution a Constitution, the function of the Crown has been to say "ay" or "no" to a Bill, and nothing else. Now it is proposed that the Crown should discriminate 1011 between one clause and another, and take upon itself the initiative functions of the Legislature. The noble Lord said he would not detain the Committee long. It would have taken the noble Lord a very long time indeed to have given the Committee any clear idea of the operation of the Amendment, which, indeed, would have the effect of converting the Crown into an absolute Government. It is impossible for the Government to accept such a far-reaching alteration—an alteration which could produce nothing but mischief.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR (Manchester, E.)
said, he was growing astonished at the way in which Amendments—even the most serious—were being received by the Prime Minister. His favourite reply to them was that he did not think the Amendments were serious; and in the attitude he had taken up he had, he regretted to say, some imitators in the House. The right hon. Gentleman had just given them a taste of his quality in his reply on the Amendment of his noble Friend. The novelty of the Amendment, upon which the Prime Minister dwelt, was equalled by that of the clause which, for the first time, proposed to enact that the Lord Lieutenant "shall," not "may," on the advice of his Minister, do certain things. That occurred to him as a new device in the government of a country like Ireland. He should have thought the Government would welcome the Amendment as one intended to meet a real difficulty. They might see that by the operation of the clause as it at present stood, the negotiations alluded to by the Prime Minister would be of little avail. It would be in the power of the Legislature to say to him that they wanted to force him to give his assent. The Amendment would enable him to say that he did not reject a beneficial Bill, but that he could not assent to any proposals contained in that Bill that seemed to him to do an injustice to the minority. The Amendment would, at least, make the position of the Lord Lieutenant a little less intolerable, and it would obviate the gravest objection to the clause, which otherwise must produce friction and difficulty between the Legislature and the Lord Lieutenant. The Irish Legislature might introduce a clause in a Bill authorising, say, the Plan 1012 of Campaign. Why should the Lord Lieutenant not have the power to reject that? He really could not understand the position of the Government. It was true they had only two hours and a half left for discussion, hut he must express his opinion, and he was convinced that unless they had some such Amendment as this the clause would be a source of difficulty and danger.
§ SIR H. JAMES (Bury, Lancashire)
said, there was one practical reason why this Amendment should commend itself to the Committee. This was the first time in the history of Parliament they had had to deal with a Legislature of the nature of that which the Government proposed to set up. They had to deal with a new state of things produced by the creation of a subordinate Parliament with restricted powers, so that questions might arise whether the Irish Legislature had exceeded the powers conferred upon it by the Imperial Parliament. They had not hitherto had such a clause as this before them, but they must remember that this Legislature might act beyond its powers, and, if it did, was the Lord Lieutenant to say, on the one hand, that he assented to illegal clauses in a Bill, or was he, on the other, to reject a Bill containing beneficial clauses because of one or more illegal clauses which it contained? Would it not be far better that the Lord Lieutenant should have power to approve a Bill pro tanto than that he should have to reject it altogether? The Prime Minister asked, What was the Legislature to do? The answer would be found in another Amendment of the noble Viscount furnished as follows:—Provided always that if the Lord Lieutenant shall give the assent of Her Majesty to a part only of any Bill, that part shall not become law until it has been again submitted to the two Houses of the Irish Legislature, and has received their consent.That Amendment would probably not be reached, and he only referred to it as it furnished an answer to the Prime Minister's query.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
said, he had an Amendment on the Paper lower down which would probably not be reached. It was as follows:—Provided that, in the case of Bills for appropriating any part of the public revenue, or for imposing any tax, the Lord Lieutenant may, on the advice of the Executive Com- 1013 mittee, or in pursuance of instructions given by Her Majesty, give or withhold the assent of Her Majesty to particular provisions of such Bills.He would take this opportunity of making a few remarks on the present Amendment, as he was afraid his would not be reached. He could understand the Government objecting to his noble Friend's Amendment as being too wide; but he should like to know whether, if the power to veto special provisions were confined to the case of Money Bills—in particular of the Appropriation Bill—it would meet the objection of the Government? It would be especially interesting to have the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster on the subject. It was well known that this very difficulty had arisen again and again in America, where some States inserted a provision in their Constitutions similar to that contained in his own Amendment. The Chancellor of the Duchy, in his work upon the American Commonwealth, referred to an attempt on the part of Congress to coerce President Hayes in 1879 by tacking particular provisions on to Money Bills. The device was defeated by President Hayes, who used his power of veto, and there was not the two-thirds majority necessary by the American Constitution to carry a Bill in spite of the veto. President Hayes, in vetoing the Bill, accompanied his message with certain remarks condemnatory of the practice of tacking other matters on to a Money Bill. He urged on Congress the desirability of re-amending the Federal Constitution so as to enable certain items in Appropriation Bills to be vetoed without rejecting the whole Bill. Such a measure, added the Chancellor of the Duchy, was generally desired by enlightened men, because it would enable the Executive Government to do its duty by the country in defeating many petty jobs which were smuggled into Money Bills. Now, he was not going to argue that there was a danger of petty jobs being smuggled into Appropriation Bills by an Irish Parliament, because he knew there was provision in the Bill which made all appropriations dependent, in the first instance, on the initiative of the Lord Lieutenant. But he thought there was as much danger that measures seriously affecting the interests 1014 of the minority might be tacked on to Money Bills as there was in America of the smuggling of jobs into such Bills. He would, therefore, ask the Government, and particularly the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, to tell the Committee what were their views as to the adoption of this provision, the want of which had been so severely felt in America.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE DUCHY OF LANCASTER (Mr. BRYCE, Aberdeen, S.)
I have no objection to answer the question addressed to me by the hon. Member, although, in order to save the time of the Committee, I will do so in the fewest possible words. What has been stated with regard to Congress and several States is perfectly true. But that is not the Amendment before the Committee. The present Amendment does not refer to Appropriation Bills, but to a different matter altogether, and there are very material differences between the two. The first is this: In the United States, as was well observed by my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, the Executive, neither in the States nor in the Federal Government, have anything to do with the preparation of Appropriation Bills. Those Bills are prepared by Members of the House, whether in the States or in the Federal Government not necessarily in communication with the Government—in fact, often in opposition to the known wishes of the Executive. Therefore, the analogy between these cases and the case of the Irish Legislature fails altogether, because it is obvious that the duty of the Lord Lieutenant, if his Ministry were to attempt to bring in a Vote of the kind suggested, would be to interpose and state, on behalf of the Executive, that he could not authorise such a proposal, and, therefore, he would nip in the bud that which the Americans have found it necessary to overthrow by a more difficult method. My second answer is that that which is easy and simple, and it may be proper and necessary, with regard to Appropriation Bills, does not necessarily apply to detaching particular provisions from an ordinary Bill containing general legislation. An Appropriation Bill is a totally different matter. There may be in an Appropriation Bill an item of, say, 100,000 dollars for improving a particular harbour—and this is a matter 1015 in connection with which the greatest abuse has arisen in America—the improvement of a worthless harbour, or making navigable a river in which, perhaps, not even a canoe can float. The President, when it comes up to him, might well be authorised to disallow that particular item, but to give his assent to all the rest of the Bill, and no harm would be done by that course being adopted, because in an Appropriation Bill each clause stands on its own bottom. But in ordinary Statutes you cannot take certain particular clauses or enactments out, detach them from the rest of the measure, and deal with them separately. I have never heard of a proposal being made in the United States to enable the President to disallow particular clauses or provisions in ordinary Bills. That proposal has been confined to Appropriation Bills. It frequently happens that the President refuses to assent to a Bill solely on account of one or more objectionable clauses, although, perhaps, nine-tenths of the provisions in the Bill would be most beneficial. Therefore, so far as the American analogy is concerned, it goes directly against the proposal of the noble Lord, which is directed to legislation generally, and not to Appropriation Bills.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
Would it not be possible to resort to a compromise, and adopt the suggestion of the hon. Member, that the Amendment should be restricted to Appropriation Bills, in regard to which we clearly have the American precedent? The Committee will remember that the Prime Minister scoffed at my hon. Friend on account of the novelty of his proposition.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
Yes; but this abuse has been practised in connection with Appropriation Bills in the United States.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
I will refer the right hon. Gentleman to the book of his Colleague. It is not fair of the right hon. Gentleman to adopt the tone which he does, and speak of the absolutely ridiculous character of this Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman wished to silence opposition entirely in the matter, 1016 as if this was a frivolous Amendment' notwithstanding that it embodies a principle which is in existence in some of the States of America. This is part and parcel of the whole system—
§ MR. GOSCHEN
No one could listen to what was said by my hon. Friend behind me without seeing that it resembles it very much. Whenever an appeal is made to the Constitution of the United States in favour of some further restrictions being imposed upon Ireland, the Government ignore the United States precedents. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister did not think it worth while to reply, nor has anyone replied, to the suggestion that in this section there is the extraordinary proposition that the Crown—because the Lord Lieutenant is the Crown in this sense—is made the servant of the Legislature.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
Yes, it is. The Lord Lieutenant must give or withhold his assent. I think it is a very moderate proposal to make, that he should be enabled to assent to a portion of the appropriations. I really, however, rose to protest against the way in which the right hon. Gentleman scoffed at Amendments that have been introduced in principle in some of the successful Legislatures of the world.
§ SIR F. S. POWELL (Wigan)
said, he wished to defend the Mover of the Amendment against the charge of novelty. Clause 17 of the South Australia Act of 1885, one of the latest Statutes passed on the subject, gave the Governor power to assent or withhold assent or reserve a Bill for the signification of Her Majesty's pleasure. It also empowered him to declare that he would be prepared to assent to a Bill subject to certain Amendments to be specified by him. These Amendments might include the omission of clauses in the Bill. This provision was an entire justification for the Amendment, and proved that there was no novelty in the proposal.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 185; Noes 231.—(Division List, No. 196.)
§ MR. PARKER SMITH (Lanark, Partick)
said, he desired to move the following Amendment:—In line 17, after "Legislature," insert "or, if it shall appear that it is matter of doubt whether any such Bill is beyond the powers of the Irish Legislature, may reserve the assent of Her Majesty until such time as the question has been determined by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council as hereinafter provided.He said the Government had argued that the distance was now so much decreased in the case of Ireland, as compared with the Colonies, that the reservation which was necessary in regard to them was not necessary in regard to Ireland. They had also said the season of the year made no difference; and although it was intended that the Irish Parliament should sit during exactly those months when English Ministers were enjoying what holiday they could get, there would be no obstacle to an immediate assent being obtained from the Government. But beyond these there was another difficulty, and that was the question of doubt. The question of uncertainty arose in the minds of those responsible for giving the assent of Her Majesty to a Bill as to whether that Bill was within the powers of the Irish Parliament or outside of them. It was highly probable that the Irish Legislature in passing Bills would take one view and the Privy Council—impartial lawyers—might take another view. The Chief Secretary had said that these questions could be settled in 24 hours. Of course, so far as distance was concerned, that was possible; but beyond that distance there was a great deal of doubt, and that doubt could not be settled within 24 hours. The only way by which that could be settled would be by referring the matter to the Privy Council, and it might take weeks before a conclusion could be arrived at. It seemed to him there would be many cases of grave doubt in regard to the legal capacity of the Irish Legislature, and the Bill provided, in 1018 Clause 23, for that matter being inquired into. The Amendment was in accordance with the scheme or Bill, and effected an improvement. If the Committee were to try these questions, it would be infinitely more satisfactory that they should have the opportunity of trying them while the matter was in suspense, and before acts were being committed on the strength of it.
In page 3, line 17, after the words "Legislature," to insert the words "or, if it shall appear that it is matter of doubt whether any such Bill is beyond the powers of the Irish Legislature, may reserve the assent of Her Majesty until such time as the question has been determined by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council as hereinafter provided."—(Mr. Parker Smith.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL (Sir J. RIGBY, Forfar)
said, that the Government provided in Clause 23 an effectual means at once, after the assent had been given, of taking the opinion of the Privy Council as to the validity of any Bill passed by the Irish Legislature, and he failed to see what advantage there could possibly be in departing from the ordinary course of bringing before the tribunal a practical and not a speculative question. The boast of their Judicature had been and a great part of the value of their Constitution depended upon this: that they should avoid speculative questions altogether, and deal only with practical questions. The experience of Canada and other places had resulted in what, no doubt, was a reasonable and practical conclusion—namely, that if there were a reasonable doubt they had better give the Royal Assent, and so in a legitimate manner raise the question for the decision of the Courts; and they had gone, in Clause 23, as far—probably further than what had ever been suggested before. The Amendment was a novel suggestion; it would be a bad departure, and there was no practical necessity for it.
§ SIR J. GORST (Cambridge University)
said, the hon. and learned Gentleman complained because the Opposition 1019 sought to introduce novelties into the Constitution. They sought to introduce novelties, because the whole of this Executive scheme for Ireland was one of the most extraordinary novelties in the British Constitution that the world had ever known. The hon. and learned Gentleman had resorted to the old stock argument of Canada and the Colonies, but it had often been pointed out that whatever might be true respecting the Colonies the case did not apply to Ireland, where the most important part of the internal affairs was expressly reserved to the Imperial Government. There would, no doubt, be numbers of cases continually arising in which there would be a question whether the Act was or was not within the power conferred by the Bill. He had no doubt the Irish Parliament would do its best to endow religion, and he heard the Government some time ago in the Debate assume that it would be within the competence of the Irish Legislature to suspend the Habeas Corpus Act. Within six months a number of questions would spring up between the Executive Government of Ireland and the Viceroy. There was no provision in the Bill for settling these matters except by saying that the Viceroy could give his assent to any Bill. The Solicitor General had said that what the Amendment suggested was a little novelty, but the hon. and learned Gentleman did not venture to say the Privy Council had no jurisdiction. He believed there were cases in which the Privy Council had exercised power of that kind. He ventured to say that Mr. Justice Stephen, who was a considerable authority on these matters, in some of his text books had intimated the opinion that the Privy Council was always able to understand abstract or speculative points of law. He considered that provision ought to be made in the way suggested by the Amendment for mitigating, as far as possible, collisions which were sure to arise between the English and Irish Executive by providing that the Privy Council might be appealed to, and might, in a particular case, say whether a law passed through the two Houses of the Irish Legislature was or was not within its powers.
§ VISCOUNT WOLMER
remarked that the Solicitor General had said that it was unconstitutional, impossible, and ridiculous that an abstract question should be submitted to the Privy Council, or that a Bill should be submitted to them before it had actually received the Royal Assent. But he would point out to the hon. and learned Gentleman that this very provision asked for by the Amendment was in the Bill of 1886. The present Prime Minister and Chief Secretary were responsible for the Bill of 1886, and as this was then deliberately put in as one of the clauses of the Bill it was preposterous for the Solicitor General to think that the Committee would be satisfied with his statement that any such principle was impossible and absurd.
§ MR. MACARTNEY (Antrim, S.)
said, the first objection of the Solicitor General to the Amendment was that it was a departure from precedent. A more absurd or irrational argument he had not yet heard. There was not a single Constitutional precedent which had been adopted by the Government in this Bill which was given them in its entirety. It was adopted by the Government as long as it suited their own view; but the moment any one of the various Constitutions in the Colonies or elsewhere—which had been ransacked for precedents—began to work in favour of the minority and the Imperial prerogative the Government at once departed from that portion of the Constitution. The second objection of the hon. and learned Gentleman was that this would be submitting a speculative point to the Privy Council; they could not see in what sense it would be speculative. Supposing the Irish Parliament had violated one of the provisions of the Act as regarded the endowment of religion, there could not then be any doubt as to what their intentions were, and the matter could not be considered speculative. The Lord Lieutenant in his relations to the Imperial authority would stand very much in the same position as the Governor General of Canada stood with reference to his duty of giving or withholding assent to 1021 the Bills passed through the Provincial Assemblies in the Dominion, and yet the Government declined to place the Lord Lieutenant in the position which the Governor General of Canada occupied. When a Bill was referred to the Governor General, he could obtain the aid of the Minister of Justice and the Supreme Court of Canada to decide whether a Bill was one which the Provincial Assembly had a right to pass before he gave or withheld his assent; but the Government declined to allow any such aid to be given to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, although there might be the greatest necessity for it. The Government had advanced no tangible objection to the Amendment.
§ SIR H. JAMES
would ask the Solicitor General whether he could not adopt a practice which prevailed in the Courts of Chancery and amend his answer? He had to call his hon. and learned Friend's attention to what occurred in regard to the Bill of 1886. The question arose as to how it should be determined whether any Bill passed by the Irish Legislature was within their powers or not, and a provision was inserted in that Bill to this effect—If any such question arises upon any Bill passed by the Legislative Body the Lord Lieutenant may refer such question to Her Majesty in Council.That was, of course, the Privy Council, and there was the express power sought by this Amendment. The Chief Secretary for Ireland was answerable for that proposition. Did he think it was an absurd proposition? If he did not, would he tell the Solicitor General so, because he did not think his hon. Friend was entitled to be put on one side with the statement that his Amendment was preposterous and absurd when the very Members of the Government to which the Solicitor General belonged had brought forward this proposition as a serious and reasonable proposition. He must ask the Chief Secretary and the Solicitor General to make up this little difference of absurdity or reason. He did not expect the hon. and learned Gentleman to spare the opponents of the Bill; but he did not think the hon. Gen- 1022 tleman would have accused his own colleagues of being absurd. He ought to be a little considerate towards the Prime Minister for instance. Surely he need not use strong language towards the Prime Minister, as he did when he said the proposition was absurd and preposterous.
§ SIR J. RIGBY
I did not say it was absurd; I did not say it was preposterous. I said it was novel and, as I thought, unwise.
§ SIR H. JAMES
thought the language was stronger, and that the word absurd was used. However, the hon. and learned Gentleman said it was novel. How could the very provision which was included in the Bill of 1886 be said to be novel? He contended that this provision ought to be inserted. Under this Bill there was no protection for the subject, and if an Act were passed which was oppressive there would be no means of bringing it before the Privy Council, except under Section 23, when he could submit the abstract proposition as to whether a Bill was valid or not. But he would have to follow with a suit and pay the costs of that suit before that matter could be determined, and before it was decided whether or not a measure was valid much mischief might have been done. In such cases a Colonial Governor always referred the matter to his Law Advisers, who made a written Report not in their capacity as political advisers, but as the authorised exponents of the law. Therefore in the distant Colony they got a substitute for the Privy Council, and the Law Officers were called in to decide whether a matter was a proper matter for a Bill or not. They asked that the Colonial precedent should be followed, and, at any rate, the Amendment was at least worthy of consideration, seeing that it embodied a provision contained in the Bill of 1886.
§ MR. RENTOUL (Down, E.)
said, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge University had said it was an extremely doubtful matter whether, as the Bill stood, the Irish Legislature had not the power to suspend the Habeas Corpus Act; and the Solicitor General, 1023 he understood, bowed his assent to that proposition. But a few nights ago they had the strongest statement from the Prime Minister that it would be absurd not to leave the power to suspend the Habeas Corpus Act to the Irish Legislature; and now they had an ex-Law Officer of the Crown making the proposition, and a present Law Officer assenting to it, that it was a matter of extreme doubt whether the Habeas Corpus Act could be suspended by that Legislature or not. Suppose the Irish Legislature passed an Act suspending the Habeas Corpus Act. When that Act had passed both Houses of the Irish Legislature, the Lord Lieutenant, on behalf of Her Majesty, would give his assent, and it would become law. Then the Solicitor General's argument was that, although the law was in existence, no danger could occur, because immediately the Privy Council would take action, and all difficulty and danger could be avoided. But some months might elapse before the Privy Council were able to give a decision, and a number of persons might have been imprisoned under an Act which the Privy Council would ultimately declare they had no power to pass. If it were the case that some months would frequently elapse before a decision was given, he could imagine a large number of extremely doubtful cases in which great danger would be done in the meantime. Although the Irish Legislature in Clause 4 were restrained from imposing disability or conferring privileges on account of religious belief, it would, nevertheless, be a doubtful question whether or not they might not pass an Act making situations or appointments liable to be filled up in rotation according to the religious belief of certain portions of the community. Before the Privy Council could interfere they would have several situations filled up on account of religious belief, and the grave difficulty would occur of having to depose gentlemen from situations, to which they had been legally appointed as was considered by due process of law. The Lord Lieutenant had either the power to assent as advised by the Executive Committee, or to refuse assent to a Bill. He was not assenting to an abstract or speculative proposition at all, but to a Bill which had passed both Houses of the Irish Legislature; and if 1024 the Amendment were accepted that assent could be withheld until the Privy Council had had time to discuss the whole matter. It seemed to him the Amendment was neither irrational nor absurd—as most of them had understood the Solicitor General to say—and it seemed to him, even admitting the hon. and learned Gentleman's correction, that neither was it novel or unwise, having been introduced into the Bill of 1886, the promoters of which must have considered it a wise provision.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
pointed out that the Government proposed to submit an Act before Her Majesty in Council after it had been passed practically some months. The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council was not a prompt or hasty body, and even before a question was submitted to them as to whether an Act was ultra vires the Act might already have worked incalculable mischief. What the Amendment proposed was to submit the question to this tribunal before the mischief was done; and whether the question to be submitted was or was not an abstract matter had absolutely nothing to do with the subject.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
observed that there was only half-an-hour before they reached the time for the application of the drastic method of procedure which the Government had adopted, and he would recommend that a quarter of an hour of that time should not be spent in going through the Division Lobby. Perhaps his hon. Friend would allow his Amendment to be negatived, and they could then proceed to the important Amendment which stood on the Paper in the name of the noble Lord the Member for Edinburgh.
§ MR. PARKER SMITH
said, he would adopt the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman, and ask leave to withdraw his Amendment.
§ Amendment negatived.
The next Amendment stands in the name of the right hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Courtney).
The next Amendment is that which stands in the name of the noble Lord the Member for Edinburgh (Viscount Wolmer).
*VISCOUNT WOLMER (Edinburgh, W.) rose to move the addition of the following sub-section:—
(4) Whenever any Bill which shall have been presented for Her Majesty's assent to the Lord Lieutenant shall by the Lord Lieutenant have been assented to in Her Majesty's name, the Lord Lieutenant shall forth with transmit to one of Her Majesty's Principal Secretaries of State an authentic copy of such Bill so assented to; and it shall be lawful at any time within 18 months after such Bill shall have been so received by the Secretary of State for Her Majesty, by Order in Council, to declare her disallowance of such Bill; and such disallowance, together with a certificate under the hand and seal of the Secretary of State, certifying the day on which such Bill was received as aforesaid, being signified by the Lord Lieutenant to the Irish Legislature, by speech or message to the said Legislature, or by proclamation in the Irish Government Gazette, shall make void and annul the same from and after the day of such signification.
He said the Amendment dealt with a process known as the disallowance of Bills—a process which had prevailed in all Colonial Constitutions. The Amendment, in fact, was taken word for word, mutatis mutandis, from the Colonial Constitutional Acts. Such a provision was found in the British North America Act, in the Acts dealing with the Constitutions of New South Wales, of Van Diemen's Land, of all the other Australian Colonies, and of the Cape of Good Hope. It was unnecessary for him to read the words from any of these Acts, because the Committee could see what he meant by reading the words of the Amendment and transposing the necessary words contained in it. Speaking on a previous Amendment of his, the hon. Member for South Longford (Mr. Blake) declared generally that what was good enough for the Colonies was good enough for Ireland, but that it was necessary to embody in a new Constitution like this one, not the exact words of the Colonial precedents, but words describing the actual practice of those Constitutions as it now existed; he thought that was not an inaccurate statement of his argument. Well, what was necessary in 1893 was necessary in 1890, and when the hon. Member for South
Longford made use of that argument he noticed that the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. J. Morley) signified his assent. If the Chief Secretary agreed with the hon. Member, he would like to ask him when he had formed that opinion, because, if he (Viscount Wolmer) was not mistaken, the right hon. Gentleman was Chairman of the Select Committee that went into the Western Australia Constitution Act in 1890; and if he was so strongly of opinion now that this Amendment ought not to be accepted, why, when he was acting as Chairman of that Committee, did he allow this same provision for disallowance to be inserted as in the other Australian Constitutions?
§ VISCOUNT WOLMER
said, perhaps he was astray as to that, but certainly the right hon. Gentleman was a leading Member of the Committee, and he took no action to object to the power of disallowance being reserved to the Crown. They had it, therefore, that when, three years ago, the last Colonial Act was passed, a provision of this character was inserted. Perhaps the Chief Secretary would say, if he objected to this Amendment, why he did not object to the provision in the Australian Bill. Mr. Todd, in his Parliamentary Government, referred to the fact that although in the Colonies the Government had a right to give assent to Bills, his assent was not final, being subject to the second veto of the Home Authorities, and he showed that the power of disallowance existed. He could quote many authorities and give many instances of disallowance. It might be said that this Constitution was not a case parallel with the Colonial Constitution; but he thought it could be proved that the Lord Lieutenant's position in Ireland would be similar to that of the Governor in a Colony. They had had it stated on the very high authority of Lord Thring, in The Contemporary Review of March, 1887, in regard to the Bill of 1886, of which Lord Thring was draftsman. He asked them to assume that an Act might be passed by the Irish Legislature which would have to be re- 1027 viewed by the Privy Council; but he wanted to know how effect would be given to its decision? In his view, they must have some process such as prevailed in the Colonies. He maintained, then, three points—that the sub-section he proposed, enabling the Crown to disallow in the case of the Irish Parliament, was to be found in the Constitutions of all our Colonies; that it had been acted upon over and over again with great benefit to the integrity of Imperial legislation; and that, in the opinion of Lord Thring, who was a supporter of the Government and of their Irish policy, and the draftsman of the Bill of 1886, the position of the Viceroy in the Irish Constitution would be exactly similar to that of the Governor of a Colony. It was difficult to perceive what harm could possibly be done to the Irish people or the Irish Legislature if a similar power of disallowing was given to the Imperial Government in relation to the Irish Parliament as was given in the case of all the Colonial Constitutions, and he could not understand on what grounds the Government could refuse to apply to the Irish Legislature a provision which 50 years of practice had proved to be wise and necessary in the case of the Colonies.
In page 3, line 19, at the end of the Clause, to add the words,—"(4) Whenever any Bill which shall have been presented for Her Majesty's assent to the Lord Lieutenant shall by the Lord Lieutenant have been assented to in Her Majesty's name, the Lord Lieutenant shall forthwith transmit to one of Her Majesty's Principal Secretaries of State an authentic copy of such Bill so assented to; and it shall be lawful at any time within 18 months after such Bill shall have been so received by the Secretary of State for Her Majesty, by Order in Council, to declare her disallowance of such Bill; and such disallowance, together with a certificate under the hand and seal of the Secretary of State, certifying the day on which such Bill was received as aforesaid, being signified by the Lord Lieutenant to the Irish Legislature, by speech or message to the said Legislature, or by proclamation in the Irish Government Gazette, shall make void and annul the same from and after the day of such signification."—(Viscount Wolmer.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ SIR J. RIGBY
said, such a provision was not necessary in the case of Ireland as in the case of the Colonies, which could not be communicated with as readily 1028 as Ireland. The provision in the case of the Colonies was a comparatively clumsy expedient. According to the Amendment, a law which might be disallowed would actually be a law for 18 months, during which time the people would be allowed to remain in the belief that their Act was a good Act. That certainly would not avoid friction. But why should that Parliament go out of its way to introduce such a provision, when they had a shorter method of disallowing a Bill from the first? According to the proposal of the Government, the Bill would be brought before the Privy Council at once, and decided on in a way that would commend itself to the Irish Legislature, which would feel that it was not unduly interfered with on a vital question, but that it had unwittingly made some mistake.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I do not think, Mr. Mellor, that in the whole course of the discussions on this Bill we have heard a more perfunctory and preposterous argument than that now advanced by the learned Solicitor General. I presume we have now reached a part of the discussion when argument is wholly superfluous; when the appeal is not to be to law, not to be to reason, not to be to precedent.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Is not to be to precedent, but is to be to such majorities as the Government may be able to command. I do not blame the Solicitor General, for I presume the hon. and learned Gentleman was told not to deliver any good argument, for certainly the argument with which the hon. and learned Gentleman has favoured the Committee will, I am sure, appear even to himself in moments of reflection to be hardly worthy of the subject upon which we are engaged. What was his argument? It was that 18 months or two years is a very proper time within which the Crown may arrive at a decision whether a particular Act should be disallowed or not. [Cries of "No!"] Then what did he say? I give way for the Solicitor General.
§ SIR J. RIGBY
What I stated was that such a time might be justifiable in the case of a distant Colony where we could not follow events from day to day; but it would never be introduced into an Act if the Colony or whatever the place was—[Interruption and cries from various parts of the House, during which the hon. and learned Gentleman resumed his seat.]
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE rose, and said he had to direct the Chairman's attention to the conduct of certain gentlemen sitting on the Opposition Benches.
expressed a hope that there would be no further interruption, adding that he hoped that hon. Members would recollect that they were in the House of Commons.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Yes, Sir; but who were the first who tried and did their best to prevent its being like the House; of Commons? Those gentlemen do not sit on these Benches. [Cheers and counter cheers.] The Solicitor General has said that two years or 18 months during which the Crown might be permitted to disallow an Act might be expedient and proper in the case of a distant Colony, but not in the case of Ireland. [Sir J. RIGBY shook his head.] To what has his geographical studies led the hon. and learned Gentleman? It takes about a week to get to Canada.
§ An hon. MEMBER: Not in the case of a Bill passed.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
It may take 10 days. But what about an hour or two one way or the other? We were dealing with a question of two years. The Solicitor General will hardly maintain that, while it takes only 12 hours to get to Ireland and 14 times 12 hours to get to Canada, that should make the whole distinction between the Crown disallowing the Bill in the one case and 1030 not in the other. It is possible, not in one year or two years, but in 5, 10, or 20 years, to bring the case before the Privy Council and make the Act of no effect; and when that operation is gone through the result will be, not only that the Crown will disallow it, but that every action taken under it will have been illegal. Does not the learned Solicitor General see that the prerogative of the Crown cannot be properly exercised in some cases until it has been seen how the Bill is to work? Let us suppose, then, an Act which gives Irish producers preferential advantages over English producers, and that that is not obvious on the face of the Act, but might become perfectly clear in the course of a few months—in such a case, if this Amendment were carried, it would be possible for the Crown not merely to look to the text of the Bill, but to its consequences, and to disallow it. But the learned Solicitor General pays no attention to our argument; he does not think it worthy of touching upon for a moment. Hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway are not answerable. They may be perfectly right in the position they have taken up, for what, Mr. Mellor, is the subject the discussion of which is now to be cut short by the Resolution passed last Friday? It is the discussion of a safeguard—almost the only safeguard that is not illusory. The Government have got plenty of sham jewellery. I am speaking in defence of the rights of the minority in Ireland—rights which have been so cruelly trampled under foot. Over and over again we have been told that this veto, which has fallen into desuetude in England, which in the Colonies is confined absolutely to certain restricted questions, is to be used in Ireland for the protection of the minority. That was what we were told. But on coming to examine the Bill—I will not say to argue it—we find that this safeguard, so far from being fenced round so as to render it effective, has been watered down from the Colonial precedent and divested of almost all the qualifications which would render it really of any value. So that in telling us they were providing a main safeguard to relieve the fears of the minority in Ireland, the Government were throwing dust in our eyes—they were cruelly betraying the 1031 interests of the minority in Ireland and deliberately deceiving them.
It being Ten of the clock, the Chairman, in pursuance of the Order of the House of the 30th June, interrupted the Debate and put the Question forthwith.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 286; Noes 324.—(Division List, No. 197.)
§ Whereupon, in pursuance of the said Order, the Chairman proceeded to put successively the Questions on Clauses 5 to 8 forthwith, as followeth:—
§ Question put, "That Clause 5, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 324; Noes 289.—(Division List, No. 198.)
§ Question put, "That Clause 6 stand part of the Bill."
§ An hon. MEMBER: We did not hear the Question put.
When the Chairman rises it is a rule of the House that everybody should keep silence. The hon. and gallant Gentleman is not entitled to have the clause read.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 315; Noes 300.—(Division List, No. 199.)
§ Question put, "That Clause 7 stand part of the Bill."
§ [House cleared for a Division.]
§ SIR J. FERGUSSON (Manchester, N. E.) (speaking seated, and with his hat on)
I wish to call your attention, Sir, to the fact that there are blanks in this clause, and that we do not, therefore, know what we are voting for.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 325; Noes 289.—(Division List, No. 199.)
§ Question put, "That Clause 8 stand part of the Bill."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 323; Noes 291.—(Division List, No. 200.)
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Chairman do report Progress,"—(Mr. W. E. Gladstone,)—put, and agreed to.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow, at Two of the clock.