§ [THIRTY-FOURTH NIGHT.]
§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Irish Representation in House of Commons.
§ Clause 9 (Representation in Parliament of Irish Counties and Boroughs).
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
In explanation of the point immediately under discussion, I want to apologise to the Committee for a loss of memory which I am at a loss to account for. When explaining the reasons why the words "Unless and until" and so forth have been prefixed to the clause, I said that, from the experimental character of the whole matter, there was a degree of uncertainty which it seemed desirable to mark. But there was another consideration which I totally forgot at the moment, and which I really think was more in our mind, and constituted a principal consideration. The Committee may probably remember that when the subject was first introduced in 1886, Mr. Parnell, then leading the Irish Nationalist Party, used words to the effect that the question was an English question, one which it was for Britain to consider rather than a matter of Irish interest; and understanding and believing that to be the view which was taken, and the Irish not being concerned in requesting the adoption of this plan, it was thought by us desirable to mark 1160 that it was no part of the settlement of Ireland—with regard to which there might be a question of honour—but nothing in which we could well interfere unless with some concurrence on the part of Ireland. It was in that view that the words "Unless and until Parliament otherwise determines" were introduced.
In page 4, line 25, to leave out the words "Unless and until Parliament otherwise determines."—(Mr. Ambrose.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ MR. GOSCHEN (St. George's, Hanover Square)
The Government having now settled the question of the Irish Legislature by a majority of 15 against a majority of 65 Representatives of Great Britain, the Committee are now approaching a new compartment, and they are invited to discuss the question of a revolution in the Imperial Parliament. By no other name can the proposals of the Government be called. Let the country realise what the words "Unless and until Parliament shall otherwise determine" means. They mean that an experiment, and an experiment only, is to be tried with this Imperial Parliament, and that for years possibly we are to legislate with the knowledge that Parliament is being experimented upon. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian said just now he had forgotten one important consideration, which had been in the minds of the Government when they inserted these words—namely, that Parliament had a right to deal with this question without there being any bargain with the Irish Members. But I suspect the real point in their minds was that it would only be recommended as an experiment. The right hon. Gentleman, on the First Reading of the Bill, said the Government had offered the best plan, but they had, with a feeling that a shadow of uncertainty might hang over the subject, with modesty affixed the words "unless and until it is otherwise determined." With "modesty affixed"! So long as the right hon. Gentleman is speaking as regards the Irish Parliament his convictions are deep, his faith is intense, and he has every confidence in his own 1161 plans,; but when he comes to dealing with the Imperial Parliament, he says a shadow of uncertainty will hang over his plan, and, therefore, these words are with modesty affixed. There is another reason showing the uncertainty of the Government with regard to their plans. When the Home Secretary was speaking the other night, he did not say anything with regard to these words having been inserted, because it was necessary to make it clear that this was a British, and not an Irish, question. He said there were precedents for these words, and he said it with a more friendly glance than usual at the late Chancellor of the Exchequer. There had, he suggested, been one clause in the Local Government Act, and another in the Local Taxation Act of 1890, in which they were introduced, and he pointed out that the object of the introduction was to mark not the temporary, but the experimental, character of the provisions. Here, again, we have the Home Secretary treating the Government plan as an experiment. I look upon the real origin of these words as being the fact that there was Ministerial disagreement about various plans and Cabinet irresolution. What an interesting scene the Cabinet must have been when discussing the various plans! The Prime Minister probably recommended, as in 1886, the plan of total exclusion of the Irish Members. Other Members of the Cabinet argued for the "in-and-out" principle, the Prime Minister arguing against it. Then came the Secretary of State for War, with his solvitur ambulando. "Oh," said he, "we shall be able to settle it easily—a County Council would easily settle it." But we in this Parliament want it settled in a statesmanlike manner. Then there was the Home Secretary, who was in favour of omnes omnia. What a Cabinet to bring forward and submit to the House of Commons a plan on a great Imperial question. There are three plans on which the Cabinet cannot agree, and at last they think of precedents. [Mr. W. E. GLADSTONE: Pure imagination.] Is it imagination that the Home Secretary at Cupar spoke in favour of omnes omnia? Is it imagination that the Secretary of State for War spoke of solvitur ambulando? The only thing that may be imagination is that they were all so suppressed by one great power in the Cabinet that they refrained 1162 from remonstrances. Afterwards, it is clear, such a discussion must have taken place, and they suddenly hit upon these words. They said, "We cannot possibly make the proposals permanent, because if we did so we should be stamping an agreement to which two-thirds of the Cabinet are as opposed as possibly the Prime Minister himself." They cannot possibly put it in the Bill, and so they follow the precedents taken from the Local Government Act and the Local Taxation Act and say, "Unless and until Parliament shall otherwise determine." And that is the introduction of a great Constitutional change. I can imagine that some Member of the Cabinet asked, "Is this a vital principle of the Bill, or can it be called a detail?" and the Prime Minister, who was equal to the occasion, found a new word, and said, "It is not a vital principle, but it is an organic detail." Is it so unimportant a part of the organism that we can afford to ignore it? This is one of the most reckless methods that can be adopted of dealing with a question that vitally affects the fortunes of this Imperial Parliament. Speaking at Edinburgh, the Prime Minister, in pointing out the great difficulties of the question, said these were secondary difficulties—difficulties of organic detail, as he would now call them—the adjustment of which might involve certain inconveniences; and he said they were to be dealt with by the responsible Ministers of the Crown. I maintain it would be a breach of the promises held out in Scotland when a majority was desired if this responsibility should be now shifted from the shoulders of the right hon. Gentleman, and if he should not be prepared to defend this as a vital portion of the measure. How long is Parliament to legislate under the experimental conditions imposed by the words "unless and until Parliament otherwise determines"? Where is the fulfilment of the condition that it should be a settlement of the question? What has become of the final settlement? My right hon. Friend has said that "finality" was a word which had become discredited. There is to be no finality, but it is to be a settlement. Now, is this a settlement? Is it not by the very confession of the Government themselves no settlement? If this is known to be a temporary settlement, 1163 will its ultimate solution be determined by Party considerations? When is the subject to crop up again? Is it to he when 80 Irish Members have to be got rid of for Party purposes? I must say I cannot conceive but that the public would be deeply disappointed if this Bill were to be passed into law and they were told that their Imperial Parliament would no longer be a permanent Body, but would be liable to the fluctuations which might result from the second revision of its Constitution. The words are put into the Bill, as the Government consider it to be an experiment; that we have from the mouths of responsible Ministers themselves. But whether they are expunged or not, one thing is certain—if they are able to pass this Bill we shall no longer be the Parliament we have been, but at best we shall be an experimental House of Commons.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I think it will be agreed by common consent that whatever intentions the Government may have they can neither bind nor loose the action of future Parliaments. We might perhaps save time by not putting the House to the trouble of a Division.
§ Amendment negatived.
The following Amendments next stood on the Paper in the order set out:—
Mr. Kimber (Wandsworth)—Page 4, line 25, after "until," insert "the total representation in Parliament of the people of Ireland has been reduced to the same proportion to population as the total representation of the people of England, no Member for an Irish constituency shall be entitled to deliberate or to vote in the House of Commons.
Mr. Labouchere (Northampton)—Page 4, lines 25 and 26, leave out "the following provisions shall have effect.
Mr. Heneage (Great Grimsby)—Page 4, lines 25 and 26, leave out "the following provisions shall have effect.
Mr. Kimber—Page 4, line 27, leave out subsections (1) and (2), and insert "(1) The representation of Ireland in Parliament shall henceforth be reduced to the like proportion to the population of Ireland as the representation of Great Britain bears to the population of Great Britain.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR (Manchester, E.)
The first Amendment is one of several dealing with the number of Irish Members to be retained. If the Committee determine that no Irish Members shall be here, of course my hon. Friend's Amendment falls to the ground. If, on the other hand, the Amendment should 1164 be accepted in any form, then we should discuss the question of whether the Irish Members ought to be here at all. I wish to know, Mr. Mellor, if there are any means by which the point raised by my hon. Friend can be deferred to a later stage, and, if not, what course the Government propose to take in the matter?
said, it could be done by the consent of the Committee, but he ought to point out that an Amendment by the Member for Great Grimsby standing on page 30 ought to have stood on page 29.
THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. J. MORLEY, Newcastle-upon-Tyne)
I think, Sir, there is something to be considered besides logical order. I should have thought the first thing to be considered is how we may most expeditiously arrive at a decision on this difficult question. The Government are prepared to assent to the second Amendment of the hon. Member for Wandsworth, which states the principle upon which the clause is based and recommends the reduction of the Irish Members to the like proportion to population as that of Great Britain. It will be found that the number of Members named by us in the 1st sub-section of this clause is that which would be arrived at by the application of the principle of the hon. Member. Therefore the duty of the Government is to accept the Amendment.
§ SIR C. DILKE (Gloucester, Forest of Dean)
asked whether other Amendments would be consequential, or whether it was intended to keep to the proposed Schedule? Those who objected to the form of the Schedule would like to have an opportunity of stating their objections.
MR. J. MORLEY
said, his right hon. Friend would observe that the only point he mentioned was the number.
§ SIR C. DILKE
said, that they must infer from this that from time to time the number would be varied.
§ LORD R. CHURCHILL (Paddington, S.)
Will the error which has been committed prevent the Amendment of the Member for Great Grimsby being restored to the place to which it properly belongs?
said, there was no reason at all why it should not be restored. It was a printer's error.
1165 In reply to another question by Lord R. CHURCHILL,
MR. J. MORLEY
said, the Government had no power to allow or disallow other Amendments to be taken, supposing the Amendment of the hon. Member for Wandsworth were ruled out of Order. The Government accepted the Amendment, because they believed it would expedite the business of the Committee. The noble Lord was mistaken in supposing that they regarded their action as a concession; they regarded it as a businesslike way of dealing with the Amendments before the Committee.
§ In reply to Mr. KIMBER,
pointed out that his Amendment involved two Questions. The first Question was, "That Sub-sections (1) and (2) stand part of the Clause," and the second Question, which was an independent Question in one sense, was to propose "That those words be there inserted." It would bo quite competent for the Member for Great Grimsby to move his Amendment as an Amendment to the hon. Member's Amendment.
§ MR. J. REDMOND (Waterford)
asked the Chairman whether it would not be his duty to put the Question first, "That Sub-section (1) stand part of the Bill?" and, if he did so, he would further ask whether he (Mr. Redmond) would not come first with his Amendment, which stood next but one on the Paper, in view of the fact that his Amendment was handed in long before the Amendment of the hon. Member for Wandsworth?
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN (Birmingham, W.)
asked whether the Amendments of the Members for Northampton and Great Grimsby did not come before the Amendment of the Member for Wandsworth?
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
asked whether the order in which the Question would be put to the Committee would be, in the first place, that the Amendment of the hon. Member for Wandsworth be amended in the sense of the Motion of his right hon. Friend the Member for Great Grimsby; if that were carried or 1166 not, he imagined the next Question from the Chairman would be "That Subsection (1) stand part of the Bill."
said, the first Question he would have to put would be "That Sub-sections (1) and (2) stand part of the Clause." But he might point out that he proposed to put that Amendment upon the words "That after the appointed day" stand part of the Clause.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Surely, Sir, the Question "That Sub-section (1) stand part" ought to be put before you put the Question" That Sub-sections (1) and (2) stand part of the Bill."
said, the real Motion was to leave out all the words from the beginning of the 1st sub-section down to the end of the 2nd sub-section.
§ MR. T. H. BOLTON (St. Pancras, N.)
said, that if the Amendment of the hon. Member for Wandsworth were put in its entirety the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of London would also be cut out.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
If you, Mr. Mellor, put the Question in the form stated, that "after the appointed day" stand part of the sub-section, and that is agreed to, will it then be possible to move the Amendments of the hon. Member for Great Grimsby and the right hon. Member for London University?
§ SIR C. DILKE
said, the hon. Member for Wandsworth had twice stated, in a low tone of voice, that it was not his intention to move his Amendment in the present form.
§ MR. KIMBER
I move my Amendment before the present 1st sub-section. I never wrote the words as they appear on the Paper to-day. In the Votes and other Papers which reached our respective residences on Saturday, page 2,401, these words appear which I placed on the Paper, and which I wrote, and I have moved no other—Clause 9, page 4, in line 26" (that is to say, before the present Sub-section 1) "insert this 1167 new sub-section, to be called Number 1. The representation of Ireland in Parliament shall henceforth be reduced to the like proportion to the population of Ireland as the representation of Great Britain bears to the population of Great Britain.The other Papers circulated to-day are altogether erroneous.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Sir W. HARCOURT, Derby)
I will venture to suggest, in the interests of time, that somebody should move something. If somebody will make up his mind exactly what he wishes to move we shall get on.
§ MR. KIMBER
The Chancellor of the Exchequer seems to be unaware that this has been put from the Chair.
I have put nothing from the Chair. I have been answering questions of Order. In answer to questions about the words in the Amendment of the hon. Member for Wandsworth to "leave out Sub-sections (1) and (2)," the reason why it has been amended by the addition of those words is because, without moving the omission of the sub-sections, it appeared to be out of Order and inconsistent with what was left in Sub-sections (1) and (2). Those words were placed there to keep it in Order.
§ MR. KIMBER
That is a misconception of the clause. If my Amendment is carried it does not follow that the present Sub-sections 1 and 2 may remain. They may be cut out or remain, so that they are not inconsistent with my Amendment.
§ MR. J. REDMOND
With your permission, in answer to the invitation of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I beg to move "That Sub-section (1) be omitted." I do not think it will be necessary for me to detain the House more than a very few moments.
THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. J. MORLEY, Newcastle-upon-Tyne)
On a point of Order, will not the Amendment which my hon. and learned Friend is moving shut out the Amendment to be moved by the hon. Member for Wandsworth?
Do I understand the hon. and learned Gentleman to have moved the Amendment as it stands on the Paper?
Then that is out of Order, because I think that is inconsistent, on the face of it, with Sub-sections (1) and (2). It would be inconsistent to move an Amendment of that character as a 1st sub-section without moving at the same time the omission of Subsections 1 and 2.
§ MR. J. REDMOND
I apprehend I am perfectly in Order in moving to leave out Sub-section 1, and in doing so I shall be very brief indeed. The point raised in my Amendment is, by comparison, a small one, but in itself it is one, in my opinion, of great importance. The point raised is, whether the number of the Irish Members to be retained in the Imperial Parliament is to be as at present, or to be reduced to 80, which is the number in the Schedule of the Bill? I desire to explain briefly to the- Committee why it is I am strongly of opinion the number of Irish Members in the Imperial Parliament under this Bill must remain as it is. It will be in the recollection of the House what happened on this question in 1886. I am taking as the basis of my position the supposition that the majority of the House have practically made up their minds that the Irish Members, in some shape or form, must remain in the Imperial Parliament after the Home Rule Bill has passed. What happened in 1886 was this: It was proposed to exclude the Irish Members altogether, and that position was actually accepted by the Irish Members at that time, because of certain considerations, one of which was that the Bill of 1886 did not contain the number of provisional matters which are contained in the present Bill. It is quite inaccurate to say that Mr. Parnell ever said in 1886 that this was a purely English matter. The exact words Mr. Parnell used I have by me, and they explain the position taken by him and the Irish Members at that time, a position which I venture to say cannot be departed from by any body of Irish Nationalists at the present moment. What Mr. Parnell said in the year 1890, long subsequent to 1886, but repeating the spirit of the words he had used in 1886, was as follows:—With regard to the retention of the Irish Members, the position I have always adopted, and then represented, is that the concession 1169 of full powers to the Irish Legislature equivalent to those enjoyed by a State of the American Union. The number and position of Members so retained would be a question of Imperial concern, not of present moment or immediate importance to the interests of Ireland, but with the all-engrossing subjects of agrarian reform, constabulary control, and judicial appointments left either under Imperial control or totally unprovided for, it would be the height of madness for any Irish Leader to imitate Grattan's example, and consent to disband the army which had led the way to victory.These words show what an accurate forecast Mr. Parnell made; but since these words were spoken, the whole scheme of the Government has been laid before the country, and not only does it withhold from the Irish Parliament the all-engrossing subjects of agrarian reform, the control of the police, the judicial appointments, but in its latest development it will hold for the period of six years from Ireland the entire question of fixing, controlling, and managing Irish finance. In these circumstances, it seems to me to be a most unreasonable thing for anybody to suggest that during these six years the number of Irish Members in this House should be reduced by a single man. The question of the permanency of this provision about Irish Members need not trouble us very much. I was one of those—I think I was the only Irish Nationalist Member at the time of the Second Reading of the Home Rule Bill of 1886—to express some doubts of the provision entirely excluding Irish Members from the Imperial Parliament. My view was that we were entitled to representation here in the counsels of the Empire. But I was able to make up my mind to the provision excluding us, because I knew perfectly well that a provision excluding Ireland altogether from representation in this House would not and could not be a permanent provision, and the first step having been taken on what I believed to be the road leading to the general application of federation in the government of these countries—that if we had been excluded we should have been brought back sooner or later to have our proper share in the representation of Ireland in the Imperial counsels in this House. But things are entirely different now. Under this Bill we could not by any possibility consent to the exclusion of the Irish Members, because all these enormous powers are 1170 withheld from us in this Bill; and I, for one, would not for a moment tolerate the idea that this Imperial Parliament should, during the coming few years after the passage of the Home Rule Bill, have under its power and its control almost every one of the most vital questions affecting the social and political well-being of the people of Ireland, and that we should consent beforehand that our number in this House during that period should be diminished. No; if you want to deal with the question of redistribution in Ireland you ought to have dealt with that when you dealt with the question of redistribution generally in 1885; but you did not. We made the claim in 1885 that, considering the circumstances of the Union, the fact that the Union—taking it upon the basis its supporters were found to rest it—was an act of treaty between the two countries, and remembering the history of the two countries since then we took up the position in 1885, that it would be an unjust thing to reduce the representation of Ireland because her population was diminishing; and that view was taken up and endorsed by the present Prime Minister. I remember in a speech full of sympathy for Ireland he took that view, and the result was the representation of Ireland was left unchanged in 1885, and I say there is no reason on the mere question of population or redistribution—and there is no sound reason given—why that representation should be now diminished. In view of the fact, as I have said, that if this Bill passes in its present form—with the new Financial Clauses—every important interest in Ireland will be practically withheld from her management during six years—in view of that fact I do not believe any Irish Nationalist would be found who would tolerate for one instant to surrender a single man of the present representation of Ireland in this House. If Ireland's representation in this House is to be diminished by a single man during these years of probation it must only be done against the vigorous and determined protest of every Irish Nationalist in the House.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 4, to leave out Sub-section (1) and (2).—(Mr. J. Redmond.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words 'after the appointed day,' stand part of the Clause."1171
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I apprehend the House understands that the real effect of the omission goes much beyond the words read from the Chair. The real intention is to try and test this question whether the representation of Ireland is to be maintained at the number of 103 Members or whether the Government are to have the opportunity given them of making their proposals, which is that the representation of Ireland should be fixed at the nearest amount corresponding to the present relation to population, which would result, I think, in the number of 80, which has been set forth in the Schedule to the Bill. The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down stated that it was his intention to move this only for a period of six years.
§ MR. J. REDMOND
The right hon. Gentleman misunderstood me. I was dealing with the questions already raised in the clause, and as to whether it wag of a provisional character. My belief is it will be, and that the time will come when it may be, dealt with. What I desire is that the present state of the representation of Ireland in this House should not be touched at all. The whole of the provisions of the Bill which deal with the representation of Ireland should be struck out, and the question should not be touched, leaving it confidently, as I would, to the future to develop itself—that future, in my opinion, probably leading to very material changes in the whole representation of all the countries in this House.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
It appears to me that the proper course—which the hon. Gentleman has not pursued—and the regular and legitimate course—for him to have taken would have been to negative this clause altogether.
§ MR. J. REDMOND
No. The last sub-section of the clause is one we do not desire to strike out. It deals with election laws and matters of that sort and I have down upon the Paper an Amendment to strike out each sub-section except Sub-section 5, which I have no objection to.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
At any rate, I understand the hon. Member demands that the maintenance of the Irish Members should be at the number of 103, and the Government do not consider that an equitable provision, and they propose that the number of Irish 1172 Members should be fixed at 80, which is the number corresponding with the population. The hon. Member has referred to the provisional character of the clause. I have never used those words with respect to the clause at large. There are points in the clause in respect to which it might be convenient to indicate that Parliament might be guided by results. As respects the question whether the Irish Members are to be retained, that does not, in my opinion, partake of a provisional character at all. I think the country has made up their mind that the Irish Members ought to be retained; and we, having accepted that proposition, undoubtedly shall do our best to secure their maintenance. That being so, then the question comes: In what number ought they to be maintained? The hon. Gentleman says they ought to be provisionally maintained at their fixed number, and he gives as a reason for that that everything material will be withheld from the Irish Parliament during that period. Well now, Sir, I do not agree that the Irish Parliament is going to be deprived of all essential functions during that period. As regards the land, our proposal is not for six but for three years; that question shall be reserved, and I do not suppose that the hon. Member himself would say that it was likely that it could be dealt with within the first three years by an Irish Parliament. At any rate, the reservation is for three years. Then he said the police is reserved. No; I do not admit the police is reserved. The Constabulary is reserved, and the Constabulary is the present police of Ireland; but the contemplation of the Bill is, that from the moment of its enactment, even if not before it, the Constabulary should be placed under a course of regular reduction, so that an Irish civil police, be it local, or whatever it may be, shall take the place by degrees, and from point to point, of the Constabulary. But that requires the performance of most important functions by the Irish Legislature in passing a Police Act. It is quite true that the Irish Legislature will not in that period have the management of trade laws, neither will they have the management of trade laws after that period; but we regard that as part of the permanent system upon which alone affairs can be harmoniously and con- 1173 veniently regulated between the two Islands. Take another question of great importance—the whole question of education. We make no reservation whatever connected with time in regard to education. With respect to the Judges, it is true that there is a provisional matter in the Bill, according to which there will be intervention of the British Government. But it is not true that there will be no intimacy on the part of the Irish Legislature in connection with the question of the Judges. They would have to fix their salaries, enter into the question of their nomination, and make such arrangements as might seem advisable. I quite agree that there are certain limitations on the action of the Irish Legislature during those six years, but I entirely demur to the proposition that the Irish Legislature would not have before it a large sphere of activity, the undoubted and entire management of some great questions, and abundant occupation in its legislative work. Then comes the question whether the Government could properly and fairly, as between the three countries, propose to retain 103 Irish Members. In 1885 there were those in the House, even among the greatest friends of household suffrage—and I may mention Mr. Forster—who strongly protested against the whole of the Irish Members being retained. The number was then beyond the numerical proportion to which Ireland was entitled in respect of the relation between the Irish and the British populations. But the Irish Members were at that time engaged in fighting the battle of their country under circumstances of the most critical character, and it would have been a most invidious—perhaps I may call it an odious—proceeding to endeavour to diminish their numerical strength. But since that time matters have materially changed. The population of Ireland has, unfortunately, been continually diminishing, while the population of Great Britain has continued largely and steadily to increase. Consequently, the disproportion which was in 1885 a fact not deemed unsuitable for Parliamentary notice has since become gross, and that at the very time when we are proposing by this Bill to dispose of the great national controversy of Ireland. Under these circumstances, the Government feel that it would have 1174 been very rash, with this aggravation of the old disproportion, and with a probable further aggravation of it in years to come, to ask Parliament at one and the same time to grant to Ireland a Legislature invested with full powers of local self-government, and to retain within these walls an Irish representation upon a footing grossly disproportionate to the relative population of the Island. We do not propose to do any injustice to Ireland. I have seen Amendments on the Paper which would reduce the representation of Ireland to a proportion far below her population; but the Government propose that she should have the full benefit of the numerical relation of her population to that of Great Britain, and this at a time when it is admitted that there are questions of vital importance connected with the existence of the Government which may be conceived to be wholly British, and yet on which it is recognised on all hands that Irish Members must retain their full right to vote. All this is an additional reason against giving a factitious share of representation to Ireland in the future. But the House is the master, and can do what it likes. It appears to the Government that it would be unjust, or at least impolitic, and not desirable, to reduce the representation of Ireland below the numbers which she can fairly claim in respect of population. But to retain a number very largely in excess of population, and not unlikely to pass into still further excess, would be a proposal which the framers of the Bill could not make, or expect the House to accede to, on account of the great inequality it would involve in regard to the fair claims of England and Scotland.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
said, the Government of the present Prime Minister in the year 1885 brought in a Redistribution Bill for all parts of the United Kingdom. By that Bill it was decided that the number of the Irish Members should stand at 103. He understood at the time that when they had two Islands, one large and one small, and both represented in the same House, the relative strength of the Members from the smaller Island should be above rather than below that of the other; and the Prime Minister told them that the more distant a part of the country was the more special was its right to repre- 1175 sentation. [Some MEMBERS dissented.] Yes; that was said. Well, the question for them was not whether the Irish ought to he deprived of their representation—because, if Home Rule were granted there might be little to say on that; but at the present time the case did not seem to him to arise, since they were not at present giving Irishmen a full measure of Home Rule. They knew what discussions on Irish matters had been. There had been discussions on that Bill regarding the land taxation and the Constabulary. These questions wore to remain under the control of the Imperial Parliament. Consequently, so long as the Irish people were deprived of the right of settling these matters for themselves—so long as these questions remained under the purview of the Imperial Parliament, there could be no doubt that they would have discussions upon these matters. The Prime Minister said that the Land Question was to be withheld for three years. Could anyone say that questions in relation to Irish land would not be raised in that House during that period, and, if that were so, could they say that the Irish Members were not entitled to interfere? The better way, in his opinion, would be to allow the whole matter to remain over. The Prime Minister told them that his hon. Friend opposite suggested that the scheme should be thrown over for the present, and that a proposal should afterwards be introduced to reduce the number; but his hon. Friend got up and said he did not say that; but that it was a matter for the Imperial Parliament, and that they ought to decide. They had a Bill before them which did not give complete Home Rule, and it was only fair that the Irish should have full representation in this House until they had complete Home Rule. One question was to be kept from them for three, another for six, years. Why should they not have representation as long as these questions remained for discussion at Westminster?
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN (Birmingham, W.)
said, he did not rise for the purpose of dealing with the merits of the proposal before them—on those he might have something to say later on—but he wished to point out to the Government and to the Committee the extreme difficulty and complexity of the situation in which they now found themselves. 1176 The hon. Member for Waterford had moved to omit a sub-section in order to raise the question of the continuance of the 103 Members in this House. Unless he was mistaken, the hon. Member took a further view—that they should be retained for all purposes. Therefore, the question raised by the Member for Waterford was that 103 Irish Members should be retained at Westminster for all purposes. But the sub-section which the hon. Member wished to strike out might he objected to for totally different reasons. For instance, every Member of the House who desired the total exclusion of the Irish Members might vote against the sub-section, and every Member who agreed with the principle for the Amendments on the Paper relating to representation in accordance with the amount of Ireland's contribution or according to population. If Members of different sections in the House voted against the sub-section and defeated it, he did not know, in that case, what the Government proposed to do; but he wished at that early stage to protest against the idea that anyone who voted against the subsection was in favour of the plan proposed by the hon. Member for Waterford. On the contrary, they were opposed to that plan and to the plan of the Government, and it was because the sub-section contained the proposal of the Government that he, for one, should vote against it.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
said, there was no question of principle to be decided upon the point before them, which was not that raised by the hon. Member for Waterford; but the simple one put from the Chairman—namely, that certain words—"the appointed day"—stand part of the Bill. The question whether 103, or 80, or 40, or 30 was not raised at all—
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
My interpretation is only directed to this: whether we can have a number of reasons for choosing between these alternatives?
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
said, the vote would he on the Question whether the words, "the appointed day," stand part of the clause. It was quite competent 1177 to move the Amendment; but he would point out to the hon. Member for Water-ford that the decision on the Amendment would not decide the question he wished to have decided. In that case they would have to omit the sub-section altogether—that would be the effect. The Chairman would act according to the usual practice in such cases by only putting the words, "That the words 'the appointed day' stand part of the Clause." He would desire the House should allow those words to stand, and then come to the Amendments that stood upon the Paper as to what should follow them. The hon. Member surely could not want to get rid of the whole sub-section at one sweep? If these dealt with the preliminary words agreeing to them, they could then proceed to deal with Amendments to add to them any words that might be deemed desirable.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR (Manchester, E.)
said, the Chancellor of the Exchequer had made a slight mistake, though a not unnatural one. The Member for Waterford moved to omit the sub-section, which was No. 1, and the right hon. Gentleman said the Question would be that the first four words of the sub-section stand part of the Bill. If the Question put were carried they could proceed to the Amendments on the Paper; but if the hon. Member was successful in the Division, the right hon. Gentleman was wrong in thinking that he would not have carried out his intention. He would exactly have carried it out. That was the difficulty; that was where they stood. He did not propose at this stage to enter into the discussion which had arisen as to the number of Irish Members to be retained, or the purposes for which they were retained. That might be his duty at a later stage. Perhaps he would have an opportunity of dealing with the question on the Amendment standing in the name of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Heneage) or on other Amendments. But as his view would be greatly furthered by the omission of the sub-section, he should vote with the hon. Member for Waterford.
§ MR. J. REDMOND
said, he would like to ask whether, if the words "the appointed day" were negatived, they would get rid of the whole sub-section?
§ MR. SEXTON (Kerry, N.)
And if they are allowed to stand part of the clause the words of the sub-section will be open to amendment afterwards?
§ MR. J. REDMOND
asked, if the words were not negatived, would the question of the representation—the numbers—be in Order?
The question of 103 Members could not then be discussed. The mode in which I put the Question is as to the first four words "after the appointed day," but this covers the whole of the two sub-sections.
§ MR. BARTLEY (Islington, N.)
said, he wished to know whether, by adopting the course advocated by the hon. Member for Waterford, they would be debarred from dealing with the subjects which any Irish representation might deal with?
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
said, he was sorry that he did not understand the attitude of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. A. J. Balfour). Perhaps he did not hear him aright.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said, what he said was that there was some misconception on the part of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and that his (Mr. Balfour's) view was that he would like to see Subsection 1 omitted.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
said, a number of gentlemen were anxious that the judgment of the House should be taken on a variety of questions—whether the Irish Members should be retained at all, whether they should be retained at certain numbers, and so forth; but he would point out that the question they were now going to vote upon—he spoke for one part of the House at least—was as to the retention of the words "the appointed day." Whatever difference of opinion existed, these words did not affect it; they bad to ascertain whether any change was to take place, and they could not consider other questions until they had decided that. These words were necessary, and they ought to be retained without prejudice to amendment.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
said, his view was that, if the Committee were to negative the whole of the sub-section, 1179 they would do what was equivalent to the negativing of the principle of the clause, and under those circumstances it would be in Order to substitute any other principle or scheme and to insert a new sub-section.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Louth, N.)
said, he could not agree with the right hon. Gentleman. He submitted that, if the sub-section were omitted, every Amendment would go by the board and the Committee would proceed at once to Sub-section 5, on which no Amendment could be put, except it had relation to Election Law. The Amendments could, therefore, only be put by way of a proviso at the end of the clause, and they would be practically new clauses. It seemed to him that every Member who voted with the hon. Member for Waterford must be in favour of the retention of the 103 Members. ["Oh!"] Well, he was trying to solve the question according to his own view. Whatever might be the result, if the Leaders of the Unionist Parties were desirous of voting for the attendance of 103 Members in that House he, for one, would welcome their presence in the Division Lobby.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said, it was not quite clear that, if the Amendment of the right hon. Member for Great Grimsby was in Order as an Amendment to Subsection 1, it would be in Order as a separate sub-section if Sub-section 1 were cut out.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
said the Committee should have a definite declaration from the Chairman as to how the omission of the sub-section would affect the Amendments on the Paper. That declaration, he was sure, would be given by the Chairman. The question was, and seemed to him, whether, on shutting out the clause and allowing the words "the appointed day" to remain in—they could bring up a new sub-section? He would ask the Chairman for his ruling.
There is a considerable difference between a clause and a sub-section. Sub-sections are, after all, nothing more than so many words of a clause, and, if any number of words of a clause are omitted, then it is quite in Order to substitute any alternative proposition so long as it is not inconsistent with that which the Committee has decided. If, therefore, these two subsections were omitted by the Committee 1180 negativing the Question that the words "after the appointed day" stand part of the clause, the result would be that any proposition which was not inconsistent with what the Committee had done would be in Order.
§ COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
said, nothing had been said for the past half-hour with regard to the point really involved in the Amendment. The Prime Minister, as a rule, dealt with every detail of the question which he took in hand, but on this occasion he neglected one point. That point was that for 80 years Ireland had only from one-half to two-thirds of her proper representation in the House of Commons according to her population during that time. ["Oh!"] He held that if Ireland had been properly represented she would have had 200 Members. He thought that Great Britain might well wait five or six years longer until the Irish Members were allowed to manage the whole of their affairs in Ireland before attempting to reduce the number of the Irish Representatives; and, inasmuch as many important matters were still retained for the consideration of the British Parliament, he must protest against any reduction at present. That was a question which would have to be considered in the future, when a Treaty would practically have to be made between Great Britain and Ireland. They ought not to mix up the question of Home Rule and Irish representation at Westminster. Doing so was, he maintained, a mistake. If finance and everything else were handed over to the Irish Parliament, they might admit the reduction, but under the circumstances they protested against it. He trusted that before the Bill left the House other Irish Members would lift up their voices against the proposed reduction.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
said, the hon. Member who had moved the Amendment had spoken very fairly, as he thought, in the expression of the claim of Ireland to 103 Members. He (Mr. Gladstone), following the hon. Member in the Debate, endeavoured to argue that though Ireland had a claim, that claim would be more justly estimated by the proportion which her population exhibited than by the number of Members which she at this moment possessed. But he had said, of course, that that was a 1181 question for them to consider. The Government had made their proposal, and intended to submit it to the judgment of the House. He felt very much obliged to the hon. and gallant Member who had just sat down, because it was really a most gallant endeavour he had made to recall the attention of the Committee to the most important question before it—namely, whether the Irish representation at Westminster should be 103 or 80 Members. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham had introduced much more interesting matters in dealing with the complications that would arise in the Division on the Motion, owing to its rather technical character. He had explained his vote, and he (Mr. Gladstone) should explain his vote, as he clearly was entitled to do. He had understood the right hon. Gentleman to explain his vote in the sense that he was going to vote for words of which he did not approve. ["No, no!"] Then, if that were not so, the right hon. Gentleman's words were beyond his (Mr. Gladstone's) understanding. He had gathered that the right hon. Gentleman was voting for the Amendment for the sake of an ulterior effect. The words "after the appointed day" were not unreasonable in themselves for those who contemplated no change at all, but what he understood to be the case was this: The proposal of the Government that Ireland should be represented in proportion to the population was virtually before the House in this sub-section. They propose a change, including a Reference to the Schedule, which set out the number of Irish Representatives at 80, that number being the number porportionate to the population of Ireland as compared with that of Great Britain. That was their proposal; but they were in this unfortunate predicament: that if the first words of their proposal were struck out, their proposal would be struck dead; but if the words of the proposal were not struck out, it would be trial for its life, because a multitude of Amendments might be moved which would be fatal to the proposal, and any one of which might be carried. They thought the proposal would appear to the country reasonable—that the representation of Ireland in the House should be proportionate to, and should not be in excess of, its population. But the House was the 1182 master—[Cries of "Oh!"] They looked at this question as it was in itself. They had proposed a sub-section to change the representation of Ireland; the hon. Member proposed that there should be no change. If the Government were beaten in the Division, they would take that as a confirmation of the view of the hon. Member. Having given that notice in terms which he hoped were sufficiently intelligible, it would be seen that the Government meant to stand fire and to be beaten on their proposals if the House should think fit to do so. He had stated the construction he put upon the Motion, which he thought was a legitimate construction.
§ MR. R. T. REID (Dumfries, &c.)
thought it would be extremely unfortunate if this question of whether there were to be 103 or 80 Irish Members were to be decided upon a technical ruling upon a point of Order without regard to the merits of the controversy itself. The Amendment of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Waterford would be supported by the Irish Nationalists, because they desired to maintain 103 Irish Members; it would be supported by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham and his friends because they did not want to have any Irish Members at Westminster at all; and it would be supported by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition and his friends because, presumably, they also did not wish to have Irish Members here. There would be a concurrence of two motives and a combination of three Parties for the purpose of bringing about one result only, which might lead to putting the Government in a minority on a false issue. Further than that, if these gentlemen concurred in giving their votes for different motives, the result would be that the Prime Minister would put a construction on the decision of the Committee at variance with the decision intended by four-fifths of the hon. Members who took part in the Division. It would not be understood that he was in the slightest degree criticising in an adverse sense the decision of the Prime Minister, but it was because he himself did not agree that 103 Members should stay here instead of 80 that be was desirous of seeing the House enabled to deal with the question on its merits. It seemed to him that they were all playing 1183 at cross purposes; and though the Chairman had no doubt rightly laid down the law, still that law was beyond his understanding. It was possible, however, to save the Committee from what would be a great misfortune, and he, therefore, would ask the Chairman whether it would be in Order to move, after the words "after the appointed day" had been struck out, the words—After the 1st January, 1895, 80 Members shall be returned to serve in Parliament for the Irish constituencies in the second Schedule.
I have already explained how the matter stands. I do not think such an Amendment would be in Order—as the Prime Minister has pointed out most distinctly. This is a contest between the number 103 and 80. I think 80 would be out of Order. Any other number would be in Order.
§ An hon. MEMBER: Eighty-one.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said, he did not rise to make any very prolonged remarks, but he wished to say a word as to the Prime Minister's version of his conduct, and also a word about his own version of the Prime Minister's conduct.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Yes, or language. The right hon. Gentleman had said that he (Mr. Balfour) intended to vote against words of which he approved; but the right hon. Gentleman's own speech provided a refutation of his accusation, because he had said one minute afterwards the merits of his plan were raised before the House of Commons. Well, he (Mr. Balfour) objected to the right hon. Gentleman's plan, and was he to be debarred from negativing that plan—of which he disapproved—because the right hon. Gentleman chose to say that he would put an interpretation on an adverse vote which that adverse vote ought not to bear? Why did the right hon. Gentleman anticipate that there would be a majority against him? It was clear, so far as they had yet seen, that it was not because there was a majority for another plan. They did not know whether there was or not; but they would know that there was a majority against his plan, and that, surely, was a very positive and proper resolution for the House of Commons to come to if it thought so. Undoubtedly, there would be this definite 1184 issue raised: that the majority of the Committee approved or disapproved of the Government plan. If there were a majority for the Government, it would, at all events, give an indication that so far the Committee did not dissent from Amendments which might be further proposed; but if the vote were in favour of the Amendment, it would be seen, without going further, that, whatever were the plan they were ultimately to adopt, they were not to adopt the Government plan. The Prime Minister, earlier in the evening, had made a most powerful and luminous speech against 103 Members being retained, explaining that he considered it inconsistent with the interests of England and not required by justice to Ireland. Having described it as "gross over-representation" of Ireland he proceeded in a fit of irritation—["No, no!" and interruption]—well, of Parliamentary indignation—no other interpretation could be put on his extraordinary announcement—to say that if the Amendment were carried he should take it as a conclusive proof that the Committee desired to see 103 Irish Members at Westminster. Although there was no justification for that, it would not punish the Opposition at all. It would only make an absurd scheme even more absurd than it was before. It did not prevent the Opposition from moving Amendments. The right hon. Gentleman, so far as he could see, gained no object except that of punishing certain of his friends by satisfying gentlemen below the Gangway, who desired a plan that the Government thought grossly unjust to England. It was for the right hon. Gentleman himself to judge of his own Parliamentary conduct. The course of the Opposition was perfectly clear. They had an issue raised by the Division as to whether they did or did not like the Government plan. They would have no hesitation whatever in expressing, in the only Parliamentary form open to them, that they did not like it, and when the proper time came they would endeavour to substitute for it some plan they thought preferable.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
said, the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had used the word "plan" in too broad a sense. Only the question of numbers was involved in the Government plan so far as Sub-section 1 was concerned. That 1185 was explained in the Schedule; and if Sub-section 1 was defeated, all that would be necessary would be to reconstruct the Schedule on the basis of the fresh numbers. The right hon. Gentleman had stated that there would be no justification for the right hon. Gentleman taking the view that the issue was between the numbers 103 and 80. Well, there was the best justification in the world, because the Chairman had laid down—
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
said, the Chairman had said that the issue in the Division was as to whether the number of Irish Members in the House of Commons should be 103 or 80. ["No, no!"] Hon. Members might not think so, but the Chairman had said so. That was the position of the Government in the matter. The question as to the numbers, as the Prime Minister had pointed out, was for the Committee to decide. He (Sir W. Harcourt) was perfectly content with the issue which had been put by the Chairman; and when the right hon. Gentleman opposite said that the plan of the Government would go in the Division, the fact was that the question of the numbers would go, and that alone.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
said, the Chancellor of the Exchequer was entitled to put whatever interpretation he pleased upon his own vote, however strange and inconceivable it might appear to other Members of the House; but he had no right whatever to put a fancy interpretation upon the vote of the Unionist Party. They had stated distinctly, in accordance with the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, that the proposal of the Government was virtually before the Committee in the sub-section. It was because, in voting against the sub-section, they were voting against the proposal of the Government which was virtually before them that they intended to vote as they were about to. It did not follow that the issue was, as stated by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, merely one between the support of distinct numbers, because the hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. J. Redmond) had told the Committee that the interpretation he put upon his vote was that he was voting not 1186 merely on the question of numbers, but on the retention of the Irish Members with their present powers.
§ MR. J. REDMOND
said, he had subsequent Amendments raising that point on the Paper. His intention was to follow up his present Amendment with others. The present Amendment was confined to numbers.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
said, he had asked the hon. Member if he was right in thinking that he intended by his subsequent Amendments to raise the question of the retention of the Irish Members for all purposes, and the hon. Member had answered "Yes."
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
said, he accepted the correction. It was clear that the Amendment was part of an alternative plan. Did the Government intend to take this vote as settling that part of their plan as well as the numbers? [Cries of "No!"] He wanted to know whether there was any part of the Government plan to which, under any circumstances, they could be induced to stick? It had been known that they intended to propose this clause. They had been asked all along, "Do you intend to adhere to it?" and now at the first difficulty they said, "No, we do not intend to adhere to it. The House is the master." Would the Government accept, and retain Office afterwards, any decision to which the House might come? What was the meaning of saying "The House is the master," and then, when the master gave a decision in opposition to all that the Government had heretofore said, the Government were placidly to say, "We shall be most happy to be agreeable to it?" The Committee now knew that the Government were not prepared to adhere to their original plan on the question of numbers. Were they prepared to adhere to their original plan with regard to the retention of the Irish Members for particular purposes only? The first issue on the clause was raised by this Amendment, and the Committee were left in the same doubt as to the 1187 intentions of the Government in regard to it that they had been left in as to so many other matters. The Government might express themselves as well satisfied with the issue. The Opposition also were well satisfied with the issue they were raising. They would have secured the condemnation by the House of the plan for settling the question of the retention of the Irishmen at Westminster which the Government had been elaborating for six years and which fell to pieces the moment it was produced in Committee. Within one hour of the discussion being taken on it the Government were prepared to abandon it. They understood now why the Bill was divided into compartments. [Cries of "Question!"] They could quite understand the intense desire to get on with business, because it was perfectly evident that not only this particular portion of the Bill, but other portions, might be subjected to very material alterations. If this proposal were carried the Opposition would make perfectly clear their position in putting forward their plan instead of the discredited and defeated plan of the Government.
§ MR. SEXTON
said, he thought it must be evident, from the speeches which had been made and from the intentions and reservations which had been expressed by hon. Members in various quarters of the House, that the decision on the issue raised by this Amendment would not be taken upon any straight, any single, or definite issue. He said so, because it was plainly avowed—no secret was made of it—that on this Amendment Members would crowd into the Lobby against the Government—Members who were diametrically opposed to each other on the question of the number of Members Ireland ought to have. There would be Members who thought Ireland should have 103 Representatives at Westminster, and Members who thought that the number should be proportionate to her amount of contribution, and Members who thought that she should have no representation at all in the Imperial Parliament. That being so, there being a combination in hostility to the Government, he thought he was justified in saying that those who would go into the Lobby against the Government would not do soon any straight, or single, or definite issue. Upon the other hand, the 1188 adoption of an Amendment which had so many different meanings in the minds of so many different Members would be treated by them as a defeat of the Government, and would be regarded and treated by many as a Division imperilling the Bill. It was to the Government, and the Government alone, that the Irish Members must look for this or any effective settlement of the Irish Question. It was to the Government they must look, and not to hon. Gentlemen here [pointing to the Opposition Benches], or to hon. Gentlemen there [pointing to the Liberal Unionist Benches]. It was not to gentlemen who believed that Ireland should have 40 Members in the Imperial Parliament, or to gentlemen who believed that she should have none at all, that they must look for any effective or fair settlement of the Irish Question. It was clear that if the words "after the appointed day" should continue to stand part of the clause, the question of the numbers would still be open, for it would be within the power of any Member to move an alternative scheme. It would be possible, for example, to move to leave out after the word "day" all the words down to "Dublin University." The sub-section would then run—After the appointed' day Dublin University shall cease to return any Member.That would make the number 101. He did not think that the negativing of the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member would prejudice any reasonable Irish interest, and upon that ground he should be very slow to join in the hypocritical and dishonest combination—and he begged the hon. Member for Clare would not consider that he referred to him; and, at the same time, he fully recognised the right of the hon. Member for Waterford to move the Amendment. For the present he confined himself to the tactics of the Tories and the Liberal Unionists, and those who held different views as to the reduction of the representation of Ireland in the Imperial Parliament, and who were combined simply in hostility to the Government. It was because he declined to be a party to any such combination that he should vote against the Amendment.
§ MR. J. E. REDMOND
said, he was not content to go to a Division without saying a few words more in consequence of the speech of the hon. Member for 1189 North Kerry. He thought the Committee would agree with him that the Debate had been productive in an unusual degree of ingenious speeches. The right hon. Member for West Birmingham, in some of his earlier contributions to the Debate, was most ingenious; but, as he now probably saw, he had been too clever by half. The hon. Member for North Kerry, as everybody would admit, had also made a most ingenious speech; but he (Mr. J. Redmond) had risen to say why it was that he, for one, should persist in the Amendment, and should go to a Division. The hon. Member had most ingeniously suggested that if the Amendment were negatived it would be possible to move another which would have the effect of leaving the representation of Ireland as it was, with the exception of the representation of Dublin University. He did not wish to enter into the important question of the representation of that University. That raised a great question deserving of careful consideration. He founded his Amendment on the claim which he made that the representation of Ireland in that House should not be touched by the Bill. The representation of Ireland should remain as it was. He objected to encumber the Home Rule Bill with any question as to University representation, or as to the introduction of two sets of Members, or with any redistribution scheme for Ireland; these things should be dissociated from the Home Rule Bill. His point was that the Bill ought to be passed on its merits, apart from such questions as the representation of Dublin University, which could be dealt with subsequently. The hon. Member for North Kerry had most unsuccessfully endeavoured to press on the Committee the point that there would be no plain issue in this discussion. That was the attitude taken up by the Leader of the Opposition and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, who had explained that they were going into the Lobby against the Government because it was not a plain issue between 80 and 103 Members. He (Mr. Redmond) and his friends maintained that the issue was a plain one. Three persons of great importance—namely, the Leader of the House, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the Chairman of Committees, had distinctly stated that it was a plain issue. 1190 Anyone who voted against the Amendment would vote against the retention of 103 Irish Members in that House. He congratulated himself on the plainness of the issue, the vote he was about to give being for the retention of the Irish representation as it was. He called attention to the fact that the Government had declared emphatically that they would accept upon this point the decision of the majority of the House, and that if the majority should cast their votes in favour of the retention of 103 Members, that number would be retained, the Government being willing to accept that conclusion. Now, if that was not a plain issue, he failed to understand what a plain issue was. To his mind, he had an opportunity of voting for the retention of 103 Members—he had obtained that chance by good fortune, and he could not forego it. If his Amendment were carried the Bill would not be dropped; but the Government would accept the decision of the House. He, therefore, seized that opportunity of endeavouring to do what was just and expected by the Irish people. [Cries of "No!"] He was only expressing his opinion. He believed that Irish Nationalists, of all sections, desired that the representation of Ireland should remain at its present number, and therefore he should press his Amendment.
§ MR. COURTNEY (Cornwall, Bodmin)
said, the Chairman had ruled that if the 1st sub-section were struck out it would be possible to introduce, as an alternative suggestion, the proposal of his right hon. Friend the Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Heneage), which would exclude the Irish Members from Westminster, or the proposal of his right hon. Friend the Member for London University (Sir J. Lubbock), which would reduce the number to something like 40, and therefore any alternative proposal. It could not, consequently, be assumed that if the proposal to make the number 80 were defeated any one of the alternatives was carried.
§ DR. CLARK (Caithness)
remarked that he should have voted with the hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. J. Redmond) if he had put forward his Amendment in the usual way, because he thought it was a mistake on the part of the Government to have raised the question at all; but as his hon. Friend (Mr. J. Redmond) had 1191 taken advantage of the ruling of the Chairman to press his Amendment unfairly he should vote against it.
MR. T. SHAW (Hawick, &c.)
said that, as he understood the ruling, it would be incompetent for any Member to propose the insertion after "the appointed day" of the words—The representation of Ireland in the Imperial Parliament shall remain unchanged.If that would be a competent Amendment he would be entirely free to vote with the Government; but if it would not be a competent Amendment he should be bound to vote in favour of the Amendment before the Committee. In order to make the matter perfectly clear, he wished to know whether the words he had mentioned could be inserted after "the appointed day" in lieu of the rest of the clause?
The object of the hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. J. Redmond) in moving this Amendment is to leave the representation of Ireland as it is, and therefore it will not afterwards be competent to move an Amendment which will be the same proposition over again.
MR. KNOX (Cavan, W.), asked whether, "after the appointed day" was passed, it would be in Order to move the insertion, in place of the remainder of the sub-section, of the words—
The representation of Ireland shall remain unchanged, except that Dublin University shall cease to return a Member.
§ MR. DALZIEL (Kirkcaldy, &c.)
inquired, in reference to the point raised by the hon. Member for Hawick (Mr. T. Shaw), whether anyone desiring that the Irish representation should remain as at present would not be voting in accordance with that desire by voting against the clause as it stood?
Anyone who desires that the representation of Ireland should remain unchanged can vote against the clause when the Question is put, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
§ MR. J. REDMOND
observed that, as he had already pointed out to the Prime Minister, he did not content himself with voting against the clause, because he re- 1192 garded the 5th sub-section as a most valuable one.
§ MR. SEXTON (Kerry, N.)
said, the Chairman's ruling had left no doubt upon the point that the question whether the representation of Ireland should or should not remain unchanged might be determined when the Question was put from the Chair, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill." He desired, however, to have an answer to the question just put by his hon. Friend the Member for Cavan (Mr. Knox).
§ MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
asked whether it would not be open to anyone, however the Division went, to move the omission of Sub-section 4; and whether the effect of such omission would not be to leave things as at present?
Undoubtedly, that would be so. In answer to the question put to me by the hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Knox) and repeated by the hon. Member for Kerry (Mr. Sexton), I have to say that there must, of course, be a substantial variation from the proposition now before the Committee in order to justify an Amendment, and I think the proposition suggested by the hon. Member for Cavan would be a substantial variation.
§ MR. BOUSFIELD (Hackney, N.)
inquired whether, if he voted for the omission of the words "on and after the appointed day," for a wholly different reason from any that had been stated, it would be supposed that he necessarily voted in favour of the retention of 103 Irish Members?
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 280; Noes 266.—(Division List, No. 204.)
MR. HENEAGE (Great Grimsby) rose to move—
Page 4, line 27, leave out from "day," to end of Sub-section 2, and insert "Ireland shall cease to return Members to the House of Commons, and the persons who on the said day are such Members shall cease to be Members of the House of Commons.
§ DR. CLARK (Caithness)
I rise to Order, Mr. Mellor. I understand from your ruling that if we carried these four words it meant carrying 80 Members clear.
§ MR. HENEAGE
said, it would be perfectly preposterous for him to endeavour to bring forward in support of his Amendment arguments stronger in weight and in eloquence than the arguments used by his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in 1886 against the retention of the Irish Members in the Imperial Parliament under a Home Rule scheme. He had always been in favour of the exclusion of the Irish Members. He had listened to the great speech which the Prime Minister delivered when introducing his Home Rule Bill in 1886, and he considered the arguments then advanced by his right hon. Friend against the retention of the Irish Members as unanswerable. The right hon. Gentleman had now changed his mind on the subject. It was said the change was a concession to Unionist opinion. He absolutely denied that it was a concession to Unionist opinion. If it were a concession at all, it was a concession to the minority in the Cabinet. The Unionists declared that the Irish Members ought to be retained at Westminster; but they said, at the same time, that there ought not to be a Home Rule Parliament in Dublin. If the Bill passed as it stood, the Irish Members would have a Parliament in Dublin, and seats in the Imperial Parliament at Westminster; they would have a voice in the control of English and Scottish affairs, while English and Scotch Members could not interfere in Irish matters. He did not believe that any Member of the Unionist Party ever desired the retention of the Irish Members at Westminster under a Home Rule Parliament. Some Members of the Unionist Party might have advocated the retention of the Irish Members, but they never foresaw Fenian Home Rule, and foolishly relied on the broken reed of the pledges and speeches of the present Ministers. If the present Ministers had given Ireland an extended form of local self-government; if the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament had been effectually secured; if the sovereign veto was to be entrusted on all occasions to the Imperial Cabinet; if the verdict of the constituencies in 1886, given with no uncertain voice, and the speeches of the present Ministers before the Election, 1194 had been carried out, then the votes of Unionist Members might, perhaps, be claimed in favour of the retention of the Irish Members, just as the Metropolitan Members were retained, though they had a County Council in London. But what was the position of affairs under the Bill? They had discussed five clauses, and the Government, by the use of the compartment guillotine, had embalmed three more in this legislative corpse. The Bill, as it stood, established a Fenian or Parnellite Parliament in Dublin—which the Chancellor the Exchequer, writing from his own fireside, said he would never be a party to—and established it free and unfettered, except by paper restrictions and an ineffectual veto. They had set up an all-powerful Executive in Dublin, which would control all the legislation and administration throughout the whole of Ireland, without any security for the minority, whether they were Unionists or Parnellites. The Prime Minister had not said one single word as to whether or not he intended to stand by the clause in its existing shape; whether he intended to give Ire-land a representation of 80 Members, and intended to allow them to be at Westminster for all purposes or for Imperial purposes only. He did not think it mattered whether the Irish Members were retained for all purposes, or wore retained under what was known as the "in-and-out" scheme. The real point they had to consider was whether there would be stability of Government in this country; and, considering their widespread interests all over the globe, it was absolutely necessary that there should be some stability in British Government. But how could there be any stability with Members from Ireland using their votes not in the interest of English, or Scotch, or Colonial, or Indian affairs, but only for Irish interests, and who would use their votes, as the Chancellor of the Duchy had said, solely as a means of furthering their own Irish ends? He would remind the Committee that they need not enter into the spirit of prophecy to see what would happen if the Irish Members were retained at Westminster under the Home Rule scheme. They had merely to remember what had happened during the last 10 years. In July, 1885, a Liberal Government was in Office, but by a coalition between the 1195 Opposition and the Irish Party they were defeated on a Vote of Confidence, nominally on the Budget proposals. That Government had at that time the full confidence of the British constituencies, as was shown in the General Election in November, 1885. What happened next? In January, 1886, a new alliance having been negotiated, the Conservatives were defeated, not on Home Rule, which was the secret bargain, but on "three acres and a cow." By the General Election, which followed shortly afterwards, it was shown that a large majority of the constituencies were against Home Rule, and a fourth Administration came into Office in the space of 12 months. [Ministerial cries of "Question!"] That was the question, and if they did not understand it he could not help them. The question was—what would be the attributes and actions of the Irish representation of the future? Judging by the previous actions of the Party, it was plain that they would endeavour to make bargains with every Party for their own Irish ends, and there could be no stability of Government under such circumstances. Home Rule was again brought forward by means of another bargain with the Irish Members. The Government were in Office by the votes of the Irish Members, or rather by the 23 votes which, even according to the Prime Minister, Ireland had over and above her fair representation, for if these votes were abolished the Government would be in a minority. He did not desire to refer now at any length to the proposed "in-and-out" plan and its absurdities, which would be a mixture of confusion and humiliation to all, and even according to the Prime Minister it was contrary to established Parliamentary practice. There was another point which he thought ought to be considered at the present juncture. That was what would be the character of the Irish Members who would come to Westminster under a Home Rule scheme? It was quite clear that the ablest of the Irish Members would not come to Westminster and hang about the Lobbies under the proposed "in-and-out" arrangement. They would remain in Ireland, and look after their own affairs in their own Parliament. He believed the Members who would be elected under such a scheme would be Irishmen who resided in London, who 1196 knew nothing about Ireland, who preferred London to Dublin, like the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool, under whose directions they would probably vote. But he wished to ask why the Prime Minister had changed his mind on this question since 1886? Indeed, he doubted if the right hon. Gentleman had altered his opinion, judging by his speech introducing the present Home Rule Bill on February 13, 1893. Certainly the right hon. Gentleman did not advocate the retention of the 103 Irish Members for all purposes and at all times, and the balance of his argument did not appear to be against their exclusion. He preferred, however, to quote the strong words which the Prime Minister used in 1886. In that year the right hon. Gentleman declared—Ireland is to have a domestic Legislature for Irish affairs, … now I think it will be perfectly clear that if Ireland is to have a domestic Legislature, Irish Peers and Irish Representatives cannot come here to control English and Scotch affairs.And after arguing conclusively and carefully the right hon. Gentleman came to the conclusion that it would be impossible to draw a distinction between Imperial and non-Imperial affairs. He agreed with the Prime Minister then; he agreed with him now. The conclusion which the right hon. Gentleman had arrived at in 1886 was universally admitted; and that the "one thing follows from the other." To retain the Irish Members at Westminster would deprive British Members of the only benefit which they could derive from Home Rule. This was no Party question. He appealed to all British Members of all political opinions, and especially to Labour Representatives, to support his Amendment. The Government were evidently waiting to see which way the wind blew. Let British Members speak out and say, in the words of the Prime Minister in June, 1886, that theyWill not be a party to giving to Ireland a Legislative Body to manage Irish concerns, and, at the same time, have Irish Members in London acting and voting on Irish and Scotch concerns.For in that declaration they would be speaking the opinion of their constituencies. He begged to move his Amendment.
In page 4, line 27, after the word "day," to leave out the words to the end of Sub-section (2), in order to insert the words "Ireland shall cease to return Members to the House of Commons, and the persons who on the same day are such Members shall cease to be Members of the House of Commons."—(Mr. Heneage.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words 'each of the' stand part of the Clause."
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I do not complain of the manner in which this question has been raised by my right hon. Friend. The opinion he has quoted was the opinion held by the Government in 1886, and it was expressed in the Bill of 1886. It is not necessary for me on this occasion to say all that can be said for the action of the Government in 1886. But there is a very important element in the view of those who took what I feel to be a much greater disposition to trust the Irish Parliament and the Irish people than any of those who were opposed to us, and possibly some of those who cordially supported us. I do not admit that in the days of Grattan's Parliament the English Government had ever anything to complain of. The Irish Parliament never attempted to interfere with the supremacy; and the Irish Parliament on the only two occasions they differed with the Imperial Parliament were quite in the right and the Imperial Parliament were quite in the wrong. I have not altered my historic view of the question, but there are other considerations to be taken into account. The chief and dominant one is that it is the undoubted sense of the country that the Irish Members should be retained in the Imperial Parliament in the event of Home Rule being conceded to Ireland. I do not deny that advantages may result from the retention of the Irish Members. I think that by their retention the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament will be exhibited to the world. The fact is undeniable apart from the retention, but by the retention it will receive a sufficient guarantee. I think that even those who view the movement to give self-government to Ireland with distrust will feel somewhat re-assured if the Irish Members continue to sit in this House. It is quite conceivable, too, that new questions may arise in the future with regard to which it would be of the greatest advantage to Ireland that she should be represented in 1198 the Imperial Parliament and have her case stated here. I am not aware what view is taken of this question by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. No doubt, we will give due weight to it. The Leader of the Opposition, if I remember aright, said he was in favour of inclusion, stating, at the same time, that it was as a choice between two bad alternatives. But the Government, who constitute the majority in this House, feel very decidedly, although not perhaps quite unanimously, that it would do more to secure and would bring more home to the minds of the people the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament if the Irish Members were to be retained. The main argument against the retention of the Irish Members is that in that case the Irish Legislature should not have such large powers conferred on it. To that contention the Government cannot assent. We are, therefore, willing to agree to support with all our force the retention of the Irish Members in the Imperial Parliament. On the other hand, we are of opinion that the retention of the Irish Members should be coupled with a limitation of the Irish representation in this House to a number proportionate to her population. I observe that the same hon. Gentlemen, sometimes on the same occasions, reproach us for unprincipled pliability and unexampled obstinacy. The consequence is, perhaps, because of the great moral obtuseness on our part that these reproaches wholly lose their force, and do not avail to stir up even the smallest sentiment of irritation. We have always felt ourselves obliged to use our best efforts to carry the substance of the clause. We have, however, never used very binding language upon the subject, because we think it one on which the general sentiment ought to weigh, and certainly the general sentiment, when clearly ascertained, will have great power in determining our course.
§ MR. CHAPLIN (Lincolnshire, Sleaford)
I am sure the Members of the Committee in all parts of the House have listened with great interest to hear the grounds upon which the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to oppose to-day a proposition which, on the introduction of the Home Rule Bill of 1886, he supported by both language and by argument, and in a manner which was most conclusive to all who heard him, and which, as it 1199 appears to me, is still almost impossible to dispute. Those who heard the bald statement of the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon must almost universally entertain the opinion that the right hon. Gentleman has offered no adequate explanation for his extraordinary and unprecedented change of opinion. In 1886 the right hon. Gentleman proved to demonstration that the retention of the Irish Members in the English Parliament, in the event of a Parliament being established in Dublin, was impracticable, impossible, and opposed to every consideration by which a Government ought to be guided. That was the simple statement of the right hon. Gentleman in 1886. But what does he tell us now to justify his change of opinion? The right hon. Gentleman now says that the retention of the Irish Members would be of considerable advantage to Ireland, and would better secure the Imperial supremacy. That may or may not be so. I am not prepared to argue this point to-night; but what I want to point out is this: that if they have the slightest force at all today they had precisely the same force in 1886. The right hon. Gentleman has told us literally nothing to justify his new departure in the matter of the retention of the Irish Members. I am perfectly content to base my opposition to the retention of the Irish Members upon the language used by occupants of the Treasury Bench in the past. The acceptance of this policy by them vitiates completely one of the points which they always put before the country as one of the cardinal principles of the Bill—that the Bill is to be a final measure for the settlement of the Irish Question. How is it possible to contend for a moment that in the proposal now before the House there is any settlement possible? So far from settling the question, the proposal of the Government will continue Irish discussions for all time in this House. The Chief Secretary made a most distinct statement on this subject in 1885. On January 7, 1885, the right hon. Gentleman said—For my part, I want two things. I want order in Ireland—and I want power in the House of Commons at Westminster. … The real mischief is … that the Irish Members are able to weaken our policy, to turn out Ministries and to reject Bills from motives which are not in our sense national and patriotic.1200 Is not that precisely the power you are proposing to leave in their hands now? The right hon. Gentleman continued—Do what you will with Rules of Procedure, you will not have made the British people master in its own House until you have carried some scheme or other which will remove the Irish Members from the British House of Commons.Does the right hon. Gentleman still wish to see the British people masters in their own House? If he does not wish to see the British people masters in their own House; if he wishes the Irish Members to remain masters of the situation in this country as well as in their own country, I can well understand the position of the right hon. Gentleman. But if, on the other hand, he adheres to the proposition he laid down in 1886, I ask him to reconcile his attitude to-day with the attitude he took up at that time. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say—I am well aware what an enormous proposition that is, but I make it well-advisedly …. I would rather bestow a new Constitution on Ireland than I would destroy the old Constitution of Great Britain.According to the right hon. Gentleman's own words, the operation in which he is now engaged is an endeavour to destroy the old Constitution of Great Britain. For my part, I believe he is endeavouring to destroy both the Constitution of Great Britain and the Constitution of Ireland. I have already mentioned the general conclusion on this subject which was urged by the Prime Minister on the introduction of the Bill of 1886. But I do not by any means confine myself to the observations which he made on this subject in 1886. I never listened to anything in my life with more astonishment, more regret, and more dismay than I did to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman introducing the Bill of 1893, so far as it referred to this particular question. I think the right hon. Gentleman on that occasion gave even better reasons against the retention of the Irish Members than he gave in 1886. The Prime Minister, in introducing this Bill, frankly admitted that the retention of the Irish Members, under existing circumstances, would open the door to wholesale dark and dangerous intrigue, and confessed that he and his colleagues had not been able to face such a contingency as to have British questions decided on Irish motives. Are not these circumstances which, surely, ought 1201 to have deterred the Government from so extreme a change of opinion and policy without, at least, some better arguments in support of the change than they have yet advanced? The right hon. Gentleman said that British questions might be decided on Irish motives, and that that was an evil under which we had already suffered. So this step is not taken in the dark, but in the full knowledge of what has happened in the past, and with a perfect appreciation of what will happen in the future. Then the right hon. Gentleman asked this question—But it is what plain unlettered Englishmen would think, who cannot understand why Irish votes on some question, which was in no respect Irish, should be determined by those who had a separate Parliament to determine the same question for themselves.And, going back to the question of intrigue, he said—I confess I and my colleagues have not been able to face a contingency such as this.I think, therefore, that we are entitled to a much fuller explanation from the Government than we have had up to the present, as to the reasons by which they think themselves justified in this change of opinion. The right hon. Gentleman told us it was because the sense of the country was in its favour, and because they had given a distinct pledge on the subject. But, surely, on a question involving the possibility of dark and dangerous intrigue and other mischief, is it not the duty of Ministers to warn the country against the dangers of adopting such a proposal? The Prime Minister apparently thinks it does not matter what the consequences are so long as he follows in the direction of what he thinks is the sense of the country. There is one subject to which I would like to call attention for a moment. It seems to me to be grossly unfair to many interests in England that you should have a Parliament in Ireland in which English Members have no voice, and a Parliament in England in which Irish Members are in many cases to be supreme. An illustration of what may happen can be taken from an agricultural subject. At this moment the question in which the agricultural interest is most concerned is the importation of cattle disease into the country. It is undoubtedly the case that at the present moment cattle disease is very prevalent in Ireland.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
At least, it was a very few months ago. The right hon. Gentleman will not tell me that it is extinct, and still less will he prophesy that it is never going to occur again in the future. Suppose, for instance, that there was disease amongst cattle in England. In Ireland they could, without the slightest difficulty, exercise the powers which they possess already, and which have frequently to be exercised, in order to prohibit the importation of all arrivals from England into Ireland. Under the proposals of the Government, that prohibition would come solely under the review of Irish Members in an Irish Parliament, in which English Members and English interests would not be able to say a word. But look at the case as regards England. Supposing it was necessary for the preservation of our flocks and herds that we should prevent the importation of animals from Ireland, which is a contingency that may arise at any moment. How is the question to be decided? It will be decided, it is true, in the Parliament at Westminster; but in a Parliament in which Irish Members will have the determining voice, and it is by the votes of these Irish Members, and not by the votes of the English Members, that this great question, affecting England, will be decided. Although this is a comparatively small matter, it is one that deserves the attention of the Government, because it is only one instance of an enormous number of others which can be found bearing on the question in exactly the same degree. I do think that we have a right to expect from right hon. Gentlemen opposite some better justification than has yet been offered by them for the change in their opinions. I do not object to change in opinions provided they can be justified by those who undergo them. But here we have a change of opinions on a subject of the greatest and most supreme importance which apparently has been dictated without the slightest reason whatever and without the slightest justification, except that there is said to be some evidence of public opinion in favour of carrying out a policy which no one has condemned more forcibly than themselves.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
said, he did not quite understand what the exclusion of animals from Ireland had to do with the inclusion of Irish Members in that House. And yet that was the argument of the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down. The right hon. Gentleman also charged the Prime Minister with changing his opinion. But there was a change of opinion also on the part of the Conservatives and the Liberal Unionists. He believed that the Prime Minister and the Chief Secretary were in favour of the exclusion of the Irish Members. He certainly was himself in favour of exclusion. But circumstances had entirely altered. The Liberal Unionists made the exclusion of the Irish Members the chief ground of their objection to the Bill of 1886. The retention of Irish Members was a concession to the Liberal Unionists. There was a sort of understanding that, as the Liberal Unionists said they were opposed to exclusion, if exclusion were dropped, they would come back again into the fold, and vote in favour of the Home Rule Bill. But the truth was, their opposition on this ground was a sham, and they would oppose whatever the Government proposed. They were told that by exclusion Ireland would be reduced to a colony, and would cease to be an integral part of the Kingdom. He was in favour of exclusion, but he was a practical politician; and to vote in favour of exclusion would put many supporters of Home Rule in a false position. To carry exclusion would, to a certain extent, disintegrate the Home Rule Party.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, the fact that the right hon. Gentleman thought it would be a good thing was the best reason for voting against it. The fact must be remembered that the Bill did not give full Home Rule, but it reserved several things to this Parliament, from which, therefore, it would be a gross injustice to exclude the Irish Members. Were the questions of Irish finance, land, and Constabulary to be discussed in the House without the presence of a single Irish Member? That would be the most monstrous piece of gross injustice it was possible to conceive. As the Irish Members were not to be allowed to discuss 1204 these questions in their own House, they ought to be allowed to vote for them in this House. He was not in favour of the "in-and-out" scheme, because he did not think it was a practical one. For his part, he was in favour of the full retention of the Irish Members. Of course, there were difficulties in any course; but, instead of dwelling on the disadvantages of the course proposed, hon. Members ought to point out in what respect some alternative would be more advantageous. At any rate, it was reckless conduct for the Liberal Unionists to insist now on the exclusion against which they had formerly protested.
§ MR. WARNER (Somerset, N.)
said, he had followed the right hon. Member for West Birmingham in opposing Home Rule in 1886 on account of the proposed exclusion of the Irish. Members. It appeared to the right hon. Gentleman and his followers then that if the Irish Members were to cease to occupy seats in the House, the Irish Legislature would be a co-ordinate Parliament of equal authority. This was the great objection taken to the Bill of 1886, and was stated in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, in which he gave his reasons for leaving the Cabinet. He understood the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Great Grimsby to deny that that was the principal Liberal Unionist objection to the Bill of 1886.
§ MR. HENEAGE
What I said was, that under a Local Government scheme we should have no objection to the retention of the Irish Members, just as the Metropolitan Members are retained here, though they have a County Council.
§ MR. WARNER
said, he understood the right hon. Gentleman's words differently; but he quite accepted the explanation. He believed that throughout the country one thing the Liberal Unionists were returned for was the retention of the Irish Members. ["Oh, oh!"] They might differ in opinion, but it was his belief that that was the case in a great many instances; and now to-day, not only had this question turned straight round, but they were going to create what they then agreed with many of them in thinking was a great danger. The Tory Party and the Liberal Unionists had gone all over the country objecting to separation. He (Mr. 1205 Warner) objected to separation, and he believed the one way to produce separation was to exclude the Irish Members from the Imperial Parliament. He could conceive no greater outward sign of separation than excluding Irishmen from the Supreme Legislature, and this was one of the results they would get by adopting this plan of exclusion. One other result they would also get—they would weaken, perhaps, the Government, and perhaps weaken the Bill; they would, perhaps, delay the passing of the Bill; and when it was passed, instead of having a contented Irish nation by their side, they would have a discontented nation to oppose them in every possible way, and to oppose them in a separate Parliament, co-ordinate and co-equal.
MR. WINGFIELD-DIGBY (Dorset, N.), regarding this as an essentially English question, desired to say a few words in support of the Amendment. The hon. Member for North Somerset, as he understood him, had stated that the Liberal Unionist Members were returned to this Parliament to vote for the retention of the Irish Members in the Imperial Parliament. As a constituent of another Member for Somerset—a Liberal Unionist—he could say he never voted for him with the idea that he was to support the retention of the Irish Members in the British Parliament if they were also to set up a separate Legislature for Ireland. He represented a constituency which in the last Parliament was represented by a Gladstonian and a supporter of Home Rule. During his canvass he found many Liberals who, while thoroughly Unionists and Imperialists in all their tendencies, were brought to vote in favour of the Gladstonian Party and the present Government upon the question as put to them that the Irish should be allowed to manage their own affairs, and not come over to the Imperial Parliament to interfere with British affairs. Many votes were obtained for the Government on that understanding. In his own constituency they had the honour of being visited by several gentlemen who had now seats on the Government Bench, and their anxiety to inform the electors prior to the Election was very great, though he had not noticed that it had been maintained since the result of the Election. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade,
speaking at Sherborne on 14th November, 1891, used these words—
It is only proposed that Ireland should deal with her domestic affairs; that she may settle her own internal affairs without coming to England. The thing is settled.
So the supporters of the Government were led to believe at that time by the President of the Board of Trade that the thing was settled, and that he would never be a party to any measure which had for its object the retention of the Irish Members in the Imperial Parliament. Again, on the 29th January, 1892, the Attorney General, speaking at Gillingham, used these words in answer to a request for a definition of Home Rule—
This is Home Rule. The claim of the Irish people to assert their natural rights in their own land, by their own countrymen on their own soil, to deal with questions which relate to Ireland and to Ireland alone.
These were some of the pledges given by the colleagues of the Prime Minister, and he should like to know if they were the pledges to which the right hon. Gentleman alluded in his recent speech? The case of Canada had been often cited in connection with the question of Home Rule; and as Canada was used as an analogy in many respects, he would like to know if the supporters of that Bill were prepared to use Canada as an analogy for the retention or exclusion of the Irish Members? No English constituency would consent to being dictated to by Members returned to this Parliament from Canada, and he ventured to think that very few English constituencies, when they voted for the Gladstonian candidate, thought that they would also be voting in favour of the retention of the Irish Members in this Parliament. The present First Commissioner of Works, speaking at Shaftesbury on the 23rd March, 1892, said—
A measure like that of Home Rule ought to be carried by a large majority. It was one of those great Constitutional changes which ought to have in its favour a large majority of all the Representatives of all the four countries; and, for his part, he would never be satisfied unless they had that majority, both in England, in Scotland, in Wales, and in Ireland, which would justify them in saying that a majority of the people of all parts of the United Kingdom were in favour of this great Constitutional change.
He should like to ask where was the majority in favour of this great Constitutional change in England? Where
was it in any of the four countries out of Ireland? The majority of the electors in England, through their Representatives, had shown most conclusively they were not in favour of this great Constitutional change. He had ventured to say these few words on the question of the retention or exclusion of the Irish Members and their interference in the English Parliament, because he thoroughly believed there were many supporters of the Government who held their seats now because a number of the electors believed that by returning them they would be voting in favour of a measure which would give the Irish people the management of their own affairs, and would remove them from interfering with English affairs in this Parliament.
§ MR. H. HOBHOUSE (Somerset, E.)
said, there had been in the course of that Debate two remarkable attacks made on the Liberal Unionist Party. The first was by the hon. Member for Northampton, who, a few months ago, in his very interesting and veracious paper, was proving—and conclusively proving—that whatever else that House should assent to in a Home Rule Bill, there was one thing it ought not to assent to, and that was the proposal that the Irish Members should be given a Parliament of their own and yet have the right to vote on British matters in the Imperial Parliament; and now they had that hon. Member attacking the Unionists for inconsistency, although he told them that though he was still in favour of the exclusion of the Irish Members he intended to vote for their retention. He passed from the hon. Member for Northampton to the hon. Member for North Somerset. The latter told them in the course of his speech that in 1886 he was a follower of the Member for West Birmingham in opposition to Home Rule. If that were so, the hon. Member had found salvation, and he did not blame him for his change of opinion; but this accusation of inconsistency came very curiously from his lips directed against those who like himself (Mr. Hobhouse), from the first moment this proposal of an Irish Parliament was made, had been opposed, root and branch, to every form of such proposal. The hon. Member for North Somerset had quoted a speech of the Member for West Birmingham in proof of his suggestion that all Liberal Unionists in 1886 1208 considered the exclusion of the Irish Members the one thing to be objected to in the Government proposals. ["Hear, hear!"] He (Mr. Hobhouse) would venture to ask those Members of the Committee who cheered that observation to go and study that speech themselves. It would be presumptuous for him to defend a gentleman who, by the common admission of that House, needed no defender. The right hon. Member for West Birmingham was now the Leader of the Liberal Unionist Party in that House, and they were proud of him as one of the most determined opponents of that Bill and one of the most effective debaters. The reason why hon. Members opposite were so fond of attacking the right hon. Gentleman was because he was so quick in pointing out the weak spots in the proposals of the Government. The actual Leader of the Unionists in 1886, however, was not the Member for West Birmingham, but the noble Lord who then sat for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington). He thought if the Members of the Committee had read the numerous speeches of the late Member for Rossendale, they would agree that this exclusion of the Irish Members was never put forward by him, at all events, as the principal objection to the Home Rule scheme of 1886, and would not be put forward by the Duke of Devonshire to-day. Again, he would remind hon. Members that Mr. John Bright, then one of the respected Leaders of the Unionists, said that the only pleasant spot he found in the Home Rule Bill of 1886 was the clause excluding the Irish Members. That, at any rate, showed that this exclusion was not to many of them one of the most objectionable proposals in the Bill of 1886. The very passage which had been read out from the speech of the Member for West Birmingham showed conclusively that this was only one of the four principal points objected to in 1886 by the right hon. Gentleman, and this particular proposal was objected to not so much in itself as that it was the sign and necessary antecedent of separation. For himself, he (Mr. Hobhouse) could say that in no single speech of the many speeches he had delivered against Home Rule did he ever raise any objection to the clause excluding the Irish Members. He thought, however, it would be better to discuss the Amendment on its merits, 1209 and not to bandy about these charges of inconsistency. They had all a right to change their minds if they liked on this question as on others, and he thought it showed a weakness in the arguments of the supporters of the Government when they raised the contention that their opponents some years ago were in favour of a different course to that which they proposed to-day. He entirely agreed with one sentence of the Member for Northampton—that in this matter, as practical men, they should weigh the advantages against the disadvantages, and that was what he proposed to do in the remaining observations he would make. He had listened with great attention to the speech of the Prime Minister, in order to see how high he put the advantages of this present proposal. As far as he could discover, the right hon. Gentleman retailed three principal advantages arising from the retention of the Irish Members in the House. One was that by retaining them the financial relations between Great Britain and Ireland would be of a more elastic and satisfactory character. It was perfectly true that considerable difficulties must arise from excluding the Irish Members from that House, and, at the same time, requiring an annual payment from Ireland towards Imperial purposes. They knew that the tribute, as it was called in 1886, was one of the most unpopular parts of the Bill. But did they know that the financial relations of Great Britain and Ireland under the present proposals were going to be perfectly satisfactory or elastic? They could not discuss this matter at length on the present clause, and they would not probably have much opportunity of discussing it at all, owing to the closure arrangements made by the Government. They knew, however, that the Government proposed in their original Bill to separate the Customs from the Excise, and to put the Customs in the hands of the Imperial Government and the Excise into the hands of the Irish. That plan, which they coupled with the retention of the Irish Members, had, to all appearance, broken down; and whatever might be the fate of the new financial proposals, they could hardly as yet conclude that it was necessary to retain the Irish Members because thereby they would insure satisfactory financial relations between Great Britain and Ireland. Another argument for 1210 the retention of the Irish Members was that it would give to Ireland some voice in Imperial matters. No doubt that would be so, but would it lead to the Irish Members taking a greater interest in Imperial affairs? He thought there was nothing more remarkable than the fact that, whilst Irish Members were so eloquent and active in Irish matters, they were practically silent or took but little part in non-Irish and Imperial matters. They must not forget the attitude of Mr. Parnell upon this question. Judging from these data, he (Mr. Hobhouse) did not think, all things considered, there would be very much interest taken by Irish Members in non-Irish measures. This argument had, moreover, been refuted by the Prime Minister himself, when he said that what Ireland required and demanded was to govern herself in Irish matters, and not to have any special voice in questions of a non-Irish character. This disposed of two of the three arguments brought forward in favour of this proposal. The third argument was not the least important. It was that, by the retention of the Irish Members, the supremacy of Parliament would be exhibited to the world. That was, no doubt, true to some extent; but they had been reminded by supporters of the Government that the Imperial Parliament claimed, and sometimes exercised, supremacy over the British Colonies; and these Colonies were not represented in the Imperial Parliament. If the Irish Members were retained the supremacy of Parliament would be more apparent than real, and Irish Members would certainly use their votes to render the exercise of that supremacy weaker rather than stronger. On the other hand, there were two clear advantages from exclusion. In the first place, they would, to a very great extent, get rid of the apparently interminable discussions of the Irish Question, which was what the electors of this country mostly desired; and, in the next place, they would remove what must necessarily be a disturbing element in the Constitution whenever British Parties were equally balanced. He thought every elector who was not singularly stupid—every man of political intelligence—would see that. Anyone who had followed the history of the past 15 years would understand it. The Irish Members might now 1211 be closely allied to the Liberal Party. But he was almost inclined to think that, although the retention of the Irish Members in that House might be, for the present, a Party advantage to the supporters of the Government, yet the day would come when they would rue their determination to retain them, for the Irish would not always be in agreement with the Liberal Party. At the present moment the Government held their seats by virtue of the Irish Members' support; but could they say that the day would not come when the Liberals would lose the support of the Irish Members? There was still another consideration, that although they might deprive Ireland of direct representation in that House she would, undoubtedly, obtain a great deal of indirect representation, for the Irish vote was very solid in the great cities of this country. There were several Irishmen at the present moment sitting in the House as Representatives of British constituencies; and these gentlemen should be able to reflect, not only the opinion of the English constituencies, but of Irishmen on the other side of the Channel. It was true that an anomaly would be created if they continued to tax Ireland without giving her representation; but it had been said that the British Constitution was full of anomalies, and by this Bill they were enacting the greatest anomaly of all—an anomaly which must be productive of further anomalies. After considering the question carefully, he had come to the conclusion that, while both alternatives were objectionable, the balance of advantage was greatly in favour of exclusion.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
I would not rise, Mr. Mellor, but for the extraordinary contention of the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken with reference to the view held on this subject in 1886 by the Leader of the Liberal Unionist Party. The hon. Member has taken upon himself to state that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain) in 1886 did not consider the retention of the Irish Members as the essential part of his opposition to the Bill.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
Ah, yes; but is that a candid way of treating the subject? I will tell the Committee what the right hon. Gentleman wrote on the eve of the Second Reading of the Bill of 1886, in a letter addressed to the hon. Member for North St. Pancras (Mr. T. H. Bolton), with whom the right hon. Gentleman was acting in concert then as he is to-day. In this letter, which is dated May 7, 1886, the right hon. Gentleman stated that there were two principles in the Bill of 1886 which he regarded as vital.The first is the principle of autonomy"—that is, Irish autonomy, to which he was able to give a hearty support.The second is involved in the method of giving effect to this autonomy. In the Bill the Government have proceeded on the lines of separation or of colonial independence, whereas they should have adopted the principle of federation. The key of the position is the maintenance of the full representation of Ireland in the Imperial Parliament.The right hon. Gentleman stated in the letter that if that principle was accepted he would vote for the Second Reading of the Bill. What, then, becomes of the denial of the right hon. Gentleman's faithful follower? I would advise the hon. Member to make himself a little better acquainted than he seems to be with the views of his Leader. According to The Annual Register, the right hon. Gentleman was prepared to vote for the Second Reading if the Prime Minister would meet the wishes of many of his followers with regard to the maintenance of the full representation in the Imperial Parliament and of full responsibility for all Imperial affairs; and he was willing to leave all other points, including the separate treatment of Ulster, as details of the Bill to be settled in Committee.
§ [At this point Mr. J. CHAMBERLAIN entered the House amid Opposition cheers.]
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
I am very glad my right hon. Friend has returned, because I am defending him. One of his followers has denied that in 1886 he regarded as the vital and critical principle of the Bill of 1886 the question of the retention of the Irish Members, and I have just been quoting from a letter which the right hon. Gentleman addressed to the hon. Member for North 1213 St. Pancras to show what were the views of the right hon. Gentleman in 1886. On the First Reading of this Bill the right hon. Gentleman said—I argued in 1886 strongly for their retention, and I am prepared to argue strongly for it still.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
That was what I myself said, and I am defending the right hon. Gentleman from his ill-informed follower, who has undertaken in his absence to state his views in a manner which appears to me to be incorrect. The right hon. Gentleman also said that if the Irish Members were got rid of from Westminster, it would be impossible to maintain the supremacy of Parliament. There have been a great many Amendments which, according to their authors, were to fully maintain the supremacy of Parliament.
§ An hon. MEMBER: But they have been rejected.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
Yes; but it is proposed now to carry an Amendment which, on the authority of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, would put an end to that supremacy. The right hon. Gentleman used these words—I say, therefore, the retention of the Irish Members at Westminster is an essential condition of the maintenance of our existing Parliamentary supremacy and also of the unity of the Empire.I do not know whether those views are correct or not. I entirely concur in them myself; and I have taken the opportunity of putting them before the Committee, as I think that, coming from the right hon. Gentleman, they will carry much more weight with hon. Gentlemen opposite than anything I myself could say.
§ MR. CARSON (Dublin University)
said, he had to congratulate the Chancellor of the Exchequer on having summoned up courage, in the absence of the Leader of the House (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), to do what he was sure the Committee would think was a congenial task—namely, to try and find fault with an eminent Member for inconsistency.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
I beg pardon. I found no fault with the right hon. Gentleman; on the contrary, I quite agreed with him.
§ MR. CARSON
said, it was very difficult to see with what object the right hon. Gentleman rose at that particular stage of the Debate; but he certainly understood—and he thought the majority of the Committee understood—that the right hon. Gentleman's object was to show that the opinions of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham were inconsistent on the question now before the Committee.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
said, reference had been made to a statement of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, and he pointed out that the right hon. Gentleman attached importance to the retention of the Irish Members; and as he also himself did so, he was glad to have his opinion fortified by that of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. CARSON
said, he would leave it to the Committee to decide as to whether that was the amiable intention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer or not; but he thought that the Committee would probably later on hear something from the right hon. Member for West Birmingham which would set at ease the mind of the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the subject of his present and past opinions. If the argument in this Debate was to depend upon the question of consistency, he did not think it lay in the mouths of the Members on the Front Government Bench to make charges of inconsistency. Were the present opinions of the Chancellor of the Exchequer those which he held in 1886, when he was prepared to vote for the exclusion of the Irish Members? Whatever might be the ultimate fate of this clause in Committee, whether the Irish Members were excluded or retained, and either in reduced numbers or with reduced powers, the right hon. Gentleman would be found where he now was. Again, the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. J. Morley), whom he saw smiling, had changed his opinion on this vital matter, for in 1885 he had told the British people that one of the reasons why he became a Home Ruler was that it was absolutely necessary that the Irish Members should be excluded from that House. But when this matter had been fully discussed in the House, the right hon. Gentleman, on maturer consideration, expressed the opinion to his constituents that if the Irish Members were retained there would 1215 be a block in all business; English work would not be done, and Irish feelings would not be conciliated, but would be exasperated. The right hon. Gentleman was now prepared to vote for the scheme after six years' deliberation, and he told them he had been consistent all through. But it was surely unnecessary to refer to these matters, because the Prime Minister himself in 1886 stated that it passed the wit of man to devise a scheme which would be fair towards the English people by which the Irish Members should be kept in the House of Commons. Therefore, it came badly from Members opposite to get up and make charges of inconsistency concerning either of the Unionist Parties. But he had risen, as an Irish Unionist Member, with a desire to point out to the Unionists of Ireland that this matter involved a grave and serious problem. Though he hoped and prayed that the Bill would never become law, he was bound in argument to assume that it would, and to see what would be the ultimate results of the Government proposal. Primâ facie he would admit, as an Irish Unionist Member, that the proposition of retaining the Irish representation unimpaired and for all purposes was one which might be adopted; but when he looked more closely into the thing and considered what the Committee had already done, and what the Liberal Party had done in the past, he had come to the conclusion that the so-called safeguards, the small and flimsy reservations, would be more greatly imperilled by the retention of the Irish Members in the House of Commons than by making the Irish Members attend wholly and solely to Irish matters in their own Legislature in Dublin. Why did he say this? What were the safeguards? Take the veto. How did that stand under the Bill. The Lord Lieutenant under the Bill was given no discretion whatever; and, therefore, what would become of the safeguard if the Imperial Ministry held office at the will of the Irish Members? The veto in such a case as that would become more of a sham than it was in the Bill. Then there was the question of reserved subjects. Could these be fairly dealt with, and could the minority be adequately protected, if the Government of the day held Office by the votes of Irish Members? He should like to quote 1216 the Prime Minister himself on this point, because it was from this point of view, virtually, that they had to consider the matter, if the Irish Members were to be allowed to come over to this country in a large body as the Government proposed. In Midlothian-in 1886 the right hon. Gentleman said—I will suppose that owing to some cause the present Government have disappeared, and that a Liberal Parliament was called on to deal with this great Constitutional question of Ireland in the position in which it had only a minority dependent on the Irish vote for converting it into a majority.He went on to say—In such a position as that the Liberal Party would not be trustworthy.When he (Mr. Carson) looked back at what had happened within the last few years what he had to ask himself was this—"If I am relying on this veto, and the question of this reservation being preserved, can I trust to the Liberal Party if they are put into the position they occupy to-day—dependent on the Irish Nationalists for their majority—in which position they have exhibited a scandalous instance of most treacherous betrayal in regard to the loyal minority in Ireland? "If they had proved themselves to be untrustworthy in the past, how could they be depended upon in the future? Therefore, if the veto was to have any effect, if it was to be exercised independently, and if the reservations were to be maintained, the only chance was that the Imperial Parliament should be left independent of the Irish vote, and that no chance should be afforded of putting the Liberal Party into the position of maintaining themselves in Office by bribes to the Irish Party. They had been told over and over again that once they had passed this Bill the Irish Members would be different—that it would be difficult to get them to Westminster at all. But what did hon. and right hon. Gentlemen conceive would be the election addresses of the Irish Members—supposing this Bill passed—when they went to the constituencies and asked to be returned to the Imperial Parliament? Those addresses would not deal with such questions as Uganda, and whether there should be a betrayal of Sir Gerald Portal as there was of Gordon. No; the question would be—"How much further are you to go in 1217 making demands upon the Government"? The hon. Member for North Kerry had said on the Second Reading that Ireland's most vital interests were reserved by the Bill to this Imperial Parliament, and that for a long time to come, whilst those interests were so reserved, Ireland would be far more concerned in what was happening at Westminster than in what was being done in the Irish Legislature. Where that was the case was it not absurd to tell them not only that the Irish Members would not come here and interfere as they had done hitherto in Imperial and Irish questions, but that they were freeing the House from the consideration of Irish matters? Why, they were opening up a larger vista of Irish questions than ever, and doing that at a time when they had given up the control over the Irish Executive. Therefore, he said that, so far from getting rid of the Irish Question, it would be continually cropping up in an acute phase in the Imperial Parliament. Then they were told that the Privy Council was a safeguard to the Loyalist minority of Ireland; but the hon. Member for North Kerry had told the people of Dublin that if the Privy Council decided against the view of the Irish Legislature as to what were their powers, they could appeal to the Imperial Parliament to amend the Constitution. But the appeal to the Privy Council could only arise for the purpose of undoing something that the Irish Parliament had done. The moment, therefore, that the Privy Council decided that a question was outside the ken of the Irish Legislature, according to the hon. Member for North Kerry the Imperial Parliament would have an acute Irish question immediately raised within its walls.
§ MR. CARSON
asked, how could they prevent the contingency from arising? If there was an appeal to the Privy Council, and if it decided that matters legislated upon were within the ken of the Irish Legislature, the contingency would then arise. If these matters were to be constantly cropping up and interfering with the settling down of Ireland, he would prefer to give to Ireland out and out Home Rule untrammelled by these reservations which could only lead 1218 to constant unrest and disquiet in both England and Ireland. It was said that when this Bill was passed there would be one party of Irish Members here constantly trying to outdo the other in the demands made upon England with respect to the reserved subjects of legislation; and both uniting to exact something much larger than had ever been contemplated by anyone who voted for the Bill. What were the questions reserved? Why, all the questions on which agitation in Ireland had turned for the last 13 years. Land was reserved, and it was in reference to land disputes that all the troubles as to the administration of the law in Ireland and most of the failures of justice had occurred. The question of finance was also reserved. Would this scheme give rest to England or to Ireland? It was said that while these questions were reserved it was not fair to exclude Irish Members; but his answer was that if they granted Home Rule they ought to make up their minds what was to be done with finance and with the land, for these vast controversies should not be left open. The Government themselves, in 1886, said it was an obligation of honour to settle the Land Question before giving Home Rule. He knew it was often said that in making quotations from old speeches they were scavenging in dustbins; but, although men might leave their speeches in dust-bins, they could not leave their honour there. When it was said that they were leaving open the question of finance, in what position did they leave the Irish people as to that matter? It was held in some quarters that hitherto Ireland had been robbed, and now, though that opinion still prevailed, the question was to be left unsettled. Surely, if that were the case, one of the chief points in Irish election addresses would be the partial or the total abolition of what would be called the tribute to England. Well, seeing that the Prime Minister had told them that the Liberal Party could not be trusted while it was dependent on Irish votes, and seeing that the Irish Members declared that so long as there were subjects reserved the interest of the Irish Members would be centred in the Imperial rather than in the Irish Parliament, and seeing, above all, that the Liberal Party had been guilty of a 1219 betrayal of the interests of a loyal minority, and that the fact of the Liberal Party being dependent on Irish votes would, in the consideration of reserved subjects and the exercise of the veto, lead to the repetition of treachery and betrayal, he had no hesitation in supporting the Amendment.
§ SIR J. GOLDSMID (St. Pancras, S.)
said, he almost felt like a new Member speaking to-night, for this was the first time he had risen to say a word or two about the Bill. But the question now before the Committee was one which affected England as much as Ireland. It divided itself into two parts—the first was in what numbers, if at all, should Irish Members remain in the Imperial Parliament; and the second, with what powers? As to the first, he would say that was a question which could be decided in many ways. The hon. Member for Waterford, who spoke early in the evening, endeavoured to prove that, because the Unionist Members voted against the number 80, therefore they were in favour of 103. But that was a non sequitur, because many other numbers might be chosen. The Prime Minister was in favour of 80, because he regarded that number as in accordance with the population of Ireland as compared with that of England and Scotland; but careful calculation would show that in proportion to population Ireland ought not to have more than 74 or 75 Members. When the last Redistribution Bill passed in 1885 there was a demand for a diminution in the number of Irish Members, but it was not made. Why was that? Because the Prime Minister had made an arrangement with the Irish Members that it should not take place. The right hon. Gentleman wanted votes to carry his Bills, and that was the reason why to-day they were threatened with an unduly large number of Irish Members. To look at the matter from an Irish point of view, he could quite understand Ireland desiring to have full representation in the Imperial Parliament. The Government also were anxious to see Ireland have full representation, and the reason was obvious. He did not believe the Gladstonian Party would be in Office now if it had not been for their Irish supporters; and it was unlikely they would come in again without the aid of Irish votes. That 1220 was clear, seeing that the enthusiasm aroused by the Prime Minister, owing to his splendid energy and 83 years, had been able to effect so little. If all this enthusiasm had been insufficient to give the right hon. Gentleman a majority in England, how could the Party expect to have one in the future without the assistance of the right hon. Gentleman? But if they were to have 80 or 75 Irish Members here they had next to consider whether they were to be "in and out" or "all in." He ventured to think that "in and out" would not be very different from "all in," because the fate of an Imperial Ministry would be an Imperial question, and the Irish Members would come in and decide it, and so settle who was to govern England and Scotland. Now, he thought that if they had a Parliament in Ireland controlling Irish matters, English and Scotch Members ought at least to be allowed to settle who should be the Ministers in the United Kingdom. So far as he was concerned, he did not believe the English people would any longer allow Ireland to control English matters. The present proposal reminded him of what was said by a man speaking before a public audience at an election. He was asked whether he was in favour of Ireland for the Irish and he replied, "Certainly not; I say Ireland for the Irish and England, too." That was exactly what was now proposed. Ireland was to have her own Parliament to control Irish affairs; but, in addition to that, she was to have a voice in the United Parliament, which was to control English and Scotch affairs. That was a lop-sided arrangement which he was certain the English people would object to, for nothing could be more repugnant to their sense of fairness. England would have to pay for Home Rule by giving a large sum of money out of her pocket, and she would also have to pay by the loss of her independence. Whether the "in-and-out" principle or the "all-in" principle were adopted he did not care. It would in either case be bitterly unfair to England, and he, as an English Member, protested against it, and declared that it was a sufficient reason for opposing the Bill. It was clear that before the measure could possibly become law the people must be consulted upon it directly, and he be- 1221 lieved that when that time came the result would be that the present Ministry would return to that quiet repose which until last year they had enjoyed for six years.
§ MR. WYNDHAM (Dover)
said, he was in favour of the exclusion of the Irish Members, but it was impossible to recommend that scheme without disparaging the two other alternatives—of their admission with full or with limited powers. The Unionist Members were content with things as they were; but if the Home Rule Bill was to be passed, then they regarded either of the three possible alternatives as more or less deplorable; but under existing circumstances it was for them to endeavour to induce the Committee to accept the proposal to exclude the Irish Members altogether as the least deplorable plan. The Prime Minister this afternoon seemed to assume that a body of opinion existed in all parts of the House in favour of retaining the Irish Members in one form or another. Well, the Opposition, as English and British Members, were bound to strike a blow for the opposite opinion. In the past they had been debating a Bill for the government of Ireland, but they were now debating a clause which seriously touched the Government of Great Britain, which coloured and governed the whole of the Bill, and which justified the strenuous opposition maintained against it. For upon the retention of the Irish Members and the extent of the powers granted to them depended not only the chance of Parliament protecting the loyal minority in Ireland, but the chance of governing Great Britain according to British ideas. The Opposition had been accused of attaching too much importance to the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister habitually referred to it as a Bill granting reparation to Ireland for restoring rights, and for devolving minor duties upon a subordinate Assembly. Under all such descriptions there was a tacit suggestion that this Bill would introduce no great novelty into the Constitution. If this clause passed, either in its present state or if it were rendered more injurious by granting full powers to the Irish Members, the Opposition believed that the consequences to Great Britain promised to be at least as distinct from past experience, and, 1222 since greater interests were involved, more momentous than the consequences to Ireland. Last week a new Constitution for Ireland, though not discussed, was practically settled, and it remained between now and 10 o'clock p.m. on Thursday to settle the new Constitution of Great Britain and the Empire. There were three alternatives before the Committee—exclusion, retention with full powers, or retention with limited powers. Fortunately, there was no need to discuss the point of numbers, because that was a question of distribution, and could be settled at some future time. The true antithesis was between exclusion and retention. Every one of the alternatives involved a vital change in the Constitution of Great Britain and the Empire; and in deciding between the three the Committee ought to let their method of decision be positive rather than speculative, and based on the known facts of British politics rather than on formulas derived from Colonial and foreign systems. The Prime Minister had himself said that the plan proposed in the Bill of retaining the Irish Members with limited powers would destroy the equality of Members. It would also—and this was a far graver matter—destroy the stability of the Cabinet system. It might be that some workable system would be evolved out of this scheme—some system of responsibility to the electors of Great Britain. All that was certain, however, was that the present system which did render responsibility to the electors perfect in every respect was to be abolished. The retention of the Irish Members with full powers would also involve great changes by no means of advantage to Great Britain. One would still speak of the Member for Kerry and the Member for Louth, but those Members would possess attributes and powers which would be denied to every other Member of the House. They would run no risk in the combats that took place in Parliament, and fights would be conflicts between armoured and naked men. The Irish Members would have all the advantages of an invading force with no base to protect and no lines of communication to defend. It was impossible to exaggerate the change in the Constitution which would enable Members to decide on action the effects of which 1223 their constituents would never feel. The third alternative, that of exclusion, would not affect the Constitution to anything like the same extent, although the outward dissimilarity would be greater. Whilst the number of Members would be reduced, what he might call the catholicity of representation would be restricted. That would undoubtedly be a loss, as there was something appropriate in a composite Assembly presiding over an Empire which was the most infinitely varied in the world. But the change involved would be far less than that in either of the other alternatives. In judging between them he would ask the Committee to set on one side all the arguments derived from Colonial or Federal theories of representation. They were driven by the very form of the policy of the Government to judge the question upon the facts of English and Irish politics alone. They were driven to do this from the novelty and monstrosity of the scheme. He used the latter term not as a term of reproach, but as indicating a divergence from all known types of Constitution. There were many Members who thought the country was on the way to Federation. Federation was not, however, in the minds of the Government, judging from the vote given on Friday week, and it was certainly not in the Bill. It would be a step not in the direction of Federation, but in the direction of hopeless confusion, to have the Irish Members at Westminster, unless the two Parliaments were to be made distinct. The Bill was nothing but an empirical device solely designed to relieve legislative congestion at Westminster, and to free the House of Commons from conflicts in which Great Britain was not directly concerned. Which of the alternatives would best relieve the congestion of Business in the House of Commons, and free Westminster from the echoes of conflicts arising on the other side of St. George's Channel? He thought he was entitled on this question to ask the Government to lay aside for once their rôle of Irish partisans, and to look at the matter from a British point of view. There had been in Committee more than 100 Divisions on matters directly affecting Irish interests. Every one of them had been decided in conformity with Irish opinion, almost invariably against 1224 the view of the majority of the British electors and invariably against the views of the English majority. Would the Government not admit that the retention of the Irish Members with full powers was wholly indefensible from an English point of view? He would not quote the Prime Minister on this subject, as he did not wish to take up the time of the Committee by preferring a barren charge of inconsistency. If he had quoted him it would not have been to make a charge of inconsistency, but only because the right hon. Gentleman had put forward most views on most subjects better than most people. They had had this year on a small scale an illustration of what would be the effect of the retention of the Irish Members with full powers. The Direct Veto Bill had passed its First Reading against the will of the British majority, although it was to apply solely to England. Would the panacea of the Government gain willing acceptance from the constituencies of Great Britain if imposed upon them by such means? Did hon. Members wish to see questions relating to divorce, female suffrage, and protective tariffs for Great Britain decided by an Irish vote? Then as to the plea of detaining the Irish Members with limited powers, the same objection from a limited point of view applied, though in a less degree. The Irish Members would be secure from the criticism of any electorate; they could give their support to any Government or withhold it; and, therefore, though they would not directly decide upon measures, they would decide what Ministers were to pass them. Such a scheme would introduce unheard - of complications into the Constitution. What, then, would the House lose by the scheme of total exclusion? All they would lose would be the ingenuity of the hon. Member for Kerry (Mr. Sexton), of which they had had so notable an example that evening, and the passionate invective of the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. T. M. Healy)—both great losses, but luxuries which they could dispense with on a pinch. On the other hand, it would still be the case that the fate of measures and of Ministers would be determined only by those electors whose fortunes would be affected by the character of the one and the conduct of the other. Unless they adopted exclusion 1225 during Federation, if Federation indeed were in the womb of time, they must seriously impair the main stream of representative government. It remained only to ask whether, from the Irish point of view, any objection of such force existed as to countervail the primâ facie conclusion at which the Government arrived in 1886? There could be no rooted objection to such a scheme, for it was accepted by Mr. Parnell as part of a Bill of which the main concessions were less than the main concessions of this Bill. He was ready to admit that the hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. J. E. Redmond) had made out a certain case for rejecting this plan by pointing out that the present Bill reserved the control of the police and more or less of the revenue for six years. But these were, in the first place, only transitory provisions; and, in the second place, they were not comparable in their importance to Ireland to the issue which gravely affected the very mainspring of the Constitution in this country. It mattered more to Britain whether she should retain representative government unimpaired than it mattered to the Irish people who collected their taxes. Admitting the difficulty, it could be met in one of two ways: The Government could alter their financial proposals again. That was not a very unreasonable proposal. All he asked was that they should make these proposals sufficiently reasonable to invest them with permanence. Or they could retain their transitory finance, and, accepting the principle of exclusion, defer its application until after six years. That being the case for exclusion, he thought he might appeal to the supporters of the Government not to accompany their concession of the principle of free government to Ireland with a provision which, to use their own language, would wound it to the quick. For the British public it was the right of the Opposition to demand that the Government should not, against the explicit wishes of the British majority, import grave changes hostile to British interests into a Constitution of which they were only the temporary trustees.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON (Armagh, N.)
said, the Committee would remember that during the early stages of the con- 1226 sideration of the Bill in Committee, Members were perpetually reminded that some of their arguments were out of Order because they applied to Clause 9. They were told that when Clause 9 was reached they would have ample opportunity of reviewing the effects on Ireland and the Empire of the retention of the Irish Members in the House of Commons. But now that they had reached Clause 9, which was of sufficient importance to be a Bill in itself, and one that would worthily occupy the attention of Parliament during a whole Session, they found themselves limited to about 18 hours' debate. An Irish gag was forced into the mouths of British Members, when a proposal came on for discussion which, if carried, would have the result of destroying the present Constitution. The Prime Minister had spoken about "indefinitely-prolonged Debates." Well, the House had been engaged since March in discussing the Bill, and he supposed the discussion would conclude somewhere about the end of August. The House would, therefore, have been occupied for only about six months with a measure which affected the very existence of a Constitution which had taken 700 years of the courage, the patriotism, and the wisdom of the British people to erect. Clause 9, as far as Imperial interests were concerned, was the most important section of the Bill. For his part, he should vote with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Heneage), and for two reasons: In the first place, he had very great doubts as to the sort of Members Ireland would return to the House of Commons. He doubted very much whether the Irish Members who would be returned would be any safeguard for the interests of the Irish minority. In the second place, he thought the support given by the Nationalist Members to the Government proposal clearly showed that they believed—if they got a considerable number of men returned from Ireland—they would obtain a leverage which no Government would be able to resist, and which would enable them to wring further concessions from Parliament. The supporters of the Government would, he supposed, defend the policy of gag on the ground that the Conservatives had afforded them a precedent in regard to 1227 the Bill of 1887. [Cries of "Question!"] It was pre-eminently the question. They were discussing this question under the shadow of the Closure. They were taunted with having themselves established the precedent by closing the Debate of 1887.
Order, order! The hon. and gallant Member is not in Order in discussing the Order of the House.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
said, he bowed, of course and at once, to the ruling of the Chair. He supported the Amendment from an Imperial point of view; for if the Bill were carried in the form proposed by the Government, they would have in that House a body of Members returned for Ireland endowed with exceptional powers, and he ventured to think that if right hon. Gentlemen opposite ransacked the history of the whole civilised world they would fail to discover a single instance in which a similar proposal had been adopted. Irish Members coming from Ireland to represent Irish constituencies would have a right to deal with English affairs, while English and Scotch Members would have no right to interfere in the smallest degree with Irish affairs—Irish affairs would be absolutely tabooed in the House of Commons—[An hon. MEMBER: No, no! ]—and although the Prime Minister accused him and his friends of ascribing to Irishmen "a double dose of original sin," surely if they were to have these exceptional powers conferred upon them they ought to have a double dose of righteousness. He doubted if their record justified one in believing that they possessed anything of the kind. Had they ever shown Imperial instincts? Had they ever shown a desire to increase the strength of the British Empire? If their speeches were read, it would be seen that hatred of Great Britain had all along been the dominant factor underlying their political action, and yet it was proposed to retain them in that House. What would be their course of action? Up to the present time Irish Members had mainly devoted themselves to Irish affairs, and they had done so with some success; but in the future, when Ireland had been 1228 cut off from Imperial control, their action in that House would be directed to bring about that Imperial extremity which would be Ireland's opportunity. They had frankly avowed that they did not accept the Bill as a final settlement. [An hon. MEMBER: Question!] That was the Question, and the hon. Member who cried "Question" was a man to whom Providence had not given a mental hook upon which to hang an inference. Again, let them try and imagine what would be the policy of the Irish Members retained in that House, for they were indeed confronted by a great Imperial danger. Irish Members had openly and fearlessly avowed that they only accepted the Bill as an instalment, and, therefore, when the Irish Members were in the Imperial Parliament without any Irish matters to discuss, they would devote themselves to Imperial affairs. They would decide who was to sit on the Treasury Bench, and in time of stress and difficulty they would be able to bring about that crisis which would enable them to wring that further concession of complete freedom at which they had long aimed. The union of hearts which was talked about had never been accomplished between the Irish and the English people. The vast majority of the English people were dead against Home Rule. The union of hearts had been made not with the British people, but with the Prime Minister, the first in a long line of distinguished men who had occupied the position, and who, for the sake of buying an Irish majority, subsidised by Americans and elected by priests, had consented to sell and betray his country.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
In the course of this Debate allusion has been made by several Members and by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to speeches and letters of mine published in the year 1886. I appreciate very much the compliment they have paid me, and I hope in the course of the remarks I wish to address to the Committee to show my gratitude. But before I come to that point, which, after all, is comparatively insignificant, there are one or two preliminary matters to which I wish to draw attention. The first of these was brought forward at the close 1229 of the very interesting and clearly-reasoned speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Dover. He, in fact, raised the question how far the matters which are involved in this Bill ought or ought not to be determined with reference to the opinion of Great Britain. I have always held that in dealing with any change in the great Treaty of Union the two Parties have an equal right to be heard; and that unless the majority in Great Britain, as well as the majority in Ireland, are consenting parties to any change, no change at all ought to be proposed. But we are now dealing with a much more limited issue, and I am very glad to think that, upon this point at any rate, I am in entire agreement with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. Some reply was given to the Prime Minister's speech to-night by the hon. Member for Waterford on behalf of the Irish Nationalists. But I should prefer to go back further than that, and to remind my right hon. Friend of what he has said on previous occasions in the country, and never subsequently varied or contradicted, in regard to this important question of the retention of the Irish Members. In 1887, at Swansea, when the right hon. Gentleman was staying at the house of a late Member of this Assembly, who has now received the reward to which all wobblers look—
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
The hon. Member opposite will have to wait a long time yet—on that occasion the Prime Minister said—The question of the retention of the Irish Members at Westminster is a British question, which will always be a British one, and as to which the Irish may always be expected to conform to the well-considered wishes of Britain.Two months later, at the National Liberal Club, the right hon. Gentleman said—The retention of the Irish Members at Westminster is a matter in which England and Scotland, in which Great Britain, is entitled to a determining voice; and, whatever may be the determining voice of Great Britain, we have such disposition to defer to it as if we had never mixed in any way in the subject.So far as I know, the right hon. Gentleman never in any degree since varied that expression of opinion; and I think 1230 the Committee will agree with me that when we are dealing with our Constitution, and not with a new Constitution for Ireland—when we are dealing not with exclusively Irish affairs, but with the highest and greatest of Imperial interests, Great Britain has at least a right to a veto upon the proposals that are made. I ask the Government—"Will they guarantee that right and secure to the Representatives of Great Britain the determining voice of which the Prime Minister spoke in this matter in which their destiny is concerned? "I do not know whether the Government have any influence with the Irish Members; I do know that the Irish Members have a great deal of influence with the Government; but will they use whatever influence they may have over the Irish Members to induce them to leave the settlement of this question to the Representatives of Great Britain? In that case I can promise the Government that we will make short work of the clause. I suppose that no answer will be given. But do hon. Members who are supporters of the Government agree with the Prime Minister that this is a matter in which the people of Great Britain should have a determining voice? If so, how are they going to insure our having that right? They know that if we go to a Division on this question the majority of Great Britain will be overmastered by the 80 Nationalist Members. We have heard lately on high authority that the English race stands in need of discipline. That is rather a curious thing for the Prime Minister to have said in regard to three-fourths of the population which he is called upon to govern. At any rate, under his auspices the English race is getting a good deal of discipline. We are to be subjected to the Gagging Resolution; we are to be drilled in compartments. But the English people are not very amenable to this kind of discipline; they are the heirs of the traditions of a great governing race, by whose prowess our Empire has been built up. Temporarily, perhaps, they have had power wrested from them by the representatives of that organisation which the Chancellor of the Exchequer once called in this House "a vile conspiracy;" but that is only a temporary subjection, and the time is coming when 1231 the Government will be unable any longer to postpone an appeal to the people of Great Britain, and I have no doubt whatever as to the answer they will give. We are asked by the Amendment of my right hon. Friend to vote for the total exclusion of the Irish Members from the Imperial Parliament in the event of this Bill becoming law. I do not suppose there is one man in this House—I, at any rate, am not the one—who would look upon such a settlement as a final or satisfactory settlement. We have to decide, as has been said, between alternatives. What is the Government alternative? Again and again the Opposition have asked the Government to assist the deliberations of the Committee by saying to which of their proposals they intend to adhere; but those appeals have not been answered. We know, however, that the Government intend, until they may be better advised, to adhere to the number of 80 Irish Members in this House. But are the Irish to come over to Westminster for all purposes, or for certain purposes only? The Prime Minister has said to-day that we are inconsistent because at one and the same moment we accused him of undue pliability and extreme obstinacy. But is there any inconsistency in that? Has the right hon. Gentleman never heard of a man who was both weak and obstinate? Has he never heard of a man who at one moment showed obvious, nay, servile, acquiescence, and in the next exhibited a dictatorial and tyrannical spirit? There would be inconsistency if the charge were that the right hon. Gentleman exhibited these contradictory feelings towards the same people; but the point of the Opposition is that the Government is pliable when representations are made to it by the Nationalist Members, and obstinate when representations are made to it from the Unionist Benches. I ask what is the intention of the Government in this matter? The Prime Minister says that the House of Commons is the master. It is the majority of the House of Commons that is the master—the Irish majority. A short time ago the Irish majority were inclined to vote for 103 Members at Westminster, and the Prime Minister was prepared to accept the scheme. Now they have turned 1232 round and voted for 80 Members, and if they put pressure on the Government to allow the Irish Members to come back for all purposes, what guarantee is there that the Government will make a Cabinet question of it or will stick to the claus they have proposed? But, assuming that the Government will stick to their present proposal, what is it? It is, no doubt, an honest attempt to distinguish between those matters which are Imperial and those matters which are Irish and local. In 1886 the Prime Minister said that such an attempt was impossible, and that it passed the wit of man to draw the distinction. We will assume that he has changed his mind, and that, in the six years which have elapsed, he has found what is, to his mind, a satisfactory solution. I ask the Committee—Is it a really satisfactory solution? I will not put forward arguments of my own. We have complained in past Debates that the Government have either refused to answer our arguments or that they have answered them perfunctorily, and treated them almost with scorn. The Government have defended themselves for not answering our arguments by saying that they are useless and frivolous, and, accordingly, that the attention paid to them has been as much as they have been worth. But now the position of the Government is different. They cannot use that defence now, for the people whom they must answer sit upon the Treasury Bench. They are the right hon. Gentleman's own Colleagues. No doubt they have been converted since. I am not going now to make, and I never have made, any charge of inconsistency, because I admit the right of any statesman, for good reasons, to change his mind. In our political history not a single statesman will be found who has not owned again and again that conviction has been brought to his mind. There is only one condition: that it should be clearly shown that those who have changed their opinions have not gained by the change. I have said I am not going to put forward my own arguments, but those of Members of the present Government. Lord Rosebery is a distinguished and important Member of the Government. What did he say about the "in-and-out" arrangement? He said— 1233If you say, as many have said, we will admit the Irish Members only for Imperial purposes, what are you to do with the Irish Members when Imperial matters are not going on? Is the Speaker to ring a bell and say, 'The Irish Members may come in?' Then some English Member will say, 'I object to the Irish Members coming in. This is not an Imperial matter.' So we shall have a Debate perhaps for two nights as to whether it is an Imperial matter, and the Irish Members may come in. Then in the middle of Question time, or at the end of a Debate, the Speaker will ring a bell again, and say, 'The Irish Members will please return to their own quarters.' You will have these Irish Members in a state of perpetually suspended and restored animation.Lord Rosebery then, it appears, considered that the scheme would make the British Parliament ridiculous in the eyes of mankind. No doubt he has been converted; but is it too much to ask some Member of the Government to say by what argument Lord Rosebery has been converted? Perhaps, if we can hear it, we, too, shall be converted. But there are more serious arguments than mere ridicule against the proposal of the Government. If Irish Members are retained in Parliament for what are called Imperial purposes, their influence will be co-extensive with the Debates of the House. They will be able to use their influence on every British question by joining in a Vote of Want of Confidence whenever the Government makes any British proposal to which they object. For instance, supposing, as is extremely probable, that the Leaders of the Catholic Party in this country put forward views, which they have never repudiated, and which, in fact, are as their very breath, in favour of a strictly denominational system of education—supposing the British Government, acting in accordance with the sentiments of the vast majority of the British people, refuse to break up the present National system of education in favour of a denominational system—what is to prevent the Irish Members, who represent Catholic interests, from immediately afterwards voting the Government out of power? This is even more probable and more certain than that the Irish Members at Westminster will have absolute control over Irish matters. The supremacy of the Imperial Parliament and the right of veto has, indeed, been asserted in words to which we attach not the slightest importance; but how is the 1234 veto to be exercised with 80 Irish Members in the House of Commons? They make their vote on every Imperial question dependent on concessions being made in Irish matters. The Government will be absolutely at their mercy. This argument, again, has been used by an important Member of the Government who has been very silent in the Debates, but whose contribution now would be very instructive—I refer to the Secretary for Scotland. The right hon. Gentleman said—It is proposed to give to Ireland a Parliament of its own for Irish legislation, and to admit Irish Representatives to the Imperial Parliament to discuss and vote on Imperial matters, including, I suppose, the selection of the political Party which is to govern the Empire. But on Irish matters the Imperial Parliament is to have some sort of veto to prevent the Irish from doing gross injustice among themselves. But what will it be worth? Does anyone imagine that they are so dull and wanting in ingenuity that they are unable to use Imperial questions for the purpose of serving their own ends? If ever there was an Imperial question it was the question of Egypt; and it was notorious that time after time the Irish Members voted with every Vote of Censure on the Egyptian policy of the late Government, whatever it might be, in order to punish Lord Spencer and his colleagues for their policy in Ireland. The Irish will not only be absolute masters of their own Parliament in Dublin, but they will be absolute masters in our Parliament at Westminster.What is the answer to that? Will some Member of the Government, or some supporter of the Government—I cannot expect the Secretary for Scotland—tell us how he found salvation? By what course of reasoning was the right hon. Gentleman persuaded that the result which he feared at the time he made that speech is not likely to happen now? Nor is the Secretary for Scotland by any means alone in that opinion, for similar views have been expressed by Lord Rosebery and by the Chief Secretary for Ireland. My right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland used very remarkable words, which I know he will recollect. He said, arguing against this proposal to include the Irish Members—You are willing, in order to flourish about a Court sword—that is to say, the nominal veto"—my right hon. Friend did not think much of the veto then— 1235you are willing to give to Mr. Parnell all the real sharpness and the real strength of the weapon.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
Yes. The speech was delivered at the Eighty Club on June 8, 1886. I appealed to my right hon. Friend to say whether there is anything in that speech which he now repudiates? I understand my right hon. Friend to say "No." I expected that from his general consistency. That being so, how is it that he is a consenting party to allow a provision to be inserted in this Bill that will hand over to the Irish Members the whole reality of power? Had I known that my right hon. Friend stood firm to his old opinions, I should have protested in previous Debates against the uselessness of discussing that nominal veto—that Court sword—when the Government had agreed that what was the real substance and power should be handed over to the Irish Members. I will not press my right hon. Friend further upon the point, but I will tell him this—that we shall repeat his statement in the constituencies, and we will hold him, we will hold the Government, and we will hold the supporters of the Government on the statement that has been made on their behalf, that by this Bill they are handing over the whole substance and the reality of power to hon. Gentlemen opposite. I will only add that the view of my right hon. Friend is also the view of hon. Members who sit opposite. In 1886, before the split in the Irish Party occurred, United Ireland, which then represented the whole Irish Party, said—We are ourselves firmly persuaded that when the question is threshed out in Committee, and when Englishmen really understand how the duplex Irish Parliamentary power will work in practice, they will marvel how any Englishman could be insane enough to keep Irishmen omnipotent at Westminster as well as omnipotent in Dublin, and to place in their power all sorts of temptations to use that omnipotence vexatiously.If Members of the Government venture on this course with their eyes open they know what is thought of them by hon. Members opposite. Irish Members will 1236 think them perfectly insane if they make them omnipotent here as well as in omnipotent in Dublin. This "in-and-out" clause is not only a dishonest but an unsuccessful attempt to deceive the constituencies. The truth is that the whole Bill is a fraud. There is not a line of it in which some great difficulty is not recognised in order to be evaded and passed by. We have a supremacy which is a sham, safeguards which are illusory, and a veto which is nominal. The Bill practically hands over the minority in Ireland to the Leaders of the National League, and it makes the government of the United Kingdom impossible. Well, Sir, what is the alternative we have to consider? We are told that the alternative which we are recommended to consider is only experimental. Apparently the idea of the Government is that the experiment shall be tried for six years, and by that time the people of Great Britain will be heartily sick of it. This is a most monstrous proposal. These six years will be the most critical in the history of the Bill. Everything will be in a state of flux and uncertainty, and it is during this period that the Government propose to give this extraordinary and extravagant power to the Irish Members, with the certain result that they will use it to extort further concessions. Sir, I have said that in considering the Amendment we must look to the only alternative before us, and that is so bad that I cannot conceive anything equally damaging to British interests. I now come to the observations of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He was good enough to say that he appeared in the genial character of defender of my reputation. I trust my right hon. Friend will not think that I am not sufficiently grateful for his generous kindness if I remind him of the words of a character in a work called Romola—I think by George Eliot—Don't you be bringing up my words after swallowing them, and pretend that they are none the worse for the operation.My speeches on this subject have been perfectly consistent. I will not trouble the Committee with extracts, but I will give the result. We argued against the exclusion of the Irish Members, because that exclusion was not dependent upon 1237 the creation of a really subordinate Legislature. In one of my speeches I pointed out that if the 24th clause of the Bill of 1886 was given up, and the Bill remodelled in accordance with that concession, then there would be very little to choose between the Bill in its new form and the proposals for National Councils. If the Legislature given to Ireland were a purely subordinate Legislature, entirely and on every occasion under the control of this Imperial Parliament; if there were an effective control, and not a mere "Court sword," there would be no more reason for refusing the constituency of that Legislature representation in the Imperial Parliament than there is now for refusing the same representation to the London County Council or the London School Board. If, however, the Government will not give that effective control, then the inclusion of Irish Members is altogether inconsistent. I would refer the Committee to my speech on the First Reading of this Bill. I then put the matter sufficiently clear. I said then that the inclusion of the Irish Members at Westminster involved one of two alternatives. First, that this should be part of a Federal scheme involving the establishment of five separate Parliaments in the Kingdom. That is not the Government scheme. I do not know that they would wish to propose it. I doubt that they would dare to propose it; but I am quite certain that any such radical change in our Constitution would be opposed by a majority of our people. The second alternative was—and I laid most stress upon this—that the Legislative Body in Ireland should be purely and absolutely a subordinate Parliament. That is an alternative which the Government have rejected. Again and again we have appealed to the Government to make the veto effective. Again and again this was refused. The Bill of the Government has been drawn on the Colonial model, which is compatible only with the exclusion of the Irish Members from the Imperial Parliament. It appears to me that total exclusion, under the circumstances, is the lesser of two evils, for, while the Imperial Parliament will then have no control over Irish affairs, we shall, at least, be masters in our own House. Under the plan of the Government we shall be masters 1238 neither in the one nor the other. The Government has failed to distinguish between local and Imperial affairs, and yet they bring forward this plan for Home Rule. The Government is no nearer a solution than they were in 1886; and yet, relying upon the authority and the name of the Prime Minister, relying above all on the severity of Party discipline, they are now called upon blindly to swallow this absolutely indigestible morsel—the 9th clause; and the Prime Minister makes this demand in the vain hope that somehow or other, by a miracle from Heaven or the grace of the Irish Members, this plan will come out right in the end. The truth is that the Government are like gamblers made desperate—they are playing their last throw. The interest of the minority in Ireland, the welfare of Great Britain, the unity of the Empire, they are all staking upon an almost impossible chance. For my part, I believe that when the appeal, to which we are all anxiously looking, is made to the country it will register a verdict emphatically condemning this scheme—a scheme so entirely opposed to the best traditions of English statesmen.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I think it will be admitted on all sides that the Government at this moment cut a very deplorable figure. I could hardly have conceived that they would leave unanswered the speeches of hon. Gentlemen behind them; the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down; and, above all, their own speeches. And yet what attempt at reply have they made? The Chancellor of the Exchequer came down early in the evening and made that particular kind of speech of which he is a master—namely, a violent attack on the inconsistency of someone. But as for defence, he made no defence of the policy of the Government. I am not concerned about the consistency of anybody—not even of the Government. I am ready to forget the speeches of the Prime Minister, the Chief Secretary for Ireland, and even those of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, though I do not think the right hon. Gentleman spoke on Irish questions at that time. I do not wish to twit them with inconsistency. But I do wish to have some answer, even if it be perfunctory. Let 1239 us have some reasons for the change. But what have we got? The Chief Secretary has not deigned to say a word. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has not got beyond tu quoque, and the Prime Minister's reasons can be disposed of in five minutes. Three reasons were given by the Prime Minister. The first was Parliamentary supremacy, which, even secure if the Irish Members were excluded, would be more obvious if retained.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I did not hear the word "guarantee," but no doubt it was owing to a defect in my hearing. I will take it that the right hon. Gentleman used the word "guarantee." The whole of the argument of the right hon. Gentleman during 1886 and 1887 was that Parliamentary supremacy would be secured whether the Irish Members were here or not. What is the use, then, of guaranteeing that which is perfectly secure? That was the first argument, and I am not sure that it was not the best. The second argument was that if the Irish Members were retained they could lay the case of Ireland before the House whenever it came up for discussion. But we do not want 80 gentlemen to lay the case of Ireland before us. Under the scheme of the Government we are to get 80 speeches and 80 votes from the Irish Members—that is to say, 79 unnecessary speeches and 80 unnecessary votes. One speech from the Member for North Kerry will be enough to make the House thoroughly acquainted with any point that may come up for discussion. The third reason was that the feeling of the country was against the exclusion of the Irish Members. The feeling of what country? I suppose the right hon. Gentleman means the feeling of Great Britain. But does Great Britain want it? We do not know yet, but I suppose we shall know in half an hour when the Division is taken.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I say that a reference to the judgment of Parliament is the way to obtain the verdict of Great Britain.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The right hon. Gentleman thinks the way to test the rights of Great Britain as distinguished from the rights of the United Kingdom is to go to the votes of the United Kingdom and to ignore the votes of Great Britain.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I said nothing of the kind. I said that asserting the right of Parliament to deal with this question is the true way of ascertaining the legitimate feeling of Great Britain.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
That is what I said. The rights of Great Britain are to be determined, not by the votes of Great Britain, but by the votes of the United Kingdom, and that is what the Prime Minister says is testing the feeling of the country. For my own part, I utterly deny that the feeling of the Party who support the right hon. Gentleman in this matter is the feeling of the country. I challenge the Government, if they still think the wishes of Great Britain are to decide this matter, to consult the Division List when it comes out tomorrow; and if the feelings of Great Britain, as shown in that Division List, are that the rights of Great Britain will be imperilled by the retention of the Irish Members, then, by every pledge the right hon. Gentleman has ever given in the country, he is bound to restore the Amendment. There is one reason, and one reason only, beyond those I have already enumerated, which the Prime Minister condescended to give to the Committee in answer to the long argument by which he endeavoured to support the Amendment five or six years ago. What was that reason? The right hon. Gentleman said that the Government were pledged, and that, being pledged, they could not go back upon their word. When did this passion for consistency seize right hon. Gentlemen opposite? When was it that they first found themselves bound irrevocably by 1241 speeches made in the country five years before? I have always thought that the astonishing flexibility of opinion which the Government has shown in all these matters—though it has defects and disadvantages—would, at all events, prevent them from throwing in our faces the fact that they were pledged to a particular line of policy. Why are the pledges given from platforms in 1888 more important than the pledges given from the Treasury Bench in 1886? Why is the unreasoning concession to Irish opinion which the Prime Minister is now acting upon absolutely binding upon the right hon. Gentleman and his Colleagues, while the reasoned opinions on which the Bill of 1886 was framed are so much waste paper? Of all men in the House the right hon. Gentleman should have been the last to appeal to consistency; but if he did appeal to consistency he ought to have appealed to a consistency founded on sound argument and careful reasoning, and not founded on opinions which he has never attempted to defend, which he has uttered as a casual and irresponsible statement, and for which he has never yet given a reason. For his own credit as a statesman of far-reaching views, if he did make these wonderful tergiversations, he ought, at all events, to take the public into his confidence and to give the reason which has made him and his friends and the Party behind them repudiate every opinion and every argument which with so much force they expressed eight years ago. It is evident that we have to argue this case against absolutely dumb opponents. They make no endeavour to reply either to us or to themselves. They will sit there until it is time to vote, and then, no doubt, they will vote with wonderful unanimity. But before I sit down I should like to state my reasons for the vote which I intend to give to-night—
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The vote which I mean to give whenever this Question is put from the Chair. I will say at once that I think there is the very gravest objection to be urged against the proposal to exclude the Irish Members. 1242 I feel to the full every argument advanced against depriving Parliament of the services of the Irish Members, and against paving the way to separation, for to that end expulsion may not improbably lead. I do not support the Amendment because I like it on its merits. I support it because I dislike it less than any possible alternative. In my opinion, any one of the alternatives which the ingenuity of man ever has suggested, or could suggest, is so conclusive as to require nothing further to show that Home Rule is an impossibility. No one need look beyond this 9th clause to see that no man who values the Parliamentary Institutions of this country or the unity of the Empire ought to vote for Home Rule. But we are not discussing the Second Reading of the Bill. The Second Reading has been carried, and the only question we have to decide is, what is the least noxious form in which Home Rule can be carried? Any form of dealing with the Irish Members is well-nigh intolerable, and we have only got to decide which is the least intolerable of the three alternatives. I will ask the Committee to consider what decision they ought to come to from the Irish point of view, the English point of view, and the purely Parliamentary point of view. First, from the Irish point of view. If we keep the Irish Members here in any numbers it is inevitable that we will be constantly troubled with the Irish Question. That Ireland will block the way even more than Ireland blocks the way now I feel sure, for the interference by this House in Irish affairs will be continual and vexatious. But if you exclude the Irish Members what will happen? If the Irish Members are excluded the result will be that they will seldom come before this House, and will only come before us when something occurs in Ireland of an overpowering and pressing importance; and when such matters do come before this House, it will then be able to devote its attention to them, undisturbed by Party considerations, with absolute impartiality, and with nothing to gain or lose by any decision that may be come to, and with power to enforce the veto not only with regard to justice, but with an absolute disregard to the merely Party wire-pulling and to political considerations which, under any other con- 1243 tingency, would so largely influence our action. Therefore, I say to Irish Members, whether Nationalists or Loyalists, if you wish the Bill to work smoothly, if you wish to have the veto effective, you are bound to exclude the Irish Members. So much for the case of Ireland. What is the case of England? I will follow the example of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, and will quote the sentiments of the Chief Secretary for Ireland on the matter. That right hon. Gentleman in 1886 at Newcastle used these words—I do not care where you draw the line in theory, but you may depend upon it there is no power on earth which can prevent the Irish Members, if retained at Westminster, from being in the future Parliament what they have ever been in the past—the arbitrators and masters of English policy, of English legislative business, and of the rise and fall of British Administrations.I see the right hon. Gentleman nods his assent. Does the right hon. Gentleman nod his head to indicate admiration for his previous speech? Is it a purely platonic sentiment? Is it the sentiment of a man looking from the outside at those utterances, and having no part or lot in them? Or does the right hon. Gentleman dissent from them? I think the Committee has a right to know. Do these admirable and vigorous sentiments still express the sentiments of the right hon. Gentleman or not? Is it respectful to the Committee to remain absolutely silent? I do not quote these words in order to prove the right hon. Gentleman's inconsistency, but I quote them because they express my own view in language better than I can command; and I ask again the man who composed that language whether he can now find a reply to it? I wonder whether, in the whole experience of the House, there has been a case in which Ministers have been taunted with quotations of this kind, and have never attempted—I will not say—an apology, but a reply, which is all I ask for. Was I not right in beginning my speech by saying that the Government were in a most humiliating position? The Government are for the moment the guardians and custodians of the policy of this country and of the rights of this House, and they are advocating a Bill which, by their own previous statements, cuts at the root of the 1244 Legislature of this country and at the rights of this House, and they have nothing to say in defence of it. Is that their duty? Is it consistent with common decency? The Chancellor of the Exchequer, who never minds being taunted with his own previous speeches, and who in this case for once has made no previous speeches which can be quoted against him, is extremely cheerful. But I doubt whether the right hon. Gentleman's hilarity is shared by either of the two gentlemen who sit upon his right.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I accept the view of the right hon. Gentleman as to his own state of mind, and will attribute his cheerfulness to the fact that the speech from which I quoted was made by his Colleague and not by himself. We all view with some degree of satisfaction the misfortunes of our friends. But the Prime Minister himself could not dissociate himself from the arguments by which the present Amendment has been supported in the past by the Chief Secretary, and it is by these arguments we trust to support our contention first in the Committee and afterwards in the country. By their deliberate intention to retain the Irish Members the Government may possibly be temporarily serving the interests of their Party, and may retain the management of the affairs of Great Britain for a Ministry which has not the confidence of Great Britain. But the Government know well, and they have not attempted to deny it, that that temporary advantage will be paid for by a permanent loss to the country which it is impossible to estimate; and that henceforth British legislation, administration, the fate of Governments, and of British policy will lie in the hands not of the electors of Great Britain or of those whom they send to this House, but in the hands of men who have never in the past shown the slightest desire for the greatness or prosperity of this country, and who will assuredly use the power which the Government are so rashly putting into their hands, not for the furtherance of British interests, but 1245 for the furtherance of their own, and for the modification of this so-called final settlement from time to time in the interests of the Irish National League.
§ Mr. W. E. Gladstone rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ MR. W. REDMOND (Clare, E.)
, sitting with his hat on, said: As a point of Order, Mr. Mellor, I wish to ask whether it is tolerable that an hon. Member in this House should use the expression "Shame"? If it is not in Order I wish to say that I distinctly heard the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham use that word several times.
The expression did not reach my ears, but of course all such expressions are out of Order and disorderly.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 241; Noes 211.—(Division List, No. 205.)
§ Question put accordingly, "That the words 'each of the' stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 240; Noes 209.—(Division List, No. 206.)
§ It being after Midnight, the Chairman left the Chair to make his report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.