§ [FIFTH NIGHT.]
§ Considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Clause 1.
§ Question again proposed, "That Clause 1 stand part of the Bill."
§ SIR J. GORST (Cambridge University)
I am glad that the Debate did not close last night, as I am enabled to make a few observations on the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General. That speech partook of the character of all the speeches we have heard from the Government on this occasion. It did not attempt to answer the arguments which had been raised from this side of the House, and upon which a considerable number of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen in common with myself honestly and sincerely asked the advice of the hon. and learned Gentleman. As a profession of faith in sound Constitutional doctrines the speech was admirable, but it did not tell us anything we did not know before, and it did not throw the least light in the world on the point we had raised. The whole argument of the Solicitor General was based on the assumption that this House has, irrespective of Statute, complete jurisdiction to legislate for Ireland, and that that jurisdiction can neither be interfered with nor taken away by any operation of Statute. This is exactly the point upon which doubts have been raised, and upon which the hon. and learned Gentleman was asked to state his views. I will, with the permission of the Committee, state as shortly, distinctly, and clearly as I can what it is that I wish the hon. and learned Gentleman to answer. Up to 793 the year 1719 doubts had been raised on numerous occasions in Parliament and before the Courts as to whether the Parliament of Great Britain was competent to legislate for Ireland, the affirmative being asserted in Great Britain, while in Ireland it was asserted with equal determination that this Parliament was not competent. So grave were these doubts that in 1719 a Declaratory Statute was passed (6 Geo. I., c. 6), the enacting part of which was as follows:—Be it declared, &c—That the said Kingdom of Ireland hath been and is and of right ought to be subordinate unto and dependent upon the Imperial Crown of Great Britain … and that the King's Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords spiritual and temporal and the Commons of Great Britain in Parliament assembled, had, hath, and of right ought to have, full power and authority to make laws and statutes of sufficient force and validity to bind the Kingdom of Ireland.I think it will be conceded by the Solicitor General that a Declaratory Statute does not and cannot of itself give jurisdiction if none before existed, and therefore this simply amounted to a declaration of the opinion of the Parliament of Great Britain. Still, it was a very valuable piece of evidence that in the opinion of that Parliament jurisdiction had existed prior to 1719, and from that date onwards those who alleged jurisdiction had at least that Statute in their favour. But the position was entirely reversed by what took place in 1782, because in that year an Act (22 Geo. III., c. 53) was passed by the British Parliament to repeal the Statute of 1719, and, in repealing it, doing away with the whole of the argument which that Act furnished in favour of the jurisdiction of Great Britain, and putting those who asserted it in even a worse position than that which had been occupied before 1719, inasmuch as it was a sort of confession of error on the part of Parliament. But that is not all. In 1783 a further Act was passed by which the British Parliament absolutely repudiated all claim to jurisdiction over Ireland, and enacted a Declaratory Act in precisely a contrary direction. The Preamble sets forth that doubts had arisen under the Act of the preceding year, and enacted (23 Geo. III., c. 28)—That the said right claimed by the people of Ireland to be bound only by laws enacted by His Majesty and the Parliament of that King- 794 dom in all cases whatever. shall be, and it is hereby declared to be established, and ascertained for ever, and shall at no time hereafter be questioned or questionable.The question really is, whether this right existed before 1719? If it did, all those Statutes are mere moonshine, and cannot take it away. I can assure the Committee that we sincerely and honestly put forward these arguments, although I know that it is the fashion among hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite to believe that every speech made by the Opposition is animated by some sinister motive. Undoubtedly after 1783, it was questionable whether the Parliament of Great Britain had power to legislate over Ireland; for by the Act of that year it had expressly disclaimed its right to do so, and from a moral, historical, or legal point of view had done everything it could to stop itself from ever raising a contention that it had a right prior to 1719 to legislate for Ireland. Under these circumstances, the Act of Union was passed, and the only authority we now have is based on that Act. If that is so, our right is based on Statute, and what Parliament has given Parliament can take away. I will ask the Solicitor General this definite question—Cannot this Parliament now pass an Act repealing the Act of Union and annihilating the whole right which the Imperial Parliament now possesses to legislate for Ireland? The hon. and learned Gentleman's argument was based on the idea that such a right could be taken away. He said, "Don't mention supremacy in this Bill at all, because a Statute cannot take it away." But if the contentions I have now been submitting to the Committee are sound, it is obvious that the greatest possible care ought to be exercised in order that the present Bill may not take away that right which the Government intends to preserve. That point was clearly put some days ago, and the Solicitor General got up to answer it, but was pulled down by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland. I have the greatest respect for the abilities and power of the right hon. Gentleman, but upon a question like this he is no more an authority than I am. What we should like to know is, what the Solicitor General has to say on that point? The Solicitor General will admit that in his excellent speech 795 yesterday he omitted all notice of that point. There must have been some sinister motive in the hon. and learned Gentleman's mind which prevented him from answering that question, and I believe it is the same motive which colours every speech made on the Treasury Bench. Why are we not to be allowed on a very important question of this kind to show the Government the difficulties under which we labour? If the Bill is one which the Government can really recommend to the country, and which they hope will be carried into law, why should they decline upon every occasion to satisfy the reasonable curiosity of Members on this side of the House who are desirous of criticising the Bill in a friendly way?
§ *THE SOLICITOR GENERAL (Sir JOHN RIGBY,) Forfar
Mr. Mellor, I desire to correct my right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Cambridge on several points of fact. It must be imagination which led him to suppose that he saw me getting up to answer him when he made the appeal to me. I had not the slightest idea of getting up, because, as I said before, I do not think he has the slightest right to attempt to force me against my inclination. I am also surprised that the suggestion of a sinister motive could have occurred to him possible. At any rate, no sinister motive actuated me. I will now say in a few words all I have to say. Shortly before the right hon. Gentleman spoke I listened to the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Mid Armagh, which was nothing more nor less than an abstract of one or two of the well-known chapters of Dr. Ball's book. The right hon. Member for Cambridge University did not appear to be aware of that fact, and to him that point, which is well-known to students of that portion of history, was quite novel. There was nothing fresh about it at all; but as might be expected from a writer of Dr. Ball's accuracy, the speech, which was a mere exposition of Dr. Ball's chapters, was in itself accurate. I agree that in the last century it was one of the most vexed questions whether or not the British Parliament had an inherent right to legislate for Ireland. I also agree with what appears to be a perfectly evident proposition of the right hon. Gentleman, that no Act of the British Parliament, either in affirm- 796 ance or repudiation of the jurisdiction which it possesses, can have any binding effect. It appears to me, therefore, that in the question so raised there really is nothing relevant to the present measure, because when we go to the action of the Legislatures of Ireland and Great Britain which led to the Act of Union all doubts and difficulties are removed, and we have it under the undoubted authority of that Act that the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland has jurisdiction and authority. I am told that it is a mere Act of Parliament. But can there be a better title than an Act of Parliament? Under what title is Her Majesty's Throne held but by an Act of Parliament? There is not, and cannot be, a higher, a more perfect, and a more indisputable title than that which is given by an Act of Parliament. This is what I mean when I talk of the supremacy of Parliament—that there is no authority in existence that can question it, and that the only limit upon it is this: that it cannot by any Act of its own take away from itself that supreme authority. The right hon. Gentleman suggests that there may be a repeal of the Act of Union; but admitting it to be the case, that is not in any way contemplated by the Bill. The Constitutional question might arise whether the Parliament of the United Kingdom can destroy and annul itself; but that question is not raised now, and I prefer to leave it until the occasion arises for discussing it. That it can limit the authority of future Parliaments is denied by a concurrence of authority, which is, so far as I know, without a single exception, among jurists and writers of reputation and position.
§ *MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)
said, the Chief Secretary referred the previous night to what he described as the tactics of the Opposition. Now, whatever the right hon. Gentleman might have referred to, he must have exempted the Ulster Members, because no Ulster Member had spoken during the entire Debate on the Amendment before the Chair, although five or six of them had risen repeatedly with that view. The right hon. Gentleman also complained that the Debate upon Clause 1 had in reality been a Second Reading Debate. He should like to know what else the Debate could be? What was the principle of the Bill? The main 797 principle of the Bill was to establish an Irish Legislature, and the 1st clause was the very clause that would set up that Legislature. How could they debate the clause, therefore, without debating the principle of the Bill? The clause before the Committee was applicable to the whole of Ireland, and was applicable to a Province of Ireland against the direct vote of the majority of the Constitutional Representatives of that Province. The Committee, so far as it was able, had practically imposed a yoke upon the neck of the people of Ulster which was hateful to them, and which was imposed in face of the solemn warnings of that Province. They had imposed that yoke upon the necks of the people of Ulster against the votes of their Constitutionally-elected Representatives —not Representatives chosen by the priest, not Representatives chosen by clerical influence in any shape or form, and they had imposed it in face of the solemn protests and warnings of that Province conveyed in every Constitutional way they were capable of being conveyed. That Province had declared, in language perfectly direct and perfectly plain, that if such a Legislature were forced upon them they would not pay the taxes which the Legislature imposed, and they had, in language which could not be misunderstood, said that they would resist its authority. They knew, and he knew, that many hon. Members on the Ministerial Benches, who pretended to be so easy about the matter, knew, that if it were sought to force the Bill down the throats of the people of Ulster, they would have to enforce it by British bayonets. He asked the Committee to consider what that really meant. They had scouted the voice of the Representatives of Ulster, and they must now force this hated Legislature upon them by coercion. What was Great Britain to gain by the exchange of one form of coercion for another? For six years the Gladstonian Party had been denouncing coercion in every part of the country. That coercion he held to have been the coercion of crime and the coercion of lawlessness. But what kind of coercion will they have in Ulster? They would not have to coerce crime, or to coerce lawlessness; but they would have to coerce the majority of a Province simply because of their passionate loyalty to the 798 Empire, and because of their determination not to be thrust outside its pale, [Irish laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen laughed, but they did not represent a majority of the people of Ulster in this Parliament as they did in the last, and their representation would be worse instead of better in the next Parliament. The Prime Minister professed to be always ready to consider this question of Ulster. The right hon. Gentleman stated, in reply to a question he had addressed to him, that in 1886 the Government were ready to consider any proposition in regard to the question of North-East Ulster, as he was pleased to call it. The Prime Minister had been good enough to give him the reference to the statements on which he based that assertion; and on consulting those references, he (Mr. T. W. Russell) found that the statement which the Prime Minister made in 1886 amounted to no more than this: that whenever the representation of the North-Eastern portion of Ireland submitted a proposal to the Government it would receive the fairest consideration that the Government could give it. The right hon. Gentleman also said that in making that proposal he had the general concurrence of Mr. Parnell and the Irish Nationalist Party. On the day when the Mines (Eight Hours) Bill was discussed the right hon. Gentleman said the offer was still open, although he did not say whether this received the concurrence of the Nationalist Party. At least one prominent Member of that Party had expressly repudiated the proposal. The Government said they were ready to consider any proposal made by the Ulster Members. It was not the business of the Ulster Members to approach the Prime Minister on this matter. They did not want the Bill at all. They had told the Government so in the plainest language that men could use; and, therefore, the Government had no right to ask the Representatives of Ulster to make any proposal to exempt Ulster from the 1st clause of the Bill. Their business was to destroy the measure. It was the business of the Government to make their Bill just and safe. It was the business of the Opposition to destroy it. They had made no secret of that. They had declared plainly that that was their business. 799 The Government were prepared to "consider" anything. It seemed to him that their position all along the line was—the smallest contribution thankfully received. Speaking for the Ulster Members, he would say that they should make no proposals in relation to that Province. When the Government made them they should be considered. They should give their proposals the fairest consideration. He thought they had much better right to ask the Government to make this proposal than the Government had to ask them to make it. The Government had introduced the Bill, and they were seeking to pass it. It was not the duty of the Ulster Members to make its passage easy, and they were not going to make it easy. He said again that they would not make any proposal with regard to the promise of Ulster in this Bill. When the British people had been consulted, and when they declared in favour of Home Rule, then it would be time for the Ulster Members to act; then it would be time for them to consider whether they should dismember Ireland as well as the Empire. They had heard during the discussion a great deal about the supremacy of Parliament, and about the Irish Assembly being subordinate to the Imperial Parliament. He had been making a very interesting collection of Gladstonian candidates' speeches in Great Britain. He did not mean their election addresses, but speeches and replies to questions. They were most interesting reading, not for their merits, because they are very poor literary performances in almost every case.
MR. MAC NEILL (Donegal, S.)
§ MR. MACARTNEY (Antrim, S.)
I rise to a point of Order, Mr. Mellor. I desire to call your attention to the constant and disorderly interruption of the hon. Member for South Donegal behind me.
I can only appeal to hon. Members to assist me in keeping order. I must appeal to every hon. Member, of whatever Party he may belong, to assist me in the preservation of order.
MR. MAC NEILL
As I have been expressly referred to, I rise now to a point of Order. All I said was "Question, question!" and I said that because 800 the hon. Member was speaking assumedly on this clause, and in reality he said he was making a collection of Gladstonian speeches—which have nothing whatever to do with the clause.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
said, he would do his best to keep in Order, but he really thought hon. Members opposite ought not to be so thin-skinned. Nothing amused him more than the stickling for points of Order from Nationalist Members. As he had said, he was making a collection of the speeches made by Gladstonian candidates on the supremacy of Parliament and on the Irish Assembly being subordinate to the Imperial Parliament. Reading the speeches, it was exceedingly difficult to understand how these hon. Members had resisted the insertion in the clause of words directly bearing on the supremacy of this Parliament. The object of the Amendment, to have the word "subordinate" inserted in the clause, was to make the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament effective. He admitted that with the Bill as it stood, it mattered little whether "supremacy" was put in the Preamble or in a clause. [An hon. Member on the Irish Benches interjected a remark which did not reach the Reporters' Gallery.] He had caught the expression of his hon. Friend, and he did not think those words ought to be used in the House. He thought those who were responsible on the Treasury Bench for the order of the House ought not to allow them to be used.
§ MR. VICARY GIBBS (Herts, St. Albans)
I beg to move, Mr. Mellor, that the words just used by the hon. and learned Member for South Donegal be taken down.
§ MR. VICARY GIBBS
He said, addressing the hon. Member for South Tyrone, "What the devil are you talking about?"
I must appeal to the hon. Member for South Donegal to say whether he used the words imputed to him.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBORNE (Rochester)
There is no doubt about it. We all heard them—"What the devil are you talking about?"
MR. MAC NEILL
I assert, on my honour, that I never used one word of the expression imputed to me or anything like if.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
I was sitting by the side of the hon. Member for South Donegal, and I can state from my own knowledge that be made use of no such expression whatever.
§ MR. MACARTNEY
I quite agree with what the hon. Member has said, but I called your attention, Sir, to the fact that the hon. Member for North Kerry used the words.
§ MR. SEXTON (Kerry, N.)
Mr. Mellor, the statement is untrue. I made use of no such words or expression of any kind whatever.
§ MR. HARRINGTON (Dublin, Harbour)
I am sitting behind the hon. Member for North Kerry, and I did not hoar him use the expression.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Sir W. HARCOURT,) Derby
I rise, Mr. Mellor, to call attention to the fact that not only to-day, but yesterday, hon. Gentlemen have risen up to charge particular hon. Gentlemen with making particular statements, and asked for them to be taken down after those hon. Gentlemen have stated, and after those around them have stated, that no such words were used. I ask you whether hon. Gentlemen opposite should not be more cautious in getting up, as the noble Lord has just done, to make statements which an hon. Member has said upon his honour he never uttered? Hon. Gentlemen sitting around the hon. Member confirmed what he said.
MR. MAC NEILL
Mr. Mellor, I call upon the hon. Gentleman who made the statement against me for a distinct and humble and an absolute apology.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR (Manchester, E.)
In reference to the observation which has fallen from the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir W. Harcourt) I do not wish to follow his example, and add any bitterness to the controversy. Though it may be true, and no doubt is 802 true, that a particular gentleman accused of using those words may not have uttered them, what unfortunately, Mr. Mellor, is equally certain, is that the words were used by some gentleman sitting below the Gangway, and that they were uttered in so loud a tone of voice that they were heard distinctly across the floor of the House. I would venture to suggest that the incident might close: but I hope it will result in hon. Gentle-men restraining their emotions, and not indulging in expressions unparliamentary in themselves, and which certainly do not conduce to the harmony of the proceedings or the decency of Debate.
§ MR. VICARY GIBBS
The Chancellor of the Exchequer has attacked me for having charged an hon. Member with having used the expression after that hon. Member bad stated on his honour that be bad not done so. I beg to deny that any such an attack on me was justified.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
I did not say "after," but that a gentleman had made a statement with reference to an hon. Member which he declared on his honour was incorrect.
§ MR. VICARY GIBBS
I wish to make a personal explanation, and I do not think I should be interrupted in the middle of it. With regard to the hon. and learned Member for South Donegal (Mr. Mae Neill), I beg to make an apology to him for having charged him with using language that was certainly blackguardly, and which I now fully believe he did not use. I am extremely sorry I was misled into denouncing him as the culprit in this matter, whereas someone in his immediate vicinity did use that blackguardly language.
The hon. Member who has just sat down has taken what I think is the proper course, and the only course that it was open for him to take. He has made a charge by misapprehension and mistake against an hon. and learned Member of this House, and, finding that he was wrong, he has apologised to the hon. Member and to the Committee. Now, with regard to that matter the incident must now terminate. But if language of this kind is to be used—and some language of this sort must have been used, because it has been heard in different parts of the House—I can only say that such an interruption and such 803 an observation is most indecent, is contrary to the Rules and practice of this House, and I must express my sincere hope that every hon. Member will assist the Chair in keeping order in what, sometimes, are somewhat difficult circumstances. If hon. Members will do that, they will refrain from using language that is not only of an improper character, but is calculated seriously to disturb the proceedings of this House.
§ MR. SEXTON (Kerry, N.)
I have to say, so far as I am concerned, the incident cannot terminate here. I must ask the hon. Gentleman the Member for South Antrim (Mr. Macartney) what statement he has to make with regard to his unfounded charge against me?
§ MR. MACARTNEY (Antrim, S.)
I endeavoured to rise several times, and I did rise immediately after the statement of the hon. Member for North Kerry (Mr. Sexton), to express my regret that I should have attributed to him words he-declared he had not used. I rose on the first occasion to add my testimony to that of the hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. Dillon) that the hon. Member for South Donegal had not been guilty, on this occasion, of uttering the expression used. I then, misled by the extraordinary similarity of two voices of hon. Members behind me, attributed to one of the two hon. Members words which I certainly believed he had been guilty of uttering. He denied it, and I accept his denial and express my sincere regret that I should have attributed to him the use of the words; I rose immediately for the purpose of saying so.
I express my regret that I did not catch the words used with regard to the hon. Member for North Kerry (Mr. Sexton). I think the hon. Member for South Antrim (Mr. Macartney) has taken the proper and only course open to him. That being the case, this matter must terminate, and I call upon Mr. Russell.
§ MR. HARRINGTON
On a point of Order, I should like to ask— [Cries of "Order!"] I rise to a point of Order
§ MR. HARRINGTON
I rise to a point of Order. I want to ask whether, in taking down words used in the House, 804 they should be words heard by you in the Chair, and not by Members in different parts of the House; and whether it is competent for you to take the report of a Member who has indistinctly heard the words?
In answer to the question put to me on the point of Order, I have to say that any hon. Member can draw my attention to disorderly words, although they do not reach my ear. Any hon. Member may then move that the words be taken down. My duty then is to take the sense of the Committee whether they be taken down; and if it is the sense of the Committee that they be taken down, I should have to order them to be taken down, and leave the Chair to report to the Speaker.
§ *MR. T. W. RUSSELL
, resuming his speech, said, it was not very easy carrying on a Debate under these circumstances. When he was interrupted he was stating that had the Amendment moved by his hon. and learned Friend been adopted, that Amendment would have been succeeded by other Amendments designed to make it effective. As the Bill stood, it seemed to him it really did not much matter what was in the Preamble of the Bill, and for this reason: He had a strong opinion, not founded on law at all, but upon the facts, that the moment they parted with the Executive power in Ireland they parted with the supremacy of Parliament. If the first Amendment had been carried, they would have taken care to see that the Executive power was retained; but inasmuch as it was not, and the Committee had declined to insert the supremacy of Parliament in distinct terms, he did not see that a statement in the Preamble was of the slightest use in face of the fact that they had parted with the power to enforce that supremacy. Let them consider what might take place in this Irish Assembly. Consider the possibility of Irish legislation being passed, say, on the Land Question that this House might, consider to be oppressive and unjust to a class in Ireland. That was not a large assumption at all, and was a thing likely to come about. Supposing this Parliament to interfere, in that case they would have to interfere against the will of the 805 Irish Parliament; they would have to enforce their decision against the Irish Executive with no Executive of their own, because the Bill did not provide for a single Executive officer to carry out the will and decree of the Imperial Parliament. Therefore, if they gave away the Executive power, that moment they did away with the supremacy of this Parliament. He ventured to tell the Chief Secretary for Ireland again what he knew he was aware of, that in the Province of Ulster, whilst there was every desire during these proceedings to restrain the indignation of the people, whilst every effort was being made to do that by the law-abiding people of this Province, and the right hon. Gentleman was aware of it as well as any man; but while there was this desire, there was the utmost feeling of indignation in that Province against this House seeking to fasten a most hateful yoke upon the neck of her people.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON (Armagh, N.)
said, that his right hon. Friend last night pointed out the fact that no Ulster Conservative Member had spoken on this clause; therefore he was sure his right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland would admit that before the Debate closed upon a clause of such importance, not only to the country at large, but to that section of the Irish people with whom he acted, the right hon. Gentleman would admit he had a right to occupy the attention of the Committee for a few moments, and he would be very brief, as he could compass his remarks within a very small boundary. Their opinion was that upon the First and Second Reading of this Bill they adduced various arguments against establishing a separate Legislature and Executive in Ireland, and how were they met on those occasions? They were told that all the detailed objections which they ventured to bring forward would be encountered when they came into Committee, and now, when they came into Committee, not one objection they had offered had even been touched by the Gladstonian Party. They pointed out, in the speeches they made, several grave objections to the establishment in Ireland of a separate Legislature; they showed that the history of the immediate past pointed to the fact that it was absolutely impossible to establish a Legislature in Ireland that 806 would not be a Legislature of ascendency. That argument had been treated with absolute contempt. They then pointed out that the Bill as it stood primarily destroyed the supremacy of the British Parliament. How was that met? They were referred by the Prime Minister to various speeches that had been made in this House by hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway which satisfied the right hon. Gentleman, but which did not satisfy them; they did not answer one of the objections they had offered in the course of their speeches on the First and Second Readings as to any real Parliamentary supremacy. The hon. and learned Member for Waterford (Mr. J. E. Redmond) had made many speeches, and had written on the subject, and, according to that hon. Member, the supremacy of Parliament would be endured by the Party to which he belonged so long as it was absolutely inoperative and useless. Other arguments had been used on that side of the House. It was pointed out that the financial scheme of the Government was an ineffectual scheme; that to create a Parliament that would start bankrupt would not conduce to the prosperity of Ireland. That also had been treated by Her Majesty's Government, he would not say with silence, but simply with chaffing or rhetorical allusions. Other arguments had been used by the supporters of this Bill, and threats had been made. He did not know whether the House remembered those threats; but they were told, as one great argument to pass the Bill, that if they did not pass it and establish a Parliament and Executive in Ireland, that the condition of Ireland would be one from which hon. Members below the Gangway would have shrunk with horror. He did not think that was good argument. Years ago he had pointed out that Mr. Parnell had his hand on the throttle-valve of crime. He did not know who had control of the valve at present; but the argument seemed to be that if this Parliament was not terrorised into passing this Bill, the throttle-valve of crime would be turned on by somebody. The late Government, however, proved that they were able to deal with the throttle-valve of crime. Well, how had they been met in this Debate? They were as thirsty men standing in front of rows of corked bottles; they had not got the 807 corkscrew to pull out the cork, and the only corkscrew that would do so was in the hands of hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway, and they would not use it. As hon. Members below the Gangway were the persons chiefly interested in passing this Bill, he should have thought they would have had some indication why they should pass this clause, around which the mill- turned. How had hon. Members below the Gangway met them? They met them in a manner which they could not call argument, by inarticulate clamour, which was a matter with which the Chairman could more appropriately deal. No speech had been made by hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway to back up the statements made on their behalf from the Front Bench. Two remarkable speeches had been made, speeches which the House would remember for a, long time—the speech of his right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain) and the speech of the Prime Minister—both, he maintained, admirable in their way; but he thought those two speeches differentiated the attitude which the Unionist Party had assumed and that which the Separatist Party had assumed. one side they had argument, on the other they had oratory. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister yesterday treated them to 40 minutes of what certainly to him was immense enjoyment. He did not think, since he had been a hunting man, he had ever enjoyed a 40 minutes' run more than he did the 40 minutes of vigorous oratory with which the wonderful Prime Minister—for he was a most wonderful man—entertained the Committee. But he thought that speech was eminently characteristic of the right hon. Gentleman, How did he meet the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain)? He met them first by calling him a siren; he took some 15 minutes to describe the right hon. Gentleman as a siren. Now, if he remembered anything about sirens, as a rule they did not fascinate people by argument, but by their mellifluous accents; and, therefore, the word "siren" more especially applied to the right hon. Gentleman himself. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain) brought forward argument after argu- 808 ment, fact after fact, and the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister absolutely refused to contend with one of them. He heard the Prime Minister's speech last night, and he read that speech this morning; and he challenged any hon. Member in the House, from the beginning of the speech to the end of it, to discover one single instance in which the right hon. Gentleman dealt with a single argument brought forward by his right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham. He would simply allude to the question of finance. His right hon. Friend very justly pointed out that if the financial scheme of the Bill, as it stood, were carried out, a Legislature and an Executive would be created in Ireland in a bankrupt condition. How did the Prime Minister deal with that? "Oh," he said, "if it was only a matter of a deficit of £100,000 or so, that was merely a matter of manipulation;" but what they wanted to find out was who was to pay the £100,000, and he ventured to say the British electors would also ask the same question. A speech was made by the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Storey) later in the Debate. He thought it was a very straightforward and manly speech, and it might be a speech that contained the real policy of Her Majesty's Government. The hon. Member voted for this establishment of a Legislature in Ireland because he was in favour of establishing similar Legislatures for England, Scotland, and Wales; and so full of generosity was he to Ireland that he was willing to shell out in order to place the Government they proposed to create in a solvent condition. But they expected that the Prime Minister, who was one of the greatest living authorities on finance, when he brought forward a financial scheme in his Home Rule Bill, would have done so in a statesmanlike and sober manner. It was a Gladstonian, statesmanlike, and sober effort to found the finances of Ireland upon Irish inebriety; and it turned out on examination, which the right hon. Gentleman did not himself deny, that the Irish people were a far more sober people than the right hon. Gentleman appeared to believe, and that a great deal of the whisky he imagined was drunk in Ireland was really drunk in Scotland. But the right hon. Gentleman pointed cut this fact—that the 809 whisky might fail, but he would not fail his Irish supporters, and that the deficit would be met some way or other, though the right hon. Gentleman did not tell them how. Then the right hon. Gentle-man went on to defend his Nationalist supporters, and was filled with wrath with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain) because he ventured to inquire into the past speeches of hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway, and ventured to ask them if they were willing to retract here what they had said in Ireland and elsewhere. The Prime Minister said that the right hon. Gentleman was not the man to make such an attack as that, and if any man should wear a white sheet for what he had said in former times it was the right hon. Gentleman himself. He (Colonel Saunderson) could only say that if the right hon. Gentleman wished to wear a white sheet and to get one he would find plenty in the possession of the Prime Minister. What was this Bill before the Committee but a white sheet the Prime Minister was wearing to hide from view the memory of Kilmainham.! At the end of his speech the Prime Minister made a statement which he thought clearly showed the deep hatred that he felt, at any rate, of one section of the Irish people, and perhaps that explained some of the reasons for resisting Amendments to this 1st clause. He hoped his fellow-countrymen in Ire-land would remember these words of the Prime Minister—Those who have been associated with the oppressors are down to this moment the first in claiming for themselves an 'unbridled licence.' What licence did they claim in Ireland? They claimed the licence of belonging to the Empire and of living under the authority of Imperial law; but they claimed no liberty for themselves which they were not willing to confer on their neighbours.[Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen laughed; that was one of the inarticulate arguments they brought forward; and he should be glad if one hon. Gentleman would gat up and point out what they claimed as an "unbridled licence" for themselves which they were not willing to confer upon their neighbours. He really thought that the speech of the Prime Minister, so eloquent, so entertaining, might have been curtailed at most into five minutes. If the right hon. Gentleman had started by saying, "I do 810 not intend to give any information on the points raised by the Unionist Party," that would have disposed of the first part of the speech, and then he might have gone on, "If you will follow me from clause to clause without demanding explanations and confine yourself to the clause itself, then you will gradually be able to grasp my meaning in this Bill." They did not intend to follow that advice. The very just latitude which the Chairman had given them in this Debate proved that he realised the fact that this Bill differed from all other Bills this generation had ever seen, and that it was of such momentous importance to this country and to the Empire as to make it necessary that each clause should be examined in the light thrown upon it by the remainder of the Bill. They (the Opposition) had employed that indulgence in trying to prove to the House that these clauses hung together to a great extent, and that it was impossible to discuss one of these clauses before they had considered the master clause which affected all. The right hon. Gentleman, towards the end of his speech, really showed the House why the speech was made. It was a speech to gag his supporters. The right hon. Member for West Birmingham had challenged hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway to get up and say, for the information of the Government and for the information of the country, whether they were ready in that House distinctly to state what kind of supremacy they were willing to accept for this Parliament, when they created a Parliament in Ireland; but not one of them rose in his place. The cheers that greeted the right hon. Gentleman from his Irish supporters on the previous night, he thought, emphatically proved that they were in a tight place; that they felt that the right hon. Member for West Birmingham had placed them front to front with a difficulty out of which they themselves could not escape; and when the Prime Minister, with his wonderful eloquence, came to their support, that he merited the cheers which they gave him for saving the situation. Was there any wonder that hon. Members on that (the Opposition) side of the House had been anxious to have some light thrown upon this Bill by hon. Members below the Gangway who were to guide and govern 811 the destinies of Ireland when they had Home Rule—and England too? When they talked of the supremacy that they proposed to reserve to the British Parliament, he ventured to say it would mainly depend whether it was worth anything or nothing on the action of hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway who were to form the new Government they proposed to create in Ireland. There was not one of those gentlemen who was deficient in the powers of eloquence; why, therefore, he wondered, did they all sit silent? Because it was an answer they dared not give. They were answerable in that House, no doubt, to the leadership of the right hon. Gentleman, but they were absolutely dependent upon the men on the other side of the Channel who sent them to Parliament; and if the words they used in that House conflicted with what they had stated to their constituents in Ireland, he ventured to say they would have an extremely bad time—worse oven than they had now, and that was bad enough—when they visited their constituents. He thought that accounted, at, any rate, mainly for the speech of the Prime Minister—a speech which spoke to the Radicals and directed them to keep silent, and which told hon. Members below the Gangway to perform that most difficult of operations — that was to hold their tongues. There was one point he desired to make before he sat down. They had a Government now in Office under coercion. This Home Rule Bill and this Home Rule policy was an extorted Bill and an extorted policy. He could quote speech after speech by hon. Members below the Gangway which absolutely proved to demonstration what he said. There was the hon. and learned Member for North Louth, who was very clear and distinct on the subject. Looking forward, as he did at that time, to the period when the present Government would come into Office, this was what the hon. and learned Member for North Louth said—"If the Liberal Party should fail us." This dealt directly with the Union of Hearts. The Union of Hearts was supposed to be the spontaneous action of the mutual affection between the Irish Separatists and the English Gladstonians; but he had always warned the Gladstonian Party that the Union of Hearts was a very uncertain 812 quantity. It was a Union of conditional amorousness. This was what the hon. and learned Member for North Louth said—If the Liberal Party should fail us, then we shall be free and independent to deal with them as we were in dealing with the Tories in 1880. I am satisfied they will not fail us.Here was the conditional amorousness—We have a hand for the grasp of friendship and another to make them quake, and they are welcome to whichever it pleases them most to take.Those words clearly showed that the Union of Hearts was a conditional union, otherwise a Nationalist like the hon. and learned Member for North Louth would not say they were welcome to either one or the other. If he was really in love with hon. Gentlemen opposite it would not be welcome to him if they received his hate instead of love. There was a bargain entered into between hon. Members below the Gangway and the Government; and the condition of it was that if the Government would bring in a Bill and create a Parliament and Executive in Ireland, then the hon. Member would confer his love upon the Government. There was no doubt as to the ground the Loyalists took up. They opposed this 1st clause on the highest principle which could actuate the minds of men in opposing any clause. They believed it to be absolutely destructive of freedom and liberty. They would take no part in the Assembly in Dublin, either in the Lower House or the Upper House, and any Amendment they would have to move would be not inside but outside its walls. He ventured to say that the British people, to whom the final appeal lay, were learning more and more every day the character of what was, in his opinion, the disgraceful compact entered into between the Government and their supporters below the Gangway. They had in those hon. Gentlemen a Party elected by the Roman Catholic priesthood in Ireland and subsidised by foreigners. It was a new thing in the history of this country to have a Party in that House subsidised by foreigners; and if any hon. Member would take the trouble to subscribe to and read that very flourishing paper The Freeman's Journal, he would see that 12,468 dollars had been cabled over from America to the Nationalist Party. This clause they 813 were now examining proposed to create a Legislature and Executive in Ireland, and to place it under the authority of men who were subsidised by foreigners. He did not say there was anything disgraceful to hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway in receiving those subsidies, because they looked upon England as a foreign country. But he maintained that when the British public realised, as they must—and they were realising it more and more every day—that this was a compact between the British Government and a foreign subsidised Party, they would be more and more anxious at the next Election to scout the Government and its policy into the oblivion they deserved. They (the Opposition) believed that, in opposing this clause, and in opposing this Bill as they had done, they were actuated by the highest principles that could guide the minds of men, and they were opposing a policy which would destroy their freedom as well as the freedom of Great Britain. And why had this compact been made? Why was it that the Government of this country had consented to a compact so low and so base? Simply for the honour of sitting on the Treasury Bench, for which, for the first time in the history of England, they had been satisfied to sacrifice all other honour.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I certainly shall not cut out an hon. Member who, I am sure, has a right to speak upon this question, owing to the public part which he has taken with regard to the general Home Rule policy. As far as I am concerned, at all events, I shall not do anything to unduly prolong a Debate which is now, I believe, not far from its conclusion. But, Mr. Mellor, I think that even those who have most reluctantly engaged in these Debates must have now realised that certainly no undue length of time has been taken up by this Committee in dealing with what is, after all, the central citadel of the measure. If we pass this clause, which, though brief in its terms, is pregnant in its contents, we pass the principle of the measure; and all the other 30 or 40 clauses which we shall have to discuss during the next two or three months are all designed to miti- 814 gate as far as possible and qualify the evils that this 1st clause, unqualified, will bring upon us. They are intended to make that which is fundamentally impossible possible, and to make that which is essentially intolerable tolerable. I do not think they will succeed; but, at all events, we have a right—surely even the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland will admit that we have a right—before this clause is finally put to the Committee, to say one or two words both as to the merits of the clause itself, and even more as to the treatment we have received in discussing this clause of the Bill from those who are nominally in charge of it, and who in theory, at all events, are entrusted with the duty of explaining its provisions and their policy to the House. The second speech of the Solicitor General is really by itself an adequate justification of the Debate we have had. The Solicitor General—long desired and anxiously expected—got up late last night, and we listened to him with great interest and profound respect. We gathered that he was going to give us the views of the Government and his great legal authority on the question of supremacy; and what were his views? His views were that the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament was indefeasible, and that even an Act of Parliament or any proceeding to which this House could be a party would be absolutely inefficacious in divesting ourselves of powers which we must to all eternity possess. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge University (Sir John Gorst), in a brief recital of certain controversies about supremacy in the last century, pointed out that, on the showing of the Solicitor General himself, the indefeasible authority of this Parliament over Ireland rested upon Statute, and that what Statute had established Statute could destroy. At all events, it is a paradox beyond credibility to say that we could not reverse the process by which the Union with Ireland was accomplished, and could not by a series of Statutes, and possibly by other operations, bring back the condition of things which existed in the time of Grattan's Parliament. I will put one question to the Solicitor General. If the Imperial Legislature is incapable of divesting 815 itself of its authority, how came it that Grattan's Parliament divested itself of its authority? That was, as I understand, an Assembly of sovereign authority over Ireland; but by various Acts, in which the Irish and the English Legislatures had taken part, that sovereign authority deprived itself of its powers. Without pressing this question further, it is clear that if you went back and reversed one by one each of the steps, statutory or otherwise, by which we have reached our present condition, we should restore the condition existing before 1800—namely, a Sovereign Parliament in this country and another Sovereign Parliament in Ireland. So now we have it from the Government themselves that, so far from the authority of this Parliament being indefeasible, it can be destroyed by the same series of operations by which it was created. But it is not the Solicitor General with whom I wish to deal. After all, it is only his business to treat of the purely legal aspect of the question, and that is always the most insignificant aspect. I have to deal with the speech of the Prime Minister, whom I am sorry not to see in his place. Perhaps, if he is in the building, he will be able to return to the House, or, if not, he will not object to anything I say in his absence. The right hon. Member for West Birmingham made a brilliant and incisive speech, in which he recited, on four or five fundamental points, the arguments which we had advanced upon the 1st clause of this Bill, and pointed out the total absence of any reply given by the Prime Minister at any stage of the discussion. I will only at present take two of those points, and on those two I will test the procedure adopted by the Prime Minister. The first is the question of the retention of the Irish Members, and the attitude which the Government propose to take up some day or other, when we get to it, on Clause 9. The right hon. Member for West Birmingham said most truly that the question of the position of the Irish Members when this Bill passes has the most essential and necessary connection with the question of supremacy; that you cannot discuss supremacy until you know what that position is, and that there is not a clause in the Bill which may not require to be modified in one way or another according 816 to the decision at which the Government may arrive. How did the Prime Minister reply? He said—Is it not a monstrous procedure that we should be asked to pin ourselves now, before we hear the arguments, to one particular solution of a problem which we know to be difficult? We mean to keep an open mind on the question. We have followed public opinion up to this time, and we mean to go on following it, and to ask us to declare beforehand that it is a question of life and death, a question of confidence, that the particular proposals in the Bill should be carried, is to demand a course of procedure which no Government has yet ever taken.Let us grant the grain of truth which lies at the bottom of the argument. I do not ask the Government to go to the length of vacating Office if Clause 9 does not pass exactly as it is. I do not ask them to dissolve if they are beaten on any Amendment. I leave that entirely to their discretion when the contingency arises. But I do ask them to have a policy, and, if they have a policy, to tell us what it is. I will explain exactly what I mean. The Prime Minister thinks there is no alternative between nailing your colours to the mast and the policy of throwing a clause down on the Table to be torn to pieces and modified at the sweet will of an irresponsible majority. There is not only a third course, but one that is almost universally adopted by every Government, and which has already been adopted by this Government in another connection. I ask them to do no more in defining their own proposals in Clause 9 than they have done with regard to the question of the two Chambers. I ask thorn to do no more than declare that they are going, in order to carry out their policy, to exercise the same gentle pressure which made their whole Party assent to the principle of two Chambers. I ask, then, are they going to do that? Do they think that this question is so absolutely insignificant that it is competent for a Government which professes to govern—competent for hon. Gentlemen who profess a Home Rule policy—to know so little about that policy that they will not even lay it upon the Table, and, as I say, use the ordinary machinery of legislation in this House to see that the proposals they approve of are carried into effect? No, Sir; it appears that the Government, as far as we understand their position, are going to propose a clause in this House; but, as we shrewdly conjecture, a very 817 moderate degree of discussion, and a very gentle amount of violence, will induce them to fall; and all we want to know is—In what direction are they going to fall? It is not too much to ask them, in discussing this matter, that we should have some slight adumbration of the line they propose to take. I pass from that illustration of the reply given by the Prime Minister to one which I think is even more characteristic and important. It dealt with the declarations, made by one of the two Parties to the bargain about Home Rule, with regard to the supremacy of Parliament after Home Rule was passed. The right hon. Member for West Birmingham read a number of extracts from the utterances of hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway, stating the views which they held on this subject. How was this case met by the Prime Minister? He turned round, and in the most impassioned accents asked the right hon. Member for West Birmingham whether, if he was attacking the consistency of hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway, there was a more inconsistent gentleman in the House than himself? If I understood the right hon. Member for West Birmingham—and, unlike some other great orators in this House, his meaning, at all events, is usually clear—he was not reproaching hon. Members below the Gangway for inconsistency, but rather for consistency. If the right hon. Gentleman had wanted to deal with inconsistency, it is not to those Benches below the Gangway he would have turned, but to that (the Treasury) Bench, where we see put up, like specimens in a museum, every possible species of the genus pervert, from the Prime Minister, who has run through the whole gamut of political opinions in his life, down to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who has changed his opinions much less often, but who, when he does change them, changes them with such explosive and rapid violence that we hardly know how to follow the strange career which he pursues. But the questions put to hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway were not by way of criticism of their consistency or their inconsistency. They were demands for a plain answer to a plain question. And why is that plain answer not given? It was not given because 818 the Prime Minister, with great judgment as I thought, implored his allies below the Gangway to hold their tongues. The Prime Minister and hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway have made a kind of compact in dealing with this Bill. He is to manage this Bill by way of oratory, and they are to manage the Bill by way of interruption, and the mutual support thus given appears to be eminently satisfactory to both Parties. But I notice the right hon. Gentleman, whatever else he may do to hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway, does not trust them to defend their own case. He reminds me of the Homeric deity who came forward when some friendly hero got into trouble and involved him with clouds—in this case in a cloud of words—and carried him from the field. In this case the right hon. Gentleman's Irish allies are permitted to escape by being involved in a cloud of words, and they are carried from the field in safety. The right hon. Gentleman, in a speech of astonishing eloquence, though, perhaps, of a somewhat flimsy description, declared that hon. Members who were suffering from oppression could not be expected to say exactly what they meant. I may, however, remind the Committee that none of the quotations given by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain) last night were of an earlier date than 1891 or 1892; while one of them was from a magazine article written since the Dissolution and since the present Government came into Office, and by that time I presume that the reign of confusing oppression had come to an end. The question put to the Irish Members yesterday by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham and which the. Irish Members were not allowed to answer was a plain one—namely, whether they were prepared or not to adhere to their reiterated declarations with regard to the freedom of the Irish Legislature from the control of the Imperial Parliament? If those hon. Members do adhere to those declarations, hon. Members opposite sitting behind the Government are living in a fools' paradise, because they have been led to become parties to a compact which is opposed to the principles which they profess. If, on the other hand, the only other possible alternative is to be accepted, then hon. Members below the 819 Gangway must have given up all the declarations they made in 1891 and 1892, and their magazine articles are so much waste paper; and in that case let them state that their views upon this question are altered. The only reply of the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister to this argument of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham was that he was content with the Parliamentary utterances of hon. Members below the Gangway, and that he had heard four very excellent speeches delivered by representative Irish Members below the Gangway, and that hon. Members below the Gangway entirely accepted the proposals of the Government, and, therefore, threw over entirely their recent declarations. It is impossible for this House to proceed with the Bill in Committee with any confidence that the measure is to be a permanent settlement whilst the silence below the Gangway remains unbroken. I must admit that even if the hon. Members below the Gangway were to make bonâ fide, as I am satisfied it would be, the statement that their declarations of 1891 and 1892 were inaccurate, my own confidence in such a statement would be very little increased. It is impossible for us to say how long such fresh convictions on the part of hon. Members below the Gangway will stand. When hon. Members make declarations not only on the part of themselves, but of the Irish people and of the Irish race all over the world, and suddenly assert that their opinions on matters in respect of which those declarations have been made have undergone a change, I do not think that any deep root of permanence can be expected to result from such declarations or from such changed opinions. If the hon. and learned Member for Waterford (Mr. J. E. Redmond) were to come down to the House and were to say—"I have recently made declarations to the effect that I would only be satisfied by the creation of an independent Parliament for Ireland; but I have changed my conviction and am now quite ready to be a party to a new bargain under which the Irish Legislature is to be a subordinate one," I ask what confidence could any hon. Member put in such a declaration on the part of the hon. Member? We should be driven to the conclusion that Parliamentary pressure had been 820 brought to bear upon the hon. Member under which he had been compelled to alter his views. The world has only to look at the general tenour of the utterances of the hon. and learned Member for the last few years to see that he has never denied the abstract right of the Irish people to have a supreme Parliament for themselves, and that he still maintained that right on their behalf. I think that I have, in no violent language, re-stated the argument of hon. Members below the Gangway, and I think that hon. Members sitting behind the Government will find it difficult in their hearts to refute or to ignore my statement. The only excuse that hon. Members opposite can put forward for supporting this proposal to set aside the authority of the British Parliament is that it will lead to a final settlement of the Irish Question; but if they will candidly consider the list of authorities quoted by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, and which are not yet repudiated by the Irish Members, they will see that their hopes of a final settlement are founded upon a quicksand, and that the smallest storm or the slightest flood would bring those hopes in ruin to the ground. I put it to the hon. Members opposite that, in accepting the principle of this Bill as a final settlement, they are following men who, upon their own confessions, do not know their own minds. ["No!"] Well, perhaps they have not told us what their own minds are. We do know what their own minds were in 1892; but we do not know what they are now. They are following men who either do not know their own Bill, or, if they do, will not tell as what it is, or they are following men who do not know their own mind, or, if they do, will not tell us what that mind is. These are not conditions under which victory is possible, or under which sound legislation could be carried into effect. Therefore, I must earnestly implore hon. Members, before it is too late, to register their verdict against this fundamental and essential clause of the Bill, without which the whole of the rest of the measure must necessarily perish.
§ *SIR EDWARD J. REED (Cardiff)
said, he thought no reasonable person who considered the nature of this clause, and the magnitude of its effect, could complain of its having occupied a good deal of the time of the House. He had 821 himself no intention of speaking that day, but for the speeches of the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell) find the hon. and gallant Member for Armagh (Colonel Saunderson). It seemed to him (Sir Edward Reed) quite astounding that they should give away so much of their case because of the prospect of this clause passing; for, while on the Ministerial side they had no reason to complain, or at any rate to be surprised, at the length of the Debate, neither could the Opposition have any reason to be surprised at their maintaining that a great Debate was not necessary on the 1st clause, for the simple reason that every man in that House pledged in any way or degree to Home Rule for Ireland must approve of this 1st clause. With regard to the speech of the hon. Member for South Tyrone, he seemed to infer from the fact that they were disinclined to introduce the word "subordinate" into the clause that, therefore, they on the Ministerial side had abandoned the idea of Ireland possessing a subordinate Legislature, and he had taken pains for years to gather together the statements which hon. Members on the Ministerial side had made in this respect. Well, he need not take any trouble about his (Sir Edward Reed's) speeches, for he told him in the frankest mariner that he had never advocated, never thought of advocating, and never would advocate—and in the final result would not vote for—any Bill giving a Legislature for Ireland which did not provide for the full control, properly defined, of the Imperial Parliament. But he found great difficulty at that stage of the Bill to seek to give effect to this view, because it was only when they had the Bill as finally settled before them that they could determine whether the supremacy of this Imperial Parliament had been in any way interfered with. Consequently, he sat with much complacency and listened to the Debate at that stage, because he was satisfied that the introduction of the word "subordinate" into the clause, if agreed to, would have given no kind of satisfaction or security to the opponents of the Bill; and because he was quite sure that if they were to be satisfied and were to have sufficient security, that must be brought about in the manner defined by the Prime Minister by the introduction of 822 a special clause in the Bill, making due provision for all that was desirable. Members opposite seemed to be much disposed to cast contempt upon Members on the Ministerial side of the House, because hitherto they had been voting solidly in connection with this Bill. ["No!"] At all events, they had done their best to make the Ministerial Party vote solidly, because, in his own case, which he took as an example, no sooner did his opponents find he was engaged in a controversy with a section of his constituents than they brought out a Conservative candidate to take advantage of the situation. The effects of that transaction had been to make hon. Members on the Ministerial side of the House, who wished to exercise an independent judgment on this Bill, not, he hoped, to sacrifice in any degree the independence of their judgment, but to be very careful in the exercise of that independence. Well, he was rather astonished to hear opponents of the measure laying so much stress on the fact that Nationalist Members from Ireland had not spoken in this Debate. He was at a loss to understand why they should speak. This clause provided for the establishment of an Irish Legislature. They could not say anything in objection to that. What could they have to say in support? He would admit this to the Opposition. He attached, himself, little weight to the phrases used by some high and responsible persons on the Ministerial side, touching "the Union of Hearts," and in making appeals to the loyalty and good feeling of Irish Members; and he might say he heard with considerable pain, the other night, the Prime Minister speak of all those transactions in which hon. Gentlemen opposite (the Irish Nationalist Party) were engaged in times past, and which were universally condemned. He was sorry to hear the Prime Minister minimise their past conduct by saying there were occasions when they had stepped slightly from the straight line of perfect wisdom. Wrongful acts performed years ago remained wrongful acts still; and he found it hard, not to say impossible, to reconcile any instigation of their committal with the principle of justice and morality. But that did not alter his willingness to give Home Rule to Ireland. The language he should prefer to employ was this. He should 823 say—"In the past you wove in a rebellious state of mind, carrying on after a certain fashion what you yourselves regarded as rebellion and revolution: and now by this Bill—if it passes—you will be placed in a position of the greatest responsibility. You will be charged with the interests of your country; and I should hope you, under those conditions, will turn from the methods and practices by the rebellious period and do what revolutionists have done in many ages—become excellent legislators and administrators of their country." The Ministerial Party need not be frightened by those words, though they used them. Probably the House was familiar with the lines of one of the poets, in which he spoke of rebels or rebellion, and said—How runny a spirit born to blessHath perished 'neath that withering name,Whom but a day's, an hour's, success,Had wafted to eternal fame.He would strengthen himself in that position by a remark made by the late Mr. Parnell. He did not know whether it was just to Mr. Parnell's memory to relate this; but he could not avoid mentioning a matter bearing so intimately on the case before them. In conversing once with him, Mr. Parnell made this observation— "You must remember, when Home Rule is passed for Ireland, I and my friends will be the Conservative Party and the principal Party of Ireland, because the result of the past life of Ireland is such that there are many men in Ireland of an extremely troublesome character; and it will be my duty, when charged with the responsibility of government, to deal with thorn—and we shall be bound to deal with them—from a Conservative point of view." Mr. Parnell added this—"You must bear in mind that the Parliament we are to have will be but a statutory Parliament, and that the power which created it—namely, the Parliament sitting here at Westminster—can destroy it at any time; therefore it will be on its good behaviour." Perhaps he (Sir Edward Reed) might now remark on other parts of the Hill in relation to this clause. He confessed he sympathised very much with the Opposition in their desire to know more definitely and definitively what the Government intended in reference to the representation of Ire- 824 land in that House. It was no use in these matters or any others arguing in a circle. It was no use saying—"We must know before we pass the 1st clause what is to be the future of this Parliament"; any more than it was necessary to say—"We must know what are to be the financial conditions before we pass the 1st clause." But it was rumoured in the Press that one of the things contemplated by the Government was to retain in this Parliament the whole representation of Ireland, with freedom to vote on all subjects. All he could say was that it would be impossible for the human imagination to conceive a set of conditions more absolutely irreconcilable with those conditions under which Members on the Ministerial side first persuaded their constituents—as they had often to do—to become reconciled to their doctrines. And when this question was viewed in relation to the present state of the representation of the other parts of Great Britain, it gathered tenfold force. He had the privilege to represent 150,000 people in the House; and was he to he told that after the passage of this Home Rule Bill he should possess only one-eighth of the representative power in the House of hon. Members from Ireland? That they should have eight Members to represent 150,000 people, and that Cardiff' should have only one? Why, a Redistribution Bill, as an antecedent condition to such a state of things, would be absolutely necessary; and, in his judgment, the Government would have to take careful account of that consideration before they came to the Third Reading of the Bill; because, while there might be many things hon. Members would do to support their Party, one thing they would not do was to participate in a wholesale manifold injustice to the people they represented. While he held that view, he was not anxious on the point at present, for the reason that the Prime Minister had stated more than once that Clause 9—he had given his pledge to that as a reason why they should pass Clause 1—he had pledged himself to the effect that Clause 9 might undergo modification by the House. He was only waiting for the decision of the House on Clause 1; and if the Prime Minister were, when the time came, to use his power and authority with the Ministry in order to 825 force upon his supporters the expediency of a particular solution of that question, after that unlimited promise and pledge, he should regard the transaction as a breach of faith, and he should not be prepared to acquiesce in it. He did not wish to trespass on the time of the Committee. [Cries of "Go on!"] He had thought it necessary to say a, few unprepared words, for the reason that he was not able to understand why hon. Members should think their ease was gone when the clause was passed. They should bear in mind, as he had already said, that this clause must be supported by every man who sat there as a Home Killer. Such a man could not possibly vote against it. There was no language in it which would justify them in voting against it. Not to vote for it, a man must give up his Home Rule views and principles altogether. He was so anxious about the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament that he should watch with the utmost care the course the Government took in respect of it; and, more than that, he knew there were many hon. Members on the Ministerial side who would be prepared to do the same, and were regarding the course of the Government in that respect with great anxiety. He was so sensitive on the point himself that the other night he would not vote against the introduction of the word "subordinate," although he could not vote for it. But he did not wish to take any step that would seem to compromise him with his constituents, or drive him from the position he had held with them. Not on the Ministerial Bench only, but on the Liberal Benches behind it, men were to be found who had given explicit engagements to their constituents that nothing but a subordinate Parliament was contemplated. But there was another side to the question—and he would ask their opponents to regard this side of it with proper consideration and respect—that those who were really in favour of Home Rule for Ireland were anxious not to give a Home Rule that would not and could not work. They had no right to charge a body of men or a nation with the responsibility of conducting their own affairs and beset them with restrictions and engagements which would deter them from performing their duty in a proper manner. He believed that feeling existed in its full 826 strength in the minds of all Members on the Government side. At any rate, he might say this—that some of the younger Members who had recently come into Parliament, and were, not unnaturally, impatient with its slow process, should remember that they were dealing with a question which puzzled not only the Opposition, but the Government to do full justice to their own views and intentions. The speeches of the previous night by the right hon. Members for Cambridge University (Sir John Gorst) and East Manchester (Mr. A. J. Bal-four) showed there were difficulties in the matter for them as well as for the supporters of the Government. The assurance he (Sir Edward Reed) gave to the Committee was that he—and he believed that there were others on the Ministerial side—was anxious, on the one hand, to give the Irish Members every possible fair chance for the due performance of the obligations this Bill would cast upon them, and, on the other hand, to do nothing which would impair the authority of the Imperial Parliament.
§ *MR. T. H. BOLTON (St. Pancras, N.)
said, he had not, had an opportunity of speaking on the Second Reading Debate; and he, therefore, asked the indulgence of the House to say a few words of a, general character on the discussion of the 1st clause of the Bill. He was one of those who came within the category mentioned by the noble Lord opposite—that was to say, a moderate Gladstonian Homo Ruler. He admitted that he was committed, like a good many hon. Members on that side, including the hon. Gentleman who last addressed the House, to a policy of Home Rule in dealing with Irish affairs; but he was also distinctly pledged to do nothing whatever which would impair the full authority of the Imperial Parliament in dealing with Irish affairs if necessary, as well as with English or Imperial affairs. As the hon. Member had indicated, in his own case, when the Bill had passed through Committee, it would be for him (Mr. Bolton) also to consider how far it met those conditions which he considered essential in connection with any measure of this kind: and if he found that it did not, to modify his attitude with reference to it. With regard to this particular clause, he had voted against certain Amendments that had 827 been moved, because he thought that 'the Amendments with which he sympathised had better come in another form in other parts of the Bill. He fully intended that there should be only a subordinate Legislature in Ireland; but he did not desire that, associated with the description of the Legislature in this clause, there should be terms used calculated to give offence, and which would be for any practical object inoperative. Distinguished Constitutional lawyers suggested that it was necessary to strengthen the special statement in the Preamble by adding declaratory words as to the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament in the main parts of the Bill. What harm could there be in setting forth in the measure that the Irish Legislature was a subordinate one if it really was intended that it should be subordinate? He (Mr. Bolton) had heard, with great satisfaction, the observations of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, in which he distinctly laid it down that he would be prepared to consider, and consider favourably, any practical proposal to give effect to these requirements. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bury (Sir Henry James) had put an Amendment on the Paper to Clause 2; and he hoped the Government would very seriously consider whether they could not accept that Amendment. Possibly a clear, specific, Declaratory Clause, either at the commencement of the Bill or at the end, would have been more satisfactory even than the Proviso of the right hon. Member for Bury; but if the right hon. Gentleman was satisfied—and he was a great Constitutional lawyer—he (Mr. Bolton) would be satisfied also. The right hon. Gentleman had given a very forcible reason why an Amendment of this kind should be adopted. He stated that the Act would not be construed only by distinguished Judges sitting in high places of judicial authority, but would have to be considered by comparatively small Judges and Magistrates, in remote parts of Ireland; and it was desirable that there should be, in no unmistakable way, on the face of the Statute a clause setting forth that the Legislature created was distinctly a subordinate one. He would not labour the argument. It was sufficient, as a 828 friend and supporter of the Government, to urge them to consider the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman in a sympathetic way; and he appealed to hon. Gentlemen from Ireland to give a fair and dispassionate consideration to the proposal, because they had to satisfy not their enemies but their friends and the general British public, who were somewhat anxious about this and some other points. The veto should be clear and explicit, resting in the hands of the responsible Ministers of the Crown —not the Irish Ministers, but the Ministers having the confidence of Parliament. It should not be exercised in unimportant matters, or in domestic matters which concerned especially the Irish people, and did not outrage the sense of justice of the general community. The veto should be a practical weapon which should not be needlessly or recklessly used or flourished offensively, but which should always be effective if occasion arose. With regard to the Imperial Judiciary, it was desirable that, as in the United States, it should have a visible existence throughout Ireland. It should not be mixed up with the local Irish Judiciary.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
rose to Order. He asked whether the hon. Gentleman was in Order on this clause in referring to the Judiciary?
§ MR. BOLTON
said, he admitted he was going somewhat beyond the clause; but, from circumstances which were within the knowledge of the House, he had not had an opportunity of speaking on the Second Reading. He at once accepted that intimation from the Chair. As to finance, which was a subject which would come within the control of the Irish Legislature, he could not support the observations of the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Storey) that the British public were indifferent as to spending £500,000 a year to enable the Irish Legislature to carry on its business. If they supplied the Irish people with a Legislative Assembly, there was no responsibility on their part to find it, at the expense of the British public, with money to carry on its operations, and he did not believe the Irish Representatives could be so foolish 829 as to imagine that they would get an endowment from the British people in connection with their legislative affairs. They only wanted, so they said, and he believed, to have fair treatment. He also hoped there would be some provision to adjust as between this Parliament and the Legislature to be created other questions, such as the Laud Question, so that they might know before the Bill left the House whether the Imperial Parliament was to deal with that question within three yearn, or whether it was to be left to the Irish Legislature, and, if so, upon what terms. He should also like to refer to another matter—namely, the question of Ulster. He agreed with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) that the Ulster Members had made a great mistake, as they believed that they would be injuriously affected by the Bill in not proposing that they should be excluded from its operations. It was almost impossible for Members like himself, who desired to do full justice to the claims of Ulster, to overcome the difficulty the Ulster people put them in. What they said amounted to this— "We don't want Home Rule for ourselves, and, therefore, we won't let the rest of Ireland have it." That was almost a dog-in-the-manger policy, and placed those who desired to give fair and just consideration to the claims and representations of Ulster in a position of great difficulty. He believed they would find that by adopting a policy of that kind they would lose the sympathy of the British public. The Prime Minister had committed himself to giving Ulster separate treatment if Ulster desired it. If Ulster was not to be excluded from the Bill, having regard to recent events there, they must consider what guarantees and securities should be put in the Bill with the view of satisfying the anxieties of the people of that Province and of reconciling them to the policy of the measure. He could not conceal from himself that this measure was really a large experiment. He did not regard the Bill with the feeling of absolute confidence that prevailed in some parts of the House. They had tried several modes of governing Ireland, and, coercion having failed, it was generally admitted that sooner or later a great measure of local self-government would have to be given to Ireland 830 by one Party or the other and on the lines of the present Bill — reduced in its scope and character. Certain it was that if the Party opposite came into power they would have to introduce a measure of local government for Ireland. Therefore, he asked himself—and he asked hon. Gentlemen opposite—whether it was not better, instead of ungenerously criticising the Bill as a whole, to endeavour to make it a practical measure acceptable to all parties. If they would do that he promised them they would have the support, if not of many Members, at any rate of some men on the Liberal side. This Bill was, he said, a great experiment. He knew there were Members prepared to vote for anything and everything at the bidding of their Party Leaders; but there was a certain amount of independence in certain quarters of the House, and there were Members who wore prepared to say what they thought about the Bill, who were not afraid to make suggestions and state objections—not offensively, but with the determination of having them fairly and reasonably considered. This Bill, he repeated, was a large experiment, which he looked upon with hope rather than with confidence or certainty. But he believed if the Bill was brought within the practical lines and the scope of an enlarged measure of Local Government, such as the Prime Minister had, in his speech introducing the Bill, in one place referred to it, it would be acceptable to the country, and ultimately become law. He admitted that they ought to go as far as they could towards satisfying the wishes and requirements of Irishmen; but they were not bound to grant everything that was asked. While we wore willing to advance towards the hopes and desires of Irishmen they, in their turn, must be willing to consider the doubts and anxieties that existed in the minds of our people in this country. There ought to be no objection to reasonable safeguards in the provisions of the Bill, and the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament ought to be placed beyond doubt. While he would give the Government a general support in dealing with the Bill, he would reserve to himself the right of voting independently upon such Amendments as would bring the Bill within the lines he had indicated.
§ Mr. John Morley rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 308; Noes 260.—(Division List, No. 80.)
§ Question put accordingly, "That Clause 1 stand part of the Bill."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 309; Noes 267.—(Division List, No. 81.)
§ Clause 2 (Powers of Irish Legislature).
§ MR. CAVENDISH (Derbyshire, W.)
said, he wished to move to omit the words, "with the exceptions, and subject to the restrictions in this Act mentioned." He must, in the first place, ask the Committee to afford him that indulgence which, he believed, was generally accorded to a Member rising for the first time to address the House, his object being to make clear the subordinate character of the Irish Legislature by defining what powers it should be permitted to exercise. The Amendment would raise a discussion upon the principle upon which the powers to be conferred upon the Irish Legislature should be given. Obviously there were two methods, and the Prime Minister had indicated the two courses when introducing the Home Rule Bill of 1886, the two courses being the endowment of the new Legislative Body with special and specific powers, or the conferring of general powers with special exceptions. The course he (Mr. Cavendish) was advocating had, therefore, the support of authority; but it was a course open for a Government to adopt. He hoped he would not be accused of raising debate with no distinctive Amendment, because it was the first formal Amendment which would be necessary if the Committee should deem it desirable to depart from the principles embodied in the clause, that of giving general powers to a Legislative Body with the exclusion of certain subjects in favour of the principle he advocated, that of enumerating particular and specific powers which the new Legislature should exorcise. Of course, it might be urged that he did not fully bear the responsibilities which attached to such a proposal, inasmuch as 832 he did not proceed to a definition of those powers; but an argument of that kind would have less force when he said his object was simply, in the first place, to invite a decision as between the two principles of delegation and exclusion. If this Amendment were carried, then, of course, consequential Amendments would have to be filled in; but if the Committee refused to adopt the principle of delegation, of course enumeration of subjects would be unnecessary. Only after the acceptance of the Amendment would it be necessary to enter upon the consideration of what the specific subjects should be. It would he presumptuous in a young Member of the House to take upon himself the grave and severe duty of suggesting the course the Government should follow but it was for the Government to indicate—whatever principle was adopted—what in their opinion the powers of the new Legislature should be. He preferred—though he was prepared to state his views of what the delegated powers should be—to leave that part of the subject to those more qualified by experience to lead opinion. He did not shrink from the duty as an impossible one, and in the British North America Act of 1867 there was a precedent, for in Section 92 certain subjects were named which were allowed by the House to be dealt with by the local Legislatures, and by those alone. Not only was that Act a precedent for the case he was now putting before the Committee, hut also in the enumeration of subjects there was a list which with slight alterations might fairly be applied to Ireland. In pointing out the reasons in favour of granting specific powers to a subordinate Parliament as preferable to the principle embodied in the Bill, there was this to be said—that the latter was vague and shadowy, and, as had been pointed out, the restrictions could, with the exercise of a little ingenuity, be evaded. As impressing his views on the Committee, he would quote the opinion of a distinguished jurist, a learned Judge of Ontario cited in Dodd's Parliamentary Government for the Colonies. It was there stated that the Sovereign power had created several Governments, one of which was made superior and all the others were subordinate, and that certain definite subjects were to be dealt with by the subordinate Governments, but that all powers which were necessary 833 for the peace, order, and good government of Canada were reserved to the superior Government of the Dominion. That arrangement would be equally applicable in the case of Ireland. Although Her Majesty's Government had confessed that this Assembly they proposed to establish was subordinate to the Imperial Parliament, they refused to embody that in terms in their Bill, and now he asked the Government to take a step which would make that Legislative Body truly and really a subordinate one. By the reception of this proposal they would show more clearly and precisely what the relationship between the two Parliaments would be. The present proposal was indefinite, vague, and shadowy, and perhaps hon. Members had a belief in their power to override the intention of the Act; but whether that would be possible or not, certainly it would be more satisfactory to know exactly the power the subordinate Parliament would have. In all cases where the House had delegated or conferred any power on any subordinate Body he believed the House had stated precisely and exactly what those powers should be, and that they should not be enlarged. There would be this difficulty in Ireland—that an Act of the Joint Legislature, outside its powers as an Enacting Body, would not have the force of the law; and, therefore, it might happen that the humblest Magistrate, sitting at Petty Sessions, might be called upon to decide, in relation to proceedings before him, whether the Irish Legislature had exceeded its powers. From either point of view, from the point of view of those who wished to see the Act in operation, and those who did not, there must be the wish that any Act passed by the Irish Legislature should have no doubt of its validity attaching to it. By accepting the principle of naming certain powers as within the provisions of the Legislature the difficulties would be to a large extent removed; but, as the Bill now stood, it would be necessary for the highest tribunal to say whether the Acts passed were as such as were within the powers of the subordinate Legislature. He expected no support from those who did not desire a subordinate Parliament; but he turned with some confidence to those who on platforms throughout the country had declared the intention of giving Ireland a local Parliament: 834 for the management of local affairs, and nothing more. It was to be presumed that when hon. Members made these statements they had some idea what was meant by local affairs. Indeed, he believed there were some supporters of the Government who had gone very far in definition of powers for the new Parliament. He avoided mention of names, but there was a considerable section of supporters of the Government who somewhat approved of the policy now known as the gas and water principle of Home Rule. If the Government were unable to specify the subjects with which the Irish Legislature was to deal they might embody clauses in their Bill. Much had been said of the old language being abandoned, and he was willing to accept the retractations; but still he contended it would be wiser and more statesmanlike to confer first limited powers on the now body, and then upon the result and in course of time further powers might be conferred. This was an experiment, and too much caution could not be exercised. Under the happy Constitution they enjoyed the powers of Parliament had grown slowly from small beginnings, and undoubtedly in undertaking great constitutional changes they would do wisely to proceed slowly among the stumbling blocks that often attended the attempt at a too rapid rate of progress. Undoubtedly in Ireland and in England there were grave fears as to the result of the operation of such an Act as this, and he could not say that a too rapid rate of progress, if adopted, would remove those apprehensions. At any rate, they would be somewhat allayed if the power of the Legislature were strictly and clearly defined. It was no matter for surprise that doubts were expressed of the result of conferring extensive and general powers; and though he might be accused of ungenerous mistrust, and told that he should give the Irish Parliament everything, yet still be insisted that in such matters of deep importance it was wiser to adopt the safer and surer way.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 14, to leave out all the words from the beginning of the Clause to the word "there," in line 15.—(Mr. Cavendish.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words 'with the exceptions' stand part of the Clause."835
§ MR. MACARTNEY moved to report Progress, for the purpose of calling attention to the conduct of the Government in moving the Closure on the last clause. [."Order, order!"]
§ MR. MACARTNEY
would only then express a hope that in the future conduct of Debates on this Bill the Chief Secretary—[Loud cries of "Order!"]
The hon. Member is indirectly doing that which I have informed him would not be in Order.
§ It being ten minutes to Seven of the clock, the Chairman left the Chair to mate his report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.