§ On the Motion to go into Committee of Supply.
MR. J. H. DALZIEL (Kirkcaldy Burghs) rose to call attention to the desirability of establishing Local Legislative Assemblies; and to move the following Amendment:—
That, in the opinion of this House, in order to give speedier and fuller effect to the special desires aad wants of the respective Nationalities constituting the United Kingdom, and with a view to increase the efficiency of the Imperial Parliament to deal with imperial affairs, it is desirable to devolve upon Legislatures in Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and England respectively the management and control of their domestic affairs.
The hon. Member said it would be admitted by the opponents of the Amendment as well as its friends that it raised an issue of considerable importance, and
that its acceptance by the House would not fail to mark a stage in the general progress of the Home Rule movement. He asked the House to affirm two separate and distinct proposals, first that local—and by local he meant national—opinion should as far as possible govern and determine the settlement of purely domestic affairs, secondly that, in order to achieve that purpose legislatures, subordinate to the Imperial Parliament, ought to be established in the four divisions of the United Kingdom. To use a phrase which was now recognised the Amendment was in favour of "Home Rule all round." It had, of course, been necessary to include Ireland in its scope. He assured his hon. Friends from Ireland that if he had thought that the inclusion of Ireland was calculated even in the smallest degree to injure, retard, or postpone by a single day or hour the realisation of their hopes he should have hesitated before he undertook the responsibility of including it. He took a very different view. The Chief Secretary the other day in that House said:—
The settlement of the Irish question was the primary policy of the present Liberal administration.
There was no Member on the Liberal side of the House who would not heartily agree, or who doubted what the opinion of the Liberal Party at large was on the subject. It would be presumption on his part to offer any argument on behalf of autonomy in Ireland. That House had already affirmed the principle of self-government for Ireland. It had done more. It had passed a Bill embodying that principle. That Bill had not become law, but they must read history through very green spectacles who thought that a measure which had received the support of the majority of the electors and was at this moment the foremost plank in the platform of a Liberal administration would be prevented from becoming law very soon. The passage of the Bill for Home Rule for Ireland raised the question of the general devolution from the region of speculative theory to that of practical politics. The retention of 80 Irish Members in this House after the establishment of a separate Parliament for Ireland was only part of a general settlement in which the other parts of the
Kingdom would ultimately share. It was an expedient of political necessity rather than the application of sound political principle. But it forced the question of general devolution to a point which no Ministry In favour of Home Rule could fail to recognise. One of the most common objections which had been made in England to the granting of self-government to Ireland had been that Ireland was going to be specially treated, and that the Irish people would gain advantages that the people of other parts of the United Kingdom would not enjoy. If they could make it clearer than they had hitherto done, that after the Irish question was settled and an Irish Parliament established Englishmen, Scotchmen, and Welshmen would have the same advantages given them, he believed the average Englishman would be inclined to give more support to the Home Rule movement than he gave at the present time. If it could be made clear and beyond dispute that after the settlement of the Irish question on satisfactory lines the other parts of the United Kingdom would benefit, the sting would, to a great extent, be taken out of the Opposition with regard to Ulster. Then was some doubt whether the right hon. Member for Midlothian treated the question of self-government for Ireland as an isolated one or part of a general settlement of devolution. The right hon. Gentleman, addressing a Scottish audience, said:—
If the doctrines of Home Rule are to be established in Ireland, I protest, on your behalf, that you will be just as well entitled to it in Scotland, and, moreover, I protest on behalf of Wales that it will be entitled to Home Rule also.
He passed now to the Scotch view of the Amendment and the Scotch case as far as the proposal was concerned. He admitted at once, as he admitted last year when he had the privilege of carrying a Resolution in the House in favour of a domestic legislature for Scotland, that there was not in Scotland that same passionate feeling with regard to Home Rule which existed in Ireland. But the Scotch were a long-suffering and patient people, and although the question was ripe enough last year to justify a majority of Members from Scotland in voting for it, yet the proposal of Home Rule for Ireland had, if he might use the
phrase, "forced the pace" as far as Scotland was concerned. He would sum up the Scotch case practically in two sentences. The Scotch people said it was utterly impossible, under the present condition of things, to obtain the legislation for Scotland desired by the Scotch people; secondly, the legislation which they were able to secure was not in accordance with the desire of the majority of the Scotch Representatives. Take the question of the control of the drink traffic. Public opinion in Scotland, with regard to that, was much more advanced than throughout England or even Wales. In the last fifteen or twenty years the people of Scotland had made up their minds on the policy of Local Government, and they had returned a majority of Members in favour of it. They remembered some some ten or twelve Bills of importance that had never reached a Second Reading. It was said that the question of the continued Establishment of the Church of Scotland ought to be settled in accordance with the wishes of the majority of the people of Scotland, and right hon. Gentlemen opposite took the same view, for they had introduced a Bill embodying the principle that the Scottish Church question ought to be settled by the Scottish people. The hon. Member for the Stewartry took that view, and therefore he hoped to have the benefit of that Member's support. If the Scottish people ought to settle that question, the only way in which they could be enabled to do it was by establishing a local Legislature. The views of the Secretary for Scotland could not be supreme in an Imperial Parliament containing a majority of English, Scotch, and Welsh Members. It might, perhaps, be said that the case of Scotland was not so strong as it was a year ago, because the Parish Councils Bill had been passed, and therefore Scotland ought to be satisfied. The first remark to be made upon that was that it was a non-contentious Bill, and it would have been utterly impossible, if it had been a contentious Bill, to have got it read a second time and referred to a Grand Committee. Let it be remembered what difficulty there was in obtaining the appointment of the Grand Committee. On five different occasions the question was discussed at the
House, and the result was seen this year in the fact that, notwithstanding the trouble paid to the working of that Committee by the right hon. Member for Bodmin in Glasgow, the Government was afraid to propose that a Scotch Grand Committee should sit this Session. So that, again, there was no better prospect for Scotch Legislation than there had been in previous Sessions. Last year the House gave a Second Reading to a very innocent Bill known as the Fatal Accidents Inquiry Bill for Scotland. That Bill dealt with a very small question, simply providing that in cases of fatal injury to persons in the course of their employment special inquiry should be made to ascertain the cause. The Bill was considered by the Grand Committee on Law, and came back to this House. Then there was placed on the Paper an Amendment, which, although it was important, did not challenge the vital principle of the Bill; but because two hours could not be obtained to discuss that Amendment, a Bill, accepted by both sides of the House, as far as Scotland was concerned, was lost last Session; and it did not seem to have a much better prospect of being passed this Session. The fate of that Bill illustrated the position of Scotch Legislation generally. This Session, he doubted whether Scotch Members had had the opportunity of giving more than one purely Scottish vote; they had been dividing solely on Imperial affairs. There were deputations almost every day to the Secretary for Scotland trying to get something done for Scotland; but to all appearance at the end of the Session the result would be very small indeed. There was high authority for the view that, if there was to be a general devolution of business, Wales should come up for separate treatment. Speaking in Wales Lord Salisbury said:—
If ever there was a people who were a separate nationality, it is the Welsh.
Therefore it would be a subject of legitimate complaint on the part of Lord Salisbury and his two Welsh supporters in the House if he made an invidious distinction in the case of Wales. As to the English view of the matter, Home Rule for England probably could not
come into force immediately, and England would have to be left for final treatment. What was to be the position of the English Members with regard to this Amendment? What was the complaint made a few weeks ago by Lord Salisbury at Edinburgh with regard to the English position. He complained that purely English and domestic affairs were settled by voters from the south and west of Ireland against the wishes of English Members. If that was the view of English Members, surely they would support this Amendment and take advantage of the opportunity he gave them to throw off the Irish yoke. Let any English Member consider the position of England upon any great question which affected England alone, such, for instance, as the English Church. It was possible that in the House the Disestablishment of the English Church might be carried with the aid of the votes of Scotch, Irish, and Welsh Members; therefore Churchmen who were anxious that English feeling should dominate on this question ought to support him. Most important of all was the Imperial view of this Amendment. There could be no doubt that the House was unable properly to discharge all the work required of it. No matter how many hours they might sit, nor how much time was taken by the Government, there was always a large number of Bills of great importance which never got discussed at all. Consider the personal position of Members themselves. Members of Parliament ought not to have to work 12 to 14 hours a day; their constituents did not wish them to do it; yet it had to be done two or three times a week by Members who were taking their proper share of the work of Private Bill Legislation. The Leader of the Opposition, when he was Secretary for Scotland, said that the present system of Private Bill Legislation by Committees was utterly absurd, expensive, and antiquated. That was in 1886; and nothing had been done since to provide a remedy. A Bill was introduced by the late Conservative Government; but it dealt only with the Private Bill Legislation of Scotland, and it did not satisfy the majority of Scotch Representatives. Another point was, the want of time in this House for the discussion of purely Imperial affairs. Their first duty was
the consideration of Supply; and how was it dealt with now? The Government got Votes on Account, and Supply was put off to the end of the Session. When the day for Adjournment or Prorogation was fixed, a Member who raised discussion in Committee was deemed a bore if he risked the prolongation of the Session. The result was, that there was on proper consideration of the Votes, that questions were not raised that ought to be raised, and that Committee of Supply was gradually becoming a mockery and a farce. Last year, at the end of the Session, Votes were passed as fast as the Deputy Chairman could read them, and twenty to thirty millions were voted in as many minutes without a word being said. Then, again, there was the great question of India How much time was given to that? He ventured to say that not a dozen Members had given any attention at all to the subject. Therefore he said that the Imperial House of Commons ought to consist of men who devoted their attention to Indian Colonial and Imperial affairs, and their time ought not to be occupied with purely local affairs. He might be asked as to his plan. He was an old enough Parliamentary hand not to go into details with regard to any plan, but then were two considerations which he thought ought to govern the genera settlement of the question. The first was that the settlement which would be finally acceptable to the majority of the British people was a settlement which should as far as possible not disturb the present constitution of the House; and, secondly, the consideration might be kept in view that the House and local legislatures ought to meet at different periods of the year, as far as that could be arranged. Now, he saw an amendment on the paper in the name of the hon. Member for Somersetshire, but the hon. Gentleman was not in his place to move it. While it came from Somerset shire it appeared to have been manufactured in Birmingham, and he was sorry the hon. Gentleman had not come forward to move it, because had he been present he would have suggested to him that he ought to have lived in the time of William the Conqueror, when his views would have been more likely to be accepted. We might then have
suggested that Northumbria, Mercia, East Anglia, Sussex and Wessex, and even Colney Hatch should have separate legislatures. He was sorry the Chancellor of the Exchequer was not in his place, because he should have liked to hear his views on this matter. Still, he would be perfectly satisfied if the position of the Government was stated by the Secretary for Scotland. There was no doubt what the position of the Government ought to be. The Prime Minister said at Cardiff:—
The more I see of our political system the more I am convinced of this, that in a large measure of devolution, subject to Imperial control, lies the secret of the future working of an Empire. Daily also, in my opinion, that devolution comes nearer and nearer … The Liberal Party, in my opinion, will never find its full strength until it has enlisted all the power and sympathy and freedom which it would gain in every part of the United Kingdom by the systematised devolution of local business to the localities themselves.
In view of that statement there could be on doubt as to what the position of the Government ought to be on this question. At any rate he hoped the Government would let the House have their views clearly before it on this particular amendment. Right hon. Gentlemen opposite got into office in 1886 by opposition to the Home Rule policy, and for the same reason they lost office in 1892. They thought, no doubt, that opposition to Home Rule was popular in the country, and that they were going to sweep the country on that question. If the Unionist Alliance could be made to last out the General Election—and he was quite sure it would not last long—they hoped to obtain a sufficient majority in the House hostile to the policy of Home Rule. The Times newspaper, which was not influenced by Radical considerations, gave them a majority of 30. Assuming that they were going to obtain a majority at the next election, did they think that was going to settle the Home Rule question? Did they think, even if they had a majority of 50, that the Home Rule question was going to die out like the flicker of a candle? The Home Rule question would remain to be dealt with no matter what Government was in power, until this question of devolution, particularly so far as Ireland was concerned, was dealt with on some such lines as he had suggested
in the Amendment before the House. He begged to move.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE (Carnarvon)
in seconding the resolution, thought he ought first to make it clear what they did not want. As far as Wales was concerned they did not want to set up a separate and independent Republic. They did not want an army and navy. They simply wanted what was foreshadowed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham when he said:—But beyond and above a purely municipal organisation of this kind, I believe that a larger arrangement will be found safe and desirable, under which, subject to the concurrent and supreme authority of the Imperial Parliament, the various portions of the United Kingdom shall be, enabled to exercise a greater influence over local administration and over legislation for their special needs and requirements. Such an arrangement, involving a delegation, but not a surrender, of power, and in which the subjects referred to local assemblies would be strictly defined, would probably be sufficient to satisfy the national aspirations of Scotland and Wales.He believed six years had elapsed since these words were spoken, and Parliamentary conditions, if they had changed at all, had changed in the direction of strengthening the arguments for such a proposition rather than of weakening them. His hon. Friend had pointed out one strong argument in favour of Home Rule all round, when be referred to the congested state of public business in the House. That was probably the inevitable result of the policy adopted in recent years by both Parties in social and economic questions. Formerly both parties deprecated any interference with trade and commerce, and were prepared to leave questions dealing with the welfare of the people to the working of economic causes. Now that doctrine had been dismissed, and both Parties vied with each other in making suggestions for interfering with trade and commerce, for dealing with the lives and comfort of the people, and even for curtailing the hours of labour. In the course of the present Session suggestions had come from the other side of the House for employing people who were unable to find employment for themselves. With these altered conditions it was absolutely impossible for the House to attend properly to all its duties, and at the same time to deal with the 532 separate demands of each nationality. If anyone doubted that he had only to contrast the Ministerial Programmes as set forth in the Queen's Speech for the last ten years with the Ministerial performances at the end of a Session. The present Sessions started with a programme which would probably take two or three Session to work out, and a motion had already been carried in favour of legislation on the question of German brushes, and three or four commissions ranging over the whole area of our commercial and industrial system, the recommendations of which would probably be of a most sweeping character, and would all have to be embodied in legislation; and Friday after Friday they were adding to the number of urgent recommendations to the Government to legislate on various topics. Even if the Government were willing to carry out the recommendations made in the course of the present Session, it would take twenty years to do so. Was it possible, then, that with the present system Parliament could adequately dispose of all these demands in its time? He thought they ought to find some remedy. It was also a deplorable fact that such measures as were got through the House of Commons were often incomplete and imperfect. That was the result of the present system. Ministers overburdened with the care of all kinds of local matters had not sufficient time in which to think out the great measures to be submitted to Parliament. In 1888, when the Local Government Bill was presented, the Unionist Government recognized that they ought to deal with the subject of district councils, with the liquor question, and with other matters; but these subjects were not dealt with in the Bill, because there was not enough time for their consideration. Five or six years elapsed, and the new President of the Local Government Board introduced another incomplete Bill, the excuse being the same—that the time at the disposal of the House was limited. These were illustrations of the difficulty in the way of dealing comprehensively with important subjects. Then, owing to the pressure of time, the only persons who proposed amendments to a measure were its opponents, who desired to stifle it. The men who approved it, and who had 533 studied the question with which it dealt, did not move amendments, although they saw remedial defects in the Bill, because they knew that if they moved amendments they might endanger its passing. The Government, in order to buy off opposition and save time, were often compelled to make concessions which weakened a Bill. The less time a Government had at its disposal the greater was the discussion of its projects, but when it was manifest that the Government could get through its work, whatever might be the amount of time consumed by the Opposition, discussion was at once wonderfully curtailed. That was very curious, and was one of the absurd results of the present absurd system. He was surprised that the English people, who had the reputation of being the best business people in the world, could uphold it. Two-thirds of the time of that House was taken up by questions which affected separate and distinct parts of the kingdom. In 1880, for example, about half the time of Parliament was devoted to Irish questions. In 1886 the best part of the first Session was spent in the discussion of the Irish Coercion Bill; then there were two or three Sessions devoted to an Irish Land Bill, and subsequently the best part of one or two Sessions was spent in an attempt to force poor little Wales to pay tithes. The result was the great Unionist Parliament found no time at all for English business. Even in the present Parliament the same state of things had prevailed, and it would prevail as long as the present system was allowed to continue. The remedy was to confer upon each nationality in the kingdom a Parliament of its own for the discussion of questions affecting it exclusively. In England there was hardly any demand for anything in the nature of land reform, but in Wales the tenant farmers unanimously demanded the establishment of a land court, compensation for improvements, and fixing of tenure. Did not the existence of that demand and the demand for the Disestablishment of the Church show that Wales had special grievances and was entitled to special treatment? There was also a special demand for temperance legislation in Wales, and the Principality had also education questions of its own. One regrettable result of the present system 534 was that before a small nationality in the kingdom could get its grievances attended to it had to resort to something in the nature of lawlessness. Nearly all the legislation of the last ten years for the benefit of the Celtic nationalities had been the result of some kind of insubordination. Instances of this were afforded by the Scotch Crofters' Bill, the Irish Arrears Bill of 1887, and the settlement of the tithe agitation in Wales. No one who favoured law and order could reasonably desire the continuance of a system which forced every small nationality in the country to infringe the law when it wished attention to be paid to its grievances. He also supported the principle of Home Rule all round, because he believed that it would foster the spirit of local patriotism. Hon. Members opposite were rather too fond of treating that idea with contempt. He noticed that our military men had discovered its value long ago. In the army there were Welsh troops, Scotch troops, Irish troops. Why? Because our men of action knew that there was nothing that brought out the best and most soldier-like qualities of their men like an appeal to their enthusiasm for the honour and the fame of their country. What was true of warfare against foreign foes was equally true in the war which was being waged against social evils. It was one way to stir up men to fight against those evils, which were much more dangerous than any foreign foe.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND (Waterford)
said the speeches in which this Resolution had been commended to the consideration of the House had, no doubt, been interesting and valuable up to a certain point; but he trusted the hon. Gentlemen who proposed and seconded the Resolution would forgive him if he said that, considering the strength of the case which they ought to have been able to present in support of the Resolution, their speeches were scarcely equal to the magnitude of the subject. The subject was one of enormous importance. The proposal amounted to nothing short of the entire revolution of the present Constitution of this kingdom. The subject of Federalism was one that at every stage of the world's history had commanded the attention of political philosophers, and he was willing to admit that there were circumstances 535 in the development of the Constitution of this country and in the growth of popular liberties in this country which would induce one to turn one's eyes towards Federalism as a solution of many of the grave problem of the day. No doubt this discussion must in the main be considered merely as an academic discussion of a theoretical principle, and if he were quite sure that the adoption of the Resolution by the Government of the day and by the House would have any appreciable bearing upon the position of the question of the National Government of Ireland, he would have very little hesitation in expressing in very strong and decided terms the views which he entertained about the abstract merits of Federalism. He had always believed that Federalism was—in the words of the historian of Federalism, Mr. Freeman—a true solvent of the difficulties of those countries which had a certain community of history, or origin, or of interest sufficient to enable them to work together up to a certain point, but which had not that complete community, or rather identity, which would enable them to be fused into one nation. But in considering this Resolution he was bound to ask himself: Was it true that this was a mere academic discussion of an abstract theory, with no actuality behind it whatever? So far as England was concerned, there was at the present moment no demand whatever for a federal arrangement. No complaint had been made that the particular interests of England had been neglected by this Parliament. As to Scotland, he listened with the greatest attention to the speech of the Mover of the Resolution. He said he was coming to the Scotch portion of the case, but he dealt very lightly with that part of the case. It might therefore be fairly gathered that while there was no doubt a feeling in Scotland in favour of committing to the management of Scotchmen purely Scotch affairs, even the hon. Member would not stand up in the House and say that the demand for Scotch Home Rule was an urgent and pressing question at this moment? It was evident from the speech of the hon. Member that both as to England and Scotland this was the merest academic discussion of an abstract theory. With regard to Wales, he thought the same observation was true. 536 The fact was, that Welsh public opinion was concentrated not on the effort to obtain a local Parliament for Wales, but on the passing of Welsh Disestablishment and other Welsh reforms through the present constituted Parliament. So far as the three countries were concerned, therefore, the Debate had no practical reality whatever. If he were able to say the same in regard to Ireland he would be found voting heartily in support of the Resolution. But so far as Ireland was concerned, this was not merely a question of abstract theory. It was a matter of very urgent reality, and it was impossible to discuss the question of the concession of autonomy for Ireland on an abstract Resolution of this kind without taking into account the effect the passing of that Resolution must have upon the prospect of a cause which they hoped, and which the more sanguine of them believed, was approaching rapidly to a settlement. He distrusted and disliked the Resolution from the Irish point of view, notwithstanding the smooth words of the hon. Gentleman who proposed it. The hon. Gentleman assured the House that he desired that the case of Ireland should be treated separately and first. Why did he not put it into his Resolution?
§ MR. J. REDMOND
said it was not in his power to move as an Amendment that those words be added. The Resolution placed the case of Ireland for Home Rule on precisely the same level as the cases of England, Scotland, and Wales. But the case of Ireland was an entirely exceptional case. It was admitted by the entire Liberal Party a few years ago that Home Rule for Ireland was alone and beyond and before every other question—not merely every domestic question, but every question of great Constitutional reform affecting every portion of the Empire. It was true that, for the time being, the question of Home Rule for Ireland had disappeared. If the question were at all apparent to the eye, it appeared in a state of trance, to which it had been reduced by the present leaders of the Liberal Party—a state of trance from which, according to the Prime Minister it was not to be awakened until, forsooth! the House of Lords was 537 abolished; and if the resolution were carried the question of Home Rule for Ireland would remain in that state of trance, not only until the Upper Chamber was abolished, but until public opinion in England, Scotland, and Wales had become ripe for the creation of local assemblies in those countries, which meant, in other words, until the people of those countries had made up their minds to pull the present Constitution of the kingdom absolutely to pieces. But Ireland could not wait for Home Rule until those things were accomplished. To the people of Ireland it was the most urgent and pressing and vital of questions—a question of life and death; and in his judgment, at any rate, the policy of the Nationalist representatives ought to be to keep Home Rule in the front of all other public questions in this kingdom. The hon. Gentlemen who moved and seconded the Resolution talked much about the devolution of local affairs to local assemblies and of the difficulty of getting private Bills through the Imperial Parliament. But Home Rule meant more than that. It meant the restoration to Ireland of that national Government of which she was robbed by force and fraud—a restoration which the people of Ireland demanded not only as an urgent and pressing necessity for their country, but also upon the higher and broader ground of national and historical right. The demand for autonomy in Ireland had taken the shape of a demand for repeal until the Home Rule Conference which was held in Dublin in 1873, when the late Isaac Butt, whose memory was still honoured in the House of Commons, induced, for the first time, a representative assembly of Irishmen to accept the proposal of a federal union with England as the national demand. In asking the Home Rule Conference of that year to accept the federal demand instead of repeal, Mr. Butt exhaustively dealt with the question of Home Rule, and quoted a letter written in 1844 by Mr. (now Sir) Charles Gavan Duffy, who wrote that federalism, as it was intended by some of the soundest men in the party who supported it, meant Local Parliaments for the three divisions of the Empire and an Imperial one in common.If this principle be insisted upon," wrote Mr. Duffy, "federalism in impracticable; it 538 implies a reorganization of the British Constitution, and, apart from other objections to it, raises a new and tremendous difficulty.Commenting upon the letter, Mr. Butt agreed that any plan of federal union which involved the breaking up of the arrangement of the Constitution was impracticable, and said they must not come forward with a proposal to pull all existing things to pieces.It is vain," he said, "to expect that the English people will consent to pull the fabric of Government to pieces for the sake of giving us Home Rule or in order to construct fantastical baby houses. … The plan we propose is open to no such objection, and could be carried out with no essential alteration in the present machinery of Imperial Government.For his part, although he had no hesitation in saying he believed in the principle of federalism and that in the principle of federalism all these international difficulties would eventually find solution, at the same time he was convinced it would be a grievous injury to the cause of Home Rule for Ireland if it were now complicated by coupling with it the demand for the creation of local assemblies for England, Scotland, and Wales. Further, he believed that in granting Home Rule to Ireland, in the first instance, care ought to be taken that Home Rule should be conceded to Ireland in such a shape and form it would be possible to fit in afterwards that with a complete system of federalism for all these islands. That was true of the Home Rule Bill of 1893. The Mover of the Resolution spoke of the proposal in that Home Rule Bill to retain the Irish Members in this House, and he truly said that such retention could only be sustained on the theory that at some time in the future a complete system of federalism would be established for all these countries; because, during the interval between the granting of Home Rule to Ireland and the completion of a system of federalism, the presence of the Irish Members in this House on English, Scotch, and Welsh affairs, when Englishmen, Scotchmen, and Welshmen had no control over Irish affairs, would be an anomaly. But that, he submitted, was no reason why the concession of Home Rule to Ireland should be postponed until they could make their system 539 symmetrical. The Irish Members never demanded they should be retained in this House, they desired the control of their own affairs in their local Legislature, believing they would be called back to this Parliament when the character and the future of the Parliament would be changed, and when in its place was created an Imperial Assembly in which all portions of the Empire should be represented. Anything which tended to strengthen the idea that Home Rule could wait either for Welsh Disestablishment, Local Veto, or any other British domestic concern on the one hand, or for great constitutional changes, such as the abolition of the House of Lords or the concession of federalism to various parts of the United Kingdom, on the other hand, he regarded as absolutely fatal to the prospects of the Irish cause. He objected in the strongest possible way to the wording of the Resolution which placed Home Rule, which was urgent and pressing, in the same category as the cause of federalism in Great Britain, which could not be regarded at this moment as within the range of practical politics. If it were possible he would have liked to have moved after the words "it is desirable" in the Resolution to insert—that, after a national Parliament shall be established in Ireland, to devolve upon Legislatures in Scotland, Wales, and England the management of their own affairs.Had the Resolution contained those words it might possibly have been within his power to support it, but as it stood he could not take the responsibility of voting in its favour.
§ MR. R. NEVILLE (Liverpool, Exchange)
remarked that the hon. Member for Waterford had attributed to the supporters of this Resolution a desire to postpone Home Rule for Ireland. He thought if the Liberal Party in that House were to treat Ireland and the Members from Ireland with as little sympathy and consideration in their difficulties as some of the Irish Members seemed disposed to concede to them, then the prospect of Home Rule would be in a very poor way. He, for one, most distinctly disclaimed, in giving his support to the Resolution, any desire whatever to postpone or retard the passing of a measure of Home Rule for Ireland, and 540 he thought it was a little hard that the hon. Member for Waterford should refuse to them what he had pointed out in their case would merely be the result of an academic discussion, while he himself, or rather those he represented, had had the advantage of the passing by that House of a Home Rule measure. The hon. Member talked about some supposed desire on the part of the Liberals to minimise and reduce the degree of self-government which should be conceded to the Irish people, and he asked them what their views on Home Rule were. He would ask the hon. Member to read the Home Rule Bill which was passed by the House of Commons. To every word of that Bill he and every one on that side of the House who supported it still adhered. It seemed to have been rather understood that this question was a question primarily affecting Scotland and Wales. He confessed he did not take that view of it, because it had always seemed to him that if there was any member of the partnership to whom Home Rule was rapidly becoming a necessity it was England herself. It was said that England was represented by a majority of Unionist Members, and consequently if they dissociated England from her allies they would get possibly a permanently Tory majority in this country. He did not think so. He thought the result of an election, where the social issues placed before our countrymen were dissociated from certain Imperial questions, from which at present they could not so dissociate them, would be startling to hon. Members opposite. But even if that were the result he should not complain, because his notion of Liberalism was not Liberalism by coercion. He was satisfied they never could do any good in the interests of progress by forcing on any national reforms which the people were not ready for and did not want. From the social point of view a delegation of the matters of each nationality would result in great benefit to the country at large. In the first place, he could not imagine anything which would afford greater facilities for social progress than having England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales all separately managing their social matters for themselves. They would not all go in the same direction. One would attempt one reform and another a different one; 541 and there would be the great advantage of comparing differences. The mistakes of one would save the others from similar mistakes. There would, in short, be four times the chance of real social progress if they had these four independent movements along parallel lines going on at the same time. An even more important consideration was the effect which such a devolution would have on the Imperial Parliament. It would eliminate from the Imperial Parliament that provincialism which must be present so long as it had at times to descend to the details of local government. It would immensely strengthen our position with regard to our relations with foreign countries. At present the power of the Little England party was altogether incommensurate with the public support it had behind it; yet there were times when, owing to social and domestic questions, even such a small party might have a serious effect in regard to our foreign relations. There was very little doubt that what one heard at the present time on that question tended to lead foreign nations to suppose that England was always squeezable, and that they had only to squeeze hard enough to get what they wanted. He certainly thought the Imperial Parliament, discharged from the necessary domestic differences of party warfare about what were really local affairs, would be in a much better position to deal with the interests of the Empire at large than Parliament could at the present time. There was only one other consideration, and that was this, that such an arrangement would undoubtedly lend itself to what he feared was quite impracticable under present conditions, and that was the presence of representatives from all parts of the Empire in a common Imperial Parliament. Great as had been the history of this Imperial Parliament, all Englishmen could only look forward with pride and hope to an assembly in which they had representatives from every part of the Empire. At the present stage it was wasting time to allege that the difficulties were insuperable. Until they first settled the question of whether they wanted this change or not, it was useless to attempt to discuss how they were to get it, and they were not in a position to be able to say they could not get it at all.
§ Mr. J. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
said, he had not any intention of intervening in the Debate, but, after the speech of the hon. Member for Waterford, he felt it incumbent upon him to explain, however briefly, the reasons why he should heartily support the Motion. The hon. Member for Waterford had said he could support no Motion which seemed to tend to the postponement of Home Rule for Ireland. Nor could he, nor could any one of the Party with whom he worked, if it had any such tendency, but he did not believe that this Motion, had any such tendency. The hon. Member said he objected to anything which bore the appearance of postponing Home Rule, whether it was for this Motion, or for Welsh Disestablishment, or for any other measure. He begged to tell the hon. Member that his speech was not that of a practical politician. He held that no man had any right to come to the House and, pretending to represent the interests of the Irish people, say he was prepared to take up such a position towards the allies who had stood faithfully by them during many long years of struggle, and say the Irish Members would accept their assistance and loyal support and give them nothing in return. That was the policy of political idiocy, and those who advocated it should betake themselves to the hillsides of Ireland, and not sit upon the Benches of the House of Commons. If anything was to be won for Ireland it must be on the principle of voting against those who were the enemies of Ireland, and assisting those who were friends of that country. Was there any man in that House who supposed that the people of Ireland were so stupid, or so incapable of understanding the elements of politics, as to believe that they would be serving the interests of Ireland or advancing the hour of victory for Home Rule by telling their Welsh allies, after 15 years of faithful alliance and friendly co-operation, that they would not give a vote for Welsh Disestablishment this year? They tried that issue out in Ireland last year, and the mandate they received from their constituents was to support the Welsh people in their efforts to secure Welsh Disestablishment. On the same principle they ought to support that Resolution that night, and, as Irish 543 Nationalists, they would support it. The Mover and Seconder of the Resolution recognised that the case of Ireland had priority and was a special case. They did not attempt to minimise or curtail the demands of Ireland, or even to say that the demands of Ireland were exactly the same as those of Scotland or Wales. They admitted that the demands of those two countries were not so urgent as those of Ireland, and he asked whether, that being so, it would be reasonable or just on the part of honest men if they were to refuse to support the demands of their friends in Scotland and Wales. He spoke, he was sure, the sentiments of nine-tenths of the people of Ireland when he said they would be condemned tomorrow if they did not support the reasonable and just demands which had been put forward. He looked at this Resolution from the point of view largely, though not entirely, of the interests of Ireland, and he thought they were bound, by every consideration of expediency, and of their desire to push forward the cause of Home Rule, to show to their allies that so long as they were true to them the Irish Members would be true to them, and as they gave up the whole of one Session to pass Home Rule for Ireland and were going to give up a considerable part of this Session to pass a Bill in which the fate and fortunes of the people of Ireland were closely bound up, they would give them a fair and reasonable return for their kind offices to Ireland. He looked at it also from a wider point of view. He believed that the Irish Question in this country had since 1886, the year that marked an epoch in the history of Ireland—when an English Minister for the first time declared himself as the champion of Irish grievances, and when the great majority of the Radicals and Liberals of this country for the first time took up the case of Irish grievances—entered into a different phase. He believed that the Irish Members would be utterly unworthy if they did 544 not modify their former attitude in accordance with the modified circumstances in which they were placed. The Irish Party were no longer isolated in this country. They were no longer pariahs and outcasts. They had, he believed, a firm and deep-seated hold on the rank and file, apart from the leaders, of the Liberal Party; they possessed, he believed, a hold on the people of this country, and false would they be if they cast away that great hold. The Irish Party recognised the great value of that position, and had modified their action accordingly. He trusted that, in the future, while they would never lower the flag of the Irish cause, which it was their first duty to maintain and push forward, or allow it to be postponed by one hour longer than the absolute necessities of the case required, they would also show that they felt for the wants and rights of the people of this country; and so long as the democracy of Great Britain were true to the cause of Home Rule, so long would they find in Irish Nationalists true and honest sympathisers.
MR. GRAHAM MURRAY (Buteshire)
remarked that there was always an air of unreality about these Friday evening discussions. They seemed to be like "ploughing the sand." In the last Parliament, right hon. Gentlemen opposite were very fond of promulgating the theory that it was the duty of the Government promptly to follow up the passing of one of these Resolutions by bringing in a Bill to give effect to it. Notably in the case of payment of Members, the Chancellor of the Exchequer had altered the well-known words of Felix thus:—Though I am very happy to hear you now, I will pay you at a more convenient season.The subjects chosen for these Friday night discussions should not, in his opinion, be too far from the range of practical politics. In rising that night he had endeavoured to free himself from 545 any feeling of that sort, and to treat this Motion with the gravity of the Mover and Seconder. But those speeches failed to deal with the topic upon which he most desired information. They did not say one single word as to what arrangements they proposed in relation to the Executive. After all, was not this the crux of the whole question? It was impossible to avoid one or two alternatives—either they must have a local Executive, practically independent of the Imperial Executive, or they must have an Executive independent of the Legislature. In the first alternative, they would enter again upon that long controversial debate which they had upon the Irish Home Rule Bill, which could never be better settled than in the words of the homely proverb—If two men ride on a horse one of them must be in front.If it had been shown that the vetoes proposed in the case of Ireland would have broken down just when they would be most wanted, what, he asked, would be the case when they were dealing with four Executives, representing, or not representing, the dominant political party at the time? If they took the other alternative they had to face the establishment of an Executive not dependent on the Legislature, and they would then be surrendering the distinguishing feature of the British Constitution, which more than anything else, had tended to the maintenance of personal freedom—a privilege which we, more than any other nation, had enjoyed. There were many examples in other countries where the divorce was complete. America was an instance at the present moment of a country where the Executive did not represent the majority of the Legislature. That would be an absolutely new system to establish in this country, and, as the hon. and learned Member for Water-ford had truly said, it would be tearing up the British Constitution. 546 There was one point which he did not think had been touched upon by the hon. Members who moved and seconded the Resolution, and it was the effect which the establishment of those separate Parliaments would have on the course of Legislation. After all, there was not nearly so much distinction between the legal system of the various parts of the three kingdoms as was sometimes thought. Even in regard to Scotland, were it not for two things—namely, some picturesque peculiarities in the Scotch marriage laws, and the fact that the English lawyer did not understand the Scotch legal jargon and forms—the legal systems of the two countries would be very nearly the same. The whole great commercial system was the same, and what men had been trying to do for many years past was to assimilate the laws of the two countries. But the effect of the Resolution was to reverse that process and to make the systems of law different. Then what was to be the prospect of the Imperial Parliament after those Local Legislatures had been established? Was the Imperial Parliament to be reduced to a dreary discussion on the Navy Estimates? An hon. Member opposite had spoken of the necessity there was for a better understanding and a better discussion of Indian and Colonial affairs in that House. Did he really think that if this Parliament discussed nothing but the Navy Estimates, and Indian and Colonial affairs, that it would retain its character as the Imperial and supreme Parliament? Men were interested in those things that concerned and affected them most. Let them take, as an illustration, the list of subjects referred to in the Home Rule Bill as applying to an Irish Parliament, and could they doubt for a moment that if the local Legislatures were continually discussing all the important questions that arose upon those subjects, while this Parliament engaged only in an occasional debate upon Indian finances and economy—could they doubt, under those circumstances, that the 547 centre of interest and the supreme power would in time leave that Parliament and centre in the local Parliaments? It was impossible, then, to deal with more than the fringe of the subject, but he wished to point out to the House that the Resolution was an entirely different thing from the Home Rule policy of the Government, a fact that had been recognized by the hon. Member for Water-ford. He was anxious to know, therefore, what would be the attitude of the Government towards the Resolution. Had they found out their present Irish policy was not a good playing card, and, if so, did they think that Home Rule all round was a better card? As to any demand for Home Rule, he did not believe there was much in Scotland, and probably the hon. Member for the Exchange Division of Liverpool might take his place as the first English Home Ruler. But the important point was to know the course the Government intended to adopt on the present occasion. They did not want simple expressions of sympathy, and he confessed that he was astonished to hear the hon. Member for the Kirkcaldy Burghs, after quoting from a speech of the Prime Minister during the Recess to justify his statement, that he could have no doubt as to what would be the attitude of the Government on the question. He would press upon the right hon. Gentleman opposite, if he vas going to speak, that he should at least recognise the real meaning of the proposal, which was the tearing up of our present Constitution. It was something different from the Home Rule Bill, which no one thought or argued as if it proposed a federal system. If he did so, he might stir up the Government's present Irish policy, and the Government might even cease to ponder over the difficult question of the wording of that Resolution which they all expected to see some day. But if he contented himself with mere words of sympathy, which meant nothing, then upon this occasion they would have been wasting in idle words the idlest Friday evening of an unpractical Session.
§ THE SECRETARY FOR SCOTLAND (Sir GEORGE TREVELYAN, Glasgow, Bridgeton)
said, the Amendment of his hon. Friend raised a large question, but he did not think that was any objection in an abstract Resolution. When he was nearer the age of his hon. Friend he had raised in abstract Resolutions the largest legislative questions which had been carried in our generation—the Abolition of Purchase in the Army and the Extension of Household Suffrage—and he doubted whether the time could have been very much better employed. Those who raised large questions in abstract Resolutions, however, must not, and probably did not, expect the concurrence and support of the Government, as a Government, the first time that they were placed upon the Paper. Governments which had got a great deal of work in hand, and were not quite in their first youth, were generally rather slow in their corporate capacity in giving their adhesion to propositions which, if accepted, might bring down upon them very great and herculean labours. They had to be careful not to pledge themselves prematurely, and they had to be careful, also, not to abuse the great influence of the Government by bring pressure to influence and alter the genuine opinion of the House of Commons. The value of abstract Resolutions consisted in their being the measure and mirror of the real opinion of Parliament. It was impossible that questions of advantage to the country could ever ripen and come to maturity, or that dangerous proposals could ever be finally condemned by public opinion, unless Parliament freely expressed its opinion when these matters were brought before them. Unless on that bench and all through the House Members gave their votes according to to the light that was in them, they had better do away altogether with abstract Resolutions and give the whole time of the House to passing Bills, whether of private Members or of the Government. 549 One hon. Member had said that the discussion was unreal, and he was hound to say that the hon. Member did not, he thought, add very much to its reality. He thought, however, the House was very well satisfied with the Debate; he had very seldom heard the opinions of all quarters of the kingdom more adequately expressed. The hon. Mover told them the story of Scotland, and although he had told it before, he had done so this time with novelty; the hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs was really admirable in his exposition of the Welsh case; the question of England was put by his hon. Friend the Member for the Exchange Division of Liverpool in a manner which created sympathy and interest throughout the House; and the hon. Member for East Mayo, lighting with those who had fought with him shoulder to shoulder, and who would continue to fight with him in the national cause, if nobody else did, put the case of Ireland in a manner which perfectly satisfied, at any rate, hon. Members who sat upon that Bench. As far as Scotland was concerned, he supposed every Scotch Member present had voted for or against Home Rule for Scotland. The circumstances of last Session and this Session had not diminished the motives of hon. Members. Last Session English business and the Imperial business connected with finance filled the time of Parliament so completely that, but for a single circumstance, Scotland would have got nothing for herself at all, the circumstance being that her principal measure was sent to a Committee upon which all Scotch Members sat and had their say, and upon which they could bring their influence to bear. By this means Scotland got 60 hours of public time—no great allowance, but good use was made of it, and by snatching those 60 hours from the furnace they got a Scotch measure which was a Scotch measure indeed. If that Bill had been in Committee it would have taken, not 60 hours or 120 hours, but—what the 550 English Bill which did more for England than Scotland—he believed 240 hours of public time. It was a Bill which did as much for Scotland and more than the English Bill did for England, because, in addition to a complete system of parish councils, it gave to Scotland a new Local Government Board. The reason for this was it was sent to a body which had some of the leading features of a Scotch Parliament, and the consequence was they got a measure which had given solid satisfaction in Scotland. If that legislation had been conducted in Edinburgh instead of Westminster, not only would Scotland have got as good, and better, a Parish Councils Bill, but there would have been plenty of time for other legislation which Scotland needed. This Session the Government had in petto a County Council Bill which he believed every Member would wish to pass. They had, besides, a Crofters Bill, which although not applicable to the whole of Scotland was greatly wanted by public opinion in the whole of Scotland, and was passionately demanded by the counties which might be called the crofting counties. Why could not these Bills see the light? Because not the gateway but the threshold of Parliament was blocked by a great Bill for Wales and Ireland. The hon. Member for Buteshire had raised a difficulty which he seemed to think insuperable. He said:—You must have an Executive independent of the Imperial Executive, or you must have an Executive totally separate from the local Legislature.He himself did not think this was an alternative at all. They might have an Executive which was dependent on the local Legislature, but which was, at the same time, subordinate to the Imperial Executive. What would happen if they transferred not only Scotch legislation but Scotch administration to Edinburgh? In what respect was it now dependent on the Imperial Executive? Any one who knew the Scotch Office knew it was 551 not dependent on the Imperial Executive at all for practical purposes, except one—for money. Whatever the Scotch Secretary, dependent as he was on this Parliament, and especially on the Scotch Members, desired to do, he would venture to say that in purely Scotch matters he was never checked by the Imperial Executive. Where he was checked, hampered, and fettered was as regarded money. Like others he was absolutely dependent on the Treasury, and it would be no evil if the Scotch Executive had to provide for the needs of Scotland, according to Scotch views, out of Scotch resources, voted by a Scotch Parliament. Two things would come from that. In the first place, Scotch needs, where money was really wanted, would be adequately met with full knowledge of the circumstances, and in those cases where undue pressure was brought to bear occasionally from other parts of Scotland, in a manner which was not quite consistent with the self-respect of Scotland, that would be much less freely done. It was said by the hon. Gentleman opposite that the complaint that Scotland could not get any Legislation came to a question of time alone. Of course, it was all a question of time, but look at what that meant. Take a little measure, trumpery, perhaps, in the eyes of the House, but not in the eyes of Scotchmen, for closing public-houses. Many years ago a Bill for that purpose passed through this House and went to the House of Lords, which cut out of it a provision allowing the large cities to close their public-houses at 10 o'clock, and obliged them to close only at 11 o'clock. The municipalities of every great city in Scotland asked to have the same opportunity as others of closing at 10 o'clock; but, although there was absolute unanimity of opinion on the subject, Scotland was debarred from having what it wanted. The hon. Gentleman said it was only a question of time; but what did that mean? Nine years ago a majority of Scotch Members 552 were in favour of throwing open Parish Councils to the people; but nine years passed before Parliament would pass a Bill. What was nine years? It was one-third of a generation. Was a country which wanted a change of that kind to be told to wait nine years because of a block of business in the House of Commons, and then to be told it was a question of time only? Then, if Scotch Members were persuaded that Scotland knew how to manage her own business, and if they had so voted on two previous occasions, were they to be deterred from doing so again because Scotland was put into the same Resolution with Ireland and with Wales, for whom Scotland had the greatest sympathy. [Laughter and cheers.] Why was that a question for laughter? If ever there were two countries that were alike in political and social matters it was Scotland and Wales? Look at the position of Wales? Here was a question that Wales understood, on which she felt deeply, and on which her Members exhibited unprecedented unanimity. Out of 34, 31 were in favour of Disestablishing and Disendowing the Church; and what was the reception they got? They were told they were only 30 Members of Parliament—a mere section—and that it was disgraceful of the Government to think of gratifying them. When the Bill went—as it would go—to the House of Lords, what would be found there? An assembly with plenty of Welsh bishops, without a single Dissenting minister: an assembly with plenty of Welsh landlords without a single representative of the poor farmers and shopkeepers, who supported their own ministers and their own worship, and who, at the same time, saw all the religious Endowments of the country go to another creed. If ever there was a country capable of managing its Ecclesiastical affairs it was Wales. That country felt deeply on two kindred subjects—temperance and education—and yet the people were unable to have their own 553 way in managing these questions, which concerned them so deeply. How sincere, almost pathetic, had been the desire of the Welsh people to get a share of higher education. When, with great difficulty and the help of this House, they had been able to put forward a scheme of Welsh education, it went to the House of Lords, where it met with treatment most unsympathetic, and where the immense power of men who differed from them was conscientiously but ruthlessly exercised to ruin their hopes. When Scotchmen were asking to manage their own Scottish matters, their own liquor laws, and their education, they were more likely to do it freely and gladly, because, at the same time, they could put in a good word for Wales. And what was the result of this? That England and English Liberals in Parliament were in English matters left without the assistance of Welsh, Scotch, and Irish Liberals. He thought it would be a very good thing that England, be she Conservative or be she Liberal, should manage her own affairs in the way which seemed best to her, for he was quite satisfied that they would never get any healthy, progressive feeling in England so long as she had to depend on the assistance of Liberals who lived outside her own confines. As to the condition of business in the House, if any hon. Member was satisfied with it, he could not easily see what was his idea of the functions and purposes of a legislative assembly. Whatever lay before them, he was satisfied that the country would not long or permanently acquiesce in having a Parliament that was blocked by the competition of four nations requiring separate and distinct legislation, and, besides, that had to transact the immense business of the Empire. This Amendment called on the House to say whether this state of things, which every year aggravated, was to last for ever, and those who saw on other remedy for it had no choice but to record their votes in favour of the principle of a 554 proposal which, as the experience of two of the leading countries of the world. Germany and the United States, proved, could be made, by due care, as safe as it would be effective, for giving every portion of the kingdom, with reasonable facility and without undue friction, laws that would, according to its own belief, tend to its own welfare.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR (Manchester, E.)
The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down began his speech by giving the House a description of what he thought its proper functions on Friday evenings, and spoke of the great importance of the Debates which take place early in the Session between nine and twelve o'clock, after an exhausting week, and of the position those discussions take in the labours of this House. He appears to think that public opinion, inside and outside the House, is formed by these discussions, and as he said so, I could not help looking round me on a House which was far emptier then than now, and even then far fuller than an hour before, and reflecting that if it was in those circumstances that the vast questions to which he alluded have to be threshed out there was but a small prospect of our arriving at any rational conclusion. He went further, and he told us that, although these Friday night functions might possess their full significance, it was absolutely necessary that the Government of the day should exercise no control on the Vote Members should give; and I suppose it is for that reason that all the more important of his colleagues have until just now abstained from being present. The right hon Gentleman further stated that when a Government was growing old—I do not know whether he meant us to understand that this Government was growing old—that when a Government was growing old in office, they were extremely reluctant to adopt any Resolutions that might commit them to Herculean labours, and therefore I understand that the right hon. Gentleman himself was 555 put up as the maximum of Ministerial support which committed the Government to nothing. Sir, I differ entirely from the views the right hon. Gentleman has taken of the importance of debates of the character we are now engaged in, and I associate myself entirely with what fell from my hon. and learned Friend near me when he said that they had an ineffaceable air of unreality. If I looked at this question totally from the point of view of one of that party whose main object it is to prevent the proposal for Home Rule having practical effect, I confess I should rejoice to see a Motion of this sort brought forward, supported even by a small fraction of the Government and by a large number of their followers; for if there ever was a Resolution calculated in the eyes of any thinking man from one end of the country to the other, be he a Welshman, be he an Irishman, be he a Scotchman, or be he an Englishman, to turn, the Home Rule proposals of the Government into absolute ridicule It is a Resolution which, if carried into effect, would give us some sort of Home Rule all round, with four executives—no, five executives. I did the proposal great injustice—five executives and five separate representative assemblies. Does anybody think that that would be seriously approved by the people of this country? They are not very much in love with Home Rule as it is, but when they are told that Home Rule for Ireland is to be a mere prelude to this kind of Home Rule all round, and when they draw the inference from that, which is that when once you have given privileges to Ireland corresponding to those contained in the Home Rule Bill of two years ago, you cannot give Scotland less and you cannot give Wales less—do you think that they will be more in love with Home Rule? As an opponent of Home Rule, I rejoice to see the kind of support which is given to this measure by so important a Member of the Home Rule Party as the hon. Member 556 for Mayo. In his speech, which was delivered with his usual eloquence and passion, there was not one scintilla of argument in favour of the Resolution for which he is going to vote, not one word about the effect which such a proposal as this must have upon the very fibre and substance of the British Constitution. The hon. Member's sole reason for supporting this Resolution was that he had received in the past, and hoped to receive in the future, a very large measure of support from various Welshmen and various Scotchmen, and that in his opinion it would be most ungrateful if he on his side did not do his share of the log-rolling and did not vote for something which Welshmen and Scotchmen said they desired. I am sure the hon. Member will not assert that I have over-coloured or altered the substance of his speech. The hon. Member's reason for voting for this Resolution is that certain Scotch Representatives and certain Welsh Representatives in this House have shown a desire to help him to Home Rule in Ireland, and that it would be most ungrateful of him if he did not help them to Home Rule in Scotland and in Wales. That is what is commonly called "log-rolling." It means that the Members from Ireland have publicly avowed that they are not going to vote upon Motions or Bills according to their merits, but that they are going to vote on Bills and Motions according to the measure of support that they expect from the persons who desire to see those Resolutions or Bills passed by this House. That is a mode of procedure which will bring discredit upon the whole of our deliberations; and when the Secretary for Scotland tells this House that this is an opportunity when Members, apart from Government pressure, may for once be allowed to give a vote according to the real opinions which they have formed as to the merits of the question, I would venture to point out to him that his benevolent intentions are unhappily destroyed when we know 557 that the Members of one important section of the House are not going to vote according to the merits of the proposal, but out of a sense of gratitude.
§ MR. J. DILLON
The right hon. Gentleman has rather misrepresented my views. I can see nothing dishonourable in saying that, inasmuch as the great majority of the Scotch and Welsh people have assisted loyally the great majority of the Irish people to obtain what they want, we should assist the majority of the Scotch and Welsh peoples to obtain what they want.
§ MR. BALFOUR
I quite admit that there is nothing dishonourable in that, and I made on allegation of dishonour. What I said was, that such a course of action would destroy the value of the deliberations of this House. The right hon. Gentleman who preceded me went into a great many details as to the in juries inflicted upon Wales and Scotland respectively by delays in legislation. I shall not follow him in a discussion of those details. After all, the British Empire is not to be broken up because a Bill passes five or six years later than its authors would desire. Legislation may be too slow or too rapid, but no arrangement that you can make, no cutting up of this Empire into innumerable fragments, will provide you with machinery which will make it impossible to pass criticisms of that character upon our proceedings. It appears to be absolute lunacy for this country to pursue alone among the nations of the world an opposite course to that which has built up every other great empire with which we have to compete. Look at the process by which America, starting as a series of Colonies independent of each other, has gradually been welded, in spite of its Constitution, into a homogeneous whole. Look at the process by which Italy has been converted from a geographical expression into a national reality. Look at the process by which German unity has been built up. [Cheers and Counter Cheers.] 558 Hon. Gentlemen do not appear to see that I am describing a process and not a Constitution. It is a vital distinction. I say that the process of change, the movement, the progress—that is the point—of every one of these nations America, Italy, Germany—and of course the same process is going on in our own colonies—has been to bind together and not to loosen. And I would ask Gentlemen who doubt that I have given a correct diagnosis of the history of Europe, or of some parts of Europe, to refer to the eloquent passage, which I think I quoted some years ago in this House, from the writings of the Chief Secretary for Ireland, where he points out, in admirable language, that one of the great benefits conferred by the French Revolution upon. France was that it stamped out the very last remnants of those divisions which even the power of French Monarchy had been unable to efface. Let the House remember that if you establish separate organisations because you find already existing what you call national differences or differences of sentiment between different portions of the population, the separate organizations which you establish have the inevitable tendency to increase, to make perpetual, and to make ineffaceable, the distinction which originally called them into being. It would be absolutely impossible to give Scotland or Wales, and, as I think, Ireland—though Ireland is not in question in this Resolution—a separate organization without by that very act laying the foundation of future differences between different portions of this island, which must inevitably weaken the whole unity of Britain. I feel that if we are to maintain our position in that great national competition it must be by doing that which every other nation has been forced to do, by binding closer together elements which, under different circumstances, might tend to separate, and I feel that this federation, as you call it, is not a step, and cannot be made a step, in the direction of 559 drawing together closer the Colonies to Britain itself, but as a step for destroying that centre around which the Colonies must crystallize if the British Empire, is to remain united. There is no sacrifice, not even the sacrifice of the Constitution of this country itself, that I would not make if I could see every scattered member of our great Empire drawn together into a homogeneous whole, as close as that which we in this island constitute at the present moment. But, believe me, the last hope of carrying out any such beneficent arrangement will be lost if in our madness—as I think—because this or that Bill was not referred to a Grand Committee, because this or that Bill was not passed into law, because the law made such an amendment, or refused to make such another amendment—if for trifling reasons like these—trifling, I mean, as compared with the issues at stake—we are going to enter upon a course, which, in the words of the Secretary for Scotland, will inflict upon the Government which undertakes it a herculean labour, and which, as the result of that labour, can only end in the absolute destruction of the Empire. This is an abstract Resolution, and I have, perhaps, allowed myself an undue measure of warmth in dealing with something which can have no practical issue. I have, perhaps, taken seriously that which I venture to say is intrinsically ridiculous. But though I have misled the House if I have induced anybody to think that I imagine the British Empire is in danger, from this or any other abstract form of words, I do ask the House in its own interests not to make itself ridiculous. Surely we shall not add to our dignity in the view of the public if—after three hours' discussion, in the absence of a very large number of the most important Members of the House, with the Government Bench unadorned by the leading Members who usually occupy it, in a House compared with its whole numbers relatively small—we are to pass a Resolution which, if it means anything. means this: that in the minds of those who vote for it some colossal change in the relation between the different parts 560 of the Empire is to be brought about; that the ancient Constitution of this country is to be recast in some method wholly unknown; that we are to introduce a complexity into our affairs, which at the best must produce inevitable friction, and which at the worst will prove a centrifugal force, driving far apart populations which, by the very circumstances in which Providence has placed them, are evidently intended to form members, and can only do their work in the world by being members, of one united whole.
§ DR. MACGREGOR (Inverness-shire),
who rose amidst cries of impatience: Mr. Speaker,—I am in favour of Home Rule on a federal basis, and I intended to speak on that subject, but at this late hour I hope the House will take my speech as delivered.
§ The House divided:—Noes 128; Ayes 102.—(Division List No. 38.)
§ Words added.
§ Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.
§ Resolved,—That, in the opinion of this House, in order to give speedier and fuller effect to the special desires and wants of the respective nationalities constituting the United Kingdom, and with a view to increase the efficiency of Imperial Parliament to deal with Imperial affairs, it is desirable to devolve upon Legislatures in Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and England respectively the management and control of their domestic affairs.
§ Supply,—Committee upon Monday next.