Order read for Adjourned Debate—
That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, as followeth—
Most Gracious Majesty,
We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament" (Colonel Lockwood).
§ Question again proposed:—Debate resumed:—
§ MR. J. REDMOND (Waterford)
I rise, Sir, to propose an Amendment to the Address which raises the great question of Home Rule for Ireland. It is in these terms—And we humbly represent to Your Majesty that this House, while it regards with satisfaction the proposed introduction of a Bill for the reconstruction and reform of the existing system of local government in Ireland, deems it right to declare that such a measure will in no degree meet the demand of Ireland for a system of national self-government; that that demand can be satisfied only by a concession of an independent Parliament and Executive responsible thereto for all affairs distinctly Irish; and that the satisfaction of that demand is the most urgent of all subjects of domestic policy.Under ordinary circumstances, I freely admit that I should not consider 372 the present a good opportunity for raising this question. For this Parliament, of course, I know, consists of an overwhelming majority pledged against Home Rule, and by my action I lay myself open to the criticism that, by challenging a vote under existing circumstances upon this question, I am inviting an overwhelming defeat in the Division Lobby. More than that. For myself, I may say I have little or no faith at all in the efficacy of an annual debate on a great question of this kind, on an Amendment to the Address. I look to entirely different means to force this question on the attention of this country and of this Parliament, and I recognise that this question is exceedingly likely to remain in abeyance until it became, as it did some years ago, in the days of the leadership of the late Mr. Parnell, a danger, or at least a grave inconvenience, to English Parties to ignore it. There are, however, certain special reasons why it is imperative for the Irish Nationalist Representatives to raise this question at this moment in the House. The whole policy of the Unionist Party with regard to Ireland is based upon the belief, first of all, that this Parliament is competent and willing to govern Ireland justly; and secondly, on the belief that the demand for Home Rule is in reality not a genuine demand; or, at least, if it is one, it is one that may be met by the removal of admitted grievances in the government of the country. In this morning's papers I read a speech delivered yesterday by the Duke of Devonshire, putting this point very clearly indeed. In that speech the Duke of Devonshire said—Our opposition has always from the commencement, I will not say been based upon, but closely connected and combined with, the conviction that the Imperial Parliament was capable of meeting all the real needs of the Irish people, and amongst those needs we have always placed in the front a more effective and more popular and more complete system of local self-government than Ireland has up to the present enjoyed, and I am sure that everyone of us—every Liberal Unionist, indeed—has 373 from the commencement of these discussions been more or less pledged to a policy of local self-government. Although for a long series of years these pledges have remained unredeemed, yet I am sure we shall rejoice that in the present year there appears to be a fair prospect that every one of these pledges will be fully and amply redeemed in a manner which we hope will be not only just, but which will satisfy the people of Ireland.Therefore this belief on which the Unionist policy was founded—namely, that the demand for Home Rule for Ireland is a demand which may be got rid of by the concession of just demands upon minor subjects—is during this Session of Parliament about to be put to the test. The Duke of Devonshire, who himself is qualified to speak on behalf of the Government, apparently proposes that local government to Ireland shall be extended not only because it is just in itself, but because it is hoped and believed by the Unionist Party that the extension of public rights and liberties in regard to local affairs will satisfy the national demand for Home Rule. Now, that being so, it seems to me absolutely necessary that Irish Nationalists who support this Resolution should define their position in this matter in this House with clearness and precision. I do not intend to avail myself of this opportunity to deliver a long argument on the general question of Home Rule. I simply intend as far as I can to explain the position of myself and my friends on this question, and the position, I believe, ought to be adopted by Irish Nationalists generally. We say that the demand for Irish legislative independence does not rest alone upon grievances, that it does not rest alone upon the failure of England to govern our country successfully. No doubt a system of government which has resulted, as your government of Ireland admittedly has, in the depopulation and industrial paralysis, in famine and insurrection, in coercion and financial oppression, stands self-condemned before the world. But still we Nationalists do nor base our demand even upon grievances, and I assert here to-day that if your Government of Ireland had 374 been as wise as it has been foolish, if it had been as sympathetic as it has been heartless, and if it had been as successful as it has admittedly been disastrous, still the demand for national freedom would be just as strong as it is to-day. That demand has its foundation not merely in grievances, but in those ineradicable differences of race and history which must keep Ireland for all time a separate race. It has its foundation in that spirit of nationality which I, at any rate, believe to be absolutely indestructible. Sir, this year, Irishmen at home and Irishmen in every quarter of the globe, where they have found a refuge from English misgovernment, will be celebrating the centenary of the insurrection of 1798, and their hearts will be filled with a feeling of honour and veneration for the memory of a man who a hundred years ago died fighting against your rule in India. This is a reason why I have raised this question. Indeed, it would be, in my opinion, a national disgrace to Ireland if, at the commencement of this year, no voice were raised in this English Parliament to tell Englishmen to their faces the plain truth in this matter—the plain truth that Irishmen to-day hate English rule, and that they will never desist until they have succeeded in rescuing their country from its grasp. May I ask for a moment what the centenary of 1798 means? It means, Mr. Speaker, that the detestation of foreign interference in the country, in purely Irish affairs, is just as strong in the hearts of the masses of the Irish people to-day as it was in the hearts of their forefathers when, a hundred years ago, they gave their lives in the gallant effort to end it. It means further than that, that the spirit of revolution against that foreign interference in the government of purely Irish affairs is alive in Ireland to-day just as it was a hundred years ago. It means that, with the great bulk of the Irish people at this moment, the question even of an armed insurrection against the system of Government, which you insist on maintaining, is a mere question of 375 expediency, and the chance of success. It does seem to me that amid all the nonsense that has been talked in recent times about a "reunion of hearts" that some voice should be heard telling Englishmen to their face the candid truth in this matter. Don't let me be misunderstood. You have Ireland at your shores in the position of an enemy to-day, and rightly so. But there was a time when you could have changed that, and there may be times in the future when you can change that. In 1795 Lord Fitzwilliam entered Parliament with a policy of conciliation. There was an opportunity then of converting Ireland into a friendly nation. Remember the words of Grattan. Grattan said thatLord Fitzwilliam was offering to the Empire the goodwill of millions of hearts.This policy of conciliation was wrecked, and the opportunity was lost. Again, in 1886—a long interval and a disastrous one for Ireland and for England, so far as she is concerned in Ireland—another such opportunity arose, when Mr. Gladstone proposed his Home Rule Bill in that year. Mr. Gladstone's Bill in 1886 was not a full concession of the rights of Ireland. No one treated it as such. He himself did not pretend that it was a full concession. Irish Nationalist Members, when they accepted it, openly avowed in this House that they accepted it as a compromise. But let me say they accepted that compromise in perfectly good faith. They accepted it with a firm intention and desire to work it for all it was worth, and in the hope and belief that, though it did not confer upon us the full measure of what we believed were our rights, still in it might be found a settlement of this national question. Yet again this country rejected this opportunity of converting Ireland from a hostile into a friendly nation. The same experience was repeated in 1893. The Bill of 1893 was not put forward by anybody as a full concession of the national demand of Ireland. It was accepted by us as a compromise. As a compromise we were willing to accept it in perfectly good faith, in the hope and belief that in it might be found a settlement of this question. But again this country intervened, and by the votes of England rejected this opportunity of putting an end 376 to the national question; and under these circumstances our position to-day is that we put forward a claim to a full measure of national rights. We put forward a claim to the restoration to Ireland of that Parliament which was robbed from her by force and fraud—by the Act of Union, which the greatest authorities of the day declared was not binding upon either the hearts or the consciences of any generations that would follow. For my part, I never believed for a moment that this Imperial Parliament was in a condition, if it were willing, of governing Ireland well. But, at the same time, I am quite anxious and willing that an experiment should be tried, and I say to the Government and the Unionist Party that if the Local Government Bill be conceived in the spirit as liberal as their pledges, if it confers upon our people the same rights and privileges as were conferred upon the people of England and Scotland and Wales, then, for my part, I will be amongst its heartiest supporters, and will be delighted at its enactment. But when this is a measure spoken of by a man in the position of the Duke of Devonshire as satisfaction of the claims of Ireland, as an alternative to Home Rule, we are bound to protest that nothing short of an independent Parliament, with an Executive responsible to it, can be accepted as a satisfaction of the national aspirations of the people. So far from the extension of local government weakening the demand for Home Rule, we warn this House and this Government that it will intensify it and make it irresistible. England will learn speedily the utter folly of those who believe that Irishmen are unfit to govern themselves. The more power that is given to the people of Ireland, the more responsibility that is thrown upon their shoulders, the more they are educated, and the more prosperous they become, the more conclusively will it be proved that the demand for Home Rule is a genuine demand, and that the people are capable of governing themselves with good sense, toleration, and success. It was my sole object in moving this Motion to warn the Unionist Party that local Government can never be a substitute for Home Ride. I had another object, and it was this, to endeavour, if I could, in the friendliest possible spirit, to 377 elicit from the Liberal Party some expression of their present views on this matter. I may be quite wrong in my view, but my view is that from the moment of Mr. Gladstone's retirement from the Leadership of the Liberal Party a vital change has come over their attitude towards Home Rule. Let me for a moment go back. The alliance entered into by the Irish Nationalists and the Liberal Party was entered into in the year 1886 upon very clear and distinct pledges and conditions. It will be in the recollection of the House that in the year 1885 Mr. Parnell and the Nationalists supported the Conservatives, and they only transferred their support from the Conservative Party to the Liberal Party upon the distinct pledge that Home Rule should be adopted by the Liberal Party, should be put as the first item in the programme, and that in the memorable words used by Mr. Gladstone himself it should "block the way." That condition was violated by Mr. Gladstone himself, when, on the acquisition of Lord Rosebery to power, Home Rule suffered from what was described by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose in this House as "the temporary suspension of the prosecution of Home Rule"; and when, in place of the prosecution of Home Rule, there was taken up the Newcastle Programme, that temporary suspension of the prosecution of Home Rule ended in disaster for everybody concerned, and the substitution of Local Veto, Disestablishment, and other matters for Home Rule on the part of the Liberal Party—apart from Irish Nationalism—was a huge blunder. But where do we stand now? It is said that the Liberal Party at this moment has no programme. I have a speech delivered by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Stirling Burghs in which he deprecated the drawing up of a Liberal programme, and seemed to indicate that the proper time to prepare a programme was after they got back into power. If that be the position, if the Liberal Party has no programme, what has become of Home Rule; and is it seriously expected that Irish Nationalists should help to put the Liberal Party back into power, and put their trust in the devotion to Home Rule of the right hon. Gentleman, the Leader of the Opposition, who, as far as I know, since the resignation of Lord 378 Rosebery, has never said one single syllable on the subject? But, Mr. Speaker, it is not true. I submit that the Liberal Party has no programme. The National Liberal Federation, which is, after all, the official organisation of the Liberal Party, has spoken upon this subject, and has spoken, as far as I have been able to observe, without protest or repudiation on the part of any responsible Leader of the Liberal Party, and has declared that the first work of the Liberal Party, when it got back into power, must be the ending or the mending of the House of Lords, and the carrying out of a system of electoral reform. I have here the report of the Daily News, which will not be questioned as an unfair source. The Daily News, after describing the meeting at Derby, some time in the month of December, as representing 70 per cent. of the constituencies, and stating that the resolutions embodied the practically unanimous views of the Liberal Party, goes on to enumerate the long list of Measures prepared by this meeting. Here then, says the Daily News, are the reforms which the delegates at Derby agreed as imperatively preliminary to any real era of Radical reform. First, one man one vote; second, every man a vote; then, manhood adult sugrage, with three months' residential qualification—a most admirable reform I would be anxious to see—public paid registration officials; temporary parochial relief not a disqualification for suffrage; Parliamentary franchise to be extended to women; all elections on one day; extension of polling hours; second ballot; returning officers to be paid out of public funds; the principle of payment of Members to be recognised; and, last, the veto of the House of Lords to be dealt with. And in the whole programme from beginning to end not a whisper about Home Rule. The Daily News, in commenting on this programme, said—A good afternoon's work, it must be confessed, to establish universal suffrage, male and female, and to free the House of Commons from the veto of the House of Lords. Let us hope that, the actual realisation of some portion of this programme will not take more than as many years as the discussion of them took hours.But, Sir, I have noticed that another great Radical or Liberal 379 journal, the Daily Chronicle, has been dealing with this question of Home Rule, and they have formulated an invitation to the Liberal Unionist Party to come back to the true fold of Liberalism on the condition that Home Rule shall be allowed to disappear. I have an extract that appeared in the Daily Chronicle on the 5th February—quite recently. It was written à propos of some dispute with reference to the selection of a candidate in Birmingham. The Daily Chronicle said—We come back, then, to the rock on which Birmingham split, and we ask ourselves how the situation with respect to Ireland stands to-day. Is it still a war between Home Rulers and Liberal Unionists, or is there some common ground on which Liberals and Liberal Unionists might agree? We throw out the question because we think the time has come for a frank and friendly discussion"—so do I—and we shall be glad to open our columns to any of our readers who can help in the solution of the problem. For ourselves, we are inclined to think that some modus vivendi might be found which would heal the breach and at the same time put a strong Party into the field pledged to work for Irish reform.It is perfectly evident from all these things that Liberal popular opinion in England is in the direction, first of the diminution of the magnitude of the Home Rule question, from 1886 and 1893, down to some scheme of devolution and federalism, and, in the second place, in the direction of the postponement of this modified form of Home Rule until the question of the House of Lords and electoral reform have in the first place been dealt with. I need not dwell for more than a moment on the question of the House of Lords. Any sane man must acknowledge that, the placing of the question of the House of Lords before Home Rule means the abandonment of the serious consideration of the Irish national question for all time. But let me take a similar instance: If the question of electoral reform has to precede Home Rule, it means necessarily the postponement of the consideration of Home Rule over at least two dissolutions of Parliament, with this danger added, that in the process of electoral reform Ireland may have perhaps the number of her Members cut down to 80. I ask, is this the programme 380 of the Liberal Party? It may be said that this organisation, while representing 70 per cent. of the constituencies, does not represent that body of men who, after all, are not the Liberal Party who, after all, are the salt of the Liberal Party, and constitute the Liberal Party of the future—that body of earnest, sincere Radicals, who dub themselves the Liberal Forwards. I have been reading some of the proceedings of those gentlemen within the last few days, and I found at a recent meeting held in London, in the Queen's Hall, that precisely the same programme was put forward, that there was no reference to Home Rule at all in any one of their resolutions, and that the only reference to Home Rule was in the speech of the latest recruit to the Liberal Party, the recently-elected Member for Plymouth, who gave expression to the pious opinion that after the question of the House of Lords had been settled, after electoral reform had been carried, and after this great achievement had been used to carry out an extensive programme of social legislation in the interests of the artisans and labourers of England, it would be well to bring about what he called the devolution of the local work of Parliament.
§ *MR. MENDL (Plymouth)
Inasmuch as I am the authority to which the hon. Member has referred, I may be permitted to say that I spoke of having to wait for the various social reforms to which he has referred until after the question of what I described generally as the machinery had been dealt with, and in the term machinery I included the very question of Home Rule, which the hon. Member says I placed after the other questions.
§ MR. J. REDMOND
I hope the hon. Member will acquit me of any intention to misrepresent him. I quote from the report of one of the agencies, and not from a verbatim report. But even the explanation he has given does not relieve me. Only yesterday I read in the Westminster Gazette an interview with Mr. G. W. Russell, whom we all know so well, and respect so highly for his ability, who is regarded as the leader of the Liberal For- 381 wards. In that interview I read this statement. He said—Most of the Liberal Party wish for some diminished form of the aspirations with which we started out in 1886,and he went on to say that—until the Measure giving Local Government to Ireland has had a fair trial, it will be altogether premature to talk about Home Rule.Now, Sir, I think I have said enough to show that we Irish Nationalists have some reason to feel uneasy in our minds as to the attitude and opinions of the Liberal Party at this moment, and I think we have a right to ask for an expression of opinion from them. I frankly admit that I am not, perhaps the best person to ask for this expression. I admit it, and, as for the last seven years I have not been a supporter of that Party, I am not, perhaps, the one most likely to obtain a friendly response, but I may be allowed to say that nothing would give me greater pleasure than if the hon. Member for East Mayo could have seen his way to have moved a motion such as this, and he will not quarrel with me, I am sure, when I say that I intimated to him that if he would move a similar motion, I would be delighted to withdraw my motion. Sir, the reason that I say that we have a right to ask for this expression of opinion, for this clearing of the air, is this: To preserve this Liberal alliance Ireland has been called upon to pay, and she has made great sacrifices. I do not want to get into conflict with any other of the Irish Members. I can speak for myself, without offence to anyone, when I say that it is my belief that the unity of the statesman of the century was sacrificed in order to maintain the Liberal alliance—aye, and the greatest Irish statesman of the century was sacrificed to maintain that alliance—and all in return that Ireland has received is practically nothing. I do not want to go back to the past. I do not want, and I do not intend, to make any attack upon anyone, but it would be dishonest if I did not say that the main responsibility for the present position of the Nationalist cause of Ireland rests with the hon. Member for East Mayo and his friends. I do not desire to make any attack. What I wish to see, Mr. Speaker, is that the past may 382 be regarded as a warning for the future. What I desire is that we should let the past take care of itself, and that we should pay attention to the facts of the present political situation. I trust, therefore, that to-night we may be able to have some expression from the English Liberal Party which will clear the air, and will let us see exactly where we stand. There is no denying the fact that the continuance of the present condition of the alliance between the Nationalist Party and the Liberal Party is the main, if not the only cause of the confusion and disunion in the National forces of Ireland; and if we can obtain from the Liberal Party any declaration, either in the one direction or the other, which will make the position clear, it must be of enormous value to us and our cause. If the Liberal Leaders remain silent, their silence, I am afraid, will be liable to misconstruction. It certainly will be ominous, and I hope they will not take that course. It is, Sir, for that reason, and, remembering as I do the attitude of the right hon. Gentleman on some similar occasions in the past years. [Cheers.] (I am intensely relieved to hear that cheer) that I, first of all, tell the Tory Party that local government can never satisfy the Nationalist aspirations; and, secondly, to ascertain upon what condition the Irish alliance with the Liberal Party is maintained, that I venture to move this Amendment. You were good enough, Mr. Speaker, to inform us that inasmuch as the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland had spoken of introducing a Measure dealing with local government in Ireland, that portion of my Amendment dealing with local government, was out of order, and I was therefore obliged to recast my Amendment, which I will now read in the following terms—And we humbly represent to Your Majesty that the satisfaction of the demand of the Irish people for national self-government is the most urgent of all subjects of domestic policy, and that that demand can only be met by the concession of an independent Parliament and an executive responsible for all affairs distinctive Irish."—(Mr. John Redmond.)
That those words be there added.
§ Debate thereon.383
§ MR. J. O'KELLY (Roscommon, North)
I rise to second the Amendment, for the reason that it will give an opportunity of bringing about that return to the national platform which gave unity and strength to the Irish people. We know that, so far as this Parliament is concerned, the cause of Home Rule is hopeless, and we have had already experience of the Liberal Party, when they controlled this House, and when they refused to use their power to carry out their promises. I, therefore, consider that it is vain for us to look to either of the English Parties for the carrying out of our programme, until such time as Ireland shall once more gather her forces together, and by the strength of her own arm make both Parties in the House understand that liberty must be given to us. We do not find, from the speeches made in this House of Commons that this will ever be accomplished—certainly not as long as the Irish Members are divided amongst themselves into two factions. But in a former period, which seemed more hopeless than the present, a great man rose up to govern the affairs of the Irish nation, and brought us within sight of the promised land. It may be that some other man shall rise up, and once more gather the people together; and this Amendment to the Address furnishes the Irish people and the Irish Members with a basis on which they can come together once more. It demands an independent Parliament for the Irish people to conduct their own affairs, which are purely Irish—because, in view of their experience of the past, there can now be no compromise. We did, at one time, as the hon. Member for Waterford has pointed out, seek for compromise in the hope of bringing peace to the two countries. But what was our reward? Our attempt to restore peace was treated as a weakness. Different attempts at compromise were used to destroy the Parliament wished for by Mr. Parnell. I beg to appeal to the Irish Members tonight not to be influenced by what the Ministerial Bench, or the Front Opposition Bench, may say. The Ministerial Bench, we know, is hostile to us, for they have promised us local government; but still, if that proposed Measure is as large as they seem to foreshadow in their 384 statement, it seems a very fair one; but no matter how large it may be, no concession of local government can ever satisfy the Irish people's demand for a national Parliament. We are a nation. God made us a nation. The sea rolls around us, and will roll around us for ever; and as long as the sea rolls thus we will be a nation. You have got to remember this: that the force we have behind us is the force of the sentiment of a people; and if we cannot obtain what is our right by argument we will obtain it by force—get back by force that which you have taken by force, if necessary, and if a fitting opportunity presents. It is with these views that I second the resolution, and I appeal to all the Irish Members to come together upon this resolution to fight as one man, and try if we cannot once again re-constitute ourselves a real national Irish Party.
§ *SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
The hon. Member for Waterford has put a question to us in the friendliest spirit, and I can assure him that it is in that spirit that I propose to answer him. When I am catechised on this subject I have to consider first of all what the Amendment to the Resolution is, and secondly, what is the object of the speech of the hon. Member. Now, as far as I understand, the object of the speech, it is to demonstrate to mankind that Home Rule has no friends anywhere in the world. Of course, he assumed that the Unionist Party was no friend to Home Rule, and then he went on to show that the Liberal Party in England was either adverse to, or neglectful of, Home Rule. But, not satisfied with that, he went to Ireland, and there he insinuated, or rather suggested, that the majority of the Irish representatives were not altogether to be trusted on the subject of Home Rule. It is like the old story one remembers to have heard in Scotland of the Calvanist who thought that there was only one other person who held the true faith besides himself, and he was not quite sure of him. That is the view which the hon. Member for Waterford presents of the situation of Home Rule. It is not an extremely sanguine or hopeful one. However, no doubt it is a genuine one, and one which entitles him to the position 385 of "Athanasius contra mundum." Well, then, that being so, the hon. Member makes a speech in which he speaks of the great horror and contempt he has for a phrase with which, I confess, I have some sympathy—"the union of hearts." The hon. Member has no desire, apparently, that the English people should have any confidence in that phrase either, and the seconder has employed language with reference to a nation which looks practically to force, and this is commentary upon the resolution which we are invited to adopt. That is the impression that has been made, I confess, upon my mind by the speech of the hon. Member for Waterford. Now he has moved a Resolution which, I think, although he has altered it in terms, practically expresses the same thing as the original Resolution. His original Resolution commenced by a statement that a Local Government Bill for Ireland would not satisfy the Irish demand for self-government. That is a proposition with which I entirely agree. I stated it, I think, in those words a night or two ago. I have always stated it in every speech that I have made upon the subject. I stated it very clearly, I think, in Scotland a few weeks ago. I stated it in the election of 1895, and I do not think there is any considerable speech made by me, here or anywhere else, in which I have not expressed that opinion, and therefore I assume that the hon. Member for Waterford does not consider my utterances worthy of so much attention as I consider his. So much for the first part of the Resolution. Then I come to the second part of the Resolution, and there is something about "urgency," and, I think, I heard the word "priority." Now, if the hon. and learned Member for Waterford would permit me to observe, as having had some Parliamentary experience, that, in my opinion, priority depends upon majority, I would ask whether the course that the hon. and learned Member has taken for the past seven years, and is taking now, is likely to conduce to the existence of a majority in this House in favour of Home Rule? But that is for him to consider. At all events, it is not my judgment that the course he is taking is likely to do so. That is a matter which, as they say, is "on the knees of the Gods," and we have not yet arrived at that point, and no one 386 can readily believe, or honestly say—to borrow the phrase of the hon. and learned Member—that I have ever looked with any confidence to his assistance in the matter. So much for urgency and priority. And then I come to his fundamental condition, and that is that the demand can be satisfied only by the concession of an independent Parliament for all affairs distinctively Irish. What the hon. and learned Member asks me to do is to condemn and repudiate all the principles of Home Rule on which the British Party on these Benches at least with the consent of the Leaders of the Irish Party on two successive occasions—1886 and 1893—have founded a Measure or Home Rule, and that principle was, the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament. Now, Sir, that has always been, and has always been stated to be, so, by our great Leader, for whose conduct and sacrifices the hon. and learned Member for Waterford, I am bound to say, has shown very little consideration. He taunts the Liberal Party and their Leaders for their conduct on this subject. Is he prepared to deny that the Liberal Party has made sacrifices for the sake of Home Rule? Let me point out how capital and fundamental has been the question of the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament. It was specifically reserved in the preamble of the Bill of 1893. Mr. Gladstone always maintained that it was inherent in the nature of the Constitution; but when suspicion and doubts were raised upon that subject he expressed his readiness to make it distinct, and when my right hon. and learned Friend Sir Henry James—now Lord James of Hereford—brought forward a clause specifically stating and reserving the authority of the Imperial Parliament in these words—The supreme power and authority of the Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland shall remain unaffected and undiminished over all persons, matters, and things within the Queen's dominions,that was accepted, and accepted with the consent of the Irish Members. My right hon. Friend the Member for Montrose, in speaking on that occasion, used words—graphic words—in which he says— 387The Bill is saturated with supremacy. Supremacy stares us in the face from every page of the Bill. There is a legislative power reserved to the Imperial Parliament; there is the Veto, and there are other provisions which provide in the most effective way for the exercise of supremacy when occasion arises.Therefore I say that the fundamental principle in the Home Rule Bill, Which we, who took part in that Measure, and were responsible for it, always asserted, and the members of the Liberal Party who supported it—all those who, at any time, have recommended its adoption to their people—was the principle of the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament. For that means I say, in answer to the friendly question of the hon. and learned Gentleman, that when he asks us to stand in a white sheet, and repent of all we have said and of all we have done upon the subject of Home Rule, and when he asks us to support a Resolution which declares for an independent Parliament, I think he asks too much. What is meant by an independent Parliament? The seconder of the Resolution had, no doubt, in his mind as to what is meant by an independent Parliament of a nation which is prepared to employ force to achieve its purpose. I can only say to the hon. and learned Member for Waterford, that though I have no doubt that he is profoundly convinced of the necessity for this independent Parliament, and though he thinks that to make a declaration contrary to all we had previously said upon this subject is the best method of forwarding Home Rule, I must ask leave to differ from him. On the subject of Home Rule I firmly believe that the general principle—I do not say in all the details, but the capital particulars which were laid down in the Measure of 1893—and, above all, the maintenance of the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament, were entirely correct. We desire to see Home Rule for Ireland under these conditions as a Measure and a policy which we believe will be for the advantage, not only of Ireland, but also of Great Britain. But, Sir, the principles which were declared by Mr. Gladstone are the principles to which we adhere. Those are the principles which are put in issue, and are contradicted by this Resolution, and I can only inform the hon. and learned Member for Waterford that against that Resolution I, for one, will vote.
§ MR. J. DILLON (Mayo, East)
The hon. Member for Waterford, in the course of his speech, disclaimed any intention of attacking any other Irish Member, and I trust that in the few observations which it will be my privilege to address to the House, he will extend to me the same charity which he wished others to extend to himself. The hon. Member opened his speech by saying he admitted that, under ordinary circumstances, it would not be good tactics, nor calculated to forward the cause of Home Rule, to move an Amendment of this character in view of the present composition of the House, and I should add, in my opinion, in view of the relation in which the House stands towards an approaching General Election. He then proceeded to do what he said he felt called upon to do, that is, to justify and give reasons for the action he has taken. He pointed to certain sins of omission on the part of the Liberal Leaders, and he spoke of the nonsense that had been talked about the union of hearts. But it seemed to me that I have heard coming from olden days, the voice of him who was once our Leader, and who did not use that tone of contempt in speaking of that phrase. One of my objections to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Waterford, is that I do not think the moving of it at the present time is calculated to advance the cause of Home Rule; and I do not think, if it were calculated to advance the cause of Home Rule, that the Amendment itself, and the speech of the hon. Member who moved it, would have been received so rapturously by gentlemen on the other side of the House. But that is only a question of tactics, and I do not think it is one with which I am bound to deal at any length, because no proposition for any Measure of local government, however satisfactory it may be, so far as it goes, and no Measure, the result of the combined wisdom of the Recess Committee, however satisfactory it may be, will, in the slightest degree, abate or take the place of the national demands of Ireland. And if it would satisfy him, and in any way conduce towards effecting that object, which I have always considered to be the really important object—the re-union of the Nationalist ranks—if it would satisfy 389 the hon. Member, even although I might consider it bad tactics, and unnecessary, and even mischievous, to move such an Amendment as he has moved, if it would satisfy him and advance the cause of the re-union of the Nationalist ranks, I should have been most happy to second it. There are two chief questions raised by the Amendment. The first, on which he dwelt briefly, was as to the use of the words "Independent Parliament." He gave his reasons for what he admitted was a departure from the platform adopted by the Irish people and their representatives in this House on the occasion of the Home Rule Bills of 1886 and 1893. He pointed out that these were compromises that had broken down, and that he felt it to be the duty of Irish representatives to put before this House, and state in the face of the English Members of Parliament, the full measure of the national demand. I was astounded when I heard him describe what he considers to be the full national demand of Ireland, and I wish to deal with the word "independent," and the meaning which we must attach to it. What does the hon. Member mean by "Independent Irish Parliament"? That is a matter of the very first importance. Does he mean by "Independent Irish Parliament," and by this Amendment, to which he asks the body of the Liberal Party to assent, an Irish Parliament independent of the Imperial Parliament in every respect? If that is what he means, then he is asking the Liberal Party to depart from all that was currently known to the public in England and the Members of this House, as the policy of the Liberal Party. This is a matter of vital and far-reaching importance, because no one can doubt that this word "independent"—and I may say that I am determined to vote for the Amendment—is the crux of the question. I am clear that my course is to support the Amendment. Now, Sir, I turn to the question of the definition of the word "independent," and I put it to the hon. Member to explain what definition he places upon the word. Let me direct his attention, and the attention of the House, to the words of Mr. Parnell, who, in his speech on Home Rule, on June 17th, 1886, said—Now, Sir, the Member for East Edinburgh spoke about the sovereignty of Parliament. I entirely agree upon this point. I entirely ac- 390 cept the definition given by the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Bryce) the other day. We have always known, since the introduction of this Bill, the difference between a co-ordinate and a subordinate Parliament, and we have recognised that the Legislature which the Prime Minister proposes to constitute is a subordinate Parliament—that it is not the same as Grattan's Parliament, which was co-equal with the Imperial Parliament, arising out of the same Constitution given to the Irish people by the Crown, just in the same way, though not by the same means, as Parliamentary institutions were given to Great Britain by the Sovereign.That is what Mr. Parnell said of the Home Rule Bill, and then he went on to say—I understand the supremacy of Parliament to be this—that they can interfere in the event of the powers which are conferred by this Bill being abused, under certain circumstances. But the Nationalists, in accepting this Bill, go, as I think, under an honourable understanding not to abuse those powers; and we pledge ourselves in that respect, as far as we can pledge ourselves, not to abuse those powers, and to devote our energies and our influence which we may have with the Irish people to prevent those powers from being abused.Then he proceeded—I believe that this is by far the best mode in which we can hope to settle this question. You will have the real power of force in your hands, and you ought to have it; and if abuses are committed, and injustice be perpetrated, you will always be able to use that force to put a stop to them. You will have the power and the supremacy of Parliament untouched and unimpaired, just as though this Bill had never been brought forward.Then Mr. Parnell went on to declare that he fully recognised the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament, and, therefore, there can be no doubt of the position of Mr. Parnell on this question. He accepted on that occasion, as he did throughout the long campaign which ensued upon the defeat of the Home Rule Bill, a statutory legislature in Ireland. I remember, in the course of these Debates, it was pointed out that for Parliament to strip itself of its supremacy was the basis of the Home Rule movement as conducted under Mr. Parnell's Leadership and the basis of the whole of the Home Rule movement as it won the support of the Liberal Party. The hon. Member speaks of a compact, and he went as far back as the days of Lord Fitzwilliam and the Bills of 1886 and 1893, and he said that at those 391 great junctures it was within the grasp or the people to make a compromise, but that they only threw away the opportunity, and that now it becomes the duty of all Irish Nationalists, compromise being rejected, to put forward the full measure of the Nationalist demand. That brings me to the second point. What is the full measure of that demand? The hon. Member, as I understood him, defined it to be the repeal of the Act of Union, and, in a previous speech in Ireland, he led the Nationalists to take the same view, and having recognised that the policy of Home Rule, as carried on by Mr. Parnell, had failed, he how falls back upon the Repeal of the Union and the Parliament of 1782.
§ MR. DILLON
You spoke of the repeal of the Union, and the re-opening of the Irish Parliament, as the full Nationalist demand. Now, I say, in the first instance, that, in my opinion and in the opinion of the vast majority of the advanced Nationalists of Ireland, that is not the full Nationalist demand.
§ MR. DILLON
Yes. That is the full Nationalist demand; that is the right on which we stand, the national right of Ireland, which we always were prepared to compromise, and the very fact of our coming into this House shows our willingness to compromise it. As the hon. Member for Waterford says, there is spreading in Ireland to-day a spirit which many of you will find manifested before long—a spirit of despair in constitutional methods and constitutional weapons for winning back the freedom of Ireland. The young men in hundreds are turning to the old ways of 1865 and 1867 and previous years of revolt. I was called upon the other day in Dublin by two or three young fellows, and they claimed as the national right of Ireland, the Parliament of 1782. They said the national right of Ireland was the right of separation. I said—How can you expect us, who believe in the efficacy of Parliamentary agitation, and who were standing on Parnell's platform, and were willing still to accept the Gladstone Bill and 392 the Gladstone policy as a full compensation and compromise for our national demand, and to stand loyally by that settlement.and so we are. And I pointed out to these young men that those who, in the words of the Member for Waterford, are determined to put forward the full national right of Ireland as their demand, have no business to cross the floor of this House, and have no honourable means of crossing that barrier, because, they are face to face with an oath, which no man can take who is engaged in pressing forward the full national demand of Ireland.
§ MR. DILLON
That is what I have to say with regard to the question of an independent Parliament. I turn now for a moment, before I pass from the-question of an independent Parliament, to the view put forward by the hon. Member for South Waterford, when questioned on this matter in a debate on Home Rule in 1893. He was challenged by the present Colonial Secretary, as to the alleged advocacy of an independent Parliament. The hon. Member for Waterford spoke as follows—I have always, in my speeches in the House, and in Ireland, explained, as far as I understand it, that the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament was absolutely inalienable by Parliament, and was not questioned by us.If that be the meaning which he puts upon his allusion to an independent Parliament, I see no difficulty in voting for the Amendment. But the hon. Member spoke of the Parliament of 1782, and alluded to the repeal of the Act of Union as an alternative policy in Ireland a short time ago. I would refer the hon. Member to the fact that, so long ago as 1873, at a prolonged Debate, taken part in by all the Leaders of the National Party, the policy of Home Rule, as then advocated by Mr. Parnell, was substituted as the Parliamentary and constitutional demand of Ireland, for the policy of Repeal. In the debate, Mr. Isaac Butt, who was then the leader of the National Party, pointed out the fact that the Parliament of 1782 was far less free than the one which he proposed to 393 put forward as the demand under the Home Rule scheme. I turn for a moment to another point raised by the hon. Member, which, I understand, he invited me to assist him in pressing upon the Liberal leaders: I mean the necessity for giving pledges now in the House of Commons, and before the English Members, that Home Rule would, when ever they got into power, be the first Measure with which they would begin. I have a fairly long Parliamentary experience, and, neither in my experience nor in my reading, have I ever heard of such a pledge being asked from Leaders, who are leading a Party in the House in a minority of 140. A more foolish and a more fatuous demand was never made of a Party in that position. But I have taken steps within the last few months to secure that Irish support is given to Liberal candidates only on condition of Home Rule holding its proper position in their programme. I know that some of the Conservative gentlemen opposite were exceedingly anxious to get the Irish vote. I remember an hon. and gallant Member, who recently won a great northern constituency by 11 votes, commencing his campaign by alluding to the gallant men of '67, who knew how to fight for the liberties of Ireland. At the time, I may mention, that the question of the disposition of 400 or 500 Irish votes was pending decision by our Executive. Therefore, I think——
§ *LORD CHAS. BERESFORD (York)
The hon. Member's remarks are rather pointed, and, as they are evidently directed at me, I should like to explain that I never made use of any sort of expression of the character he has attributed to me. As the hon. Member has said, I did see an Irish leader in York, but I told him I thought there was no hope of the Irish voting for me. I was determinedly opposed to Home Rule in all its forms, and, therefore, could not expect the Irish votes.
§ MR. DILLON
I accept the explanation of the hon. Member. I am sorry to have misrepresented him, and withdraw unreservedly anything I have said. My only defence is that he was reported in the papers to have made that remark. 394 To return to the point, although I am not prepared, and have not the slightest intention of doing what appears to me to be a purely mischievous and exceedingly stupid thing to do, I am prepared, if it will at all ease the anxiety of the hon. Member for Waterford, to state the position of the Irish Party in this regard. That position is this: that neither at the polls, where we can control the Irish votes—and I think we can influence about 30 constituencies—perhaps more—nor when it comes to the question of a General Election, can any body of men desiring to get into power, or to form a Ministry, expect the support of the Irish Party except on condition that Home Rule for Ireland—and Home Rule at least as extensive and as satisfactory to the Irish people as Mr. Gladstone's Bill proposed—occupies a foremost position in their programme. When I am told that our business is to go to the Liberal Party, and say—Will you tell us what you will do when you get into power three, four, five, six, or seven years hence?I say that a more preposterous proposal was never brought before any responsible politician. But I say—and I speak not only as the temporary spokesman of a group of Nationalist Members, but I am convinced I am giving expression to the deliberate and fixed purpose of the great mass of the Nationalist people of Ireland and the Nationalist voters in this country—when I say that no Government can come into office through our support, or can count upon our support, either at the polls or in this House, unless they adhere to the position in regard to Home Rule which was taken up and maintained by Mr. Gladstone. I do not think I can define our position more clearly than that. That is my position in the matter; it is the position of most of my colleagues around me. I think that the Member for Water-ford and myself do not really differ so much as may be supposed; but whether he remains as spokesman of his Party, or whether I remain as the spokesman of the Party who have selected me, or whether we were both to retire to-morrow, it would not alter the force of that statement. This is not the policy of this group, or of that group, or of any individual Member; it is, in my judgment, the deliberate fixed purpose of the 395 Nationalist electors of Ireland, who send us to this House, and of those voters in Great Britain who vote as we advise them, and it is the policy which would remain unchanged if I and the hon. Member for Waterford resigned our seats to-morrow—which might be a very good proceeding for the benefit of Ireland—and went on a short trip to the South of Europe or Egypt, to see whether, in our absence, the rift of the last six years might not be healed. Of one thing I am certain, that in its fundamental principle, as I have stated it, we should, if absent for six years, come back to find the policy of these Benches unchanged.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Right Hon. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, East
I almost feel that there is some impropriety in my venturing to intervene in the little domestic discussion to which we have listened with such interest; or, to change the metaphor, I rather feel I have been a spectator at a most interesting little bit of comedy, and have then, in a rash moment, spoiled the general harmony by myself coming forward and making some observations on the stage. But I suppose I cannot leave this matter, however little it may directly concern the gentlemen on this side, altogether without some observations—and some observations there are which may be made with profit. I do not, let me say by way of preface, quite understand the relation of the speeches which have been made to-night with the votes that are going to be given. I understand that the Gentleman who moved the Amendment and the hon. Member for East Mayo do not agree in their views, but are going to vote in the same lobby. I understand also that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, and the hon. Member for East Mayo, who do agree in their views, are going to vote in different lobbies. These are mysteries of Parliamentary statescraft, which it is not easy to fathom, and I do not attempt to give a solution of the singular problem thus presented for our consideration. I said that this Debate did not concern gentlemen on this side of the House; perhaps I went rather too far in that statement, because there was one 396 part of the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman, as it was originally framed, and there was one part of the speech in which he proposed his modified Amendment to-night, which was directed towards the policy we are pursuing. The hon. Member stated substantially that the Irish people would not regard a Measure of local government for Ireland, however broad its basis, as any substitute for Home Rule. Sir, in one sense. I entirely agree with that statement. We do not propose this as a step towards Home Rule. We do not bring it forward as a compromise between our views and the views of hon. Members on which we might agree. We mean to bring it forward on its own merits, as an integral part of our policy, as a policy which we should pursue with equal zeal and equal desire to bring to a successful consummation if the Home Rule Party were wiped out of existence tomorrow. Our desire is to extend to Ireland those local liberties and that local control which England and Scotland and Wales already possess, and we desire that for reasons altogether outside the Home Rule controversy, and the embittered Debates which have taken place on this subject; and if the hon. Gentleman asks us, we go further, and say that we have not given up hope that in time we may reconcile every section of the Irish people, and that all shall bear their full share——
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
In the general government of the Empire. We who are bringing forward this Local Government Bill may not live to see that day, for I am aware that long centuries of misunderstanding, and more than misunderstanding, leave scars not easily to be obliterated; but I live in the undying faith and hope that the time will come when the inhabitants of these two islands will be as closely joined as the inhabitants of any other nation in the world.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
The hon. Member neither desires nor hopes it. I both desire and hope it. And which is the more patriotic? Which is the more generous? Which is the best fitted to serve the real interests of Ireland? I entertain no 397 doubt; but perhaps only the verdict of history can ultimately give the reply. Sir, after all, I am well aware that the interest of this Debate does not turn upon the views of the Party who sit on this side of the House, but upon the views which have been expressed—upon the inter-relations of the views expressed—by the hon. Gentlemen sitting on the opposite side of the House. I confess that I do not think I have ever heard a speech in which questions were better put than they were in the speech of the hon. Member who moved the Amendment, and I never heard questions more imperfectly answered than they were by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, who immediately followed. How to ask, and how not to answer, are two arts, both of which have received admirable practical example in the short Debate we have heard to-night. One statement made by the right hon. Gentleman, the Leader of the Opposition, to which I listened with interest, was that in which he said he has not departed by a hair's breadth from the policy of the Home Rule Bill of 1893. Well, so little is said about Home Rule by Gentlemen opposite, unless they are actually driven, that I really began to entertain some doubts as to whether the Bill of 1893 does still embody their views. As I consider it is convenient always to have clear-cut issues, I am glad to learn that the Bill of 1893 does still embody their views, and that when they talk—if ever they do talk—to their constituents about Home Rule, what they mean is Mr. Gladstone's Bill of 1893. I think it is only fair to the hon. members for Ireland to understand that; and I am sure it is convenient that we should understand it. The right hon. Gentleman, the Leader of the Opposition, having, as a sort of obiter dictum, made this admission, entirely avoided all the labour and trouble of answering the questions put by the Mover by going into a discussion upon the meaning and import of the word "independent," as it appears in the hon. Gentleman's Amendment. I so far agree with the hon. Member for East Mayo, that, on this word "independent" you may wrangle for ever and ever. I confess that, as I read the Amendment, all that is asked for by the Mover is a Parliament practically 398 independent for the management of Irish affairs. I may have been wrong in that particular, but, at all events, I am not going to be betrayed into what I have always considered the most futile and most barren and empty of discussions—namely, a discussion of the perfectly empty and futile sovereignty or supremacy which was reserved to the British Parliament under the Bill of 1893. I have never, for my own part, concealed the opinion that if—which Heaven forbid—the time should ever come when what is called Home Rule is to be passed for Ireland, you had better make a good job of it at once, and give them independence. All the studies of history, past and contemporary, which I have been able to give to those constitutions in which subordinate Parliaments, or double systems of representation, exist under one nominal head, convince me that they are absolutely unworkable. They lead not to the friendship, but to the enmity of nations, and they are a clumsy contrivance for perpetuating the difficulties which everybody must admit, our relations with Ireland have been very fruitful of.
§ MR. T. HEALY (Wexford, North)
Then why did you waste three months on the Amendment to the Bill of 1893?
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
Perhaps the hon. Member will explain the relevance of that observation. At the present moment I cannot quite see it. All that I would venture to point out is, the waste of our time to-night with this discussion, in regard to the precise meaning of the word "independence," or the precise means of retaining the theoretical sovereignty of the Imperial Parliament. What the hon. Member really wanted to get out of the Leader of the Opposition was the position in which Home Rule now stands in the Liberal programme. The word "programme" is a word which so stinks in the nostrils of the hon. Gentlemen opposite, that I will put it in a simpler way, and ask where does Home Rule now stand among the proposals they mean to deal with if they come into office? The right hon. Gentleman, the Leader of the Opposition, reproached the Mover of the Amendment, 399 and told him that nothing could be done for Home Rule until he got a majority, and that the very worst way to get a majority was to ask these inconvenient questions. I am not at all sure that the right hon. Gentleman is not right. I do not think it is convenient for the right hon. Gentleman opposite to have these questions asked, and I am quite sure that the less they are put, and the less the public and their constituents know about this unpleasant and disagreeable matter, the more chance there is of getting that majority with regard to the use of which he is so prudently reticent. I now come to the speech of the hon. Member for East Mayo—I do not know whether the Leader of the Opposition listened with attention to the interesting and most important part of that speech—in which he (Mr. Dillon) described the policy he is now pursuing in the constituencies, which is really worth noting now and remembering hereafter. The hon. Member belongs, I understand, to an oppressed and downtrodden Parliamentary minority. In his own opinion he not only controls the 80 solid votes from Ireland, but he also controls 30 seats in England. Not bad, I think, when you consider that there are 3,000,000 of Home Rulers and Nationalist votes in these islands.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon. I made that interruption before he reached the end of his sentence.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
This down-trodden Parliamentary minority, however, have apparently made up their minds very clearly as to the order in which questions are to be taken by English candidates, but I notice that that order is not the order in which English candidates desire to take them themselves. I draw that inference, not merely from what I have heard of the elections which have recently taken place, but also from authentic resolutions of representative Liberal bodies, such as that to which reference has already been made 400 to-night. Whatever the abstract views, may be of English constituencies, and those who represent them, upon Home Rule, it is perfectly clear that, at all events, in the language of the hon. Member for Plymouth, what he calls the machinery of the local public opinion—one man one vote, the veto of the House of Lords, and so forth—is to be finally dealt with before Home Rule comes on the tapis. Here is a difference of policy on the other side, which is of a most startling description. That the hon. Member for Waterford should differ from the Leader of the Opposition is what we should expect. He has never pretended to be a follower of the right hon. Gentleman. He has never expressed any unbounded confidence in the action of the English Home Rule Party. And, therefore, I receive, absolutely without surprise, any statement of his differing from the right hon. Gentleman. But when the hon. Member for East Mayo, who I had always thought was hand-in-glove with the Liberal Party, who certainly commands no inconsiderable section of the right hon. Gentleman's followers, who has always expressed his firm belief in the union of hearts, and in constitutional Measures, comes forward publicly in the House and says he is determined, in so far as his influence goes in the English constituencies, to compel the Liberals to adopt a course of action of which they disapprove, and of which their English supporters disapprove—that is, I think, a truly amazing state of affairs.
§ MR. DILLON
That is not exactly what I said. What I said was that, if I had any influence, I would put pressure on candidates to adhere to the policy of Mr. Gladstone on the Irish question.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
I understood the hon. Member to say that he commanded 30 seats in England.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
Well, influence them. He is determined to see that the policy of Mr. Gladstone on Home Rule is put to the front of the candidates' programme. That is a point, clear, definite, and intelligible, and perfectly honest and 401 straightforward. Is that the policy of the party—the English section of the party—of which the hon. Gentleman is a member?
§ MR. BALFOUR
I think it is possible. After what the hon. Member has said, I not only think it possible, but even probable. Now, under these circumstances, how wise and prudent is the reticence of the Leader of the Opposition! When it gets known throughout the length and breadth of the land that the Irish supporters of the Liberal Party are going to coerce their English allies; when it is known that their deliberate intention is to make them swallow it, with or without jam, then, I think, the wisdom and prudence of the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues will become manifest to all. I think this Debate, in which, so far as we on this side are concerned, we need take no further part, has proved eminently useful. It has cleared a great many questions which were getting obscured. It has dissipated many clouds which were settling over the political landscape; and, though I do not think it has taught us on this side of the House much we did not know before, I cannot help thinking that among the Gentlemen who sit opposite to me there are many who have learned the same unpleasant lesson, from which in the future they will probably find not less unpleasant consequences likely to accrue.
§ *MR. CLANCY (Dublin County, N.)
Mr. Speaker, in my opinion, the speeches which have been delivered on this subject have all of them justified the Amendment of my hon. Friend. I will first of all deal—and I will do so very briefly—with the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down. My hon. Friend, the Member for Waterford stated that one of the reasons which had actuated him in moving this Amendment was that the Tory Party—the Unionist Party I ought to say—are now proposing to introduce a Local Government Bill in the hope that such a Measure will prove a substitute for Home Rule. The 402 Right hon. Gentleman began his speech, as the hon. Members who were in the House at the time will recollect, by expressing that hope in different terms.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
I never said, or thought, that this Bill would be in any sense a substitute for Home Rule.
§ *MR. CLANCY
The right hon. Gentleman said that he hoped that the Irish people would eventually take their places in the Empire and their full share in the general government of the Empire. The expression of that hope, coming as it did from the Leader of the Government, fully justified my hon. Friend in introducing his Amendment. We want to make it perfectly plain that we, at all events—future generations of Irishmen may think differently—entertain the belief and the conviction, and we desire here to express it fully, that the hope expressed by the right hon. Gentleman is doomed, like many another hope expressed on that Bench in the past, to-bitter disappointment. I contend that the motion of my hon. Friend, the Member for Waterford, was justified, not only by the hope expressed by the Leader of the House as to the effect of his Local Government Bill, but also by the failure of the hon. Member for East Mayo to find the slightest fault with the action of the Liberal Party in this matter, and by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, the Leader of the Opposition. We looked to the hon. Member for East Mayo, as leader of the largest section of Irish Nationalist Members, for some decided expression of opinion upon the attitude of the Liberal Party on the question of Home Rule. Well, Sir, I listened very carefully to his speech, and I think I will not be contradicted by any Gentleman round me when I say that, from beginning to end, he did not find the slightest fault with the Liberal Party for their action since Lord Rosebery succeeded Mr. Gladstone as Prime Minister. I do not intend to enter into any controversy on this subject with any Irish Member. I content myself with saying that while a gentleman in the position of the hon. Member for East Mayo—after a deliberate request has been made to him to-night by the hon. Member for Waterford to notice these things— 403 refuses to do so, we can only conclude that there is absolute necessity for pressing this matter on every possible occasion. There was one question asked, which could hardly be answered by an interruption. I think it was: What was meant by an independent Parliament? My hon. Friend, the Member for Waterford, answered that question very explicitly in April last in Dublin, when he quoted the memorable words used by Mr. Parnell, in January, 1891, in the city of Waterford. It is well to recall those words. Mr. Parnell said that the Liberal Party and Mr. Gladstone knew what Ireland wanted. He said—We want an Irish Parliament with full powers to manage Irish affairs. We must have an English veto.Sir, I think that is a very explicit definition of an independent Parliament, and, for my own part, I adopt it. I doubt very much if there is an Irish Nationalist Member sitting round me who does not in his heart adopt this view also. Now I come to the third speech, which seems to justify more even than the two which preceded it, the Amendment of my hon. Friend—I mean the speech of the Leader of the Opposition. Sir, my hon. Friend frankly avowed that his principal object was to know where exactly the Liberal Party stood in regard to the question of Home Rule. I declare, after having listened to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, the Leader of the Opposition, that if I was in ignorance before on this subject, I am in greater ignorance at the present moment. He was asked where Home Rule would stand in the programme of the Liberal Party, and the answer he made was that priority would depend upon the majority. That was not the answer of Mr. Gladstone to a similar question. Mr. Gladstone did not say "I will wait until a general election gives me a majority." On the contrary, he said that Home Rule should be the first object of Liberals for the purpose not only of doing justice to Ireland, but for the purpose of wiping a stain from the escutcheon of England. He also hinted that it was the first duty of Irishmen to make Home Rule block the way of English legislation until it was conceded. Sir, we have been 404 taunted to-night with departing from the principles of Mr. Parnell. I say that the Leader of the Opposition has thrown Mr. Gladstone's policy overboard. He has been challenged to say what position Home Rule occupies, and he spoke for a quarter of an hour or 20 minutes, and he never said one single word upon the subject except that which I have just mentioned. He did not say, in the second place, what the Home Rule was which we are going to get when his majority gives him the chance of bringing in a Home Rule Bill. That is a vital point. I do not know exactly what he means at present by Home Rule. The right hon. Gentleman is not one of those whose past entitles him to treat us in this way. I recollect him within the last few years as one of the most strenuous, one of the most able, one of the most ingenious opponents of the policy of coercion. A few years before the right hon. Gentleman exercised the same ingenuity on the side of coercion. Therefore I say, in the case of a man like him, it was doubly necessary for him to speak to-night to show that he had not changed his opinion on the subject of the Irish demand, and what form his concession would take. I have no hesitation in saying, after the speech we have heard to-night from him, that he has abandoned the Home Rule policy. Sir, he chided my hon. Friend for saying that we had made some sacrifices in Ireland for the Liberal Party, and he also reminded my hon. Friend that the Liberal Party had made certain sacrifices for Ireland. I don't know what sacrifices the right hon. Gentleman has made. I know that the right hon. Gentleman could not have got into office in 1892 without the aid of the Irish vote. He could not have got into office in 1886 without the Irish vote, and he could not have retained office for three years without the aid of the Irish members. I do not know what sacrifices he made. I do know this, that if I had it in my power he would certainly make sacrifices for Ireland. He will certainly have to make more sacrifices for Ireland before he has the opportunity of governing this Empire. I have only to repeat that I think the speeches that have taken place have been useful, and I do hope that they will be 405 read and studied by the Irish people. If they are read and studied by the Irish people I do believe that the national sentiment of Ireland will assert itself, and that that national sentiment will come round to the old belief that there is nothing to be got from this Parliament—from either side of it—by the mere force of reason and argument, and that neither Party in England will ever give anything to Ireland which it can keep, and that the only way to get Home Rule, or anything else, is to fight both Parties in turn.
§ MR. E. J. MORTON (Devonport)
Through the whole of this Debate it has been obvious that the Gentlemen opposite have been interested in gaining some Party advantage from a possible quarrel between the hon. Member for Waterford and those who sit upon these Benches. I think it ought to have been obvious that during the past five years the hon. Member for Waterford has all along done his best against the Liberal Party, and that, therefore, no further advantage can accrue to them from any additional bitterness that may be stirred up between us. But, Sir, I do want to point out one fact which I believe within the nest fortnight will become patent to all parties in the face of the Home Rule question, and the Irish question generally. The first part of the original Amendment put on the paper by the hon. Member for Waterford, which you ruled to be out of order, did refer to the alternative policy of Her Majesty's Government, which the right hon. Gentleman, the Leader of the House, has declared to be their deliberate policy, which they would have adopted and pushed forward on this occasion, even if the whole Home Rule Party was swept out of existence. I believe that it will be found in a very few weeks that the alternative policy of Her Majesty's Government, a policy of local government for Ireland, will be resented and rejected by the Unionists of Ireland far more strongly than any Home Rule policy possibly could be. The fact is, as everyone knows, the Unionists of Ireland are not afraid of the terrible things that some of the loudest voices proclaim them to be afraid of; they are 406 not afraid of Protestants being reduced to ashes and burned at the stake. What they are afraid of is petty persecution and deprivation of local posts and positions, which, according to the right hon. Gentleman, the Leader of the House, are to be placed at the disposal of the newly-formed County Councils. Now, Sir, the difference between a policy of local government and a policy of Home Rule is this. There are 32 counties in Ireland, and in 27 of these counties it will be absolutely impossible so to jerry-mander the constituency—even if you were to try to do so—as to ensure that one single Unionist could be elected there of the County Council—that is, of course, provided the Irish Nationalists were opposed to it.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Gentleman appears to be entering upon a subject which I have ruled to be out of order.
§ MR. E. J. MORTON
I was going to use it as an argument in favour of what I understood was the only alternative, but I shall be compelled to drop the point I wanted to use about the alternative policy. But, Sir, the advantage of a policy of Home Rule—that is, the policy of a national Parliament—has been the only way we can deal with local government in Ireland at all as distinct from any alternative policy; that was pointed out by Lord Salisbury himself to the people of England in his Newport speech, in which he spoke of the evils that would result from any system of local government for Ireland. In addition to that, I remember the argument being used to me personally, in one of the three private conversations I had with Mr. Parnell, that the Irish people had such a history, that the only thing that would enable them to employ any system of local government with success was that, that system should be essentially a national system; that, by having a national Parliament, you would evoke a national enthusiasm, which would keep them straight; and that no alternative or smaller system of local government could possibly meet that case. But, Mr. Speaker, there is another point I want to refer to in this Debate. The hon. Member for Waterford has brought for- 407 ward this Amendment, and in estimating what the exact meaning of that Amendment is, I take it that we are bound to interpret it by means of his own speech. If we take that Amendment as interpreted by his speech, I take it to mean nothing else but this: that he accuses the Liberal Party in this House of contemplating treachery, and in order to enable them to say they are not contemplating treachery, he brings forward this Amendment. I will not contemplate the basis upon which the whole of his arguments goes. I will not contemplate that the Liberal Party has abated one single jot of its intention to carry Home Rule into law, and, therefore, I shall not vote for this Amendment. It is all very well for hon. Gentlemen opposite to laugh, but can they give me one single iota of evidence that we have abated our intention of passing Home Rule; can they produce a particle of evidence? I know perfectly well why hon. Members opposite should cheer the speech of the hon. Member for Waterford. They cheer it because they think that speech will tend to a rupture between the British Liberals and the Irish Home Rulers. But, Sir, a section of the Irish race, resident in England, that is best able to judge as to whether the Liberal Party is true to Home Rule, know that we are just as strong on Home Rule as ever we were, and hon. Members opposite know it, too, for they have found that it was so at the recent by-elections at Middleton, Plymouth, and South East Durham. Now, Sir, the fact is, I have endeavoured to get from hon. Members who agree with the hon. Member for Waterford, one single tittle of evidence; and I have endeavoured to get from some of my friends opposite one single tittle of evidence to show that the Liberal Party has ever said or done anything—or any prominent Member of it—to prove that they have abated their position as expressed in the last Home Rule Bill. And, Sir, until I can find some tittle of evidence of that kind I am not going to be drawn in the net of the hon. Member for Waterford, and I am not going to acknowledge that the Liberal Party is opposed to the policy to which they pledged themselves 11 years ago, and which I believe they are pledged to as strongly as ever.
§ MR. SPEAKER put the Amendment.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I have already collected the voices, and it is now too late for the hon. Member to take part in the Debate.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 65; Noes 233.
§ MR. H. LEWIS (Flint Boroughs)
I move as an Amendment to the Address to add at the end the following words—And we humbly express our regret that no reference is made in your Majesty's Speech to questions specially affecting the interests of the people of Wales.I am well aware of the difficulty, at a time like the present, of attracting attention to home questions, and particularly to the affairs of the smallest of the four nationalities that compose the United Kingdom, but I would remind the House that during the last two years, while the voice of Ireland and of Scotland, countries whose political representation, like that of Wales, differs widely from that of England, has been repeatedly heard in Debates on the Address, no word has been spoken in the course of those debates by any Member from Wales on the great questions in which that country has a special and peculiar interest. Mr. Speaker, the Address which we are now debating is a reply to the third Speech from the Throne since the commencement of the present Parliament. We have seen the course taken by legislation during the past two years. The programme of the third year is now before us, and the case of Wales is not even remotely alluded to, much less do we find in the Queen's Speech any definite proposal for legislation which has for its object the righting of those wrongs against which the great majority of the Welsh people have repeatedly protested in the only constitutional way open to them. More than that, there is absolutely no hint in the Speech that anything is to be done for Wales in regard to those questions on which a reasonable measure of agreement may be expected on the part of Welsh Members of both political Parties, questions which have been raised in this Parliament, and sup- 409 ported by Welsh Members without distinction of Party. It appears to me that there are four reasons which can fairly be alleged by a Government for not legislating. The first is the want of a sufficient preponderance of public opinion in favour of the Measures; the second, a want of agreement between the Government and the majority of the Welsh people; the third, want of time; and the fourth, want of information. With regard to the four reasons I have mentioned, the Government of the day may refuse to initiate legislation, because the people of the country to which the legislation is to apply have not shown a sufficient preponderance of feeling in favour of it, or because the Government do not agree with it in principle, or because they have not enough time at their disposal to carry it into law, or because they have not sufficient information on which to base legislation. But I shall attempt to show that none of these reasons for inaction hold good in the case of Wales. One of the most frequent excuses alleged by a Government for not bringing in legislation is the want of a preponderance of public opinion on behalf of the Measure they are asked to adopt. To whatever extent that may be the case elsewhere, they can nowhere find clearer indications of public feeling on the great questions to which I have referred than have been given in Wales, not merely in one general election, but in a series of general elections, whose verdict has been confirmed within the last few months by the remarkable result of the election in East Denbighshire. As to the second excuse for inaction, want of agreement on the the part of the Government with the majority of the Welsh people and their representatives, I desire to point out the anomalous and unsatisfactory position in which Wales, like Ireland and Scotland, stands in this House. Until 1868, or perhaps even until 1880, Wales did not ask for separate legislation. In the words of Mr. Gladstone, she acted with "sheeplike docility." But the feeling which has been growing for many a year at last became so strong that one claim made by Wales—that for an instalment of temperance legislation by way of Sunday Closing—found comparatively little opposition, and the Welsh Sunday Closing Bill of Mr. John Roberts was 410 carried in 1881. A further advance was made when, in a succeeding Parliament, the Welsh Intermediate Education Act was passed. Those two Acts of Parliament—one passed under a Liberal, the other under a Conservative Government—have definitely settled, once for all, the right of Wales to separate legislation. But, Mr. Speaker, Wales has a Temperance Question that is wider than Sunday Closing. Wales has an Education Question that goes deeper than the question of Intermediate Education; and, besides these two subjects, there are great questions relating to the Church Establishment and the land, both of which have come repeatedly before Parliament, and on which Welsh opinion has declared itself over and over again with emphasis that is unmistakable, with majorities at times greater than have been obtained in any part of the United Kingdom for any contentious question. Welsh opinion has, on those subjects, attained a degree of fixity and permanency which cannot be doubted. It has become so to such an extent that I venture to submit that no Government has a right to ignore or deny on the ground of political disagreement to Wales those Measures which she desires, which do not infringe upon the Constitution or endanger the integrity of the Empire. I believe if England were to record a majority of one for any Measure she would have no difficulty—or very little difficulty—in obtaining it. England has no difficulty in obtaining any reform on which she has set her heart. But the case with what Lord Salisbury calls the "Celtic fringe," and particularly the Welsh portion of the Celtic fringe, is far different. We have asked over and over again in the only Constitutional way open to us for Welsh Disestablishment. We only ask for the application to Wales of a principle that was extended to Ireland 29 years ago, with the most beneficial results to the Church and to the people. The present Archbishop of Canterbury, when Headmaster of Rugby, stumped the country in support of Mr. Gladstone's Irish Disestablishment Bill, and he was quite right. We are not asking for anything immoral. The fact that England is against Disestablishment is enough to make the present Government refuse it to Wales. The predominant partner is 411 to have his own way, not only with regard to his own questions, not only with regard to matters that affect the Empire, but also with regard to questions in which England takes only a sentimental interest, and which affect the other portions of the United Kingdom. A Welsh Measure is rejected, not because it conflicts with Welsh interests, but because its passage may be an inconvenient precedent for English legislation. The consequence is that when a Conservative Government is in power Wales cannot expect to get Religious Equality, Temperance Reform, or Land Reform, because of the want of the will to pass those Measures. When a Liberal Government is in power, the way to the solution of all those questions is effectually blocked by the House of Lords, which is, after all, only a section of the Tory Party which steps in and prevents us from obtaining the legislation that we desire. Is this state of things to be permanent? Parliament has in the past, by the authority of the two great Parties in the State, decided that Wales is not to be governed on principles of cast-iron uniformity with England, and to deny absolutely to Wales the legislation for which she asks is to reverse the policy of the Parliaments of 1880, 1886, and 1892. The present Government can hardly allege that there has been no time to attend to the wants of a small country like Wales. Last Session they often apparently did not know what to do with their time; and on one occasion they actually brought forward, as the first Order on a Thursday night, a Bill relating to a single Welsh parish, containing 381 County Council electors. The Bill was of a bitterly contentious character. It was opposed in the Session of 1896, and withdrawn. On its re-introduction last year the voice of the parish in question was taken, and, out of 381 electors, 349 signed a petition against the Bill. That Bill, opposed by the representatives of Wales in the proportion of 3 in 1, and opposed by the people of the parish affected in the proportion of 12 to 1, was put down as the first Government Order on a Thursday night, and it was pushed through its various stages in the teeth of the strongest opposition. If time can be found to carry such a Measure to please an insignificant minority in one 412 parish, why should the Government be unable to find time to deal with questions which the majority of the Welsh people desire to have carried into law? They can always find time for a Bill if they really desire to carry it. If this Government cannot complain of want of time, still less can they complain of want of information on Welsh questions. We have had two Royal Commissions—one appointed by a Conservative, the other by a Liberal Government—which have sat to consider two of the questions in which the Welsh people take a profound interest. I refer to Temperance and Land Reform. Nowadays, if we ask the Government whether they are going to support this or that scheme of Temperance Reform, their invariable reply is that a Royal Commission is sitting, and that it would be premature to take action until the Commission has reported to Parliament. But let me draw the attention of the Government to the fact that a Royal Commission was appointed by Lord Salisbury's Government during the Parliament of 1886 to inquire into the operation of the Sunday Closing Act in Wales. The real object of appointing that Commission was to destroy the Act, but, so far from recommending any such course, the Commissioners reported in favour of the continuance of the Act, but that it should be strengthened in certain directions which would prevent evasion of the law. That report has been before Parliament for many years, but nothing has been done. There is plenty of information on the subject. If the Government will not give us legislation on the Church or the Land Question, will you not give us legislation on the Sunday Closing Question, and, if not, why not? The Commission took evidence in every part of Wales, and, since then, a Bill has been introduced every year for the purpose of carrying out their recommendations, but no facilities have been afforded by the Government for its discussion. The way in which the unanimous recommendations of a Royal Commission, appointed by a Conservative Government, have been treated, augurs ill for the chance of seeing the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Licensing carried into effect during the present Parliament. The Government are not without information on another question of the utmost importance to the 413 Principality, particularly in these times of agricultural depression—I refer to the Report of the Royal Commission on Land in Wales and Monmouthshire, which appeared last year. The Government have decided to oppose the Land Bill introduced by the Member for Cardiganshire, which substantially proposed to carry out the recommendations of the majority of the Commission. But the Commission, which numbered among its members representatives of the landlords and supporters of the Government like Lord Kenyon and the hon. Member for Swansea, made certain recommendations with complete unanimity. Will not the Government introduce a non-contentious measure giving the Welsh farmer the benefits which the Royal Commission unanimously recommended? Is the voice of one-twelfth of the parish of Berriew to be more potent than the voice of the Welsh agricultural community? Surely time can be found and facilities can be given for some measure of this kind? We have been told that the Government propose to introduce a Bill to facilitate procedure in regard to Scottish private legislation. With the principle of that proposal nobody can disagree. The enormous expense of bringing witnesses from Scotland to London has burdened many a good scheme requiring Parliamentary sanction with a heavy load of debt, and the existing arrangement has throttled many a promising enterprise. But there are only nine private Bills from Scotland this Session, while there are 23 private Bills from Wales. Why, therefore, should you not extend to Wales the principle? Why should you not extend to Wales the principle which you apply to Scotland? This could be done without in the slightest degree infringing the rights of Scotland, and would be very greatly to our advantage. I therefore appeal to the Government to make this small concession to Wales. We see nothing in the Speech about Government proposals for legislation for Wales, but I should like to ask the Government what course they propose to take with reference to private Members' days. In the absence of legislation initiated by the Government, that is our only resource. Is that to be denied to us, as it has been in the past? During the present Parliament Welsh Members have, by the fortune of the 414 ballot, been successful in securing many days for the discussion of questions of importance to Wales. Most of them—it would be almost correct to say, nearly all of them—have been taken away from us. Whatever Wales may have lost, the Government lost far more than they gained by that action. There are rumours that the rights of private Members are to be still further curtailed this Session. If that is so, and if further days are to be taken away from private Members, our only resource will be to bring forward questions relating to Wales in Government time, and we shall simply remain in the House watching for such opportunities as may arise. The dissatisfaction with the treatment of Wales by the Government is not felt by one Party alone in Wales, whatever may be the case in Parliament. The Western Mail, the leading Conservative newspaper of Wales, has voiced that dissatisfaction in a manner that cannot be mistaken. In speaking of the Western Mail, I am, of course, only referring to the ground we have in common. But what action is going to be taken by Members from Wales, who usually support the Government? They can well afford, in matters relating to the general interests of Wales, to take an independent line. I can well understand them, on a question which involves the existence of the Government, on any question which may be regarded as a vote of confidence in the Government, hesitating to go into the opposite Lobby. But I appeal to them, as Welsh Members, sitting on that side of the House, to help Welsh Members sitting on this side to the extent to which they are agreed with us. They can do that without any sacrifice of principle. Of course, if they are satisfied to let the Government do nothing for Wales, all we can do is to say here, and elsewhere, that in regard to Welsh questions no help can be expected from Welsh Conservative Members, even in regard to those questions which stand outside the sphere of Party politics. I do not know whether the Government care or not for the safety of the seats of their supporters from Wales who sit behind them, but those seats will be lost—all, or nearly all—unless the Government is prepared in some degree to meet the wishes of the great majority of the Welsh people. The 415 notable victory of my hon. Friend the Member for East Denbighshire shows how Wales would go if a General Election were to take place now. He succeeded one of the senior Members of this House—the late Chairman of the Welsh Party, than whom no Member of Parliament was more popular with his constituency. And yet, so strong was the Welsh feeling in that division, and so convinced were the electors that this Government had no intention of doing anything for Wales, and that it was quite prepared to force on Wales, in the teeth of the strongest opposition, Measures abhorrent to the Welsh people, that they largely increased the large majority by which Sir George Osborne Morgan was returned at the election of 1895. Are you going to disabuse the minds of Welsh electors in other constituencies on that point, or are you content that the other Welsh constituencies should follow the example of East Denbighshire? I ask you not as a partisan, but as a Welshman, what good thing, if anything, you are going to do for Wales, and when, if at all, you are going to do it? The present Government and their supporters have, in regard to Wales, the power to create and the power to destroy. With their majority they are strong enough to do justice to Wales. They have shown their power to destroy, by those destructions and mutilations of education schemes which have placed the bodies deliberately created by Parliament for a specific object, and not only them, but the Charity Commission, under whose superintendence those schemes have been framed, and the Education Department itself, in a most humiliating position. You have cut down the allowance for the University for Wales. Appeal after appeal has failed to obtain, during this period of expanding trade and great surpluses, even a paltry museum grant for Wales, the justice of which has been repeatedly acknowledged by Ministers and by ex-Ministers. Are those denials of justice and rebuffs all that Wales is to expect from this Administration? It is the usual course for a Government to carry out the least popular part of its policy first, and then, in its later years, to atone for its sins and try to prepare itself for its inevitable dissolution, by 416 good works. I can only charitably hope that the Government intend to make some atonement to Wales for their treatment of our country during the last two years. But time is flying. Three Speeches from the Throne have appeared, and, so far as regards Wales, there is no sign of repentance. I have appealed to your political necessities; let me appeal to your sense of justice. How would England like to be treated in this way? Suppose that England desired reforms of the kind we ask for in Wales, and had pronounced in their favour, as we have done, how long would England have to wait? And supposing she had to wait, as we have done, how would England like it? We have, I am glad to think, the sympathy of the English and Scotch Members on this side of the House. Irish Members can, and do, sympathise with us on grounds of experience. Is it altogether useless to ask, not for sympathy, but for bare justice from the Government? The country which appeals to Parliament to carry out measures upon which it has deliberately resolved, has shown, by her law-abiding character, by the vigour and energy with which her people have promoted the cause of higher education, a cause to which the working classes have contributed thousands out of their necessities, that she deserves far greater consideration than she has received. If you do not respond to her appeals, how can you expect her to remain loyal to a Constitution under which every request she makes, however reasonable, is persistently refused? I regret that the Government, discarding the precedents in legislation and administration set by each of the great Parties in the State, has shown no disposition to deal fairly with a country which is contributing, in a continually increasing degree, to the best life, thought, and work of the Empire.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, East
There appears to me to be a fundamental error running through the speech of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down. He appears to me to think that no legislation can be for the benefit of Wales 417 which is not exclusively confined to Wales in its operation, and that if a Bill is brought forward that applies to England or to the United Kingdom as a whole Welshmen have no reason to be grateful to the Government for bringing it forward, or to the House of Commons for passing it. Sir, I have sometimes seen symptoms of something of the same fallacy among my own countrymen, especially in Scotland. There is no fallacy to which I have a stronger objection, or against which I am more ready to raise my voice. No doubt there are times and occasions when legislation by one fraction of the United Kingdom is alone to be desired, and such occasions necessarily arise more often with regard to Scotland and Ireland than they do with regard to any part of England or Wales, because the law of Scotland differs profoundly from the law of the rest of the United Kingdom, and the law of Ireland differs considerably from it in some particulars, and is not administered by precisely the same machinery and methods that are used in this country. Therefore we cannot, in all cases, though with the best wish in the world, pass an Act which is suitable to the whole of the United Kingdom. As the hon. Gentleman has told us, and I believe on two occasions, this House, rightly or wrongly, wisely or unwisely, has passed Acts applicable to Wales, and to Wales alone; but the cases in which Wales has to be dealt with separately from the rest of the United Kingdom must, of course, necessarily be rarer than the cases in which Scotland and Ireland have to be so treated. Let the hon. Gentleman run his eye down the list of Measures contained in the Queen's Speech. He may think them good or bad, he may think them worthy or not worthy of the attention of Parliament, but he will certainly find that the great majority of them are applicable to every portion of England or the United Kingdom as a whole. Under these circumstances, I really think the claim that he has brought forward is one which cannot be sustained. Of course, we think it is our duty to deal with the needs of every part of the United Kingdom as they arise, and according to the necessities of the case. There is a Bill, for instance, in the 418 Queen's Speech, dealing with the government of London, and any hon. Gentleman representing an English or a Welsh or a Scotch or an Irish constituency, who comes forward to object to that Bill because it contains nothing exclusively for the benefit of his country or constituency appears to me to misunderstand the functions of Parliament and to ignore the different interests which we have to consider. The hon. Gentleman made one or two requests. He asked me whether I could guarantee, as there was nothing exclusively Welsh mentioned in the Queen's Speech, that I would take care that no time allocated to a private Member's Welsh Bill should be taken for Government business. The hon. Member, when he made that appeal, must have well known what answer he would receive. Certainly my desire is to interfere as little as possible with the time of either English, Welsh, Scotch, or Irish Members. We have no wish whatever to trespass upon the hours allocated by our Standing Orders to private Members. But there is no doubt, and all will agree, that Government business is the most important business we have to discuss, and I cannot promise that I shall not take some private Member's time; and as it is impossible for me to foresee when that necessity may arise I can make no exception in regard to any particular kind of Bill, or to any particular part of the country, or any particular class of Members. I can only promise that I will take as little of their time as I can. I make that response to the hon. Member, and wish to point out to the House that, whereas the time of Parliament is limited and a certain amount of business must necessarily be got through, the sooner we dispose, at all events, of the Queen's Speech, and proceed to the business before us, the less necessity will there be for taking up the time of private Members at a later period of the Session.
*MR. E. J. GRIFFITHS (Anglesey)
The right hon. Gentleman says there is a fundamental error in the views expressed in the speeches of Welsh Members, but their complaint is that in the Queen's Speech there is no reference to questions specially affecting the people 419 of Wales. It seems to us that, first of all, there are questions specially affecting Wales; and, secondly, that they are of sufficient importance to justify our claim upon the Government for more time to deal with them. Of course, we have the full benefit, as the right hon. Gentleman has reminded us, of the general legislation coming before this House. But, of course, our indebtedness to him is not very great in that respect, and we maintain, as Parliament has already admitted, that there are special questions affecting Wales on which, at any rate, the voices of the Representatives of the people of Wales ought to be heard. They are not merely general questions concerning the country at large, but special questions affecting Wales which ought to be taken into account. The right hon. Gentleman has invited us to accept the Queen's Speech, but he will find that there is a reference to a specially Scotch Bill in the Queen's Speech by which they have gone out of their way, as it were, to deal with a Scotch question which is a much less pressing grievance than some of which Wales has to complain. Whether they be right or wrong, just or unjust, we have a special claim to have them recognised. Upon matters concerning temperance, education, the Church, and land reform, Wales stands in a position altogether apart from the general position of England. We have, for example, a land question, and there is an hon. Member opposite who sat on the Royal Commission appointed to inquire into that question, and who himself signed the Report, showing that Wales required separate and distinct treatment in that regard from England. The Government professed, before the last election, to be most anxious to benefit the farmer. Will they now carry out the general conclusions embodied in the Report of the Royal Commission on the land question in Wales, and apply the remedies recommended by the Commissioners by passing a Bill for Wales? When we put forward these special questions there is only one answer, that as the right hon. Gentleman once said in public, the House of Commons cannot enter into these very small details.
The right hon. Gentleman will not deny that that is a fair construction to be put upon the language he used upon a public platform in reference to Welsh questions. I think we have a perfect right to protest, I ask you to treat Wales as part of the United Kingdom, and deal generously with Welsh questions. The Conservative Government has set a precedent. It has given us an Education Act, for which I am personally indebted, and for which the Welsh people are indebted. We ask that the views of the Welsh people on subjects specially affecting Wales shall not be disregarded by the Government, but that legislation shall be passed in general accord with those views.
§ MR. THOMAS ELLIS (Merionethshire)
I am afraid the Queen's Speech does not give the Welsh Members as much comfort as we generally receive, because most of the Bills mentioned in it are in a special sense sectional. Two of the Measures refer simply and solely to London, one to Ireland, and the other solely to Scotland; and the right hon. Gentleman could not expect the people of Wales to extract much comfort either from the substance of the Bill, or from its position in the Queen's Speech, relating to the amendment of the law of vaccination, most of which I think will not become law, and even if it did would hardly affect the comfort of any citizen within the Principality. I know there are two classes of Measures in which the Welsh people are keenly interested, and on which there are great differences of opinion in this House. One is the Disestablishment of the Welsh Church. That is a great subject, on which we fundamentally disagree, and while the Welsh people could not expect the Government to bring forward a Bill on such a subject as the Disestablishment of the Welsh Church, nor one dealing with the control of the liquor traffic, there are certain administrative points connected with the Sunday Closing Act in Wales, on which a Commission has reported, and as to which it is the duty of the Government to deal with in legislation. When it was a case of 421 a Liberal Government appointing a Commission to inquire into agriculture the present Government, is soon as they came into power, brought forward a Bill, saying they were face to face with the definite recommendations of that Commission. Some two millions of public money were thereupon given for the relief of local rates in agricultural districts. But when it is a case of your own Government appointing a Commission, such as that appointed in 1888 or 1889 to inquire into the Sunday Closing Act; when such a Commission as that reports to the House upon the working of the Act, and refers to points more administrative than legislative, and which are points carrying out principles already embodied in legislaton, and not initiating new principles, then it is the serious duty of a Conservative, as of a Liberal Government, to consider such recommendations, and embody them in legislation. It is not as if this Commission was a partisan Commission. It was appointed by a Conservative Government, and took evidence from the whole of Wales, and came to eight or nine definite conclusions which ought to have been embodied in a Bill if the Government were in reality as solicitous of the welfare of Wales as they are of the welfare of England, Scotland, and of Ireland. Take another matter, which is not so strong as the one I have quoted, but is still one on which we can appeal to the Government to meet us. I refer to the question relating to the tenure of land in Wales, which in many of its aspects divides us fundamentally. A Bill was introduced last Session, and will probably be re-introduced this Session, which embodied the opinions of the minority. You will probably oppose that again this year. I see there is a very dim and remote reference to some form of agricultural reform towards the end of the Queen's Speech; but no man with a grain of Parliamentary experience will venture to say that there is any chance of that Bill being brought forward. The recommendations contained in the Report of the Welsh Land Commission were unanimously made by the Lords and Gentlemen who served on that Commission, and who differed fundamentally on many questions. On five or six great questions, however, they were agreed. Not one single thought has been given 422 by the Government to this question, and no proposal affecting it is to be made to the House. You defeat our Bills and yet you give no time or consideration to definite recommendations, made unanimously by Royal Commissions. I appeal to the Government, and especially to the right hon. Gentleman, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who in many ways has helped Wales, that attention, and serious responsible attention, should be given to the expressed wishes of the Welsh people upon this class of Measure. I specially ask the Government to consider what my hon. Friend the Member for Flint Boroughs has said to-night in regard to private Bill legislation. Scotland feels deeply on this subject; but Wales, I venture to say, feels still more deeply. In the development of enterprises in South Wales hundreds of thousands of pounds have had to be spent in the Committee Rooms of this House. In a town with a population of 12,000 they could not get permission to obtain water from a hill a mile or two away without incurring an expense of between £4,000 and £5,000 in the committee rooms of this House. The result of this enormous outlay will be that this little town will be burdened for years to come, owing to this complicated and criminal method of procedure. Whether the matter is regarded from the point of view of freeing the energies of the industrial population, or from that of enabling the towns, more especially along the sea border, to secure the first necessities of civilised life—pure water and light—I submit it is the duty of the Government to give equal consideration to this question as it affects Wales, to that which is given to it in relation to Scotland. I venture to think the Government will not be doing their duty to the various parts of the Empire unless they seriously consider the non-controversial, but still enormously important, class of Measures to which we have to-night called attention.
§ *MR. HUMPHREYS-OWEN (Montgomeryshire)
I intend to trouble the House but a very few moments to-night, but I wish to speak in favour of special legislation for Wales. I occupy a position in this respect which, I think, enables me to speak with some impartiality, for I am one of the comparatively 423 small number of Welsh Members who belong to the English section. I feel that the great mass of the English people scarcely realise how completely different and separate from English life, English manners, and English ideas the people of Wales really are. I should like to point out, first of all, the immense number of Welsh people who can speak and read Welsh only. About 400,000 are able to speak nothing but Welsh. Those natives of the Principality who are chiefly Welsh speaking support a considerable number of periodicals—weekly, monthly, and quarterly—many of them of a very high literary character. The study of Welsh is steadily growing, not as a vernacular instrument, but as a literary language. There are 80 schools established under the Education Act—for which we are indebted to the party opposite—in many of which Welsh is taken as a subject. I think another method of indicating the great difference existing between Wales and England is to compare the recommendations of the two Agricultural Commissions. The comparison is especially interesting. I have here the Report of the English Land Commission, and also the Report of the Welsh Land Commission. I will call the attention of the House to just two or three points.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member is now entering upon the question of the tenure of land, which does not come within the scope of the Amendment.
§ MR. HUMPHREYS-OWEN
Well, I will not proceed any further with it. I was only going to use it as an illustration. I will now conclude by urging the Government to listen to the appeal made to them and accept the Amendment.
§ SIR J. LLEWELLYN (Swansea Town)
The hon. Member for Flint Boroughs brought forward this question in a very admirable way, but when he appealed to the Unionist Members sitting on this side of the House, he must have forgotten that the principle which holds the Unionist Members together is the very opposite of separate legislation. In the Amendment which he has moved to the Address to Her Most Gracious 424 Majesty the Queen, he asks that we should express our regret that no reference was made in the Queen's Speech to questions specially affecting the interests of the people of Wales. Our contention has always been that the interests of the people of Wales are so closely identified with the interests of the people of England that we therefore dislike separate legislation. It is only on two occasions, I think, that we have seen separate legislation passed specially for Wales. In one instance am prepared to admit that that separate legislation has been of a nature which has been extremely useful to the Principality, and, I think, the best proof of the success of that legislation is the fact that we hope to see it extended to England. The argument used at the time was that if it was desired that there should be separate legislation for Wales, by all means let Wales try the experiment. And then, if it succeeded, we could copy it, and, if it failed, of course we should not think of doing so. I think I speak for all Welsh Unionists when I say that we deprecate separate legislation, which we think should not be extended beyond the smallest possible limits. It is only when we cannot obtain universal legislation which is applicable to ourselves that we ought to ask for separate legislation. When I have been challenged as to my own views with regard to the question of land tenure, I have always said that it was only in case we could not obtain what we require by the general legislation of the country that we should feel ourselves constrained to vote for separate legislation for Wales. I long to see the Bill which we have had promised, for land reform in England, laid upon the table, so that we can judge for ourselves the terms of the Bill. Until I see the terms of the Bill, I reserve to myself the right to support joint or separate legislation. To the extent that I am disappointed, I am in consonance with the hon. Member who moved the Amendment. I desire to say no more than that we hope that the Bill will be laid on the table this year, so that we may have an opportunity of seeing what the proposals of Her Majesty's Government may be, and that we may have a chance of seeing it pass into law. I know very well what the hon. Members mean by separately. 425 The matter they desire to see carried out is precisely the point mentioned on the Front Opposition Bench, when he said that he did not expect to see the Government bring in a Bill for the Disestablishment of the Church. That is the thing which is in the mind of the many Welsh Members supporting the Amendment to the Address, but I say to them that this is not only being well thrashed out in Wales, but it is being far more thought upon by the people as to whether they will obtain any advantage from the Disestablishment of the Church, or whether they will prefer to see her put herself into a more strong position, and more in touch with the people than in the past. I believe we shall be able to say that the Church is regaining by leaps and bounds the position she partly lost in the last century. She is doing so in the county in which I reside, where we have a population of 700,000 souls, out of the 1,700,000 which constitutes the population of Wales. We see there the Church making such advances, that if you were to poll the various constituencies you would not find the overwhelming majority in favour of Disestablishment that has been spoken of. I have said all that I think I ought to say at present, but my position is that I may have something to say upon the Bill when it comes before us, because I look for reforms to the Members who bring it forward. If we cannot get them by one method, then we may by another. But there is one point in Wales which we are very anxious to see, and that is that the interests of the small, freeholder may be safeguarded. I do not think that the taxpayers of England ought to run any risk, but it is a question which greatly affects the poorer agricultural interests—those people who purchased their freeholds in years gone by, and who are now in a worse position than the little farmers. It is a local matter, local to parts of Wales, but it is a matter which cries loudly for reform, and I hope to see it taken up. The other matter I should like to see is the question of cheapening and improving the procedure for Private Bill Legislation. In the Speech of Her Most Gracious Majesty, we have this passage—That Bills are being prepared for cheapening and improving the procedure of private Scottish Bills legislation. Bills of the same 426 character have been laid before Parliament on many previous occasions, and Her Majesty's Gracious Message trusts that in the course of the present Session a reply may be given.I ask Her Majesty's Government to consider the question whether Wales should not be included in this legislation, that we might have the same legislation for Wales which is promised for Scotland. I have been in a position of some authority for judging this question. I have been a Chairman of Quarter Sessions, and since the County Council has taken over the administrative portions of the work I have been on the County Council, and have had an opportunity of seeing the large amount of work necessary to be done, which might be done locally, but which is exceedingly expensive by having to be brought up to London, and which, in my opinion, could very fairly devolve on the County Council or the Local Board. Of course, I do not wish to enter into any details, but I say whatever measure is proposed to be extended to Scotland, might be very fairly a matter for the consideration of the Government as to whether it might not be given to Wales also. Because if you give special privileges to one part of the country, then we should have our claim to take privileges in another part of Her Majesty's dominions. I cannot accept the challenge of the hon. Member opposite that I should vote for his Amendment on the Address, because the principle laid down is that we should not have any special legislation for one part of the kingdom not applicable to another, unless it is so different in one part of the country that it is shown that separate legislation is necessary, which I do not hold is the case in this matter. The hon. Member who introduced the subject spoke of four different subjects—temperance, education, church, and one other. I think we ought to have one law for the whole. In the question of temperance there ought to be no difference between the necessities of England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. I still think there may be certain elements of mischief dropped into legislation of this character, and I think it would be better if there was one system of legislation for the whole of the country. On the question of education I have already spoken, and the manner in 427 which the Welsh have gone on with that matter, and I believe that every Welshman has thought of that Act, and would be glad to see England follow the example which has been set by gallant little Wales. If the Church is to be disestablished and disendowed, do it over the whole country. On that point I will just remind the hon. Member who has just spoken that that was not lost in the House of Lords but in this House. When the hon. Member for Flint Borough spoke of the difficulties of Welsh legislation, he might have spoken also of the difficulties of English legislation. I am not here to defend the action of the House of Lords, but I have always gathered that legislation good for the country had the sanction of the House of Lords, and had the sanction of this House, neither would become law without passing the House of Lords. If Disestablishment was not passed through the House of Lords, it was by the strong protest by this House that the scheme should not be passed from the other side, and it was thrown out. In conclusion, I would say this, I am not, and I wish I might be accompanied on this side by other Welsh Members. I know I am speaking their views in saying if legislation is called for separately for Wales it should only be in the most exceptional conditions. I therefore ask the Government to very carefully consider the question whether Wales may not be assimilated with Scotland in the legislation promised, because I do believe that in the extensive county of Glamorgan there are a great many things that might be dealt with and carried out locally, which would entail a great expense if brought up here.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE (Carnarvon)
I think there is some conflict between the hon Baronet and his recollection. I believe he lays it down that no separate legislation should take place except under the most exceptional circumstances. He would support for Wales any Private Bill procedure on the point of education, and, I believe he is prepared to do so also separately with regard to certain small items. I am very glad that he has impressed on the Government that the Bill should be extended to Wales. It is not merely a question of large towns like Cardiff and others. It is still more important to the 428 poorer communities in Wales. In the case of small towns poor in rateable value and population, for instance, The Local Government Board Inspector came down and condemned the waterworks, and they had to build new ones. Before, however, they could do so, they had to come to the House of Commons for its sanction. They had to get counsel, surveyors, and Parliamentary agents, and, although there was no opposition to the Bill at all, they had to pay a sum between £3,000 and £4,000. That was a small municipality, with a population of 1,200 at the outside, and what is the consequence? Why, the rate in that district is higher than that of any other surrounding district in the county of Merionethshire. That is a very serious matter, because, whilst the population of the place is growing, its needs are growing; and in the case of the town I am now citing, it is absolutely prevented from contemplating or carrying into effect any other beneficial undertaking. If they want a recreation ground, library, or any public institution, they cannot get them. Why? Because if they were to apply to the Local Government Board for a loan for any such purpose, the Local Government Board Inspector would come down, he would look at what they had already spent, and he would come to the conclusion that the credit of the town has been pledged to the very hilt. And all these serious consequences are due to the fact that this sum of £3,000 or £4,000 has been unnecessarily spent, and the place is condemned for the next 20 or 30 years to be at a perfect standstill, and no possibility or prospect of any prosperity for it whatever. I again repeat that is a very serious matter. What possible objection would there be to extending this Private Bill Procedure to Wales? There are no great interests to consider—on the contrary it is a very small matter—and I think an extension of the Local Government Act of 1888 would answer the purpose we require; and I would impress upon the Government that they should give a favourable consideration to the recommendation we have made. There is one thing I can congratulate my hon. Friend, the Mover of this Amendment upon, and that is that this Debate has 429 elicited a few views upon the subject of separate legislation for Wales. As I understand, the Leader of the House said that there was no special case made out in respect of separate legislation for Wales, and that there were no reasons for special legislation for Wales which did not apply to all parts of the United Kingdom. Well, I think to the contrary. Why have there been sitting three Commissions dealing exclusively with Welsh subjects? There was the Commission on Land, the Commission on Sunday Closing, and the Commission on Secondary Education—and, notwithstanding these, the Leader of the House has come to the conclusion that there is no case for separate legislation for Wales. That would be an exceedingly useful admission so far as the people of Wales are concerned, because they were told, in the course of the last election, that this was the very Government from which they were to expect these great blessings—everything almost apart from the Disestablishment of the Church. But now we know that this is not the view they are taking of the matter, and, although my hon. Friend has done a considerable service by making it perfectly clear what the attitude of the Government is upon this particular question, that is about all that has been done. With regard to the land question, that has been sufficiently impressed upon the Government; but there is one point I should like to mention, and that is with regard to temperance legislation. We have got the report of the Special Commission appointed by a Conservative Government, with a unanimous recommendation that the Sunday Closing Act should be improved in some very material particulars, but although that recommendation has existed for years, nothing whatever has been done with regard to it. We have got an opinion that there is a demand for much wider Temperance Legislation in Wales, and the Second Reading was given in a Conservative Parliament to a Measure of Local Option for Wales. It is, of course, quite possible that the people of England may 430 not be ripe for a Measure of that kind, and I cannot help thinking that the last General Election proved that they were not; but opinion in Wales is overwhelmingly in favour of legislation on those lines; and so strong was opinion in Wales that even a Conservative House of Commons, positively by a substantial majority gave a Second Reading to a Bill dealing with the subject on the lines I have indicated, so that the case has been made out to the satisfaction of even a majority of the Unionists in this House of Commons that there is a special case with respect to Temperance Legislation for Wales. I sincerely trust that my hon. Friend will press the matter to a Division, if it is only in order to make it perfectly clear what the opinion of the Conservative Members really is.
§ *THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Sir MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH,) Bristol, W.
The complaint of the hon. Member who moved this Amendment seems to me to be this: that the Government had not mentioned, in the Speech from the Throne, any Measures having sole reference to Wales. The hon. Member who has just spoken said that the Leader of the House had said that there was no special case made out for Wales, which did not generally apply; but what I understood my right hon. Friend to say, was this: he was speaking against what appeared to be the assumption of the mover of this Amendment—namely, that Wales had no interest in any legislation, excepting that which specially concerned herself. That I must myself confess was what I gathered to be the opinion of the hon. Member. He referred, practically, only to that argument in his speech, he did not touch upon anything else, and, therefore, my right hon. Friend, taking that view of his speech, pointed out that, after all, Wales was interested in all general legislation, and it cannot be said that the interests of Wales have been neglected by the Government, simply because no special Bill with, regard to Wales only had been brought in.
§ MR. HERBERT LEWIS
The view that I intended to convey was this: that Wales has certain great questions in which she, as a country, is primarily and specially interested, and my complaint was that we had no hope, either of a Conservative or, under our existing constitution, apparently of a Liberal Government, of ever seeing the realisation of these Measures in regard to which Wales has declared her opinion over and over again. I am speaking only of those questions in regard to which Wales is socially and religiously undivided upon.
§ *THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
It is not that we have omitted to include certain Bills that he would desire to see in Her Majesty's gracious Speech, it is that he certainly will not see us taking part in introducing such Measures. We are not anxious to pose as disestablishers of the Church in Wales, nor are we likely to adopt these peculiar crotchets respecting temperance legislation, of which I thought the Party opposite were beginning themselves to get somewhat tired—well, at least, there have been symptoms that they are getting tired. We are not likely to adopt, with regard to the land question, the proposals which commend themselves to hon. Members below the gangway. I thought that the hon. Member for Merionethshire, whom I am sorry not to see in his place at the present moment, took a far more reasonable view of this question. He admitted that it was impossible to satisfy himself and other Members with regard to the questions alluded to by the hon. Member who moved the Amendment, but he said there are other Measures which do not divide the great political parties of the country, matters some of which have been inquired into by Royal Commissions, and on which Her Majesty's Government might perhaps legislate in a manner which would be generally acceptable to the people of Wales. I do not doubt it for a moment, and I will venture to remind the hon. Member that, because a particular matter is not mentioned in the Queen's Speech, it does not follow it may 432 not have had the attention of Her Majesty's Government, or even that it is impossible that it may be taken up in the present Session. Let me take one point that the hon. Member for Swansea alluded to—the question of Private Bill Legislation. Both my hon. Friends laid great stress upon that matter. They complained of the great expenditure to which certain places were put, the great time and trouble that is now necessary to obtain the consent of Parliament in matters which are only of very small importance, or of no importance at all, beyond the particular locality interested in their promotion, but matters which did very much affect the locality itself. Well, Sir, that is the reason that we are proposing this Session to Parliament to alter the law with regard to Private Bill Legislation in Scotland. Scotland has first claim in this matter. Scotland is further from London than any other part of Great Britain. Scotland has a special Code of legislation of her own, and requires to be dealt with first in this matter. But Her Majesty's Government do not at all deny that Wales may have a grievance in regard to it. But what is their grievance in this matter; is it not a national grievance: it is the same, though in a less degree, as the grievance of Northumberland or Durham. It is a matter really of distance from London; and, although I entirely admit that there is a very great grievance in the fact that so many matters of local importance only should have to be brought up to London to be dealt with by Private Bill Committee in this House, I cannot help thinking that it is much a grievance to any other part of the United Kingdom as it is to Wales. We are trying to remedy the matter with regard to Scotland this year; if we are successful in our efforts it may be a precedent which we hope will be applied to Wales and other parts later on, and that is the answer I would make to the hon. Member. Then take the Land Question. What is the position of hon. Members in this House with regard to the Land Question? What was it they desired? There was the Land Commission, for which we were not responsible, and the members of that Commission were utterly divided in opinion, and the minority held very different view to the majority—views with which we could not possibly agree. 433 It is suggested that we should legislate according to the proproposals in which the Commission unanimously agreed. But that end is not likely to be promoted by such a discussion as this, which merely consumes so much time subtracted from the working time of this House. I could assure the hon. Gentleman that, though I would disclaim any acceptance of the principle that Wales is a separate nationality or a separate part of the United Kingdom, I do recognise, as Parliament has already recognised, that the circumstances of people who live in Wales are in some respects peculiar and different from those of people who live in the rest of England, and that they require to be dealt with in certain matters very differently. That is a principle which I accept, but you cannot do everything at once. We will endeavour, as far as we can, to meet those necessities as far as time permits; but it is impossible for us to describe every proposal that is under our consideration, or every matter with which we may hope to deal, with the limits of Her Majesty's Speech.
§ LIEUTENANT-GENERAL J. W. LAURIE (Pembroke and Haverfordwest)
The Debate has brought before the House the whole question of Private Bill legislation. It is true this refers to Wales, but it is equally applicable to the whole of the United Kingdom. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has kindly assured us that, although bringing it up in the first place with regard to Scotland, if it is successful in regard to Scotland, it will be equally applied to other parts of the Kingdom. What applies to Wales applies equally to other parts of the Kingdom. The system is most extravagant, most expensive, and most costly. I represent nine towns, and each of those towns has very heavy charges to bear in consequence of the cost saddled upon them in connection with obtaining water, sewage, and other necessary arrangements that must be made, and that involve applications for legislation. That must be costly to towns close to London, and more so to towns in Wales. I hope that we will have a general Measure, and not simply a local Measure. I endorse fully the idea that 434 has been expressed against special legislation. We are distinctly in favour of such legislation as will be applicable to the whole of the Kingdom, and not to one part alone. I hope that the Principality may still be an integral part of the United Kingdom, and that the legislation applicable to Wales will be applicable to England as well.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 90; Noes 129.
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND (Clare, East)
Sir, I rise for the purpose of proposing the following Amendment, which stands in my name—