*MR. J. HERBERT ROBERTS (Denbighshire, W.)
Mr. Speaker, I beg to move—That, in the opinion of this House, in order to relieve the congestion of business in the Imperial Parliament and in the various Public Departments, and in order to give speedier and fuller effect to local requirements, it is urgently necessary that there should be devolved upon bodies representative of the different, parts of the United Kingdom a large measure of self-government.In moving the Resolution which stands in my name, I am conscious that it raises a question of general interest and of great importance—a question which is not only important in itself, but important also in its relation to a solution of the settlement of a political question of very great value and importance. It appears to me that this is a good opportunity for the Party opposite to discuss the question, for there happens to be sitting upon the opposite Benches one of the strongest Governments of modern days; a Government which has at its back a sufficiently large and strong 1681 majority to deal successfully with any question, however complicated or difficult it is. And, Sir, further than that, the Government has within its ranks a certain statesman, holding a responsible position in the Government, who in days gone by expressed a view in favour of the Resolution which I now submit. I refer particularly to the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary. I am only going to take one of the many declarations which he made in his anti-Liberal Unionist days upon this subject, and that is from a speech of his at Dundee in 1889. What did the right hon. Gentleman say in reference to the principle of my Motion? He said—I believe that it is in the interests of Scotland and of Wales and of Ireland, in due time, that not only local government should be conceded to them in the amplest sense, not only that their municipal and county institutions should be completed and perfected, but that we ought to go beyond that. We might create greater authorities, with wider scope and larger powers.And then he goes on to describe specifically what he calls—The great provincial assemblies to whom might be entrusted the power of initiating legislation, preparing it in the shape of Measures which might be passed at Westminster, and passed without discussion, unless they raised principles of a very contentious character.Sir, I think that it would be interesting for us in the House to-day, later on, to have an opportunity of hearing from the right hon. Gentleman whether he still holds those views. I have very little doubt myself that he will be prepared to re-affirm it. Coming, Sir, to the main proposition which lies under my Motion, it is this: that the growing needs of the country and the increasing complexity of our social system have imposed duties upon Parliament and the Public Departments during the last 30 or 40 years which they cannot perform. It seems to me, Sir, that upon these points there will be a practical unanimity of opinion; it is a fact, I think, admitted and bewailed on all hands. A remedy of some kind must be found, and I submit, Sir, that that remedy is to be found in the principle referred to in the Resolution, viz. a delegation of some of the powers of Parliament 1682 and the Public Departments to various portions of the United Kingdom. There arise here, Mr. Speaker, one or two considerations to which I should like very briefly to allude in passing. First of all, there is the question of the areas in which these bodies are to be constituted. I hold, Sir, that the principle of nationality will determine in the main the boundaries of those areas; and as to the bodies themselves—or the local assemblies, as they are termed by the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary—it seems to me that it will be sufficient for us at the present moment to say that the decision in regard to that should be that they should be thoroughly representative of the districts. Now, Sir, I come to two other rather more important points, to which I should like to call the attention of the House—the question of the priority of claim, and the question of the measure of delegation. Sir, these two questions must be decided by the strength of the sentiment in the mind of the various localities or areas, and by the special circumstances of each case. It will, of course, be out of order for me to refer in any detail to the Amendments which have been placed upon the Paper in reference to this Resolution. It may be convenient for me, in one or two words, to express the view which I take in reference to them. My hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr has placed an Amendment on the Paper raising the question of the prior claim of Ireland for self-government. Now, Sir, as regards that, I wish to declare in the clearest possible manner that, so far as I am concerned, I am willing to admit, and admit to the full, the special urgency of the claim of Ireland for self-government. But what I say is this: that that question, however important—and it is very important—it may be, is entirely without the scope and purpose of the Resolution, which I beg now to move. The only issue in the Motion which I rise to move, is the issue as to whether it is desirable or undesirable to apply the principle of delegation to the solution of the congestion of public business in Parliament. My hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr has also another verbal Amendment on the Paper, suggesting that the word "desirable" should be substituted for the words 1683 "urgently necessary." Now, Sir, whilst I have said, a moment or two ago, that I admit to the full the special urgency of the claim of Ireland, I am not prepared, by accepting the Amendment of the hon. Member for Merthyr, to admit—which I would do if I did accept it—that either the claim of Scotland or the claim of Wales for self-government is not urgent. Sir, I cannot accept the Amendment, on the ground that it is totally irrelevant to the question raised by my Motion. I would like now, very briefly, to refer to the central principle of my Motion in reference to the four chief nationalities involved. I come first to the case of Ireland. The question of Ireland in regard to self-government has played during the last quarter of a century such a dominating part in British politics that it is, happily, entirely unnecessary for me to refer to-night in any detail to the strength of the demand, or to the special conditions of the case. The Liberal Party, Mr. Speaker, are pledged, under conditions which are well known, to satisfy the aspirations of the Irish people for self-government, and there is nothing in the Motion inimical to, or derogating in any way from, the strength of the Irish position. Coming next, Sir, to the case of Scotland, I will, of course, leave the details in the very competent hands of my right hon. Friend (Sir Robert Reid) who is going to second the Motion; but I should like to refer for one moment to the remarkable progress which this movement has made in Scotland during the last few years. Sir, about 12 years ago, that great Scottish journal, the Scotsman, in its better days, published a series of most able articles advocating the cause of self-government in Scotland. It laid down the contention that—The Imperial Parliament cannot adequately cope with legislative requirements in the different parts of the United Kingdom;and it declared that it was—Simple fatuity to suppose that a farther and wider delegation of self-government can be longer delayed.Following that agitation, there was in 1889 a very important Debate initiated upon the subject by my hon. Friend the Member for Caithness (Dr. Clark)—a 1684 Debate which has always been memorable because of a very weighty declaration made upon the subject in the course of the Debate by Mr. Gladstone, who was then the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament and the Leader of the Liberal Party in the country. Now, what did Mr. Gladstone say in reference to the subject on that occasion? He said—If I am to suppose a case in which Scotland unanimously, or by a clearly preponderating voice, were to make a demand on the United Parliament to be treated not only on the same principle, but in the same manner as Ireland, I cannot deny the title of Scotland to urge such a claim.A very weighty declaration in favour of this movement. I can sum up in one or two words the subsequent history of this movement, as far as Scotland is concerned, by reminding the House that a Motion in favour of self-government for Scotland was brought forward in 1890, 1892, 1893, and 1894, and earned by substantial majorities. I should like to say one word in passing as to Wales—a case in which I naturally take a special interest. Now, Mr. Speaker, if the claim of Wales for self-government is to be judged by the strength of the demand and by the special conditions of the case, then I do not hesitate to declare that the claim is a very strong one indeed. It is not my purpose, Sir, to balance in any way these claims for priority of treatment, but I would point out one or two conditions in the case of Wales, which give that country a very special interest in this Vote. In the first place, there is the fact that the elements of nationality, as there shown in language, in mode of thought, in institutions, in literature, and so forth, are more distinct than in any other portion of the United Kingdom. Secondly, there is the fact that sentiment of nationality in Wales is a growing, and not a declining, force. Sir, judged from the standpoints of legislation and administration, Wales has very strong reason to complain of the action or inaction of the Imperial Parliament. Well, Mr. Speaker, coming to the case of England it seems to me that it is possible that hon. Members who represent England, may think that if the Imperial Parliament were relieved of Scotch, Irish, and Welsh business, they might be able 1685 to deal with purely English affairs, without further delegation. But that question, so far as my Motion goes, is left entirely in the hands, and for the decision, of English Members themselves. In order to complete, by one further point, the historical summary of the question, I would remind the House that in 1895 a Motion embodying the principle which is popularly known as "Home Rule All Round" was carried in this House with the assent of my hon. Friends behind me, and by a substantial majority. [Mr. J. E. REDMOND: No; I spoke against it.] Well, coming for one moment to the claims of my Resolution, I should like, in a very few words, to refer to the congestion of public business both in Parliament and in Public Departments, and I think that the preliminary observation which I am going to make will meet with general favour: that the question of the delegation of legislative powers and the devolution of certain powers of the Public Departments must go hand in hand. If a decision is given in favour of the one principle, then I think it may be generally admitted that the other principle must be adopted at the same time. Now, Sir, as regards Parliament, how do we stand' I do not think it is necessary for me in any way to try to prove to the House of Commons to-day that it is, as a legislative assembly, over-burdened with work. A most superficial acquaintance with Parliamentary life will, I think, write that indelibly upon the minds of anybody who inquires into the question. And it is natural that it should be so, if you consider the immense development which has taken place in the country, and the immense expansion of the Empire during the last half-century. When you think of the growth which has taken place in the social life of the country, and of the change in the whole social environment of this country in consequence of these developments, it seems to me that it is hopeless to expect Parliament to satisfy the demands and necessities of the country. There lies now upon the Table of this House a vast accumulation of arrears of work, and if some of it were completed, it would result, in untold good to the life of the country. And Parliament has been conscious of all this, and has made many 1686 attempts to reform itself. Alteration after alteration has been made in the Standing Orders, and the decision with regard to the Twelve o'clock Rule has practically caused the disappearance of the legislation of private Members. Conscious of this, the House has appointed Select Committees from time to time to inquire what are the best means to adopt to remedy this congestion of public business, and I would refer especially to the Select Committee appointed in 1878. There has been in all these reforms and alterations the setting up of a system of grand committees, but in spite spite of all these devices and attempts at reform the congestion of business remains, and there are at least two evils resulting from the present state of things. In the first place, legislation, which is demanded in, innumerable directions, and demanded in many places by pressing evils, is denied altogether or indefinitely postponed, and the evil of the present state of things with regard to legislation is, that if such legislation be passed it has to be passed in a hurried manner, and is, therefore, liable to be very defective and a source of needless and endless litigation in the courts of law. I need not, therefore, again refer to the question of the strain placed upon Parliament by private Bill legislation and the enormous cost to the public which this system of carrying on private Bill legislation in this House entails upon, local authorities. I find, Sir, from returns in the libraries, that during the years 1872 and 1882 there was expended by local authorities in England and Wales the gigantic sum of £1,200,000 in the promotion of private Bills upstairs. Taking the period from 1886 to 1891, the expenditure in this direction by local authorities upon this work was £656,000, and the expenditure by public companies during that same period of five years amounted to the huge sum of £2,000,000. I do not think anyone in this House is prepared to say that this work cannot be done better and more efficiently and more economically elsewhere than in the Committee of this House. I venture to say that the Government are conscious of this, as shown by their effort to remedy the case 1687 of Scottish private Bill legislation this year, and this proposition as to the removal of private Bill legislation I am sure will carry with it the general consent of the House. Sir, I do not intend to trespass many further minutes upon the time of the House, but I should like to refer for one moment to the case of public Departments. What is true of Parliament is also true of public Departments, and I would remind the House that there is a very close connection between the transaction of public business in this House, and the additional duties imposed upon public bodies, and I will explain what I mean. Under the present conditions legislation is to be carried on, as the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House has more than once himself admitted, in the briefest possible way, and the work of explaining legislation and of making it really operative is left in the hands of a Department. Sir, it seems to me a very unfortunate fact that so much of the real legislation of this country has to be done through regulations, imposed and issued by public authorities outside the control of Parliament. In 1894 the hon. Member for the Rushcliffe Division brought forward a Motion calling the attention of the House to the desirability of bringing one of these Departments—the Charity Commission—more directly under the control of Parliament, and a Committee was appointed to inquire into this. What was the reason of that? What was the main ground underlying the proposition of my hon. Friend the Member for Rushcliffe Division? During the last 30 or 40 years the work of the Charity Commission had increased to such an extent that a large number of subjects are now placed in the hands of this Department which it was never designed to place under its control when Parliament gave it those powers. Take the case of the Education Department. It is admitted, Mr. Speaker, that the recent Education Act has imposed innumerable burdens upon this Department, and the development of our educational machinery during the last 25 years has made it most difficult for that Department to cope adequately with the burdens. Many hon. Members will remember the bitter cry of the Vice-President in 1896, when he referred to 1688 the Education Bill, and made an earnest appeal to the House of Commons to sanction the proposition of further decentralisation in education. Then there is the case of the Local Government Board, and the same holds good of this Department. The Acts of 1888 and 1894 have imposed an enormous number of difficulties and new duties upon this Department, and, Sir, I believe that the time is not far distant when this Department will have to take some steps to relieve itself of the immense amount of work which it has to perform. Before I leave this subject of Departments I think it will be generally admitted that with regard to the control of these Departments over local authorities in the country, that control in many cases is needlessly meddlesome, and in many cases it is imperfect, and that what you might call virtue of central power, which ought to be reserved in order to settle vital questions and to do away with real abuses, is squandered and dissipated upon minute things. Sir, I had intended to make special reference in this regard to the position of Wales, but I find I have already trespassed too long upon the indulgence of the House. I will only say that the congestion of public business in Parliament is of very vital interest to Wales. The position of Wales has often, from a legislative standpoint, been placed before the House, and it is not unnatural, I think, that we have in Wales come to the conclusion that we have not much chance of receiving satisfaction upon certain important legislative questions until the principle of my Motion is carried into effect. There are at least two main questions upon which we in Wales have made up our minds that it is necessary for us to obtain special legislation. We claim, Mr. Speaker, in the first place, to obtain legislation which will enable us to legislate in regard to the liquor laws of the country, in accordance with the view and judgment of the vast majority of the population, and, Sir, we claim, and claim, strongly, the right to obtain legislation which will place the whole educational machinery of the country in the hands of the Welsh people. Neither do we give up our claim in any way to the right to have legislation to 1689 deal with land reform, and with the question of Church Disestablishment, in accordance with the judgment of the overwhelming majority of the people, and I repeat that this Motion is of vital interest, particularly in Wales, because they see in it the only hope of receiving within a reasonable time satisfaction upon these important points. Mr. Speaker, before I conclude this statement of the case, which I have endeavoured to place before the House, I wish to point out that the views we take in regard to this important principle of the delegation of legislative powers is not held alone by private Members, either on this side of the House or on that. It is a view of the question in which some of the leading statesmen of the Liberal Party and of Cabinet rank have more than once declared themselves strongly in favour of. I will only make two quotations. In the first place, Lord Rosebery, speaking at Cardiff in 1895, said—The more I see of your political system the more I am convinced of this, that in a large measure of devolution, subject to imperial control, lies the secret of the working of the Empire. The Liberal Party will never, in my opinion, find its full strength until it has enlisted the power, sympathy, and freedom which it would gain in every part of the United Kingdom by the systematised devolution of local business to the localities themselves.There is one more reference I should like to deal with. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose, speaking in Scotland in February, 1896, made a very important declaration upon this question.He referred to what stood in the way of the effective discharge by the House of Commons of its vast and important duties, the difficulties arising from the enormous congestion of work, the vast accumulation of business lying upon the Table of the House. He laid down as a fundamental principle of the Liberal Party that the laws should be made, and that the administration should be carried on in accordance with the wishes and the judgment of those whom they most specially affect. It was perfectly clear, when they looked upon these two principles, that there must be a large extension and a bold extension of what was known by a very long name—delegation and devolution.Sir, it seems to me, in the light of these declarations that the position of those who are competent to speak as to 1690 the future policy of the Liberal Party is made perfectly clear. Sir, in concluding, I would sum up the case as follows: We stand to-day face to face with a great problem, for which, in justice to the country we represent, and for the honour and dignity of Parliament, some remedy must be found. There are only two possible policies to adopt. We must either go in for further centralisation, or for further decentralisation, and, Sir, it seems to me, to adopt the former policy would be contrary to the spirit and development of an age in which there has been constantly growing a recognition of the place and power of self-government in the life of the country. The explanation of this principle has already brought with it a harvest of good results to the people. I think that, through its influence, many social evils in the localities themselves have been grappled with, and it has acted very beneficially in this respect, and if this principle were adopted, I think it would be the means of restoring this Parliament to its true position as the sovereign power of the realm, and as an effective guardian of the interests of the Empire. The main objection of the First Lord of the Treasury, judging from his previous speeches, is, as I understand it, that he objects to the principle, and he thinks that the adoption of it would have the effect of dividing the country, and creating rival interests, instead of unifying and keeping together the Kingdom as a whole. I venture, Mr. Speaker, to predict that the right hon. Gentleman opposite will live to see the day when he will have been taught by national experience that that view is entirely wrong. I speak, as I have the right to speak, on behalf of Wales, and I say that there is no portion of the United Kingdom which is prouder of the British Empire than Wales. Wales has played an important part in the building up of the Empire, and it values and claims the privilege of having had an active participation both in the responsibility and glory of the Empire, and I wish to make it perfectly clear, and there should not be even a momentary impression or suspicion that there lurks within this Motion I am now making, so far as Wales is concerned, the shadow of a desire to impair the supreme authority of this Parliament, or to advance one single step along the road to separation. We advocate this view 1691 because we believe it will be the means of strengthening the bond between Parliament and the country generally, and of giving that country a more real part in the welfare of the country as a whole. So far, it seems to me, it is high time for us to take steps in this direction. Parliamentary life has become, under the present condition of things, more or less to hon. Members who take part in it, a pastime, instead of being, as it ought to be, an earnest effort to understand and to guide the 'affairs of the nation. It seems to me that the House of Commons has but very little effective control over finance or over foreign affairs, and for these general reasons I particularly urge this principle upon the mind of the House, and I do so, Sir, because I feel that, in the long run, the progress and contentment of this country and the consolidation and maintenance of the British Empire depends upon the application of the principle which is involved in this Motion. Mr. Speaker, I beg to move as on the Paper.
§ SIR ROBERT T. REID (Dumfries Burghs)
I have listened with much interest to the able and interesting speech of my hon. Friend, and I think it raises a matter of very grave importance. At the present time, these kind of topics are somewhat in backwater, but they will not be in backwater always, and it is time for us, who are in the habit of bringing these things before the public on platforms and in our constituencies not to hesitate to do something on the floor of the House of Commons, which, in my opinion, is the right place for elucidating difficulties and differences, and for educating und instructing the people whom we represent. Now, Sir, many hon. Gentlemen in this House spent their holidays in Scotland, and I hope they spent them in reading the electioneering speeches which abound about the autumn. If they did they will find that there is no more constant grievance alleged by speakers on the Liberal side of Scottish platforms than the difficulty and the inability of Scotland to get her business transacted in a temperate and reasonable spirit in the House of Commons, and to get that predominance which we think we are entitled to in regard to Scottish affairs in matters affecting 1692 the representation of Scotland. Now, Sir, that is the condition of things, and under those circumstances my right hon. Friend has put down this Motion, which is different from previous Motions in several ways. In the first place, this Motion applies to all parts of the United Kingdom, and I will ask leave for the present to refer to Great Britain. I want to say something about Ireland presently. In the second place, the Motion does not speak of Home Rule, as it is called; it refers to self-government generally. Further than that, it bases the demand upon a specific cause, namely, the necessity of relieving the congestion of business in the Imperial Parliament. Now, Sir, I want to speak in regard to the congestion of business in the Imperial Parliament. I can hardly imagine that it can be a question of political or Party controversy whether such a congestion exists or not. How you are to remedy it is a matter upon which we may very widely differ, but that the congestion exists I can hardly think that any gentleman in the House will deny. It has been the subject of repeated Debate, and I do not want to traverse old ground. I have taken a note of a few subjects which have recently been referred to Royal Commissions, because I wish to refer only to those matters of great public importance. There have been Royal Commissions during the last 10 or 12 years in regard to the housing of the working classes. I do not know if the hon. Gentlemen have read the Report of that Commission, but it is to the effect that death, disease, incest, drunkenness, and every kind of horror is due to overcrowding in London and other large centres of population. Very few gentlemen on either side of the House will deny that it has done, and can do, something to mitigate the horrible state of things due to the land system in London, as revealed by that Commission. Very little has been done since 1886, when we reported. I do not say this as a matter of reproach. That state of things, as revealed by that Royal Commission, exists in the present day, but this is not the time to refer to it. Then there is the Sweating Committee of the House of Lords, which revealed another state of things; that there is a large number of helpless people, mostly women, in want of food, who are 1693 ground to death in some cases by excessive hours of labour for a most inadequate subsistence. Now, I do not say I know a remedy for that; I do not know that any Gentleman will presume to say that he knows a remedy. But I believe that if this House—containing as it does a very large number of most able gentlemen, who are dangling their heels for want of something to do in Parliament—fully discussed the matter, and had time to consider it, we might at least do something to remedy it. There are also Commissions in regard to joint holdings, and in regard to agriculture. There has been a most interesting Report by a Royal Commission on Labour, full of suggestive and valuable information and most interesting experiences. If we had time for Members to apply their intellect to those different subjects, and to discuss them in the House, we might do something to alleviate the evils. More than that, in addition to Commissions and Committees, there has been an inquiry into the condition of the poor, which reveals a state of things most discreditable to this country. Three out of every ten of the population in England and Wales receive in the course of the year parish relief. I know there are attempts about to be made to alleviate that state of things. It is my candid belief that this question would not have lasted so long, and would not have grown into a sore in the social system, if it had been possible to deal with the business of the country as we ought to have been able to deal with it, if we had had time and opportunity to deal with these things. I will conclude with one last illustration—that of the liquor traffic. Now, Sir, in Scotland, that part of the country from which I come, that is a most crying grievance. It is worse than the land system in the great towns, for it produces more bad results than all the other evils put together; and anybody who knows Scotland and the opinion of Scotchmen will corroborate that statement. We have for the last 10, 12, or 14 years been making attempts to get that evil remedied. I recollect that in 1884, Mr. Maclagan, who was Member for Linlithgow, succeeded in getting the Second Reading of the Local Veto Bill, which had the support not only of the Liberals in Scotland but of many of the Conservatives 1694 there also; and on the back of that, Bill was the name of the Member for Kirkcaldy, a Conservative. Unfortunately, the Bill was not passed the second time. From that time to this the Scotch Members have been trying to pass that Bill, or a, Bill like it. We are now in the year 1898, we were then in the year 1884; and this Bill, affecting the most vital interests of the people of Scotland, has never been able to reach a Second Reading. I wonder the people of Scotland are not complaining of the want of opportunity they have of having their grievances inquired into and considered. They have made their demands in that sober and temperate spirit which is a trait of my countrymen when they ask for reform. The business of this House has been more and more monopolised by the Government of the day. Three years ago Members were obliged to sacrifice their Fridays; in point of fact, now we have had to sacrifice our Tuesdays for many Sessions past and often Wednesdays also. The private Member has been absolutely extinguished. There is not the slightest doubt that the opportunity given to private Members of carrying their opinions into legislative effect is practically abolished, and the result is that Gentlemen coming to the House in the hope that they may be able to carry some Measure of importance into law, or amend the law in some particular, find themselves, after the experience of some years, sick at heart, and they feel that for practical legislation the House to them is almost useless under the present conditions. Parliament, at the present time, is absolutely unable to discharge the volume of business which comes before it, to say nothing of the neglect with which we have to treat foreign and Colonial affairs. We have very often to overlook matters which it would be well to discuss. That is a state of things which I do not think is really disputed. But now what is the remedy? Surely there ought to be some remedy proposed. I, for myself, have not the slightest objection to state what I think upon the subject. In regard to Scotland, the best way, I think—and the way which will be ultimately adopted—would be the delegation to some legislative assembly in Scotland, consisting of, by preference, 1695 Scotch Members—though it does not matter whether they are Scotch Members or not—of such powers as Parliament thinks ought to be delegated, so that they might pass laws, subject, of course, to the control of the Imperial Parliament, which might, on the advice of Ministers of the Crown, reject those Measures if they thought fit. That is what, some day, I believe we shall see. I hope to see it some day, both in regard to Scotland and in regard to other parts of the United Kingdom as well. Really, that cannot be called an heroic proposal; it is, after all, a modest proposal. I have confined myself to Scotch business. There has been repeatedly a proposal of Grand Committees of this House to deal with Scotch business, and no Unionist ought to treat a proposal of that kind lightly, for the person who made a proposal of that character was the late Mr. John Bright. We have asked for it, and it has been proposed and urged in this House during the last 10 years, not only by myself but by other gentlemen who are still Scotch Members. We have received no satisfaction. In 1892, when our Government came into power, about 40 Members memorialised Mr. Gladstone and asked him to give a Grand Committee with power to read a Bill a second time and to present it when thoroughly thrashed out to the House of Commons. We did not get that; we only got, in 1894, a very inferior kind of Committee of Scotch and English Members. Even that was better than nothing. There is another idea, if the House is willing to assist in the dispatch of Scotch business. There is an assembly in Scotland, which has very little to do now, called the Convention of Royal Burghs. If you were to make that a real representative assembly, and you were to add to it Members representing the counties, and confide certain business to their charge, you could, when you found that they deserve confidence, extend the list of subjects committed to their care. By that means you would be able to get the business of the country transacted, and some part at all events—although not much—of our grievances removed. That is a view that I would venture to suggest. I should like to know very much from those gentlemen who cannot approve 1696 of the views I have suggested whether they have any measure they can suggest for the purpose of relieving the congestion of business, and enabling us to get through our work. That is the reason why the language of the Resolution was framed in the gentle way which provoked the mirth of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House. I have no doubt we shall hear some airy badinage upon our proposals; but I shall be grateful to him if he will tell us if he agrees with us or not, that the congestion of business in this House of Commons is of such a character as to be prejudicial to the interests of the country. Will he tell us, if he says it is so—and I can hardly think in his candour that he can deny it—whether he has got any proposal of any sort in his mind by which we can alleviate the difficulty? Much as I admire the oratory and eloquence of the right hon. Gentleman, I should admire him still more if he would come forward on this occasion in the light of a reformer. I have said that this Resolution is couched in gentle terms for the reason I have indicated, and that I think will explain to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Merthyr why I am not able myself to vote for his Amendment. His Amendment might be appropriate if this was a Resolution confined to Home Rule. Even then I think it would be superfluous; but it is inapplicable to a Resolution of the character which appears on the Paper. That is the reason I cannot agree with him. There is another Resolution in the name of the hon. Member for Clare, which, as I understand it, asks for the re-establishment of Grattan's Parliament. Well, Sir, all I have to say is that if the Amendment were incorporated in the Resolution, the net result will be that we, the representatives of Scotland, are not to ask for any sort of self-government until there is a restoration of Grattan's Parliament in Ireland. I do not think that can be the real intention of the hon. Gentleman. [Mr. P. O'BRIEN: "Home Rule blocks the way."] I was told, to my surprise, yesterday that this Motion was intended or might be considered as levelled against the proposed doctrine of Home Rule. All I can say is that neither the hon. Gentleman who framed it, nor myself, 1697 who assisted in the framing of it, had the slightest idea of any thing of the kind; and I say at once that I would not be a party, and never will be a party, to any shabby attempt to steal priority in regard to the question of Home Rule from those who—if any one is entitled to it—are entitled to priority. I think the case of Ireland stands upon a different level from the case of all other parts of the United Kingdom in this matter. I think that the case in regard to the requirements of that country are stronger than in any other part of the United Kingdom; and further than that, you have historical reasons which no wise man will disregard. Further still, there are to my mind historical reasons for endeavouring to remove the only discontent from the only place under British rule where discontent exists—reasons which are of a very serious character. But I am not about to enlarge upon the well-worn subject of Irish Home Rule. What I am anxious to do is to say that I do not read this language, and that we never intended in the least degree to put for ward any prior claim or any ideas on the subject of self-government for other parts of the United Kingdom in competition with the admitted priority which belongs to Ireland. Moreover, I must address myself to one other subject, namely, what is the bearing of the case of Ireland upon the case of other parts of the United Kingdom. It is impossible for anybody who looks at the constitutional question involved to refrain from saying a few words upon that subject. I believe that not only are projects for extending Home Rule to other parts of the United Kingdom perfectly compatible with carrying that project for Ireland, but I believe they are the inevitable complement of any scheme for Irish Home Rule. I think that if the Bill of 1893—and I said so in this House at the time—were passed into law it was absolutely impossible to refrain from extending, not the same necessarily, but a similar proposal to other parts of the United Kingdom. Allow me to work it out in a very few sentences. In 1886 the proposal was to exclude the Irish Members altogether. In a very short time it became apparent that that proposal was not satisfactory to the people of this 1698 country. The people of Ireland were perfectly prepared to assent to it, and thereupon Mr. Gladstone—I won't say surrendered, because that would impart a note I don't mean to imply—deliberately assented to that which rallied the Liberal Party and brought us together in the year 1892; and that was that Irish members should be returned to this House. That was the scheme of the Bill of 1892. Further, I say that more than that, you must extend the system to the other parts of the United Kingdom. If you have Irish Members here, either they must be present at all Divisions, or they must be present at only some of the Divisions. [The FIRST LORD of the TREASURY: "Hear, hear!"] If they are present at all the Divisions they will be able to take part, for example, in the educational Bills of the Government without being able to take part in the Educational Bills for Ireland, which is a manifest injustice. If, on the other hand, they are only to be present at Divisions on some Bills, then you run the danger of turning the majority of Monday into the minority of Tuesday. [Laughter and Cheers.] Hon. Gentlemen cheer that as if it had not often been said. If any of them were not present during the Debates of 1893 I may tell them that I said that myself on one occasion. I say it necessarily follows that if this project of Home Rule is granted—and I hope with my whole heart it will be before long—you will have to extend, not at all the same, but similar powers to other parts of the United Kingdom, and that is a thing to which I believe the people of this country will not have any objection. You will be doing nothing by that except facilitating the transaction of public business. Now I am very sorry I have occupied so long as I have. I have endeavoured to point out the very great importance of the subject, and given my own opinion as to the various methods in which the difficulty might be solved; and I say again that if there is a grievance—and it is an admitted grievance—it is for the Government to tell us what proposals they have for the purpose of remedying those evils. Well, is it not the part of the Government to see to the good government of the people, and to take steps to redress evils if they 1699 exist. If those evils do exist it is the duty of the Government to ask not only me or any other Member what our ideas are, and then it is their duty to tell us what proposals they have for carrying their projects into law. Mr. Speaker, I beg to second the Resolution.
§ MR. HALDANE (Haddington)
Those of us who were followers of Mr. Gladstone in his Home Rule policy, and who are still followers of that policy, have listened with much satisfaction to the declaration of my hon. and learned Friend when he stated that he is as strongly convinced of the truth of the principle that underlies that policy to-day as ever, and that in this Motion there lurks nothing that is in the slightest degree calculated to interfere with the pursuit of that policy. It would be well if, in the course of this Debate, we confined ourselves to the intention of my hon. Friend who moved and seconded the Resolution. There are many difficulties in the way of the transaction of public business which can only be tackled by handing over a considerable portion of that business to be dealt with otherwise than in this House. I agree with my hon. and learned Friend that the want of time in this House is the only reason why many of those questions which urgently require solution have not been dealt with. Take, for example, the question of the liquor laws of Scotland which he spoke of as urgent. I venture to say that that question would have been dealt with if those interested in the subject could have made up their minds as to what they desired. Take, again, the question of the land. That is a question which has not been pressed upon Parliament; and why? Because the people who are interested in reforms connected with that question cannot agree as to the shape of these reforms. I agree with my hon. and learned Friend that there must be some considerable devolution to local bodies in the country of powers of self-government. Having gone so far, I will say further that I am not perpared to put any limit upon this devolution. Having said so much, I must recall the House to what it is we are here to debate. We have got before us a Motion, and that Motion proposes not to delegate business to Grand Committees of this House, not to delegate business to bodies such as that Convention 1700 of Royal Burghs to which my hon. and learned Friend referred, and which is not, in any form with which I am familiar, in the least a representative body; but to devolve a large measure of self-government upon bodies representative of the different parts of the United Kingdom. That being the condition of things, I ask myself seriously what does this Motion mean? I think I understand in a vague sense what is the mind of my hon. and learned Friend who has just addressed the House. He at least means to say a policy which Mr. Gladstone inaugurated for dealing with the question of Home Rule. Having read the speeches in the country of some of my hon. Friends who have addressed their constituents, it strikes me some people at least may vote for this Motion in the opinion that the time has come to substitute for the principle of Mr. Gladstone's Bill some other principle, some system of granting Home Rule all round in such a form that it shall go in an identical and simultaneous shape in each of the different parts of the United Kingdom. Well, feeling the danger of a misunderstanding that exists, I am constrained to put before the House as shortly as I can what are the reasons why I cannot assent to this Motion, subject to the amendment which I understand my hon. and learned Friend for Morthyr is to move. This Motion proposes—taking it according to its literal wording in the sense I have indicated—to give to the various parts of the United Kingdom some measure of self-government. All I can say is, I cannot separate a Motion of this kind from the context in which it has been discussed, and the discussions which have taken place on Home Rule were such as to lead to confusion in the public mind on that topic. But the question in regard to Home Rule is wholly different from the question with which we are dealing in this country, and if the Motion means anything it means that it is part of what my hon. and learned Friend says would be a wholly different policy. You are to give Ireland a large measure of self-government devolving the work upon a representative body. Is that the same representative body as was proposed by Mr. Gladstone or is it another? The question of Home Rule is one that must 1701 be considered apart from the problems discussed by my hon. and learned Friend. What were the sources of this question? In 1885 the problem of Home Rule did not arise from a desire on the part of the Irish Members for specific powers for dealing with specific business, but the old question of social order. You found Ireland in such a condition that some statesmen came to the conclusion that the only remedy to be adopted was to bring the people into harmony with their Government, and the mode by which it was stated the people could be brought into harmony with their Government was the giving of satisfaction to that sentiment of nationality which undoubtedly then existed in Ireland, and which exists far more strongly and more markedly there than in any other part of the United Kingdom. Why, Sir, the efforts which have been made on behalf of my own country and other parts of the United Kingdom compare with the zeal, self-sacrifice, and enterprise which distinguish the action of that body of representatives who come from Ireland. The question has become their creed in Ireland; it has become a question of social order; and it was with a view of giving some recognition and some satisfaction to that sentiment of nationality that the policy of Mr. Gladstone's Government in that day was laid down. The question was a question of social order, and not a question dealing with a particular kind of business, not a question of relieving the congestion of business in this House. Our policy in regard to Ireland, I say again, was not undertaken for any of the reasons in the preamble of this Motion, but as a matter of social order, based upon the fact that it was necessary to satisfy national aspirations. That being so, you had another plan with regard to other parts of the United Kingdom. Take the case of Scotland. I agree with my hon. and learned Friend that there is a very great problem to be dealt with in Scotland. It may be dealt with by some form of Executive in the future. I cannot tell. In Scotland there is a sentiment of nationality which started in 1892, but it is a sentiment which so far remains dormant and quiescent, and has not yet assumed political form. What we have to deal with in Scotland at present is a 1702 business problem as to how we are to transact our own affairs more efficiently than at present. In Wales, I understand from what I can gather from speeches made in this House and elsewhere by hon. Members for Welsh constituencies, and from what I gathered from the able speech of the hon. Gentleman who moved this Resolution, there are four problems which occupy the people's mind—education, land, the Church, and temperance reform. Of those, three at least are much more problems of a business character than questions connected with any sentiment of nationality. Nobody can say they are questions connected with social order. They are questions which have to be dealt with, but there is very little amalgamation between them and the question of Irish Home Rule. The question of the Government of Ireland is a very large question and a very serious one, the largest and most serious which this House has ever had to deal with outside foreign affairs. It is dormant just now, it is asleep, but how long will it remain so? You have got a huge Unionist majority, a majority with which you can do what you please. You are trying to govern Ireland with the best endeavour to do what is best for her, and you have laid down the principle that she must be content if she gets as much, or more than the benefits given to the rest of the United Kingdom. You are pouring British gold into Ireland: £700,000, which it is proposed to give under the Local Government Bill, is not an inconsiderable amount; but I do not think it will have a much better effect than if you dropped it into an Irish bog. You are doing all you can for a country which has a long record of neglect and bad treatment behind it, with the hope of instilling into the minds and hearts of the people that a new era is dawning for them. The population of Ireland has dwindled from 7,000,000 to 4,000,000, and there has arisen in the minds of the people, to an intense degree, the belief that the only problem with which they are concerned is how to emancipate themselves from our rule. I should feel it myself if I were an Irishman. It was because that desire existed in 1885 that I was a Home Ruler. It is because that desire is in their minds to-day that I 1703 distinguish the Home Rule feeling of the Irish people from this Motion to-day, and I express my conviction that, however long we may have to wait, you will only solve that problem in the same manner as you solved the question of Canada and the question of Quebec, by giving them full freedom, and recognising their right in their existence as a people to be free. There we have to deal with something quite different from what is the topic of this Motion; I would vote for a Bill which would give all these things. The last thing I desire to do is to deny the sentiment of nationality which exists in these portions of the Empire. They all have legitimate grievances to be dealt with, but in Ireland it is not a question of specific reform. In Ireland it is a question of dealing with a large problem of social order. I have never believed in the paper contract of the so-called union of hearts. I believe in dealing with Ireland with such a drastic measure that by giving them self-government you get rid of the roots of their grievance. Knowing that the Irish question is a large question of social order, and believing that in taking such a course as I have suggested within safe limits you have the only way of preserving social order, I feel I must support the Amendment of my hon. Friend who sits near me when that Amendment is moved. I believe by so doing I shall be following the best traditions of the Liberal Party, and I believe if the Motion which is proposed to-day be accepted we shall be going back upon the best traditions of the Liberal Party.
§ MR. D. H. COGHILL (Stoke-upon Trent)
I do not think that Wales has any special grievance. If this Motion had been brought by any hon. Member for Ireland I should not have been surprised, although I might have disagreed, but I am surprised that the Motion should be seconded by one of the hon. Members for Scotland. It was only last night that we were dealing with two Scotch Bills, one of which was talked out by an hon. Member from Scotland, and a week ago we spent the whole of one evening on the question of trawling in Scotch waters, and it was only by the help of English 1704 legislators that we were able to carry the Vote. I do not know where the Scotch Members would be if it were not for the assistance of the English. The hon. Member, the mover of this Motion, seemed to have in his mind the Scotch when he moved it. He reminded us that in 1894 a Motion was passed in this House for a separate Parliament in Scotland. A year ago a Motion was passed to give separate Parliaments to Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, and, if I may say so, nothing so helped the Unionist Party as those two Motions. With regard to Ireland, in 1886 we were to have the Irish Members excluded from this House; the next version was that they should be here on Mondays and not on Wednesdays, and then, finally, that they should come here for all purposes, and not only should rule Ireland, but rule here as well. I am perfectly certain of one thing—the Government is not prepared to take a retrograde step. We are not prepared to break up a united nation into its component parts. I am not prepared to admit that business in this House is congested at all. It may be so under the present system of procedure, but I venture to say the speeches in this House are far too voluminous. If it were not for the inordinate length of the speeches in this House we should have plenty of time to transact whatever business properly falls within the scope of its deliberations. I supported the Resolution brought in last year for shorter speeches, and I hope the time will soon come when effect will be given to it. It is not exclusion we want. We desire that the business of this House should be conducted with decorum and dispatch, and the only way of doing that is to have short speeches. The hon. Member who seconded the Motion said, with reference to Home Rule for Ireland, that it was dormant and asleep, but we have been told the Home Rule has been dead since the last election. I do not myself know what the conditions are under which Home Rule is to be proposed to this House. One cannot help noticing that the whole of the candidates who stood at the bye-election gave the go-by to Home Rule, or that they were exceedingly tender in their references to that subject, and if they referred to it at all it was only at the fag-end of their speeches. It has been extremely difficult 1705 to get the gentlemen to take up that subject at all, and it is exceedingly difficult to say what is the precise form of Home Rule in the minds of the hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side of the House at the present time. The hon. and learned Member who moved the Motion is not prepared to say what form he supported, yet he has voted for several forms. He voted for the Bill of 1886.
§ MR. COGHILL
Then allow me to say I have no doubt he would have voted for it. I do not think we can form any opinion of what is the dominant idea of Home Rule which prevails on the opposite side of the House at the present time, and upon the vain belief that we shall have a definite idea put before us we are going to set up separate Parliaments in the United Kingdom. A large difficulty will then crop up—what business are you going to say devolves on the subsidiary Parliaments? How are you going to define what is Scotch, what is Irish, and what is Welsh business? I do not wish to take up the time of the House any longer with discussing this Motion, but I think it is a singularly inopportune one to bring before the House. I do not think the country has quite got over the shock of the last Home Rule recollection, and if the Party opposite were to go to the country again with the same ideas on the subject as they proposed to the nation, then the same result would ensue, and their proposals would be rejected by an overwhelming majority.
§ *MR. D. A. THOMAS (Merthyr, Tydvil)
I do hope that this afternoon we may look for some light and leading from some right hon. Gentleman on the Front Bench. I have already made up my mind, and put down an Amendment on the Paper, but there are many on both sides who naturally look for guidance to the Leaders of their respective 1706 Parties. I do most respectfully and most earnestly urge that we may have an expression of opinion from some hon. Gentleman upon the Front Benches, and that we shall not be left entirely for guidance to irresponsible and inexperienced Members below the Gangway. [Mr. LLOYD GEORGE (Carnarvon Boroughs): Or above the Gangway.] And I hope my right hon. Friend will remember that he is not now at the Welsh National Convention. I am in no way opposed to devolution in principle, and I have sympathy with the Motion in so far as I understand it; it is rather indefinite, and, after the speech of the Seconder, I am not sure whether I really do understand it or not. My Amendment is not intended to be hostile to the Motion, but while I say that I very much question the wisdom of moving the Motion at the present time, it is not opportune, in my judgment, and I do not think the purposes of the Liberal policy are served by bringing it forward. If, however, my hon. Friend will only, as I heartily hope he will, even now, at the eleventh hour, accept the Amendment, I shall be most happy to vote for it. The Amendment has a twofold purpose: first, it is intended to qualify the urgency expressed in the Motion, and, in the next place, I want to clear up one point. I wish to define relation hon. Members on this side of the House have in their minds of the question of Home Rule all round to the question of Home Rule for Ireland. I want to remove from the minds of our Irish colleagues any suspicion that English, Scotch, and Welsh Liberals have any desire to supersede the question they have so much at heart. If two men ride one horse at the same time, one must ride in front. I have always favoured separate legislation for Wales, within certain limits, based upon the wishes of the people of Wales themselves, and I fully recognise, not only the difficulty of securing adequate attention for Welsh demands in the congested state of business in the Imperial Parliament, but this, to me, obvious proposition that no one can know so well as the people of Wales what they most require. But this is the point, I dispute the degree of urgency which is attached 1707 to this Motion. When a similar Motion came before us three years ago I think the terms of the Motion were nearly in the same phraseology. When a similar Motion was brought forward three years ago, the word then used was "desirable," and I wish to return to that word as adequately expressing the opinion and the feeling in Wales with regard to the Motion. I object to the use of the words "urgent necessity," Mr. Speaker, because it exaggerates the whole position, and it not only exaggerates the need for this particular reform, but it is calculated, in my mind, to prejudice the position of questions of far greater urgency by placing this question on an equality with them. The matter which Welshmen intend to secure is religious equality, and I, for my part, decline to countenance any even seeming attempt to supersede that question, and to depose it from the position of priority it holds in the Welsh programme, or to weaken our demand by placing any other reform upon an equality with it. If a Welsh legislature could be secured more speedily, and if power were conferred on such a legislature to deal with religious matters, I should be the first to vote for it, but there is no hope that Home Rule for Wales would be got more easily, and still less hope that when that Home Rule comes it will empower us to deal with Disestablishment. If this were a meeting of the National Liberal Federation the choice of words might not much signify, for the great fear of that august body is lest they be taken too seriously, though I do not see, Mr. Speaker, any immediate cause for their alarm. But the weakness of the Welsh Members collectively is that the House of Commons does not take them seriously enough, or, at any rate, as seriously as they consider they are entitled to be taken. They should be careful, therefore, in their choice of words, and in the impression the wording of their resolutions leaves upon the House. My experience of political life, Mr. Speaker, convinces me that in order to secure any measure of reform it is necessary for the time being to focus and concentrate all our mind and energies upon the main purpose we have in view, if we wish to bring it to a successful issue, and not to dissipate those energies and raise up and stimulate 1708 fresh opposition by adding new items to our programme. Now what, Mr. Speaker, is the common feeling among the more thoughtful members of the Liberal Party throughout the country? Is it not that the weakness—yes, I wish to be frank; I am not going to let the other side into any secrets they do not know—but is it not a fact that the weakness of the position occupied by Liberals in Parliament is due to the too-substantial, too-sumptuous bill of fare laid before us at the last election by our leaders? And yet it is now proposed to add to it. The coach is already over-loaded, yet it is now seriously proposed to invite up a few more passengers. I hope we shall have some light and leading on the subject from the right hon. Gentlemen on the Bench in front of me. I do not know whether we shall get it or not, but, at any rate, I do hope that we shall get an expression of opinion from the Leader of the Welsh Party. Though I am not a member of the Welsh Parliamentary Party, I hope the Leader of that body, the Member for East Glamorgan, will, before the Debate closes, give us, with the authority which he in his position alone can authoritatively do—and I say this with every respect for my hon. Friend the Member for West Denbigh, upon whom, by the choice of the ballot, has devolved the duty of bringing this Motion forward on behalf of the Welsh Parliamentary Party—I hope, I say, that the Leader of the Party will not fail before the close of the discussion to voice the feeling of his followers in regard to the Motion. I am the more anxious to hear his views because, if the report in the Freeman's Journal is correct, they differ from those expressed by the hon. Member. I hold in my hand an extract which is contributed by the London correspondent of that very responsible journal, who, speaking of the manner in which the Welsh Members will Vote, says—As to whether Mr. Herbert Roberts, in moving Tuesday's Motion, will consent to make a similar declaration, remains to be seen. I should judge not if, as was rumoured in the Lobby last evening, Mr. Herbert Roberts and his friends resent the interposition of Mr. D. A. Thomas's amendment. But whatever may be the feeling of these gentlemen, I am in a position to say that Mr. Alfred Thomas, the Chairman of the Welsh Party, supports the 1709 prior claims of Home Rule for Ireland, and is prepared to state that fact in the course of the Debate.And now, Mr. Speaker, let me return to the second and more important purpose of the Amendment, to define precisely the relation of the Motion to the Irish demand. When a similar Motion, strongly resembling the present one, even in its wording, was under discussion in 1895, the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy indicated very clearly that there was no intention on the part of his friends and himself to substitute Home Rule All Round for Irish Home Rule in the programme of his Party, and, in fact, during a speech of the hon. Member for Water-ford he expressed his readiness, in which I presume my Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, who seconded the Motion, concurred, to make the proposition clear by amending it in that direction. The words suggested by the hon. Member for Waterford were—That, after a national Parliament shall be established in Ireland, to devolve upon legislatures in Scotland, Wales, and England the management of their own affairs.But, unfortunately, the Motion of the hon. Member being an Amendment upon going into Supply on a Friday evening sitting, it was not competent for him to amend it. The Vote was, however, naturally taken upon his interpretation. Under these circumstances, I confess I am a little surprised that the framers of the Motion this afternoon, inspired, as I presume they are, from the same source as were those who formulated the Motion of 1895, did not remedy the defect which was then discovered, and I can well understand—though I do not know how far such is actually the case—that the omission may have created some little annoyance, if not suspicion, in the minds of the Members for Ireland. The omission has, nevertheless, I feel sure, only to be pointed out in order to be rectified, for I contend that on the ground of right, no less than that of expediency, Ireland has a paramount claim to precedence, and that, so long as the honourable alliance between the Liberal and Irish Parties is maintained, and while the Irish representatives insist on priority of treatment, it will be dishonourable on 1710 our part to question that claim, and, moreover, disastrous to the prosperity of the Liberal Party as at present constituted. I think we can say, Mr. Speaker, that it is the intensity of the feeling in Ireland, the dogged determination with which they have pursued their purpose, the arguments and eloquence they have brought to bear, that have stimulated Scotch and Welsh Members late in the day to follow in their wake. When the alliance between the Parties is discontinued, then our obligation will naturally be at an end; but if that is the wish of English, Scotch, and Welsh Liberals, then let it be plainly stated, and let us first count the cost. Hon. Members opposite will pardon this little domestic conversation I am holding with my Friends, for I fear I cannot hold their interest with any information that they do not already fully possess; nor do I ask them to follow me into this matter when they speak. But I wish to be quite frank on this question of expediency. Thorough frankness is always the safest, least vulnerable, and wisest policy when you know your opponents to be completely informed. I fully recognise that the differences between Irish Members have created annoyance, and that their attitude on the Education and Roman Catholic University questions has given rise to grave dissatisfaction among many Liberals, and especially among Nonconformists, who now, as we all know, constitute the backbone of the Liberal Party, and that it is openly asserted, with alarming and increasing energy, that while, by abandoning the alliance, the Liberal Party might lose a few seats, we shall win back many on this side of the Channel. But that is only one view of the matter. Consider the position in the House of Commons. The alliance is at present in a minority of something like 140. If the Irish Nationalists were alienated—and that, I understand, would be the result of substituting the proposal contained in this Motion as it stands for Irish Home Rule—we should find ourselves in a minority of 300. [Laughter.] Hon. Members may laugh, but can they deny it? We should have to win back 150 seats to put ourselves on a bare equality with our opponents. We should have to win back 175 to give us a fair working 1711 majority. The rank and file of the Liberal Party are pulling themselves together in a splendid manner, notwithstanding the absence of strong leadership. How far that is due to the return of confidence in our policy or growing disgust at that of our opponents, or whether it is more due to love of Liberalism and dislike of Toryism, I will not attempt to decide. But, under the most favourable circumstances, how long will it take the Liberal Party to win back 175 seats, which will be necessary to overtake our possible minority of 300, and give us a working majority? I ask you seriously to consider how long it will take us to do this before we come to a rupture with our Irish friends. I beg to move the Amendment.
§ *MR. THOMAS LOUGH (Islington, W.)
In seconding this Amendment I wish to dissociate myself from the bitter allusions which the hon. Member has made to the Liberal Party. Nor can I follow him into any domestic difficulties of the Welsh Party. I see no reason why its Members should dispute. I would like to be friends with everybody. The Amendment divides itself into two parts. The first is merely to substitute the word "desirable" for "urgently necessary." I do not attach very much importance to that, but still the word "desirable" is more correct than the two words which stand in the original Motion. But the serious part of the Amendment is the latter part, which claims to give priority to Ireland in this matter of self-government. I desire to acknowledge the kindly references which have been made towards Ireland, for nearly everything we wanted is conceded in the speeches that have been delivered. It may be asked, therefore, why we do not rest satisfied. The reason is, Mr. Speaker, that these are grave matters, and that sometimes effects arise from such action in this House which are not seen at the time, and which produce very serious results in after time. About nine years ago a subject came up akin to the one we are now dealing with. A Conservative Government was in power, as strong as the one in office to-day, and a suggestion was made that a Committee should be appointed to inquire 1712 into the financial relations of the United Kingdom, but it was resisted on the grounds that if such an inquiry were instituted, it should also apply to Wales and Scotland. The result was that no inquiry was made into these financial questions, and when we came to discuss Home Rule we were placed in a most considerable difficulty, because we had not those facts which we should have had if that Committee had been appointed. More serious results may arise than hon. Members may think from treating these questions in such a spirit, and it is, therefore, with great deference to my hon. Friends that I would just say a brief word or two in support of the present Amendment. The first point is, we deny that legislation is so urgently necessary for Wales and Scotland. Wales is the best-off part of the United Kingdom with regard to legislation, because, owing to the great energy of my hon. Friends from Wales, they get a good many special Acts of Parliament passed for the benefit of the Principality, and they get the full benefit of all English Acts of Parliament. A book has been published upon the subject of "Federation and the Empire," and some very useful statistics were given in it which prove that this Parliament is still in heart and essence the English Parliament, and that a large share of the business done is English business. Now, all the English business is Welsh business also. I will quote from that book one figure to show how this is increasing. In 1830 25 per cent. of the Acts passed in this House applied to England; in 1890 47 per cent. applied to England—I should say to England and Wales—therefore twice as much Parliamentary time is devoted to that part of the Kingdom as was the case some 60 years ago. The second reason I will urge is that Wales has received a good deal of attention, and has made a great deal of progress in settling Welsh questions. I desire to associate myself with the hon. Gentleman on my right, who said he would put no limit to the aspirations of Wales or of Scotland. Neither would I. But a great deal of progress has been made in satisfying the immediate wants of Wales, more than the other parts of the Kingdom have secured. Take Welsh education. What has been done? We have got a sort of Welsh Parliament 1713 established. There is a body which brings in its Estimates in the autumn, in whose hands the whole question of secondary and university education for Wales rests. This is a body of a representative character, and contains representatives from all the Welsh counties. Wales has got her Parliament in this respect, and has got power to deal with all those subjects to which Welsh Members attach so much importance. Then there is the question of the Church in Wales. A Bill has been passed giving great satisfaction to Welsh Members on that subject. I do not wish to go too far in saying that the wishes of the Welshmen have been satisfied, but the facts I have alluded to show that great progress has been made in dealing with the questions which they have raised. I hope I shall not be dissociating myself too violently from the opinion expressed on my right—that this is a question of nationality—when I suggest that it is also a business question, and we ought to have regard, in dealing with it, as to how the different parts of the United Kingdom live under the present system. Wales lives extremely well. She shares the prosperity of England. Anyone who looks at Great Britain as an island could not draw a line and say, "This part is cut off from the rest." Scotland and Wales share evenly with England the full prosperity of this country, especially during the last quarter of a century. I do not wish to enter into particulars to any extent on that point, but I may give to the House one fact that will illustrate my meaning. The wealth of this great island depends more than anything else upon the fact that it is a great exporting country, and these exports amount to £240,000,000. They are distributed between England, Scotland, and Wales almost exactly in proportion to the population, but if there be any difference Wales has the advantage. Therefore we see that so far as those great sources of wealth which enable a country to bear the burden of government are concerned, England, Scotland, and Wales stand upon an equality. Let me contrast with this the exports from Ireland to foreign countries. The reports from Ireland to foreign countries are only a quarter of a million per annum. It may be said that this does not include the Irish exports to England. Neither does 1714 it include the Scotch or Welsh exports; therefore, for the purpose of comparison, the fads I have stated rest upon a sure foundation. So we find that in one island this element of national wealth is equally distributed. But it is not so in Ireland. I turn to Scotland. I do not pretend to be an authority on the point, and I will only quote an allusion which I think is justified by the speech that my Scotch Friend has made. The remark I would venture to make is that Scotch Home Rule is not progressing very rapidly at the moment. [An hon. MEMBER: Why not?] Well, I do not want to be offensive, but it strikes me that that vigorous association which exists for pushing this particular item of politics forward has not been in quite so flourishing a condition lately. There is one reason wiry the interest is somewhat flat, and that is because, after Welsh legislation, this Mouse seems to be constantly buried in Scotch legislation. Take last night. Last night we had six Scotch Bills on the Order Paper out of 11 or 12, and for the convenience of the Scotchmen the Estimates were stopped at an early hour, and the Lord Advocate proceeded to push his Bills through with extraordinary rapidity. Scotchmen seem to be jealous of the prominence which this question of the financial relations has got in Ireland, and the Glasgow and Edinburgh Chambers of Commerce, have inquired into the question. I read the report of this Committee, and I find that although Scotchmen pay a little too much they think they get a quid pro quo. We must recognise that conditions common to all the three countries exist. The countries have been united in prosperity, and the financial burden of the country does not rest with peculiar weight upon any one part more than the other. I must make an exception, of course, in the case of the Highlands of Scotland. I believe that this is the only population within the island of Great Britain which is enabled by its disadvantages and sufferings to compare with the conditions of Ireland. Now I will tell the House, which has listened to me so patiently, why it is that I cannot put the case of any part of Great Britain alongside the case of Ireland. I will just quote one figure more from that book which deals with the way in which this House discharges its legislative duties. In 1830 1715 20 per cent. of the legislation was Irish, but in 1890 only 15 per cent. was Irish, so that a smaller amount of time and a smaller number of Measures are passed now than there used to be passed before. Many events have recently occurred which tend greatly to increase the demand for self-government in Ireland. In the first place, there was the publication of the Report of the Royal Commission on the Financial Relations. I believe that this is the greatest event upon this question which ever happened. When we were discussing the Home Rule Bill in 1893 I heard the present Leader of the House put to Mr. Gladstone this question a hundred times—Can the right honourable gentleman, or anybody on that side of the House, tell me of any grievance now that Ireland labours under which is not shared by the other parts of the United Kingdom?I must say that the Front Liberal Bench of that day was not able to give a complete and satisfactory answer to that question. I hope I have given no offence with that remark. I gladly followed my Leaders as far as they went upon that question of Home Rule; but I always thought they based too much importance on the historical side of the question. Now, history does not appeal to me so strongly in dealing with practical politics. If we could promote a happy condition of public affairs, say, for seven years, in Ireland, it would go far—I do not say to remove entirely—but it would go far to heal that feeling of bitterness in the minds of the people. But are we proceeding in that direction? The Report of the Financial Relations shows that the most terrible grievances rest upon the people of Ireland to-day. These are constantly increasing as Ireland diminishes in population. This country is always demanding increased financial burdens, while the ability to bear such burdens is constantly diminishing. Look what has happened since the Report was presented. Not only has the Report not been dealt with, but the situation has got far worse; the number of people has diminished, while taxation has increased. If the Liberal Leaders had been able to point to those growing financial burdens on the diminishing numbers and diminishing 1716 wealth of the Irish people the results in regard to Home Rule might have been very different. Another point that I would like to make in favour of Ireland's particular claim is the failure of the Unionist Government to satisfy the demands of the Irish people. Nothing is more striking than the discontent which exists in the minds of the Unionists of Ireland at the efforts of the Unionist Government. A most distinguished Unionist on the other side of the House said to me—and I hope he has not changed his mind—some few months ago that if what the Government are doing is all that the Unionist Government can do for Ireland, then his mind was severely shaken on the question of Homo Rule. Everybody's mind is now open to the thought that Unionism provides no solution of the situation. What has happened in the 13 years since Lord Salisbury asked for 20 years of firm and resolute government for Ireland? You have had 13 years of it. How far have you gone towards its solution? Look at Ireland; what do we see? Why, one of the most serious famines that have existed since the beginning of the century on the west coast of Ireland. We see a most terrible increase of lunacy. [Laughter.] I am sorry that the question excites any merriment on the other side of the House. I will not attribute it to the want of heart of the hon. Members opposite. It is to their want of knowledge. If they had looked only to the last Report of the Lunacy Commissioners for Ireland for 1897 they would have been struck by the terrible and serious facts reported by their officials. The ratio of increase in 1896 is double as great as ever it was in any previous year in Ireland. Now just think of that fact. The Royal Commission direct attention to the increase of lunacy. Everyone is familiar with the alarming increase for 20 years past. How terrible must the figures be when I say that the ratio of increase is doubled in the last year! There is a total breakdown on the part of this House to provide government for the people. The Poor Law system has broken down, the Congested Districts Board has also broken down, the system of saving the people by building labourers' houses and constructing light railways is completely 1717 played out, and this policy is no remedy. That is the reason why I stick to the Home Rule faith. I believe that the government of the country was never so bad, never so inadequate, to meet the requirements of the Irish people as it is to-day. Mr. Speaker, I do not suppose hon. Members opposite will agree with me, but I am quite sure that not one of them will say that I am not perfectly in earnest in what I have said, and that it is not consistent with all that I have said in this House. For these reasons I have much pleasure in seconding the Amendment of my hon. Friend.
§ MR. J. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
I rise to support the Amendment, because I have a two-fold objection to the original Resolution as it stands on the Paper. In the first place, it is so drafted as undoubtedly to convey an impression to the public outside, as well as, I believe, to Members of this House, that it is the object of the mover and seconder, so far as the character of the demand is concerned, to place that demand for Ireland upon an equal footing with the demand of Wales and Scotland, which is for a devolution of powers. And I object, in the second place, to the wording of the original Resolution, because by introducing the words "urgently necessary," as it is upon the Paper, it will convey undoubtedly the impression that the Resolution is desired to take away from Ireland that priority for her claim which has been the programme of the Liberal Party for many years. It will be noticed not only in the Resolution itself, but in the speeches of the mover and seconder, which, in my judgment, make the wording of the Resolution worse, that they base their claim, not upon a, historic national right, but on grievances and inconveniences. After listening to the speeches of the mover and seconder, I would hardly dignify them by the name of grievances. What has been that history of Ireland? When we claim from this House the right to legislate for our own country, we might have based the Irish claim on grievances; we might have pointed to a long series of years during which, in Ireland, under the control of this House, every conceivable evidence of misgovernment was rife on every side; we might have pointed to a diminishing 1718 population, which had dwindled from 8,750,000 to 4,750,000; we might have pointed to increasing and deepening poverty, to ruined manufactures, to decaying trade, while all the rest of the civilised world was advancing by leaps and bounds; we might have pointed to a race which had been scattered by the Government of this country over every portion of the civilised world, and which is characterised by nothing but hatred and animosity to English rule; we might, I say, have claimed Home Rule for these reasons; we might have claimed it also by pointing to this fact—which in itself alone would condemn beyond the power of redemption a government that has been carried on under the sanction of this House in Ireland for 98 years—the fact that for 98 years society in that country was rent and torn by class war and religious hatred, all of which is the direct outcome of the misgovernment of England. Had we based the Irish claim on these grounds, it would have been irresistible; but that was not the main ground on which we bused the Irish claim in 1886 and the years that went before. We based it on historic right and the indestructible resolve of the people to have the liberty of governing themselves, and we told you frankly in 1886 and 1893 that if the impossible were to be done, namely, if good government were to be given to Ireland through the instrumentality of this House, even then you would not destroy the passion of the Irish people for the right to govern themselves. Therefore, I say the Irish claim stands first of all on historic right and the indestructible desire of an ancient people to have the government of their own country in the hands of their own countrymen on their own soil, and I support this Amendment because it seeks to preserve the priority of the Irish claim over any claims that may be put forward for Scotland or Wales; and, in the second place, by using the well-known expression describing the Irish claim as a Measure of Home Rule for Ireland, the Amendment proposes, to place the claim of Ireland on such a footing as will recognise the national character of that claim. I may say, in passing, that with regard to the other Amendment on the Paper which may be moved at a later stage, I will not deal with it until it is before the House. Now, it has been 1719 pointed out by the mover and seconder of this Resolution that it was entirely foreign to their intention to put Home Rule into the background. I fully accept that declaration on their part, but we are entitled, and we are bound, to judge a Resolution of this character by the meaning it will convey to the ordinary man who reads the newspaper, and I say that if passed in its present form it could convey no other meaning to the ordinary citizen than that it was the desire of those who supported it to abandon the policy of giving Ireland a National Legislature as the primary object of the Liberal Party, and to substitute for it an undefined and unknown policy of giving certain undefined bodies in parts of the Kingdom certain undefined powers, leaving Ireland to be distinguished as a part of the United Kingdom. Dealing with this question of the effect of this Resolution in its present shape over the minds of people outside, I turn for a moment, to the language used by a very able Irish correspondent of the Sunday Observer, and I desire to read a short extract from his comment on this Resolution, because I believe that in the language I am about to read he expresses admirably what would be the feeling of the great mass of the Nationalists of Ireland towards the Resolution the House is now considering. He says—O'Connell asked for repeal of the Union in the early thirties, and again in the middle forties. His principles then, in a more advanced form, were taught, after he died, by the Young Irelanders. Twenty years later, in a more advanced form still, they were preached by the Fenians. Then came the movement of Isaac Butt, in which, modified to suit the scruples of the Protestant gentry who felt outraged by the disestablishment of their Church, they were again revived; and, finally, on the top of all these came the Parnell movement and the Irish Home Rule claim as we know it to-day. Here we have a period of between 60 and 70 years, during which Ireland has been agitating and conspiring, while scores of her bravest sons have gone to the scaffold, and hundreds with broken hearts to the grave or exile, to restore her national independence; and yet Scotland and Wales, whose people, as yet have shown little desire for legislative authority, and who have certainly suffered nothing for such a cause, seem to think—or rather a section of their representatives—that it is legitimate politics for them to play the dog in the manger to Ireland after her two generations of travail for this idea.1720 That may be strong language, but it represents the feelings of Irish Nationalists. And then there is the question of priority between the claim of Ireland and those of Scotland and Wales—with which I heartily sympathise. I ask the Scotch and Welsh Members, when did they think of asking for Home Rule? Not until on the floor of this House—not to speak of the previous movements in Ireland—year after year the Irish Party had fought and struggled for the cause. It was from our action that they first learned of Home Rule and put forward this claim which I shall be always prepared to support because they were inspired by the example of Ireland. Could anything be more ungenerous than to say to Irishmen, after all these years of suffering and coercion, that their cause, which they had fought for, as the hon. and learned Member for Haddington had said, with dogged fidelity, should be shoved into the background in order to make way for some indefinite proposal of devolution? The proposer and seconder of this Motion desire Home Rule—a very laudable desire, but one which is not crystallised into a definite shape, and has not come before this House with the definiteness which has characterised the Irish demand. I put it to them, do they think they are serving their cause by moving this Motion? Their only chance of getting an increased measure of Local Government for Scotland and Wales is to carry Home Rule for Ireland, and if it works successfully in that country the other will probably follow as far as the people of Scotland and Wales are desirous. But, as the hon. Member for Merthyr said, the first essential for success is concentration, and if the Liberal Party fondly imagine they are going to advance the interests of the Party or the interests of Local Government in Scotland or Wales by breaking away from their traditional policy on the Irish question and adopting a new policy of Home Rule all round, then I say no Party ever made a greater mistake. In March, 1895, the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy proposed a motion—That in the opinion of this House, and in order to give speedier and fuller effect to the special desires and wants of the respective nationalities in the United Kingdom, it is desirable to evolve on Legislatures in Ireland, 1721 England, Scotland, and Wales, respectively, the management and control of their domestic affairs.That is a totally different Motion from the one now before the House, because it says "the respective nationalities in the United Kingdom." He used the word desirable, and I think it is specially desirable, but for fear there might be any doubt or ambiguity, he agreed with the Irish Party to make the following statement with regard to priority. He said in his speech, referring to the fact that some people thought this Resolution was calculated to put Home Rule in a back place, "he took a very different view." He quoted from the speech of the Chief Secretary to the effect that—the settlement of the Irish question was the primary policy of the present Liberal Administration;and then he added—There was no Member on the Liberal side of the House who would not heartily agree.Subsequently, when the hon. Member for Waterford proposed to place in front of his Resolution the words, "after a National Parliament shall have been established in Ireland," the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy in his speech said, "I accept the Amendment." The forms of the House rendered it impossible for the hon. Member for Waterford to move his Amendment, but the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy recognised the unquestioned priority of the Irish claim. Now, Sir, I come to the last point on which I desire to trouble the House. The right hon. Gentleman, who sits below me, who seconded the Motion spoke at some length on the question of federation. He pointed out that, in his judgment, if Irish Home Rule were granted it would be an inevitable consequence that the whole constitution of this country should be recast, and that largely similar rights should be granted to England, Wales, and Scotland. I have never held that view, and I have never stated it, because I have never held that the British Constitution was a logical constitution. It meets the urgency of urgent cases, and it goes along in the most illogical fashion from year to year until some fresh emergency requires some fresh measures. I am prepared to point out—and it is an interesting fact—that in 1722 this opinion as to the probable result of Home Rule the hon. Member is entirely supported by the hon. Member for Waterford City, because, in a speech delivered mi the 29th March, 1895, on the motion of the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy, he used these words—Care ought to be taken that Home Rule should be conceded of such a shape that it would be possible to fit it in afterwards with a complete system of federation for all these islands.So that, so far as a desire to see a federal system follow upon Home Rule was concerned, the hon. Member for Waterford City was in complete accord with the right hon. Gentleman who seconded the Motion. We base the claim of Ireland on historic right and on the determination of the people, which I believe the Government, strong as it is, and this House will find to be absolutely indestructible, to obtain the management of their own affairs. The hon. Member for Merthyr, in moving this Amendment, alluded to the fortunes of the Liberal Party and their relation to the Irish demand, and drew a rather humorous picture of what would be the condition of the Liberal Party if they were left entirely to themselves. I do not desire, nor intend, to follow the hon. Member in what he said. Possibly there would be a reformation of Parties; but I tell all whom it may concern that, so far as we are concerned, our hope of winning Home Rule from this House does not depend on the action of any Party. We are absolutely convinced that if 80 Irish Members hold together in the House for a sufficient length of time Home Rule must eventually be granted, no matter what Party is in power. For my own part, I have always said—and I say it frankly—that what I believe is delaying Home Rule is not the fact that one Party is in power or that another Party is not in power, but the fact that the Irish Party is not united. If the Irish Party are united, and hold together for a sufficient length of time, it is my deep conviction that, no matter what Party is in power, Home Rule will have to be granted by this House. I say so much for the attitude of the Irish Party. As regards the Liberal Party, they are masters of their own destiny and 1723 keepers of their own conscience, they are free to act as they think fit; but I share the view expressed by the hon. Member for Merthyr, that it was more honourable and more wise for a great Party, having put their hands to a great task, and undertaken a great cause, to persevere in that cause, even though that perseverance should condemn them to exile from office for a considerable time.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN (Stirling Burghs)
I venture to interpose for, I hope, a brief period in this Debate, in my capacity as a Scotch Member, and with the melancholy authority upon me which attaches to the Scotch Member of by far the longest experience of business in this House. In that capacity I wish to give my warm support to the Resolution moved by my hon. Friend the Member for West Denbighshire. His proposal seems to me to be a plain and simple one. He points out an evil, he indicates a grievance, and he shows the line which he thinks the remedy must take. Across the path of my hon. Friend there have been drawn one or two Amendments, no doubt with an intention more or less amiable, but we do not require any Amendment to give variety and interest to this Debate. I have seldom heard a more interesting discussion, and if I rise somewhat earlier than I at one time thought of doing, I do so mainly that I may be able to speak with the recollection in my mind of some of the speeches to which we have listened. They came so fast upon each other, and were so varied in their character—the light shed came from such different quarters, and occasionally the light from the same quarter varied so much in colour, that I thought I had better speak now while they were fresh in my mind than wait any longer. The hon. Member for West Denbighshire put his case as I should have expected he would—in a clear and business-like way; and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dumfries again, as we might have expected, infused a little more sentiment into the subject. As we know, my hon. Friend always feels strongly upon public questions in which he takes an interest, and I am sure the whole House could sympathise with the earnest way in which he dealt with this question. Then we 1724 have my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Haddington, who is nothing if not a philosopher. I confess that his philosophy is so abstruse that when he sat down I was not very sure what view he took of the question. I therefore have to fall back upon history, and I find that in 1895 my hon. and learned Friend voted for the Resolution which has been so much referred to to-night—That, in the opinion of this House, in order to give speedier and fuller effect to the special desires and wants of the respective nationalities constituting the United Kingdom, and with a view to increase the efficiency of the Imperial Parliament to deal with Imperial affairs, it is desirable to devolve upon Legislatures in Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and England, respectively, the management and control of their domestic affairs.So I can hardly believe that my hon. and learned Friend can be at all shocked by the proposal which is now before the House, which is not nearly so explicit or so extreme in its character as the Resolution for which he himself voted in 1895. And then we had a most racy speech from my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr. My hon. Friend expressed a desire, and he amply spoke up to his own desire, to be perfectly frank. He wished to be frank, he said, because everybody knew everything, and there was nothing to conceal. He lives in a glass house, and it appears to me that he has a new reading of the old proverb, and that he thinks it is the duty of those who live in glass houses to throw stones through the roof in order, to do their own house as much damage as possible. What my hon. Friend wishes the House to agree to is practically this—I do not dwell on the little point of the word "desirable" or the word "urgent," for they both really come to the same thing—that if any devolution of public business, such as is indicated by the hon. Member for Denbighshire; is attempted, priority to the national claim of Ireland for self-government should be given. I am one of those who, in the course of this long controversy on the subject of Home Rule, have again and again given the fullest recognition to the priority of the Irish claim in the matter of devolution and self-government. I regarded, and I continue to regard, the claim of Ireland as not only higher than that of any other part of the United Kingdom, but as on 1725 an altogether different plane. I rest this estimate of the Irish claim partly upon events connected with the history of that country, partly on the ripeness of the subject and of opinion in Ireland on the subject, but chiefly on the attitude of the great body of the Irish people towards social order. It appears to me that it is nothing less than a disgrace and a danger to us that a people so near to us, and so closely connected with us, and for whose welfare we have assumed to so large an extent the responsibility, should be, if not in chronic disaffection, at all events liable to periodic outbursts of disorder which, if they indicate anything, indicate that their government is not good, that there is some fault in the mode of government. If I think I know of a remedy for such a state of things, I say I feel it to be urgent that that remedy should be applied. I am well aware that any lessons to be drawn from the history of the relations between England and Ireland may differ according to the ideas and prejudices of the student. Even the estimate that may be formed of the present attitude of the great bulk of the Irish people may also vary according to the prejudices of the onlooker: and, therefore, I am content to discard opinions and to base myself upon fact. The fact upon which I should be content to base this question of the priority of the Irish claim is this—and it is amazing how often it is ignored in the consideration and discussion of the subject—that the Irish people, not once or twice, but four times, have in a constitutional fashion put forward their constitutional demand for this remedy for the evils from which they suffer by using the machinery of the Constitution at the polls. We have created a system of representative government. We invite them to use that system of representative government, and, having directed them to use it, we are surely bound to give some recognition to it. Four time—in 1885, 1886, 1892, and 1895—they have preferred this claim; and this fact alone, if there were no other, differentiates the position and the claim of Ireland from that of any other part of the United Kingdom. The priority thus given to the Irish claim—I am not discussing whether the Irish claim is right or wrong, and I am not discussing the 1726 question of Home Rule in the least—rests upon the nature of things, and therefore cannot be affected by a word more or less in some abstract resolution passed by the House of Commons. Let the House, then, consider what it is we are discussing. We are discussing an abstract Resolution, which it is admitted and known to us all cannot possibly become operative during the present Parliament. If I carry my speculations further, and impure whether it may become operative during the Parliament that will follow, I am aware that any view that I might express would immediately be called in question, and therefore I prefer to leave it alone. My hon. Friend thinks it reasonable and wise, and even worth while to affirm, against a contingency necessarily so distant, a certain precedence as obligatory upon the Parliament of that day. Why, Sir, the circumstances will enforce the precedence if they are not changed in any direction at that time. My hon. Friend thinks it reasonable, also, to go further, and to say not only that this precedence, when the time comes, must, necessarily be maintained—and. I agree myself that it will be maintained if circumstances do not alter—but that no alleviation what ever to the congestion of public business, no devolution whatever, however modest, shall be allowed to any part of the United, Kingdom, however small and poor a remedy it may be, nothing shall be allowed until this great, work of creating an Irish body of the kind spoken of so often is accomplished. Now, Sir, strongly—
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
There again we are dealing with adjectives. The adjective is the enemy of the substantive. I do not think we should let our course of conduct rest on the adjective we use. My point is this: Strongly as many among us—and I am sure I speak for most of my hon. Friends on this side, and certainly for myself—strongly as we appreciate the claim of Ireland—and I can say with the most 1727 perfect sincerity there are few people who appreciate it more highly than I do—I cannot think it reasonable to pledge and tie the hands of Parliament to a particular course of action in an abstract Resolution which can only come into operation at some future time. Now, Sir, turning to the main Resolution, I approach it, as I have said, from the point of view of Scotland. I was a Member of the House of Commons in the golden days when it was supposed that Scotch business was disposed of with so much celerity and satisfaction to all concerned. Scotch business in those days was managed by the Scotch Members, in co-operation and consultation with the Lord Advocate of the day. Meetings were held upstairs, at which they discussed Scotch business, and they came to some arrangement over it, and the Bills put into shape in that fashion were brought down to the House. This was considered an excellent method of managing Scotch business, and so it was for those who did not wish to take part in it. It was excellent for Englishmen and Irishmen; but about that time household suffrage was granted, and, popular interest becoming much more acute in Scotland with regard to public affairs, then it was soon found that this way of conducting business could not be continued. And from that time to this I have never known a time when there has not been bitter complaint, both in the House and in Scotland, about the delay of Scotch business. I speak of Scotch business because I know it best; but no doubt the same state of fact applies mutatis mutandis to Welsh business. The complaint we make as regards Scotch business is twofold. In the first place, we complain that there is insufficient time given for the full discussion of Scotch affairs owing to the pressure of public business. Of course, Mr. Speaker, the intensity of the pressure is not always uniform—it depends upon the humour of the constituencies and on the appetite of the Ministry of the day. We have heard of a Government which was exceedingly gluttonous and almost omnivorous for legislation, and which produced a very extensive programme, which it endeavoured to carry out, following probably too much the method which is said to prevail in America in hotels and other 1728 places where refreshments are provided, and where, I understand, the dishes are all laid on the table together, and a person is invited to eat them with as much rapidity as he can—a process which has the evil effects, at all events, of impairing the appetite of the consumer. But at present we have fallen upon easier and more sluggish times. Even now the Government, whose Party contains many Members who have no desire for legislation if it can possibly be avoided, find themselves in this position, that the Session will not be long enough; and a Parliament with very many Sessions would not be long enough to fulfil all the promises they made before they came into power. So that we see no prospect of any immediate relaxation of the pressure of legislative business. Nowadays so much time is taken up with discussion of foreign and colonial affairs, in the face of all the difficulties we are encountering all over the world, that for that reason alone business like Scotch or Welsh business is apt to be put aside. I will not dwell upon this, but there can be no doubt that Parliament is overtasked, and that this is a growing evil. The Estimates are not fully examined—they are much better examined now than they were before the right hon. Gentleman introduced his scheme of Fridays, of which scheme I am a warm supporter—but still there are complaints that the private Member is crowded out, and, what is more unfortunate still for him, counted out, and the work of Parliament, especially towards the end of the Session, is scamped. Undesirable compromises and unworkable arrangements are arrived at which would otherwise be avoided. As to Scotch, business in particular, I wish to say most frankly, in dealing with some of the remarks of my hon. Friend behind me, that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House and the Lord Advocate are always disposed to deal well by the Scotch Members and by Scotch business; but still the business does not proceed with that degree of attention we think desirable, and it is no compensation to us to be told that we may occupy ourselves, or interest ourselves, in the details of English or Irish business. That is not the special purpose for which we are sent here. But then, again, this is not the principal 1729 ground upon which I, for my part, base my adherence to this Motion. Our principal grievance is that on purely Scotch matters Scotch opinion is by the present system allowed to be overborne. In the House a discussion takes place, and we have an opportunity of stating our views, but when it comes to the decisive vote Members come in who have no knowledge of Scotch affairs, and who have not heard the Debate, and it is they who determine the conclusion of the House. But, Sir, there is more than this, because the result is that purely Scotch questions affecting no part of the country but Scot-laud are looked upon by Ministers, and also by Members, not according to their merits, but according to the probable reflex influence upon subjects in England. That, I think, is a more serious grievance than the other, and I will take in illustration of this two questions, bah of them of great importance and involving, perhaps, more acute controversy than any others with which we have to deal at the present day. I take first the question of the Church in Scotland. I am not now going to enter into the merits of the question, but I believe that every Scotch Member on both sides of the House will agree with me that it is a question upon which there is a large body favourable to the position of the Church, a large body wishing to see it disestablished, and another large number of people who are neutral or indifferent. It is claimed by many of my hon. Friends opposite—and I believe myself that it is a perfectly just and righteous claim—that nothing shall be done in this matter until the opinion of the Scotch people on the subject is thoroughly ascertained. When that opinion is ascertained those hon. Friends of mine, some of whom I see sitting opposite, say that they will be ready to bow to the expression of the will of the Scotch people in this matter. If, however, we had an opportunity of dealing with this matter by ourselves, as Scotch Members, or through some body in Scotland better than ourselves, if such a body could be found, we should be able to get the real opinion of the Scotch people. There are two inferences that I would venture to draw from that. The first is that in that case it would be found (hat a great deal of the acerbity would be taken out of the questions which we discuss, which comes from a Party spirit 1730 not native to Scotland, but because of other interests outside Scotland which are supposed to be affected; and, in the next place, I would ask my hon. Friends who take the line which I have described, and who say that this question ought to be left to the decision of the Scotch people, if they think it would be intolerable for that great change to be made in the position of the Scotch Church, without ascertaining that the people of Scotland desire it, whether they would not think that there is also something intolerable if the majority should happen to be the other way, that they should be kept away from year to year without being able to bring the matter to a decisive test? With regard to the other subject referred to by my hon. Friend, namely, the question of the liquor traffic, we in Scotland differ from England in several most material particulars. In the first place, we are more advanced in our law and practice. We have Sunday closing and early closing, which has now been improved upon and carried further, and this dates from so far back as 1857. Then we have also a greater desire on the part of the mass of the people for some reasonable restrictions being imposed. In the last place—and this is a homely point, but one of great importance—the particular commodity most dealt with in Scotland, under the mime of intoxicating liquor, is one that does not suffer deterioration by being kept in a bottle. This in itself puts the case on a totally different footing from that of the English or Irish. This is a matter which we have been able to deal with in Scotland apart from politics, and we are ready to deal with this question in a reasonable, temperate, and satisfactory manner if we are left to ourselves. The only reason that it has not been dealt with long ago is because of the influence of what in England is known as "the trade," and which, being afraid of the sympathetic effect in England of Scottish action, used that influence to prevent it. These are the sort of cases from which I affirm of my own knowledge that there is a strong, widespread, and underlying feeling in Scotland that the present system is unfair. This feeling in favour of a larger measure of independence, as it were—at all events in the action of legislation in Scotland—is not confined to one party. Nay, if Scotch affairs were 1731 determined by Scotchmen—and probably in Scotland—many questions which are now the battlefield of parties would be settled in a very short time by general consent. That is the reason, Sir, why I support my hon. Friend and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dumfries, who, as a Scotch Member, was perfectly justified in seconding the Resolution. When we come to the cure for this state of things, I quite admit that it is not easy to state any cure which would not be open to some objection, I never knew any large question for which a remedy could be found without raising difficulties. But if we see such a considerable grievance as this, and we see our way to adopt some measure of cure, I hope we shall not be hindered from it by being afraid of the objections and difficulties which may be raised. It is hardly for us to prescribe what the particular remedy should be, for we are not in a position to do so. For myself, personally, I have already shown how far I am prepared to go. I was one of those who three years ago voted for this definite Resolution for setting up Legislatures in the different parts of the Kingdom. But something very far short of that might satisfy, or go far to alleviate the evil of which we complain. My hon. Friend has done good service by bringing forward this Resolution and letting this complaint of ours be heard. I can only hope that the discussion will have the effect of showing the reality of the evil of which we complain—the temperate and reasonable view that we are disposed to take of it, and the strength of the grievance—and when these are recognised the first step will have been taken towards some new order of things which will be more in harmony than I conceive the present system is with the rights and interests of our country.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
It seems to me that the interesting Debate—indeed, the rather singular Debate—that we have listened to to-night is not only premature in its character, but ought to have taken place within other four walls than those within which we speak. For, after all, to what have we been listening? We have 1732 been listening, in the first place, to a Home Rule Debate. Now, a Home Rule Debate in this Parliament is of a purely academic interest. No one who has taken part in the discussion, or has listened to it, conceives for one moment either that the Debate will end in this Parliament, or this Government bringing forward on their own account any scheme of Home Ride for any single portion of the three kingdoms, or imagines that public opinion is likely to be much informed by a desultory Debate on a Tuesday afternoon. But not only is the Debate academic, it seems in my opinion entirely misplaced. It is really not a Debate between Unionists and Home Rulers, but a Debate between two sections of Home Rulers. The controversy we have been listening to is not a controversy whether Homo Rule be desirable or not. It is a Debate between two parties, calling themselves Home Rulers, as to what should be the order of merit between the various schemes of Home Rule they are prepared to support. That is a discussion in which the House, as a whole, takes no interest whatever. It is a question purely for hon. Gentlemen opposite. We on this side of the House object both to the Resolution and to the Amendment. We object to Home Rule, whether it begins with Ireland and ends with Wales, or begins with. Wales and ends with Ireland. We object, to the whole thing; and this dispute as to whether the Irishmen are to seize the prey, or the Welshmen to seize the prey, or whether the Scotchmen are to seize the prey from both of them, is a question really of domestic party politics in which the House of Commons as a whole has no interest whatever. The main argument of the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, and I think of both the mover and seconder of the original Resolution, was based upon the alleged congestion of business in the Imperial Parliament, and the hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment was not content with telling us that we found it difficult to get through our work—a statement which has some foundation, but not so much as he appears to think—but he also stated that our administrative Departments are entirely overworked at the present time, and the two Departments he chose as examples of his proposition were 1733 the Education Department and the Local Government Board, two Departments in which there is already Home Rule on his plan. There is a Local Government Board for Ireland and a Local Government Board for Scotland already; an Education Department for Scotland and an Education Department for Ireland. Therefore I really think that a more singular selection than the hon. Gentleman made of instances which would prove the magnitude of the present evil and the correctness of the case which he was bringing forward could hardly have been found in the whole of our administrative system. So much for what, after all, I assume is a very minor point in the controversy—the congestion of business. The main congestion of business, it is alleged, perhaps with a modicum of truth, lies in the region of legislation. There are times when undoubtedly this House has so many Measures of first-class importance it desires to pass that we cannot make the progress we desire with many Bills which not only individual Members, but the Government of the day itself, are anxious to make progress with. But, so long as the House is fortunate enough to avoid those periods of stress and storm in which controversy is long and business is slow. I do not think that our annual crop of legislative work is really so small as some of our critics who have spoken in this Debate seem to think. We cannot pass many Bills which not only individual Members but the Government of the day itself are anxious to make progress with. But, so long as this House is fortunate enough to avoid those periods of stress and storm in which controversy is long and business is slow. I do not think that our annual output of legislation is really so small or really so unworthy as some of our critics think who have spoken in this Debate. The House of Commons is like a great steam-engine, which will have a great output so long as the working parts are cool, but as soon as, from some errors in construction or defects in oiling, or some similar cause, the working parts become warm, undoubtedly the labour is great, but the result is small. But, Sir, granted—and I am quite prepared to grant it—that there are times and seasons in which our legislative work 1734 is in serious arrear, surely a more inaccurate method of remedying that defect was never proposed than the suggestion that we should at once begin to pass Home Rule Bills for Ireland, Wales, and Scotland, as well as one for England alone, which would inevitably follow, as I shall presently point out. The most eloquent, interesting, and, I will add, the most touching part of the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman who seconded the Resolution consisted of a description of evils now arising from our failure, as he alleges, to deal with such questions as those of the housing of the working classes, old age pensions, and other questions, of social importance. I may say, parenthetically, that we have done more with regard to the housing of the working classes than the Hon. and learned Gentleman appears to bear in mind. But, without going into that, can the hon. and learned Gentleman, or any other Member of the House, suppose that the most ingenious obstructive in the world, lee most ingenious opponent of social reform, could find a better method of delaying reform for all time than the method of introducing four Homo Rule Bills in succession before any of these social reforms were taken in hand? I must say that the connection between the hon. and learned Gentleman's premises and his conclusions in the matter appears to be of the very weakest description. Now let me call attention for one moment to the wording of the Resolution. It talks of extending the powers of local self-government in the United Kingdom, and in that phrase lurks, in my opinion, a, radical confusion of thought. There are two kinds of public work which have to be pot through—legislative and administrative work. The congestion complained of here is legislative, but the work now done by local bodies is administrative, and to describe the sort of Parliaments you wish to set up in every corner of these islands as an extension of anything that can be properly described as local self-government is to make a fundamental confusion of thought upon a most; important matter. Hon. Gentlemen opposite are not asking us for an extension, but they are asking us for an absolutely new departure. They are not asking us to provide machinery by which each locality shall be able to do 1735 effectively its own administrative business; that machinery is, in my opinion, already for the most part, in existence. What they are asking for is something which has never yet been granted in these islands, and something which cannot properly be described as local government. It is setting up new elective bodies to carry out great legislative operations. And on what plan are these new bodies to be set up? The hon. and learned Gentleman who seconded the Resolution talked in an airy way of employing, in Scotland at all events, the ancient and venerable association of the Royal Burghs in Scotland—the Convention of the Royal Burghs of Scotland. Sir, I can hardly believe that the hon. and learned Gentleman can have kept his countenance when he made that proposal. I can, at all events, tell him, although I am not in the confidence of the Home Rule Association in Scotland, that that interesting body would not be satisfied with the reform he suggests. But is it not perfectly plain that as soon as you have committed yourself to a legislative body in Ireland, the plan which you adopt in Ireland, or the plan which you say you mean to adopt in Ireland—for I do not know which of the countries is to have precedence—the plan to which you have committed yourselves in Ireland must form the model of the plan which you will adopt for every other part of the United Kingdom. I think the hon. and learned Gentleman himself admits that proposition. But if he did not, is it not obvious on the face of it? Is it practicable to suppose that when Scotchmen, Englishmen, and Welshmen, see a particular system of local government established in Ireland, they are going to submit to something less in their own country? No, Sir, if this House, or this country, ever commits itself to giving Home Rule to Ireland on any plan distantly resembling the plan of 1885, or the plan of 1893, that is the model which you will have to adopt in every other part of the United Kingdom. Now, what does that come to? Does the hon. and learned Gentleman, who cheers me, and admits that I am right—do any of the hon. Gentlemen who talked so glibly to-night of the evils of a congestion in our business—do they, for a moment, call up a clear image of the condition of these islands when they have carried out these four vast systems of 1736 Home Rule? What is the model we are to adopt for Ireland? It is that of a Parliament, independent, as I think, in everything but name; at all events, a Parliament wholly uncontrolled, except by machinery which I do not need to stop now to discuss. Depending on that Parliament is to be a Ministry, for I do not believe that a legislative assembly can get on without a Ministry. The idea that you can set a lot of able and intelligent gentlemen to work to frame Bills at large, nobody taking the lead, I believe to be wholly illusory. Wherever you establish a legislative assembly, there, from the nature of the case, you will have to get a certain body of gentlemen, call them a Ministry or anything else you like, depending on a majority of that assembly, and guiding the legislative work of that assembly. I need not argue the point, but I think it will be admitted that when Home Rule Parliaments for Ireland, Scotland, and Wales are assembled, on every one of those Parliaments will depend a Ministry, so that in this country—a great country, as we are all ready to admit, though not a very large country—you are actually going to have four legislative assemblies, besides the Imperial legislative assembly, and four Ministries besides the Imperial Ministry. Can human ingenuity conceive a more absurd plan on which to carry on the work of a great country? Well, Sir, the House will have noticed that I have not imitated my predecessors in this Debate in one respect. I have not contented myself with talking of a Home Rule Parliament for Ireland, Wales, and Scotland. I have held throughout that you must have a Home Rule Parliament for England, and that is perfectly obvious on the face of it. However disagreeable it may be to hon. Gentlemen opposite, it is a fact which they cannot disguise from themselves, because, as the hon. and learned Member for Dumfries himself has told us, in no future Home Rule Bill will you be able to exclude the Irish, Welsh, or Scotch Members from the Imperial Parliament, in which the whole of the United Kingdom must be represented. Very well, if that is so, do you for one moment suppose that England is going to allow herself to be governed by a combination of Scotchmen, Welshmen, and Irishmen, while they are to have no part 1737 themselves in the government of Ireland, Scotland, or Wales? Nobody supposes that for a moment. Then—it is admitted on all hands—the scheme we are asked to vote to-night, whether you adopt the original Resolution or the Amendment, is a form of Home Rule involving an Imperial Parliament sitting in London, an English Parliament sitting in London, with two Ministries, an Imperial Ministry and an English Ministry, both sitting in London; a Scotch Parliament, with a Scotch Ministry, sitting in Edinburgh; a Welsh Parliament and a Welsh Ministry—where is the Welsh Parliament to sit?—at all events, not at Mertbyr Tydvil; and an Irish Parliament, sitting in Dublin; and all with their respective Ministries. Can anybody talk of such a, scheme seriously?
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
There is no Imperial Parliament there; but that remark precisely brings me to the point I was coming to. The hon. Member has shown what his idea is. The parts of the present United Kingdom are henceforth to be reduced to the degree of cohesion which exists between the various representative assemblies in Australia. That is precisely what would happen—what must happen; and it would happen after a time of envenomed controversy. Inn are going, as I understand, to give the Imperial Parliament the right of Veto, and that Parliament would, perhaps, represent a different majority from that of the Parliament of one of the countries. Of course, the immediate result of that would be that in one or two countries—whether England, Scotland, Ireland, or Wales, I care not which—you would immediately have an agitation got up which would accentuate the separatist element in that country, necessarily accentuate it, stereotype it, crystallise it, and make it ready for the first occasion on which the whole of this, at present, coherent system might be smashed up and broken into its constituent atoms. I think it is an intolerable prospect, and that we should benefit England, Wales, Scotland, or Ireland I cannot imagine. Mark the present condition of things. The separatist nationality of England, if 1738 I may so describe the nationality of an Englishman as distinct from that of a Scotchman, Welshman, or Irishman, is at present a faint one. He is quite ready to regard himself simply as a citizen of the United Kingdom. He is quite ready to see a Scotchman employed in his service, and even in an important place in the Government. But I remember distinctly that, when I was responsible for a great deal of Irish patronage, it was practically impossible in an enormous number of cases to appoint anybody but an Irishman. When I was responsible for patronage in Scotland—and I am sure my hon. and learned Friend near me will agree with me—it was always a thing to be borne in mind that one candidate for a place was a Scotchman and another an Englishman. That consideration never enters into the head of anyone responsible for appointing, to an English office; but, of course, ii would directly you create artificially and deliberately stimulate this local and separatist feeling, and you would make every Englishman feel that he stands over against four other nationalities, you would develop an antagonistic feeling, and anything more injurious to the interests of Scotland, Wales, and Ireland, than the raising of such jealous feelings of separatism as I have described I cannot imagine.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
I do not say that no Englishman was ever appointed to an office in Scotland, but I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will not contradict me when I say that anyone who is responsible for Scotch patronage looks to the place of birth of the person appointed—I do not say he is guided exclusively by that consideration, but he has regard to it, whereas I think that in regard to appointments in England the person responsible for making them has not to consider whether the candidates for the office were born north or south of the Tweed, or east or west of St. George's Channel. Sir, there is only one merit, that I see in this Resolution. I do think that if it, contains the accepted creed of 1739 hon. Gentlemen opposite we need never again trouble ourselves about Home Rule. I think a Resolution like this really settles Home Rule. A large party in England and Scotland were prepared, I think most unfortunately, to consider favourably the granting of Home Rule to Ireland on the very grounds so eloquently stated by the right hon. Gentleman opposite when he was arguing in favour of the Amendment against which he is going to vote. They were prepared, unfortunately and unmistakably, to give Home Rule to Ireland because, they said, the peculiar and unhappy history of Ireland, and the vehement anti-English feeling—I will put it no lower than that—of a certain section of the Irish people, and other considerations, made Ireland an absolutely exceptional case. I daresay some of them said in their hearts, "After all, if it does come to separation, England and Scotland may be able to get on even without the assistance of Ireland." But when you bring them face to face with the logical issues of their own determination—when you show them, as the hon. and learned Gentleman has shown them to-night, as the right hon. Gentleman opposite shows them, and almost every speaker on that side of the House has shown them, that you cannot give Home Rule to Ireland without extending it to Scotland, Wales, and England—when they have before them this vision of the five Parliaments and the five Ministries, then, I think, they will see that a scheme which lands us in these grotesque absurdities is a scheme to be crushed at its very inception, and they will refuse ever again to be misled by the eloquence either of hon. Gentlemen representing Ireland or their somewhat lukewarm defenders on the Front Bench opposite; they will refuse ever again to be seduced by either of these contradictory voices to committing themselves to so suicidal a policy as that which they in vain endeavoured to carry out in 1893.
§ MR. W. H. K. REDMOND (Clare, E.)
The hon. Gentleman the mover of this Motion and the right hon. Gentleman who seconded it both said there was no intention, in proposing this Resolution, in any way to throw the question of Home Rule 1740 for Ireland into the background, and that it wits a mistake to suppose so, that the Resolution did not affect the question of Home Rule for Ireland at all. But the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge, in proposing this Resolution, actually made it a substitute for Home Rule for Ireland by quoting from the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Colonies, who some years ago proposed to settle the Irish question by a system of provincial Councils. If the hon. Gentleman who proposed this Resolution did not want to substitute it for a scheme of Home Rule, why did he refer to the Secretary of State for the Colonies and his attempt to deal with the Irish Question? It is perfectly plain that the whole policy of this proposal is to substitute for the policy of Home Rule for Ireland a new policy of Home Rule all round. That policy has not been ventilated in the country, but it is a policy brought forward by a section of the Liberal Party, to whom, no doubt, my hon. Friend belongs, who have for some time openly declared that, in their opinion, it would be far better for the Liberal Party to drop the policy of Home Rule for Ireland, and substitute this new policy, against which the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House has just delivered such a very telling attack. I attribute this to two reasons. First of all, it is the outcome of the attitude of the Liberal forwards of this country, who have abandoned Home Rule; and, secondly, I attribute it to the action of the hon. Member for Mayo, and of his friends, who, when the Bill was brought in in 1895, went into the Lobby and voted against it, and rebuked, in somewhat harsh terms, those who voted in its favour. I have no desire to refer to what is past, but if the Vote which was given by the majority of the Irish Members in favour of the Resolution proposed in 1895 had been successful this Resolution would not have been proposed to-night. Now, Sir, I also put an Amendment on the Paper which, according to your ruling, was out of order. In a few words, I can very briefly explain why I put down that Amendment to the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Merthyr Tydvil, whose Amendment, so far as it goes, is, no doubt, satisfactory. The proposer of this 1741 Resolution, in asking for a scheme of Home Rule, all round, has intimated that the question of Irish Home Rule should be considered first, and, so far as it goes, that is satisfactory; but the reason I put my Amendment down was that the hon. Member, in his Amendment, was altogether too vague. It is not only necessary to say that Home Rule for Ireland should be taken first, but we must have some definite statement as to what form it should take, and as to whether it is to be given the foremost place in the programme of the Liberal Party. Now, the hon. Gentleman who moved this Amendment spoke of Home Rule for Wales and for Scotland. Well, it may be desirable that they mould have Home Rule or not, but one tiling is absolutely certain, and that is that neither the Welsh nor the Scotch have ever, as a matter of fact, put forward any emphatic demand for Home Rule. On the other hand, the Irish have never ceased, to demand the restoration of their Parliament. I was amused to hear that the national feeling in Wales was superior to the national feeling in Ireland, and no doubt, judging the standard from the point of national language, that, may be so, and in that particular the Welsh may be more national than the Irish; but language is not everything in this matter, and the fact of our language having been suppressed in Ireland in the manner in which it has is one of the very strong reasons for our action at the present time. The popular desire for self-government in Ireland is based upon the sufferings of the people. Every year the Irish have struggled for this national right. They have taken the field and lost their lives and liberty in their attempts to regain it. Not a hundred years ago 20,000 people laid down their lives in its defence, and when I am told that the Welsh are superior in their national sentiments to the Irish I ask the hon. Gentleman when have they, if ever, suffered, struggled, and laid down their lives for their liberty as the Irish have done within the last 100 years. Now the hon. Gentleman the Member for Merthyr Tydvil says that Home Rule is to have the first place. What kind of Home Rule is it to be? The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil stated that my Amendment for Home Rule meant a 1742 re-establishment of Grattan's Parliament. There is nothing in my Amendment to that effect. What the Irish people desire, so far as I know, and what I have stated in my Amendment, is a Parliament supreme in the management of Irish affairs, a Parliament with an executive subservient to it to carry its Resolutions into effect. The late Mr. Parnell, speaking at Walworth, put forward a scheme for Home Rule, and said the Liberal Party asked what Ireland required. She required a Parliament supreme in the management of Irish affairs. That was the demand put forward by Mr. Parnell, and that is the demand in my Amendment, and which alone will satisfy the aspirations of the Irish people. But even more important is the omission in the Amendment of the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil, that the claim for Home Rule for Ireland should not only have priority over the claims of these other countries, but it should also have priority, so far as the Liberal Party is concerned, over any reform which they intended to take into consideration. One hon. Gentleman who spoke upon the Motion said there was a diversity of opinion between the Irish Members and the Liberal Party on the question of education. I am anxious to support, so far as I can, every person who is desirous of supporting that which I believe the people I represent desire; but in this question I have from time to time tried to discover what the proposition put forward by the Liberal Party is, and what is their desire. If it is their desire that we should entirely accept their views of education, and that men like myself should become Nonconformists, then I think that it is carrying "the union of hearts" a little too far. The gentlemen who propose this scheme, this new policy of Home Rule all round, know that it is more obnoxious to this country than any scheme of Home Rule, for Ireland has ever been; but in addition to this scheme which they attempt to promulgate they say the Irish question of Home Rule should not take priority over other questions of reform, they say electoral reform should take priority of it, and that the reform of the Parliamentary procedure in this country should take priority of it. My reason for putting forward my Amendment was to get a declaration of some kind, and in 1743 order to see who are for us and who are against us, and to see how we stand on this side of the House, so far as Home Rule is concerned. We are told that until the other Chamber is reformed Home Rule cannot be passed, but I say that the other Chamber rejected other measures sent up by the Liberal Party, which eventually it was compelled to accept, and because it rejected Home Rule this House is not to be discouraged. The proper course is to keep on the agitation, and send up the Bill again. I maintain that the procedure of this House proves that every question kept to the front and agitated throughout the country, and sent to the other Chamber, more than once the other Chamber has been obliged to accept. That is the only way that Home Rule can be obtained, and to ask us seriously to wait until the other Chamber is pleased to adopt it, or until Parliaments are established in Glasgow and Cardiff, is simply to ask us to abandon Home Rule altogether. This new scheme—and I quite agree with what has been said by the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury upon it—this new scheme is put forward by one section of the Liberal Party, and it will infinitely damage our chances of getting Home Rule at all. It could not be put forward by people who are seriously attached to the question of Home Rule, and my grievance against the Liberal Party is that, instead of standing manfully to this question of Home Rule, they have practically given it up, and from the very first they have been casting about to see what measure they could substitute for it. The opinions of the Welsh and Scotch upon this matter are not of much moment to me. I have been sent here to endeavour to obtain Home Rule for Ireland, and it is no part of my duty to ask the English people to break up their existing system and establish different legislative assemblies in Wales or in Scotland. I say, Mr. Speaker, that if any Irish Member in this House, either by his vote or by his voice, gives sanction to this new departure on the question of 1744 Home Rule, he will be striking one of the most fatal blows which it is possible to strike against the demand of their country, and against that demand ever being carried out. For my part I regard it as a deliberate breach of faith with the Irish Members, and I regard it as a deliberate departure from any understanding there ever was between these gentlemen and the Irish Members; and I say that if Welsh Members, or any section of the Liberal Members, ask me to abandon for Home Rule for Ireland the front place in favour of Home Rule all round, or any other such reform, I distinctly refuse to do so. The question of whether Wales requires Home Rule or not is for the Welsh people themselves to settle, but neither Wales nor Scotland have urgently demanded any reform on this matter. I say that, as far as I am concerned, it is not a matter of moment to me what the opinion of Welshmen or Scotchmen is on this matter. I am sent to this House to try and get Home Rule for the people I represent in Ireland. That is my object, and my object all the time as long as I am in this House, and it is no part of my business to ask the English people to break up their system, which has prevailed successfully for them as far as I know, and to establish in Wales and Scotland fresh legislative assemblies. What we want is to be allowed to return to our own country to manage our own affairs in Ireland, and when that is accomplished, you can settle how many Parliaments you will have in this country.
§ On the return of Mr. Speaker, after the usual interval,
§ MR. J. E. GORDON (Elgin and Nairn)
called attention to the fact that there were not 40 Members present.
§ There not being present 40 Members, the House was counted out at Nine o'clock.