HC Deb 11 April 1912 vol 36 cc1421-2

Next, we propose to set up a Joint Exchequer Board, consisting of five persons, two to be appointed by the Imperial Government and two by the Irish Treasury, with the chairman nominated by the Crown, to adjust the accounts between the two Exchequers in accordance with the Act. Its main functions will be concerned with ascertaining, in the first instance, the amount of the transferred sum, based on their view of what is the actual cost at the present time of Irish services; next, in the event of the Irish Parliament diminishing or adding to Imperial taxes, the amount by which the transferred sum is in consequence to be diminished or increased; and thirdly, in the event of transferring services, the equivalent saving to the Exchequer of the United Kingdom. Finally, if and when the time arrives when Irish revenue, derived from both Imperial and Irish taxes, exceeds the cost of Irish administration, including the Reserved Services, and the Joint Board determines that such an excess has continued for not less than three successive years, they will report accordingly. Such a report will, under the Act, be a ground for the revision of the financial provisions, with a view to securing the proper contribution from Ireland towards the common expenditure of the United Kingdom, and to extending the powers of the Irish Parliament in respect of the collection of taxes and general financial control and the machinery to be set up. That is all I have to say under the head of finance.

Now I come to the last point, that is, the future representation of Ireland in the Imperial Parliament. The House will remember that under Mr. Gladstone's first Bill, in 1886, the Irish Members were entirely excluded from this House. In the Bill of 1893, they were retained, to the number of eighty, that number being fixed as Ireland's proportion, according to the population, comparing Ireland with the other parts of the United Kingdom. They were retained, as those who are familiar with the history of this legislation will know, in the first instance, with powers only to vote on matters of general concern. That was called the "in and out" Clause. Then, when that Clause was withdrawn, as it was in deference to criticism in the course of the debates, the were given power to vote on all subjects. That is the history. We regard the retention of the Irish Members at Westminster as essential. [Cheers.] Hon. Gentlemen will be wise if they reserve their cheering. There never was a worse calculated cheer than that. I say that we regard the retention of the Irish representatives at Westminster as essential, for reasons which I have already indicated and which I will presently sum up; but in regard to numbers, our proposal differs widely from that of 1893.