HC Deb 30 December 1912 vol 46 cc154-75

(1) It shall be lawful for His Majesty in Council by Proclamation made at any time of or during the existence of a state of war or of national emergency to suspend the exercise of executive power in Ireland by the Lord Lieutenant on the advice of the Executive Committee for such period as may be specified in the Proclamation, and during that period all executive power in Ireland shall be exercised without reference to the Executive Committee, and the Lord Lieutenant and the heads and officers of Irish Departments shall comply with any directions that may be given by His Majesty as regards Irish services.

(2) If any head, or officer, or servant, of an Irish Department neglects or refuses to comply with any directions given by His Majesty, in pursuance of the provisions of this Section, he may be removed from his office by His Majesty in Council, and His Majesty in Council may appoint another person to fill the vacancy so caused.

(3) All expenditure incurred in the administration of Irish services under the provision of this Section, and which are paid out of the Exchequer of the United Kingdom, shall be made good by means of deductions from the Transferred Sum under this Act in accordance with Regulations made by the Treasury."


I am afraid in moving this Clause I shall have to go rather wide of the pleasant academic atmosphere in which we have been living for two hours, but with regard to that academic atmosphere, having heard how my right hon. Friend (Mr. J. H. Campbell) spent his Christmas holiday, I thank God that I represent an industrial and not an academic constituency. The purpose of the Clause is to provide that in time of war or great national emergency the central Imperial Government shall have control of the whole machinery of Government, both Naval, Military, and Civil, throughout the United Kingdom. As it stands, our present position in time of war is anything but satisfactory. I believe the position of this country at the outbreak of a war is probably weaker than that of any great Power. Lord Salisbury said many wise things, but he never said a wiser than when he said that the British Constitution was a bad fighting machine. So it is, because the very excellencies that have made our constitution hitherto a wonderful machinery for protecting the liberty of the subject in time of peace, work against the power of the country in time of war. When war threatens, the Government of the day necessarily has to consider how far public opinion will support it, and how far Parliament will support the first steps it takes to ensure the defence of the country, and that doubt and hesitancy undoubtedly affect the preparations for war, and anyone who will read carefully the history of the months of August and September, 1899, will have that very powerfully brought home to him. It is quite different with an autocratic Government, and there is an extraordinary contrast between the clumsiness of the machinery in a constitutional country and the swiftness and decision of the machinery in an autocratic country like India. The preparations which were made by the Indian Government at that time were infinitely better and surer than the preparations made by the British Government, and so it must always be. I do not say that is an argument for autocracy as against constitutional forms of government, I only want to put on record that even as we stand the machinery of government in time of emergency is a particularly weak one in this country.

If that is so in regard to the central Government, the position is still more complicated in regard to subordinate Governments. There is an element of -weakness, and it may be of paralysis, at the outbreak of war when you have subordinate Governments to consider. The South African war furnishes two instances. In the case of Natal just before the outbreak of war, Sir George White was commander of the British troops in that country, and he found himself immediately in conflict with the Prime Minister of the Colony. The Prime Minister, thinking of the interest of his Colony, and ignoring, quite honestly no doubt, the highest strategical considerations, imposed on Sir George White certain conditions which proved of the greatest embarrassment and difficulty, and indeed led to severe military reverses at the beginning of that campaign. I am not quoting that upon my own authority, but upon the authority of Lord Roberts, who reported on the matter. In Cape Colony there was an even stronger example. There the Government was divided in its support—that is to say, it depended upon supporters belonging to different races—and the consequence was that its action before the beginning of the war was eminently weak and uncertain, and it is on record that the Prime Minister (Mr. Schreiner) actually allowed, against the wishes of the military authorities, munitions of all kinds to go along the railways to the enemy, so that the Colony itself assisted the enemy at the beginning of the campaign. He also used his influence to prevent various advance posts being occupied out of deference to views of the civilian population of Cape Colony. There, again, serious injury and detriment was caused to the British strength at the beginning of the war.

I want to enlarge on these two instances for this reason. In neither case could you say that the local Government was disloyal. In the case of Cape Colony, no doubt the position was difficult owing to the attitude of some of the Prime Minister's supporters, but no one could fairly say that Mr. Schreiner was a disloyal man, or that he acted against what he believed to be the patriotic interests of the Empire. In Natal the case was even stronger, for the Prime Minister and the Government were ardently patriotic, but they could not look at the situation with the eye of the Imperial Government, and that was the cause of great difficulty and embarrassment at the beginning of the war. In applying this argument to Ireland I do not, for the purpose of my argument, want to enlarge upon the special position of that country, or the special composition of any probable Irish Government. What I say would apply in greater or less degree to any subordinate Government. I would use the same argument if a similar machine of government were to be put into the hands of optimistic baillies in Edinburgh or rhetorical 'predikants' in Cardiff. I only say that in time of national emergency the whole machine must be at the disposition and under the control of the central Government. It is quite true that Army and Navy matters are reserved by this Bill to the central Government, but that is not enough, for at the beginning of war the part played by the civil side of the machine of government might be quite as important as that played by the purely naval or military arm. I think the Government have to some extent admitted this in the Bill. They have admitted it in the case of the Post Office. It was urged earlier in the Debates that it would be a source of great military weakness if the Post Office were in the hands of a subordinate Government, and they have attempted to meet that point. I think they have met it in an unsatisfactory way. I ask the House to turn to the new Clause 45. Under that Clause there is a provision that an Order in Council may be made for the reservation of power to His Majesty by Order in Council to transfer in time of war or national emergency the powers and duties of the Irish Post Office to the British Post Office, or to the naval or military authority of the United Kingdom. But be it observed that there are two Orders in Council contemplated—one made at the time of the passing of the Act, and the other dependent upon or subordinate to that made at the passing of the Act, or whenever the Act is put into operation. If circumstances arise which are not contemplated at the time of the former, the former must prevail, and it may not be possible to put the second in effective operation for the simple reason that circumstances have arisen which were not foreseen when the first and governing Order was made. For instance, the original Order might say that in time of war all the postal facilities, all control of mail bags, control of the telegraph, wireless telegraphy, and the rest, may be put into the hands of the Imperial Government at the time of war, but circumstances may change. For instance, wireless telephony may have developed since that time, and if anything of that kind has arisen since the first Order was made which was not contemplated and foreseen at that time, the Second Order in Council would for effective purposes be null and void.

I say this is a very unsatisfactory state of things, because you are entirely dependent upon the wisdom and foresight of those who frame the first and permanent Order in Council, and the other though it might deal with a vital matter would be vitiated. It would be far better to reserve to the Imperial Government power over that service and the other services absolutely unrestricted by any specific provisions at the time so that they could do what they like when a real emergency arises. It is not only a question of the Post Office. There are many other matters. For example, there is the whole question of the control of the Press. I believe in future when war is contemplated very strict control will have to be exercised over the dissemination of news. I am perfectly certain that will be a matter which will assume much greater importance in tactical considerations in future. I think we have had an example of it lately. At the beginning of the war in the Balkans the utmost secrecy was exercised by the Balkan: authorities regarding their advance, and the great flanking movement to the East, that was so extraordinarily successful was kept veiled from the observation of Europe for a considerable time, and it was not until weeks afterwards that the existence was generally known of the third force operating between the right and left flanks. That was owing to the rigorous, and perhaps excessive, precautions taken by the Bulgarian authorities. There were no similar or so effective precautions on the other side.

I do not think that it need be argued at very great length that secrecy in-modern war, at any rate where the first blow may be all-important, is absolutely-essential, and the authorities of this country will have to exercise very much more control in future wars over the Press of all kinds than they have done in the past. How would this apply to a subordinate Government? You might have the most excellent Executive possible, but if you had an Executive which did not see matters in the same light as yourself, you might not be able to enforce the law until it was too late. Suppose, which is quite possible, that the military authorities decided to mobilise at the Curragh a force to be dispatched from Cork for a raid on some foreign Power, secrecy would be the essence of success of such a proposal, but unless you have adequate powers of law enforceable by summary procedure all your precautions might easily be in vain. There might be a delay of two or three days before you had got some injunction or gone through legal processes before an Irish Court, which might be unsympathetic and take another view, that might frustrate absolutely the whole object of your expedition. I noticed the other clay in the papers that, in view of the possibility of a war, the very first thing the Austro-Hungarian Government did was to prohibit all news as to the movement of troops. That is the view which obtains in other countries, and is the common sense of the situation. The matter does not rest with the dissemination of news: other things are necessary. In the same country for the last few weeks they have prohibited the export of horses, and taken measures for commandeering private property for transport, and made special provision for the families of recruits. In all these matters co-operation of the civil authorities is essential. You cannot have a military executive enforcing all these matters over a country even when a war has broken out, much less before the beginning of a war.

10.0 P.M.

The civil authorities of the subordinate Government might very well say that such matters as the prohibition of the export of horses and the seizure of private property for transport were unnecessary, and that they see no reason for giving encouragement to recruiting and making special provision for the families of recruits. In such a case what is the Imperial Government to do? Are they to ride roughshod over the subordinate Government and force them by the military arm? If not they can only come to some terms of compromise by which the main objects of the preparation for war will be frustrated at the start. In the same way as regards the restrictions on the movement of foreigners, there might easily be a conflict between the superior and the subordinate Government. A number of Irishmen who have become citizens of the United States return to visit their country from time to time and restrictions on the movements of foreigners might hamper them. They would have an influence both with the Irish Executive and their own Government and great diplomatic pressure might be exercised and the result would be that the Irish Government might resent any measures for the surveillance and possibly the detention of foreigners in a critical state of things in that country. In all these matters you must depend very largely on the police in times of war, and it would be disastrous if the military forces were to be under one Executive and the police force under another, when they should work in common. Take the case of railways. In all the old Railway Acts I believe the 'Government reserved a power to take possession of the railways in time of war. But under this Bill the Irish Parliament have jurisdiction over Irish railways. They might assume control over them themselves; possibly you might have nationalisation of the railways, which would be quite practicable in Ireland. If you had you would have the whole machinery of transport in the hands of the subordinate Government with the superior body unable to interfere, and the taking over of those railways might be most essential to us. Then if in times of emergency anything like universal service had to be adopted the existence of a subordinate Government would be a great hindrance.

All those difficulties and disadvantages you would have in time of war no matter what subordinate Government you have. I am not assuming it is going to be disloyal or hostile. If you assume that there is such a possibility then the danger becomes much more imminent and serious. A great American naval authority said that a hostile Ireland would very seriously menace British naval supremacy. If you can assume for instance the necessity of large forces stationed in Ireland, that might interfere with the strategic designs of the British Government with regard to some European war. But all that is not necessary to my argument. You might have those things, or you might have a state of things in which public opinion in Ireland, and consequently the views of the Government, might be divided. I do not want to assume the likelihood or even the possibility—but it did happen a hundred years ago, and we cannot say that it may not happen again—that we might have a conflict with the United States. If we were in such a position, is not it palpable that the sympathy of Irish public opinion might be divided, and that it might impress the Government of the day just as public opinion impressed the Government of Mr. Schreiner in 1899? These things are possible, and we cannot be blind to them. But all I want to show at present is that a subordinate government must be a source of weakness in critical times, and that power ought to be reserved to the Imperial Government to take possession of all the strings or ropes of government, and to be able to say to any public servant in any part of the United Kingdom, "Do this," and he must do it, "Go there," and he must go, so that he must look to the central authority for promotion in case of merit and punishment in case of dereliction of duty, and so that the Minister who has to bear the burden of the war, may be sure, as far as any law can do it that every man in the United Kingdom shall do his duty.

Colonel BURN

I am very glad to second this Amendment. It is a most important one. Many aspects of what will or may happen under Home Rule which have not been discussed are very important for the future of this country. I quite agree with what my hon. Friend has said about internal communication and movement of troops, and that it is impossible to carry them on if there is dual control, and if the Government of this country are making their arrangements in the event of hostilities with any other Power, and if the Irish people, some of whom are hand in glove with the enemies of this country, are to control the movements of troops and all that is necessary for mobilisation to take place. We must remember that if mobilisation were ordered everything depends on celerity, celerity of arrangements and of railway transport, so that all should work like clockwork. That is a vital necessity. If that is not so, then there is chaos and confusion, and it takes three times as long to mobilise as it would under ordinary conditions. Then there is the question of a hostile Ireland. My hon. Friend expressed the hope that Ireland would not be hostile. All I can say is that if the speeches of hon. Gentlemen who represent Ireland mean anything, then we have got to anticipate and understand that we may have a certain faction in Ireland who are hostile to this country, and ready to welcome the enemies of this country. Everyone who has studied this question must know that there is a considerable section of the Nationalist voters and of leaders in Ireland whose antipathy is openly avowed. We have even hon. Gentlemen in this House, who represent perhaps most of the Irish constituencies, who are decidedly lukewarm, to say the least of it, to the British garrison in that country. On several occasions we have demonstrated out of their own nostrils their hostility or their lukewarmness, which is always on the verge of hostility.

The necessity for this Amendment is demonstrated by history as far back as the Tudor period. Whatever Power has desired to get command of the Atlantic, it has invariably insisted upon having a base in Ireland, and that is the view of great naval commanders from the time of Sir Walter Raleigh down to Admiral Mahan to-day. The estates of the illustrious favourite of Queen Elizabeth, voyager and planter of Minister, were close by those of the poet Spencer, also a Colonist and planter. They were situate in the county Cork, and warrior and poet both, like their Spanish foes and the Irish Chiefs of the Tudors, insisted on the great importance of the estuary of the Lee that, in the words of the poet, "like an island fair encircled Cork with its divided flood." It is obvious to anyone who has studied the rudiments of this question of the strategy that the magnificent harbours of Queens-town and Cork and the safe anchorage of Bantry Bay were positions of the greatest importance in our long struggle with Spain and France, and they are as important to-day as they were in the days of James II. and Marlborough or in the time of the Directory and Hoche. This is not the improvised folly of Tory prejudice but the well considered axiom of every strategist since British history began to assume its modern character. Anyone who remembers the history of Napoleon will recollect that when he was in captivity at the end of his career he said that Hoche's expedition would have succeeded had it not been for stress of weather. Even our own historian, Alison, says that possibly they might have succeeded in that expedition if only they had been somewhat better organised. At any rate, I think that everyone will allow that all these harbours of Ireland are just as necessary for our sea forces and our land forces, for our tactics and our strategy, for disembarkments and as bases of supply in time of civil strife, as are the chief ports of the Channel itself. The ports of the South and West of Ireland are as essential to command the direct routes to the Bay of Biscay, and to the English Channel and the Port of London as Plymouth and Portsmouth. That is a well considered view of every strategist, and it is ten times more important since the introduction of electricity and steam into ocean transport has practically annihilated distance, and, since our battleships and cruisers have become so colossal, harbours like Queenstown are a priceless national possession as bases. It is doubtful if these islands could provide six harbours of equal strategic value. I contend therefore that what I may call the Port Arthur of Ireland should be rendered absolutely secure and in the keeping only of those whose loyalty is undisputed and indisputable.

I would remind hon. Members that it is but a few days distant from a hostile attack emanating from the Baltic or the German Sea, the Mediterranean, or from any of the French or Spanish ports, and to go and deliberately place such a key of Empire in possibly hostile hands or to give its control for even one week, into such hands as those of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, Sinn Fein, Molly Maguires, or Pat Ford, is involving this country in a risk which no nation should be called upon to face. The power that gets a foothold in Ireland could bring England to her knees. Suppose the United States quarrelled with this country as they did at Napoleon's suggestion in 1812, and the Irish Parliament in Dublin had power to levy taxes, the danger to this country would be incalculable. We must remember that the change since 1805, or considerably later, 1860, has been great and almost incredible—Tempora mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis. At that time our maritime supremacy was a real maritime supremacy. Our navy was equal to the navies of all the world put together. To-day things are very different. We have a struggle to keep even with one Power, and we know we no longer stand in the position of security that we did at one time, let alone that modern conditions have so entirely changed, have so improved communication, introducing Marconi wireless telegraphy, and things of that sort, that even a country like Japan could with far greater ease invade America or threaten Australia, or defeat the Russians in Manchuria, than Napoleon could reach Syria or Wellington take Lisbon. Canada and New Zealand recognise this fact, and they are offering us substantial aid at the very time when this ill-omened Bill is making the path smooth for our enemies in the future. All the great authorities of the day, all the great tacticians, and the great writers on strategy consider that our strategic apprehensions are wisdom themselves, and I think that proves the necessity of this Clause, at any rate to take the minimum precautions. I could quote many of those strategical writers of to-day. I could quote Admiral Mahan or General Bernhardi, who are certainly the greatest strategic writers, and generally accepted all over the world as being the greatest strategic writers of today. They are tied to no political party in this country, and when they show us our danger, taking into consideration the conditions of to-day, they do so basing their assertions on the history of the past and on the conditions of to-day.

I think anyone, and certainly any soldier who has studied the subject must know what a real danger it is to this country to have a hostile element in Ireland who are ready to help our foes. All our generals and admirals in the old days knew perfectly well that the real objective of Napoleon was Ireland when he had designs on this country, and that he said when he was in captivity that the road to London lay via Dublin. And Nelson himself always said that Napoleon's strategy before Trafalgar, his true objective, was not England, nor the West Indies, but Ireland. I maintain that the Government cannot look lightly on this matter. I should like to know if they have consulted the Committee of Imperial Defence or the military authorities. I guarantee that every competent military opinion taken on this subject will say that the danger to this country is great. Whatever hon. Gentlemen who sit below the Gangway may say to us here in this House, we can prove by their own words that they are ready to help the foes of this country. This Bill is a fatal one, of that I am certain, and if I ever thought it would be in operation then I should be indeed a good deal more fearful than I am at present. But I think there are obstacles, and in my opinion it never will be in operation. The Government know that, and I dare say hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway know it too. I think that the Government has no right to run these risks for our country, and I hope that even at this late hour they will see that there is wisdom in this Clause which has been moved by my hon. Friend, and that they will give way and think no longer of their own party but of the future of this country.


If the Government do not accept the Amendment of the hon. Member, it is not at all because they underestimate the weight of the many considerations which have been laid before the House, and just recently in very cogent language, by the hon. and gallant Member (Colonel Burn). If it were the case that the Government within this island were to be entrusted, as he said, with powers for the movement of troops, or to be in a position to transfer important naval bases to a foreign or hostile Power, then indeed the position would be a serious one. But the Bill does nothing of the kind.


That was not my argument.


The hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just spoken is also entitled to a reply. The Bill, in Clause 4, defines the Executive power of the new Irish Government.

"The Executive power in Ireland shall continue vested in His Majesty the King, and nothing in this Act shall affect the exercise of that power except as respects Irish services as defined for the purposes of this Act."

What is defined as "Irish services"?

"'Irish services' are all public services in connection with the administration of the civil government of Ireland except the administration of matters with respect to which the Irish Parliament have no power to make laws."

Therefore it is clear that whatever is excluded from the purview of the Irish Legislature is also excluded from the purview of the Irish Executive. Excluded from the control both of the Legislature and of the Executive is—

"The making of peace or war or matters arising from a state of war; or the regulation of the conduct of any portion of His Majesty's subjects during the existence of hostilities between Foreign States with which His Majesty is at peace, in relation to those hostilities; or

The Navy, the Army, the Territorial Force, or any other naval or military force, or the defence of the realm, or any other naval or military matter."

Is it possible to frame words wider than those, or to devise any Clause which would more fully and completely reserve to the Imperial Government the entire control of every matter relating to the defence and security of these islands?


Does the right hon. Gentleman think that war is only during the existence of hostilities? Is there anything in the Bill to stop the Irish Executive from dealing with matters before the existence of war?


The words

"the defence of the realm or any other naval or military matter"

are not limited to war in existence. The point is completely covered by the words of the Bill itself, and they were put in with the hearty assent of those who represent the national movement in Ireland. If the Imperial Government retains this complete control over the Army, the Navy, and other menus of defence, I do not think that even the large powers that are entrusted to the Lord Mayor of Cork will really imperil the safety of these islands. Hon. Members have given two or three specific instances where they said inconvenience, embarrassment, and even? danger might arise in time of national emergency or actual warfare if the Imperial Executive had not the control over all Executive matters in Ireland. The Post Office was mentioned. But we have dealt with that. Although we considered it adequately dealt with in the Bill as introduced, we have made the matter clearer by an Amendment, which, I submit, completely deals with the point. The Mover of the Amendment suggested that the original Order in Council to be issued when the Act first came into operation might omit certain points or not take into account certain contingencies which might later arise and could not be subsequently dealt with. The earlier Order in Council will naturally follow in this respect the words of the Bill, which are these—

"to transfer in time of war or national emergency the powers or duties of the Irish Post Office to the British Post Office, or to the naval or military authorities of the United Kingdom."

There again I fail to see what wider words could possibly have been chosen. Any thing at all which comes within competence of the Irish Post Office may be transferred in time of war, if it be necessary for the defence of the realm, to the officials of the Imperial Post Office. The hon. Gentleman mentioned the further question of the railways, which, he said, might be under the control of the Irish Department or even be nationalised and under the direct administration of the Irish Government. That is provided for already, not indeed in this Bill, but in earlier Acts which will have validity when this Bill has been passed. There is the Regulation of Railways Act of 1871, and the National Defence Act of 1888 which give power to the Secretary of State in a time of emergency to assume control of all the railroads of the United Kingdom. Those Acts will still be applicable when this Bill has been passed, and precisely the same powers will be in existence as now for the control of the railways, and thereby to assist the mobilisation and movement of troops. The next illustration used by the Mover of the Amendment was that of the Press. He asked how we could establish an efficient and adequate censorship over the Press in time of war or national emergency. Here again, whatever powers exist at present will also exist after the passage of the Home Rule Bill. Whether those powers are adequate or not, and whether they need enlargement, is another question which, of course, we are not here to discuss to-night. But even if the Amendment were made, and if power were given by an Order in Council to transfer from the Irish Executive to the British Imperial Executive, power over the Press, that would not in any way enlarge the powers; we should have no more than now. If the hon. Member contends that those powers could not be enforced in Ireland because of unsympathetic judges: his Amendment does not touch the judiciary; would have no effect upon the enforcement of the law, and therefore would not effect his purpose.

What would be the actual effect of the Amendment? It would not touch the judiciary; it would not enlarge the powers of the Imperial Government; it would at one stroke of the pen wipe out of existence the whole of the Irish Executive, while leaving still standing the Irish Parliament. The Irish Secretary, the President of the Local Government Board, the Irish President of the Board of Education, the Irish Chancellor of the Exchequer—all those ministers would suddenly find, by a stroke of the pen here in London, that their functions had disappeared, and that they themselves were left in a state of suspended animation. All their power would be transferred to Imperial officers; that is the purpose of the Order in Council that the hon. Member contemplates; that is the effect of the words that he has placed on the Paper. If there were among some strata of Irish society any degree of simmering disloyalty what would be the effect on Irish public opinion if it was suddenly found the whole of the Executive was removed from office? If Ireland were in any degree inclined to be disloyal, I assume—


"The heads and officers of Irish Departments shall comply with any directions that may be given by His Majesty as regards Irish services" under the Order in Council of the central or Imperial Government.


No, Sir, with all due deference, I am afraid the hon. Member, if I may put it so, has not altogether fairly represented the effect of his own Amendment. Let me read the words:

"It shall be lawful for His Majesty in Council by Proclamation made at any time in contemplation of or during the existence of a state of war or of national emergency to suspend the exercise of Executive power in Ireland by the Lord Lieutenant on the advice of the Executive Committee for such periods as may be specified in the Proclamation and during that period all Executive power in Ireland shall be exercised without reference to the Executive Committee…"


Read on.


"And the Lord Lieutenant and the heads and officers of the Irish Departments." By the heads of the Irish Departments I understand him to mean the permanent heads—


Oh, no.


The hon. Member says the Executive power in Ireland shall be exercised without reference to the Executive Committee, which means that the Irish Ministry as such shall have no power.


Ministers will have power over their Departments.


Could there be a more impossible proposition? It appears more absurd than at first sight. Irish Ministers, the hon. Member tells us, are to remain in office, but they are to-obey every order of British Ministers, and while the Irish Government are unable to act they are to be liable to all pains and penalties. If Ireland were inclined to be disloyal this proposal of the hon. Member would have precisely the effect of making her disloyal. On the discussions of this Bill in Committee right hon. and hon. Gentlemen over and over again protested against the large powers to be preserved to the Executive Government here by Order in Council. We were told we were becoming an autocratic bureaucracy and were assuming enormous powers by Order in Council. But here we have a ukase by which an entire Constitution is to be wiped out by Order in Council. Apparently the hon. Gentleman, in his objection to Orders in Council which were proposed for enabling the Home Rule machinery to be put into operation and the details for the working out of the Act to be successfully accomplished, was animated by no real constitutional principle or any regard for the sanctity of legislation. His view, apparently, is that any act of despotism is allowable if only it is aimed against the Irish Constitution, if only it is to limit the freedom of the Irish people and not to facilitate it. The hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite who seconded declared that a subordinate Government in time of emergency could only be a source of weakness. That might be if they merely exercised Executive powers and had direct control over the Army and the Navy and military defences, but surely it is a profound error to think that the more centralised government is the stronger it is. The British Empire is not strong because it is centralised, but because it is decentralised, and when hon. Members have referred in terms of natural pride, in the Debate tonight, to the assistance given in time of stress by our Dominions overseas, I should like to ask them how much we should have received from those Dominions if we denied them Home Rule and gave them a system of government from Downing Street. The old Irish Parliament before Grattan's day was not a very subservient body, but when it got a larger measure of liberty under Grattan, almost its first act was to vote 20,000 Irish sailors to the Imperial Navy, and the whole of the experience of our Empire shows that if you want security in time of war and time of stress and danger, you can only get it by giving liberty, without which there can be no loyalty. The hon. Member quoted various ancient authorities of 100 years ago. I venture to quote one in reply from Charles James Fox. He said, in one of his great speeches— I would have the whole Government of Ireland regulated by Irish notions, and I firmly believe that the more she is under Irish government the more she will be bound to English interests. That is our view also, and it is far better and safer in time of war and emergency to have by your side a friend that is free, rather than an unwilling partner bound in chains.


I should have thought on an Amendment of this kind we might have been favoured with the presence of the Secretary of State for War, or the First Lord of the Admiralty because, after all, questions relating to the defence of the realm are of some importance. They are not matters of philanthropy, and the very reference the Postmaster-General has made to our Dominions beyond the seas, shows that we are not altogether able to neglect the condition of affairs in other parts of the Empire in time of war. The Postmaster-General has referred to the Dominions. Does he really think that Ireland is anything to compare with Canada or our other distant Dominions beyond the seas? Whatever may be said about the form or effect of this Amendment nobody can doubt that by setting up a separate Parliament with a separate Executive in Ireland you are profoundly changing the whole question of government at the very heart of the Empire. The real question you have to decide is with two islands so close as Great Britain and Ireland, whether you are not in the very essentials of your proposals in this Home Rule Bill making more difficult in time of war the defence of this country upon the assumption that you may have in the subordinate Parliament a country which does not see eye to eye with the Government here. If you set up in Ireland a Parliament and Executive responsible to that Parliament which did not see eye to eye with the Government of this country can anybody tell me that in time of war we should not be greatly weakened, whether it be in offensive or defensive operations I That is the real question raised by this Amendment, and it is an important one. The right hon. Gentleman quotes very properly the Dominion of Canada, which is I believe some 3,000 miles away, but that is a very different thing from a country twelve miles away. It is also a different thing from a country full of harbours offering all kinds of opportunities if you have hostile fleets to deal with. There was one argument I could have understood from the right hon. Gentleman, and it is the only possible argument in the real essentials of the questions raised, and that is he should say that we absolutely trust the new Irish Government. But he does not say that, and he knows he could not say that, because I suppose he follows from day to day the literature in the Irish Press and the discussions that go on in the papers as regards the probability of a war between this country and Germany. I suppose the right hon. Gentleman reads them, and the question put forward week after week in those articles is, whether it would be better for Ireland to side with Germany or with this country. Therefore we must assume, and that is the object of this Amendment, that there may be a hostile Ireland and a hostile Government in Ireland. If there is not, then the Amendment does not hurt anybody, but if there is a hostile Government in Ireland, and such hostility as was shown by hon. Members below the Gangway when the Boer war was going on, when they were sending out there men to fight this country in South Africa and rewarding them with scats in this House, and when there was a campaign going on in Ireland to prevent enlistment in the Imperial troops to go to South Africa, headed by hon. Members below the Gangway, then these are matters you have to contemplate in a country so close as Ireland is to England. The right hon. Gentleman, in treating with our Dominions beyond the seas, gives the go-by to what happened in Cape Colony and in Natal. We all know perfectly well that a great deal of the disaster which occurred afterwards was in consequence of the lowering of the efficiency of our troops and our generals by the hostility of both those self-governing Colonies in preventing munitions of war being sent up through their countries, and by those munitions of war being afterwards used against us. We are contemplating that might take place in Ireland; and, if it took place there, why should it not take place in Ireland ! What is the answer he gives? It is realy the only answer. "If you only look at the Bill, you will see what is the authority of the Irish Executive. It has nothing to do with the Army and Navy, and nothing whatever to do with anything that concerns the Army and the Navy." He says that ought to be sufficient. Does he really think so? Does he know his own Bill hands over the Police Force of Ireland within six years to the Irish Government? Does he know that in six years' time you are going to have what is really a standing army in Ireland in the control of the Irish Parliament? It is all very well for him to say that all we have to do as regards the Navy or the Army is to say, "You, the Irish Executive, have nothing to do with the Army or the Navy." What will he do if the Irish Executive, backed up by the Irish Parliament, say, "We do not care about your Navy and Army; we have got our Executive here; we are in possession." He knows perfectly well the only thing we can do then is to proclaim martial law or something of that kind and create a feeling, as he says, of extra disloyalty in Ireland by reason of having done so. That is all very easy to discuss in this House, but, supposing we were at hostilities with a foreign power and that did happen, what would be the result upon our whole policy at the time? The result would be disaster, because you would have at the very heart of the Empire a force that was weakening every operation that was being attempted against a hostile Pover. The whole object of this Amendment, as I understand it, is a very simple one, that if that arises and if it should be necessary, there should be a right in this Imperial Government to say to these people who are hampering your operations as regards any foreign country, If you hamper our operations, we are going to take over your Executive for the time being." Is that an unreasonable proposition to make? I do not know what is the answer to it. The sole answer given to us is: "We have got our Army and. Navy; the Irish have got their Executive." This Amendment is to prevent these two-being brought into collision. That is the only possible way by which you could conduct your operations if any such state of facts arose, and I do submit this is a matter that ought not to be passed lightly by. It is a matter with which we should deal now, because you will never be able to do it again. Once you have granted these powers we should reserve to the Imperial Parliament every possible power that may become necessary. We hope it will not become necessary in the event of this country being involved in a state of war, and a hostile condition of affairs arising in Ireland. I dare say many Members have forgotten what did arise in Ireland during the Boer War. They may have forgotten that the troops could not be allowed to walk through Dublin, but had to be confined to barracks in consequence of the hostility of the people. We are now told that all this is at an end. How do you know it is at an end? You do not know it. It is not at an end, and you know that perfectly well, and the same dangers that confronted this country in relation to Ireland during 200 years in regard to our operations with foreign countries, are still likely to aise in the future. I submit that this is a perfectly reasonable Amendment which need never come into operation if the Irish Government and the Irish Executive turn out to be that extremely amicable and friendly assistance to this country which right hon. Gentlemen opposite would have the House believe.


I want to point out that when this Amendment was raised to-night the only hon. Member on the Front Bench opposite was the hon. Member for the Forest of Dean, and he sat perfectly quiet. It was only when my right hon. Friend mentioned that it was rather strange that in a matter of this sort there should be no single military expert present on that bench that the Chief Whip sent for the Secretary for War. Now I should like to put a question or two to that right hon. Gentleman. Can he assure us that this will be a military advantage to us? If so, our objections to Home Rule might disappear. Does the right hon. Gentleman think that Home Rule for Ireland will strengthen the military resources of the Crown If so, will he explain how? Has the Committee of Imperial Defence considered this question of whether Home Rule will strengthen our military situation. What is the opinion of the Committee of Imperial Defence of the strategical value of Ireland? The real point is, does it strengthen or weaken it? Does the right hon. Gentleman think, supposing the case of internal trouble in Ireland, that the Executive power being in the hands of the Irish Executive will be stronger for the suppression of Civil disorder than if it is left in the hands of the Central Authority here? Mo doubt, as he has anticipated trouble in Ireland in the future, he has some idea in his head, and will tell us how he proposes to deal with the matter in regard to Civil administration in Ireland.

The Postmaster-General went back to the old cry of federalism, and told us how much more loyal Australia and Canada and other parts of the Empire were owing to their being separated from this country. Does he really consider that the cases are analogous from a strategical point of view, and that there is no difference between Ireland and Great Britain taken together, and Canada and Australia? Does he consider that Ireland has been disloyal in the past, or that Ireland was disloyal during the last war? If he thinks it was disloyal, it seems to be taking a great risk to separate it entirely. If he thinks it was loyal, I cannot understand his objecting to some Amendment of this sort. I want to know what is the reason for Home Rule in regard to Imperial defence. I am not going into the question of South Africa, for the very good reason that so far as Ireland is concerned, some of my hon. Friends probably have a much better knowledge of the circumstances than I have. I think Ireland sent out to South Africa just as many, if not more loyal men, as either Australia or Canada, probably far more in proportion to her smaller population. I do not think he can make it an argument that because they are going to be separated they are going to be more loyal than they were before, and the whole thing to my mind is that you must have close co-operation with two islands so very close together. I do not see anything in Home Rule that is going to help us from a military point of view, but I see a great deal that is not going to help us. That is one of my objections to Home Rule from a military point of view. I should like to ask this one point, as we have a very distinguished lawyer here. Would it be possible to put martial law into force right over Ireland from the Central Executive?




Martial law, which is a negation of law or no law at all, and which is sometimes suited to Ireland, can be put into force. The' right hon. Gentleman says it will be the same as Canada. Can you put martial law into force in Canada?


It is not the same as Canada.


I thought the right hon. Gentleman was using Canada and Australia as examples of the splendid future that is before Ireland. In any case he has not said a word from the strategic or the military point of view. He simply gave us party politics. I should like to hear the Secretary of State for War defend Home Rule from the military point of view, and say if it is really the opinion of the Committee of Imperial Defence that this will strengthen the Empire.

The SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Colonel Seely)

The right hon. Gentleman (Sir E. Carson) and the Noble Lord have asked us certain definite questions since my right hon. Friend spoke. We are asked whether, in the opinion of the Government and the Committee of Imperial Defence, the grant of Home Rule to Ireland will be a strength or a weakness to the Empire. I speak on behalf of the Government when I say that we are quite clearly of opinion that the grant of Home Rule to Ireland will strengthen this country. I would not wish to detain the House on a point on which I have addressed it more than once. I would only repeat the arguments which have brought us to this conclusion. The right hon. Gentleman draws a picture of this country engaged in war, and he says that in that case Ireland under Home Rule would be able to do us an injury. The answer we give is that any part of these Islands that is hostile can do us an injury in time of war, but that we believe, and have reason to believe, that the grant of Home Rule to Ireland will bring contentment to five-sixths of the people of that country, and in so doing it will do two things. It will make them more certain to be friendly to us, and will enable us to recruit more soldiers. We are asked whether Ireland was loyal to us during the South African war? Again the answer is the one frequently given. Were the Dublin Fusiliers loyal? Were the other Irish regiments, with -which the Noble Lord himself served, loyal to us during the South African war? Wherever there was the hardest fighting there were Irishmen, from the South of Ireland as well as from the North, the most loyal in our cause.


That was my argument for the Union, that the other was unnecessary from the military point of view.

Colonel SEELY

The question was were they loyal when they fought for us during the war in which we were last engaged.


made an observation which was inaudible.

Colonel SEELY

The right hon. Gentleman has filled up the gap I was about to endeavour to fill in my reply to the Noble Lord. Those who fought for us in that war, whether they came from the South or from the North, and notably from the South, were some of the bravest regiments who have fought for us and were the most loyal of all. The gap is that those who thought that they had been wrongly deprived of the Parliament they once possessed were not friendly to us. When they have had restored to them that which was taken from them by fraud they will be friendly. That is the only answer which we can give and I regard it as conclusive, and I speak on behalf of the Government and, I believe, all those on this side of the House, and more, I believe on behalf of the overwhelming majority of the people of this Empire, that in granting to Ireland that which she has so long sought we shall increase her strength in the hour of danger.


I beg to move "That the debate be now adjourned."

Question put, and agreed to. Debate adjourned till to-morrow (Tuesday).

The Orders for the remaining Government business were read and postponed.

Whereupon Mr. SPEAKER, pursuant to the Order of the House of 14th October, proposed the Question, "That this House do now adjourn."