§ Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment to Question [30th April], "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ Which Amendment was to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—[Mr. Walter Long.]
§ Question again proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ Mr. J. H. CAMPBELL
It is very easy, I think, to demonstrate that the striking feature of this Home Rule Bill is its complete absence of finality, and, in the next place, that in every Clause of it there are to be found the seeds of a certain harvest of constant and acute friction, but on behalf of those in whose interests I am privileged to speak in this House, I desire to say, as our position is one of uncompromising hostility to your Bill in every 47 shape and form, I do not propose to enter upon a minute criticism of its details. At the outset I propose to glance very briefly at the speeches delivered in support of the Bill by right hon. Gentlemen opposite. The right hon Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty haunted, I imagine, by the memory of his own past utterances and fresh from his experiences in Belfast, quietly, ignored the Bill and all its provisions, and he read an essay to the House on the importance of winking the modem eye at modern history. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, whom I regret to see is not in his place, contributed a very startling announcement to the Debate. He told us that the Government were not dependent on the continuance of office on the Irish vote. The reason he gave for that was this, that they could remain in office unless and until the Irish Members voted against them. [HON. MEMBERS: "With you."] The right hon. Gentleman is credited with being perhaps more restless than any of his colleagues in the grip of the hon. and learned Member for Waterford (Mr. John Redmond), and I think he has invented this as a soothing formula. He did not produce it on Thursday for the first time, because I find that in December last on a public platform he uttered the same formula, every word as it was delivered in the House of Commons on Thursday last. His exact words were:—The real truth of the matter is that it is not we who are dependent on the Irish vote for staying in office, but it is the other side who are dependent on the Irish vote for any chance of returning to office.What a splendid opportunity for the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues. We, according to him, can never get back to office until we get the Irish vote. We have lost it, and surely now is the time to go to the country. We have no chance, he says, of getting back under any condition until we secure the Irish vote. They have it; we cannot get it, and, that being so, now is their chance. But the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, like every great student of the past, is wholly oblivious of the present. I suppose he never even heard of the result of the vote on the Welsh Disestablishment Bill. I suppose he never heard that the business of this House was held up for twenty-four hours in order to enable the Irish contingent to attend, and I am quite certain he never heard that a few days ago the right hon.
48 Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer beat a hasty retreat in the face of a Motion moved from this side. This subtlety of the right hon. Gentleman is one that entirely escaped Mr. Gladstone, because Mr. Gladstone's view, as enunciated by him in Edinburgh in the year 1885, was that so long as an Irish party could put them in the minority by voting against them, so long as they could do that the position of a Liberal Government dealing with Home Rule would be a most dangerous one. His exact words were:—Now, gentlemen. I tell you, seriously and solemnly, that though I believe the Liberal party to be honest, patriotic, and trustworthy, in such a position as that it would not be safe for them to enter on the particulars of a measure in respect on the consideration of which at the very step of its progress it would be in the power of a party coining from Ireland to say, 'unless you do this or do that, we will turn you out to-morrow.'I want to say a word in reference to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who represents the War Department in this House. He spoke with all the self-satisfaction and confidence of a life-long Home Ruler; and, therefore, it is worth while briefly glancing at his record in respect of Home Rule. The right hon. Gentleman in 1902 on his return from the South African war, where I believe in the view of all parties he acquitted himself with courage and distinction, went to the North of Ireland to tour the constituency represented by my hon. and gallant Friend the then Member for East Down. In that constituency, with all his blushing honours thick upon him, he delivered very eloquent and impassioned speeches in defence of the Union. Not long afterwards he became a deserter, and with military precision he executed a political right-about-face. He went to Abercrombie, and he was selected there as a candidate on the 20th January, 1905. Immediately on his election there was a meeting of his constituents called, at which he was present, and he was very severely heckled on the subject of Home Rule. Here were his pronouncements on the 20th January, 1905:—Until the land question is settled, and until we have a united Ireland, I do not think it would be possible to give Home Rule to Ireland with any safely and without hindering the happy work of the Land Act.That was not an altogether satisfactory statement to an Irishman who was in the audience, and he went at it again. The Report goes on to say—
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Colonel Seely)
I do not admit the accuracy of the statement.
§ 4.0 P.M.
§ Mr. CAMPBELL
I do not ask the right hon. Gentleman to admit its accuracy. I am taking it from a local paper, and the Report goes on to say:—The right hon. Gentleman repeated that if a Bill were to be introduced now while the Land Act was in operation, and while the land was still unsold, he should vote against it. If, on the other hand, the differences between North and South were heated and a united Ireland asked for Home Rule, he would support such a measure. Nothing could be plainer than that he hoped, because he intended to fight Abercrombie without the slightest equivocation.It will not surprise the House to hear that even the electric light could not stand that statement. The Report goes on to say that at this stage the electric current failed, and the remainder of the proceedings were carried out in darkness. The next stage in the Home Rule career of the right hon. Gentleman was his appearance a few months ago on a Sunday afternoon at Newry. He began with this remarkable and dramatic statement:—I appear here to state on behalf of His Majesty's Government that they are prepared to stand or fall by their Home Rule proposals.At this dramatic moment the platform collapsed. Not only that, but an enthusiastic admirer of the right hon. Gentleman in the audience took advantage of the confusion to appropriate his best fur rug.
§ Colonel SEELY
With regard to the last part of the right hon. Gentleman's statement, he will observe that this meeting was held in Ulster, and therefore the abstraction of the rug may have a double meaning. Moreover, as the meeting was held in Ulster, it is clear that there were so many Home Rulers in Ulster they could not build a platform to hold them.
§ Mr. CAMPBELL
I propose to bring the account up to date. The right hon. Gentleman's last appearance was at East Nottingham on the eve of the poll, when he made this statement:—I am returning to London to convey to my great and illustrious leader the sure and certain tidings of a great victory to-morrow.The Postmaster-General delivered an exceedingly able and very clear exposition of the complicated and farcical finance of this Bill, but the explanatory part of his speech was sadly marred at the conclusion by an argument in the nature of an appeal to the selfishness of the British taxpayers when he suggested that they should cut their loss. I do not know, but I will assume that the Treasury figures on which he based his statement as to the loss are accurate. It is a very complicated 50 subject; the relations now existing between Ireland and England are so close, the interchange of commerce and capital is so intricate, and all the complicated relations are so difficult, that one can hardly say that even the Treasury figures are to be taken as perfectly accurate. But assuming them to be substantially accurate, what do they show? That for the last two or three years the balance has been against Ireland and in favour of England. Who is responsible for that? Right hon. Gentlemen opposite were responsible for that when they induced this House to extend to Ireland, on the plea that it was an integral part of the United Kingdom, the benefits of the Old Age Pensions Act, Labour Exchanges, and the National Insurance Act. It cannot be possible that when they were asking the House of Commons to consent to do this they were really in this as in other matters loading the dice and laying the foundations for a subsequent appeal to the selfishness of the British taxpayer. If they were, all I can say is that the manœuvre is simply on a par with that of the chimney-sweep who, going into a baker's shop, put his sooty fingers on a fresh loaf, and then said, "What will you take for the soiled bread?" I believe that this appeal of the right hon. Gentleman will fall on deaf ears for two reasons. In the first place, while it may be true that for a year or two the balance has been against Ireland, it is notorious that for many years previously the balance was in its favour. In the second place, I do not believe that this great Imperial Parliament deals with matters of this kind on those lines. It deals with them on the assumption that there exists a great Imperial partnership, and that the predominant partner is perfectly willing out of its generosity to make these Grants to the poorer partner, not over-anxious as to the cost, but hoping to reap a reward in the continued progress and prosperity of the poorer partner.
The Chief Secretary made a contribution to the Debate, and, for the time putting off the cap and bells, tried to be serious and apparently sincere. He even went so far as to offer the unwelcome tribute of his personal respect to the hon. and gallant Member for East Down (Captain Craig). I think he must have forgotten all about the "carrion crows"; I think he must have forgotten the insulting and cowardly suggestion that the hon. and gallant Member and his colleagues spent their time cursing the Pope and 51 lamenting their inability to conduct their own affairs; he must have forgotten the cowardly sneers at the insincerity of the religious feeling in Ireland. But he had a relapse even in that speech, because he could not abstain from an unworthy sneer at my right hon. Friend and colleague (Sir E. Carson) to whom he referred as an elderly barrister. I think the hon. and learned Member for Waterford must have felt uncomfortable at that. I should think that even the right hon. Gentleman himself must have winced, particularly if he reflected that, after all, the best test of a man's quality is success. The loyalist minority in Ireland have, in the course of this Debate, been treated to many precious promises, plausible pledges, and guileless guarantees; but I have no hesitation in affirming that if they, with their experience of the past thirty years, were to be mad enough to risk everything upon the security of these flimsy assurances they would be the authors of their own undoing. During those years we have had a lesson burnt into us which it would be suicidal upon our part to forget. During the last thirty years Ireland outside Ulster has been in the grasp of the organised intimidation and terrorism of three successive associations, which by their constant operations have brought terror and alarm to many a homestead in Ireland. We have had the Land League and the National League, and we have to-day the United Irish League. Every one of these organisations can count its victims by the thousand. There have been many years in those thirty when parts of Ireland literally ran red with the blood of those victims, and when men and women were done to death in circumstances of fiendish cruelty and savage brutality. I know that those crimes were revolting to the hearts and consciences of many hon. Members below the Gangway, but—and this is the point of my observation—they had by their speeches excited passions which produced results for which they were morally responsible, but which they dared not censure. During all those years which brought sorrow, suffering, and death to many a home in Ireland, the loyalist minority waited in vain for one word of condemnation of the criminals or one word of sympathy for the victims from hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway or their predecessors. I tell them now that one such word would have done more to allay our fears than an ocean of prophecies of toleration in the future.
52 During all that period I was upon the scene. I knew many of the victims; I have visited their widows and orphans. My experience has determined me, weary as I am and utterly tired out with party politics, that I would be worse than a traitor to those who have survived this terrorism and persecution if I did not, as I intend to do, devote night and day to this fight until either victory has crowned our efforts or they have been ruined and defeated. I may be, and probably will be, told that things are different now, that Ireland is in a state of comparative peace and crimelessness. I will demonstrate that that is ludicrously false. I quite agree that perhaps there are to-day fewer crimes, fewer cases of the more terrible form of tragedy than in the former days; but I affirm that at no time in Ireland's history during the last thirty years has there been more organised intimidation and systematic persecution than prevails to-day. For the first time in your political history your Imperial Executive has betrayed its trust and abandoned its post. You have entitled and authorised the hon. and learned Member for Waterford to state, as he stated twice in the last three years in the United States, that the United Irish League were now in control of the Irish Government, and that the hon. Member for West Belfast (Mr. Devlin) was in fact Chief Secretary for Ireland. What have the Executive whom you pay, and who are placed there to discharge this task, been doing? The Lord Lieutenant has been engaged in a campaign of open political proselytism. The right hon. Gentleman opposite has been conniving at cattle driving, and his chief assistant has been closeted with Jim Larkins! The peace they talk of is not the result of any good government, or any attempt at government, but is the result of organised intimidation and lawlessness. I would ask the attention of hon. Members opposite to the authorities that I am going to give in support of my statement. No one can say that I have not at least gone to what ought to be perfectly impartial and trustworthy authorities. Speaking at Claremorris on 24th February, 1909, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Tuam uttered these words:—I say now that the people are not fit for Home Rule, and I have no hesitation in saving that until they know how to conduct themselves—I saw it in Dublin, and I saw it in Cork, and I am ashamed to say that I saw it in the West of Ireland. … When you know how to conduct yourselves and to respect your neighbours look for Home Rule.I ask hon. Members opposite to see the force and extent of that. The Archbishop 53 is speaking of three provinces of Ireland. This Roman Catholic Archbishop, on his own responsibility, declares from what he has himself seen in Dublin, Cork, and Galway that he has arrived at the definite conclusion that Irishmen are not fit yet for Home Rule—and never will be until they learn two elementary lessons: first, how to conduct themselves; second, how to respect the opinions of their neighbours. Let me read another remarkable piece of testimony. It is much longer than it is possible for me in the limited time at my disposal to inflict upon the House; but I urge hon. Members who take an interest in this question—and I hope there are still some left—to get a copy of this entire statement. It is a sermon delivered by the Catholic Bishop of Killaloe, the Rev. Dr. Fogerty, at Ennis in December last. The sermon was called forth in consequence of a most terrible crime. A family were sitting around the fireside in Clare about ten o'clock at night. The door suddenly opens; a man conies in with a loaded gun, kills the mother of the family on the spot, and almost blowing off the forehead of a young girl sitting beside the mother. In reference to this crime, which throws a light upon the condition of Clare, the Catholic Bishop of Killaloe says this:—There is no denying the fact that this brutal murder, which covers us with disgrace, is the natural outcome of the disgraceful system of intimidation and outrage that has been rampant for so long a time in certain districts of this unhappy county, and of the immunity from punishment enjoyed by the wicked and cowardly moonlighter in his deeds of crime. Not long ago a decent honest man was shot on the road from Corofin to Ennis. I am told that the people passed by the wounded man, and refused from fear to take him into their car. The horror of the thing is that no one of these well-known miscreants is brought to justice. The murderers of poor Garney beside his creel of turf at Ballinruan are said to be known. The cow houghers, the hay burners, the horse blinders of Ballyruan and the districts north of Corofin are said to be known. In any other country, for instance, in the United States, such bold ruffianism would be hunted down or lynched as a public peril, but here in the places I refer to they have a certain security drawn round them by the cowardice and perverted moral sense of the community, amongst whom they live and operate. The result of it is that the people in these districts have become completely demoralised, and some of them have lost all grasp of the most elementary principles of Christian morals, all sense of the sanctity of human life, and all consciousness or regard for right or wrong in the sight of God. It has come to this, that if you differ from one of them over a shilling, or refuse to give him his way in anything, the first thing that comes into his head is to moonlight you or get you moonlighted. He has not the manliness even to meet an opponent face to face and see it out with him like a man, but with the cunning of a mean and vicious dog he steals behind him in the dark, shoots him in the back, or murders the helpless women of the family, or shoots out the eye of the poor man's horse, or cuts the throat of his bullock, or spikes his beast upon the gate.As a commentary upon that, may I read hon. Members what was said under similar, though not quite so bad, conditions 54 on the eve of the Home Rule discussion in 1893 by a right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Russell), who now occupies the Government Bench. The right hon. Gentleman, winding up his speech, said to the Radical Government of that day:—Before you disestablish churches, before you wreck the Empire, before you make a laughing stock of the English Constitution, you are bound to see that every poor man and woman in the county of Clare has that protection from the law to which he or she is entitled.In reference to the very crime which occasioned the deliverance by the bishop to which I have just referred, and in order to get rid of the suggestion that that state of things is confined to any part of Clare, let me tell the House what happened at the last Assizes. There was a sworn statement by the chief inspector of police of the county that the whole of Clare was in such a state of organised terrorism that not even the jurors, and not even the witnesses, could be relied upon to do, the one his duty, and the other to tell the truth. On that sworn statement describing the condition of County Clare, the further investigation of the murder had to be removed from the county altogether. The county of Galway at the last Assizes was in a condition that I propose to mention in a moment, and let hon. Members opposite mark, though a great deal has been said about the case for Ulster, and special treatment for Ulster, that I am concerned in this House for the small and isolated communities of loyal people throughout the west and south of Ireland. No special treatment for Ulster will ever protect and secure them, and they have no guarantee of protection except the guarantee of living under laws that have received the sanction of the Imperial Parliament, backed up by an honest Imperial Executive. What was said in Galway at the last Assizes in March? Here is what the presiding judge said:—The police reports show that during the period dealt with at the present Assizes—That is the interval between those Assizes and the preceding—some seven months:—'there have been six attempts at murder and fifteen or sixteen cases of threatening notices. There were four or five cases of firing into dwelling houses, five cases of hay burning, and a case of riot.Then follows this remarkable statement:—
It also appeared that there were 178 cases in which police protection had to be given to persons, and in forty-three cases of boycotting, 117 individuals were affected. In the great majority of cases no one has been made amenable, and it would seem as if the Executive was completely paralysed in these districts. In one of the attempted murder cases a labourer was fired at and wounded. …. In another case three shots were fired from behind a wall and a man hit. In the third case a shot was fired through the window of a cottage, the greater part of the charge entering the jaw of an 55 unfortunate man sitting near the fire. In the fourth case a sergeant and constable were fired at from a wood and the sergeant wounded, and in the fifth four shots were fired at six men who were passing along the road in a car. All of them with the exception of one was wounded.The judge's comment on this is:—I do not think I speak too strongly when I say that the commission of these outrages shows that there is small security of life or property in these districts, and that organised terrorism prevails. The police get little or no aid from the people in their efforts to discover the perpetrators of crime such as these, and until the community as a whole, and Galway in particular, shakes off its moral cowardice and asserts its independence of the criminal methods resorted to for the purpose of injury and intimidation, it is difficult to see now any material improvement in the county can take place, or how peace and order can be effectively restored.What happened in the county of Roscommon last Assizes? I will give a little chapter in Irish history which throws a lurid light on the methods of right hon. Gentlemen opposite. Some time before Assizes there had been cattle-driving on the land—of a man living at a place called Derrane, in Roscommon. A number of persons were summoned in the usual way. The farce was gone through of binding them over to keep the peace. That same night they went back again, and there was a second cattle-driving on the same land. This was even too much for the Executive, and they made a swoop at night on these men, raided their homes, brought them before the magistrates, and pressed that they should be sent then to trial, as binding them over to keep the peace was no use. The magistrates agreed to this course and sent the men for trial. What happened at the Assizes? Counsel, instructed on be half of the right hon. Gentleman, actually got up and said that the Crown were not going to pursue the case. What do hon. Members think was the reason for that? That "peace had been restored in the district." How? By the intimidated man giving up his land. I know the facts of the case, and I defy contradiction. This is a typical case. Is it any wonder that some days ago the judge of the Lond Court in Dublin stated in the case before him that the evidence established beyond a doubt that the Congested Districts Board were in league with the agitators—
§ The CHIEF SECRETARY for IRELAND (Mr. Birrell)
It is absolutely untrue. A question on the subject was on the Paper to-day, but was not reached. My answer will appear with the books, and the right hon. Gentleman will find from it it is absolutely untrue.
§ Mr. CAMPBELL
I am not in the least doubting the right hon. Gentleman's answer. I am talking of the verdict and decision of the judge who had the facts before him. I do not care one fig for your explanation. I take the judicial utterance of a judge whose duty it was to determine the matter, not from any party point of view. He had all the facts before him, and he declared from the facts that they convinced him that the Congested Districts Board deliberately sided with the party of intimidation and terrorism in the neighbourhood for the express purpose of forcing down the value of the land. At the same Assizes in Roscommon another instance occurred, and this is also well worthy of the notice of hon. Gentlemen on the back benches opposite. There was a second case returned for trial in which a number of men were charged with a fierce attack upon the police. Counsel instructed by the right hon. Gentleman got up and applied that this case should be taken out of the county of Roscommon. Why? Because of a sworn affidavit that the jurors of the county were all under the control of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, and that the Ancient Order of Hibernians had been actually canvassing them for some days past, and that a fair trial would be impossible in the county.
Now we come to the Queen's County. At the same Assizes in the Queen's County a number of men were returned for trial for cattle-driving. Their case was called, and again the counsel for the Crown got up and upon the affidavit of the police officials said that owing to the violent speeches of Members of Parliament and others in that particular county a fair trial would be impossible, and as a result the trial of that case was removed from the Queen's County. What happened in the county of Louth? I am giving a fair assortment of counties. What happened in Louth in these times of peace and freedom and toleration? When the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. T. M. Healy), who at one time sat for the Northern Division of Louth, and who perhaps in his day has done more and harder work for the cause of Irish freedom, and more particularly in the interests of the Irish farmers, than all the rest of the Members of this House put together, when he safe for that county and sought re-election as the representative of that constituency in the House of Commons, he was never once allowed, owing to the gross intimidation that prevailed, to hold a single meeting.
57 And what was his crime? His crime was that he took part with the hon. Member for Cork City (Mr. W. O'Brien) in preaching the doctrine that unless and until they could reconcile the Protestant minority with Home Rule they never would be able to maintain it in the House of Commons, and advised they should follow the precedent of the Land Conference, and meet together as natives of a common country, and see if they could not arrive at a solution of this matter. That was his crime, and the reason I referred to it is this. An election petition followed. Some glaring and notorious cases of bribery were proved and found to be proved by the judges that tried the petition. After a long interval the findings of the judges was followed by a criminal prosecution of those persons, but again the prosecution had to be removed from the county of Louth, and the farce was gone through of taking it to Dublin, where, I need hardly say, the jurors are generally as amenable to the influence of the Ancient Order of Hibernians as in Louth, and the result was that not in one single instance was there a verdict.
I ask hon. Gentlemen opposite, who are accustomed to plead for trial by jury as the great palladium of British liberty, I ask them to reconcile in the light of the facts I have mentioned this state of things with the present and future condition of isolated communities of loyalists and Protestant people in the South and West of Ireland. Let me give another test—and this time I am going to take a test suggested by the hon. and learned Member for Waterford himself (Mr. J. E. Redmond) a good many years ago. It shows that example is better than precept and experience is better than promises. When the Local Government Act of 1898 was passing through the House of Commons the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Waterford went through Ireland preaching and promising toleration under the Local Government Act, and speaking with absolute sincerity as I believe—because I do not for one moment suggest that the hon. and learned Gentleman was not perfectly sincere. I believe there is no more tolerant man in this House or outside it—and, speaking with the desire to see the result he asked for take place, he said:—We desire toleration in the public life of Ireland; to see the best men elected on all those public bodies in Ireland, and we think that to adopt a policy of excluding from these public bodies every man who differs from us politically or religiously, would be an absolutely suicidal policy for Irish Nationalists to adopt.58 And again he said this; and this is why I take this test:—My own view is that according as this Act is worked by the people it will either make Home Rule, in the immediate future, inevitable or retard it for an indefinite period.Did the people take his advice, and appoint to those local bodies men that differed from them? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] I will give the figures; I will tell the House what they did. There are to-day in the province of Ulster, which is described as the home of bigotry and intolerance, 125 Unionists and 115 Nationalists on those bodies. In the province of Connaught there is one Unionist out of the lot. In Munster there are two, and in Leinster which includes the Metropolis—the county of the Borough of Dublin—in the whole of Leinster there are fourteen. That is to say, there are seventeen altogether out of 800. I might also illustrate my argument by reference to the National University Act. I can well recall, and I am sure hon. Gentlemen opposite can recall the distinct assurances they got in the course of the Debate from the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, that this Bill was so full of safeguards that there would be no fear that the university or the funds which he required would be used for sectarian purposes. Three months ago the Cardinal Archbishop of Armagh was able to declare that the genius of the Roman Catholic race had circumvented the machinations of the English Nonconformists, and today he was glad to see and to know that this university was practically exclusively Catholic.
§ Mr. STEPHEN GWYNN
Will the right hon. Gentleman give the words of the quotation because he is now misrepresenting what Cardinal Logue said.
§ Mr. S. GWYNN
What Cardinal Logue said was that the Catholic people will make this university Catholic.
§ Mr. CAMPBELL
That is exactly it. He said, "To-day it is almost exclusively Catholic, and in a very short time it will be exclusively Catholic," and he said that was done "in spite of the so-called safeguards and guarantees of the Nonconformist conscience." I want now to say a word about a topic that I approach with hesitation. It is not a pleasant thing to speak of, but at the same time this is an 59 occasion for plain speaking. The issues are too far reaching, too permanent, and too vital, to avoid the truth when it stares us in the face. We are told, and constantly told in this House and outside of it, that all the talk of religious intolerance in the South and West of Ireland is ludicrous, and that the whole thing is a myth, and the chief authority for that statement is the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell). A precisely similar controversy was raised upon the eve of the Home Rule discussion in 1893. Two very distinguished Irishmen, both of whom I regret to say have since passed away, Lord Russell of Killowen, and Sir William Gregory, took up the cudgels on behalf of their Roman Catholic fellow countrymen and wrote many letters to the London "Times" to say that there would be no fear and never was any fear of this religious intolerance in the South and West of Ireland. They were replied to in a remarkable letter, an extract from which I will now quote. This is the extract:—All over the South and West the story is the same. Protestantism is simply being squeezed out all the three Protestant denominations are feeling it. I know case after case where men, long the very salt of the district in which they lived, have packed up and left rather than submit to these 'tolerant' friends of Sir Charles Russell.And the author of that letter is the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. T. W. Russell). If there was a danger of this kind then, and I have the highest authority, and I have quoted it, for the statement that there was not only a danger but that the danger was an actual fact, what is the position to-day? What has happened in Ireland since 1893? Two events have taken place fraught with the very greatest peril to religious and civil liberty in Ireland. The first is the formation in 1903 of the Catholic Association. This body, formed in 1903, published a programme of its operations and methods, and these methods were the following:—"Exclusive dealing on the part of all Roman Catholics with one another and rigorous boycotting and exclusion of Protestants from all employment of every kind." That publication fell under the censure of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Dublin. He censured it not because he disapproved of it; he disapproved of its publication and said so. He said in his letter that the publication was ill-advised, because he said it might provoke retaliation. But from that hour to this neither be nor any other ecclesiastic that I ever 60 heard of condemned the methods of this association which to-day to my knowledge, and ever since 1903 has been actively at work throughout Ireland. But there has been a still greater danger in the growth of the Ancient Order of Hibernians. That is a purely sectarian organisation. No Protestant is eligibile for admission to it. It is a secret society, and, curiously enough, while even the Order of Freemasons in Ireland has fallen under the bann of the Roman Catholic Church, because it is supposed to be a secret society, they have ignored the secrecy of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, and it is a flourishing and powerful factor in Irish politics today, so powerful that it has captured the organisation, and the hon. and learned Member for Waterford is in the habit of referring to it "as the great unknown power behind the throne."
Two or three other matters have recently arisen which have caused grave uneasiness and unrest in the minds of the Protestant community in Ireland. You are all familiar with the extraordinary introduction three years ago, in 1908, of the Ne Temere decree. I do not think anything has done more in Ireland to stir up unrest and suspicion and distrust in the North of Ireland than the operation and application of that decree, particularly in the case of Mrs. McCann. When we hear to-day these prophecies and promises of goodwill and toleration, what a splendid opportunity was lost in this House when the question of Mrs. McCann and her treatment was raised. On that occasion had we any remonstrances; had we any condemnation of it from hon. Members below the Gangway? Not one; and even the hon. and learned Member for Waterford was silent. He put up the hon. Member for West Belfast, and he on the strength of a mutilated letter from the husband of this woman, who by the admission of the clergy, was a wastrel and a scoundrel, proceeded to villify and defame the character of this woman.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
I would like the right hon. Gentleman to quote a single expression in my speech attacking and villifying this woman.
§ Mr. CAMPBELL
You certainly did, and you alleged that the whole thing was brought about by her misconduct, and you read the letter.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
Will the right hon. Gentleman kindly read any passage in my letter in which I attacked this woman. Is 61 the right hon. Gentleman aware that I stated I would not quote any of the letter of this man McCann, but I offered on account of allegations contained in it to submit it to any two Protestant Members of this House.
§ Mr. CAMPBELL
I remember it distinctly, and I am speaking within the recollection of dozens of hon. Members of this House. The hon. Member not only read the letter which alleged—
§ Mr. DEVLIN
I challenge the right hon. Gentleman once again to quote a single passage in that letter which I read to the House. I deny that I read a single sentence from it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Read the speech."]
§ Mr. CAMPBELL
I shall not give way to the hon. Member again, and I may say that I have no desire whatever to misrepresent him. I repeat, however, that the tone and temper and substance of the hon. Member's speech was a villification of Mrs. McCann. [An HON. MEMBER: "That is not what you said before."] What has happened within the last few months? For some inscrutable reason the Vatican has taken down another weapon from the armoury of the Roman Catholic Church, and by a decree known as "Motu Proprio," it has stated that any Roman Catholic layman who brings a Roman Catholic priest into a Court of Justice, civil or criminal, either as a party or as a witness, is to be censured and punished by excommunication. It is quite true that while the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Dublin has told us that he does not know whether that applies to Ireland, and that nobody but the Pope himself can tell us, he has given us a scrap of comfort because he says if the Irish people are allowed to disobey this decree for ten years, they can then plead the violation of it as abolishing it by custom. They might have said the same thing about the Ten Commandments. There is great danger in that, and I do not think my countrymen would be well advised to stake the future of their liberties in this matter upon the result. There was an Englishman, the Rev. H. C. Morton, who was so much shocked by this decree and the publication of it, that he wrote to the public Press, and this is what he said:—Many Liberals, wavering on Home Rule, will be decided by this decree—the recent Motu Proprio—and 62 only one thing can save the Home Rule cause, viz., a definite and official disavowal by the Nationalist party of the whole of this monstrous claim on the part of the Papacy.Who rushed in to answer this letter? The hon. Member for the City of Galway (Mr. S. Gwynn), himself a member of the Protestant Church, and he wrote a letter on the subject. What did he say? Not that he had received any assurance from his leaders; not that he had consulted them, though he is very intimate with them; not that he had any authority to speak on their behalf, but he said:—I know Ireland to be profoundly influenced by the democratic principles which prevail in the United States; and I am certain that if this decree were given practical application in Ireland an agitation would arise which would lead to its withdrawal.Upon the publication of that letter, the "Irish Catholic," the official organ of the Irish priesthood, writes as follows in regard to the hon. Member's letter:—This insolent pronouncement has drawn from Mr. Stephen Gwynn, M.P Parliamentary representative of the ancient Catholic City of Galway, a mean reply, which we hope may be adequately dealt with by his Catholic constituents. This truckler to the Nonconformist conscience, we believe, grossly misrepresents their views.I believe that nothing could have been less opportune or more disastrous than the occasion taken by His Majesty's Government for this experiment in Ireland. Even in some of the most disturbed districts farmers were gradually emancipating themselves from the tyranny of the United Irish League, and in many of the towns in Ireland persons interested in the commercial and industrial future of Ireland were coming together in a way they had not been doing for years before. There was less public controversy on the vexed question of differences of religion. Ireland itself, as a result of thirty years of legislation on the part of the Imperial Parliament, had banished during that short period every conceivable grievance, sentimental, real, or financial, that Irishmen had ever complained of, and which had during that thirty years affected in Ireland reforms and changes which would have been absolutely impossible under any system of Home Rule. If we had had Mr. Gladstone's Home Rule in 1886, where would the money have come from, that with your generosity and at the cost of the Imperial tax payers have done so much to reform and transform the face of Ireland during the last twenty years, with the result that there is not a man, woman, or child throughout the length and breadth of Ireland who does not enjoy the same measure of religious and political freedom that 63 you enjoy here in England. Is it not wonderful, under these circumstances, that Ulster puts forward the claim, merely to be let alone, and merely to be allowed to remain as she is? She does not want and does not claim any advantage or any superiority or any ascendancy. She merely wants that equality which she desires to see extended to every man and woman in Ireland.
You may, I admit, by your discreditable manœuvres, your party trickery, and your sordid political bribery force this Bill through the House of Commons. You may drug the consciences of hon. Members behind you, and when from time to time you find them nauseated with an overdose of the brimstone of Home Rule you can try them with the treacle of Welsh Disestablishment. You may betray the most loyal and law-abiding subjects of your King, and it will not be the first time you have abandoned an English garrison, and if you get the chance it will not be the last. But even then the end is not in sight. When you have cut us adrift you have at the same time done your worst, but you have not leached the end of your trouble. You may sell us into bondage, but the Prime Minister and the party has yet to be created that will compel us to wear the fetters. In Ulster loyalty is a religion, and devotion to freedom is a passion, and I am rejoiced to know, and do know, that these men are prepared to hold life cheap rather than sacrifice all that makes life worth living for When that hour comes you will have nothing left but your bayonets and your artillery, but you dare not use them. I have been through many parts of England within the last six months, always speaking on this subject, and I have never failed to point to this contingency, and ask my audience if and when that hour comes which camp they would be in. I tell you solemnly, and I warn you from my actual experience, that when that crisis does come you will find yourselves up against all that is honest and conscientious in the manhood of the English people. You are playing a terrible game, you are risking in this gamble your own political reputations and the faith and future of your party and the best traditions of public life. I believe it is going to be a losing game. You may entrap the Crown, you may mutilate the Constitution, you may suspend your Second Chamber, you may stifle freedom of debate in the House of Commons, but you cannot deceive or gag a nation 64 and when you have fallen into their hands you will neither deserve nor receive any mercy.
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL (Sir Rufus Isaacs)
I wonder whether the right hon. and learned Gentleman who has just finished his speech was aware of the extraordinary indictment he was bringing against our rule of Ireland ever since the Union in the catalogue of crimes which he unfolded. I wonder whether it occurred to him that we must indeed have failed if, after more than one hundred years, all that he told us even in these last years was true. I wonder also if it occurred to him at the same time, allowing all the statements he made to be quite accurate, and, of course, I accept absolutely that he believed them—
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
I know nothing of most of the facts the right hon. Gentleman referred to, but I accept them as statements made by the right hon. Gentleman, and as the strongest argument that could be introduced in favour of this Bill. We are told by the right hon. and learned Gentleman that it is difficult indeed to get witnesses to give evidence in Ireland. The police apparently find their efforts fruitless. I was not able to follow the right hon. Gentleman's dates, and I am not sure exactly the period which he covered, but, so far as I have gathered from his observations, the catalogue of crimes he gave extended over the last thirty years.
§ Mr. CAMPBELL
Might I just correct the right hon. Gentleman? My point was that for the last five years the condition which has prevailed is entirely due to the fact that the Executive will not protect the people or encourage the police to do their duty.
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
I thought the right hon. and learned Gentleman said it was impossible to get evidence on which to convict.
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
The right hon. Gentleman himself supplies the answer. You cannot prosecute—nobody knows better than the right hon. Gentleman—unless you can get witnesses to come forward.
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
Difficulties of that kind arise sometimes in this country, though not, I agree, to the same extent as the right hon. Gentleman tells us they do in Ireland. But what does all this amount to? It is giving us the best possible proof that we have utterly failed under our system of the last 100 years to govern Ireland. Do hon. Members think it is worse since my right hon. Friend (Mr. Birrell) has been Chief Secretary?
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
If that is so, what becomes of the statement which the right hon. and learned Gentleman made earlier with regard to the "continued crime and lawlessness in Ireland"? Let us just follow the position. Hitherto the argument in this Debate has proceeded upon the assumption, not only on this side, but also on the side of the Opposition, that Ireland now was comparatively peaceful and comparatively prosperous, and that the argument which we used in the old days, in 1886 and 1893, in favour of Home Rule, that it was necessary in order to put an end to the crime and lawlessness which then existed had disappeared because crime is now comparatively non-existent. The right hon. and learned Gentleman, however, comes down with an extended Newgate Calendar and a long string of criminal acts which he reads to us. Three-fourths of his speech against this Bill consisted of a recital of criminal prosecutions and their results or failures during the last five years of administration. I wonder whether it occurred to the House that exactly the same thing could be done, except in certain instances, if you took the calendars of crime in this country. I agree you would not have the same result in a number of them, because you do get evidence with more ease here than in Ireland, but, equally, you could recount a number of horrible crimes with all their sordid details, nauseating to those who have to listen to them. I wonder if the right hon. and learned Gentleman has considered this. If there is a greater difficulty in getting evidence in Ireland, and if there is more crime contrary to what we have heard hitherto in this Debate, the Irish in the past, and certainly in the remoter past, have had no reason to hope for redress by constitutional means. They became accustomed to regard 66 violence and outrage as the invariable preludes to concession. That is not a statement made on my authority—neither is it a statement made on the authority of any Liberal. It is the conclusion arrived at by Mr. Lecky, the historian and Unionist. I do not know whether the right hon. and learned Gentleman means to contradict the statement that is what he has said with regard to it. When we are considering the judgment which is to be passed upon Irishmen we ought at least to bear in mind the circumstances which have led to these crimes. I am not defending them for one moment, but I do say, when you are passing judgment, and when you are sentencing, you should at least review all the circumstances, and bear in mind, if you can, and if you mean to be fair and just to them, the considerations which have led them to do acts from which otherwise they would recoil.
I propose to come back to the subject under discussion. I propose to revert to the Bill which is before the House. The right hon. and learned Gentleman throughout a speech which lasted a little over an hour never in the slightest degree referred to the Bill. I would ask the House to remember that when Mr. Gladstone first introduced the Home Rule Bill it was said it would lead to separation. The criticism then was that the Bill as introduced by him gave too much to Ireland and too little was retained for the Imperial Parliament. The criticism in this Debate upon this Bill is exactly the opposite. It is that by the Bill we are giving too little to Ireland and retaining too much for the Imperial Parliament. It was said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Strand Division (Mr. Long) that it is only "a half-and-half measure." That was his expression. The hon. and learned Member for Kingston (Mr. Cave) said it was only "part self-government." Another right hon. Gentleman said it was "not really Home Rule at all. You are professing to give Home Rule, but the measure which you are introducing is full of distrust of the Irish people." "It is unworkable." "It cannot last." They have poured scorn and ridicule upon it; they have treated it contemptuously, and they have referred to it as a poor, wretched, miserable thing. Yet, almost in the same breath, they have said it is a measure so important, so far-reaching, and so overwhelming in its effects, that the majority in Ulster will refuse to submit to it, and that the Bill will lead to civil war. Indeed, many have sought to justify the civil 67 war which they say will ensue from it. Those two propositions are mutually destructive. They cannot both stand. I have read the arguments of hon Members with care and I have sought to ascertain what are their main grounds of criticism of this Bill, and, apart from certain detailed criticisms, all I have been able to discover are these to which I have just given utterance. "It is a poor, wretched thing, dressed up in the shape of Home Rule," as they described it one moment, and then "it is an awful thing, in the shape of Home Rule, which is going to plunge you into civil war," as they describe it the next moment. I leave hon. Gentlemen to reconcile these two conflicting views.
Neither of the propositions are correct. In the first instance, ever since 1893—I think one may go a little further and say for the last twenty years—the state of things in Ireland has been improving. I have not yet heard that denied. It has been the basis of the argument put forward by hon. Members on the other side. The first cause of it no doubt was the introduction by Mr. Gladstone of Home Rule. He began a chapter in the history of Ireland which can never be closed until the history is commenced in the next chapter of the first Irish Parliament after the grant of Home Rule. It is, no doubt, also due to successive Administrations, both Conservative and Liberal; but, in spite of that improvement during the last twenty years, we have not destroyed or even impaired in the slightest degree the natural and legitimate aspirations of Irishmen. No other question has been the subject of discussion or at least has been the issue at a General Election in Ireland. There has been one issue and one issue only at all their elections. It is not as with us in England. We have had Debates again and again in this House, and it has been said on one side that the issue has not been Home Rule but Free Trade, and on the other it has been asserted that Home Rule has been the issue. These questions do not arise in Ireland because there is one issue and one issue only there. Whatever matters we may discuss and whatever matters may be put before the country here, in Ireland you have the one question alone and upon that the Electorate votes. What then is the conclusion? It is that there is an overwhelming majority in favour of self-government for Ireland. Then it is said, 68 when we take note of this demonstration of public opinion in Ireland and when we give effect, as we believe, to representative Government by considering the views of the majority of the Members sent to this Parliament, "You are making a corrupt bargain." The Liberal party have made many sacrifices for Home Rule. The Liberal party has suffered severely from Home Rule in the past. It lost some of its most influential leaders, and many of its influential supporters, and it is not as a rule against men who make sacrifices for principle that you direct charges of corrupt bargaining. But we are not afraid in the slightest degree of taking up this or any other challenge with regard to Ireland.
It was said by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for St. Andrew's University (Sir R. Finlay) that everything has gone badly for Home Rule since 1886. Is that correct? I shall submit the contrary, and I think I shall be able to show that events have gone well for Ireland, certainly since 1893. What has happened? There has been first of all the grant of self-government to the Transvaal. That has been discussed at considerable length in the course of this Debate, and I do not mean to take up time by rediscussing it, but I do want to point out that that is one factor which has brought Ireland perceptibly closer to the fruition of the efforts of its people, and it cannot be left out of account by those who study the history of the last ten years. The grant of self-government to the Transvaal, with its brilliant success, has shown that by trusting the people, even though they have been your bitterest foes, either in the domain of politics or on the field of battle, you convert your foes into your friends. There are other considerations to be borne in mind. What happened during recent Unionist administrations, and particularly during the last Unionist administration? What was the result of that administration upon those who were chiefly concerned with Irish government? What did Lord Dudley say? What was his view? Right hon. Gentlemen opposite of course may laugh or sneer at the Noble Lord now, but he was their Lord Lieutenant; he was selected by them as their representative in Ireland, and, as long as it suited, as long as he chose to carry out the views which they held he was the man who had to be honoured and placed in the highest position in the administration of Irish affairs. But, apparently, as soon as he changed 69 his views, as soon as he saw it was absolutely essential, in order to govern Ireland properly, to make a change, then he became a very different man—a man to be scoffed at and to be sneered at, a man not worth consideration. That shows the fair and impartial spirit which characterised the administration of Ireland in those days. I could refer to similar cases in the Conservative party with regard to Ministers who did not quite take the same view and did not choose to adopt exactly the ideas of those who now sit beside the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Trinity College, Dublin (Sir E. Carson). He at least has always been consistent. He has not changed his views, and he has taken very good care that those who sit on the same bench as himself should not be allowed to change their views either.
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
The right hon. and learned Gentleman has not only done his best, but he has succeeded up to a point. He succeeded when he was a Member of the Unionist Administration, but the question now arises whether he is going to succeed when a Liberal Administration is in power. That remains to be seen. I venture to prophesy he will meet with a great failure and not with success.
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
If it is before the country, and the country endorses our policy, is the right hon. and learned Gentleman prepared then to submit to Home Rule in Ulster?
§ Sir E. CARSON
Before I answer that I want to know, Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman making us an offer that this Bill shall go before the country?
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
That can only be answered by putting another question. I notice the right hon. and learned Gentleman is very shy about answering it. I will answer it for him. I have here his oath, in which he says:—Never in any circumstances will we have Home Rule.What is the use of the right hon. and learned Gentleman asking us whether we will submit our Bill to the country when he says that, even if the country is in favour of it, he will not submit to it. Is that the view which is endorsed by the 70 right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition? Is that to be the meaning of the historic handshake, the handshake with the people who passed before the right hon. Gentleman at Belfast? Is he in the same position? Is he, and is the Conservative party also bound by that oath? I do not wonder there is no readiness to answer that. To do the right hon. and learned Gentleman justice, he has never hesitated to express his opinion with perfect frankness, and I shall have a little more to say about that aspect of the question before I close. I should like now to proceed with my catalogue of events. I wonder whether some of those who sit on that side of the House remember when the sheep began to stray from the fold, and when the right hon. and learned Gentleman—not exactly my opinion of a gentle shepherd—showed them the error of their ways and drove them back, chastened in spirit a little, uninjured in body, except a few who were somewhat ruthlessly trampled upon in the hurried scamper back to the fold and who were eventually worried by the sheep-dog. I wonder really whether hon. Members have forgotten that. Let me remind them of something else. In November, 1910, there was a campaign going on in the Tory Press. I am dealing with what has appeared in public.
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
The right hon. Gentleman challenges me to tell the whole story. He knows the story very well. I can only deal with that which happened in public. The right hon. Gentleman is perfectly well aware what I was referring to. My observations were directed to a campaign in the Tory Press during the month of November, 1910, and even a little later, in favour of Home Rule all round. I am not speaking of anything that took place in conference. The right hon. Gentleman himself and the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Trinity College were signatories to the manifesto which was issued against it. They knew perfectly well what was happening, because they protested against it. There was a desire once again to stop sheep straying from the fold.
§ Sir E. CARSON
The right hon. Gentleman says I knew very well what was happening. I did not know that anything was happening, nor do I believe that anything was happening.
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
So far as I understand it the interruption means this: the right hon. and learned Gentleman signs a manifesto but does not mean anything by it. He does not know that anything is happening, and he does not believe that anything is happening, but, because he is of that opinion, he issues a manifesto in order to make it quite clear to those taking part in it, and those associated with it, that he will have none of it.
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
I think the right hon. and learned Gentleman agrees with my point. I do not think he can dissent to any single statement that I make.
§ Sir E. CARSON
But I am dissenting to the statements of the right hon. and learned Gentleman. I knew that something was going on, but I did not know what was going on except through what I saw in the Press and from correspondence.
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
I do not see that there is any difference between us. I purposly said, in answer to the interruption of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Strand Division (Mr. Long), that I was not referring to what occurred at the Conference. I said I knew nothing of what took place there, and the right hon. Gentleman answered that he also knew nothing. I then pointed out that both he and the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Trinity College had signed a manifesto in answer to a campaign which was being carried on in the Tory Press, and at least they thought it sufficiently important to issue a protest which they both signed. What was it they said:—A suggestion has been made—But I must read the first paragraph. It is, after this contradiction, too good to be lost:—An unauthorised scheme of Home Rule all round has lately been canvassed in certain newspapers.Of course, we know these are the Conservative newspapers.
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
The document proceeds:—and has been put forward for the consideration of the Constitutional Conference and approval of the Unionist party.The right hon. Gentleman has appended his signature to this.
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
It was put forward for the consideration of the Constitutional Conference and approval of the Unionist party. At any rate, the right hon. and learned Gentleman knew that that was happening. Then the document goes on:—A suggestion has been made that the plan should form the subject of compromise between the Unionists and Liberals. The scheme is not a new one. It has previously come before the country, but, after being weighed with great consideration and at great length by the Unionist party, it has been deliberately rejected on its merits.
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
I think that assumption of innocence on the part of the right hon. and learned Gentleman is hardly in accordance with his usual candour. This document bears out exactly the statements that I made, and that is why I read it. It shows that the right hon. and learned Gentleman, as soon as he became aware there was any scheme on foot for a discussion of Home Rule all round, again came forward as the shepherd to drive the sheep back again into the fold, and he issued this protest for the purpose of doing so. There is one other matter which is worthy of consideration, and that is the Imperial Conference of 1911. That is another event of, as we think, considerable importance which has happened since 1893. We had an Imperial Conference; we had the Colonial Prime Ministers present; we had Colonial opinion expressed on this very subject; we had the voice of the Empire, and that has helped, according to our view, to make this a particularly opportune moment for Home Rule, and not an inopportune moment, as was suggested by the right hon. and learned Gentleman who spoke immediately before me. It is said that although you may be able to put the principle of Home Rule plausibly—and so much was admitted by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Edinburgh and St. Andrews Universities (Sir R. Finlay)—it is when you get to details that you break down. I agree there is considerable force in that argument, to this extent, that there are many matters of detail which are the proper subject matter for Committee, but there are, on the other hand, some which are of great importance, which may and should be discussed on Second Reading, and it is to those or some of them—because I shall not have time to deal with them all—that I propose to call attention. Let me 73 remind the House that into this Bill we have introduced safeguards, most carefully devised as we believe, for the purpose of protecting the interests of the minority. That has been the object of the Bill.
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
The hon. and learned Gentleman seems to doubt it, but I thought everybody agreed that that was the object.
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
I can deal with only one matter at a time. I will deal with the evidence next. We are agreed upon the object. I want to point out that, having introduced, as we have done, these safeguards into the Bill, what is said with regard to them is that they are not worth the paper they are written on; that they are worthless; that they are not intended for use, but are only there for show, and that they are nothing but a sham. I think that summarises the arguments that have been put forward. May I say that I am referring to the safeguards which are introduced into the Bill dealing with the legislative powers granted to the Irish Parliament under the Bill. I shall not forget to deal with another aspect of the matter, upon which there has been what appears to me to be a more cogent criticism, that is with regard to the administrative action of the Executive. I am first of all dealing with what takes place under the Bill. The first safeguard is the one that declares that the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament remains unaffected and undiminished. I am sorry the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Edinburgh and St. Andrews Universities is not present, because I should like to put a question to him upon that. But I ask any lawyer here, and there are several on the Opposition Benches, whether he would assert that because a declaration of that kind is introduced into a Bill, and because it may never be necessary to use it, therefore it becomes worthless. I challenge any lawyer to make that assertion. It is the assertion that has been made by the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh and St. Andrews Universities. I cannot 74 help thinking that when he made it he was carried away to some extent by his enthusiasm, and forgot that there were these safeguards, which are of vital moment in preserving the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament.
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
Of course they do. Let me ask the right hon. Gentleman a question. The right hon. Gentleman is himself a lawyer.
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
I will not assume that because the right hon. Gentleman has devoted his time to politics he has forgotten his law. I am asking him a question of law, to which there can be but one answer. The right hon. Gentleman asked me a question. Out of courtesy to him I was going to reply to him. If he does not require it, I will pass from it. If he desires me to answer it, I will say that the safeguard to the supremacy of Parliament is this: You have a declaration by this Parliament, which puts it on record in this Bill that the Imperial Parliament remains supreme, and that the Irish Parliament is therefore a subordinate Parliament. That is placed in the Bill. If any questions ever arise as to whether or not this Parliament is supreme, is it not of value to have had that declaration, not only in the Bill, but willingly and loyally assented to by hon. Members who represent the Nationalist party in this House. It becomes unnecessary to discuss the question when you have the declaration in such terms in the Bill. I would ask those Members of the Opposition who choose or profess to think that it is of no value, would they like it out of the Bill. Would they desire to see it removed from the Bill? [An HON. MEMBER: "It makes no difference."] They say it makes no difference. I have already pointed out how it must make a difference. With that declaration no one can say it makes no difference. If you say the proposition will remain the same, namely, that this Parliament will be supreme, even if you did not insert it in the Bill, I agree, but I assert that the assent of the Irish Members in this House, and of this whole Parliament, to the declaration that there is that supremacy, is of the greatest value as putting this question beyond all doubt avid beyond all possible discussion.
Let me come to the next safeguards. A series of safeguards by way of limitation 75 on the legislative powers of the Irish Parliament is contained in Clause 2 of the Bill. I am not going through them now, for, except in regard to the reserved matters, they have escaped criticism, or at any rate they have escaped anything in the nature of severe criticism. They are all matters which it is necessary to exclude in order to give effect to this Bill, and in order to carry out the intentions as declared with reference to this Bill. Again, I will ask the House to bear in mind that these safeguards, which are said to be worthless, are made absolutely safe and secure by means of the provisions of the Bill. It is not a question of exercising the veto on legislation. Supposing, for example, a Bill is passed by the Irish Parliament which deals with any one of the excluded matters referred to in Clause 2, it is not necessary for the veto to be exercised, because it follows from law and from the provisions of the Clause itself, that that law is ultra vires—in other words, that it is beyond the power of that Parliament, and it becomes void even as it is passed. It is useless as a Bill; it is of no effect. This is the most absolute safeguard that you possibly could devise. Again, I challenge lawyers to contradict that that is a plain statement of the effect of this Bill. No one can affect to despise safeguards of that character. When you come to Clause 3 you have another limitation—a prohibition this time—of laws interfering with religious equality. It is of the widest possible character, stating in the most emphatic terms, and clearly, deliberately expressing the view of Parliament, and placing these restrictions upon the Irish Parliament with the free assent of the Irish Members. Yet it is said that is a wholly illusory safeguard, and that it is not worth the paper it is written upon. I point out again that the same Clause operates here; that it is a law which becomes void from the moment it is passed. It can never really become the law of Ireland at all, because it is said in this Bill—which gives the powers—that any Bill which infringes these provisions is to be void.
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
If the hon. and learned Gentleman had waited a minute he would have heard. Moreover, if he had read the Bill, he would have known. If he will kindly wait a moment, I will explain what really happens with regard to them.
76 There is no difficulty whatever in ascertaining it; it is written in the plainest possible terms in the Bill. If the hon. and learned Gentleman will turn to Clauses 28, 29, and 30 he will see for himself quite plainly what happens. If these Bills are introduced the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council is the tribunal which is to decide whether or not the law proposed transcends the powers which are given under this Bill. That is the same tribunal which decides questions between the Dominion Government and the Provincial Legislatures of Canada. The right hon. and learned Gentleman himself (Sir E. Carson) is aware of that. He has argued cases before them, and certainly the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Edinburgh and St. Andrews Universities is very familiar with that tribunal. It is a matter of constant occurrence in this country to have disputes between the central Government and the State or Provincial Government which arise in their own country brought home here to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council for decision by that tribunal, and they put an end to all disputes existing between the Provincial Government and the central Government. Is that a wholly worthless safeguard? Is that not worth the paper it is written upon? We go further than that in this Bill, because there is a provision introduced here which supplies the best answer to the hon. and learned Gentleman's question. The provision enables the question to be decided before the Bill introduced ever passes the House. There is no question of a Bill of this character being introduced and passed, whether by the Irish House of Commons or by the Irish Senate, and then being discussed as to whether or not it is ultra vires. That need not happen at all. There is power taken either for the Lord Lieutenant or a Secretary of State to make representations to the Executive for taking the matter at once—that is, as soon as it is introduced as a Bill—to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, who are asked to pronounce there and then whether or not that Bill comes within the limitations and prohibitions of the Government of Ireland Bill. Is that said to be a useless power?
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
The hon. and learned Gentleman seems to think it is useless. I will not read through the Clauses because they are before the House. Hon. Members can read them for themselves, and they will see what powers are given, 77 and how impossible it is to say that these are absolutely useless provisions. The very first words of Clause 29 are:—If it appears to the Lord Lieutenant or a Secretary of State expedient in the public interest that steps shall be taken for the speedy determination of the question whether any Irish Act or any provision thereof, or any Irish Bill or any provision thereof, is beyond the powers of the Irish Parliament, he may represent the same to His Majesty in Council, and thereupon the said question shall be forthwith referred to and heard and determined by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.I fail utterly to understand what the hon. and learned Gentleman means by saying that it has no meaning, unless there is some underlying suggestion that the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council is not the proper tribunal to decide questions of that character.
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
What does the hon. Gentleman mean? Let us follow that up. A Bill is introduced into the Irish House of Commons which is thought by the Lord Lieutenant to go beyond the provisions of this Clause, and therefore comes within the prohibited area. He makes that representation to the Executive. The Executive takes a different view. How are you going to decide it? By the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, the same as in cases from Canada and Australia in which there are important differences. You need not even wait until they have actually debated it and passed it into a Statute, but at once the Privy Council can pronounce upon it, and they can pronounce not only upon the Bill, but upon any single provision in the Bill which may be thought to go beyond the limits imposed by the Government of Ireland Bill. I say that is the most absolute security you could possibly provide.
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
It may be, I daresay it would be in some cases, the Imperial Parliament. The difference is this. The Lord Lieutenant, who would represent for this purpose the Imperial Parliament, has 78 the right to bring the matter before the Judicial Committee and the Secretary of State, who represents the Irish Executive, also has the right to bring it before the Committee.
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
I think he would. That is the position of matters, and I ask the House to bear in mind that never yet, so far as I know, in any legislation has such care been taken to safeguard the powers and rights of the Imperial Parliment so as to give the least possible friction between the Irish Executive and the Imperial Parliament. Reference has been made to the administrative side. The hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Cave) said with some force that that provision does not in terms deal with the administrative action of the Executive. But if some wrongful act is done by the Executive here, if some act is done which is contrary to law, it is open to the Courts to restrain the Act, and, of course, as the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Balfour) illustrated, that was done in the Swansea school case, where it was thought, and the Courts decided, that a Minister had taken a wrong view of the Statute upon advice. So that you have that check. You have the further check of discussion in Parliament, exactly the same check as we have here. I should have thought it was really beyond discussion that it is the highest interests of the Irish Government to avoid all possible suggestion of oppressive action against the minority. Is it to be supposed that men of the shrewdness of the Irish Members, if they once obtain the machine for which they have been striving so long, would at once take steps to smash it, to bring it absolutely down with a clatter by resorting to the very thing which they have declared again and again they will not do, by being either oppressive or intolerant on religious grounds? If hon. Members opposite are not satisfied with the safeguards why do they not propose others? If they put forward the suggestions which they think are necessary in the interests, of the minority we can promise at least that they will be carefully considered.
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
That illustrates exactly what I am saying. What is the 79 good of talking about the value of the safeguards? That is not what hon. Members want to consider.
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
I am glad to get that frank recognition. It shows so plainly what is the true position we have to meet here. The nineteen Ulster Unionists are the persons who are dictating, as is apparent from the history I gave a little while ago, the policy of the Unionist party. Whenever any ray of light is allowed to creep in then come the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir E. Carson) and his associates to darken it.
§ Sir J. LONSDALE
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the hon. Member (Mr. Dillon) said publicly that paper safeguards in the Home Rule Bill are absolutely worthless?
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
I do not think that is what he said. I know the quotation. What he said, and I quite agree with him, is that the best safeguard you can have is trust in the good sense of the people. I have drawn the distinction between legislative and administrative safeguards, and I have given the very argument which the hon. Member used and with which I agree. The striking feature of this Debate is that this Bill is not being considered at all. Hon. Members opposite are not concerned with examining the Bill. Probably that is the reason why the right hon. and learned Gentleman has given so little consideration to it. All they care about is getting rid of the Bill. They do not want to examine details. They do not want to discuss whether the plan is feasible. They do not desire in any way to go into finance.
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
I have waited and seen and heard. We have been told what it is. Moreover, hon. Members do not want to examine the safeguards. I understand that view. It is a perfectly honest one. But it is much better stated openly, frankly, and candidly. I do not say that is the view of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Austen Chamberlain). I rather expected he would take a different view from the speeches he has made. I leave him to settle with the right hon. and 80 learned Gentleman (Sir E. Carson). The Ulster Unionists oppose the Bill root and branch.
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
The Noble Lord surprises me. With all his courage, which is so well known to the House, that he should dare to claim for them the title of loyalists!
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
As the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Cave) said, they came to Belfast to show how loyal they were. They marched in procession in order to demonstrate their loyalty to this Parliament and to the King on condition that they remained subject to the laws of this country.
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
I have the quotation:—They came to protest their loyalty to both (that is, to this House and to the King). They came to say they were satisfied with the protection given to them by the laws of this country. They were anxious to continue in partnership with us subject only to the condition which is now freely conceded to the whole of Ireland, the condition of being governed under equal laws with Great Britain.That, in a more extended form, is exactly what I said. I assert that that means conditional loyalty, and I will make the point good. I will translate what the hon. and learned Gentleman said. It is that they will remain loyal, and they came to assert their loyalty to this Parliament and to the King, so long as one-fifth of the representatives from Ireland are allowed to coerce the majority. That is the effect of their announcement. The hon. and learned Gentleman says their loyalty is on the condition that they remain subject to equal laws with Great Britain. It means that so long as you are allowed to remain as you are you are loyal, but if this House of Commons passes this Bill and the Royal Assent is given to it, according to the law of this country, then, as I understand what he said, they are no longer loyal either to this country or to Ireland. In the face of that, the Noble Lord has the audacity to arrogate for those in Ireland the title of loyalty. We know the words which I quoted earlier, the formula which I suppose was settled and devised by the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir E. Carson), and to which he adheres 81 now. It is quite immaterial what laws you may pass, it is quite immaterial what the country may say, it is quite immaterial what the predominant partner may say, it is quite immaterial whether the Government majority is independent of the Irish or not, says the right hon. Gentleman—never under any circumstances will we have Home Rule.
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
It is very little use using threats across the floor of the House. It does not assist in the slightest degree in the argument. It is the poorest of poor arguments, and it is a very easy thing to sit on that bench and make those threats in that way. The right hon. and learned Gentleman knows perfectly well that that is a threat which cannot be dealt with in this House. It is no use arguing about a question of that kind. I suppose it is a prophecy of what is to happen.
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
It is a fact, apparently, which was asserted before even the Bill was introduced. I am not at all so sure that the right hon. and learned Gentlemen and those associated with him have substantiated their claim in this country to be accepted as true prophets. I have some recollection of prophecies in which they have indulged and which have been wrong. There are three important instances which are just worth recalling in order that we may know the value of their prophecies. The 1894 Budget was one of them. When, in that year, Sir William Harcourt introduced the Death Duties, what evils were prophesied and what mischief was going to happen! We know the result. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Worcestershire (Mr. Austen Chamberlain) was very glad of these Death Duties when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer. We know what happened with regard to the Transvaal—that most reckless experiment as it was dubbed by the Opposition. We had a third and more recent prophecy. That was with regard to the Finance Bill of 1909. Everybody will remember the evil things prophesied at that time—the ruin that was to happen, the unemployment that was to ensue, the decrease in trade, and the poverty in to which the people were to be thrown. What has been the result of it? The Chancellor of the Exchequer told us quite recently when expounding his 82 Budget that out of the taxes imposed by that Act alone £23,000,000 was received for the revenue of the country.
If you look back on the credentials of the Opposition, I hardly think they are entitled to pose before the country as prophets on whose words reliance can be placed. Let me ask what is to be the result if the prophecy of the right hon. Gentleman and those assciated with him were true? When is this state of things to come to an end? Is it ever to be ended? Is a time ever to come when we shall be able to give some measure of self-government to Ireland. [An HON. MEMBER: "No."] One hon. Member says "No." Not in any circumstances? Suppose that out of the seventeen Unionist Members for the Province of Ulster they lost only one seat, they would then be in the minority. Let me ask would they then be ready to submit? Of course, the answer is "No," as I understand their position, and if they lose more seats, how many more will they have to lose before, they assent to submit? Suppose that the whole of Ireland was Nationalist, even then, I understand, the statement is made that they would not submit and that they would not recognise a Parliament in Dublin. That is, of course, reducing the whole matter to a farcical proposition. All I desire to say in regard to it is that, if that is their view, there is not much to fear in the way of argument on the merits of the Bill.
Take another aspect of the question, which is really worth considering. Are we never in any circumstances to get rid of the congestion of business in this House? Is every attempt which we make for the devolution of some of our business to be frustrated by nineteen Irish Unionists? Just look at what happens in the history of our proceedings. I remember when I was first in this House coming in and finding a discussion proceeding upon a Bill which had something to do with Rathmines and Rathgar. I admit I did not know where they were. I remember that I learned they were close to Dublin, and I gathered from the speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, who spoke on the occasion, that the whole question was whether Rathmines township should drain a thousand houses in some particular district.
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
My memory is better than the right hon. Gentleman's, 83 because I looked it up this morning. We had this matter discussed in the House again, and nights were taken up with it.
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
"Why not?" says the right hon. Gentleman. I will tell him why. Because that is a measure which the Irish people ought to be able to settle themselves, and because we have other things to do here which are more important, even although, as the right hon. Gentleman told us in his speech, that he is a ratepayer in Rathgar. Then we had several nights taken up with the discussion of the finance of the borough of Sligo. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not?"] I agree that so long as Ireland has not a Government of its own for these affairs, the consequence is that you must have these discussions here. We had similar discussions in regard to two or three clerks engaged on one of the Irish railways. That took some time in this House, and this year we have had time taken up in discussing a small question about a dredger in connection with the Agricultural Department in Ireland. On two successive evenings we discussed it, and all that time was wasted. What we desire is that these matters should be dealt with in Ireland. They are familiar with them, and can deal with them far better than we can. Let me remind the House that we have great and important matters to deal with here. We have matters of foreign policy and Colonial administration. We have naval and military matters, and we have also important questions appertaining to expenditure—expenditure which is growing every year, and which probably, I am afraid, will continue to grow. All these matters are much more worthy of the close attention of Parliament. We are not able to give the time to them which they require at the present moment. The House has only to contrast with the statement I have made as to some instances of what has happened in regard to Ireland, with the statement that year after year, in consequence of the congestion of business in this House, we vote without discussion £50,000,000, £60,000,000, or, as happened in 1911, £67,000,000, and all because we cannot get time to discuss these matters.
§ Sir J. LONSDALE
Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that the discussion of Irish affairs in this House in 1911 only occupied forty hours and a half?
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
If that is the case, it shows how unfair it is to Ireland. Does the hon. Baronet think forty hours enough?
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
I am much obliged to the hon. Baronet, who has quite frankly, fairly, and clearly made out the case I was arguing. It is because you cannot get time. It is quite right that an opportunity ought to be given, and would be given, but you cannot get time in view of the number of other things which have to be discussed. It is not so long ago that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Worcestershire made a speech in which he himself referred to jaded Ministers, worn-out Ministers, and Members of Parliament wearied by their insessant labours, and yet they say there is not time to discuss matters relating to Ireland. What was the right hon. Gentlemen's only remedy? The remedy he proposed is very like the remedy we are proposing. Devolution of some local self-government is the only way out of it.
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
I think it was Sparkhill. It was this year. What the right hon. Gentleman said was, of course, not only perfectly true, but it was a perfectly correct argument for devolution. He said there are facts which nobody can dispute. There is not Member who can dispute the facts which I have been stating in regard to our own domestic affairs in this Parliament. We all know that there is no time for the discussion of all these matters. The guillotine is applied to some of them, and no Member votes for the closure with a light heart. Every year you are bound to increase the number of officials appointed. The sphere of social activities which require the special vigilance and supervision of Parliament is yearly increasing, and will continue to increase. All these are matters which necessitate the further close attention of Parliament besides the affairs of the Empire. You can only get that attention given to them if you have resort to some sort of devolution such as I have mentioned. The hon. and learned Member for Kingston (Mr. Cave), in a speech he made last week, appears to be also of that opinion. He said that local Government for Ireland is capable of great expansion, but he favoured something 85 wholly different from the policy of this Bill. Let me ask, What have we really come to in this Debate? We are told by hon. Gentlemen opposite that we must not allow the Nationalists to coerce the minority. These were the words used by the right hon. and learned Member for Dublin University. I would ask, Are they content that the minority in Ireland shall be allowed to coerce the majority? It is said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Strand Division (Mr. Long) that his party must not desert their friends. That is one of the grounds on which he supports the Opposition, and upon which he moved the rejection of this Bill. I do not quarrel with the principle of not deserting your friends, but I would ask, How far does he propose to carry that? How far is he prepared to stand by his friends, which means the Unionists of Ulster, in refusing to give effect to the view of the majority so constantly sent to us? May I ask also of those who speak for Ulster, Does the Ulster minority claim the right to prevent Home Rule for the rest of Ireland? Does the Ulster minority claim the right to say, "Even apart from ourselves here in Ulster, for the whole of the rest of Ireland, we will not allow you to give Home Rule"? I should have thought that that question would have been considered, and that some answer would have been ready to that proposition. It is one that lies very closely on the surface of the discussion, and it is one to which an answer is necessary.
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
No one suggests that it is in the Bill. But we are meeting the opposition to the Bill. We are striving to understand the position of our opponents. We are endeavouring in the best way we can command to see what is the obstacle to the settlement of this Irish question, and we ask, and are entitled to ask and ask again, whether the Ulster minority claim that right to prevent Home Rule for the rest of Ireland? I notice that no answer is given. I notice, further, that it is said by both the right hon. Gentlemen the Member for East Worcestershire, in the speech to which I have referred, and the hon. and learned Member for Kingston, during this discussion, that we are to have some extended self-government for Ireland. That is the policy, a wide or great expansion of local self-government for Ireland. If that is true, is the difference between us as to the wide expansion 86 of local self-government for Ireland so wide? Is the difference so great between that and the Home Rule Bill which we have introduced, and which is now in its Second Reading, that you are justified in talking of civil war or in encouraging civil war? Is it that difference which justifies ex-Ministers of the Crown and eminent lawyers who are destined to hold the highest offices in the State in making statements in the country which suggest civil war, which are intended to suggest it, which encourage it, and in which even they attempt to justify it? I want to ask whether a settlement of the Irish question can be obtained—
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman means by his interruption to justify this idea.
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
It was not intended that I should hear it. I could not help hearing some of it, but I pass from it. I will ask the right hon. Gentleman, who is going to speak in the course of the Debate—and I am not referring to his interruption, but I put a question to him—and I ask him to deal with it when he comes to speak in this Debate, and I put the same question to the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. Does he take the same attitude? Does he mean to encourage civil war? Let me add that it is no use riding off by not dealing with the question. You cannot do that in a matter of this character; you are either for the Crown or against it. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Trinity College seems to think that this is a laughing matter, but I am quite sure that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Worcestershire does not, and I am perfectly certain, from what we know of him in this House, that if he comes to speak he will express his opinions fully and frankly upon this subject. If he does not approve of this encouragement of civil war and does not attempt to justify it, then I am sure he will say so, and he will forgive me for saying, and I am sure he will not think me impertinent for saying, that it is a duty to say so. I see that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Chaplin) thinks that this is an amusing matter. I may ask him 87 whether he approves of it? Is it his view? The right hon. Gentleman says he will tell me when he speaks. Then I shall await with some interest what he is going to say on this question, and of course I shall listen to him with every attention, as I always do.
I want the House to understand that it is impossible for right hon. Gentlemen opposite to take the attitude of not expressing their opinion on this subject. They cannot get away from it. They must either say they disapprove of it, or if they take the same attitude on the rest of this question with those who are advocating civil war they are making themselves a party to it. What is to be the attitude of the Unionist party? At any rate the sooner we know it, the sooner it is made known to Parliament or to the country, the better it will be. I cannot help coming back to this. I have had no desire to say anything which might be offensive to any Member however much I may disagree with him. I have attempted to put forward for their consideration the views which I hold, if they are minded to consider them. I ask them whether it is impossible that a settlement upon the Irish question can be obtained by this Bill? It can be obtained; it can undoubtedly be obtained if only you are a little more generous, a little less suspicious, and a little more trustful. Then the Irish people can live with the Irish in an Ireland governed according to Irish ideas. I say in an Ireland governed according to Irish ideas, by Irishmen devoting all their brilliant qualities, which everybody admits they possess, to developing and administering their own country, instead of devoting them to other countries, which they are doing at present, if only all will bear in mind a saying of Mr. Gladstone, given with all his unmatched and unrivalled experience, "Suspicion is the besetting sin of politicians, and trust is often the truest wisdom," we shall not be long before we arrive at a settlement.
§ Mr. BUTCHER
The right hon. Gentleman was good enough in his closing sentences to give some advice to Ulster. I think Ulster knows its own business just as well as the right hon. Gentleman can teach it, and I think that the soothing syrup of sentences even from the Attorney-General is not likely to reconcile Ulster to submit to a Government which they have every reason to distrust and abhor. The Attorney-General achieved one distinction in 88 his speech. He is the first Minister on those benches who has attempted to justify any of the provisions of this astounding Bill. But even he has exercised a very wise reticence. Some of the most important topics raised by this Bill have not received any mention by him. Why did not he answer some of the five questions addressed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Balfour) to the Foreign Secretary (Sir E. Grey).
§ Mr. BUTCHER
That was not the reason given by the Foreign Secretary. The reason was he could not answer them. Now the right hon. Gentleman does not attempt to answer them either. Why not? Because he is a very skilful advocate, and a skilful advocate when he knows that he has no answer to a point, passes it by without notice. Why did he not explain how this Bill came to be drafted, and to present the extraordinary illogical compromise which it does of a constitution which is neither federal nor unitary, a constitution which is a strange compromise between that of a self-governing dominion, on the one hand, and, of a subordinate province in a federal union on the other? He could have thrown some light on how the monstrous progeny came into existence. I suppose there was a considerable amount of advice tendered and that a great deal of bargaining went on between the Treasury Benches and the hon. Members from Ireland behind us. How is it that this constitution is set up for Ireland, when we are told by the Prime Minister that it is merely to be an instalment of a larger policy, and how is this constitution going to be adapted to this larger policy? Take the case of Customs. Do you think, when you come to establish Home Rule all round you will have Customs between not only England and Ireland, but between England and Wales and England and Scotland? Do you think when you are asked to give Home Rule for England, Scotland, and Wales, it will be very easy for Great Britain to grant a subsidy of £2,000,000 a year to Scotland and a subsidy of a million or so to Wales?
§ Mr. BUTCHER
We have not had any repudiation from Scotland. If they find that Ireland will get £2,000,000 a year from England it will be a very strange thing if 89 they entirely set aside their claim for some consideration. The opening passage in the speech of the Attorney-General filled me with surprise. He told us that the crime existing in Ireland for the last five years, the existence of which he did not deny, was the strongest argument for Home Rule. It is a strong argument, but a strong argument for getting rid of an incompetent Chief Secretary and an incapable Government. I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that when the late Unionist Government went out of office in 1905, Ireland was, on the admission of the then Member for Aberdeen, now Ambassador in the United States, crimeless. After five years of government by the present coalition, Ireland is suffering from this crime which the right hon. Gentleman does not deny, and he now comes forward and uses the existence of that crime as an argument for Home Rule. I think on reflection he will see that it is not a very powerful argument. Then he made a reference to Lord Dudley. Apparently he made a great point of the fact that Lord Dudley is converted to Home Rule. I am sure I do not know whether it is the case or not, but if it is, all I can say is that he belongs to a class of men for whom it is very difficult to feel great respect, men who at a mature age change their convictions on matters of vital moment; and I think it very unfortunate that the right hon. Gentleman should have referred to that class of persons when that bench is so largely composed of a class for which I at any rate have not any great admiration.
§ Mr. BUTCHER
I am asked why the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham changed his convictions. Will anyone tell me that he ever changed his opinions on Home Rule?
§ Mr. PRINGLErose—
§ Mr. BUTCHER
A great leader, Mr. Gladstone changed his convictions, and so did a large number of his party, and I do not think anything the better of them for it. I cannot too strongly insist that the proposals of this Bill involve not merely a new Constitution for Ireland, but for the United Kingdom.
90 The plain common-sense man will ask, "What is the reason for the introduction of a Home Rule Bill at all?" If he refers to the events of the last two years he will probably answer that question for himself by saying that the Government had no alternative; they were not their own masters, and they had to pay the price to hon. Members from Ireland who voted for a Budget which they abhorred. [An HON. MEMBER: "NO."] Will anyone tell me that hon. Members from Ireland would have voted for that Budget if they had not received assurance from His Majesty's Government that this Home Rule Bill would be brought in? We remember the ignominious position which the Prime Minister occupied on that bench during the early part of 1910 in regard to the Budget, when he had not then secured the promise of the hon. Members from Ireland; and that is the answer from a commonsense man's point of view. But there is a further question which calls for an answer, and it is this: Putting aside the party exigencies of the Government—and I admit that they are severe enough—what real justification is there for the introduction of this constitutional revolution? No justification has been offered in this Debate. The Prime Minister gave as a reason for introducing this Bill, a reason which has been insisted upon by the Attorney - General to-day, that the Nationalists had demanded it; that they had demanded it for some years; that they were in the majority, and therefore they must have it. I think that is a fair statement of the argument of the Prime Minister. Let me test that argument for a moment.
What is it the Irish Nationalist Leaders have demanded persistently and insistently for generations past? Will anyone tell me that they have persistently and insistently asked for this Bill or for anything like it? It is common knowledge; it is notorious to everyone who reads the history of the last twenty years that their persistent and insistent demand on a hundred platforms, both in Ireland and America, has been for an independent Ireland—Ireland a nation. Will anyone deny it on those benches? I do not think so. We have quotation after quotation from every speech Nationalist Members made in Ireland and America, showing that what they demanded was an independent Ireland. Does anyone say that this Bill will give independence to Ireland—though it may lead to it—or anything approaching independence? When the Prime Minister tells us he is giving 91 the Nationalists of Ireland what they demand, all I can say is he is not giving them, not on paper at least, what they have persistently and insistently demanded in Ireland and America. Supposing they came to this House now and asked you for the complete independence of Ireland, would you give it to them? There is no answer. I presume that the right hon. Gentleman who sits there would answer "No, we would not"; and, if that be so, what becomes of the Prime Minister's argument? Is it not clear that the demand is not to be conceded simply because it is demanded? You have to consider whether that demand is fair, reasonable, and just, and, if it is not, you must reject it, even although a majority is in favour of it.
Then there is another argument—it was used by the Prime Minister in introducing this Bill, and it was insisted upon by the Foreign Secretary, and, with great vigour to-day, by the Attorney-General—that the passing of this Bill would relieve the congestion of business in this House. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I see that some are simple enough to believe that argument. That argument has been shattered and pulverised in the course of this Debate.
Think what you are doing. You are setting up a Constitution for Ireland, the like of which has never been seen in the history of the world; it is a mongrel product, half Dominion self-government and half Provincial State Government, that you are giving to Ireland; you give the Irish Parliament great powers and at the same time you are fencing round that Irish Parliament with wire entanglements of constitutional and financial limitations; and then you allow forty-two Irish Members to come over here to your Parliament at Westminster to interfere in your affairs, in all your domestic affairs, and to coerce and cajole any squeezable Government at Westminster. And then you think you will have peace and repose from Irish affairs. It is difficult to rise to so sublime a height of simplicity. To anyone who really understands this Bill and has studied it the thing is absolutely ludicrous.
Another champion came into the arena—the First Lord of the Admiralty with the "modern eye." I suppose the possession of the "modern eye" is the latest apology for political apostasy.
92 There are some on that bench who require that apology. Let us look at the condition of Ireland with the "modern eye." The condition of things in Ireland has largely changed since 1886 and 1893. But those changes prove, not the necessity for Home Rule, but the necessity to maintain the Union. What have those changes been? During the past five-and-twenty years the Imperial Parliament has shown that it is capable of redressing every grievance that may arise. Since 1893 it has given complete local self-government to Ireland. Since 1893 a great measure of land purchase, a great measure for the settlement and the only possible settlement of the Irish land question, has been passed by this House, and, bear in mind, that the land question was really the driving force of Home Rule at the outset. It is undoubtedly true—and I am sure hon. Members sitting opposite will not deny it when I say it—that if Home Rule had been passed in 1886 or 1893 no Land Purchase Act would have been possible for Ireland. It would have been absolutely impossible for Ireland to find the money to finance a scheme of £100,000,000, and to carry such an Act. If the Bill of 1886 or 1893 had been passed, the great problem of the land question in Ireland would still remain unsettled and insoluble.
Therefore we have this result at the present moment: Ireland has prospered and is prospering under the Union, and now you come along with your "modern eye" and say that is a reason for destroying all the progress that has taken place. I think, if the modern eye were rightly used, the owner of that eye would reject this Bill. Therefore, my first point is, that Ministers have made no case, so far, for the introduction of any Bill. If they have made no case for any Bill, what are we to say about the case they have made for this particular Bill? Until this afternoon we have had no defence of any of its provisions. It seems to me that this Bill is the best possible illustration you can have of the absolute impossibility of framing a Home Rule Bill which would even moderately hold water. Criticisms have been launched at the provisions of this Bill from these benches by my hon. Friends, and I was amazed when the Attorney-General told us this afternoon that the Bill had not been criticised in detail. I can only wonder where he was during the Debates, and, if he did not hear them, he might at least have taken the trouble to make himself acquainted with 93 the criticisms which have been advanced, and attempted to reply to them. There is one insurmountable objection to this Bill which does not depend upon mere argument, but depends upon fact, and that fact is Ulster.
I was astonished to hear the Attorney-General declare that in Ulster there was a desire on the part of the minority to coerce the majority. A falser calumny was never uttered in this House against the inhabitants of a loyal province. The men of Ulster have no desire to coerce any of their fellow subjects in Ireland. They have no desire for any ascendancy or privilege. What they ask is to be allowed to remain, as you are in this country, under the protection of the Imperial Parliament, and under the just protection of your laws. That is their claim, and the First Lord of the Admiralty in his speech, chastened no doubt by recollection of his recent visit to Belfast, did not attempt to minimise the gravity of the position in Ulster. The Prime Minister, indeed, while saying he was desirous of respecting the opinions of the men of Ulster, thought he had disposed of the Ulster question when he said in his speech that he would not admit the right of the minority to veto the verdict of the majority. It matters not what the Prime Minister is prepared to admit, the question is are you going to coerce these men, are you going to send British bayonets to drive them from their allegiance? Any British Government which attempted so unspeakable a crime would be hounded out of office by an indignant electorate. I am sorry the right hon. Gentleman the Vice-President of the Board of Agriculture in Ireland (Mr. T. W. Russell) is not in his place. He at any rate knows something about Ulster, and when the Attorney-General spoke as he did about the impossibility of anyone being willing to fight for his liberties in Ulster, I wish he had consulted his colleague who sits beside him on that bench. The Vice-President of the Board of Agriculture in Ireland, in his happier days, knew something about Ulster, and spoke of Ulster in language at least as decided as that which comes from any representatives from Ulster to-day. Let me remind you what the right hon. Gentleman said in those days:—The Government knew that if they sought to force the Bill down the throats of the people of Ulster they would have to enforce it by British bayonets; they would have to force this hated legislation on them by coercion. They would not have to coerce crime or to coerce lawlessness, but they would have to coerce the 94 majority of a province simply because of their passionate loyalty to the Empire and because of their determination not to be thrust outside its pale.That is the language of the right hon. Gentleman who sits now in office and who knows the facts, while the Attorney-General, though I suppose I must give him credit for entire ignorance, and otherwise indeed his language would be inexcusable, poured scorn or attempted to do so on the loyalty of Ulster. Let him ask his colleague who sits beside him. Does his colleague not believe in the passionate loyalty of Ulster? Let him find out from him the truth, and perhaps he will not make any more speeches of that character in this House. I should like to ask the Vice-President of the Board of Agriculture in Ireland a question. I hope he will take part in this Debate. I hope his friend the right hon. Gentleman, who is now on the Treasury Bench, will convey this to him. I greatly regret his absence, but I trust that he will take part in the Debate and will tell the House whether he desires to recant from that language which he used here in the year 1893, and if he does desire to recant perhaps he will tell us why and for what reason he does it, and will give us some explanation of how it has come about that he now admires everything which he formerly denounced, and he denounces everything which he formerly admired.
But, we are told, there are safeguards which ought to calm all the alarm and apprehension of Ulster and of all the Unionists in the other parts of Ireland. The Attorney-General was very insistent on these safeguards, and indeed the Prime Minister told us the other day that one of the main reasons why a number of restrictions which were in the 1893 Bill are entirely left out of this Bill was the presence here of these safeguards, and that without those safeguards the omission of those restrictions would be unjustifiable. Just let us consider those safeguards for a moment. They do duty for English Radical platforms. Of that I have no doubt whatever, but, to my mind, those safeguards, properly examined, are the merest sham and humbug for everyone who is not wilfully blind or ignorant. I will not speak about the safeguards as to Executive action, as they do not exist: but let me say a word about the safeguards against oppressive legislation which are to be found in this Bill. There are provisions in this Bill, to which the Prime Minister in his speech the other day referred in detail as very valuable, by 95 which laws passed by the Irish Parliament on matters admittedly within the competence of the Irish Parliament are to be vetoed by British Ministers or overridden by the British Legislature. Does anyone suppose that that is going to be done? Will any hon. Gentleman get up and tell us that those powers are going to be really exercised, and, if so, what becomes of the free and independent Ireland to which the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. John Dillon) says he has dedicated his life. What becomes of the free and independent nation which we have heard so much of from the hon. and learned Member for Waterford, and, above all, what becomes of the hon. Baronet the Member for Wexford (Sir T. Esmonde), who said:—The position that Ireland takes up, and has always for 112 years taken up, is this, that the Imperial Parliament has no right to make laws for Ireland.That is the very thing which this Bill proposes, that the Imperial Parliament can make Jaws for Ireland in Irish affairs. I wonder the hon. Baronet is not opposing this Bill. The hon. and learned Member for Waterford is under no delusion as to the value of those safeguards and of the effect of overriding legislation. He told us quite frankly the other night in the House that those powers would not be exercised in Ireland to any greater extent than they were exercised in the self-governing Dominions. What does that mean? It means that they will not be exercised at all in Irish affairs. The right hon. Gentleman the Attorney-General spoke of the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament, and said it was a most valuable part of this Bill. I think we may judge as to the value of that when you remember that is found in the Preamble of the Bill of 1893, and by this time we know what Preambles mean. But if you want to test this question as to the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament and its power of making laws on Irish matters for Ireland, let me quote a passage from a well-known constitutional authority. Professor Dicey, speaking on this subject, says:—The Imperial Parliament, though for Imperial purposes it may retain an indefinite supremacy throughout the British Empire, has as regards the self-governing Colonies renounced, for all other than Imperial purposes, executive and legislative functions.Therefore this supremacy, this veto, this overriding legislation is absolutely useless in regard to matters within the competence of an Irish Parliament to deal with, and it will never be exercised in 96 regard to those matters. But "Oh," says the Attorney-General, "you have the Privy Council to set aside void laws." Yes, but who is going to set the Privy Council in motion—why the very Gentlemen who passed those laws. The Irish Ministers who have got the Irish Parliament to carry those void laws they are to say to the Lord Lieutenant "Look here, we have been passing some void Bills; they are very bad; they are very atrocious; they are very improper; will you set the Privy Council in motion and get the Privy Council to declare them void?" That is the argument of the Attorney-General.
§ Mr. BUTCHER
I am sorry the Attorney-General is not here to answer for himself. The Attorney-General said that the Bill gives the Lord Lieutenant the power to put the Privy Council in motion. He went on to say that the Lord Lieutenant would have to act in these matters on the advice of the Irish Ministers, and he repeated over and over again, and I am in the recollection of the House, that the Lord Lieutenant would be able to set the Privy Council in motion. I ask the House to consider the ludicrousness of the position, the Gilbertian absurdity of your Lord Lieutenant being told by Irish Ministers that they have been passing void laws and that he, on their advice, must take steps to set them aside. Then I am reminded that the Secretary of State can set the Privy Council in motion. I daresay it is possible that if some absolutely outrageous void law were passed that the English Secretary of State would set them in motion, but I am not sure if he were a Member of a cowardly Government dependent on Irish support, on the support of forty-two Members coming from Ireland, that he would be very likely to go to the Privy Council and say, "These Gentlemen, on whose support I am depending, have been passing void laws, kindly set them aside." That is just one of those dangers which you have created under this Bill, that you give powers to forty-two Members to come over and influence a feeble and cowardly Government. Therefore, I say that those safeguards are futile and absurd. I do not refer to the grotesque farce of a nominated Senate which apparently is the democratic ideal of the hon. and learned Gentleman 97 the Member for Waterford, in which view he is supported by the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald). A great democratic idea, and a splendid protection! The custodians of the rights of the minority are to be appointed by the representatives of the majority who oppress them. I suppose we have heard the last of that, but it is worth referring to, because it is somewhat on a par with the value of the rest of the safeguards of this Bill.
I do not propose to deal with the financial proposals which I think are unworkable except to say this, that by the Bill Great Britain is asked to give a subsidy of £2,000,000 per year to Ireland. The British taxpayer will ask himself is there any possibility or likelihood that that £2,000,000 will decrease or will be ever diminished or abolished. I do not think there is the remotest chance of that sum being diminished, on the contrary there is every chance of its being increased, and being made a permanent burden on the necks of the British taxpayers. As regards the Customs, the right hon. Gentleman very prudently did not refer to them at all, or explain how that is going to work when the larger scheme is to come into operation, and when you must come down and say to the Irish Members "we must wipe out your power of dealing with Customs, because it is not suitable for the larger scheme," and they will have something to say to that, or else you will have to bring in, under your larger scheme of Home Rule, Customs barriers at every point and corner between England and Wales and England and Scotland, and England and Ireland. Just a word to the Irish Nationalist Members about the Customs. Do not imagine for one moment that those powers over Customs will give you any power of protecting any Irish industries which you might desire to protect, because the Government by express prohibition in this Bill have told you that if you put on Customs duties on articles not produced in Ireland you must also put on corresponding Excise duties on the articles you produce, so that your articles may not have any benefit whatever. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] There are cheers from the benches opposite, but not so many from the Irish Members behind me. Possibly they approve of it, and, if so, we shall hear of it later on.
I think there is only one course for the Government to adopt. They will have to 98 do it sooner or later, and I would venture to suggest to them to do it sooner rather than later, and that is to throw this Bill, with its mass of absurdities and contradictions, into the wastepaper basket; and if you are incompetent to govern Ireland under the Union, make way for those who can. You will have to do it before long, and you had better retire gracefully and make way for those who proved that they can govern Ireland under the Union, and successfully, and to the great material benefit and advantage of Ireland. May I, as an Irishman, myself desirous and earnestly desirous of her prosperity, say I belong to the British nation, and I refuse to admit of this parcelling up of the Kingdom into heptarchies and separate nationalities. That is one of the most dangerous and most pernicious heresies which can prevail, and I believe it does prevail to a certain extent on those benches. As an Irishman, I repeat, and as a subject of the United Kingdom, who earnestly desires to see his country prospering, I think there is a saner and wiser policy than any scheme of Home Rule. Let us admit and recognise clearly that there are in Ireland not one race, but two races—two races separated by divisions of religion, traditions, ideals, and habits. These races can be united only under the common bond of union with Great Britain. That happy process of unification has already begun, and I believe it will go on progressing in future. But, believe me, if you want it to go on, you must keep these two races united with their greater and more powerful neighbour. You must allow them to prosper side by side with their wealthier partner, under the common rule of the British House of Commons, which will act as arbiter in Ireland between the conflicting interests. Thus and thus only will you reconcile and heal the old racial and religious animosities; thus only will you make Ireland prosperous, and maintain a strong and united Kingdom at the heart of your Empire.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
We on these benches have listened to the speech of the hon. and learned Member (Mr. Butcher) with much interest. He told us he was an Irishman. I do not think anyone of us would have detected it unless it had been by his peroration. He was also very strong on the "modern eye." I venture to say that he objects to everything modern. Perhaps he prefers the primitive mind and tired 99 intellect. In the primitive mind and tired intellect, combined with violence of speech, you have the Irish Unionist who lives in England and only comes to speak of Irish affairs in this House against his own countrymen. In the course of the hon. and learned Member's series of interrogations, he challenged the hon. Member opposite in reference to the opinions of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain) on Home Rule. One of his little touches affecting himself personally was his remark that he could never see why a middle-aged mail should change his mind. I wonder if that is an old Tory doctrine, or is it part of the new method of discussion? The hon. Member opposite stated that the right hon. Member for West Birmingham was a Home Ruler, and the hon. and learned Member denied it emphatically. I am here to prove it. The right hon. Member for West Birmingham, in a circular known as the "unauthorised programme," gave a declaration of his policy in regard to Home Rule. He said:—I consider that Ireland has a right to local government more complete, more popular, more thoroughly representative and more far-reaching than anything that has been suggested. I believe there are questions, not local in any narrow sense, but which require local and exceptional treatment, which cannot be dealt with to the satisfaction of the Irish people by the Imperial Parliament. Chief among them are the education question and the land question, and I would not hesitate to transfer their consideration and solution entirely to an Trish. Board, altogether independent of English Government influence. Such a Board might also deal with railways and the means of communication, and of course would be vested with powers of taxation in Ireland for strictly Irish purposes.Does the hon. and learned Gentleman still contradict my hon. Friend opposite? Is that a Home Rule declaration or is it a Unionist doctrine? [An HON. MEMBER: "It is nothing like this Home Rule Bill."] Nothing like this Home Rule Bill? This Home Rule Bill does not allow us to touch the land question. This declaration was to give us the land question. This Home Rule Bill admits English influence. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham's solution was not to allow English hands to touch Irish affairs. Yet the hon. and learned Member comes to this House and tells us that the right hon. Member for West Birmingham never was a Home Ruler. Would you like any more quotations? Would you like me to read to your Tory friends what the right hon. Member for West Birmingham thought of government in Ireland? He said that the system of government carried on in Ireland by England was worse than the system of government which Russia carried 100 on in Poland. What Irish agitator ever used more violent language than that? The hon. and learned Member also stated that times had greatly changed in Ireland. That was a most illuminating observation. He said that great progress had been made, and he proceeded to state the causes of the change and of the progress. He said, "We have carried a great land purchase scheme which has brought about universal rural satisfaction." That is precisely so. You entrusted the Irish people with over a hundred millions of English money, and they proceeded to pay you back on a basis of national honesty unparalleled in the history of the world. You will not allow them to manage their purely material affairs because you cannot trust them, but you can trust them with millions of British money and British credit.
He also said, "We gave you a large measure of local government in Ireland." Again I agree. And how has local government been used? It has been used in such a way as to form, perhaps, the most effective argument that controversialists from our side can use. It has showed the efficiency of the management of our local affairs and of the power of the Irish intellect and genius in small, circumscribed rural areas in the proper administration of public functions within those municipal rural and urban bodies. The right hon. Member for Dover (Mr. Wyndham), the right hon. Gentleman the late Leader of the Opposition (Mr. A. J. Balfour), Mr. Gerald Balfour, and every other authority who knew anything about Ireland, have admitted that the system of local government in Ireland was a more eminently successful system, and was inspired by a higher civic spirit, than any system of local government carried on elsewhere. Consequently, how any Tory, even though he has a primitive mind and disordered intellect, and dispenses with the modern eye—although he devoted wholly a quarter of his speech to the dissection of the modern eye—can come here and tell us that, because you entrusted us with millions of British money and British credit, and we repaid them in all fullness and honesty, and further, that because you gave us local government as a preliminary to the larger responsibilities which will be placed upon our shoulders by this Bill, and the responsibilities of local government have been successfully carried out, therefore you are not to trust Ireland or give her any fresh powers, and you are not to extend the system of government which 101 has been so successful in the past, I cannot understand. I listened also to the speech of the junior member for Trinity College (Mr. James Campbell). He put on his best tragedy manner. I was not a Member of this House during the old controversies of 1886 and 1893, but I have read some of the speeches that were then delivered. Bloodcurdling tales of tragedies, lawless out-breaks amongst the populace, fierce riots and scenes of disorder and disloyalty—these were the stock-in-trade, these constituted the foundation and even the structure of the arguments against Home Rule.
These arguments are not often used now. When you tell me that there was an outrage in Clare, I answer that there was another in Hounsditch. When you tell us that the Irish nation is not fit to rule itself because a number of outlaws are guilty of misdeeds, I ask you, are the French people unfit to govern themselves because of the motor bandits? Are you going to rob the people of America of self-government because of the "Island gang" in America? Am I going to slander and denounce the people of my own city of Belfast because an infamous attack was made on Lord and Lady Pirrie? But they say, "Oh, you never denounced these outrages." Yet, in the next breath, there was read to the House one of the most vigorous denunciations of these outrages that I ever heard, and that denunciation came from a Catholic prelate, one of the mainstays of our Irish national movement, one of our chief subscribers, and one who has confidence in the conduct of our movement. Who of you denounced the attack upon Lord and Lady Pirrie? You talk like Pharisees. You tell us how much.you glory in the prosperity of Belfast, and you assail, by weapons unworthy of the lowest corner boys, the man who built up its prosperity and who is maintaining it. Instead of your representative repudiating the attack he gets on the steamer by which these two distinguished Belfast citizens are going back to their London residence, harangues the mob who assaulted them, congratulates them on their chivalry, and tells them that Ulster will fight, and Ulster will be right. I did not come to this House and ask questions of the right hon. Gentleman opposite as to whether Belfast was in a state of outlawry, whether the municipality should be wiped out, and whether the city should be held up to the scorn and ridicule of all men of human instincts who are outraged by transactions of this character. I do not believe 102 in the policy of the "carrion crow." I could, day after day, stain the Notice Paper of this House with questions dealing with infinitely far worse matters than any on which hon. Members base their questions about other parts of Ireland; but if it ever comes that I have to fight Unionism by soiled and even infamous weapons of that character, the best thing for me to do will be to transfer myself to my own country: if I am to traduce any section of my own countrymen I will do it in their own land.
One of the statements made by the right hon. Gentleman the junior Member for Trinity College, was that when the County Councils Act was passed, my hon. and learned Friend went through the country pleading for and preaching the doctrine of giving due representation to the Protestant minority. That doctrine which was preached by my hon. and learned Friend has been accepted to the full in the letter and in the spirit. The hon. and learned Gentleman pointed out this small number of Unionists—who were members of the councils in Connaught—as a proof of his statement. The reason that the number of Unionists is small in the councils of Connaught is that there are practically no Unionists there. Do you want us to mould and fashion Unionists in order to show that we are a tolerant race? Do you want us not only to be perfect politicians, but even to Toe creators and to create Unionists and make them members of councils in order that we can come over here and say to you, "How magnificent is the transaction!" I will tell you what we have done, and if it is denied I can give facts and figures. These Catholic councils elected by overwhelming Catholic majorities, could not give representation to Unionists because there were practically no Unionists. What we have done is to give a large proportion of all the paid positions—now you will appreciate that—that is something that conies home to the heart of a Tory—that is something which appeals passionately to the Ulster Unionist Members—we have given—you can have it in the statistics printed here—an abnormal proportion of all these paid appointments to Protestants in Connaught, Munster, and Leinster. Do you want me to examine your credentials? After all, you come here and tell us to indict a nation, to impeach a people on the question of tolerance, and you do not give one single argument in favour of the denunciations which you offer, or the impeachment you deliver.
103 What have you to say as to how you have conducted the North-East portion of Ulster, which has been your concern. The Catholic in Belfast is the outcast. It took a special Clause in an Act of Parliament proposed by an outraged English Tory to force Ulster to give eight Catholic representatives in the Belfast council, with a representation of nearly seventy, although Catholics number 100,000 of the population, or nearly one-fourth. Do you want to know how you treat the Catholics? How many times has there been a Catholic Lord Mayor of Belfast? Twenty-three times in fifty years the Catholics of Dublin have elected a Protestant Lord Mayor. Never in the history of Belfast, with a fourth of the population Catholics, has there ever been a Catholic elected to that position. Take the paid positions. Every position from that of street sweeper is given to those who differ from us in religion. Listen to this: in the Corporation of Belfast the figures are as follows—and these figures are from the council's own minutes: There are 437 salaried officials in the employment of the council. The total of their salaries is £68,723. There are nine Catholic officials, and out of the total of £68,723 they get £768. There are twenty-five medical officers on the corporation salaried list. Not one of them is a Catholic. I pass from the corporation to the Harbour Board. I see smiling in the corner the hon. Gentleman the Member for North Belfast (Mr. Thompson), who is chairman of the Harbour Board. Perhaps he will tell the House what he thinks of this as a manifestation of tolerance? The Harbour Commissioners beats everybody else in Belfast in the way they do their business. The Commission practically does not give a single position to a Catholic.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
Well, the hon. Gentleman can tell us what is true when he gets up. I must say that I have been rather shocked that there has not been a Belfast Member who has spoken yet. It is rather a curious thing that if we are to have revolution and civil war, if we are to climb the barricades, if it is all to be done in Belfast, why we do not hear some voice from that famous city. I put it to the hon. Member for North Belfast when he rises to tell us precisely what is the manifestation of toleration which his Board shows as an example to the whole country and to the darkened denizens of Connaught! Perhaps he will show us an example by the records 104 and statistics that he will produce to the House. Will he admit this: that there is not a single Catholic on the Harbour Board of Belfast? That there is not the slightest chance or possibility of a Catholic becoming a member? It is not the fault of the people of Belfast, because the Board is elected on a narrow franchise, based on the hierarchy of the organisers of the battle—in which they will not engage—when revolution takes place.
Take the Belfast Board of Guardians. The total salaries in 1911 paid by that board were £16,790, and the salaries paid to Catholics amounted to £680. Out of the £680 £447 was given to Catholics according to law, namely, to the two Chaplains, to the Catholic schoolmaster and the Catholic schoolmistress. Thus the net amount of the Protestant board of guardians' generosity to Catholics was £223. out of £16,790. I need not say that perhaps the greatest scandal of all is to be found in the fact that twelve dispensary officers appointed by that board received, in 1911, £3,473, and not one of them is a Catholic. An attempt was made recently to endeavour to get a decent place of worship for Catholic paupers. This board of guardians ruthlessly refused to allow a building to be erected. At the very same time the Catholic guardians in the South Dublin Union were compelling the Local Government Board to give a pension to a Protestant minister, although the Local Government Board surcharged the guardians. I need hardly say that to me discussion of these questions is most repellant. I do not like the discussion of religion in this House or on the platform. We have had a great deal of religion during this controversy. I wonder if the hon. Gentleman the Member for North Belfast ever heard this: it is not so long ago since a distinguished Protestant ecclesiastic in Belfast said to the engineers and architects of this potential revolution:—It would be better for you if you prayed less and paid more.I am here to support this Bill because I am not only an Ulsterman but I am an Irishman. That is a position, which, if it is not understood by others, is understood by me. Ulster stands with Ireland practically in this demand. In the opening speech of the Prime Minister the right hon. Gentleman pointed out to the House that three-fourths of the representatives of Ireland invariably had been sent to this House to demand Home Rule for Ireland. He then proceeded to quote the number 105 of Ulster Members who are also sent to this House to make a similar demand. The Prime Minister did not tell the whole story. The great bulk of the Ulster Unionists seats in this House are held by narrow majorities. If to-morrow there was a General Election they would lose South Derry and Derry City. If you abolished plural voting they would perhaps lose one or two more. As a matter of fact, there never was a question backed up by so irresistible or united a national demand as this question of Home Rule for Ireland. I heard the hon. and learned Gentleman say: "Oh, perpetuate the Union, and you remove all the evils." One of the evils you have not removed is that the intensity for Home Rule is greater to-day than it has been in any time since the Act of Union! He said the Union will remove all—will obliterate old feuds!—though that is not exactly what he said, unless he said it in his peroration. Why have you not done all this in the last hundred years? A hundred years is a long period of travail for a policy for Ireland. During that one hundred years you did not bring peace to Ireland; you did not bring contentment to her people; you did not create a spirit of loyalty to the Empire. You absolutely destroyed every vestige of material power and strength and intellectual greatness in the land. Then the hon. Gentleman comes and says: "Give us another hundred years." That is an hon. Gentleman who objects to the modern eye. The last speech of the late Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman was on an historic occasion in Stirling. He laid down this unanswerable democratic dictum:—Good government is no substitute for self-government.Is there anyone can deny that? Would even a Tory in this House rather be governed by German Tariff Reformers than by Liberal Free Traders of their own country? The hon. Baronet above the Gangway (Sir J. Lonsdale) is a great Imperialist. Will he answer that question? No, Sir, not even the most hardened Tory will attempt to deny or question the doctrine of the late Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman "that good government is no substitute for self-government." We take up the position, not that we are making this demand for self-government as a substitute for good government; we are asking for self-government as a substitute for bad government. You have not attempted to defend the Union, as you cannot deny it has been a failure. It has been so indefensible that even Unionist historians who 106 are impartial blushed for shame when they wrote the record of its work. I impeach it because it is failure. I want a change, for Ireland first and for the Empire afterwards. I will venture, if I do not make too large demand on the patience of the House, to tell hon. Members what the record of the Union has been. Take emigration. Four and a half millions of the Irish people have emigrated since 1851. The age of the emigrants has averaged between fifteen and thirty-five. The youth of Ireland, the young blood of Ireland, all that is virile and hopeful in Ireland, has been drained away to America, to that great Republic beyond the seas, which saw in this Celtic youth and Celtic spirit from the old land magnificent material for the building up of the greatness and the power of that Republic; and when Irish men and women were hunted from Ireland they flung wide their gates to those hunted beings and took them to their bosom, and Irish genius and character and power have been the foundations upon which much of American greatness has been built. I wonder, when discussing these questions in this House and elsewhere, do you ever remember that the biggest proportion of the emigration is from Ulster—that the largest of it comes from Antrim, the most Unionist of all the Ulster counties, and that these Ulster counties send forth more emigrants, not only to America, but to New Zealand and Australia than any other. Take the question of population. The population of Ireland in 1842 was over 8,000,000. To-day the population is 4,250,000. During the same period England and Wales increased from 16,000,000 to 36,000,000, and Scotland from 2,500,000 to nearly 5,000,000. I have always understood one thing in this Irish question, and it is this, that when we were battling for the defence of the hearths and homes of our people in rural Ireland, when we were fighting in the land agitation, when we were engaged in that semi-revolutionary conflict which has now largely, owing to the sacrifice of Irish Members, and subsequently to the terrorism which the movement created in this House, it was not so much a battle for liberty as a battle to prevent the extinction of our people, because if you reduce the population from 8,000,000 to 4,250,000 in a certain number of years, and if the exodus continues at the rate of 40,000 a year with the best of our race flying to foreign lands, how long will it be until the Irish race is completely wiped off the race of the earth. We are 107 fighting for Fatherland as well as for liberty. I may be told there were too many people in Ireland, and that the country was not able to support them, but what has happened to those who remained behind. Take the case of pauperism. In Scotland the figures fell from 41,068 to 23,000 in 1910. In a similar period the proportion fell in England by one-half. In Ireland the proportion of paupers doubled, and in 1910 one person in every forty-four was subsisting on outdoor relief.
Let us now take the question of wages. The weekly wages of agricultural labourers in Scotland is 19s. 7d., in England 18s. 4d., in Ireland 11s. 3d. You will come by and by to see that this is less a religious question than an economic question. Under the Union you get agricultural labourers to work not for 11s. 3d., because that covers the labourers in the towns and cities as well, but you will find that they work for 8s. a week, and naturally the upholders of the Union want to bolster up and maintain a system which will enable them to extract labour from the agricultural labourers engaged in the most toilsome of all pursuits, from sunrise until sunset at 8s. a week. Until we succeeded in carrying the Labourers Act, which gave to the agricultural labourers those bright little cottages which now adorn the landscape their condition was well described, I think it was by General Gordon, who said that he had seen the Hottentots in their cabins, the East Africans in their kraals, but he had never seen circumstances to equal those under which the Irish labourers lived. They have now their labourers' cottages with little plots of land, and if you want to get an example of what self-government will do, you will find the story of it in every labourer's cottage, in the sobriety of the father, in the contentment of the mothers, in the laughter dancing on the faces of little children, and in the larger spread of industry, in the broader outlook on life. It has transformed the whole face of rural Ireland, and just as every one of those measures has made for greater contentment and prosperity, they have shown the people that if so much has been done for them, and their lives have been so transformed, so in the larger arena of national activity equal advantages will accrue to them through the greater responsibility that will be secured.
Take evictions in Ireland. According to the Parliamentary Returns, between 1849 and 1867 over half a million persons were 108 evicted, but these figures give no idea of the real numbers and horror of these sentences of death. It was no wonder that Lord John Russell said, in 1846:—All the world is crying shame upon us, but we are equally callous of our ignominy and the results of misgovernment.The very name of Irish landlords,wrote the "Times,"'stinks in the nostrils of Christendom,and yet every speech delivered from the Unionist's benches, and particularly by Ulster Tory Members, were delivered with the same passion in favour of the system, which the "Times" declared "stinks in the nostrils of Christendom." One million five hundred thousand of Irish people swept away by famine in 1847, far more, said John Bright, than ever fell by the sword in any war that England ever waged. That is the record of how Ireland fared. How did you fare? You had to suppress insurrections in blood! You had to pass Coercion Acts every year for a hundred years until you passed the perpetual Coercion Act of 1887. We hear a great deal about closure and the kangaroo, but business was congested, and you were so constantly occupied in passing Coercion Acts that Tariff Reform would never have a chance only that you passed the perpetual Coercion Act.
Let me come to the question of over-taxation. A Royal Commission was appointed in 1893, I think by Mr. Gladstone, and that Commission was almost entirely made up of British financial experts, and they declared that Ireland was paying £3,000,000 a year more than she was entitled to pay under the Act of Union. The over-taxation of Ireland since the Act of Union is reckoned by Lord MacDonald at £400,000,000, which he describes as more than an empire ransom. Since the Royal Commission reported, £3,000,000 more has been added to the over-taxation of Ireland. In Ireland 70 per cent. of the taxation is indirect and falls entirely upon the poor. In Great Britain only 50 per cent, of the taxation is indirect. Since 1894 the cost of Irish home government has increased from £1 4s. per head to £1 15s. Scotland spends less than one-fortieth of her national income upon home government. Ireland is supposed to spend one-tenth, and so on, if you go down the whole cost of government you will find that in every branch over-staffs of officials, appointments made to please family relations, English secretaries of British Ministers sent over to fill 109 the most responsible positions in the country.
Take education: in England there is an increase in the seven years ending 1910 of 43 per cent.; in Scotland, 51 per cent.; in Ireland, 1½ per cent. Take the Poor Law administration system forced upon Ireland against her will, costly, inefficient, absolutely unsuited for the country. There is not a single board or branch of administration that does not stink in every man's nostrils. And do you mean to tell me if you defeat this Home Rule Bill that we are content to allow this system to prevail. In 1886 and in 1893, as I understand it, your argument against Home Rule was, first, that it would mean separation; secondly, that we were unfit to govern ourselves; and, thirdly, that Home Rule would mean Rome Rule. You have dropped the separation argument. No one ever puts that argument forward now, not even the primitive mind. I do not think there is anyone who will argue in the light of the part Ireland has taken in the world in the last twenty-five years that we are unfitted to manage our own affairs. I think it will be admitted that the most inefficient of us are as efficient as hon. Members above the Gangway. That argument is not advanced. The only argument that is advanced, the only prejudice to which you still cling, is the prejudice with regard to Ulster. I frankly say to the House that I am not at all impressed by the manner in which this Ulster question has been approached upon either side of the House. In the first place, if you impeach a race as being potential persecutors, you have a right to vindicate your claim by giving some instances. I repeat in this House a challenge I have made upon every platform in England, that instead of making abstract charges which cannot be met you should come forward and give us some instances, give us even one instance even of where you can show that the Protestants have been persecuted in Ireland for conscience sake in the memory of any living man. It cannot be done. The answer to it is to be found in the successful Protestant merchants in Cork, in Limerick, in Waterford, in all the Southern and Western towns, where you find them wealthy men, successful shopkeepers, brimful of prosperity because of Catholic money being spent in their establishments. They are living answers to these charges, and I decline altogether to sit down under these imputations and to say, "What shall we do about Ulster? How can we conceive a plan to satisfy her?" 110 You have safeguards in the Bill; they are not satisfied with them. The one real and vital question is, if these safeguards are not satisfactory, what safeguards do you want? It is for you to tell us. I do not mind saying I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) when he said he does not believe in safeguards. Neither have I any belief in them. I believe in the spirit of the people. A larger and a better safeguard is the safeguard of our record of unparalleled generosity to small and insignificant minorities. [Laughter.] Will the hon. Gentleman who laughs, when he gets up to speak, kindly quote for us, not from Belfast, where you have an overwhelming majority of Protestants, but from some of the Southern parts of Ireland a declaration of some Minister of religion, of some manufacturer, of some large shopkeeper, or someone who is capable of telling us something—will he quote a single protest from any of these men? Not a bit of it, because he cannot. The protest comes from Ulster, but there you have all the brains, all the courage, all the resources you possess, every virtue under the sun, and you have a majority, and yet you are afraid of the Catholics. Is this the valorous spirit which is to inspire the soldier? But are the people of Belfast opposed to Home Rule? I say they are not. It is a faked and artificial agitation. It is a campaign engineered by sweaters and by landlords.
We all know that during the land agitation the landlords could never stand upon a single platform and defend the system which the right hon. Gentleman the late Leader of the Opposition declares to be the worst system in the world. They could not defend that system, but they had to extract their rack rents. What did they do? They said, "Let us raise the religious cry. Let us go to Ulster and build up a party, and let us, when the pinch is coming, when we have to evict poor wretches and pitch them on the roadside—it cannot be justified— let us up to Ulster and curse the Pope." It was most important that the eyes of humanity should be taken away, and that the ears of the world should be closed to the cries of men and women treated worse than dogs under that system. And so the policy flourished. Landlordism was able to extract its rack rents, the game was played and landlordism disappeared, and then Ulster men started to think economically. This has had a very slow progress in England, but it has had a much slower progress in Ireland. They 111 began to think that they should not work for 8s. a week; they began to think that a penny per hour for twelve hours a day was not enough for sweated women. They began to think that after all the Pope may be able indirectly to enable landlords to extract their rents, but that did not keep starvation from the doors of those who lived in the slums of Belfast. And so you have raised the old forces of faction and religious dissension again. If that was a real movement why do not you trot out something worthy of it. Where is the trades council of Belfast, and where are the other labour bodies in Belfast, who feel for the people, and who are intensely and passionately devoted to their interests. We never hear of one of them. On the contrary, I am told that in the recent spectacular and picturesque performance which brought forty or fifty hon. Members over to Ireland, out of £100,000 raised by the sweaters and brewers and landlords, they gave every man a bowler hat. Lord Londonderry, even in the sacred cause of the Union, could not come within a mile of a peaked cap and a muffler. This is not only to be a revolution, but it is to be a respectable revolution, and everybody who engages in the colossal task of tearing down the barricades must be respectable and well dressed, and these Belfast people who are horrified at the prospect of Home Rule, are not saying a single word.
Imagine Belfast with all its greatness, all its industrial power, all its marvellous advance on every line of material activity, having to come for its leaders to Trinity College, Dublin. Working men go to the Law Courts in the Temple in London, and the Law Courts in Dublin, and ask Trinity College to send, not military men skilled in battle, but lawyers who precisely discharge the function which they are carrying out, namely, by carrying on a revolution with their mouths. May I ask the right hon. Gentlemen who represent Dublin University—neither of them is here, and the same thing will occur on the morning of the rising—They fled full soonIn the month of JuneAnd bade the rest keep fighting.I understand there is a firm in Belfast called Harland and Wolff, and the head of that firm is Lord Pirrie. Did he ask either of the two right hon. and learned Gentlemen from Trinity College and the lawyers at home and abroad to go to Belfast and 112 garrison Queen's Island to save it from the destruction which would inevitably come if Home Rule is passed? Has Lord Pirrie a greater interest in the welfare of Belfast and its industrial progress than the two lawyers both of whom have shown their love for Ireland by leaving it, and who rarely ever mention that sacred name unless to desecrate everything that is dear to the hearts and passions of the people. Lord Pirrie has trust in Home Rule and his own people, and he believes industry will be safer, and that enterprise will be developed by freedom and the loyalty which follows freedom. Mr. Glendenning, one of the leading linen merchants of Belfast—if you take the other branch of industrial activity—is also a bold, resolute, and eloquent defender of the proposals of the Government. Why is it that everybody who has nothing wants to defend everybody who has something? Are the workers going to leave their case in the hands of these hon. and right hon. Gentlemen? Did the senior Member for Trinity College, the inspiring leader of the revolution, tell the people in Belfast that he voted against the Old Age Pensions Act? The Prime Minister may be a traitor to the Tories who sit on those benches, but at least he brought cheer and happiness and brightness and hope into the homes of thousands of Orange workers in the City of Belfast. No, they did not tell this story, but it will be known.
Go back to the record of the last twenty-five years, and you will find that when any measure of reform for bettering the lives and conditions of the toilers in Belfast—because their interests were touched by every great reform you introduced—these hon. Gentlemen, who say they will fight for Ireland and for Ulster, were the first into the Opposition Lobby and the last out of it. When even the most reactionary Tory on these benches blushingly sneaked out of the House and would not vote for legislation for the toilers and the workers, the hon. Members for Antrim and Down walked into the Lobby against those proposals, and were prepared to stifle and destroy every measure you proposed, not under the Home Rule Bill, but under the Union. The whole thing is a fraud and a farce engineered by landlords who have not altogether torn themselves from their past traditions; by sweaters who pay women wages that would make humanity blush, even in countries where economic questions do not even arise; by clergymen whose record is that if you go 113 into their churches they are absolutely empty. Fully 85 or 90 per cent, of the Protestants of Belfast never go to church, for, after all, in spiritual ministrations it is not much satisfaction to always hear on a Sunday morning nothing but denunciations of the Pope and Papists. My belief about this is that they do not so much dislike the Pope and Papists as they do the Pope's Encyclical on Labour. Leo XIII. once said:—No man ought to be allowed to exist without a living wage.They never forgave the Pope from that day to this. Then I was really astonished when I heard the Leader of the Opposition the other day deliver a beautiful character sketch on the ennobling qualities of the Members for North-East Ulster. He said:—Are you going to desert this phalanx of incorruptibles.Who are the incorruptibles? I think eight out of the seventeen of them have occupied paid offices under the Government during the last twenty years. I do not object to it, but I object to them calling us "sordid." I have no objection to them getting all they can out of England—I do not think they mind where they get it as long as they get it—and if they get it at all I prefer that they should get it from England than from Ireland. They have occupied positions in the Government, and they know that their existence and progress depend on a continuance of a Tory Government in this country. The Union, as far as I understand it—and I do not understand it very well, nor does anyone else—is that you should govern Ireland by laws equal to those in this country, and they say your Government is a fraud. I forget what the Chief Secretary was called, but I think he was called a "bookworm" and a "literary scribbler," and the Lord Lieutenant was called "a person who could not make up his own mind." That was not meant. What is meant is that you do not make up your own mind unless you violently thump the table. If you thump the table with sufficient violence then you are "a man of a masterful disposition." The Under-Secretary was called, I understand, the "Professor." You cannot have it both ways. Now, do you want us to be satisfied with a Government carried on by a scribbler, by a Lord Lieutenant who cannot make up his own mind, and by a professor? I do not understand why there should be such violent attacks upon a professor, because nearly all the good 114 speakers on the Tory benches are professors. If that is the character of your Government and these the results, do you expect us to allow you to continue to perpetuate it? I think it would be better if you took up one argument and stuck to it, and if you said, "We are the English garrison in Ireland; we are not in Ireland for England's sake, but for our own. We defend the Union because the Union has done well for us." I hope that every Irish Member will die in an Irish workhouse before he ever earns honour, emoluments, place, or power by turning his back upon his own country.
We claim no special virtues; we have just come here, as the rude weapons that our country had to offer, to forge her way to reform and liberty. We have seen vast changes brought about by beneficent legislation, but the forerunner of all those changes was torture and coercion. It is only twenty years since a great statesman in this country raised the lofty banner of peace and conciliation between these two great lands, and he consecrated the closing years of a golden life to the task of creating a real union between Ireland and England. He told the British people that there was no alternative to the policy of Home Rule. Lord Salisbury declared that there was an alternative, twenty years of resolute government in Ireland, and the English people accepted Lord Salisbury's alternative. They said, "Let us try twenty years of resolute government." Twenty years have come, aye, and twenty-five years. You have imprisoned Irish Members for preaching doctrines which were subsequently incorporated in Statutes. You have broken up public meetings called to fulfil public obligations. You have muzzled the Press, and you have suspended all the forms of constitutional liberty. Twenty-five, and not twenty, years have come and gone, and here we are with this question just as vital, just as living, more impressive, with a larger prospect of success, and surely you do not intend either to go on and march this weary way, and to continue this old policy with this constant recurrence of friction and racial hate and religious passion. I venture to say, instead of thinking that you will develop feelings and feuds in Ireland, you will wipe them out in five years. Bring Catholic and Protestant in Ireland under the blessed ægis of a national government, fix upon him the responsible duties of a citizen to build up the industry 115 and promote the comfort and joy of his fellow citizens, and see how splendid will be the spectacle and how magical will be the transformation. The only way in which you can ever adjust great and even small questions is to bring men into closer contact. They will get to understand one another. I know what it is myself. I remember when I sat the worst-hated amongst all the Catholics by the Protestants of Belfast, but I can now name countless friends amongst Protestants, and, indeed, I hold my seat in this House to them. They have seen that after all the comfort of a race and the condition of a people is not a matter of religion at all. It is the true civic and national spirit that inspires successful operations of that kind. And so I say the name of Gladstone has gone down honoured by the whole Irish race, and, indeed, by the whole world, for the magnificent sacrifice he made and for the glorious precedent he created in the conduct of the affairs of these two lands. And so the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Asquith), under less picturesque circumstances, but under far more hopeful auspices—his name will live honoured and cherished in the memory of all those who see in him the great instrument under Providence that will unite England and Ireland together for all time.
§ Mr. MITCHELL-THOMSON
I should like to say something about the Bill, but I must first of all say something about the speech which has just been delivered. The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down began his speech by an attack upon the municipal government of Belfast, and he finished his speech by an attack upon the representative character of Ulster Unionist Members. With regard to the remarks which the hon. Gentleman made about the government of Belfast, I have only this to say.
§ Mr. MITCHELL-THOMSON
The hon. Gentleman, as I understood him, accused the government of Belfast of gross improvidence, and, if that is not an attack upon an honest corporation, I do not know what it is. The hon. Gentleman has grossly attacked the Corporation of Belfast, as will be shown by those who are better informed to speak about the municipal affairs of Belfast than I am if they are fortunate enough to catch your eye, 116 Sir, in debate. The hon. Gentleman has grossly misstated both the figures and the facts. Let me give one single instance in which I say he has grossly, though I do not say wilfully, misled the House. He led the House to believe that all the wages paid by the Corporation of Belfast to Catholic-employés—
§ Mr. MITCHELL-THOMSON
Look at the way the hon. Gentleman comes down to the House. He tries to make out there are no Roman Catholics employed by the Corporation of Belfast.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
I beg the hon. Gentleman's pardon. What I stated was that you allowed the street sweepers to be Catholics.
§ Mr. MITCHELL-THOMSON
The hon. Gentleman said that only £768 was paid in wages by the Corporation of Belfast to Roman Catholics.
§ Mr. MITCHELL-THOMSON
I assert that in salaries and wages nearer £30,000, indeed between £30,000 and £40,000, is paid to Roman Catholic employés in Belfast. Then the hon. Gentleman said, "The-Ulster Unionist Members are not representative." I am sorry we fail to come up to the test he would apply, but we satisfy our constituents, and we satisfy our constituents by increasing majorities. If he thinks Ulster Unionist Members are not representative, let him come and contest one of our seats.
§ Mr. MITCHELL-THOMSON
I will resign my seat if you will fight me in North Down. The hon. Gentleman referred to past controversies, but said he did not remember the Debates of 1886 and 1893. In common with him and with the Attorney-General, I can only speak of those Debates by recollection of the written and not of the spoken words, but I have honestly tried to master the arguments which were addressed to the House in support of those Bills, and I say it is a most remarkable and noteworthy thing that the argument which bulk largest in those days—the economic argument, the argument drawn from the poverty and distress of Ireland, and for the necessity of Home Rule as being the only solution of 117 that state of things—has been completely and absolutely abandoned on the present occasion. Instead of that, the Attorney-General has invented a new argument, which appears to me to be extraordinary coming from a Law Officer of the Crown. He says that the revival of intimidation and outrage in Ireland is the strongest argument for Home Rule. I confess I am amazed to hear an argument of that character being used by a Law Officer of the Crown, whose business it is to advise His Majesty's Government as to the preservation of peace, order, and good government. In the meantime, may I try to deal as fairly as I can with the case so far as it has been made for this Bill. We have had three main arguments presented to the House in favour of the Bill. There is what I may call the argument from experience, the argument from the colonial analogy. There is the argument that this Bill is necessary as being the first step towards Imperial federation. And there is the argument that this Bill is necessary as being the final solution of the Irish problem.
With regard to the first of these arguments, the suggestion that the argument of experience from colonial analogy leads us to the inevitable conclusion that this Bill is necessary, I desire to refer for a moment to the Transvaal. I notice an increasing shyness among Members as this Debate proceeds with regard to this comparison with the Transvaal. The Prime Minister began by telling us that the case of the Transvaal and the case of Ireland was strictly analogous, but that has gradually been watered down until we arrive at the position taken up by the Foreign Secretary, who said that they are not the exact parallel, and I noticed to-day in the speech by the Attorney-General we heard remarkably little about the Transvaal at all. It is not to be wondered at that reflection has modified Ministerial zeal for that argument. What was the first use the Transvaal made of the free institution you gave her. The first use the Transvaal made of it was to surrender its local autonomy, and to enter the South African Union. Not only is that the case but so anxious, so zealous, and so determined was the Transvaal Government that at all costs they would enter into this Union that they brought by far the greater bulk, the lion's share, almost the whole share, of the financial contribution into the new Exchequer of the Union Government of South Africa. This Transvaal argument is most remark- 118 ably inconsequential and illogical. Stated in terms it comes to this: The Transvaal is now contented and is now happy because it is an integral part of United South Africa. That is the premise of the argument, and then follows this extraordinary-conclusion. Therefore, Ireland will never be contented and will never be happy until it ceases to have full representation as an integral part of the United Kingdom. Really, I think the logic of that is amazing.
The case does not stop there. Really, there may be an argument of experience to be drawn from the Transvaal. Yes, but you have got to look for it not after Vereeniging, but after Majuba. If hon. Members will read the speeches at the time of Majuba, they will find in them the same talk about conciliation, about cutting the loss, about effective safeguards, and about, effective British supremacy. There may be an argument of experience to be learnt from the Transvaal, but the conclusion of that argument is not the conclusion drawn by hon. Members opposite. What about the second argument, the suggestion that this Bill is necessary as being the first step, a real step and a permanent step, on the golden stair of Imperial Federation? I really think that a great many hon. Gentlemen who use language of this kind and who hold these ideas, have some confusion of idea both as to the object and the meaning of Imperial Federation. If we are to have an Imperial Parliament with Imperial representatives engaged in considering Imperial concerns, the first step towards setting up such a Parliament is to draw a distinction and is to draw your line of demarcation, not between English, Scotch, Welsh, and Irish affairs, but between the affairs of the United Kingdom in particular and the affairs of the Empire in general. But even from the point of view of this narrower Little British Federation, which I confess I think would be a hindrance and not a help to Imperial Federation, your Bill satisfies none of the necessary tests. What are the real tests and what are the real essentials of any federal scheme? Every federation known to history at the present moment, or that has ever been known to history, has a common fiscal system. It has a system of common contributions by the subordinate members towards the central Government. It has a central Government giving equal financial powers to each of the different subordinate members, and, in the vast majority of 119 cases, if not of all, it has a common Post Office system. Not a single one of these essentials, not a single one of these cardinal principles is to be found in your Bill. On the contrary, the whole Bill is so drawn as to preclude altogether any of these four points, which are the essentials of every system of federation which is working at the present time or which has been working anywhere in the world.
What about the Bill from the point of view of finality of the Irish question? I am sorry the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Waterford (Mr. John Redmond) is not here, but, if I understood him aright on the First Reading, he announced his intention of accepting this Bill as a full and final settlement from the point of view of the Nationalist party. The hon. and learned Gentleman has a somewhat difficult task to perform. He has to satisfy on the one hand the British Electorate. He has to persuade them that this is really the last word with regard to the Irish question—in principle, at least, if not in detail. He has, on the other hand, to satisfy his Irish friends and colleagues, and still more to satisfy his American friends, that in accepting this Bill as a final settlement he is not receding from the position which Mr. Parnell took up. The hon. and learned Gentleman is, of course, a greater authority than I on the opinions of Mr. Parnell, but I always understood that if there was one thing which Mr. Parnell repudiated with contempt more than anything else it was the suggestion that, in regard to the Government of Ireland, and in regard to Irish national affairs, you could have any finality whatever. What are the words which the leaders of the Nationalist party themselves have engraved on the Parnell monument?No man has a right to set a limit to the march of nations and to say 'thus fur and no further.'Hon. Members cheer that, but what becomes of the argument that this Bill is a final settlement? The two things are contradictory. Then the hon. and learned Gentleman said, as I think somewhat sneeringly and disparagingly, that the separatists in Ireland are, after all, but a very small section—that those who desire a policy of separation and are working for Irish national independence are a small section, and he dissociated himself from them. But only four years ago the hon. and learned Gentleman was speaking in Dublin—it was on 1st September, 1908— 120 and what did he then say about the separatists?If there are men who are more extreme than we (the Irish Parliamentary party) are, my prayer for them is—What? Not that they may learn the virtues of submission, not that they may learn that this Bill is a full satisfaction of Irish demands, not that they may learn to give up the ideals of a national independent Ireland. No!—My prayer for them is, success in all their ideals and success to all their hopes.When the hon. and learned Gentleman says that only a small section in Ireland are advocating separation at the present moment, I should like to tell the House some of the things that are being said there. I have here an extract from a speech by a responsible Nationalist Member of a county council, Mr. Henry McGrath, who, speaking on 12th April, 1912, immediately after the introduction of the Bill, said:—Irish patriots will never be satisfied with the Home Rule Bill as presented.
§ Mr. MITCHELL-THOMSON
But he had read the speech of the Prime Minister. He went on to say:—Nothing short of total separation would meet their aspirations, but they would accept this measure as an instalment of the promise of fuller and freer favours to come.That is the Bill which you tell us is going to provide a final settlement of the Irish question. Now I should like to say a word or two about the finance of the measure. The finance is not only antagonistic to any possible scheme of federation which has ever been heard of in the world's history, but it is antagonistic to the strongest possible declarations of the Prime Minister himself. In 1893 the Prime Minister was repeatedly responsible for the declaration that if there were one principle more than another which was an essential and cardinal principle in a Home Rule Bill it would be that Ireland must pay a fair contribution towards the expenses of the British Exchequer. Not only is your financial scheme antagonistic to federation and to declared opinions of the Prime Minister, but it is absolutely, from top to bottom, antagonistic to the whole report of your own secret Committee of experts. May I contrast, for a moment, for the benefit of those who invoke the federal idea in order to support this Bill, the contributions from Ireland with those from some 121 of the other federal unions, either established or to be established? Ireland, with a population of 4,381,000, contributes nothing. Australia, with a population of 4,400,000, contributes £3,000,000. Wales, with a population half that of Ireland, namely, 2,207,000, contributes £2,000,000 a year, and Scotland, with a population of 4,750,000, contributes £9,250,000. More than that, under the Bill introduced by hon. Gentlemen, who are strong Scotch Home Rulers in this House, that contribution towards Imperial expenditure is stereotyped by Clause 19 of the Bill.
§ Mr. MITCHELL-THOMSON
And I think the average will be found to work out at from nine to nine and a quarter millions sterling. At any rate, it is to be a very considerable contribution, whereas Ireland, with a population not very much smaller, contributes nothing at present, and, under this Bill, is to continue to contribute nothing! As I have said, the financial policy of the Bill was condemned by the Government's own secret Committee. There is no point they are stronger in their condemnation of than the proposal which is the root of the whole financial scheme of this Bill—i.e., that one Treasury shall collect the money and that another shall spend it. There is no one who has more strongly condemned that policy than the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself, because, if hon. Members will look at the Debates which took place on the question of local rating in the course of the discussions on the Address at the beginning of this year, they will find the strongest possible condemnation by the Chancellor of the Exchequer of the scheme by which one Treasury is responsible for collection and another for spending. Not only did the Committee condemn that, but they put to scorn the Postmaster-General's calculations in defence of the course of expenditure. The right hon. Gentleman said that the expenditure on old age pensions was practically at its maximum. But the Committee, on page 25 of their Report, point out that, so far from its being at its maximum, it will increase in three years by more than £300,000—it will increase from £2,664,000 in 1910–11 to £3,000,000 in 1914. Yet that is the expenditure which the right hon. Gentleman said was practically at its maximum.
§ Mr. MITCHELL-THOMSON
Surely when the right hon. Gentleman makes a statement in this House he makes it on his responsibility as a Minister of the Crown. At any rate the Committee absolutely put to scorn that calculation by the right hon. Gentleman, and not only did they do that but they condemned the whole scheme of reserved services root and branch in advance. There seems to be a sort of illusion in some quarters of this House, on both sides, that when a reserved service is transferred and ceases to be a reserved service the British Government ceases to be responsible for the cost. I need hardly say that the very reverse is the case. Before a reserved service is transferred the British Exchequer both pays for, and to a certain extent, so far as it can, controls that service. When the service is transferred it pays for all time, or at least until the end of the reserved period. The British Exchequer goes on paying the cost of the reserved services at or about the time of transfer, and ceases to have any control over them whatever. Meanwhile, until that period arrives at which the reserved service is to be taken over, not only is there no inducement to the Irish Government to help in the administration and to secure due economy, but there is positively a strong inducement the other way, because the higher the cost of that service at the time of transfer—remember they are the people to determine the time of transfer, and not the British taxpayers—the more money the Irish Government will get at that time. Therefore, if the cost can only be run up to something like a maximum figure, they will afterwards be able, for all time, or so long as the settlement lasts, to have a sum of money to play with, or a surplus at their disposal, out of a Grant which always has to be made by the British Government. With regard to the Government's White-Paper, I only want to say that the right hon. Gentleman, in making his calculation as to the length of the deficit period, apparently ignored altogether the facts which are stated in the White Paper as to the probable increase, the automatic increase, in the cost of these reserved services. He never took into his calculations at all the fact that against the set-off which he did mention of £200,000 in regard to old age pensions in twenty years, there is on the other side of the account to be taken into consideration an increase of £450,000 in regard to land purchase, and an increase, which is set at a very conservative estimate indeed, of £300,000 for the 123 cost of national insurance; in other words, in fifteen or twenty years, when it will arrive at a maximum, the cost of these reserved services will have risen by £500,000.
§ Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
The hon. Member has forgotten that the amount of the surplus is reduced by £300,000.
§ Mr. MITCHELL-THOMSON
Not a bit. The right hon. Gentleman will be quite sure that he took both into account in his calculations.
On reflection, I do not think the right hon. Gentleman will find that a fair species of arithmetic.
§ Mr. MITCHELL-THOMSON
I do not wish to be drawn into a controversy with the right hon. Gentleman in regard to the matter. That is only what occurred to me on reading his speech and the Treasury White Paper. I want to say one word about the position of the Irish Chancellor of the Exchequer and the British Chancellor of the Exchequer under this scheme. The Prime Minister has counted it to himself for great financial righteousness that this year's Budget has been introduced at or about the proper time. I may say, in parenthesis, that I do not think the Government seem to be in a very great hurry to go on with this year's Budget. I wonder if the Government have ever reflected that the first result of their financial proposals in this Bill is going to be to put a permanent premium on delay in each financial year of the introduction of the Budget, both here and in Ireland. I will tell the right hon. Gentleman and the House why. Take a year where there is a surplus, and where there is a question of the remission of taxation. Under Clause 17 of this Bill, if the Irish Government remit an Imperial tax, the transferred sum is reduced by the amount of the cost of the reduction or abolition of the tax, that is to say, when the Irish Exchequer remits they are to get a reduction of that amount in the transferred sum. If the Imperial Government take off an Imperial tax, the transferred sum is unaffected. Apply that to a practical case. Supposing the Irish Chancellor of the Exchequer 124 in any particular year says he will take off the Tea Duty. If he does that, the transferred sum of that year is reduced by the amount of the cost—putting it roughly, about £500,000. On the other hand, if the Irish Chancellor of the Exchequer waits a few weeks until after the British Budget is brought in, and the Imperial Chancellor of the Exchequer takes off the Tea Duty, the Irish taxpayers get all the relief from the removal of the duty, the transferred sum remains unaffected, and the Irish Chancellor of the Exchequer still has his £500,000 a year.
The Clause as it stands puts a permanent premium on delay in the introduction of Budgets. It is to the interest of both the Irish and the Imperial Chancellors of the Exchequer to be last and not first in any year. Does that make for sound finance and early budgeting? I might comment on the powers of taxation which are given to the Irish Parliament under this Bill. I question whether the House has yet realised how great are the powers of taxation, both by way of ordinary taxes and by way of Excise, with which it is proposed to endow the Irish Parliament. Those powers are great, and may be vindictively used. I would ask the House to notice the spirit of the speeches which are being made in Ireland about the powers of taxation and the use of those powers. Here is a speech delivered by an organiser of the League of the hon. Member for West Belfast (Mr. Devlin)—the United Irish League—at a meeting held in county Roscommon, and here is what this organiser has to say as to what the Irish Government is going to do, and how fairly it is going to use the powers of taxation entrusted to it. According to a report in the "Roscommon Messenger," of 20th April, 1912,Mr. Fallon said that the coming Trish Parliament could get rid of the graziers ….Graziers is the term applied to the gentlemen whose cattle are being driven off at the present time—They would have the power of putting as big taxes as they liked on every ranch in the country, and then some of their friends would feel the shoe pinching, for if they did not give up the lands, they would give money instead in the shape of taxes. It was more than one hundred to one that the Irish Parliament would put heavy taxes on every ranch in Ireland.That is the sort of thing which is being said at the present moment, not in this House, where it is all honey and butter from the Irish Benches, but in Ireland, at meetings of the United Irish League, where the tone is somewhat different. All these powers are given, but I question 125 whether even these powers would have satisfied Mr. Parnell. The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down referred to the power of Protection. Mr. Parnell was always zealous that among the other powers entrusted to the Irish Parliament at least the power of imposing protective taxation ought to be given. Here is one instance. Speaking at Wicklow, in 1885, just before the introduction of the Bill, he said:—I claim this for Ireland: that if the Irish Parliament of the future considers that there are certain industries which can be benefited and nursed by Protection …. that Parliament ought to have the power to carry out that policy.That was in the days of Free Trade upon both sides of this House, when to advocate a policy of Protection was a much stronger measure than it is in these latter days. I doubt whether even these wide powers of taxation would have completely satisfied Mr. Parnell. I want to say one word in reply to what the Attorney-General said in regard to safeguards. He spoke of the safeguards which are introduced in this Bill. What are the safeguards, as he named them? There is the religious bar in Clause 3, the nominated Senate, the power of the Imperial Parliament to legislate for Ireland, and what he called the over-riding supremacy of the British Parliament. There is the veto of the Lord Lieutenant to be given on the advice of a British Ministry, and there is the appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. Of the religious bar I will only say that I think hon. Gentlemen opposite who have experience of the working of the University Bill might well regard language of this character as being a somewhat doubtful safeguard at the best against the introduction of such methods as have been introduced in the administration of the University Bill. With regard to the nominated Senate considered as a protection for the rights of the minority, a Senate nominated in the first place by a Government frankly dependent on the votes of the Nationalist party, and, in the second place, by a Nationalist majority in Ireland themselves—to say that is a safeguard for the rights of the minority in Ireland is purely derisory.
There remains, and, of course, there always will remain, the power of the Imperial Parliament to legislate for Ireland—the over-riding supremacy of this Parliament. This is inalienable. You cannot divest yourselves of that even if you would. If you could, no doubt hon. Gentlemen from the Nationalist party would ask this House to divest itself of it. It always remains in theory, but unless you control 126 the Executive in the country, or unless you have the Executive with you, it does not exist in practice. Everyone knows that is true. It was the very attempt to enforce this over-riding supremacy against the wishes of an Executive that cost us our Colonies in America. The very attempt to enforce this over-riding supremacy in the life of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman's Government brought about the greatest possible crisis in the Colony of Natal, because in the beginning of 1906 the Natal Ministry, differing from the Home Government upon a question of native administration, and this Government, trying to enforce its over-riding supremacy, the Natal Ministry threatened to resign in a body, and the Imperial Government had to give way. This supremacy may exist in theory, but it does not exist in practice. You cannot put it into force. The Attorney-General says that this supremacy is freely and willingly and loyally assented to by the Nationalist party. I ask the House to judge how far it is freely, willingly, and loyally assented to. If anyone wants a definition of Irish nationality let him look at the Debate which took place on 8th August, 1892, immediately after Mr. Gladstone's Government had been returned to power. The hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. John Redmond) then made a speech laying down his position in perfectly clear, lucid, and unambiguous terms. Here is what he said on this question of the over-riding supremacy of the British Parliament.I want to make it perfectly clear to the House, to the right hon. Gentleman (that is Mr. Gladstone), to the Liberal party, and to everybody concerned, what is the very least that Irishmen will accept as a final settlement of their national claims. Last Session I quoted from a declaration on this question on 25th January, 1891, by the late Mr. Parnell. He said. 'There can be no mistake about it, we want a Parliament with full power to manage the affairs of Ireland and with no English veto, whether on the appointment of your leader or the laws you shall make. A veto of that kind would break down and destroy your Parliament before it had been two years in existence. There must be no veto other than the Constitutional veto of the Crown as it is exercised by the Crown in the Imperial Parliament.' I assert that no Nationalist in Ireland or in this House or elsewhere will venture to say that the Irish National claims will be satisfied by a scheme one whit less extreme than that which is shadowed forth in the quotation I have read. What we ask is that in this Home Rule scheme there should be a specific undertaking—a Clause specifically undertaking that while the Irish Parliament continue in existence the powers of the Imperial Parliament to legislate for Ireland should never be used.That is the free and willing assent to the over-riding Imperial supremacy. I should like to ask does the hon. and learned Gentleman still ask that which he asked in 1892, holding the position which Mr. Parnell occupied, and following Mr. Parnell's footsteps. Then the veto of the 127 Lord Lieutenant is to be given on the advice of the British Executive. I do not know whether the Government think that is likely to make for the avoidance of friction between Great Britain and Ireland, but if they do—and this sort of thing, which is again freely and willingly assented to by hon. Gentlemen who say at least they stand where Mr. Parnell stood—I will ask them to hear what the hon. and learned Gentleman had to say about this question of the veto in the same speech. He said:—I must also refer to the question of the veto. Mr. Parnell demanded that the veto of the Crown should be exercised as it is exercised in Imperial affairs. That is, that the veto of the Crown should be exercised in accordance with the usage of the Constitution, which prescribes that it should only be used in accordance with the advice of the Ministers of the day. What we mean is that the veto shall be used under the advice of the Irish Ministers of the day. During the discussion immediately before the election Mr. Oscar Browning, who, I suppose, speaks with some authority on this constitutional question, repeatedly said that the only veto that the Liberal party or that he would agree to would be the veto to be exercised in Irish affairs of the Viceroy on the advice of the English Ministers of the Crown. That would make the Home Rule Bill a sham and a farce.Does the hon. and learned Gentleman still think, holding the position which Mr. Parnell then occupied, that the veto of the Lord Lieutenant, on the advice of the British Minister, would make the Home Rule Bill a sham and a farce? There remains among the safeguards the appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. The Attorney-General painted that in the most glowing terms. I ask any Member of the House to consider, with an unprejudiced mind, what does it really amount to in practice. A small trader in Limerick is boycotted; a small farmer in Tipperary has his cattle driven; a school-teacher is dismissed in Ballymena, and you tell these people, "though the Irish Government deny you justice, though you cannot procure justice in Ireland; go to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council and get justice. It would only cost you £1,000 or £2,000, and while you are prosecuting your appeal, your life in Ireland will be a bed of roses; and when you win your appeal and go back with the verdict of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in your pocket, I suppose the hon. and learned Gentleman, Mr. Devlin, and the United Irish League will meet you at the station with a band and hail you as the vindicator of British supremacy." Safeguards of that kind deceive only those who, for party purposes, are prepared to allow themselves to be deceived, and they deceive no one else. I claim that I have 128 shown that the principles of the Bill cannot be made to square with any possible scheme of federation. I am persuaded, and I have done my best to tell hon. Gentlemen why I am persuaded, that it is not a final settlement, and it cannot be a final settlement of the Irish Nationalist demands. It is neither the alpha of Imperial federation nor the omega of the Irish question. We are taunted with taking an inconsistent view of this question. We are taunted with the statement, "Sometimes you say the powers are too large, and sometimes you say they are too small." We answer that in a word, "Yes, too large for safety, but too small for finality."
So far as Ulster is concerned our position has been stated repeatedly with the most emphatic clearness. The Prime Minister, the Attorney-General, the First Lord of the Admiralty, and some other speakers on the Government Bench, have all said the same thing practically, namely, that Ulster cannot be allowed to stand in the way. I ask, and I am entitled to ask, "What do you mean by that?" It is a commonplace of any constitutional history that government rests ultimately upon the consent of the governed. You may get that consent, either given to you willingly, or you may get it by extorting it from them by force. Let me give an instance of where it is given willingly. Take the case of America. When a new State agrees to enter the circle of the States under the American Union, it is given willingly. But it is extorted by force as when the federal Government imposed their system of government on an unwilling confederacy. Nobody believes that the people of Ulster are prepared to accept the proposals of this Bill, or to be governed by the Nationalist party willingly. Are you going to impose it upon them by force? If you are, you ought to say so. You ought to tell the people of this country that you are prepared to force upon Ulster proposals which have never been submitted either in principle or detail to the electors. Are hon. Gentlemen opposite prepared to go before a British audience as representing the Government or the Liberal party and to state that they are going to advocate the use of force in order to put these principles upon the people of Ulster? You dare not go before a British audience and state that you are prepared to deprive the people of Ulster of their, liberty, and property, and it may be, for all I know, their lives in order to prevent them from enjoying not exceptional privileges, not ascendancy, but 129 from enjoying the same laws and privileges which you yourselves enjoy here in Great Britain. If you did that, they would turn you from power, from the place you have dishonoured, and from the position you have abused. Our position in Ulster is perfectly clear. It was stated for us in terms nearly a century and a half ago by the people of the State of Virginia in the famous resolutions which are called, "The Botetourt Resolutions." I should like to read one of them. It expresses our position in 1912, as it expressed when passed in February, 1775, and when confirmed in 1860, the view of the State of Virgina. It says:—It is hereby resolved that we desire no change in our system of government while left to the free enjoyment of our equal privileges secured by the Constitution, but that should a tyrannical sectional majority under the sanction of the forms of the Constitution persist in acts of injustice towards us, they and they only must be answerable for the consequences.
§ Mr. BARNES
During the last five hours we have had some speeches of extreme length. I shall endeavour, as far as my humble contribution to the Debate is concerned, to keep within the limit of half the length of these speeches. The first speaker to-day (Mr. J. H. Campbell) indicted a nation, the second (Sir Rufus Isaacs) defended the Bill, and the third (Mr. Butcher) indulged in a good deal of strong language tempered by weak argument. The hon. Member opposite (Mr. Mitchell-Thomson) gave the House an imitation of the hon. Member for York. I will not congratulate him on the way he dealt with the speech of the hon. Member for Belfast (Mr. Devlin), who it seemed to me lifted this Debate right on to the humanities, and showed, I think, pretty conclusively that hon. Members representing the minority in Ireland are not altogether disinterested persons in opposing Home Rule. Let me say that I am in favour of Home Rule for Ireland because I believe it will heal a long, open, and weakening sore in the body politic, and because I believe further that it will end the stupid and illogical division of the people according to religious beliefs, instead of according to political and economic views. My right hon. Friend the Member for Morpeth (Mr. Burt) was the first to state the views of labour on this question. He voted for Home Rule long before the question began to be argued by party leaders. Organised labour in this country has been staunch and true to that principle and has never wavered during the whole of the past forty years.
130 Everybody admits—I mean everybody whose opinion is worth noting—that Ireland has been rack-rented and misgoverned, and therefore there is no need to dwell upon what the country has suffered in the past. Everybody admits that Irishmen have had a great deal of ground for complaint, and that they may have uttered a good deal of strong language in times gone by out of the fullness of their hearts. Ireland has been bitter, and has had good cause to be bitter, but if I know the Irish people aright they are a practical people, quick to learn, and wise to know how to adapt themselves to altered circumstances, and, for my part, I believe my fellow Members in this House when they say that if a Bill granting Home Rule was granted by this House they, for their part, are willing to forget and forgive past times, and to become real partners with us in the development of the Empire. Of course there has been improvement in Ireland. Nobody who has been in Ireland during the past few years can have failed to notice the vast improvement there. The credit of this country has been pledged for the purchase of Irish land, housing has been improved, and, I suppose, although the Irish people are behind in material prosperity, there has been a vast improvement in that matter also during the past few years. The Noble Lord the Member for Portsmouth (Lord C. Beresford) said that the improvement which had taken place had killed, or was fast killing, Home Rule in Ireland. Well, the only thing necessary to say in refutation of that statement is that we have still eighty Members from Ireland demanding Home Rule, and no amount of breezy optimism, however pleasantly put, can get away from that salient fact. And they are to-day just as they have been through prosperity as well as adversity during all that period of twenty-five years of resolute government in their demand for Home Rule, just as determined as they were before that twenty-five years began. Therefore there is no good in talking about any amount of good government doing away with the demand of Ireland for Home Rule.
This Bill will open out new interests for Irishmen in their own country. The other day the First Lord of the Admiralty said that Irishmen had too little power in their own country and too much power here. He might have gone further and said, that Irishmen had power in every country but their own. In America they rise to their natural position as leaders of public opinion, and holders of office. In Canada 131 it is the same. I have seen them in both countries. In Australia and New Zealand I am told that it is much the same, and without going abroad at all, take cur democratic institutions in this country: Wherever we find that men have free and equal opportunities of rising, we find the Irishman pretty near the top. My own predecessor in the secretaryship of the engineers was an Irishman. The founder of the society was an Irishman and its first secretary for no less a period than seventeen years. Therefore there is ample proof that Irishmen are capable of government, and the question might be asked by hon. Members opposite: How is it that Irishmen are so much abroad at home, and so much at home in other lands? I say, without the slightest hesitation, that it is because they have not had a fair chance in their own country, and I believe that this Bill will give it to them. There is this difference between the position now and the position in 1893 and 1886. We have gone some way in the direction of Home Rule. In 1898 Ireland was given county councils, and everybody admits that they have been an unqualified success. Therefore this Bill is the natural and logical development of the county councils. These are, in general terms, my reasons for supporting a Home Rule Bill.
Really the only argument put forward against the Bill is that of Ulster. There was one hon. Member—I think the Member for Camlachie (Mr. Mackinder)—who said that even if Ulster was not there, he would be opposed to Home Rule. But, on the whole, the opposition has been that Ulster was there and Ulster blocked the way. We had pathetic tales the other day by the leader of the Opposition (Mr. Bonar Law) about the march-past in Ulster, and we were told that he had discovered that Ulster had a soul. I would ask him and those who agree with him, has Nationalist Ireland not also a soul? And Nationalist Ireland is four against one in Ireland. The late leader of the Opposition (Mr. Balfour) the other day twitted the Government with not having conciliated Ulster. It is a poor argument for a pot to call the kettle black, but I think the Government might very well say to the late leader of the Opposition: "Did you try to conciliate the Nonconformists in this country when you passed the Education Act in 1903?" He went into office largely as the result of votes cast for him 132 by Nonconformists—more shame for them—and then, after having got into office, on the plea of winding up the mess of the South African war, he began to do certain things altogether unconnected with that war. Among them the passing of a Bill which he knew must have revolted the feelings of Nonconformists throughout the length and breadth of this country. If the Nonconformists of this country had come together like the Ulster men, we should have had a demonstration possibly ten times the size of that which took place in Belfast.
§ Mr. BARNES
I am not saying that they have done anything, though they have tried to do something. That is not the point. I am merely reminding certain hon. Gentlemen who support the late leader of the Opposition that, even if the Government were doing all they say, they are doing nothing worse than the right hon. Gentlemen's Government did in 1903, and the Nonconformists of this country have an equal claim with the Ulster men in respect of their grievances. But I do not admit the claim of Ulster to be a separate nation. Ulstermen are the countrymen of Nationalist Ireland and Nationalist Ireland numbers three-fourths or four-fifths of the population of Ireland, and for my part I go with the biggest crowd, not because it is the biggest crowd, but because the Nationalists have a claim upon the democratic principle, and if we have any regard for democratic principle or for Irish national sentiment, nay, if we have any regard for our own interests in this House, and the circumstances under which we meet, I suggest that we should pass a bill for Home Rule and end the long squabble that has been going on between the two nations. Coming to the Bill there aye three points with which I want to deal—finance, taxation, and the peculiar arrangement of bringing Irish Members over here. You are going to give Ireland £500,000 a year over and above the deficit, and that I understand is going to be reduced after three years by £50,000 a year to £200,000. You are going to give Ireland the right to impose or vary taxes up and down to the extent of 10 per cent.
§ Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
They can lower them to any extent. The 10 per cent. is on the increase, and the increase is one in yield.
§ Mr. BARNES
The 10 per cent. limit is on the increase in yield, and if the increased tax produces more than an increase of 10 per cent. in yield the Irish people will benefit nothing by any increase of over 10 per cent. Then you are making provision for a Joint Exchequer Board, and if things do not work out and Ireland is overtaxed for three successive years, Members would be brought here to adjust the balance, and Ireland would be placed in the same position as other parts of the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
It may save trouble if I remove what I think is a misapprehension in the mind of the hon. Member as to the position of the Joint Exchequer Board. The Joint Exchequer Board have not thrust upon them the duty of reporting that these arrangements have not worked well. What they have to report upon is that the deficit has come to an end; that is to say, that if the Irish revenue has so grown up to a certain date, say ten or fifteen years, that, speaking roughly, Ireland pays her way, then the whole financial arrangement is open for revision, and when it comes before this House for revision, then for that purpose, and that purpose only, can Ireland be represented in this House by the full number of Members to which she will be entitled according to population.
§ Mr. BARNES
All this is a complicated arrangement, arising from the small start we are giving to the Irish Parliament among the Legislatures of the world. The power of taxation is to keep the Irish Exchequer solvent, and, for my part, I should not be at ail against giving to Ireland a little more money if it would avoid these complicated arrangements in the Bill. This power of taxation is to be given together with the right of increasing the taxation by 10 per cent., and it seems to me that there is going to be considerable confusion as between the rate and the yield. The Chancellor of the Exchequer put a 3s. 9d. tax on whisky, but he did not get much out of it. On the other hand, I can give an instance where, in Glasgow, the Corporation reduced the tram fares, and found that they very considerably increased the traffic, and that it paid. It seems to me, however, that this arrangement in the Bill will be a very complicated one, and will be a source of confusion to the Irish Exchequer and of trouble to the Irish Chancellor of the Exchequer, and for my part I should 134 not mind if Clause 26 were altered in some way or other, and more money given to the Irish Parliament. Frankly, I do not like this Clause 26, which is going to bring Irish Members here without being elected to this House. It has always been held that these walls are inviolable to anybody who has not been elected. We can close the door of this Chamber to the highest and mightiest in the land, and admit within those walls only those who have been elected by the constituents. I do not like breaking through that principle. I say frankly that in the Bill there is nothing to show that there is any limit as to the powers given to Members coming from Ireland. We do not know whether they will have powers of a consultative character, or whether they will be armed with votes to possibly vote out the Ministry of the day, therefore making a very considerable difference in the authority of the United Kingdom as well as of Ireland. For my part I hope that part of the measure will be considerably modified if not deleted altogether.
I come to another point, that relating to the Senate. My colleagues, the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald) and the hon. Member for Halifax (Mr. Parker), have already given our view of that question, and I do not dwell upon it. But I regard the provision as something in the nature of a fifth wheel to a coach. It may be that a nominated Senate is better than an elected one, but I am not going to commit myself one way or the other. I believe we are simply following a bad example in setting up this Senate, and that all the Senates in the world up to now have followed the example which has been set them here, and not a single one of them has been a success so far. The Leader of the Opposition the other day spoke in a pessimistic way about representative institutions, expressing the view that they are not fulfilling the expectations which had been formed of them. I will say that it is simply because they have not been given a fair chance. Every one of those representative institutions, like our own, has been carrying the top hamper of a House of Lords or a Senate of some sort or another, and everyone has watched the lower House with a jealous eye. Therefore so far as the Senate is concerned, I should like to see it abolished. I do not like the provision that an Irish, or a Scotch, or an English peer should have the chance of becoming an 135 Irish Member of Parliament. I do not see that a man who has a right to sit in the House at the other end of the passage with the right of veto over our legislation for a time, should also have a seat in the Irish House of Commons. However, that is a minor matter. The other part of the Bill has my support, so far as I understand it.
I should like to say a word on the three points mentioned by the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. W. O'Brien) in regard to finance. I think I have already indicated my opinion that I should not be at all averse to more generous treatment of the Irish Parliament, provided thereby you avoid the complications I have mentioned. With regard to the second part as to full and ample representation of the minority in Ireland, I absolutely agree with him. We on these benches represent the minority in this country. We have had to fight every inch of our way here, and therefore it would ill-become me to say a single word against anything advanced on behalf of the minority in Ireland. We naturally are in sympathy with minorities everywhere; but when the hon. Gentleman goes on to suggest the method by which the minority should be largely represented in Ireland, then I part company from him. I think he suggested there should be something introduced into this Bill in the nature of a cumulative vote. That would necessarily carry with it large areas of constituencies, which in turn means giving an advantage to wealth. For my part I cannot possibly endorse that suggestion. And let me remind the hon. Gentleman that after all the Irish Parliament will have power in three years' time to alter or vary the qualification of voters at elections, the distribution of seats, or anything of that sort; so that in three years' time they will be able to introduce cumulative voters or anything else they like. So far as I am concerned I would not give my vote in any direction which would make it easier for wealth to get into the Irish Parliament and more difficult for poor men.
In regard to the third point, I must dissent altogether. The hon. Member for Cork suggested that we should do something in the way of the completion of land purchase. If I know anything of the workman of this country he is getting pretty well sick of putting his hands into his pockets to buy out the Irish landowners.
136 Especially are we against anything like the policy of 1903 Bill, which gave a sum of money to the landlords in proportion as they drove a hard bargain with the tenants. I listened to the hon. and learned Member for Kingston (Mr. Cave) who criticised the Bill. He is a very able man, and he put his criticisms very persuasively; I should say that he found out all there was to be said about this Bill of a critical character. But the first observation I have to make is that any man a good deal less able than he could do the same-thing about any Constitution in the world. I fancy any man could criticise our own-hotch-potch of a Constitution, but it is actually in operation; and the Constitution given by the Bill, if it is only permitted a fair chance, will also be found to-work when put in operation. Let us take-one or two of the hon. and learned Gentleman's questions. He talks about the taxing authority, and he fears that the tax collector in Ireland will not be an altogether popular person. The tax collector is not a popular person anywhere. I think it is Sir Walter Scott who in "Ivanhoe" puts the tax collector as the embodiment of mercilessness, while the sheriff's officer is the last word that can be said in hard-heartedness. We in this country have already experience of the tax collector and of two taxing authorities. In every local area you have your tax imposed by one authority and levied by another authority, which is the very system which the hon. and learned Member for Kingston thinks is fraught with so much possibility for mischief and evil under this Bill. As a matter of fact the tax collector is not popular anywhere. I believe if this Bill passes the Irishman will pay his taxes and grumble just as we do here, but as to whom he pays that will be immaterial to him.
The hon. and learned Member is also afraid of two administrations in Ireland. There, again, have we not in this country in almost every area local and Imperial authorities, and it works all right as far as I know? This Bill lays down clearly, I think in Clause 4, the line of demarcation between Irish and Imperial administration. That Clause provides for continued administration by the Parliament here, or if they are going to give it to anybody else it must be to Irish officials under their control. There is one matter I should like to have cleared up and that is whether under this Bill there will be uniformity in factory administration. I hope there will be, but it does not appear 137 to be clear whether there is to be or not. If anyone is going to speak for the Government I hope the point will be dealt with. There is that in the point of the hon. and learned Member about the gerrymandering of the Irish Parliament. Of course, if you assume that the Irish Parliament is going to be a set of rogues, then you can conjure up a good many difficulties that will arise, and that would arise everywhere if you had a set of rogues to deal with, no matter what Constitution you had. The hon. and learned Member said in illustration of this that it is possible and even probable that the Irish Parliament might reduce pensions and thereby put themselves in the possession of an additional million of money. There is only one thing he forgot about. He forgot all about the Irish people. What would they be doing while an Irish Parliament was doing that? I should say they would have something to say as to it, and that they would not be likely to agree to it. But even if they did, then the Irish people would have to pay that million and we would not, so that there is nothing in that point.
Lastly, I am glad to have this Bill introduced, as I believe it is a step in the direction of giving Home Rule to Scotland as well. I am in favour of Home Rule for Ireland, because I want to satisfy Irish Nationalist sentiment, but I am also in favour of Home Rule all round, because as a Scottish Member I am not satisfied with the condition of things in regard to Scotland. This Bill may not be suitable for Scotland. We were told the other day by a Member of the Opposition that the First Lord of the Admiralty had said that it would not be given to Scotland. It has been described by the late Leader of the Opposition as a mongrel and hybrid thing. If so, we do not want it for Scotland. The Bill is, I believe, on the whole, suitable for Ireland. In Scotland we have no constabulary the same as in Ireland; we have no geographical boundaries of a character such as they have in Ireland, and, above all, we have no Ulster men living all by themselves and living largely in the memory of the past. Therefore the problem for Scotland is altogether different from the problem for Ireland. Nevertheless, Scotland has grievances, I will not say as acute as Ireland, but at all events Scotland has grievances, and Scotland's legislative demands are long overdue in this House. Ever since I have been here 138 I have seen Scotland bring up Bill after Bill in the way of taxation of ground landlords and temperance Bills, and Bills on one thing and another, but the dead weight of Members here other than Scotch Members prevent those things being done. Therefore, I am glad that this Bill is introduced, because I believe it will be a step in the direction of giving Scotland's national aspirations some chance of getting satisfied. I am glad altogether that this Bill has been brought in. I shall give it my unhesitating support. I hope it may be modified in the directions I have mentioned. If I were an Irishman I think I should object to some of its provisions in the way of safeguards because those safeguards appear to me to carry with them a suggestion of unfair intentions on the part of Irishmen. But, after all, that is a matter for Irishmen, and not for me, and if the Bill is good enough for them, it ought to be good enough for me. I am glad this Bill has been introduced, because it is a step in the direction of federal Government, and in the direction of giving Scotland and the other parts of the country the chance to rule themselves in accordance with their own opinions. I am glad of it because even now it does give to Ireland promptly the opportunity of managing their own affairs in their own way, while at the same time I believe bringing them into closer harmony with their fellow-countrymen here and in Scotland, and in giving to them power to manage their own business, welding them, as they are not welded now, as a part of the United Kingdom, of which they are clearly marked out as a part naturally and geographically.
§ Sir WALTER NUGENT
We have already had six days' Debate on this Bill, but we have not had one single new argument against the principle of Home Rule nor have we heard any alternative plan. The speeches we have heard from the Opposition benches may be divided into two classes—first, those who maintain that the Union has been a benefit to Ireland and that Ireland has progressed during the Union; and, secondly, those who more honestly, roughly say the Union is in existence, it has been passed, no matter how, and they will not have it discussed or tampered with. It has been pointed out to those who maintained that the Union has been of advantage to Ireland that since that Union the population has been reduced by half and the tax- 139 able capacity of the country reduced proportionately. But I think the Union has done far worse. I think it has debauched the character of the nation. It taught them that there is nothing to be gained by industry, that there is nothing to be gained by honesty, and that the only way they could obtain redress of their grievances was by agitation and violence. The policy of the Union was not to plant the people en the soil. The Unionist's policy was to depopulate the land and to turn the country into one big, vast grazing ranch. The men who were responsible for the Land Acts were not the Unionist party. They were the men who sit with me on these benches, and who were denounced as traitors and rebels, but who were looked to in order to bring that cause to success.
I do not wish for a moment to detract from the good that was done by Unionist Chief Secretaries. We all realise the great amount of good done in the West of Ireland by the right hon. Gentleman for the City of London (Mr. A. J. Balfour). We also know the good work that was done by the right hon. Member for Dover (Mr. Wyndham). But had it not been for the land agitation it would not have been within the power of those right hon. Gentlemen to have passed the Acts for which they were responsible. If it had not been for the agitation, which even those who took the most active part in it hate and loathe, none of those redresses could have been brought about. Not long ago the Member for the University of Dublin, speaking, I believe in Belfast, said to the Irish people, "Why are you not satisfied with the Union? You have Land Acts, you have Labourers Acts; you have any amount of British money." He went on to say, "You have the Old Age Pensions Act and the National Insurance Act." These last-named Acts are not on all fours with the Land Acts. The Irish people were not grateful for the Land Acts, because they were forced on the English Government; but they were grateful for the Old Age Pensions Act. I think it is due to that Act and to the interest of the late King that a change has come over the people of Ireland. There is no longer that bitterness towards the English people; the people of Ireland now hold out the hand of friendship towards you.
As to the second class of opponents, the hon. and gallant Member for East 140 Down (Captain Craig) best and most clearly expresses their views. He says, "We will not have the Union tampered with by friend or by foe." When he was challenged across the floor of the House as to the action of some of his own party, notably the Member for Dover, he turned round, and said, "Yes, but what happened to the right hon. Member? It only shows how honest we are. We do not mind whether it is by the party opposite or by our own party, we will not have the Union tampered with. Anybody whom we suspect we will make toe the line." That is in effect what he said. Not only the Member for Dover, but Lord Lansdowne was suspect, and in due course we had the "Die-hards" and the Halsbury Club. Then, again, the Member for the City of London was more or less suspect, and we know the result. Certainly the hon. and gallant Member has the courage of his convictions, and the Members from Ulster deserve our admiration for the way in which they stick together and compel the rest of the Unionist party to follow in their footsteps. Having moulded the party more or less as they like, not long ago they had a great demonstration in Belfast, to which they took their new Leader. I wondered when I read his speech if the hon. Members responsible for the meeting were satisfied with it. The right hon. Gentleman was very plain and clear. He did not hold out any hopes of defeating this Bill in the House of Commons, but he did tell the people of Ireland clearly and straightforwardly how he hoped to secure its defeat. He told them that if they would acquiesce in the present state of things and agree to perpetual minority rule in Ireland he would give them any English money that was wanted; he would finance the Land Act; he would give them preference in the English market; he would give them money for arterial drainage. There is nothing he would not do for them, but he imposed the condition that they must acquiesce in perpetual minority rule and barter their rights of citizenship in the Empire.
That was a perfectly honest and straightforward declaration, which deserved a straightforward answer; and the people of Ireland gave that answer with unanimous voice at the recent Convention in Dublin. They said, "We do not want your doles; we will not take your bribes; we will not part with our rights of citizenship in the Empire." The right hon. Gentleman put plainly before the country what the alternative to Home Rule was. He told the 141 working men of England that his policy for them was a protective tariff, which means dear food, and increased taxation to maintain a system of government in Ireland which the people of Ireland do not want and will not have. For Ireland it was to be the old policy of doles alternated with coercion. When I read his speech it seemed to me very strange how any English labouring man or any Irishman could vote for such a policy or could cast a vote in favour of deposing the present Prime Minister and putting the Leader of the Opposition in his place.
But Unionist Members from Ireland do not rely upon arguments either in this country or in Ireland. What they rely on is the process of poisoning the constituencies. They have sent into every county of England emissaries, who are even now making a house-to-house canvass and vilifying the Irish people. Hon. Members themselves do not believe the statements that are made. Everyone who has spoken during this debate has said that he did not believe there would be any religious intolerance. If that is the case, is it fair or honourable that such statements should be published in England for the purpose of gaining votes? I would suggest to the Attorney-General that some steps ought to be taken to protect the people of England from these statements. If such things occurred in Ireland they would dig up some ancient Statute, such as that of Edward III., to deal with the matter. Why not do the same in England, and treat these men as vagabonds, which they are? It is an odious thing that the Irish people can be libelled and the most villainous and improbable stories told about them without their having any redress. And to think that the poor people of England must submit to this.
Let us look at the other side of the question for a moment. What is it that Ireland wants? She simply wants to take her place inside the Empire. What does she mean by Home Rule? Home Rule does not mean a breach of the Union. On the contrary, Home Rule will lead to a real union, not a sham, like the present one. Home Rule will draw closer the bonds which unite the Empire. Home Rule is not an Irish question; it is not an English question; it is an Imperial question. The right hon. Member for the City of London evidently realised it, because he spent nearly the whole of his speech on the First Reading in proving that it would be 142 contrary to the interests of the Empire for Ireland to have Home Rule. As I listened to that speech I recalled another speech made by the right hon. Gentleman, which seemed to me to express his true feeling far more correctly. I venture to say that no Liberal statesman, no Irish Nationalist, no public man, has ever made a statement which so nearly describes our feelings and what we want, as that made by the right hon. Member for the City of London at one of the Unionist clubs on the occasion of a luncheon to the Colonial Premiers. The right hon. Gentleman said:—He dreamed other dreams, and had other visions of the future of what might be in store for oar descendants. He could not help thinking that as we had now realised that each of these great communities was to manage its own affairs, carry out its own life, make its own experiments as an independent political atom, it was upon that solid basis we should build up something that the world had never seen—a coalition of free and self-governing communities, who felt they were never more their own masters than when they recognised they were parts of a great whole from which they drew inspiration and strength, and to which they gave inspiration and strength. They saw the beginnings to-day of which posterity would see the full fruition. It was in the light of this dream, if dream it was, he asked them to welcome their visitors. The ideal could only be reached slowly and with difficulty, yet he believed it would be reached, and such conferences as were now being held would help towards the realisation of this ideal and the great cause for which their visitors wore labouring.That is the ideal for the attainment of which my right hon. Friend and my colleagues have striven. That is the ideal which has inspired us all. How, then, can a man holding those views—how can any Imperialist, oppose the granting of Home Rule to Ireland? The junior Member for the City of Dublin quoted the plea of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Waterford when the Local Government Bill was introduced, advising the people of Ireland to give fair representation to the Protestants. I maintain that they have done so. Let me put this to hon. Members: Supposing the Irish people had elected on the county councils a majority of men who were Unionists. What would be the case now? The men who were elected were not asked to make any pledge. When the Home Rule Bill was introduced we would have had resolutions from these councils against that Bill. The reputation for astuteness of the Irish Nationalist leaders would have gone. The present conditions will change, will entirely change when Home Rule has become law. I think that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Leicester explained better than anyone else what would occur under Home Rule. He said the fact that everybody in 143 Ireland was not united, was not an argument against Home Rule, but an argument for it. He was perfectly right. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Waterford suggested that everything possible should be done to give the minority representation. We are all agreed upon that. Another thing that seems very much to annoy hon. Members above the Gangway is that we say this Bill is a final settlement—and they say they know it is not. My hon. and learned Friend got up and said in most plain and emphatic language, that so far as we on these benches were concerned, the settlement was final. Other representative hon. Members on this side said similarly. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Cork in response to a challenge across the floor of the House said that in all essential terms he accepted the Bill.
I do not for the life of me see why hon. Members above the Gangway are so anxious that this settlement shall not be final. Do they not want finality? Do they want Ireland's condition to be continued as during recent years with all its misery and turmoil. The Noble Lord above the Gangway (Lord Charles Beresford) was anxious to prove that the Bill had no finality, and he crossed the Atlantic to find arguments. He said that Ministers talked about finality in the Bill, and so did the Irish Nationalists; but what about those who crossed the seas, who sent money to the Irish Nationalists; did they regard the settlement as final? He did not believe in these conciliatory methods. That was an utterly silly and futile argument. Of all people in the world those who are supposed to be paying for this movement ought to be glad of finality! Everyone on these benches wants finality. The fact of the matter is the whole case against Home Rule has broken down. There never was a Bill introduced which received such a measure of support, not only from politicians, but from all moderate people; people who have taken no part in politics in the past. They are in favour of this Bill. The only people opposed to it now are the people who opposed it a year ago before it was introduced. They made up their minds then that they would oppose the Bill no matter what it was, and the arguments they prepared then they are using now. On the question of finance 144 they use one set of arguments on one side of the Channel and another set of arguments on the other side. One set of arguments contradicts the other.
A great opportunity is at hand. An opportunity such as the present we have never had, and we may never have it again. I would ask hon. Members before they lightly reject this Bill—and I would ask responsible leaders of the Opposition to realise what the alternative is. The alternative is that when the Conservatives return to power, they will have to govern by coercion, and shoot the people down, and the people will be in the right and they will be in the wrong. The whole of the Empire and the whole civilised world will be against the Government. What then? After five or six years more of horror and misery the question will come up again. A Liberal Government will probably again be in power and will attempt to deal with the matter, but the opportunity will not be so favourable as now. The good feeling of the present will have vanished. You will be dealing with a poorer Ireland, because every day this question is delayed the proportionate difference in the wealth of the two countries grows greater. If this Bill is defeated you cannot throw the blame upon the people of Ulster, nor upon the Members for Ulster. They cannot look at the matter from a detached point of view. To every single one of them is now held out the hand of friendship. They have been asked what did Ulster want. I can assure hon. Members from Ulster that there is no feeling of bitterness towards them from any part of Ireland. The people only want the opportunity to make friends of them.
Let them tell us what they want? What will satisfy them? We cannot help admiring them. They have fought hard and fought against very great odds, and I presume they will fight to the end. Assume then that for the sake of argument, that this Bill becomes law, and that our King and Queen come to Ireland to open Parliament. They will have an opportunity then of showing the reality of their loyalty, and that it is not based upon self-interest. Let them then join with us in showing to the world what the world has never yet seen, an Irish united for the first time, an Ireland loyal to the Crown, devoted to the Empire, and a nation united in itself.
§ Mr. G. LOCKER-LAMPSON
The hon. Baronet who has just sat down has made a very optimistic speech. He seems to think that Home Rule is the easiest thing in the world. Home Rule at any time would be very difficult, and I think the Government in this Bill are going out of their way to look for trouble, and in no respect more than on the question of finance. Under Clause 26, as the hon. Member for the Blackfriars Division of Glasgow (Mr. Barnes) reminded us, when a balance is being struck between Irish revenue and Irish expenditure, there is to be a revision of the financial arrangements. It is easy enough to say that to-day. At present there is only one entity, the Imperial Parliament which is dictating terms to a non-existent, uncreated body, the future Irish Parliament, and it can practically impose its own conditions without contradiction and without control, but when the time comes for revision it will be a very different story indeed. It may be easy to pack a Dublin Convention, but it will not be so easy to silence a Dublin Parliament. The other party to the bargain will have come into existence, and there will be two entities, the Imperial Parliament on the one hand and the Irish Parliament on the other. Is it likely that any revision will be agreed upon without prolonged and acrimonious controversy and bitter recrimination by one of the parties to the suit?
I think that the example in India should offer a warning. As hon. Members know, there was such intolerable friction between the Provisional Governments and the Central Governments at each quinquennial period of revision that the revisional system was abolished in 1904, and a permanent settlement put in its place. And if there was friction between the Central Government and its strictly supporting and dependent branches what would happen if both parties to the suit are practically independent. The case of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, where there are twenty - three Parliaments, is even more striking. Since 1867 the decennial revision between Austria and Hungary have become stormier and stormier until it culminated in 1907, when a deadlock ensued, and even now several very important points are left over for future settlement; and what was the great cause of the quarrel? The great cause of the quarrel was the question of contribution payable by each towards the common or Imperial expenditure. The same thing has happened between Hungary and Croatia.
146 Croatia possesses a Constitution very similar to the one which the Government are proposing for Ireland. Since 1868 the financial relations at each provisional period have become more and more embittered, and disputes hinged principally on two chief questions—namely, the contribution to joint expenditure and the estimate of true or contributed, as distinct from collected revenue, and, curiously enough, only four weeks ago the negotiations between Hungary and Croatia have resulted in an impasse, and the Croatia Constitution was suspended. Is it really likely that negotiations for revision in Ireland will be any more amicable with an Irish Exchequer on the one hand than the British Treasury on the other?
There is another unsatisfactory financial feature. Under the scheme of the Bill no real encouragement is given to Ireland to adapt her standard of expenditure to the level of her resources. In the hands of the Joint Exchequer Board it will be all the other way. Civil servants, for instance, in Ireland will be represented in the reserve services as well as by the transferred services. The scale of salaries in the reserve services which is to be under the control of the Joint Exchequer Board will naturally conform to the British standard, that is to say, to a standard admittedly higher than the level appropriate to Irish conditions. But if this high level of expenditure is kept up, the very thing which ought to be discouraged, if this British standard of pay is maintained for the new entrance into the reserve service in Ireland, is it likely that the new civil servants in the transferred service sitting next door to the clerks in the reserve service and in just as responsible positions, can be paid on a lower footing. One of two things will happen. Either the pay of the new men entering the transferred service will have to be kept up to the British level, and the great principle of economy and retrenchment thrown to the winds or the Irish Government will adopt a lower standard of pay for those services, and the consequence will be that the best brains in Ireland will be attracted to the reserved service, and the transferred service will have to put up with an inferior type of civil servant to the detriment of the Irish administration.
It is not very easy for a mere Britisher to penetrate into the complexity of the Irish mind at any time, but as practical men the union to-day would seem to be the one thing needful, the one thing most desired by the Irish nation. The credit 147 and backing and co-operation of Great Britain would seem to be the one indispensable condition for their progress. But who can pretend to understand the mind of men who are so superstitious that they would not allow this Session to be begun on the 13th February, though they are quite prepared to put hands to the robbing of Church property in Wales as the price of their enfranchisement. If it is strange that anyone should wish to see the Union dissolved in 1893, it is much more so in 1912. What is there that Ireland wants in the way of material advancement, social reform, facility for self-development, civil and religious liberty, security against foreign aggression, that she cannot get under the Union. Catholic emancipation was granted, Local Government has been set up, a Roman Catholic University has been established, and tenants are being turned into owners of the soil, large sums of money have been spent upon education, and a multitude of economic and social improvements have gone forward. The credit of Great Britain has been placed at her disposal, and all these things have been done under the Union, yet we are told that Ireland wants Home Rule. Now, why is that, or is it true? Is it true that Ireland is burning a passionate desire for a separate Parliament in College Green? Is it not a fact that in the minds of the vast majority of the population that Home Rule is syonymous with the division and acquisition of the land. What did Lord Morley, when Chief Secretary for Ireland, say? Speaking upon the Second Reading of the first Home Rule Bill he said:—In buying out the Irish landlord you are by the same process making the present occupier into his own landlord. … Our motive in this is a political motive. … You must have in the peasantry of Ireland … a class who are interested in the maintenance of order, and who will have some reason, which unfortunately hitherto they have not had—to rally round the institutions of the country.No truer words were ever spoken. The solution of the agrarian question is at the key of the Home Rule difficulty. Once solve the riddle of the land problem and those who are agitating for Home Rule will be robbed of its most powerful weapon. Once this difficulty is settled and the breath of life will leave the Home Rule cry for ever. No one knew this better than the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon). At all costs the land agitation had to be kept alive, and the only way to do it was to cast blight upon the land purchase system that was taking place under the Wyndham Act of 1903. A 148 more callous, unpatriotic disregard of the vital interests of the country was never manifested than the way in which this great reform was deliberately paralysed by the Act of 1909. Fortunately, already more than half the land of Ireland is invested in the occupiers of the soil. The remainder will only be too ready to go the same way directly this artificial obstruction has been removed; in fact, no argument for separation can be drawn from the land in days gone by. The chief prop of the Home Rule agitation has been knocked from under, and if the Nationalist party want to keep the agitation alive they will have to invent some other cry. It is not the Union as such that has been the cause of Ireland's misfortune in the past. Was she happy, loyal, and prosperous when she had a Parliament of her own, or was a separate Executive the secret of success? What happened during the life of the last independent Parliament, which was Grattan's Parliament? It is a well-known fact that it spent a large portion of its time passing a long string of Coercion Acts, no less thare seventeen, in the first thirteen years of its history. There was internal conspiracy, a foreign invasion, and a bloody civil war. What was the state of Irish trade during that period? The Vice-President of the Department of Agriculture who now adorns the Front Bench, speaking on the Second Reading of the last Home Rule Bill, when he hated Home Rule just as much as he now pretends to love it, in a fierce onslaught on Mr. Gladstone's Government, described the lamentable condition of Irish trade during the period of Grattan's Parliament. I have the right hon. Gentleman's speech here, and it is a most fervent one and more convincing than any the right hon. Gentleman is likely to make from the Front Bench where he now sits, and he undoubtedly proved his point beyond dispute.
He showed that in the first year of Grattan's Parliament Irish imports stood at £3,500,000, and in 1800 they had sunk to £2,225,000, and in 1825 they had risen to £7,000,000. He showed that exports increased by less than £1,000,000 between the first year of Grattan's Parliament and 1800, but by nearly £5,000,000 by 1825. He showed that Irish trade had decreased by 25 per cent. between 17S8 and 1793, but that increased no less than 157 per cent. between 1800 and 1836; in fact, it was perfectly notorious that during the course of Grattan's Parliament the failure of manufacturers and the ruin of industry was a 149 constant occurrence, and petition after petition was addressed to the Dublin Parliament praying for protection and pointing out the poverty of the people. For many years after the Union the prosperity of Ireland went up by leaps and bounds. Then came the famine and Free Trade and the heavy and unexpected burdens of Mr. Gladstone's Budgets, and it is only during the last quarter of a century that Ireland has begun to recover and forge ahead. In almost every direction there are signs of her prosperity. The Prime Minister has admitted this. Her commerce is greater than it has even been before. In the seven years between 1904 and 1911 her exports and imports increased by over £27,000,000. Deposits in the Irish Savings Banks and balances in her Post Office Savings Banks have gone up by no less than £30,000,000 during the last twenty years. This is the moment when we are told that the Union has been a failure. This is the moment we are told that the Irish people are burning with a passionate desire for legislative separation. If this is true why do you refuse to subsidise the Home Rule movement? Why do the Irish people subscribe only a decimal of a farthing per head towards the fund of the patriots who are leading them to victory. Why should all this globe-trotting to raise funds be necessary? They shout still for Home Rule, but they very prudently decline to pay for it. Everything points to a settlement of the Irish difficulty in the near future if only the political agitator will hold his peace and the merciful reforms of the last two decades are allowed to run their course.
As for the proposals of the Government, they are retrograde and contrary to the whole spirit of modern civilisation. You are sundering the existing Union that has lasted for over a century and you are merely holding out the vaguest hopes of some misty federation in the distant future. Apart from the Ulster question—and this scheme cannot possibly be considered apart from that—it might perhaps be worth while even to tear up the Act of Union if this Bill was going to be a final solution of the Irish difficulty. If the perennial Irish difficulty could be wiped off the slate, if a controversy which has raged for centuries could be ended once and for all, if Ireland were likely to accept these proposals in complete satisfaction of her claims, then, in spite of all these great disadvantages, it is possible many might be 150 persuaded to accept it. But is there a ghost of a chance that this scheme is going to be a final settlement? There is not the slightest prospect of that. This measure is teeming with the germs of future trouble, and if this Bill passes agitation in Ireland will be fiercer and more dangerous than ever it has been in the past. Does anyone suppose that, having got so much, Ireland will not press for more? Of course she will. How can hon. Members below the Gangway pledge themselves for unborn Irish Parliaments? The idea is ridiculous. How do we know that many of them may not be shivering in the cold shade of Parliamentary exclusion when some future Irish Parliament is sitting in College Green? It is a matter of very little importance what promises they make-here to-day. The only thing that matters is what Members of an Irish Parliament are likely to do ten or twenty years hence. To my mind the pledges of hon. Members below the Gangway are not worth the breath they are uttered with. It is possible that many members of the existing Irish party may be utterly powerless and of no public account ten years hence when the Irish Parliament is sitting in Dublin. We know what the hon Member for Waterford said on the Third Reading of the last Home Rule Bill. He said:—Let me remind the House that no partial grant of autonomy could finally settle this question.Has he changed his mind? Has he altered his views on that point? Does he repudiate the speech he made in 1893, and is he now willing to accept the proposals of the Government as final? I should not be at all surprised if this were so, but does that make the case any better? In the new Irish Parliament the hon. and learned Member may wish to be loyal to the new Constitution, and do his best to rein extremists, but he is popular to-day with the revolutionary section because he wishes to demolish the existing Constitution. He is popular to-day because his Irish devotees regard him as a picturesque rebel, but will he be equally popular when he ceases in their eyes to be a rebel and sits down in the Dublin Parliament to work the new Constitution to the best of his ability? I venture to predict that he will be like the play-boy in the Western world, who, so long as he was a reckless, law-breaking fellow, was the hero of the village; but when it was discovered that he was quite an ordinary individual, with no taste for crime, the Celtic mind revolted and he was rejected with contumely. The same fate may happen to the 151 hon. Member for Waterford should a new set of agitators more up to date take his place. It is with these men we have to reckon rather than with the hon. and learned Member who now seeks to allay our fears. The Irish party may consent to a long list of restrictions and reservations being put into the Bill; they may consent to financial and other control in order to insert the thin end of the wedge to get this measure carried; but is it likely that the Irish Parliament, which is going to take its place among the nations of the world, will tolerate the perpetual tutelage prescribed in this Bill? And if Ireland, once having tasted the sweets of semi-independence, is determined to wrest complete nationhood from Great Britain, what is there to stop her except British arms? Military force, and military force alone, stands between this Bill and separation. For the first time in the history of Great Britain and Ireland, not only two separate Parliaments, but two separate Executives, will be set up—a sort of Box and Cox arrangement, the success of which depends upon the assumption that Box and Cox will never meet. What possible effective control can the Parliament or the Executive of Great Britain exercise over this new Executive or Parliament in Ireland? Just about as much as the Lord Mayor of London might have over an eruption of Vesuvius. The Clause safeguarding the much-advertised supremacy of the Imperial Parliament is a mere piece of window-dressing not worth the paper on which it is written. If the Irish Executive refuse to enforce law and order, or to carry out the judgments of the Courts of Appeal on matters reserved to the Imperial Parliament, and if its officers choose to obey the Parliament in Dublin rather than the Parliament or the Executive in Great Britain, what is to be done? If the Government over here shrink from extreme measures, the Parliament and Executive in Ireland will laugh in their face and take their own line. If, on the other hand, the Imperial Parliament is determined to enforce its rights, the only thing to be done is to send the British Army across the Irish Channel; and this will be the message of peace; this will be the final settlement of the Irish difficulty by the Radical party, and this will be their contribution to the statesmanship of the twentieth century.
For centuries Ireland has lain under the curse of dual ownership in land. The Radical party are now going to lay upon 152 her the curse of dual responsibility in government. I submit the whole framework of this Bill is unstatesmanlike, shortsighted, and crude in conception. It is perfectly true the proposals are intricate and ingenious, but their intricacy and their ingenuity are merely the result of the efforts of the Government to cover up the tracks of party expediency rather than the result of careful forethought and detailed study. So much legislation has been crammed by the Radical party into the last few years that there has been no time for counsel and deliberation. Everything has been brought in at a hand gallop and passed into law in a state of perspiration. May I give an instance of what I mean. The Government might have delegated certain definite powers to an Irish Parliament and reserved to itself all the residuary powers not specifically mentioned in the Grant. Instead of doing that, they have done precisely the contrary. To save themselves trouble, they have practically copied the last Home Rule Bill in this respect, and thought no more about it. They have reserved certain specific powers to themselves, and have surrendered the whole residuary powers and functions to the Irish Parliament. If certain definite powers are delegated, and all the residuary powers are reserved, you can always give more if the experiment is a success. The wiser the grantee the greater will be his reward. But if you only reserve to yourself certain definite powers and surrender the whole remaining powers and functions of Government, there is not the same incentive for the equitable administration of his trust, and, if the experiment is a failure you have the odious task of taking back what you have given. Hon. Members who sit for Scotch constituencies have been a good deal wiser in their generation. They have brought in a Bill delegating certain specific powers to a Scotch Parliament, and expressly reserving all the rest to the Imperial Parliament. But they are in favour of Home Rule all round. Home Rule is merely one branch of what they regard as an urgent constitutional reform. But if this is so, how can they vote for the proposals of the Government? Will Scotland be content with the mere delegation of specific powers, when in the case of Ireland the Imperial Parliament has the limited powers, and the Parliament in Dublin is to be given all the rest? If the canny Scot is satisfied with this arrangement, then may the leopard change his spots and the Ethiopian change his skin.
153 If it is to be Home Rule all round it ought to be the same Home Rule for all. If not, your great scheme of federation is going to be mere patchwork, and bad at that—a ramshackle, lopsided, mis-shapen artifice that will fall to pieces at the first shock. Let the Irish Members be aware lest in grasping at a shadow they loose the substance which is already theirs. From the economic point of view the proposals of the Government are little less than suicidal. How does Ireland propose to begin to pay her way, seeing the subsidy from Great Britain will only serve to cover her immediate and existing expenses? Not a ray of genuine light has been shed by any Member of the Government on this all-important question. Perhaps they think it is a delicate question, and they had better let it alone. How is Irish credit going to stand the racket of a separate Parliament? It is not only land purchase that has to be considered. A multitude of other economic and social reforms will have to be undertaken in the next few years unless Ireland is to fall behind in the world's race. To mention only one, the whole of the existing Irish railway system stands in pressing need of reorganisation if the prosperity of Ireland is to be maintained and her resources adequately developed. As far back as 1873 no fewer than seventy Irish peers and ninety Irish Members of Parliament signed a memorial in favour of the State purchase of the railways, and that proposal was supported by every grand jury and by every municipal borough in Ireland. Again, in 1885, a Commission on Irish Public Works reported that the preponderance of public opinion in Ireland was in favour of State purchase. Finally, in 1910, the majority of the Vice-regal Commission on Irish Railways reported that the Irish railways should be acquired and administered by an Irish elected authority. They recommended that the interest on the necessary capital should be guaranteed by the State and charged upon the net revenue of the unified railway system, and that any ultimate deficiency should be made good out of the proceeds of a general rate to be struck for that purpose by the Irish railway authority.
§ Mr. G. LOCKER-LAMPSON
I was going to say that, whether this policy be good or bad, the Nationalist party in Ireland are undoubtedly in favour of railway nationalisation, and it will therefore probably form part of their legislative 154 programme if the conduct of government is ever in their hands. This is the important point. To buy these railways at twenty-five years' purchase would require over £40,000,000. It would be necessary, with an Imperial guarantee, to obtain this sum by the issue of Railway Guaranteed Three per Cent. Stock to the amount of £50,000,000, but without the Imperial guarantee — and can Ireland expect an Imperial guarantee whenever she wants it — it would probably be impossible to float the stock at less than 5 per cent. interest. If the £50,000,000 were placed at 3 per cent. the interest would amount to £1,500,000, and that would be met or nearly met out of the net profits, of the railway, but, if the Imperial guarantee were not forthcoming, the interest on the Stock at 5 per cent. would amount to £2,500,000, and that would result in a loss of £1,000,000, which would have to be found by the Irish taxpayer—not a very popular beginning for the new Irish Parliament. This is only one instance of the financial and economic disadvantage which will accrue to Ireland under Home Rule.
Education requires an additional expenditure of at least £300,000 a year. Poor Law, housing reform, arterial land drainage, afforestation, and other public works, as well as the development of Irish agriculture and Irish manufactures—all these are to be sacrificed for the sake of a sham nationality. There might be no cause for surprise at the economic and financial risk Ireland is running if she were really going to become an independent nation. However short-sighted it might be under the circumstances, there would be a certain dash, honour and glory in cutting herself completely adrift, and in running a flag independently, but, considering the long list of degrading restrictions contained in this Bill, can anyone say that an independent nation with an ounce of pride would tolerate them for a moment? Under the proposals of the Government, Ireland will no more be an independent nation than a ticket-of-leave man is independent of the police authority. The sword of Damocles will always be suspended over her head. Under Clause 1 the Imperial Government will be able to levy additional taxation upon her to any extent, for it may be a foreign war not of her own making, and instead of waiting for the natural expansion of Irish revenue to wipe out the deficit of £2,000,000 the Imperial Parliament will be able to impose additional taxation on her, not only to 155 wipe out the deficit, but also to extract a contribution towards Imperial expenditure. I wonder do the Irish people realise this. And all this will be able to be done with a vastly diminished representation at Westminster to look after Irish interests. No addition to Irish representation can take place for three years after the Irish revenue has balanced Irish expenditure. Again, Irish legislation is to be subject to a perpetual veto by an outside authority. Under Clause 41 the Imperial Parliament is to have power to pass overriding legislation dealing with those very services which have been transferred to the Irish Parliament. In fact, the Bill takes from Ireland with one hand what it gives to her with the other. She is to have no recognised national status; no power of self-defence; no authority over external trade and commerce. She is not to be permitted to administer her own land purchase system; she is not to be trusted with her own Post Office Savings Banks; she is not to be allowed to give State aid to the religion of the majority; she is not to be allowed to impose the most important part of her own taxes, and under Clause 15, if she discontinues a tax the Imperial Parliament can put it on again and take the proceeds. She is not even to be allowed to collect her own revenue, or to get rid of Dublin Castle and the Lord Lieutenant, and yet she is to take her place among the nations of the world.
Was there ever such an Irish farce? I wonder how the hon. and learned Member for Waterford can keep his countenance when he says this is Parnell's independent nation. He tells us he stands where Parnell stood. But how was this Bill recommended by him to his supporters at the Dublin Convention? There was a conspiracy of silence about national independence. The hopes held out were not hopes of independence but of jobs. He told them:—We are to have the immediate appointment of judges both of the Supreme as well as the County Courts - (cheers)—of the resident magistrates throughout the country—(cheers)—of the constabulary after six years, while the force continues to be paid for from Imperial sources.This is the new style copied from the Chancellor of the Exchequer—the master jobber of our century. Ireland is getting on. There is no syllable about the independence of Ireland. That has been flung overboard by the new Irish patriots. The one feature of Home Rule in the past, 156 was that although it was visionary and impracticable, it at least appealed to the imagination and lifted it out of the sordid ruts of self interest. All this has faded away. The Irish leaders are left with something they care more about. They have abandoned the shadow of national Independence and kept the juicy bones of patronage—to them far more valuable than any national ideal or memory, or any old tradition. Herein lies the future of the proposals of the Government. Although the mouths of the present leaders in Ireland may water with anticipations of patronage and power, although the hon. Member for West Belfast (Mr. Devlin) may feel he has done a good day's work, how long is an Irish Parliament likely to tolerate the shackles of this Bill. The very fact that you are pretending to give independence will make the restrictions more insulting. One thing at least may be predicted. In a few years, if this Bill is carried, the Irish Parliament and the Irish Executive will be in a state of open revolt, and if the Imperial Parliament wishes to recover what it then will have lost, I think the remedy will be civil war. Although this new independent Irish Parliament is going to be hemmed in by all these humiliating reservations and restrictions, the Government are leaving out some of the cardinal restrictions that are really important. I will only mention two, namely, that the Irish Parliament should not be able to pass any retroactive law, or any law impairing the law of contracts. Why have the Government refrained from including these in their Irish proposals? They are specifically included among the provisions of the most famous federal constitution in the world, the constitution of the United States, and they are the provisions of all others by which the people of America set the greatest store. Have the Government left these out at the dictation of Members of the Nationalist party? If so, it is a sinister comment on the good faith of that party in the future.
Hon. Members opposite affect to be shocked at the attitude of Ulster, but if there is going to be any illegality in the position taken up by Ulster, at whose doors will the blame lie? Englishmen have the reputation all over the world of being law-abiding people. It has been our boast and our pride in the past, and an element in our national strength. If we have been law-abiding people, it is because our laws have been made with the 157 consent of the people, and for the people. They have had the sanction and the authority of the people behind them, and, therefore, the respect of sympathy of the people has been with them also. The greatest crime that any Government can commit is to undermine their respect for the law, and that is what this Government are doing by refusing to submit this great change to the verdict of the country. They are trying to pass laws against the will of the people. Therefore they cannot complain if their laws lack authority, and if the respect and sympathy of the people is withheld from them. Supposing it had been the other way, supposing the Unionist party had been trying to drive a minority under some alien yoke. Liberalism would have made the welkin ring with its unctuous lamentations, the spirit of liberty would have been invoked by the Lord Advocate on platform after platform. But if the Radical Government does it, Pecksniff is equal to the occasion, and it becomes a high act of statesmanship.
I do not believe there is a man in this House who does not wish to see a settlement of this great Irish question. It has been the blot upon the fair name of England in the past, and unless we take care these proposals will prolong and perpetuate the strife of centuries, and stain the reputation of our country in the future. Let us govern Ireland generously, with intelligence, with understanding, and with feeling. Let us carry to their conclusion the great social and economic changes that are already in operation. Let the Parliament of the United Kingdom devote itself to the various other reforms, social and economic, financial and political, that still urgently require to be taken in hand, and Ireland will forget the cry for Home Rule in the happiness of her people and in the growing prosperity of all classes of her community. It is because the proposals of the Government are retrograde and unworkable, it is because they will not be a final settlement of the Irish difficulty, but merely the beginning of incalculable trouble in the future, it is because they will prove a weakness to the Empire, and a source of dangerous and never-ending friction in years to come; it is above all because Ireland, instead of reaping benefit from them will reap loss, disillusion and disappointment, that I hope the House will utterly reject them whenever it is given the opportunity.
§ Mr. MAURICE HEALY
The speech to which we have just listened is interesting, but hardly consistent with itself, and when the hon. Gentleman was concluding I began to ask myself to whom it was addressed or what it was intended to prove. On the one hand it appeared from the beginning of his speech that this Bill will inevitably lead to a separation, and, on the other hand, it is a Bill which establishes so contemptible and degraded a system in Ireland that any Irishman should be ashamed to accept it. If the Gentlemen on these benches were only willing to get up and say they would have nothing but independence, that separation was their ultimate goal, that this Bill was a disappointment to Ireland, and that Ireland would not accept it, apparently the hon. Member would agree that they would be noble patriots. But because Irishmen have the good sense to recognise that there must be some limit to the demand which they make for this Parliament, apparently they have not come up to the high standard of patriotism which the hon. Member sets up. Has he not the sense to see that every word he uttered in depreciation of the Bill recommended it to the party which sits opposite? Has he not the sense to see that every word he uttered minimising the Bill took an argument away from his Ulster colleagues? Surely, though he has Irish connections he has too much sense to expect that anything he may say or the line he has taken will have any influence among the Irish people.
Critics of this and similar assemblies sometimes set up as a test or standard of their merits the opinion which would be formed of them by some stranger coming from a distant country or by some visitor from another planet. If such a visitor came amongst us during the past three or four days, he would be greatly struck by one circumstance. He would be told that one hundred years ago this Parliament took upon itself the management of the affairs of the sister Island, that during the whole course of these one hundred years Ireland demanded the restoration of its power to manage its own affairs, and that the subject of our Debates was whether that demand of Ireland should be granted. I think with these premises he would naturally expect that the main staple of our Debates would be the question how has this legislature discharged the duties which it took upon itself in the year 1800, what has been the result of its 159 rule to Ireland, and how has this experiment of the Union turned out for the country that is principally interested in it. He would expect that the opponents of the Bill would point splendid results of the Union to Ireland, the glorious prosperity which had resulted from its increasing population, its progress in wealth, its advance in civilisation.
No one who has listened to these Debates can fail to be struck with the fact that on this, which after all, though it is not the only subject to which we should address ourselves, is, at any rate, the primary topic on which this Bill turns, the Imperial Government and its defenders have let judgment go by default against them. Nobody has risen in this House to say that Ireland on the whole has been any the better for your rule, and I do submit that the first question, and not the only question which we must address ourselves to in this Debate is—has the Union been a blessing or a curse to Ireland? The hon. Member for Salisbury is the only one who has had the courage to suggest that the Union was a blessing. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Balfour) has delivered two elaborate speeches on this Bill—speeches full of intellect and interest as we might expect—but he is too good a general to take up a position which he could not defend, and from the beginning to the end of his speeches he never attempted to allege that on the whole the Union had been an advantage to Ireland. Are we to suppose that a dialectician of the skill of the right hon. Gentleman, if such a line of defence was open to him, would have abandoned it? But he did not attempt it, and the reason is perfectly plain. The case is unarguable on that ground.
The hon. Member for Salisbury did make some feeble attempt to prove that in recent years the experiment of the Union was not perhaps a brilliant success, but, at any rate, not the ghastly failure it had been in the earlier years, during which it has been in force. Where is the proof of the prosperity which the hon. Gentleman tells us the Union has brought to Ireland? Ireland in 1801 had a population of 5,000,000. If she had progressed at the same ratio as other parts of the Empire she would now have a population of nearly 20,000,000. Where has the balance of 15,000,000 gone? They are scattered all over the earth. Why are they so scattered? Scotland in 1801 had a population of less than 2,000,000. She has now a greater 160 population than Ireland. The hon. Member spoke of the prosperity which the Union had brought to Ireland. Will he explain these pregnant facts? The hon. Member, quoting the hon. Member for North Tyrone, had the courage to say that Ireland did not prosper under Grattan's Parliament. Why! the locus classicus is the speech of Lord Clare introducing the Act of Union, in which he gave a glowing account of the progress in wealth, commerce, and manufactures which had taken place during the period of the independence of the Irish Parliament. My conviction is that, as we have lost in population so we have lost in wealth during the century. We hear a great deal of the imports and exports of Ireland. Certainly, the figures are startling. It appears that we have a greater trade, imports and exports, per head of the population than any country in Europe. I have a profound belief that these remarkable figures are not evidence of Irish prosperity. At the date of the Union our imports and exports were not as large, but the farmer produced what he required. Now the agriculturist in Ireland sells what he grows and buys everything he consumes, and yet we are told that these extraordinary figures of imports and exports are proof of Irish prosperity.
There has been one circumstance, I admit, in which a great change has taken place since the Union. At the date of the Union there was an enormous low stratum of population in Ireland living in a depth of poverty and degradation which does not now exist. But what has become of that submerged tenth, or fifth, as it was? Has its status been raised? It is not existing now, it is true. But why? Not because the condition of these people has been improved, but because they have been exterminated. And my conviction at any rate is—of course, it is a question on which opinions will differ, and on which the facts are not easy to ascertain—that in everything which went to make the prosperity of nation the Ireland of 1800 was a more prosperous country than the Ireland of 1912. And is it any wonder that that should be the case? What has been the history of the dealings of this Parliament with Ireland? The hon. Member had the courage to refer to the question of Catholic emancipation. He said, "Under the Union you got Catholic emancipation." The fact is that the Union was passed under the bargain that we should get immediate Catholic emancipation, and that the assent 161 of the Irish hierarchy and their support were obtained on formal pledges to that effect, and in the result these pledges were shamefully broken, and Ireland did not get Catholic emancipation for twenty-eight years, and then not by any appeal to the justice of England but because the Duke of Wellington then said that it could no longer be refused except at the risk of rebellion. And that is the condition which the hon. Gentleman thinks we should be grateful for. Take another question, the question of tithes. How were tithes abolished? By rebellion, by outrages of the most horrible character, by reducing Ireland to such a state as few civilised countries have ever endured. And even then the question was settled by a trick. This Parliament pretended to abolish the tithes, but really placed their collection on the landlords and left the tithes there. And so take the whole range of Irish social life and legislation, and you will find that, at any rate for the first three-quarters of the last century, the dealings of this Parliament with Ireland are a history of shame and disgrace.
Take the land question. Everybody knows that this Parliament spent the first three-quarters of the last century in passing Acts to make easy the eviction of Irish tenants. It is quite true that the last quarter of the century was spent in undoing or trying to undo the evil work of the first three-quarters. We are told that the Unionist party—and it is a boast which they may well make—have identified themselves in a special manner with the establishment of peasant proprietary in Ireland. I agree with every word that the hon. Gentleman has said on that question, and I hope that his right hon. relative on the bench opposite will take it to heart. Let me draw the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to this question. In the year 1852, after the famine, this Parliament got an opportunity of settling the land question which, in the space of a few years would have absolutely removed every difficulty. When the feudal state of things broke down, the effect of the famine was that three-fourths of the Irish landlords became bankrupt, and three-fourths of the land of Ireland passed through the Landed Estates Court, and had to be sold. A great deal of it was sold at a price as low as seven years' purchase. If Ireland had been under the Government of any other country in Europe except England, would not the land question have been settled within a decade? If France had been governing Ireland it would have 162 been done. France had a peasant proprietary fifty years before. In Prussia they had ownership of the land which Stein and Hardenberg made possible. Even if Russia had been governing Ireland the opportunity which England had in 1852 would have been seized to settle the land question. But what was England's remedy—what was the use of the opportunity which she made when it presented itself? The land of Ireland was offered to land speculators — an invitation to everyone of them to raise the rents. Take education: primary education was established in Ireland with a view to perverting the people of Ireland from the Catholic religion.
It would be unjust to say that no other motives prompted its authors, but Archbishop Whateley began it, and we have his letters showing that the one thing he regretted was that he was fighting Romanism with one hand tied behind his back, and that he could not do openly what he tried to do secretly. Take the case of university education. Ireland was crying out for a Catholic University, and for 103 years she was deprived of any chance of university education, till at last we got a college to which we could send our sons. A glorious record. Of course, we were thankful to get it. It is a great glory indeed that this Parliament should take 103 years to settle the Irish University question. Anyone who has even the most elementary knowledge of this Parliament, knows that the history of Ireland has been one of neglect, indifference, and oppression. We hear that for the past quarter of a century that things have been different. They have been different. No one has been freer to acknowledge that than I have. I heard one hon. Gentleman above the Gangway say that now at last the Union was making Ireland prosperous. It was the revolt against the Union that made Ireland prosperous, and her prosperity began the day that she made that revolt formidable. Every measure which we got, land, education, local government, they were all the by-products of the Home Rule demand. They only became possible as an alternative to the Home Rule demand. I say it was the revolt against the Union that brought us those advantages, and at least some measure of prosperity. One other circumstance concerned in it—a political miracle, and the name of that miracle was Gladstone. Does anyone pretend that if Mr. Gladstone had not assumed the Leadership of the Liberal party 163 when Lord Palmerston died, that the Church would have been Disestablished, or that any attempt would have been made to deal with the land question, or that the whole series of Irish reforms which followed when Mr. Gladstone took up the cause for Ireland, that one of them would have come to Ireland? We all know that to Lord Palmerston, or to any statesman of the same temperament and views, Mr. Gladstone's views would have been hateful. With great respect, and while acknowledging that for the past quarter of a century, owing to Mr. Gladstone's existence and the noble part which he played, great things have been done for Ireland, I say to the hon. Member that it is not every day Ireland will meet with a Gladstone.
I have referred to some of the large questions which this Parliament has dealt with for the past twenty-five years. While I mention the name of Gladstone I am not at all confining the credit for all that was done. I perfectly recognise that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City (Mr. Balfour), Mr. Gerald Balfour, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover (Mr. Wyndham) have also done good and noble work for Ireland. I do not draw my political saints from any one political party. My motto is in whatever party you find a friend to Ireland let us be grateful to him. God forbid that we should limit our gratitude to any one side of the House. On these questions I fully recognise that great things have been done for Ireland by the Unionist party. I admit that both in the Unionist party and in the Liberal party a very great change has taken place within the last twenty-five years, and they approach Irish questions and regard Irishmen in a very different spirit from that which formerly prevailed. I even admit that in large questions upon which Ireland can afford to wait and concentrate her energies year after year the possibility is that she has now acquired a footing of such importance in this House that in the end she would probably—in questions of that kind—get her way. But I am prepared to base my demand for Home Rule, not on the history of the past, not on England's neglect of these large questions, but upon the method in which she discharges the daily humdrum work of government. This House has three Departments of activity in Ireland—legislation, finance, administration. I would like the candid opinion of some of my Ulster 164 Friends upon the method in which this House discharges its duties in those three different Departments. Take, first, the question of legislation. I do not refer to legislation on capital questions, such as land, education, or local government, but to the ordinary, humdrum, daily Departmental work which is necessary for any civilised State in modern times. Let me give an example of what I mean. This House last year passed a Shops Act. That Act, which applied to both England and Ireland, was one of a series of Acts, following three or four other Acts of a similar kind. What happened? Before that Act came into force it was repealed, and this Parliament passed, without a word, a codifying Act embodying all the provisions in one measure—to the enormous convenience of everyone to whom the Act applied and of everyone connected with its administration. This House last year passed also an Irish Act, called the Labourers Act. That, too, was an amending Act, dealing with an equally uncontentious topic. There are no two opinions in this House upon the Labourers Acts. Like the Shops Act, the Labourers Act was one of a series, but instead of being one of three or four it was one of a dozen. Why did not this House pass a codifying Labourers Act? Because this House pays no attention to Ireland. Such an Act was equally called for; it was even more necessary if the contents of the Acts are considered. But this House pays no attention to the daily work of Irish legislation, and accordingly Irish lawyers and administrators will have to grope their way through a dozen Labourers Acts before they can understand the law on this question. I select that example to show that, not perhaps so much in large questions, but in the daily legislative work which every civilised country requires, this House does not do its duty to Ireland. What happened in the matter of the Labourers Act also happened in the matter of the Licensing Acts. In the Budget of two years ago trifling change in English licensing law was introduced. Immediately the Budget passed, an Act was introduced codifying the English licensing laws. Ireland had been calling for the same thing for twenty years. Fifteen years ago a Select Committee said that Irish licensing law required codification. Why was it not done?
A few years ago, when Mr. Bryce held the post of Chief Secretary for Ireland, I 165 remember reading that an Irish deputation waited upon him with a request to carry out the recommendations of the Select Committee. He told the hon. Gentleman who introduced the deputation that being a lawyer he might devote his leisure to drawing up a codifying Act, and that he (Mr. Bryce) would be very pleased to consider it. This is not the way this House of Commons deals with England. It is only Ireland that is neglected in that way. Go through the whole range of legislation and it is the same. We asked last year that steps should be taken in the direction I have indicated in connection with the County Councils. An inquiry has been ordered. Why, when twenty-five years ago this Parliament dealt with the English aspect of this question cannot it deal with the Irish aspect? Because it has neither the time nor the inclination. Nothing can be done for Ireland. In England you have twenty or thirty officials in a Department, every man keen to improve the law so far as his Department is concerned. In Ireland you have only one or two officials, and I can imagine how the Chief Secretary would regard the official that came and said, "We want you to pass a Bill through the House amending the law on this topic or that." Such a gentleman would not be a welcome visitor. At any rate, we never see these Acts passed. Accordingly I say that, taking topics, not on large issues of land, education, or self-government, but on the daily humdrum work of a Government Department, this House scandalously neglects its duty towards Ireland. I should imagine that in the Legislature of Dahomey they would hardly do the thing worse.
And, it being Eleven of the Clock, the Debate stood adjourned.
Debate to be resumed to-morrow (Tuesday).