§ Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment to Question [30th April], "That the Bill be now read a second time."237
§ 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." Debate resumed.
§ Mr. MAURICE HEALY
When the proceedings were interrupted last night I was endeavouring to prove that this House from want of time was unable to discharge its duties to Ireland in any of the three departments of legislation, finance, and administration. I gave a number of instances to prove that charge in the matter of legislation. I pass now to the question of finance. How has this House treated Ireland in the matter of finance? Are my Ulster Friends above the Gangway satisfied with the financial dealings of this House with Ireland? I am glad to bear testimony to the fact that in this matter all Irishmen are pretty well agreed. The Noble Lord below me (Viscount Castlereagh) referred the other night to the readiness with which all Members combined in what he described as a raid on the Treasury. I prefer to say that all Irishmen are ready to combine to prevent Ireland being robbed by the Treasury. We all remember that when this question was raised in a very prominent way some ten years ago, Irish Members of all sections, including, greatly to his credit, the senior Member for the University of Dublin (Sir E. Carson), joined together, with very substantial and beneficial results to Ireland. I do not want to go into ancient history; I am prepared to base my case against the Treasury on their dealings with Ireland in connection with the late Budget. Are my Ulster Friends content with the legislation of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in reference to Ireland? [An HON. MEMBER: "Nor anywhere else."] I am dealing specially with Ireland. Are they satisfied with the manner in which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has dealt with Ireland in his great financial measures?
§ Mr. MAURICE HEALY
I voted against it, and, if the hon. and learned Gentleman will do me the favour of listening, I am going to endeavour to vindicate my hon. Friends behind me from the charge he is making against them by trying to prove that the Treasury imposed upon them. What is the fact? It is a pretty story.
§ 4.0 P.M.
§ Mr. MAURICE HEALY
When the right hon. Gentleman introduced his Budget there was one section, at any rate, of Irish Members, and there was a large section of the Irish people, who viewed with great alarm the financial effect that that measure would have on their country. We succeeded, I am glad to say, in making some impression. So large did this matter loom in our Debates that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer presented to this House a special Return showing, according to the information of his Treasury experts, how his Budget of 1910 was going to deal with Ireland. What was the story the financial experts told us? It is contained—and it is not the random statement of a Minister in Debate—it is contained in a regular Return (No. 128) presented to this House by the Treasury, and setting forth with all the skill of the experts what was to be the effect of the financial legislation of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Return was presented on 28th July, 1910. In this Return Ireland and the Irish Members are told that the effect of the Budget legislation on Ireland would be to increase Irish taxation to the extent of £602,000 per annum. Observe that that was not a statement of what its effect was to be in the first year of its imposition. This was a statement of what the effect of the Budget was to be when the duties had become fully productive. The estimate of the Treasury was that £602,000 per annum would be what the new duties and the additional duties were to extract from Ireland. That was the basis on which the right hon. Gentleman succeeded in getting the assent of hon. Members of Ireland behind me to his measure. I have in my hand a speech made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon), who was largely the mouthpiece of hon. Members behind upon this question. In that speech he administered to my unhappy self a castigation under which I am still wincing—for venturing to doubt the prophecies which the Treasury experts had put forward. This is the statement by the hon. Gentleman, and is the basis on which he supported the Budget:—I assert that the Budget as it originally stood would have laid upon Ireland an additional burden of £540,000 per year. As it now turns out, owing to the failure of the Spirit Duty and other matters, the whole additional load placed upon Ireland by this Budget will be considerably under £500,000 per year.239 The hon. Gentleman goes on to say:—This Budget, in my opinion, passing, as it will now pass—That was with the valuable concessions which hon. Gentlemen behind me had obtained,will lay upon Ireland this year a charge of about £480,000.The hon. Member was interrupted by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who said, "£435,000." How nice the Treasury experts were! They would not submit to the imputation that they were putting £480,000 upon Ireland. They insisted that it was only to be £435,000. What are the facts? The facts have been sprung upon us without one word of warning; they have been slipped into a White Paper issued at the time that the Home Rule Bill was circulated, without any comment or one word of explanation, without one word of preparation to us in view of the extraordinary result of this new taxation upon us. What has been the effect, I ask again? The taxation in Ireland at the date when the right hon. Gentleman introduced his legislation was £9,250,000. Last year the taxation, or true revenue, was £10,715,000, an increase, not of £480,000, or of £435,000, but an increase within three years of £1,464,000. Is not that a pretty story of Treasury dealings with Ireland?
§ The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Mr. Lloyd George)
The hon. Gentleman might tell the whole story. The charge for pensions alone was £2,600,000.
§ Mr. MAURICE HEALY
I know. I note what the right hon. Gentleman says, and I am going to tell the House the whole story, and the House and the country the effects of the Bill. I am not raising this question for the purposes of contention. I am raising it to prove that the Treasury cannot be trusted to deal fairly with Ireland. There are the facts, and the Treasury experts are supposed to know everything. The right hon. Gentleman introduces a Bill accompanied by a solemn Return declaring that the ultimate effect of the Bill in Ireland will be the levying of a sum of £600,000. Three years has shown that that £600,000 has swollen to nearly £1,500,000. I may point out to the right hon. Gentleman that it was on the basis of his Return that he got the support for his Budget of hon. Gentlemen behind me. We on these lower benches 240 were attacked and denounced no end because we ventured to form our own conclusions about the Budget. We did not accept the Treasury figures. We did not believe them. Our recollections of Treasury dealings with Ireland in the past were too vivid in our minds to allow us to believe all these fine stories they were telling us. Accordingly, however others were misled by the Treasury, I and my hon. Friends were not. When did the Treasury discover that their figures were all wrong? Last year, as we all know, a Commission, known as the Primrose Commission, was appointed to investigate Irish finance. I presume—and I think I am entitled to presume—that the conclusions to which that Commission came were based upon Treasury evidence. The Report of that Commission is dated as late as October last. What is the story that presumably the Treasury told the Primrose Commission? It is summed up in paragraph 34 of the Primrose Report in these words:—That, nevertheless, taken merely as an estimate the figures of contributed or true revenue given in the Treasury White Paper are sufficiently approximate to warrant the statement that the expenditure of Ireland in 1910–11 exceeded its revenue by more than £1,000,000; while for the current year the excess will be more than £1,500,000.That is the story which the Treasury told the Primrose Commission as late as October; that in 1909–10 Ireland had a deficit of more than £1,000,000, and in 1910–11 that deficit would be £1,500,000. Lo and behold, to our amazement when the White Paper accompanying the Home Rule Bill is presented we learn that the Irish deficit in 1909–10 was only £500,000, and in 1910–11 was not £1,500,000, but £800,000. Is not that an incredible story? I venture to say that, there is not a Member on these benches or the benches opposite, but has not up to the present moment been under the belief that the Irish deficit is £1,500,000. That story has been spread from one end of England to the other, and from one end of Ireland to the other. There is no truth in it! The Irish deficit of the three years that had, according to these fairly tales, amounted to £3,500,000—is not half that amount; and the average deficit for the three years, even according to the Treasury figures—assuming them to be correct—is only £600,000. But that is not the end. We had a Debate in this House as late as last August where this whole question was raised. It was the one opportunity which Ireland got last year to debate Irish finance, and as might be assumed, it took place at one o'clock in the morning. We 241 were enlightened on that Commission then by the Secretary to the Treasury, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bristol. What was the story he told He told the House that the extra taxation imposed upon Ireland by the Budget was £400,000. A Return showing a relative finance for the two countries had been issued in July, and with that Paper in his hand, the right hon. Gentleman—who was coming to the rescue of the hon. Gentleman the Member for East Mayo—and he was also rebuking one of my hon. Friends for making, as he suggested, false estimates as to the results of the Budget upon Ireland, said:—It is therefore necessary to take the figures for 1910 and 1910–11 together—That was necessary because of the confusion that had arisen from the rejection of the Budget in the first year—and to add these figures together and to divide them by two, and if the hon. Member will do that sum he will find that the total revenue collected in these two years is £20,800,000, and therefore the revenue that is to be assigned to either is about £10,400,000. If he will go back to the year to which he made reference (1909) the revenue collected in that year was £10,000,000, and the increase therefore in the taxation which has resulted from the Budget is not as he has put it to the House from £2,000,000 to £2,500,000, but an increase of about £300,000 to £400,000.Is it not incredible that any responsible Minister should make a statement of that kind? I do not at all suggest that the right hon. Gentleman was saying anything he did not believe, or that he was intending to mislead the House. I assume he was acting upon the instructions he got from the Treasury representatives; but there is the fact that, with the return in his hand, which showed that the Budget up to March of last year had increased Irish taxation by £740,000, he told the House that the increase was between £300,000 and £400,000.
These figures were correct in a way, and this is the sinister thing about it, because it shows there was no mistake, but that there was juggling with figures. How are they correct? It happened that for that particular year the figures of collected revenue were more favourable to England than the figures of true revenue, and accordingly it happened that in that particular year the figures of collected revenue, as distinguished from true revenue, was only £400,000. When collected revenue hits us, the Treasury says it shall be collected revenue; and when true revenue hits us the Treasury says it shall be true revenue, and according, as it happens to be, collected revenue or true revenue, which are the most favourable from the Treasury 242 point of view, they select the particular one to suit themselves. Therefore the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bristol got up and told the House and the Irish Members at one o'clock in the morning that the effect of the Budget was to increase Irish taxation by £400,000. I ask how is it possible for any Irish Member, be he Unionist, Nationalist, or whatever opinion he holds, to trust a Department which deals with Ireland in that way? My puzzle is to know is this diabolical cleverness or is it mere blundering? I very well remember an accountant in Cork long ago who was greatly employed in bankruptcy cases. He was a very successful man, and when you went to him to prepare a balance-sheet he always began by asking you, "On what side do you want the balance?" I imagine that is the attitude the Treasury assumes towards the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he wants any figures relating to Irish finance. I fancy they say to him, "What kind of figures would you like? What figures would suit your purpose for the time being?" At one time they told the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover that £180,000,000 would be sufficient to complete the whole of Irish land purchase; but the right hon. Gentleman opposite goes to these officials in another spirit and asks them for a figure, and they say, "You do not like the figures we gave to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover; they do not suit your case; all right, then, here are another set of figures." I ask hon. Gentlemen from Ireland above the Gangway, and I am sure they are sincerely interested in the financial success of their country, how long are they prepared to have their country juggled with by Departments in that way?
§ Mr. MAURICE HEALY
This treatment by the Treasury did not begin with this Government or even with the last Government. It has gone on for 112 years. The figures represented in this Report put in a compendious form the whole story of Irish financial injustice, and as the hon. and learned Member for North Armagh seems to think the present Government is to blame, I ask him what does he think of the Government of 1849–50? I do not know whether they were Tories or Liberals, and I am profoundly indifferent; or let us take the Government 1869–70. How much did the Government of that day draw out of Ireland 243 for Imperial expenditure? They drew £4,488,000. How does the hon. and learned Gentleman like that?
§ Mr. MAURICE HEALY
The hon. and learned Gentleman's motto is, "Better the devil you know than the devil you do not know."
§ Mr. MAURICE HEALY
We do not accept that. We are ready to attribute all kinds of diabolical malice to the Government, but we do not take it to ourselves. We do not admit anything diabolical in our own nature. That is the whole story. Take the year 1859–60. England in that year drew from Ireland for Imperial expenditure £5,396,000. The Noble Lord below me told us the other night that was a perfectly irrelevant matter. It was a kind of economic indecency that we should even know it. He said it was quite a mistake to divide the United Kingdom into parts, and say that so much comes out of one part and so much out of another, and all that was necessary to reconcile us to the existing state of things was a kind of political faith-healer. We were to assume we were a group of English countries, and if we did we would not then know how much we were severally taxed.
I have dwelt longer than I had intended upon that particular branch of the matter. I will only touch on one or two more parts. Turning from finance I come to administration. How does this House deal with Ireland in the matter of administration? I was surprised at the suggestion of the hon. Gentleman the Member for North Armagh when he interrupted the Attorney-General yesterday to confute and confound him by informing him that last year Ireland only got forty hours of Parliamentary time. Have we no Irish interests to discuss? Take any of the Departments of Administration which interests hon. Members in this House. Take education! However pressed this House is for time it finds an opportunity every year to debate the condition of English education; to hear an elaborate statement from the education Minister, to hear English Members get up and give their views as to how education 244 is progressing, and what is the difficulty under this particular system. But is that done for Ireland? Have Irish Members no interests in Irish education. When do Irish Members get an opportunity of discussing Irish education? Is it suggested that education in Ireland needs no improvement? Everyone knows that it is in a disgraceful condition. England every year gets its night to discuss English education, but except some question of finance arises, we never hear a word about Irish education. Take local government or any other department of administration! Here year after year the Minister responsible to Parliament makes a statement and his Department is discussed and criticised and suggestions are made to him. What does Ireland get? Has she any such opportunity? None.
§ Sir EDWARD CARSON
Because the Irish Members have not asked for it. When we were in office they did get the opportunity.
§ Mr. MAURICE HEALY
I know this House for many years. I never remember a time in recent years when we got more than a day or two or three days, and so far from matters improving in this direction they are getting steadily worse. Year after year the private Member's opportunities are less and less. When I came into this House first, Question Time was one of the features of the day. You could cross-examine a Minister for half an hour without rebuke. If he erred you could castigate him, and if you did not like his answers you could move the Adjournment of the House, and discuss his conduct at length. Take the period of Question Time at present and contrast it with that state of things. You cannot even be sure, as we heard to-day, of asking a question orally. Take the Estimates. When I came into this House first we had unlimited opportunities for discussing the Estimates. The House could spend a whole year discussing the Estimates if it liked, and every Member was in a position if he had the patience and the industry of getting an opportunity of raising the particular pet question in which he was interested. Nowadays the Government are not even interested in the Estimates. They know that twenty days is to be devoted to them, and that by the end of that time whether they are discussed or not, they have to be voted, and so it is with the whole Parliamentary procedure. Every day the private Member—and all the Irish Members and private Members—sees his powers in 245 this House becoming less and less, and the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Dublin University, that it is in the power of Irish Members to get the time Ireland requires to discuss her administration, is a suggestion that will not bear examination.
Let me say a word now upon the Bill. I have tested the capacity and power of the Imperial Parliament in the three departments of legislation, finance and administration. Let me very briefly take these topics and apply them to the Bill before us. Take legislation. We have heard a great deal as to what is called the legislative effects of this Bill. I confess that the legislative proposals contained in it are not important, and they are not matters to which I am disposed to devote most of my attention. It has been suggested that in accepting this Bill we are content with a small thing. My opinion is that with some slight reservation this Bill gives to Ireland all the legislative powers which Ireland needs. It preserves the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament, and we do not object to that. It places a limitation upon the power of the Irish Parliament in a number of matters. They are, for the most part, matters which most sensible Irishmen admit should be left with the Imperial Parliament and should not be vested in an Irish Parliament. It is suggested that the limitation placed upon our legislative powers are paper safeguards; but I do not admit that. The hon. Member for East Mayo and the hon. Member for West Belfast have been quoted as saying that these safeguards are of no efficacy. Will anyone tell me that the poll which is lodged in the Privy Council of the United States to declare the law passed by Congress unconstitutional is a paper safeguard? Is the poll vested in the Privy Council giving them power to declare an Act of the Assemblies in Canada, Australia, and South Africa unconstitutional a paper safeguard? These are powers which are constantly exercised in the United States, and they are sometimes exercised in our Privy Council over local legislations scattered all over the Empire, and no lawyer can get up and say seriously that the power which this Bill vests in the Privy Council to declare the Acts of an Irish Legislature unconstitutional is a mere paper safeguard.
It is not the portion of this Bill which deals with legislation which interests me most, and I am more interested in the financial part. I would like to state my 246 views as to how this Bill deals with Irish finance. On this matter I will speak quite frankly. I do not consider that this Bill gives Ireland at the present time any real power of taxation. We have heard of paper safeguards. If we are to talk about guarantees and paper safeguards, I think that criticism might be more justly directed to the portion of this Bill which purports to give Ireland powers over finance. Let me take the question of Excise. Upon that point I think the Prime Minister has raised some false expectations in Ireland, and he has created somewhat of a false impression. He said the Home Rule Parliament cannot impose any Customs Duty except upon articles which are for the time being dutiable by way of Customs in the United Kingdom. Furthermore, the Irish Parliament will not be able to add to any Imperial Customs, except beer or spirits, the Income Tax, or Estate Duties, more than 10 per cent., and then the right hon. Gentleman said, "With regard to Excise their hands will be free." That statement is true in one sense, but false in another sense. It is perfectly true that they will be theoretically free, but practically every limitation which is placed on Customs will be ineffective. The suggestion is sometimes made that mineral waters would be a proper subject for Excise taxation. It is said that teetotalers are not taxed, and it is quite true that it would be competent for the Irish Parliament to impose an Excise Tax upon Irish mineral waters. What does that mean? Instead of discriminating in favour of Irish manufacturers as against English manufacturers, which is the apprehension of English Members, they would be discriminating in favour of English manufacturers against Irish manufacturers. If the Irish Parliament imposed an Excise Duty upon mineral waters the only effect would be that they would raise no revenue, because Irish mineral waters would not be sold, and they would confer great benefits on the manufacturers of that article in England, while it would do no sort of good to Irish finance and would kill that particular industry in Ireland.
Therefore, to say, as the Prime Minister said, that with regard to Excise the hands of the Irish Parliament are free is not true. We cannot impose new Excise Duties which would discriminate against Irish manufacturers. We cannot increase Excise Duties because that would discriminate against Irish manufacturers. The only real meaning which the Prime 247 Minister's statement has is that there are in practice only two articles excisable, namely whisky and porter. It is perfectly plain that while this Bill does give to Ireland very valuable powers of reducing taxation, in my opinion it does not give us any power whatever of increasing taxation. But that does not trouble me in the least. I do not believe an increase of Irish taxation is practicable. The new Irish Government, when it is formed, will have difficulties enough before it. For my part, I have not the slightest ambition to be a Member of the first Irish Ministry. I think they will have a most unpleasant time of it, because the whole course of our proceedings in Ireland have necessarily taken the form of magnifying to all people the great and good things which will follow after we have got Home Rule. We are Home Rulers, and we are bound to tell our people what is good for Ireland, and, naturally, we create exaggerated expectations on the part of our people, and if we were to tell them that a great blessing which will result to Ireland will be that we shall have power to tax ourselves as much as we like, it would create somewhat of a revulsion of feeling. The average Irishman, as the result of a long course of oratory of a flamboyant character, has begun to believe that Home Rule will create a sort of Heaven. To tell me that it will trouble the Irish people if they are not given large powers of taxation is, in my opinion, moonshine. The notion that Ireland cannot be run on a revenue of £12,000,000 a year is sheer and absolute nonsense. If we cannot govern Ireland on £12,000,000 a year we are not fit for Home Rule, and we should not get it. The notion that a special form of blessing to which we have been looking forward is the power to raise our taxes is all moonshine and nonsense, and the fact that this Bill does not increase our taxing powers does not trouble us at all.
One thing has rather puzzled me. The Government have done a bold and courageous thing. They propose to set up an Irish Customs House. If that proposal was made and the Government were urged to grant fiscal autonomy to Ireland, I think the chief argument would be the fact that it would involve an Irish Customs House, and it never occurred to me that when the Government once screwed up their courage to the important point of granting an Irish Customs House that fiscal autonomy would have resulted from it as a matter of course. 248 When I speak of fiscal autonomy I mean it in the sense recommended by the Primrose Commission, which was a limitation of our power of differentiating against English manufacturers and against foreign exports and without the power of taxing any article which is not already dutiable. Once the Government made up their mind to take the bold and courageous and wise step of giving us an Irish Customs House it would not have involved a very great measure of courage if they had advanced the further step of giving us fiscal autonomy. I desire complete fiscal autonomy, not because it would enable us to increase Irish taxation, because I do not believe that is practicable, but because it, would impose financial responsibility upon the Irish Parliament. That is the reason I desire complete fiscal autonomy, not because I for a moment believe it is practicable or possible to raise more taxation in Ireland than is being already raised, but because I am firmly convinced that the power of spending should be dependent upon the power of levying, and that the body that performs the one function should necessarily perform the other.
On a point of Order. May I very respectfully ask you, Sir, whether, in response to the hon. Member for Central Edinburgh (Mr. C. E. Price) the House did not indicate its desire for the speeches in this Debate to be shorter, and whether the hon. Member is carrying out that desire?
§ Mr. MAURICE HEALY
I will relieve the hon. Member's anxiety by telling him that my observations are rapidly drawing to a close. I should not be discharging what I consider to be my duty to Ireland if I sat down without indicating what I consider to be the chief defect in this Bill, and that is the fact that it hangs up land purchase. We are to be left in a condition that the Imperial Parliament will not undertake to settle that question, and, on the other hand, the Irish Parliament will not have the power to settle it. That is an impossible situation. I further say I do not believe this or any other Bill of the kind can ever pass into law unless that grave defect is set right. These are my criticisms upon this Bill. I rose to speak on it in this spirit: that it is the duty of an Irish Member not to be astute to find defects in the Bill, but to approach it with a 249 desire to praise it where he can and to criticise it only where he must. I think that is the spirit in which I have dealt with it, and, if I have offended the hon. Gentleman and other Members opposite by being longer than they anticipated, let them remember, at any rate, that this is an Irish Bill, and that he has himself given unconsciously one of the strongest arguments in its favour by showing that even Gentlemen who profess to be friends of Ireland are intolerant and angry when Irish Members exercise their right of debating matters immediately concerning them.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
I hope the House and the hon. and learned Gentleman who has just spoken will not think I am evading the question which he has just discussed if I do not set myself to reply in detail to the speech to which we have just listened. I confess I have a little difficulty in connecting that speech with the Bill which is before us. I understand from its concluding sentences that the hon. and learned Gentleman was speaking in warm advocacy of the measure, which, it is true he said, has some defects, but which he heartily welcomes. He supports it, as far as I can gather, upon two grounds. In the first place, he complains that inadequate attention and time are given by this House to Irish affairs. Well, at any rate, the hon. Gentleman may take credit to himself for having done something to redress the balance in that respect. He adduced as an argument in favour of Home Rule the fact that this House passed the Budget of 1909 adversely, as he thinks, affecting Ireland. That might be some argument for his case if that Bill had been passed in spite of the majority of Irish votes. The hon. and learned Gentleman and his immediate Friends had nothing to do with it, but that Bill was carried with the assistance of Nationalist votes. What argument can you make out of that for Home Rule? When at length the hon. and learned Gentleman did approach this Bill, it was to say the financial Clauses of it created an impossible situation which would be destructive of any hope of the successful administration of Ireland or of a peaceful settlement of Irish grievances under the Bill.
§ Mr. MAURICE HEALY
The right hon. Gentleman is mistaken. I did not make that criticism of the financial Clauses, but with reference to land purchase. I said it would, in my opinion, create an impossible situation as regards land purchase.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
I beg the hon. Gentleman's pardon. I missed the connecting link. He dislikes the financial Clauses because they deprive Ireland of all responsibility and much power. He dislikes the Land Clauses because they create an impossible situation. That is his recommendation of the Bill which we are discussing to-day, and it is very characteristic, not of the hon. and learned Gentleman alone, but of all the speeches we have heard. With the single exception of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney-General who spoke yesterday, I have not heard in the course of the Second Reading Debate one word of defence of this Bill from any speaker on that bench. I am not one of those who can boast of the modern eye. My political activities began at the time of Mr. Gladstone's conversion to Home Rule. My first full Session in this House was at the time of the second Home Rule Bill, and I cannot forget those days or the struggles which preceded and succeeded them. Neither can I omit to note the contrast between those days and these. There is an absence from the Debates to-day and from the defence and speeches of Ministers of that note of deep-toned conviction which rang in every utterance of Mr. Gladstone. He at least thought that as the crown to a great career he had found a solution of the Irish difficulty. What Minister thinks so to-day? There is no confidence, there is no conviction, there is no faith in their speeches. Where speakers do not pretend to defend this Bill, they scarcely allude to it. With the single exception I have named, there has not been a speech on the Second Reading which would not have been equally relevant to a proposal to grant Ireland a Constitution such as Canada enjoys, on the one hand, or to a proposal to enable her to deal in Dublin with Private Bill Legislation, on the other.
I say, and I am sure Members who have listened to the Debates will bear me out, no man can feel, after listening to Ministers' speeches, they have any confidence that they have found a solution of the Irish question. A weariness and a lassitude assails them as it assails the House. They declare the present situation is intolerable, and they jump at any means of escape which seems to offer an issue from our present difficulties; but as to any real faith that this Bill provides a settlement, that the provisions of this Bill settle the Irish difficulty, you may search their 251 speeches in vain not merely for an argument to prove it, but for any indication that they believe it for a moment. Take the hon. and learned Gentleman, the Attorney-General, what is his argument? That on the first occasion he came into this House he found it discussing the sewage of Rathmines and Rathgar. That may or may not be a subject worth discussing here, but what on earth has it got to do with this Bill? Take the Foreign Secretary. He says you must have some devolution, but never in one word of his speech did he attempt to show this Bill was safe devolution, or that it solved our troubles. He said we must have some devolution. "This Bill, no doubt, is open to many objections, but, if you do not have devolution we shall have destruction." Well, from the Foreign Secretary that is very mild language. I remember a little time ago that if we did not do something we should not merely have "destruction" but "death and damnation." That something remains undone, but the Foreign Secretary goes on just the same.
These general considerations do not help us in the consideration of this Bill. What we have now to consider is not an abstract resolution fit for a Wednesday evening or for a debating society as to advantages of some devolution of authority from this House to other bodies, but whether the kind of authority that you intend to establish in Ireland, the kind of powers you intend to confer upon it, and the kind of powers you intend to retain here can make a Constitution which is tolerable either for Ireland or for the United Kingdom, or will tend to the happiness or strength of either. I think it is quite obvious from the speeches of Ministers, and from the attitude of the House that the two lines of argument that must appeal to hon. Gentlemen sitting opposite are: in the first place, that Ireland as we govern it to-day has become an expensive luxury, and that we had better cut our loss and put an end to this extravagant expenditure. And, in the second place, that the Irish Members chirping in our Debates as cheerful grasshoppers, have become a burden. "Let them take themselves elsewhere, and let us henceforth be free to devote ourselves to our own affairs, and no longer have to trouble with theirs." What chance have we of realising either of these ideals under this Bill? What relief is possible under the provisions of this Bill? Look at the long list of reserved 252 services. Look at the account the Government give of the powers they retain to this Imperial Parliament. Bear in mind there are to be in this House forty Members from Ireland, representing, not the majority alone, but the minority also. Do you think by passing this Bill you will bring to an end our Irish difficulties if you exercise your powers of vetoing legislation or of overriding legislation? The majority from Ireland would protest and would bring to the floor of this House their appeal against your action. If you let the majority do as they will, and do not exercise your powers, then the minority of Irish representatives will bring the same questions to this House, and over and over again we shall have to thresh out on the floor of this House all the questions that have been settled in Dublin, with the added complication that if we wish to take any action we have to take it, not as our own action in the first place, but in reversal of the decision of the Irish Senate and the Irish Parliament. Then look at finance. Does the House think that the financial provisions of this Bill will give relief from Irish discussion? Do they think that, under the financial provisions of the Bill, they will, in the phrase of the Chief Secretary, be able to "cut their losses?" Was there ever a more misleading expression as applied to this Bill? It is often wise when you have speculated and made losses to cut your losses. I agree. But what is the meaning of that? It means that the money you have lost you let go and you make no effort to recover it. From that moment your loss ceases and you no longer continue to pay out money you cannot afford. But does your loss cease under this Bill? Do you get off with your loss already incurred and incur no more? No. You go on paying for ever on the basis of present loss.
Are the Irish going to take their share in any of the Imperial expenditure? Not an atom. Are they going to resume the Irish debt which they brought into the Union? Not a penny of it. Are they going to run their country on the revenue which Ireland produces? Not a bit of it. We are to contribute £2,000,000 a year in order to make possible the experiment of the right hon. Gentleman opposite in constitutional government, and in order to gratify the ambitions of the Nationalist Members below the Gangway. It is not cutting your losses, neither is it going to relieve you from Irish discussions here. These questions will come up here again 253 and again. I want to say a word or two more about these financial provisions. I am not one of those who has ever had the desire, or will have it as long as we are a United Kingdom, governed by one Parliament, and one Ministry responsible to the whole, to enter too closely into the balance-sheets for the respective portions which compose our whole. If I have ever discussed this question at all on the floor of this House it has been to defend England against charges of overtaxing Ireland, charges which I believe to be unfounded and untrue. I make no complaint of any contribution which is made by the richer portions of the United Kingdom to develop the resources of the poorer portions of the same United Kingdom while one Parliament and one Government are responsible for them all. I regard that as an obligation. Let individuals be taxed alike, whether they reside in England, in Ireland, in Scotland, or in Wales. If they are rich let them pay more in proportion to their wealth, and if they be poor, let the burden be lightened in proportion to their powers. But as long as you administer equal laws to people in equal positions you have fulfilled the obligations of justice, and when you use the wealth of the whole community to develop the backward parts of the Kingdom then you make a wise use of the resources of a rich country like this, a use which can only be made and be justified as long as the responsibility is common and our government is shared in by all.
I do raise strong objection to paying a subsidy to maintain another Parliament in existence. I do raise the strongest objection to voting British money for an Irish Parliament in Dublin to spend, not as we direct, but as they choose and as they direct. I venture to say that the scheme which the Government has elaborated is, of all the financial schemes to which Home Rule have given rise, the most complicated, the most unreasonable, and the most certain to break down in practice. I beg the House to note, in the first place, that no Member now, whatever quarter of the House he sits in, rises to support the finance of Mr. Gladstone's first Home Rule Bill, or of his second Home Rule Bill as introduced, or of that modification of it which he made in the course of its passage through the House. These schemes were perfect, or as near perfect as human ingenuity could make them, when they were introduced.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
The hon. and learned Member for North-East Cork asks me who said so. Their author. What about the Irish Nationalists in those days? Did they accept them?
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
Did the hon. and learned Member—or, stay, I do not wish to make it a personal matter—did the Nationalist party repudiate the finance of the Bill of 1886?
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
Now let us see. Anybody who remembers those days knows there was exactly the same acceptance of the Bill of 1886 and of the Bill of 1893 as there is to-day of the Bill of 1912, and the acceptance of that to-day will be worth as much six years hence as the acceptance of 1886 and 1893 is to-day. What is this scheme? How is it going to affect us? The Government appointed their own Committee this time to investigate Irish finance, and to advise them what the financial relations of the two countries should be. That Committee was an ex-parte Committee composed exclusively of Home Rulers.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
Are not all Members of the party opposite Home Rulers? Well, I take it that one Member of the party opposite, according to the Chief Secretary, is not a Home Ruler. I know nothing about it.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
At any rate the hon. Member referred to was not unduly unfavourable to Home Rule. He was appointed by the Home Rule Government, and the majority of the Members of Committee were in favour of Home Rule.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
They were all chosen as friendly to Home Rule, and they were asked to advise on the footing of Home Rule. They made eight recommendations. The five first and most important of the recommendations they made are there on record for any Irish Parliament of the future to appeal to, and every one of them was rejected despised and spurned by the proposals of the Government. What chance then is there of the finality of these financial proposals? It is not merely that these proposals will never gain the support or secure the acquiescence of the Irish Parliament. They would be intolerable to an Imperial Parliament. I wish the Chancellor of the Exchequer were here, but I will ask the Chief Secretary to tell me—
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
I understood the right hon. Gentleman was, but perhaps the Postmaster-General will be able to deal more readily with finance than the Chief Secretary, and I will ask him how does he think that the Budgets of the future are going to be made by either the Irish Chancellor of the Exchequer or by the British Chancellor of the Exchequer. Take the first mentioned Minister. Suppose you have an Imperial tax in force in Ireland which is showing obvious signs of expansion and growing revenue. The whole of that growth accrues to the benefit of the Imperial Exchequer, and it is obviously to the interest of the Irish Chancellor of the Exchequer to use his power to repeal that tax and to put another tax under a different name on the same thing, so that the whole benefit of it may accrue to the Irish Exchequer. That is not all. The Tea Duty interests Members on both sides, and it interests Irish Members a great deal. They complain that it is very unjust to Ireland. How do hon. Members think that they are ever going to get a reduction of the Tea Duty if this Bill passes? No Irish Chancellor of the Exchequer would take it off if there is ever the slightest chance he can induce the English Chancellor of the Exchequer to do so. If the Irish Chancellor of the Exchequer takes it off Ireland loses the revenue. If the British Chancellor of the Exchequer takes it off Ireland continues to receive the same quota, and the whole expense of the relief to the Irish tea consumer falls on the British taxpayer. I 256 ask the Postmaster-General whether he thinks that any Government, his own or any other, is going to reduce the Tea Duty under conditions like these. That comes from the fact that, in this Bill, no provision whatever is made, so that if the true revenue of Ireland falls the transferred services should fall with it. If any benefit accrues the Irish Exchequer reaps it. If any misfortune occurs the British Exchequer is to bear the burden. Why are we to pay this great sum to Ireland? Because, in the course of the last two years, it has pleased the Government to pass an Old Age Pensions Act and an Insurance Act, and to place a burden on Ireland which it is now contended is out of all proportion to Ireland's revenue, was not needed by Ireland, and would not have been placed by Ireland on herself. Suppose the Irish Government, holding that view, should cease to pay old age pensions, would our subsidy cease? Not a bit of it. The old age pensions are made an excuse for extracting revenue from us, but we have no guarantee, and the old age pensioners have no guarantee, that when we have paid the money it will be devoted to the use for which we contribute it.
Take another illustration of the confusion which would arise, not merely to the Irish Budget, but to the Imperial Budget from the provisions of this Bill. Take the provisions of Customs and Excise in regard to beer and spirits, where the powers of the Irish Parliament are unlimited. I think that these duties produce in Ireland about £3,000,000 at the present time. Suppose that it should occur to an Irish Chancellor of the Exchequer, as it occurred to our Chancellor of the Exchequer a little time ago, to raise these duties by 33⅓ per cent. One thing is quite clear, that consumption would be very much diminished, and that the yield of the tax would not increase in anything like the proportion of the yield of the duty. For the sake of argument, assume that the additional yield is only 10 per cent. What happens? The £3,000,000 collected in Ireland becomes £3,300,000. The share of the Irish Exchequer is one-fourth of the whole, in other words, £825,000. There remains for the Imperial Exchequer £2,475,000, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer of the Imperial Treasury having done nothing, have made no change, having been unable to take any steps to guard himself against the result, finds that by the independent action of the Chancellor of the Exchequer of Ireland, his net 257 revenue is reduced by £525,000 a year. I see the Postmaster-General shakes his head. I invite him to explain now, if he wishes to, or to explain after if he does not wish to reply now.
§ The POSTMASTER-GENERAL (Mr. Herbert Samuel)
I cannot quite follow the right hon. Gentleman's point. I do not understand the sum that is to go to the Irish Exchequer.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
The Irish Exchequer may deal as it likes with Customs and Excise in regard to beer and spirits. It increases the duty by one-third; of the revenue collected in Ireland one-fourth is the produce of the new duty.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
It is not in your Bill, but there is nothing in your Bill to say the contrary. It is not a question of exceeding 10 per cent, in this case. I cannot see what the Postmaster-General has in his mind, but I think I have at any rate put my case before the House. One further observation on finance, in particular in reference to the relief of the duties of this House. This Bill creates a new authority which is called the Exchequer Board. That is the real financial authority of the future, not only for Ireland but for the United Kingdom. It is to be constituted of two representatives of the Irish Treasury, two representatives of the British Treasury, and someone nominated by the Crown. From the first time, in my recollection, of these Commissions created by the Government, no provision is made for the salaries of these gentlemen. No provision is made for any staff for them, and I think they will require a considerable staff. I presume it will be for this Parliament to meet the expenses of running this Commission, as of running the Irish Parliament. What are their duties? Here are some of them: they must determine the cost of services transferred at the passing of this Act; they must determine the proceeds of the Irish taxes imposed by Ireland; they must decide whether any proposed Irish tax is substantially the same as an Imperial tax—that is a pretty question for five Commissioners to decide as between two Parliaments and as binding on two nations—they must estimate the reduction of Irish revenue, and therefore what is the transferred sum arising from the reduction or discontinuance of the Imperial tax in Ireland; they must decide whether the 10 per cent, limit of yield from additional Irish 258 taxes has been exceeded and by how much; they must decide the increase of the transferred sum to accompany any transfer of a reserved service; they must make estimates of true revenue, and report whenever for three successive years Irish revenue has exceeded the expenditure on Irish services.
Could you have a more contentious series of questions to refer to anybody? All these matters, as far as they are matters of relevance at the present time, are matters now in dispute. Some of them formed the staple complaint of the hon. and learned Gentleman who preceded me. He repudiated the whole contention of the Treasury, and the whole report of Sir Henry Primrose's Commission. What chance do you think there is that this House will gain relief from Irish troubles so long as all these questions are to be settled by a Commission of this kind, and every decision of that Commission can be brought under review in this House by either section of the remaining Irish Members, or by any other party who may be aggrieved. I think it is idle for Members to hold that provisions such as these afford them any relief from their past troubles, or that by such methods as these they will secure that respite for the calm and untroubled consideration of British reforms which they profess is so dear to their hearts, but which the necessity for constitutional change so constantly forces them to withhold. When we deal with these criticisms of the Bill we are met by the objection, made by nearly every speaker and repeated by the Attorney-General yesterday, that our arguments are inconsistent. He says, "Do you oppose this Bill because it gives too much to Ireland or because it gives too little. You cannot have it both ways." I answer him that I oppose it on both grounds, and that there is no inconsistency between them. This Bill gives too much if you put it forward as a mere extension of local government, it gives too little if it is an answer to the claim of a nation to national rights.
The Attorney-General made some reference to a speech of my own and to a speech of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kingston (Mr. Cave), in which we did speak of the extension of local government. What earthly reference has this Bill to the extension of local government? When you extend local government you strictly define the powers which you delegate; you do not make a clean sweep and hand over everything. What place in a 259 scheme of local government would these Clauses about Customs and Excise have, or these provisions for a separate Post Office for Ireland? This Bill is not framed to give an extension of local government. It is not an extension of local government that is asked for; the claim of the Nationalist Members is that Ireland is a nation, and that she has the rights of a nation. If that be so, this Bill does not satisfy those claims, and yet it is on that basis that the Prime Minister himself founded the Bill. He accepts the claim but shirks the consequences. But what he does not do to-day, what the hon. and learned Member for Waterford (Mr. J. Redmond) does not force from him to-day, both, as they must know if they gave a moment's thought to the subject, will be wrung from the successors of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite in the future. What are the rights of a nation? This Bill is the answer to the national claim of Ireland. The first right of a nation is to settle its own form of government. You deny it to the Irish. The second right is to settle its own foreign policy. You deny that to the Irish Parliament. The third is to have its own Army and Navy. You deny that. The next is the right to settle its own fiscal policy. You refuse it. The next is to keep its own police. You will not allow that for six years. The next is to settle its own land policy. You deny that for ever. What is the use of talking of satisfying the claims of Ireland as a nation, what is the use of rebuking us for rejecting the claim of Ireland to be a nation, when every line of your Bill, when every Clause of this measure, breathes your distrust of the Irish Parlaiment, and your determination to refuse it elementary national rights.
It is all very well to invite us to trust the Irish party. The Attorney-General says, "What need have you to quarrel with these restrictions; the Irish Members accept them." I have watched for too long the history of the Irish question to attach great value to these Parliamentary acceptances. It is not only—though that is a sufficient reason—that Irish Nationalist Members here have no power, and pretend to no power, to bind their successors, or the people whom they represent. I remember too many such assurances—assurances given in 1886, assurances given in 1892, buried in the disclosures of Committee Room 15 and the Parnell Commission Report. These acceptances are not safe ground for legislation. It is all very well for the First Lord of the Admiralty 260 to come down and boast his modern eye, but I think, if it is to be a useful organ to aid him in this discussion, at least it should not be blind to the patent lessons of our recent history. Do the Government themselves, do hon. Gentlemen opposite, trust the Irish Members, do they trust the Parliament that they are helping to establish or seeking to establish in Dublin? If you trust it, why do you put these restrictions in the Bill? Protestants have no need to fear for their religion! Then why do you put in Clause 3? We have no need to fear any hostility of an Irish Government! Then why do you hamper them and restrict them in their powers at every turn? By the Clauses of your Bill you admit that you yourselves do not trust them, and the only question between us is not whether they are to be trusted or not, but whether the securities you have taken are real and valid securities. The Chief Secretary and others say that they have amply secured the protection of a minority. Suppose the position were reversed. Suppose that the proposal was to establish a Parliament in Belfast, covering the northeastern counties, where the Protestants and loyalists are in a great majority, with a minority sitting there from Dublin subject to their views. Would you accept these safeguards? Would you trust them? Would Nationalist Members submit to an authority of that kind? Why, Sir, the whole speech of the hon. Member for West Belfast (Mr. Devlin) was an indictment of the intolerance and the un-trustworthiness of the citizens of Ulster. It may be they are bigoted. That would be a good argument for not putting them in a position of ascendancy over Nationalist and Catholic Ireland, but it is no argument at all for subjecting them to the ascendancy of the Nationalists.
What are these safeguards? I come now to the only attempt of any Minister to deal with the provisions of the Bill itself, the speech of the Attorney-General yesterday. He mentioned two. There is, in the first place, the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament. He attached great importance to that. I doubt if he would find any constitutional lawyer to agree with him that the presence of that Clause in the Bill makes the slightest difference to the legal effect of the measure. The powers of this House are not to be limited by Statute. The question is whether the powers which are inherent in this House can be exercised by this House after this Bill is passed. What is his next safeguard? The 261 fact that many subjects are excluded, and that there is an appeal to the Privy Council if the Irish Parliament transgresses its powers. Very comforting no doubt, but how is the decision of the Privy Council going to be enforced? You need no violent resistance by the Irish Parliament or the Irish Government. The Irish Government resigns, and the Lord-Lieutenant cannot form another, and the whole system is brought to a deadlock, and you either have to suspend the Constitution you have created, and then you have to do it by force, or you have to give way, and who, who knows right hon. Gentlemen opposite, can doubt for a moment what will be their decision?
Then we are told that in the establishment of this semi-independent Parliament and semi-independent Ministry there is no possible danger to our military or international position. I find it difficult to understand anyone adducing that argument. I find it most difficult to reconcile it with the knowledge and the responsibility of the First Lord of the Admiralty. Is there no danger in a hostile Parliament in Dublin acting under this Bill within its rights against this country in a crisis of our fate? Is there no possibility that the temper of the Irish Parliament or the Irish Government would lead them to desire to do so if they could? We are told to admire the example of the Transvaal, and to take it to heart in this case. The Transvaal has set a great example, but I observe that Ministers do not mention the Orange River Colony. Perhaps it is not quite as suitable for their purpose. Has there been no oppression of a minority in either of those Colonies? Have no men been dismissed from public offices on account of race, and have you not found it impossible, having divested yourself of all authority and power save such powers as you keep under this Bill, to see justice done? Have you not had to sit with folded hands seeing wrongs committed which you admitted, and against which you protested, but which you were powerless to prevent? I am afraid that is so. It is no pleasant subject to mention, and I mention it with regret, but I should not say all my mind if I did not say that, in spite of these blots, I think the example of General Botha and his colleagues has, on the whole, been a magnificent example, and that it is to them and to the reciprocity of spirit shown by Sir Starr Jameson and the party which he led, that we owe the success of free government in South 262 Africa. But when I am invited to accept that example as a lesson to guide us in our present dispute I ask, are the circumstances the same? General Botha entered into the war reluctantly. He was a gallant soldier and a loyal gentleman. He fought loyally with his countrymen to the end, and when he signed the peace at Vereeniging, he signed it with his heart as well as with his pen. He was not a British subject, he had not taken any oath of allegiance to us when he fought against us, but the Nationalist Members on those benches were British subjects, and they had taken the oath of allegiance when they cheered the successes of our enemies and lent aid and encouragement to those who were making war upon the British Crown.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
Does the hon. Gentleman think their loyalty, put in trust to the Nationalist Members, is a safeguard for Home Rule? What is the attitude of the Nationalist party to the Army? It is very germane to the point of our discussion. This Bill involves no military danger. Ireland is so poor and weak, said the First Lord, so small and petty beside the United Kingdom that she can be no danger to us. Irish soldiers have won honour on every field where British troops have distinguished themselves. It has been the object of the Nationalist party in Ireland to prevent Irishmen from enlisting, and then you say that no dangers arise if you establish a Nationalist supremacy in Dublin with power to interfere with recruiting, to discourage it, to discountenance and to prevent it, with real power to give aid to the enemies of this country at war with the British Crown. It is not only so but, by the provisions of this Bill, you place it in the power of the Irish Parliament, if I understand it rightly, to raise in a short time a trained, disciplined, armed, military force. What is the Royal Irish Constabulary? Half a police force, half a military force. For six years you retain its power. Why? Because you trust the Irish so much. But at the end of six years, while forbidding the Irish to form a Territorial Force, or raise a Territorial 263 Regiment, you hand over to them the control of this semi-military force with full powers to them to raise as many men for it as they like, to train them as they please, and to pass them into a reserve as soon as they please. The military dangers of this Bill are profound, the financial dangers are great, the confusion, the friction which inevitably must arise is incalculable, and when the Attorney-General asks, shall we be satisfied to pass this Bill if Ulster is left out of it, I reply to him that to keep Ulster in this Bill is an outrage to Ulster, but that to take Ulster out of it will not make the provisions of this Bill more honourable to Ireland or more safe for the United Kingdom.
What is this Bill, after all, but the first step on a long path? The right hon. Gentleman (Sir E. Grey) said he would not deny for a moment that this Bill comprised many anomalies and would produce a situation which was intolerable. He was glad of it, he even went on to say, for it would make it more certain that the House would have to proceed with further measures on similar lines. It is a very convenient argument for a Minister because, of course, it dispenses at once with any necessity for making any defence whatever of the Bill. But what is the picture which is disclosed to our gaze? This is the model on which a federal scheme is to be set up. Can anyone contemplate for a moment the kind of United Kingdom which will exist when the efforts of right hon. Gentlemen opposite are concluded? A line of Customs Houses will separate Ireland from the rest of the United Kingdom, another line of Customs Houses will be drawn along the Tweed between Scotland and England, and a third line of Customs Houses will follow the boundary of Wales and Monmouthshire. Each of these divisions of the country will have its separate postal system, its separate arrangements for mails, and, I presume, in the case of each of them that if there is any deficit to be met we who would still represent what is humorously called the Imperial Parliament, we English taxpayers will have to find the difference. Was there ever out of Bedlam so mad a proposal?
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
Then what is the use of the talk about this being the beginning of a federal system? Not one salient feature of this Bill dare the Government apply to a general federal arrange 264 ment of the United Kingdom. Not one of its salient principles can they defend for a moment, can they even allow it to be supposed, is applicable to any other portion of the United Kingdom. What nonsense it is to talk of a federal system, what hypocrisy under this Constitution! I cannot, and I will not, ignore the direct appeal which was made to me by the Attorney-General yesterday. He asked me whether I meant to encourage civil war in Ulster and whether I justified it. I might perhaps reply that his attitude towards Ulster at the close of his speech differed singularly from his attitude towards the South and West of Ireland at the beginning of his speech. No language can be too strong or too unqualified to condemn possible resistance in Ulster to the provisions of this Bill, but when he comes to deal with heartrending cases of murder and outrage in the South and West, did he find any such wholehearted condemnation? On the contrary, he invites the House to consider all the conditions, and he said if it be true that these outrages take place and go undetected and unpunished, because witnesses are either too favourable to the criminals or too frightened to speak the truth, because the jurors are too friendly to crime or too intimidated to give just verdicts, that is a reason for granting to the agitators all that they demand. I would sooner justify civil war than palliate murder.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL (Sir Rufus Isaacs)
The right hon. Gentleman accuses me of palliating murder. Is there one observation I made yesterday that palliates murder? If he looks at my speech he will find what I said was that, when passing sentence you should consider the circumstances.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
Are the circumstances of Ulster not to be considered? There was no consideration for the circumstances of Ulster. Are not these new doctrines of passive obedience strange doctrines to hear in the mouths of men who boast themselves the political heirs of Charles James Fox. I might have been tempted to make use of the reply of the Chief Secretary, who repudiates with scorn the view of the Attorney-General. The Chief Secretary said:—We are all of us potential rebels. I have no sympathy with persons who say. 'Oh, no, yon must never in any circumstances speak as if you would rebel.' I am capable even myself in my old age of becoming a rebel.I might content myself with that answer, but I will not content myself with it. The 265 hon. and learned Gentleman charges Friends of mine on this bench with inciting civil war in Ulster. I repudiate the charge, but if the charge is to be made, the proper person to make it is the Attorney-General in Court. The reason it is not made is because the Government know—they and the First Lord of the Admiralty have the best reason to think that the whole influence, counsel, action, and advice of my Friends has tended to restrain feeling, and has prevented counsels of despair from gaining the upper hand, and that it is to them, and to them alone, that they owe it that this Bill was not bloodstained when the Prime Minister introduced it. How far does the Attorney-General wish to press his doctrine? Is he now opposed to passive resistance?
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
That is as may be, and when you see the Provisional Government you will know. Passive resistance was fomented by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and supported by himself and all his party. The hon. and learned Gentleman asked me whether I advise Ulster to resist. I offer no advice to Ulster. I have not said one word, and I will not say one word, to cause other men to run dangers which I, living in this country, do not share; but I do say that every claim you have made on behalf of the South and the West of Ireland is a claim substantiated for us, and that every right you acknowledge to Nationalist Ireland is a right Ulster may claim also. Every time you palliate, as the Attorney-General did, the past history of agitation in Ireland—every time you justify it on the ground that that is the only way in which redress is to be secured, you not only justify resistance in Ulster, but you invite it and call for it. I say something more. What moral right has the Government to claim obedience to legislation of this character passed in this way? What were the preliminary steps with which they paved their way? A conspiracy hatched in secret, nurtured in fraud and trickery, by which you snatched support from the electors and a pledge from the Crown without disclosing to one or the other the use which you intended to make of it. A Constitution shattered, left, as the Prime Minister said yesterday, lop-sided, an appeal to the people barred! What moral sanction has law passed under these circumstances? All the usual constitutional guarantees are in abeyance; all the usual 266 opportunities for the minority to make their views heard and to get their due weight in the forming of a Bill are denied them. You claim that Ulster, under such circumstances, should show to this Bill the obedience we have been accustomed to expect to laws passed in the ordinary way and under ordinary circumstances. I make no prediction as to what will happen. You may pass this Bill, or you may not; but if you do pass it, and if Ulster does resist, then I tell you the public opinion of this country will not tolerate that Ulster should be dragooned, and when that moment comes, though you may incur a blood-guiltiness, you and your Bill together will go to wreck in the storm you have caused.
§ Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
This is now the eighth day of the discussion on the Home Rule Bill. We have had many speeches, and I am afraid many of them have been from the Treasury Bench. It was my own duty to detain the House for some time on the First Reading, and therefore to-day I shall not deal with any general examination of the reasons why this Bill was introduced, or the case upon which it rests, but I shall limit myself to a specific answer to the various arguments and questions which have been addressed to the House by the right hon. Gentleman. I shall endeavour to follow him with as much terseness as may be point by point through his speech, and if I omit to reply to any of his contentions, I trust the right hon. Gentleman will remind me of the omission. The first complaint against the Government for introducing this Bill which was made by the right hon. Gentleman, is one to which I have listened again and again in these discussions, namely, that the Government is insincere, that we care nothing for Home Rule for its own sake, that we are not convinced of its value, that we do not believe in our hearts it will settle the Irish question, that we introduced it merely because we were bound by an obligation of a party character to the hon. and learned Member for Waterford (Mr. J. Redmond) and his Friends, and that it is in obedience to his dictates we lay this Bill before the House. Hitherto we have been accustomed to treat this accusation with the indifference which it merits, and a formal reply has rarely been given to it. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Austen Chamberlain) was himself trained in his early days in the Liberal school. It is true that he retains little trace of his training now, but he must 267 be aware that Liberalism is a real and living thing, that Liberalism is a creed of government which has existed for many a long day past in all the civilised countries of the world, and which has helped to transform the face of the world. Here in this country it is a living thing, and I can assure the right hon. Gentleman and his Friends that they have very little knowledge of the temper of the Liberal party in this country if they think that that party would long support a Government which declared its readiness to rule Ireland except upon Liberal principles.
It is surely absurd to accuse a Liberal Ministry of insincerity because it desires to establish what have always been regarded as the essential articles of the Liberal faith in the government of a country for which we are ourselves responsible. It is true, as the right hon. Gentleman said, that we have not got the eloquence or the fervour of Mr. Gladstone. Who can be expected to attain that matchless precedent? But I do claim for the Members of this Government, for their supporters in this House, and for the Liberal party in the country, that we are as resolute as he was in the belief that the Irish question cannot be solved except upon the basis of self-government, and through this measure we shall be able to solve it. Then the right hon. Gentleman said that this Bill was such a poor and meagre thing that it would give in reality no relief worth considering to the House of Commons, and that congestion of business would continue the same as before. He said, "You reserve certain powers of veto. What hope can you have that your Irish business will be less than hitherto when these powers are reserved?" All the world knows that powers of veto are reserved to deal with exceptional cases, which we believe will never occur, of legislation of a grossly intolerant and unjust character; and as to assuming that because we have powers of veto in the Bill Irish questions will come up day by day in this House, I say that is an absurdity. At all events, we shall certainly get rid of all the local Irish business which now takes up an amount of time inadequate for the needs of Ireland, but too much for this House to give to it. We shall get rid of Rathmines and Rathgar and the drainage of the Barrow and the Bann. Is it not patently absurd that all public business which is too big to be dealt with by a county council must be dealt with in the Imperial Parliament of the 268 United Kingdom? There is nothing in between.
This Parliament has to keep up five codes of law—a code for the United Kingdom, one for England, sometimes one for Wales, one for Scotland, and one for Ireland—like a juggler jumping about the stage keeping five balls in the air at the same time with an immense expenditure of effort and a great amount of fatigue. That is the position in which the House of Commons finds itself now. After a century it becomes tiring. Unquestionably we will be able by this Bill to relieve the House immensely of the burden which now falls upon us. The right hon. Gentleman next turned his attention to finance. He made a series of carefully considered criticisms on the finance of the Bill to which it behoves me on behalf of the Government to offer a reply. First he attacked our treatment of the existing Irish deficit. He said, "Why should we be called upon to give to the Irish Parliament from the British Exchequer a sum of about £2,000,000 a year which the Irish Parliament will be able to control as they will?" There are various possible ways in which this question of the deficit might be dealt with. One way is that favoured by the right hon. Gentleman and his Friends. That is, to have no Home Rule at all, and to make no change in the present financial relations of this country and Ireland. What prospect will there be then of getting rid of the existing deficit on the Irish account?
The experience of the last twenty years has shown us that a surplus of £2,000,000 a year from Ireland has been changed into a deficit of £1,500,000 with commitments for the future, and as to any prospect that we have of ridding ourselves of this charge the right hon. Gentleman and his Friends leave us in no doubt whatever. We need not base our forecasts on the experience of the past. They have made it abundantly clear that if their Irish policy is adopted by the country and by Parliament it will involve an increase literally of millions a year upon the expenditure from the taxes contributed by British taxpayers for Irish purposes. If their promises—if they are more real than their promises of old age pensions—are meant to be realised they will undoubtedly involve this country in an enormous expense, and the denial of Home Rule will indeed be found to be a costly business. But the right hon. Gentleman says, "We need not inquire too 269 closely into these things so long as Ireland remains under British rule as now. There is no need that the expenditure on Ireland should have any relation at all to the revenue from Ireland. There is no need at all that we should make any attempt to balance the accounts. Let the revenue from Ireland be what it may we must expend freely on Ireland whatever she needs." That sounds very well, but to the British taxpayer a penny on the Income Tax is a penny on the Income Tax, and a penny on tea is a penny on tea, and if you are going to spend millions a year, if in future you are giving £5,000,000 a year, as will be the case if all these proposals are carried into effect for Irish purposes, the British taxpayer who has to pay his extra penny or twopence on the Income Tax or on the pound of tea will be by no means consoled by being told, "If this is a policy of halfpence, it is also a policy of kicks, and if you are called upon to give largely increased doles to the Irish people you still have the privilege, and you retain the right of governing them against their will." The burden on the British taxpayer remains the same. The right hon. Gentleman and his Friends here again take up two very contradictory positions. They say to the Englishman, "Reject the Home Rule scheme of the Government because it will cost you too much," and they say to the Irishman, "Reject this policy of Home Rule because it will stop the flow of British money into Ireland, which we, the Unionists, desire to continue and desire to increase." We are accustomed to hear from the Opposition one man say one thing and another man saying another, but here one man says both.
Surely it is an impossible attitude to take up, to condemn this scheme because it makes a Grant of £2,000,000 a year to set up Home Rule, and to ask the Irish also to condemn it because, if there is no Home Rule, there will be largely increased grants to the Unionist party in the future. That is one possible way of dealing with the deficit, to have no Home Rule, and to increase the deficit. Another policy that might be suggested is that we should establish self-government in Ireland, and require immediately that the Irish Parliament should pay their own way with their own resources, and make an immediate contribution to the common purposes of the Empire. That is not possible. The right hon. Gentleman has emphasised, I think to-day, at all events in his writings, that Mr. Gladstone did in 1893 provide that 270 there should be an immediate contribution from Ireland to common purposes, but Mr. Gladstone, in 1893, adopted at bottom the same principle as that on which this Bill is founded. He took the financial situation as he found it, and he set the Irish Parliament going with the funds which were then needed for Irish expenditure, allowing them a small surplus over and above their immediate need. And that indeed is the only possible course. It cannot seriously be contended, except by those who really wish to use the argument of a reductio ad abswrdum, that if we mean to set up Home Rule at all we should establish it on such a footing that Ireland should be immediately called upon to increase her taxation all round by 20 per cent. in order to pay her way,—that the English taxpayer should be relieved of 1 per cent, of his taxation while the Irish taxpayer should be burdened by an addition of 15 per cent, or 20 per cent. to his in order to make up the difference. Another possible way of dealing with this deficit is the establishment of Home Rule now and the fixing of a definite contribution from Ireland in the future. That cannot be done, for we cannot foresee ten or fifteen years hence, whatever the period may be when the deficit will be over and when the accounts will balance, what the financial circumstances will be then. We cannot tell what loans will have been contracted; we cannot tell what changes in taxation may have been effected.
To adopt this policy would be an attempt to legislate at a distance of ten or fifteen or twenty years. Therefore we are brought back to the proposal of the Government Bill as the only possible means. If hon. Members opposite will view this matter with candour they will see that it is the only possible means, if we are to have Home Rule at all, the only possible just means of dealing with the existing situation. We take the accounts as they are, and provide for the deficit being met by the increase of Irish revenue. When the deficit has been met the case will be reopened and a larger measure of financial control will be given to Ireland, and an Imperial contribution will be required. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned a specific provision in the Bill to which he took exception. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Balfour) has also on more than one occasion asked the Government to give some reason why the Post Office Department, with which I am specially concerned, should be handed over 271 to the Irish Government. We have had much praise from the Opposition of the Finance Committee which was appointed by the Government. The hon. and learned Member for Kingston (Mr. Cave) spoke of them in terms of appreciation, and rebuked the Government for putting aside their recommendations. I am inclined to think that both he and the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken praised that Committee because the Government has not accepted their recommendations. I wonder what they would have said if we had accepted their recommendations, which would have involved a complete control of all taxes by the Irish Parliament, a complete control of all Customs Duties without restriction, except that the Irish Parliament would not be allowed to protect Irish industries against imports from Great Britain and was not to be allowed to differentiate between goods coming from various foreign countries.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
I might have said that it was a very mad proposal, but that it was not quite as mad financially as the scheme which is proposed.
§ Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
I am quite sure that whatever proposals were made the right hon. Gentleman would have said that they were the worst possible, and that nobody could conceive a more unreasonable and a more unworkable plan. When we do accept the specific recommendations of this Committee then we are denounced up hill and down dale. The reason why this provision is inserted with regard to the Post Office can be best explained in the words of the Report of the Committee itself. They say that—the Post Office is different. With a falling population n Ireland and with no very marked enhancement in the general activities of the country, an increase of nearly 74 per cent, in fifteen years in the cost of running the business of the Post Office certainly requires explanation; and from the evidence of the Accountant-General of the Post Office, we gather that it must be attributed in great measure to the fact that enlarged postal facilities entailing extra expense, and augmentations of pay, both of which were considered to be required in Great Britain had, under the unified system of administration, to he extended to Ireland, notwithstanding that the circumstances of Ireland taken by themselves would not under either head have justified such large additions to the cost of the establishment there. In conclusion,they say:on these facts we hold, that the experience of the last few years amply confirms the theory, that a financial partnership with Great Britain does involve in Ireland a scale of expense that is beyond her requirements and beyond the natural resources of the country itself. The matter seems to us of great and increasing importance.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
Will the right hon. Gentleman allow me to ask him whether he supposes that following upon that recommendation the first act of the Irish Parliament will be to reduce the salaries and the services of the Post Office?
§ Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
The right hon. Gentleman surely is aware that the interests of all existing Post Office servants are fully safeguarded by the Bill.
§ Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
The first act of the Irish Parliament is not the only act, and the Irish people and the Irish Parliament will have to consider this matter for themselves. I do not prophesy anything as to the future. All I say is that the Finance Committee drew special attention to the fact that expenditure on the Post Office in Ireland not merely had increased, but was continually increasing year by year, and that so long as control rests with this country it is impossible in any degree to stop that increase. It has been suggested that in no federation that the world has ever seen has such a proposal been made as that one of the constituent States should manage its own Post Office. That is not so. In the German Empire two of the States, Bavaria and Würtemburg have their own post offices.
§ Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
They are parts of the German federation. The fact remains that you have a federation, and you have constituent States administering the Post Offices of those countries. If the right hon. Gentleman is right, and if the Post Office ought not to be transferred, the conclusion to be drawn is, not that our Bill is utterly unworkable, but that this is one power that should be reserved to this Parliament; the conclusion he seeks to draw is certainly not justified by his premises. Next the right hon. Gentleman said that our provisions with the inter working that they provide between the finance of the United Kingdom and the finance of Ireland, make it impossible both for the Imperial Chancellor of the Exchequer and for the Irish Chancellor of the Exchequer to frame their Budgets, because neither of them would know what the other was about to do. That I dispute entirely. The action of the Irish Chancellor of the Exchequer will not in 273 any way affect the action of the Imperial Chancellor of the Exchequer, and vice versa. The right hon. Gentleman put two or three specific points. He said, in the first place, what is to prevent the Irish Parliament, if it sees that a tax is continually increasing in yield, from repealing that tax, and thereby depriving the Imperial Exchequer of the growth of the revenue—repealing the tax and imposing a different tax with a different name on the same people, thereby gaining to the Irish Exchequer any future increase which might accrue in the yield. That has been foreseen in the Bill. The chief taxes are Income Tax, Death Duties, Customs, and Excise. The Irish Parliament are precluded by Clauses in the Bill from imposing any new tax which is substantially of the same character as the Imperial tax. Therefore, they cannot impose any new tax in the nature of Income Tax, Death Duties, Customs, or Excise, or any other Imperial tax which may exist. That being so the Irish Chancellor of the Exchequer will have to show an extraordinary ingenuity in devising any tax which would bring in an appreciable revenue that would be a substitute for the tax that he would repeal—an ingenuity so remarkable as to be quite impossible in the circumstances. No tax could be devised which could be a substitute for these, and it would not be enough for the right hon. Gentleman to say, "Well, but you might impose a small tax of a novel character, a tax on bicycles for instance, and use the money to reduce the Imperial tax." That would not effect the evasion which the right hon. Gentleman contemplates, because the reduction of a tax does not deprive the Imperial Chancellor of its yield.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
The thing I had in mind was that the Irish Parliament could not increase the Income Tax, but could reduce it. Supposing Ireland had mines, as we have, and that, at the same time she reduced the Income Tax she imposed a large Mineral Rights Duty en the model of the Exchequer's Mineral Rights Duty, is the Postmaster-General prepared to say that the Mineral Rights Duty is merely Income Tax under another name?
§ Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
That is a question which should be dealt with on its merits; it is not a question of great importance, because there are no mines in Ireland. Each specific case must be dealt with 274 on its merits as to whether or not it is a colourable substitution for an Imperial tax, but in so far as they may reduce the Income Tax they would have to reduce it very considerably indeed in order to make an appreciable difference in the future growth of the revenue of the Imperial Parliament. But even that would not make any difference to the Chancellor of the Exchequer's Budget for the year. That is a small difference, and whatever it may be it would merely affect the future growth of the Irish revenue, and does not support the right hon. Gentleman's point that the Chancellor of the Exchequer's Budget for the year could be upset by any action on the part of the Irish Chancellor of the Exchequer. Then the right hon. Gentleman gave another specific instance, in regard to the Whisky Duty. He said, suppose the Irish Parliament were to impose an increase of 33 per cent, upon the duty on whisky, and if the consequence of that was an increase in the yield not of 33 per cent. but a very small increase, say of 10 per cent., then, he said, the Irish Parliament would receive from the Imperial Exchequer one-fourth of the proceeds; that is to say, that as the 33 per cent, is to 133 so is one to four, and, therefore, they ought to receive one-fourth of the whole of the proceeds. The Imperial Chancellor of the Exchequer, while he only gets 10 per cent, addition to the yield, would have to hand over to the Irish Chancellor of the Exchequer one-fourth of the yield, which would entirely upset his financial calculations. That is not in the Bill, which entirely precludes such a result. If hon. Members will look at Clause 14, Sub-section (2) paragraph (c), they will find that what is to be handed over to the Irish Exchequer in such cases is the proceeds of the tax, not the proportion of the whole yield based upon the proportional rates, but the actual proceeds; and, of course, if it were found that the tax had only gone up 10 per cent, any one could see that the effect of the Irish Parliament putting on the tax had not been to give proceeds amounting to 33 per cent.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
Does the right hon. Gentleman say that the proceeds of the Imperial part of the tax would remain nearly the same, and that the 33⅓ per cent, would be the only part levied on the lower consumption?
§ Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
No, Sir; that is not the point. The Joint Ex- 275 chequer Board would have to face the circumstances. They would have to face the fact that the tax in one year had yielded say a million, and in the next year yielded one million one hundred thousand pounds, and they would see in that year that the Irish Parliament had imposed additional taxation to the extent of 33 per cent.; and they would, of course, see that the proceeds of the additional tax was the amount by which the yield of the whole tax had been increased. That certainly is the intention of the Bill, and if there is any doubt as to the drafting, it certainly is a matter which could be considered in Committee. But it is the intention of the Bill that the Irish Parliament should receive whatever sum is the actual consequence of the imposition of a tax by them upon the Irish taxpayers. Then the right hon. Gentleman raised another specific point. He said, "Suppose they took over the old age pensions and did not use the money for old age pensions, but chose to use it for some other purpose, is that a reasonable proposal?" May I point out, in the first place, that the interests of all the pensioners receiving pensions at the time of the transfer of the service are safeguarded. [An HON. MEMBER: "Existing pensioners."] Yes, pensioners who exist at the time. The Irish Parliament takes over the service; the existing pensioners are safeguarded, and the pensions must be continued. That is clearly provided for in the Bill. If the Irish Parliament decided later on, in regard to future pensioners, to take into account the whole of the circumstances of their country—following the desires of their constituents—that it would be better to give smaller pensions and to devote the saving to educational purposes or other national purposes, why in heaven's name should they not be allowed to do so?
It makes no difference to us. The sum which is charged to us will remain absolutely the same, and we consider that it is within the province of the nation, it is within the province of the people, to decide for themselves through their own representatives whether they wish to have the money spent upon old age pensions or on some other social purpose. In our view that is a reasonable thing and it makes no difference to us. The charge upon us would remain precisely the same if this option were used by Ireland. Then the right hon. Gentleman came to a point which has been very much in discussion 276 upon the Clauses of this Bill, and with which it is necessary to deal, and that is the allowance under the provisions of our Bill of a limited measure of Customs differentiation. This is represented as being the setting up of Customs barriers between Great Britain and Ireland, and we are told that in no portion of the world had a proposal been made allowing the constituent members of a federation to have separate scales of Customs Duty. Let me point out in the first place that the Zollvereins which have been established, the Customs Unions which have been established in our own Colonies, have been established in order to prevent the various members of the federation from imposing Customs Duties against one another. Experience has shown that with neighbouring States, having long and contiguous frontiers, and containing people of the same nationality, it would not be possible to maintain and continue permanently all the jealousies and all the friction which are involved in the States taxing one another's products—to which the right hon. Gentleman and his Friends would expose us with such a light heart in our relations with our foreign customers.
But there is no proposal here to allow any portion of the United Kingdom to raise a Customs barrier against any other portion. The Bill absolutely prevents that; it prevents any Customs Duty being imposed upon any British produce, and, indeed, the term "Customs Duty," if hon. Members will look it up, is only applicable to articles which come from abroad. This question has been carefully considered, and, merely as a matter of drafting, it is clear in the Bill that the Irish Parliament cannot impose any duty whatever upon British products. Nor does the Bill in any degree allow a preferential duty for the benefit of Irish industry, or allow a similar duty upon Irish products here. There is a second point. All those federations differ from the case of the United Kingdom in that, as the Finance Committee pointed out, they are territories within a ring-fence. Great Britain and Ireland are the only case of two islands separated by the sea forming members of one federation.
§ Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
New Zealand is not part of a federation, and while Tasmania is, its case is, with all respect to Tasmania, not on a par with Great Britain 277 and Ireland. But my hon. Friends may ask, Why do you allow any variation at all? Why not exclude Customs altogether from the purview of the Irish Parliament, and not allow them to reduce at all, nor allow them to increase, even by 10 per cent., the duty on any of the commodities which come into their ports? The reasons are these. If you excluded those duties altogether from the control and purview of the Irish Parliament, you would give to the Irish Parliament very limited powers on finance. It is a grievance of Ireland that her people are taxed beyond their capacity, and they ask for opportunities to economise on their Government in order that they may have, at all events, the chance of reducing taxation. It is a contingency that ought to be avoided if possible that this Parliament should deliberately say to the Irish Parliament, "Govern your country as economically as you may, make whatever sacrifices you choose in order to spend less money, you shall never be allowed to reduce the taxation upon the working classes of your country, you shall never be allowed to reduce the taxes which press most heavily on the people"—that is to say, indirect taxes upon articles of general consumption. If you allowed no reduction in the Customs Duty upon tea and upon sugar, you would be saying to the Irish Parliament, "You" can only reduce the Income Tax, you can only reduce Death Duties, but you cannot reduce the taxes which press most heavily on the people."
Then, secondly, with regard to the powers of increased taxation to secure more revenue, suppose that were necessary, you could not give them powers of increasing the Excise because it is obviously impossible to increase the Excise if you are not to be allowed to increase the corresponding Customs Duty. They could not be given the opportunity of putting a tax on Irish beer or whisky if they could not increase the duties on English beer or Scottish whisky coming into Ireland. The effect of putting on an Excise Duty would merely be to penalise and hamper Irish products in the Irish markets when the British products would be free. The power to increase the Income Tax is one which in all probability cannot be used so far as the great bulk of the Income Tax is concerned—that is to say, so much of it as is collected at the source, because the difficulties of collection are so great that it is very unlikely that the Irish Parliament would endeavour to increase 278 the main body of the Income Tax. They might alter the abatements or the Super-tax, but they are unlikely to increase the main body of the tax. Therefore, if you exclude Customs, if you exclude Excise, if you exclude almost all the Income Tax, what is there left? You have only the Death Duties and one or two minor taxes. Although it might be necessary to give to a Parliament power so limited as that, and although it might be impossible to avoid such limitations one can conceive in particular cases, still if you can, without very grave inconvenience, give some latitude in Customs and Excise, it is obvious that the Irish Parliament, in matters of finance, will be put in a much more responsible position and in one which will enable it to do more good for the people.
§ Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
There may be Customs Houses if they alter the rates of duty, but, of course, if they do not alter the rates of duty on any particular product there would not be, as regards that product, any Customs Duty, and the Customs House would only be cognisant of the goods that passed through it for statistical purposes. That is a matter which my right hon. Friend (Mr. Lough) considers of very considerable and just importance. We should, at all events, have accurate facts and know precisely what the true Irish revenue really is. I am dealing with the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman in their order, and his next criticism was on the Exchequer Board. He told us that we cast upon the Joint Exchequer Board duties which it would be unable to perform, but those duties are being performed year by year by the Treasury Board. When the right hon. Gentleman was Chancellor of the Exchequer and was preparing his Budget, his advisers at the Treasury gave him precisely the same kind of information which the Exchequer Board will be called upon to obtain. The decision of the questions at issue certainly will not in all cases be easy. If they were easy we should not need to establish a Joint Exchequer Board at all. But certainly they will not be beyond the powers of a body of capable men, such as that which we contemplate. The Treasury, of course, have to estimate how much of the yield of a tax is due to any increase in the rate of the tax, or what is the result of an 279 abatement which has been made of the tax in the preceding year, and other questions of the same kind, questions of calculation.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
They did not advise me as to the distribution of the revenue in accordance with the calculation. Let me say every calculation of the kind made in regard to Ireland was disputed by the Irish people.
§ Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
Yes, but the Irish people had no representatives amongst those who made the calculation. Here they will have two representatives of the Irish Treasury, who will assist in these deliberations; and the distribution of the revenue is merely a consequence of the calculations that have been made. I should like to refer to one other matter to which I think the right hon. Gentleman very briefly alluded. There has been made a point of great prominence in the detailed criticism to which the Bill has been exposed with respect to that portion that relates to the control of the police. It has been said that our Bill is unworkable and impossible, because, while you have retained in the hands of the Imperial Parliament the duty of collecting revenue, you propose at the end of six years to hand over to the Irish Parliament the control of the police. Nothing could be more ludicrous, it has been said, than to have under the control of one authority the tax collector, and under the control of another authority the policeman; and that if there is one thing more than another which shows the ludicrous nature and complete unworkability of our Bill, it is this proposal of placing in one hand the police and in another the duty of collecting taxes. We have heard very much about other federations. In all other federations it is true the collection of Customs and Excise is controlled by the central body. It is equally true that in all the federations with which I am acquainted, and I do not think I am wrong this time as to Tasmania, the control of the police is in the hands of the provincial Government except South Africa, and there the financial arrangements are provisional. But in Canada and Australia, while the central Government retains the collection of Customs and Excise and many other taxes, as we propose the central Government should do in this case, the local Government has control of the police, and I do not know that there has ever been any inconvenience 280 which has been caused by that division of responsibility.
Sir GILBERT PARKER
Does the right hon. Gentleman suggest the ordinary police of the Colonies are similar to the constabulary in Ireland.
§ Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
The question is, Who is to protect the tax collector if he is trying to collect the Excise Duty or the Customs Duties? My answer is, just as the police in every British community are employed by the Government to assist those officers of the law, whether they be officers of the central Government or any other, so they will be in this case. I could imagine the hon. Member for Kingston (Mr. Cave), who criticised this Bill very severely the other night, suppose he were opposed to the Canadian Constitution or the Australian Constitution, proving, in precisely the same manner how utterly impossible it would be that either of those Constitutions could conceivably work. Archbishop Whately about a hundred years ago, as a satire upon the atheistic literature of his time, wrote a book to prove that Napoleon never had existed, and upon the premises which he took he proved it most conclusively, and I am perfectly certain that the hon. Gentleman opposite could prove conclusively that not only the Australian and the Canadian, but that the German Federal Government and the Swiss Government, and our own Government here in this country, could not conceivably work, and that nothing could be more ludicrous than the provisions which they contained. The answer is that Napoleon did exist. The answer is that those Constitutions do work. There is nothing in our Bill which has not in analogous cases been found to be quite practical in every case. I must hurry on to the concluding words of the right hon. Gentleman. In his last words the right lion. Gentleman said, "Why any safeguards at all; why do we insert in this Bill these limitations on the Irish Parliament? It shows your own distrust of the character you anticipate that your Irish Legislature will have." I think that is a very unworthy argument to use. The right hon. Gentleman knows quite well that we have inserted those safeguards not because we ourselves anticipate intolerance or outrageous legislation on the part of the Irish Parliament. We insert them because we have observed the fears, which we have no doubt are the sincere fears, of people in Ireland who 281 dread the establishment of an Irish Government, and it is not on account of any opinions of our own, but it is in order, so far as we can, that we should allay the alarms of those persons in Ireland, that those safeguards have been inserted. I repeat that it is an unworthy argument to address to the House of Commons to say that because we have inserted those safeguards in order to meet the alarms, which we think unfounded, of other people, that that therefore proves that we ourselves regard the Irish Legislature as untrustworthy, and likely to engage in improper legislation.
Next the right hon. Gentleman said, if the Privy Council does declare a Bill ultra vires, what will happen if the Irish Ministry resigns? There is no need, as a matter of fact, for any action to be taken if the Privy Council declares a Bill to be ultra vires. A Bill which is ultra vires, and is declared by the highest Court to be ultra vires, is in itself void and need not be obeyed, and cannot be enforced, and any person who chooses to disobey a law which has been declared ultra vires is exposed to no penalties, and no Court would damnify him. That is the real and short answer to the objection that has been raised to the Privy Council procedure. I do not think I need enter on the question of the Transvaal, as that has been already dealt with. I should like to say one word with regard to the attitude of hon Members from Ireland during the South African war, a point which has been raised again and again in these Debates, and which has been invariably received with enthusiastic cheers from the benches opposite. For every violent speech made by hon. Members opposite, I could quote half a dozen violent speeches made by Canadians before the establishment of the Canadian Legislature. I could quote you attacks of Papineau and Mackenzie and other Canadian leaders on British administration in the days when Canada was demanding Home Rule. I could quote dozens of extracts from the speeches of Australian statesmen and from the writings of Australian newspapers as to the certainty that Australia would "cut the painter" if England did not do this or that. This attitude of hon. Members from Ireland in earlier years is the invariable attitude of the representatives of a people who are steadily denied the rights of self-government. This is the position which you and your policy seek to perpetuate. It has been said again and 282 again that the only road to loyalty is through liberty. Surely hon. Members opposite should give us credit for a desire to bring a real preventive for occurrences which we, as well as they, fully admit are most deplorable, which we desire to see stopped, and which we think will be stopped as the result of our policy. But hon. Members opposite are always blind to this. They always think that repression is the only means of meeting discontent.
Never does history record any graver blunder than that which was made when the American Colonies revolted, and when in the House of Commons Townsend, Grenville, and others refused them the right of liberty. The Townsends and the Grenvilles of this world never die. They reappear in every generation. Never are they able to learn the lessons of the past. In this case they say that they are supported by the irresistible attitude of Ulster, that Ulster takes up a position which cannot be stormed and cannot be turned, and that the effect must be to block the progress of our policy. Here, again, one can turn to a Colonial precedent, so exact that I must trouble the House with one quotation. It is again Canada, in the days when it was proposed to grant her Home Rule. The Unionists of Canada sent home memorial after memorial, protesting against the grant of fuller powers. They said that it would destroy the unity of the Empire; that the local divisions between the parties in Canada, the English and the French, were too strong; that the British Government must remain as the umpire between them:—Loyalists as they are, they will not have independence forced upon them. They will take the matter into their own hands.They went even further than the Orangemen of Ulster:—They will, if necessary, call in the United States to replace British influence.In the House of Lords, Lord Stanley said:—The concession would remove the only check to the tyrannical power of the dominant majority—a majority in numbers only, while in wealth, education and enterprise they are greatly inferior to the minority. The minority of the settlers are of British descent, and one thing is certain; if these settlers find themselves deprived of British protection they will protect themselves, and measures to that effect will be taken within six months after the concession is made.The concession was made; all these things ended in vapour; the settlers did not take steps to protect themselves; and the justification of the policy then adopted is seen in the success of Canadian 283 self-government, while the continued unity of the Empire is evidenced by the presence in this very House of Commons of hon. Members who themselves are of Canadian origin. The right hon. Gentleman said that he, at all events, did not advocate civil war in Ulster, and that he and his Friends have been exercising restraint rather than encouraging disloyalty. If their speeches are restraint, I wonder what encouragement is? At all events, I welcome the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, for he at least made it very clear that he repudiated any tendency to advocate violence in Ulster, and that, so far as he is concerned, occupying as he does a most responsible position in this House, he does not join in the frenzied appeals to the Ulster minority to resort to measures of violence if this Bill should pass into the law. I believe that the Debate, now that we have had seven days of it, shows that all the larger arguments of policy are in favour of this Bill, and that only the petty ones can be advanced against it. So far as finance is concerned, I claim that, viewed in detail, the Bill offers a just and stable foundation for the future financial relations between the two countries, equitable both to one party and to the other.
§ Mr. M'MORDIE
I do not wish to travel over the general ground covered by the Postmaster-General, but in the comparison he has made, when dealing with Canada or with Australia, he had no such conditions to deal with as exist in Ireland. At no point in Nationalist Ireland can the Union Jack be displayed. It would be torn down. At no part in Nationalist Ireland can His Majesty's uniform be worn without insult. At no assembly in Nationalist Ireland will the King's health be drunk. Moreover, at their annual dinner a body of young men connected with his own Department were prevented from drinking the King's health. In connection with these discussions, it is remarkable how there has been a deliberate organised effort to circulate slanders with regard to Ulster. I am not aware that any Unionist newspaper or organisation has sent emissaries to any part of the Kingdom to villify and abuse the inhabitants because they happen to be Liberals in politics. The hon. Member for West Belfast (Mr. Devlin) last night made some remarks which, following the lines of previous slanderers, require a little attention. He referred to the poverty in 284 Belfast. The answer to that is that the Poor Law charges per head of the population in England amount to 8s. 3d.; in Scotland to 6s. 3d.; and in Ireland to only 5s. 11d. When we come to the terrible city of Belfast, the amount is only 4s. per head, and if you separated the Unionists from the Nationalists the charge per head of the Nationalists would be 8s. 2d., and of the Unionists 2s. 8d. One of the enterprising liars and slanderers who have written on this subject has pointed out that Belfast is the paupers' paradise. Seeing, however, that the average poor rate is 5s. 11d., while for Belfast it is only 2s. 8d., I fail to see how that remark applies. So far as we are Unionist and industrious in Belfast, our charges for the poor are only one-third as much as the charges in England.
The origin of the first of the slanders was under the guidance of the hon. Member for Scotland Division (Mr. T. P. O'Connor). He established a new journal last year, and in order to make that journal go amongst English Radicals he sent a professional slanderer to the north of Ireland. The first lie he wrote was that he would not have known that Belfast was there but for the smoke. Belfast however, is the only manufacturing town in the three Kingdoms where smoke does not lie. We have a much clearer atmosphere than you have in London. But possibly the writer wrote the article before he left London. The next slander appears in the "Daily Chronicle." They sent over a special slanderer to write a series of six articles dealing with Belfast. The first article began by saying that Belfast is like Tottenham Court Road, that it has a stately city hall, and a few streets of really splendid shops, but that it is the most depressing place in the world. The writer referred to the women with shawls over their heads, and to the poverty, drunkenness, and bare feet. It turned out before the article was finished that the writer had taken only one portion of Belfast. In my own division of East Belfast, where there is a large industrial population, I am proud to say that out of 18,200 electors I represent what in England would be called a Labour party of over 14,000. To show that this poverty cannot exist I may inform the House that there are a considerable number of houses in Belfast that can be let at 2s. 6d. a week, including rates. Sweating is quite impossible. When these charges first appeared I had an interview with a very prominent man, a politician and a Home Ruler. 285 The information given was that there was sweating in Belfast. In my conversation with this Gentleman I told him the thing was impossible. As regards the extremely low paid work which is spoken of, it is not done in Belfast at all. The Belfast people will not do it, they send it away out of Ireland altogether, and it is done in Wales. Men in Wales who turn up at political and Radical meetings to cheer and sing are not at all attentive to their women folk. They do not go out and "buy them a bunch of blue ribbons, to tie up their bonny brown hair." These poor women in Wales are willing to slave the week and at the end to get 1d. for three dozen collars, or something like that. Irish women will not do this work. It is not done in, or near Belfast, or indeed in Ireland at all. What did this Government, with a Welsh bias, do? They appointed a Commission to inquire into the sweating, and it is characteristic of them that they did not invite the Commission to inquire into sweating in Wales where the sweated work is done, nor did they ask it to inquire into the conditions in Dublin, but they were to inquire into the sweating in Belfast. I want to refer to this particularly because it shows bad feeling and viciousness on the part of our critics.
Belfast is the crux of this Irish question for the Government. It is situated not in the best part of Ireland. It has been by far the most prosperous part of the three Kingdoms, and that has been accomplished under the British flag. That flag has been good enough for us so far. Is it wrong for us to say that we do not want to change it? We could not possibly do better under any other flag. Those who desire a change are those who have not taken advantage of their opportunities, who will not develop the resources of the country; those who will not exhibit that patience and perseverance in industry that others have, and who to a certain extent have deliberately kept themselves in poverty, and being dissatisfied with their poverty, say it is the British Government. Consequently, they demand a change, and the statesmanship of the Government is shown in the fact that they do not give the least heed to those who have taken advantage of their circumstances, but do give heed to those who from time to time have been a source of annoyance to the country, and sometimes even worse. An unpleasant incident hag occurred, in regard to these slanders to which I 286 have referred. The statement appeared in the "Freeman's Journal," in the "Times," and also, I believe, in some Yorkshire Liberal papers, that at a meeting at Skipton a speaker had said that Belfast was so bigoted that it employed only one Roman Catholic, and that man was a scavenger. I would take this opportunity of saying that that was a very false statement. I wrote to the papers, but, of course, the letter that I sent may or may not have been read by hon. Members. A question was put in this House about it. In this connection a remark was attributed to the Chief Secretary for Ireland. Subsequently the right hon. Gentleman stated that he did not make the remark attributed to him. Concerning this matter of the employment of Roman Catholics at Belfast, I may observe that the scavenger referred to draws £90,000 a year in wages! In addition to that, he draws in salary £4,200 a year, and in this latter sum is not included the cost of a Roman Catholic solicitor who makes £600 a year. We are not bigoted in that case. Again, there are three standing counsel, two of whom are Roman Catholics, and they make from £1,000 to £1,500 a year. So much for the bigotry charged against us at the meeting at Skipton.
His Majesty's Government ought to have repudiated this charge on behalf of the people of Belfast, and I give the hint to the Attorney-General, that the reporter who apparently produced a false report of the Skipton meeting should be prosecuted. What may happen in the immediate future raises the question as to whether or not our industrial activities will stop once you grant Home Rule to Ireland. Will the present bitterness cease or increase? A new Government will possibly be within its sphere in passing an Act equalising the Poor Rates all over Ireland. That will affect Belfast to the extent of £35,000 or £40,000 a year. In the next place, when you proceed to develop the resources of Ireland you may drain some of the bogs, and lease the land out to enterprising persons. In the next place, Parliament could see to the spread of the Irish language. This would give employment to various persons, in England and elsewhere, to interpreters for the Law Courts, Post Offices, Excise, warehouses, etc., and I estimate that a million pounds would ensue in wages in this connection. It may be said that some of these are small things, but I mention them to show what 287 might be amongst the first matters developed by a Parliament in Dublin. Then as regards certain happenings in Ireland. I would like to know what hon. Members amongst my amiable fellow countrymen below the Gangway would dare to get up in Clare or Mayo and make the criticisms on these terrible murders that any English or Scottish Member would feel inclined to do? If they did this they would never be returned to this House again. If the hon. Member for West Belfast did so he would probably be shot.
§ Mr. CULLINAN
Might I ask the hon. Member if he means to say that the outrages referred to yesterday in Debate have been done at the instigation of the members of the Ancient Order of Hibernians?
§ Mr. M'MORDIE
I spoke of secret societies, and I called the Inner Circle the "Black Hand," and said that they controlled the murders, and that hon. Gentlemen below control elections and return Members of Parliament. If any Member of Parliament goes down to Clare or Mayo, and condemns these murders—that is condemns them, not with a wink in his eye, but openly and severely condemn them—he will lose his seat; and if it happens to be the Member for West Belfast he will be shot. This is a serious question. At present the Officers of the Crown consider they are doing their duty, when they have—as I assume they have—the assistance of hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway, and certainly the asistance of the police to discover the culprits. With all that assistance they cannot prevent these brutal murders in Ireland, some of which were referred to yesterday. They cannot control them. They cannot convict the murderers. They always get the wrong man.
It is expected that the control of the judges and the control of the police will shortly be handed over to an Irish Parliament. That will happen in six years. If that is to happen my own view is that it would be far better to have the repeal of the Union than this measure, because the judges and the police would clear out. That is hardly ever discussed; it was discussed in 1886. An hon. Member who at that time sat on the Nationalist Benches below the Gangway, but who is since dead, admitted that all they wanted was control 288 of the judges and the police. That is expected in the north-east corner of Ulster, and the people in the north-cast corner of Ulster will not be influenced by the Post-master-General, nor will they be influenced by the amiable smiles of Gentlemen who sit behind the Government, because the Orangeman in Ulster is as capable and intelligent a man as any Gentleman opposite. These men have formed their own opinions; you may chop logic and say smart things across the floor of the House, but as one who knows the tone of the people possibly better than the Leaders in this House, I say that these men's views would be acted up to, and no remarks that may be made now will influence them. This is not a question of compromise; the people in the North of Ireland have their minds fully made up. Many criticisms have been passed upon Sir Edward Carson—
§ Mr. M'MORDIE
I am speaking of one of the leaders in Belfast. I am not speaking of the right hon. Gentleman now as a Member of this House. A number of Gentlemen have come forward in Belfast as leaders. It is supposed they are to raise an army and march to Cork. [Laughter.] That seems to amuse some Gentlemen, but anyone who knows anything of the subject knows that whatever action is taken will be taken wholly independent of him. There is a feeling that the right hon. Gentlemen will stand in the front, if necessary, but it is an effort to make little of the movement to suggest that the men of Belfast and the surrounding districts are going to make trouble, or not to make trouble, as they may be advised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Trinity College. I do not think even the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Trinity College fully realises the seriousness of the situation. I will tell the House what it is. You will have disturbances in many places. You will, first of all, have contraction in the volume of business and contraction in manufactures. How does that affect the community? People will be getting out of work. That will start as soon as there is a chance of this Bill passing—say, within six months of the appointed time, and within that time when this thing really looks serious the volume of business will be contracted, and a certain class of people will be thrown out of employment. Who 289 will these people be? Out of the Nationalist population in Belfast of 94,000 there are at least 80,000 dependent upon Unionist employment. If there are 90,000 people out of work, and more than 90,000 who will they be? It does not take much to persuade the House that there will be trouble there, and if there is trouble if you pass this Bill, there is no thinking man who ever read a book in regard to Ireland upon a matter of this sort who does not know what will happen.
Under the operations of the Government you have the country armed with weapons of precision; there is hardly a young man in Ireland who can pay for a revolver who has not got one. Latterly that is increasingly going on. For thirty odd years I know of it myself. When the trouble began last summer and Home Rule seemed to be imminent, when an attack was made upon the other House, then and from that time forward revolvers were coming in pretty frequently to Belfast. I took an opportunity of stating in Dublin that on a contingency there would be 30,000 revolvers in the streets of Belfast. You will find it a serious question. On going back to Belfast and making inquiries I found there would not be less than 60,000. [Laughter.] Some pleasant Gentlemen opposite laugh; no doubt, by order. An effort was made to find out the number of revolvers amongst young men in Unionist clubs, apart from Orangemen, and it was found that 90 per cent, of the young men had revolvers. If you have, say, 100,000 revolvers amongst the Unionists, and from 200,000 to 300,000 amongst the Nationalists, I ask what are they for? Why has any young man a revolver? A man carries a revolver for a contingency, presumably to shoot, and when the Government have abolished argument and produced all the irritation they can by speeches and by writings in newspapers, and when they have passed this Bill, things will start at once. I take a very serious view of this matter. I suppose we need not ask the Government to drop this Bill, but I feel quite certain it will never pass. I think the Government realises that themselves. But I say they are embarking upon a most reckless course. I have pointed out the country is armed. I remember the Home Rule agitation of 1874; that worked up a great deal of bitterness, and the Parnellite movement worked up bitterness, and now the people are divided into hostile camps. I remember after the repeal of the Party 290 Processions Act two Orangemen I knew offered their services to assist a Roman Catholic procession. That could not be done now; the agitation of 1874 settled that. I tell the Government that if they persist in their present attitude they are going straight to disaster and to a disaster as great as that which occurred recently in the wreck of the "Titanic" upon an iceberg. I wish to give two quotations before I finish. A distinguished writer wrote this:—One disadvantage of a democratic system is that a Prime Minister no longer feels himself responsible for good government—I think we have seen that to-day—he awaits a mandate from a mob who are watching a football match.The author of that is Mr. Augustine Birrell in an essay on Sir Robert Peel. If the Chief Secretary had the privilege of saying to the Prime Minister, "Go round the football fields, talk to the people in sections about Home Rule, the Church in Wales, the House of Lords, and so on, and then come back and tell the country you have four or five mandates," things would be somewhat like what they are today. Here is another quotation:—Bankruptcy and death are the final heirs of imposture and make-believe.That is from an essay on Thomas Carlyle by the same right hon. Gentleman. The Government have carried on this humbug to a dangerous and disastrous point. I do not like to say anything bitter; I never exchanged a hostile word with an Irish Nationalist. I look back with the kindliest memories to my younger days in connection with them; it was the same, when I was at college, but now you are dividing the country into different sections. I never said an offensive word of the Nationalists, and I will not say one now; but I have said, with all humility, that the Nationalist Members from Ireland are wholly and absolutely under the control of those societies. No one of these men can give a pledge that anybody can expect him to keep. I knew of three cases where there were men who said they would do a thing under certain conditions. When those conditions arose they did exactly the reverse. One of these, men was rebuked as to why he changed sides, and his reply was, "I got orders which I dare not disobey."
§ Mr. J. J. CLANCY
I should like, if the occasion were less important, to make some remarks about the speech which the Lord Mayor of Belfast has just 291 delivered, but really the occasion is too important to devote any attention to the observations of the right hon. Gentleman. His speech was very discursive and very interesting, and it ranged over a wide area of subjects, and wound up with the interesting information as to the number of revolvers in the hands of the Orangemen of Belfast. But I desire to speak upon the more important question of the financial scheme of this Bill. Although that scheme has been discussed already to-night, I think it may be useful if a Member of the Nationalist majority in this House who approves of this Bill and this scheme should say, as briefly as possible, what he thinks about it. It has been described as complicated and impossible for anybody but experts to understand. As far as I can understand matters of this kind at all, I do not think there is any foundation for that description; and I am certain of this, that the financial scheme of this Bill is not half so complicated, or anything like so complicated, as the scheme of the Unionist Government which piloted and carried the Local Government Act of 1898 into law. It has also been described as bad for Great Britain and as bad for Ireland. I should like to say a few words on these two points. Is this scheme a bad one for Great Britain? It is not for me, not being an English Member, to speak at much length upon this subject, but I am bound to say what I think upon the point myself, and that in the interests of Ireland. In my opinion there is not an atom of truth in the statement that this scheme is bad for Great Britain. There is no denying the fact, which the Postmaster-General has stated to-night, that certainly before the end of the present financial year or in two years' time, Ireland, though overtaxed, will be a dead loss to Great Britain of about £2,000,000 sterling a year. If this Bill does not pass into law the loss will go on increasing.
I may be pardoned if I refer to the fact that I myself, in the course of the Debates on the financial scheme of 1893, made a prediction that if that Bill did not pass into law the expenditure on Ireland would go on increasing by leaps and bounds every year. That prediction, which, of course, is made by many others too, has been abundantly fulfilled, as everyone knows, and it was verified long before the downfall of the Unionist party in 1906. I think the reason is plain. When any country is governed against its 292 will it must be cajoled by doles as well as coerced. Even the very supporters of the alien Government of Ireland can only be kept loyal by being liberally paid. They would not give you a button for your Empire or for your Government if they did not derive pecuniary advantage from it for themselves, and nobody ought to know this better than the late Leader of the Opposition, who, having indulged in a carnival of coercion, had not only to pay large bills for counsel's fees for prosecutions in Ireland but had to build railways and set up the Congested Districts Board. The policy of increasing the loss in Ireland is in fact the present policy of the Unionist party. A few months ago, in the same week in which the present Leader of the Opposition delivered the first of his elegant speeches, the leading organ of Unionism in Ireland, the "Irish Times," reminded him that to abuse the Nationalist party and its leaders would not be enough. It said:—Mr. Bonar Law appreciates the necessity not only of fighting a bad programme, but of fighting it with a good one. What then is to be the new Unionist programme for Ireland? In the first place, the next Unionist Government must tackle boldly the question of Irish finance, and the reduction of Irish taxation must be the first plank in the Unionist platform of the next Unionist Government.This Unionist paper, in addition to suggesting less taxation in Ireland and apparently advocating a separate and distinct system of taxation for Ireland, and thus breaking up what the Unionist party are always fighting for, namely, the maintenance of the fiscal unity of the Kingdom, went on to say that:—There must be more and more expenditure on co-operation, on roads and railways, on transit facilities, on arterial drainage, and on primary and secondary education.And it wound up with these words:—Our suggestions are incomplete, but we offer them as the outlines of a constructive Unionist policy for IrelandThe Leader of the Opposition went to Belfast, and although he was careful not to talk except in vague generalities, he broadly said "Certainly" to the suggestions of the "Irish Times." One of the objects of the scheme brought forward by the Government is to stop the loss on Ireland incurred by the British Exchequer, and, in my opinion, that will be the result. We recognise perfectly well, and do not desire to conceal the fact in the least, that with the increase in Irish prosperity there will come an increase of revenue which in the first place will go to diminish the deficit now existing, and furnish an 293 Imperial contribution in time to come. From the English point of view there is no comparison between these two schemes or policies. What more than anything else makes the one good and the other essentially bad, is that while the one policy will create in Ireland a feeling of friendship for Great Britain, the other will breed that contempt and hatred which those whom it is sought to corrupt always feel for the corrupter. In this regard I will quote the opinion of the Athenian of old, who said:—The Athenians would not sell their liberties for all the gold over the earth or under the earth.The Irish people make a similar answer under similar circumstances to this paltry effort of the Unionist party to corrupt them. I now ask, is this financial scheme good or bad for Ireland from the Irish point of view? I think it is due to Ministers and their British supporters, no less than to Ireland itself, that those who have formed an opinion favourable to the scheme should openly and boldly express it. For my own pare I have no hesitation whatever in saying that the scheme as a whole is not only a simple scheme, though an ingenious one, but it would be absolute folly for Ireland to reject it. What are its good points? In the first place, take its power of taxation. It goes near to giving us complete powers of taxation. Subject to the limitation of 10 per cent, increase as regards four objects of taxation, we can increase any existing tax for our own purposes if circum stances demand it, and we can reduce any existing tax without restriction if circumstances permit it, and so give relief to our ratepayers and taxpayers. We can discontinue any tax, and so also give relief, and we can impose any new taxes except a new Customs Duty. Are these powers all to be despised? In the second place—and here let me refer to the remark of the hon. Member for the City of Cork, that this unrestricted power of dealing with excise was really no power at all. The hon. Member said it would be impossible in practice to increase any of our taxes—
§ Mr. MAURICE HEALY
I only said that Excise taxation involved Customs taxation, and without one you could not have the other.
§ Mr. CLANCY
If that is what the hon. and learned Member said I have no fault to find with it. What I understood him to say was that because in practice we might not be able to increase an Excise 294 Duty, therefore the power to increase would be of no use at all. If that were true it would lead to the ridiculous result that this Parliament, because it might not be able profitably to increase the duty on whisky any further, would be deprived of no valuable power at all if its power of increasing Excise were taken away. I say that is nonsense, no matter who says the contrary. In the second place, this scheme secures the Irish Government of the future a stable revenue sufficient to meet all the charges that will be put upon it. It does this by the expedient, to which I attach great importance, of basing that revenue not on income, which might fall below expectation, but on the actual cost of the services for which it will have to pay. Is not this absolutely satisfactory so far as it goes. Is not this fact an answer to all the criticisms that are made as to whether we will be able to pay our way or not and as to whether the estimates of expenditure are correct or not, and as to whether our income is this or that?
This seems to me to be an expedient which will give us all we want to be sure of from the start, that is a stable revenue upon which we can count. Not a penny of additional taxation upon Ireland will be required in respect of the transferred services. All the Grants in aid of local taxation, of public education, of law and justice so called, and of all the other transferred services which are payable now, and which will be payable in the future when this Bill passes, can be paid without putting one farthing extra burden on the Irish people. Nothing so good as this was offered either in the Bill of 1886 or 1893. In the third place, it secures the payment of old age pensions as at present, of insurance charges, of the cost of land purchase, of the cost of the constabulary up to the date of the transfer, and of the cost of collecting the Irish revenue of all sorts, amounting to £300,000 a year, all out of the Imperial Exchequer. What fools we should have been if last year we had consented to exclude Ireland from the scope of the Insurance Act, as we were asked to do, especially in view of the fact that the working classes of Ireland would inevitably have called for an insurance scheme for themselves in the event of an insurance scheme being adopted for Great Britain, and that, if it had been delayed till the establishment of an Irish Parliament we should inevitably have been called upon to pay for it ourselves. What fools we should 295 have been if we had rejected the Budget of the year before last, which provided for the payment of old age pensions also out of Imperial Funds.
In the fourth place, out of the six reserved services for which the Imperial Exchequer will pay, and which the Imperial Government will continue to control for the present, three will pass at any time the Irish Parliament pleases into the control of that body, and with them the money to pay the cost, which will remain constant though the Irish Parliament reduces that cost and applies the savings to other useful purposes. The fourth reserved service, the constabulary, will pass into the same control after six years, and with it the money which it will then annually cost. In this case, again, the Irish Parliament may reduce the cost without the annual payment being diminished, and the saving may be devoted to more useful public purposes. Is this arrangement to be scoffed at and treated as of no account? In the fifth place, we are to have a fixed substantial surplus for our home needs, and no Imperial contribution to make until our prosperity increases and the deficit is extinguished. Is this nothing? In the sixth place, our revenue is to be collected for us at the Imperial expense, and we are thus saved an annual amount of £300,000. Next, with a view to a revision of those financial terms, there is to be a Joint Exchequer Board, on which for the first time Ireland will have representatives who will be capable of attending to her interests, and which, amongst other things, is to be empowered to find out the real revenue of Ireland and the proper amount of our expenditure. Lastly, when our revenue exceeds our expenditure, there is to be a revision with a view to fixing Ireland's contribution to the Empire and giving Ireland even greater control over her own finances.
These are the main terms of the proposed financial settlement, and I, for my part, say they constitute a good settlement for Ireland, without, as I have shown, making things worse, but rather better, for Great Britain. Great Britain will, in fact, benefit by this scheme. Some criticisms have been made upon it, and I should like briefly to notice a few of them. Lord MacDonnell has written to the newspapers a statement to the effect that the surplus will not be enough. I should myself like a larger surplus, and 296 I have no hesitation in saying that I think the surplus ought to be increased. I think it is too small, and that Parliament would increase the efficiency of this measure and make its working more likely to be absolutely successful if it made some addition to this sum, which Great Britain would not feel for six months. But at least Lord MacDonnell does not appear to know, and it is a very strange thing, the amount of the surplus. He apparently thinks that half of it would be swallowed up by the Post Office deficit. But Clause 14 of the Bill says the exact contrary, the official explanatory Memorandum shows the contrary, and even the speech of the Postmaster-General on the First Reading of the Bill shows the contrary. Then it is said we do not get complete control of Customs and Excise taxation. We get practically complete control of both. As regards Excise, we are hampered by no restrictions whatever, and, as regards Customs, the only restrictions on our powers are that we cannot impose new Customs Duties, or have, as regards commodities other than beer, a Customs Duty higher by 10 per cent, than in Great Britain. Speaking on this point for myself only, I doubt whether both those restrictions will do us any harm whatever. As to the first, we certainly could not expect anything else from a Free Trade Government and from a Free Trade party. I doubt whether even Tariff Reformers would consent to Ireland erecting a tariff wall against England. I shall be anxious to know what proposals they make either in the course of the discussions on this Bill, or, if they ever get the chance, in their Tariff Reform Budget. How would the removal of the second restriction help us? If we raise any Customs Duty higher at all than that in England, should we not be in danger of diverting trade to British ports and so losing instead of gaining revenue? Again, it is said it is degrading to have the collection of Irish revenue in Imperial hands, but those who urge this point do not see anything degrading in asking the Imperial Treasury to guarantee £200,000,000 for the purchase of Irish land, and, if that Treasury, because it is making those huge loans, seeks to retain the collection of our taxes for the present, I, for one, cannot see any grounds for objection.
The great objection of all is that, if the revenue of Ireland grows and increases through Irish prosperity, the increase will go to diminish the deficit and will not be reserved for Irish purposes. Why should 297 Irishmen, or at least self-respecting Irishmen, object to this proposal? When it comes into operation, it will hasten the coming of the day when we shall stand on our own feet without the prop of a British subsidy. How long do we Irish want to remain in the dependent and almost slavish position which we occupy at present? Though it is no fault of ours, we are subjected every day and every year of our lives to the taunt of one person or another in this country that we are beggars at its gate and dependent upon its bounty. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Strand Division (Mr. Long) no later than last year spoke of the Grants we have been getting for local purposes as "alms," and he did that in a letter to Belfast, dated October, 1911, and Belfast, as a self-respecting city, never seems to have resented it. How long do we desire to be subject, to such insults? I say, and I think I speak for all my colleagues, not one day longer than is necessary, and, if the only alternative be to pay for release from such sneers, then Irishmen, if they have any manhood left, ought to be glad to pay, whatever becomes of them afterwards. For my own part I have no hesitation in putting it as boldly as this: I would rather have Ireland free and bankrupt than prosperous and in slavery, the helpless victim of such insufferable insults as those used and uttered by the hon. Member for the Strand Division.
It is said that Ireland under the terms of this Bill would be unable to carry on the business of the country or to do anything for the material improvement of the country. The hon. Member for Salisbury (Mr. Godfrey Locker-Lampson), who repeated like a parrot all the threadbare misrepresentations and prophecies in the Unionist armoury, went further in this connection, and said our principal object in seeking Home Rule was to get the jobs into our control. The Irish faction whose champion he is, and whose phrases he has learned by rote, ought to be good judges of jobs and jobbery, for they have lived on them. They have lived upon a monopoly of jobs, and, when they talk of maintaining the Empire, of saving Ireland from ruin, and of saving Ulster from oppression, what they really mean is that the maintenance of their monopoly of jobs is threatened. All I should say in reply is that none of the representatives of the Irish Nationalist majority have yet, at all events, got any jobs, not even a minor post in the Diplomatic Service. All this talk about Ireland being unable to carry 298 on is but the merest humbug. Ireland flourished under Grattan's Parliament by the universal admission of friends and foes at the time of the Union, and there has never yet been a country released from outside control and given the management of its own affairs which has not conquered all obstacles in the way of material progress. It is only by assuming that the Irish people is an exception, and the one exception, to the human race that anyone can come to the conclusion that what has happened in every other country, similarly circumstanced and similarly treated, will not happen in Ireland. Hence, we support heartily, not coldly or as giving it a benediction accompanied by curses, the Second Reading of this Bill, and will endeavour to do our utmost to carry it into law.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Mr. HORNER
I am not vain enough to imagine that at this stage of the Debate I can add much to the unanswered and unanswerable arguments that have been urged from this side of the House. I wish, however, very briefly to explain the position of affairs to-day in Ulster, so that no supporter of the Government may be under any delusion about what your boasted message of peace means to you and to us. I am an Ulster man, the descendant of many generations of Ulster men, and yield to no one in the knowledge of my countrymen. [An HON. MEMBER: "You want a job."] This is a, fair sample of the way we shall be treated in. Dublin Parliament. I represent a typical Ulster Constituency, and I claim therefore a special right to be heard on behalf of those who are bitterly opposed to your proposed legislation. What is Ulster? What is the Ulster you are dealing with? It is a people, not a place. We are a nation sprung from British stock, differing in origin, in religion, in character and habits, in every ideal of life from the Irish represented here by Members below the Gangway. But we love our country just as much as they do. We have far more interest in her material welfare, because we own and control the bulk of the business, industry, and commerce. [An HON. MEMBER: "HOW much do you control?"] More than half the Nationalist party present, if these personalities are to be introduced. Take the geographical county of Tyrone. I am the only Unionist Member out of four for that great county. Yet it is called a Nationalist county, though the Unionists, counting votes, are almost as numerous as their opponents, and the vast bulk of the 299 wealth and enterprise of the county is Unionist. It is with those, and not mere voting units, that the Government has to deal. Take Donegal. It was never settled by English or Scotch people, except in part. It has four Members of Parliament, all Nationalists; and by the way it also has more illiterates than the whole kingdom of Scotland. A test of the respective positions of Nationalists and Unionists in the county of Donegal is this significant fact that 95 per cent, of the special jurors of that county are Unionists. Why? Because the Unionists are known to alone possess the requisite qualifications for serving on special juries. Yet Donegal is Nationalist, and the Unionists are not strong enough to send one single representative to this House or to the county council of Donegal. The Ulster men you have to reckon with are the class who constitute the special jurors in county Donegal. We Ulster men are unconcerned to debate abstract theories of government. We are plain, blunt, practical people. We are not visionaries, but we want our fears allayed, our doubts and distrusts removed, not by copious outpourings of prophecies and promises from the Front Bench, but by reference to hard facts of everyday life and experience. This Bill raises living issues. It affects our property, our lives, and our liberties. Our liberties and lives are safe under the British Constitution, and we are prospering and content. All we ask is to be allowed to remain as we are. But if you can convince us that a single Clause of this Bill will increase our prosperity, we would risk all else and welcome it as eagerly as the carefully selected and muzzled Nationalist Convention did in Dublin a few days ago. We are convinced, however, that under any system of Home Rule, and particularly under this Bill, which holds out no hope of a final settlement, that our position, as Ulster men, would be lowered and impaired in its relationship to this Imperial Parliament; our civil and religious liberties would be gravely imperilled, and our commercial and agricultural industries severely injured.
Look at the Nationalist party machine to-day. The Nationalist party, with seven exceptions, are returned to this House as the nominees of the United Irish League and Ancient Order of Hibernians. How do these organisations work? Responsible Leaders of the Nationalist party, in 300 spite of assurances given in this House and in the country that Unionists should have a fair representation in local government, gave such advice as this:—Let it be known beforehand that no man need come and ask for your vote unless he has proved himself to be a friend of the people by joining the United Irish League.The assistant secretary of the league gave the following advice:—The local elections are coming, and he was glad to see that the candidates had been selected by the United Irish League, and he hoped that the candidates would be unanimously supported by all Nationalists, so that none but approved Nationalists should administer the local government of the country.We know the result. Outside Ulster there are only seventeen Unionist county councillors out of something like 750. Even though the league as a political force should disappear with landlordism, its members will only be merged in the far more powerful organisation, the Ancient Order of Hibernians—a secret, bitterly sectarian society, which will be the party machine and control the destinies of Ireland in the future. We heard from the Nationalist benches in this House last November that its membership was 80,000 in Ireland and half a million in America. Its aims and objects are notorious. In the pithy language of one of its officials, speaking in my Constituency—The organisation was formed for the purpose of driving the British Government and garrison out of this old land of ours.At the last Bi-annual National Conference of the A.O.H., at Portland, Oregon, in the United States, which lasted a week, a resolution was passed:—That we again assert our unswerving fidelity to that fundamental principle of our Order, namely, complete independence of Ireland, towards the attainment of which the untiring efforts of all patriotic Irishmen should be directed, and while we favour as a means to that end the acceptance of any measure which will bring relief to our suffering brethren in Ireland, we are convinced that nothing short of complete and absolute separation from England can ever bring lasting prosperity to Ireland.Its branches are everywhere in Ireland. It is now endowed with perpetual existence in Ireland by reason of its being an approved society under the Insurance Act, in which capacity it will receive yearly an enormous grant of public money. It is immeasurably the strongest society in Ireland under the Act, and its numbers and influence in a few years will far transcend anything that has ever yet appeared in the Irish political arena. The permanent majority of the Irish Houses of Parliament will be under its domination, and Ulster will be in a helpless and hopeless minorty. The hon. and learned Member for Waterford 301 may be quite sincere in all he says in this House, but he cannot guarantee even his own political existence, or that of any Member of his present party under the new Parliament. We Ulster people have too much knowledge of the kind of men who control these organisations and the way that control is exercised ever to trust ourselves to them, and we will not.
The Postmaster-General talked about frenzied appeals. I am not not going to make any frenzied appeal. I wish to state here without passion or exaggeration, but with all the earnestness and emphasis I can command, the position which the Government by its course of action has forced us to adopt. In taking this position we have adopted no tactics of secrecy, evasion, or ambiguity. I am no alarmist, and neither addicted to drink nor hysteria. I for one would never have given one hour of my life to politics but for this question of Home Rule. We told you in 1886that Ulster would fight and Ulster would be right.That was the phrase of a great statesman of that day. We told you in the words of the solemn resolution of our great Convention of 1892 that we wouldresort to any means that may be found necessary to preserve unimpaired our equal citizenship in the United Kingdom.That was then our attitude, that is still our attitude. In September last a meeting of many hundred delegates was held in Belfast representative of every class and of every interest in Unionist Ulster—of men, many of whom had never before taken part in politics and who on ordinary questions of politics and religion were as sharply divided as men could be. After the gravest and most mature deliberation, knowing well the consequences and prepared to face them, we came to the unanimous resolution that Ulster would never obey a law passed by a Dublin Parliament nor pay a tax to that Parliament, and we further resolved to form a provisional government to take over the management of the Ulster nation's affairs, and hold them in trust for the British Crown and Parliament till such time as we should again be restored to our full rights of British citizenship. These resolutions were adopted at mass meetings everywhere throughout the province, the last of which attracted most attention three weeks ago, when the Leader of the Opposition and some eighty Members of this House attended.
You may call us rebels if you like. Against whom or what are we rebelling? 302 Not against the King, because we are his loyal subjects; not against this House, because we resent being driven from its shelter; not against the Constitution, for you have suspended it purposely for our undoing; not against the British people, for you refuse to let us put our case before them; not against the Empire, for we are fighting to maintain it unimpaired. You may stigmatise us by every opprobrious epithet you can invent, and you have invented many: "Orange bigots," "Orange rowdies," "carrion crows," "Ulster hysteria," "Ulster bluffers." We disregard all these, or, if we regard them, they only stiffen our opposition. We despise your threats as much as we scorn the sudden blandishments with which you now insincerely beslaver us. No gibe nor flout, nor sneer, nor threat can shake our firm resolve. We are taking steps with care and deliberation to perfect our machinery, so that if ever your Bill passes into law, our Provisional Government will thereupon begin to carry out its trust. You think because your British Executive will collect the taxes that you have overawed us. You little know the men you are dealing with and the intensity of their feelings. Dr. Clifford and the Passive Resisters of England, whom you do not call rebels, have taught us how helpless and ridiculous we can make your tax-gatherers by a universal passive resistance movement. And there are other ways.
But apart from these, we have close on 200,000 men enrolled in our Unionist Clubs, not half of whom belong to the Orange Order. Ordinary drilling is actively carried on. The Chief Secretary for Ireland knows that and dare not stop it. Hon. Members of this House have seen recently at Belfast close on 100,000 of these men march past for hours in serried ranks, sixteen deep, with a precision that would have done credit to any army. They can testify to the depth of our earnestness, and the strength of our determination to oppose you at all hazards. In two years time a Passive Resistance movement can readily be transformed to an active one, and this is your message of peace. I tell you it is a declaration of war. You may say we are unreasonable, stubborn, and wrong, but the facts remain and the sooner hon. Gentlemen behind the Government recognise them the better. The First Lord of the Admiralty through much tribulation has been led to see them with his modern eye. The bitterest civil wars in history were fought on the question of 303 taxation or the question of religion. Here you are welding both causes to nerve Ulster men for the stern encounter. We hear a great deal of the false sentiment of Ireland a Nation. There never was an Irish Nation. We Ulstermen also have sentiment, but it is pride in the greatness of British Imperial citizenship—pride in the share we have taken in peace and war, in science and art, in Government and colonisation, in everything that went to the building of this Empire—pride in the memories of great deeds done by our forefathers, both for and against the British Government.
The Ulster breed has never known defeat. We are scoffed at as a minority. We admit our inferiority in numbers, but in nothing else. In a miserable minority in former limes we yet changed the dynasty of this country. In a miserable minority our race played the most conspicious part against the mad legislation of the British Government that led to the foundation of the American Republic. Take care where this mad legislation of yours to-day will lead you. We have done more as pioneers and colonists than any part of the United Kingdom. Do you think the men who are of our blood and race, controlling, as they do, the greatest interests in our Colonies, will stand by and see you coerce us, your oldest Colony, by force to leave the shelter of the Imperial Parliament and accept the Government of men whose whole careers have been abuse and hatred of us and you? The first shot fired in such a conflict will rend the British Empire and the British Army. These are the plain facts of the situation. I know hon. Members below the Gangway do not like it. I would be false to my position and duty if I did not clearly and boldly state them. If I have been guilty of rebellious or seditious language, let any hon. Member have the courage at once to take steps and have me punished. If he does not, let him cease for ever from the cant, hypocrisy, and self-deception that there is not an Ulster question, or that the men for whom I speak are not as grimly determined as men can be to resist this fatal measure. I see but one good thing this Bill has done. By its introduction the Government have created a citizen army in Ulster of the finest and most fearless body of loyal men within the realm. It is for you to say whether in your hour of danger, which may be very near, it is better to have this rich asset 304 for the United Kingdom, or whether you will choose the doubtful alliance of the Ancient Order of Hibernians.
I think the House will agree with me when I say that this subject has been very fully covered. I should like to say a few words about two aspects of the question with which the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has dealt very fully from his point of view, and which are the objections to the Bill which we have heard of in our constituencies, and of which we shall no doubt hear in the future. I refer to the position of Protestants and to the position of Ulster. I should be a hypocrite if I posed as a religious fanatic, but I have always felt the deepest aversion to the political power which priests use, or are said to wield, by virtue of the office which they hold. Naturally, one of the points at which I look in regard to this Bill is what does experience teach us will be the religious position under it. I was interested to read the speech of the Noble Lord the Member for South Kensington (Lord C. Hamilton), who dealt with this question. He said it was a religious question, but he went on to say that the Protestants of Ireland all voted against Home Rule. Then, he made the most remarkable admission of all. He said that the priests all voted for Home Rule, although the majority of them knew that it would weaken the Roman Catholic Church, but that they did so because they wished to remain in touch with the aspirations of the Irish people. According to the Noble Lord, the religious question resolves itself into one sentence, which is, that the Protestants are voting to maintain the Catholic Church, while the Catholics are voting to weaken it. What is the lesson which the history of the past and the history of the present day teaches us with regard to the position of the Roman Catholic faith and the increase of democratic power? Take the case of France. There it has been carried to extreme lengths. We have seen that they expelled the religious orders. In the case of the most recent Republic in Europe, the Republic of Portugal, one of the first legislative Acts which was passed was one to restrict the powers of the Roman Catholic faith.
If we take another analogy, that of the greatest Republic of 305 all, the United States of America, I think I am correct in stating that, in spite of the influence of the Roman Catholic Irish in the United States there has not been a Roman Catholic President. I should like to give an instance from Ireland herself. I have never been privileged to take part in an Irish election, but the hon. Member for North-East Cork (Mr. T. M. Healy)—whose eloquence we all admire, particularly when it is directed against other people—fought an election in Louth, where I have always understood he was supported by all the priests, and where, by a curious coincidence, the Unionists supported the same candidate as the priests. Yet he was defeated. It may be said that I am only adducing theories to support me in my views about this Bill. There is the question of the safeguards. The safeguards are usually greeted by hon. Gentlemen opposite with a certain amount of hilarity. They do not believe in the safeguards. I read, with much interest, several telegrams which the hon. Member for Mid-Armagh (Sir John Lonsdale) received from his supporters in various parts of the Empire—telegrams sent, I dare say, with the same spontaneous fervour as those sent to the hon. and learned Member for Waterford (Mr. John Redmond). One of them he quoted as follows. It was a telegram from Canada:—The veto mi provincial legislation practically abandoned.If it had not been practically abandoned it would have been represented as a source of perpetual irritation. But why was this veto practically abandoned? It was because there was no further occasion to use it. If I may say so with all deference, I think that hon. Gentlemen opposite take a very different view of the purpose of the veto and of the safeguards from that we take on this side of the House. A veto should be a passive instrument and not an active instrument. It should be like a barrier put up to prevent the encroachment of the ocean. A gale may spring up, and the waves may dash against it, but, on the other hand, months or even years may pass by without the two coming into conflict. I believe the natural evolution of all self-government is that the veto shall disappear. The idea of the veto is by eliminating certain Acts from the scope of legislation of the appointed Parliament, to set the lines of government in a certain groove, and once they are in that groove the natural necessity for a veto disappears. If I may take an illustration, I will show what I imagine is the view of hon. Gentlemen 306 opposite as regards the veto. Let us suppose a trap is set upon a road to stop motorists who are going too fast. If no motorists are stopped people of the point of view of hon. Gentlemen opposite would say that the police had not done their duty. But I want to put forward another alternative, which is that no motorists have broken the law, and it seems to me that hon. Gentlemen opposite think that because the veto is not in constant operation it is of no practical use at all.
Ulster has not only the safeguard of the veto, she can depend upon herself, and when I say that I am not referring to the threats which we have heard from the other side. I think it is an insult to a race of men to tell them that the only thing on which they can depend is the most primitive agency of all—force—because all of us recognise the sterling qualities of these men of Ulster. They have excelled in every country and in every walk of life. Why, then, have hon. Gentlemen opposite no faith in their political future? What will be their position in the future Irish House of Commons? It is ridiculous to suppose for a moment that the Nationalist party will be one solid body. It is not united here except on the question of Home Rule. The Prime Minister, in his speech on the First Reading, said that of the total Members in the Irish House of Commons, the Ulster representatives form one-third. Since I have been in the House I have heard with almost wearisome iteration that the whole policy of the country, the very existence of the country, depends upon Nationalist Members. They constitute about one-eighth of this House. Do hon. Members opposite contend that they, with one-third of the Members of the House of Commons in Ireland, cannot do what the Nationalists do here with one-eighth? By a simple computation, the people who maintain that contention allege that one Nationalist is better than two Ulster men. Let them go back to their constituents and tell them so. I do not think any of us will believe it. I think if the men of Ulster stick to the same constitutional methods, which they will be open to follow under this Bill, they will become the predominant partner in Ireland and will ultimately control the destinies of Ireland.
I want to turn to the general question. I have been reading with great interest the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Joseph Chamberlain) in 1886 on the question of Home Rule. He advocated the 307 same relationship between Great Britain and Ireland as exists between the Dominion Parliament of Canada and the Provincial Legislatures. There is some slight parallel between that relationship and the proposed constitution under this Bill. Ireland will still be represented in the Imperial Parliament. There is still the veto of this Imperial Parliament. Another point which does not seem to have been generally noticed by hon. Gentlemen opposite is that the Dominion Parliament of Canada subsidises the Provincial Legislatures. Last year the Dominion Parliament of Canada gave subsidies to the amount of £1,800,000, which does not compare unfavourably with the sum which is going to be given to Ireland under this Bill, and which is complained of as such lavish generosity. I admit there is a fundamental difference between the scheme which brought into being the Canadian Constitution and the Provincial Legislatures and the Bill under consideration, and that is that in the North American Act certain subjects were specified on which the Provincial Legislatures could legislate. Here the contrary course has been taken, and the subjects merely have been specified on which the Legislature could not legislate. I think the course which has been taken under this Bill is the more sensible course. It is following the precedent of the United States Constitution. It is following an even older precedent than the Mosaic law. Another difference which is observed between this Bill and the Canadian Constitution is that there are certain subjects which are not reserved services under the Bill, but which are reserved services under the Constitution of Canada. I think, in spite of what hon. Gentlemen opposite say, you cannot draw a comparison between an island which is separated from this country by the Irish Channel and a continent. In Canada, for example, uniformity of law is far more necessary than it would be in comparison with the case between Ireland and England, because it is far more necessary to have such uniformity when you may pass unconsciously in a railway carriage from one province to another. In Ireland the case is entirely different. Anyone who disputes the fact that the Channel makes a great difference as a boundary should recollect the feeling which used to exist and which, I hope, still exists against the Channel Tunnel between England and the Continent. I do not see why an Act such as the North America Act, which was passed 308 by a Tory Government nearly half a century ago, should be considered as the final word upon the allocation of powers of self-government. I almost persuade myself that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Joseph Chamberlain) if he were here—and we all regret his absence—would almost look upon the Bill with leniency, and would possibly chide and correct his son for being so severe about it.
I want to say a word about the Senate. I am glad that a quarter of the Senate is replaced every two years. I think it should be a fundamental element in every Second Chamber that one solid mass of opinion should not be replaced at a given moment by another solid mass of opinion. The transition should be gradual, and that will be the effect under this Bill. But I, in common with most Members of the House, I think, regret the method of appointment of the Senate. I do not see myself how you can defend it. I do not think anyone has defended it yet, and we shall no doubt await with interest the speeches of the Government which are to be delivered. I should like to have seen a Chamber on an elective basis, in which the great cities of Ireland, and also the great industries of the country, would have been represented. I have never understood why industries cannot be represented in the Chamber. In Ireland particularly you could have representation of industries which absorb more than fractions of the population, and you could have allowed them to have representatives in the Senate. That would have given representation of the great industries in Ireland, because the interests of industry are, very often, the most vital interests of a nation.
There is another point about the Senate: I should like to see all bishops excluded. I am told that there is no one on this side of the House who has considered the question of the reform of the House of Lords at all who is not in favour of excluding bishops. They are, no doubt, very ornamental in the other Chamber, but I think the House of Lords would get on just as well without them, and I have no doubt they would be very glad to be relieved of their political duties in order to have more time to attend to their religious functions. I am talking of the exclusion of bishops from the Irish Senate regardless of their religious faith. I think their inclusion would be equally to be deplored, whether the Senate was filled with Protestant bishops or Catholic bishops. I 309 think it is a great pity that the possibility should be allowed of this budding Senate being saddled with an episcopal incubus. I hope some way will be found for preventing bishops entering the Senate. As to the forty-two Members who are to represent Ireland here, I wish to say that it is impossible to think of a number which would meet with general approval in this House. Some Members have said that forty-two are too many, while others have said that they are too few. But whatever be the number of Irish Members who come over here, I think it is absolutely imperative that there should be a sufficient number to enable the people of Ireland to feel that they have an adequate voice in the Imperial Parliament. If they are not of sufficient number, that will tend to make the people of Ireland feel they have not a sufficient stake in the Empire, and will cause them to lose interest in Imperial concerns. Nor do I believe for a moment in the idle fear of separation. Where would Ireland go? Is it likely that a nation which is striving to express its political entity would voluntarily give up its destiny by putting its neck under the iron heel of a European power. The idea is preposterous.
I believe this Bill will cause truer unity between Great Britain and Ireland. I believe, to quote an old expression, it will be putting two heads under one hat. I have not always held these opinions. It is one and not the least of the privileges which a Member of this House acquires that when he gets into touch with the realities of things, it tends to make one pass away from one's former ungrounded prejudices. I cannot pretend to know much about Ireland, and I daresay in that respect I find myself in the position of the majority of the Members of this House, but there is an incident which I remember seeing in the south of Ireland. An emigrant was setting out from his native village, and I remember the heartrending scene which took place when his friends and relations came out to say goodbye to him. I know that the sympathy which I felt on that occasion will be felt equally in every quarter of the House. But it may be said that, after all, emigration is merely the result of an economic law which knows not the ties of kindred or country, but which works with stern impartiality through every country in the world. That answer cannot satisfy the Irish people. For them these scenes have added fuel to that smouldering resentment which has been handed down 310 like an heirloom from generation to generation, and they feel that they are under the rule of an alien Government which does not understand their simple way of life or sympathise with their humble ambitions. We have seen in a recent catastrophe that human skill, reinforced though it may be by every appliance of modern science and civilisation, stands helpless in the face of Nature. In the same way Government, however ably and beneficently administered, can never conquer the forces of nationality. That I believe to be the basis of the Irish demand which has been so long and persistently maintained. In a fine passage of his speech on the First Reading of the Bill the Prime Minister pointed out how Nationalists have never wavered in their demand. They have held themselves aloof from all the crises of political life. They have pursued their course through good repute and ill repute, and I believe now their journey is ended.
§ Mr. MACMASTER
I think it is necessary in discussing this measure that we should endeavour to blot out from our minds those charges and recriminations which have been made by partisans from time to time. We must judge of the situation as it is to-day on the opinions held in the United Kingdom, and not on the opinions of outsiders. I noticed that in a very few hours after the contents of this Bill were announced by the Prime Minister, telegrams came from different parts of the world expressing approval of the Bill. I assume that what those who sent the telegrams wished to assent to was the general principle of the Bill, because it was impossible for people at a distance to have acquired at that time any reliable knowledge of the contents of the Bill we are now discussing. Reference has been made to the views of Colonial legislatures on the subject of Home Rule for Ireland. It is said that they have recommended substantially what is in this Bill. Many years ago the Canadian Dominion Parliament sent a humble address to Her Majesty, pointing out that Home Rule, or a reasonable measure of self-government, might be granted to Ireland under a federal system. Mr. Gladstone was Prime Minister in this country at that time, and on receipt of that address he sent the following message to the Canadian Parliament in Her Majesty's name:—Her Majesty will always gladly receive the advice of the Parliament in Canada on all matters relating to 311 the Dominion and the administration of its affairs, but with respect to the matters referred to in the address, Her Majesty will, in accordance with the Constitution of this country, have regard to the advice of its Parliament and Ministers, to whom all matters relating to the affairs of the United Kingdom exclusively appertain.I was in Canada at the time, and after the receipt of that message I think that there was not a single man in Canada who did not think that they were all very properly snubbed. A subsequent communication was made some years afterwards in 1893, and a like dispatch was sent in reply, though not quite so severe in tone.
In considering this Bill we have got to look upon its provisions. They cannot be disposed of by the ponderous generalities of the First Lord of the Admiralty in moving the Second Reading. If we wish to get an opinion from him on Home Rule we will find it in an address issued by him in July, 1899, to the electors of Oldham, which was a studied and carefully prepared announcement. He stated that the question of a separate Parliament for Ireland was now drawing into the political arena, "and in reference to Home Rule all true Unionists must therefore be prepared to greet the appearance of that odious measure with a most stenuous opposition." The Prime Minister claims support for the Bill on three grounds. The first was the persistent demand by a consistent majority from Ireland. That is answered sufficiently by the persistent resistance from an equally firm section of the Irish people. The second was the necessity of relieving congestion in this Parliament. The answer to that is there is no hope, with the presence of forty-two intelligent Irish representatives here, that we shall ever be relieved from discussion and intervention in respect of Irish affairs; and I do not think that this House has been overburdened by Irish intervention. In a very interesting speech made by the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. M. Healy) last evening he referred to various Bills that required consolidation: the Licensing Bill, the County Court Bill, and two or three other Bills. I suggest that all that would be necessary would be to call the attention of the Attorney-General for Ireland to the subject, and the duty might be performed, and well performed; and it may be if some of our friends from Ireland did not devote their exclusive attention to Home Rule, but would give some special attention in this House to some of those difficulties of which they complain, these difficulties might be removed. The third reason given 312 by the Prime Minister was that this Bill was a step in the direction of federalism. Instead of being that, it is really a negation of federalism. A federal system is one in which two or more political bodies renounce certain portions of their political power in favour of a central body, and renounce them willingly, retaining for themselves some portion of local self-government. It is upon that principle that the United States of America, the Dominion of Canada, and the Commonwealth of Australia are constituted. The underlying idea is that all matters relating to general concern should be dealt with exclusively by the central body, and that, with regard to a number of subordinate things, not national in character, they should be relegated to the smaller bodies.
That system is violated in every particular by the Bill before the House. Look at the constitution of Canada or the Commonwealth of Australia, with which it was said this Bill afforded some analogy. In the first place there is a general assignment of power to the central body to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the federation. Then there are certain lesser powers that are granted to each of the provinces or States. Under this Bill we find that this Parliament is surrendering the general power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of Ireland. If it was the intention that Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and England should ultimately become a federation then the general powers should have-been retained, but if you part now with, what is the heart and soul of a central, body in a confederation, and give it to one of the subordinate members of the prospective federation as you are doing by this Bill, by what authority can you regain that power when you proceed to set up your federal system? It would be impossible to do it at that time. Not only that, but you are assigning certain powers that have been the invariable characteristics of a central government, the power in part to levy Customs and the power entirely to levy Excise Duties, you are parting with the Post Office and with the power to regulate commerce and deal with the currency, that might be established by an Irish Government, with banking, the incorporation of banks, the issue of paper money, bills of exchange, promissory notes and bankruptcy and insolvency. All these by the Constitution of the United States, of Canada and Australia are vested in the central Government, but you are now parting with them- 313 You are also vesting in the Irish Parliament powers to constitute courts to appoint judges and control the police, all matters of prime importance. In addition, you are vesting the common law of the country in this new Parliament and giving them the right to deal with the civil and criminal law of the country. Further, you are vesting in them by the general power to make laws for the peace, order and good government, all civil rights and rights of property in the Irish Parliament. These are simply enormous powers, but you say we are retaining supremacy over the Irish Parliament. The Attorney-General called special attention to that. No lawyer can contend that this Clause adds any weight or strength to this Bill. It is simply put in for window dressing. It does not exist in the Bill that creates the Parliament in Canada, and is not mentioned in the Commonwealth Act. It is put in here for that purpose, and for no other. It is pure and simple window-dressing, because it adds nothing whatever to the value of the measure. But there is a certain number of excepted subjects, and I am sure the Chief Secretary will be the first to agree with me that the very fact of there being specially excepted subjects in the Bill shows that all other subjects come under the powers of the Irish Parliament. That proposition cannot be disputed; it is an elementary proposition. Pass for one moment from the excepted subjects to those which are outside. For my own part, I do not base the arguments I advance in regard to those subjects on any religious ground whatever. I do not believe in religious bitterness, nor do I believe in disputes between people about the roads that lead to Heaven. But when you come to Clause 3, which deals with the prohibition of laws dealing with religious equality, it must be remembered that the general powers given to the Irish Parliament unquestionably include the regulations of the school system, of teaching in colleges and universities, and those subjects might touch very considerably on questions of the future life and the present life, without classifying them under the technical category of religious teaching. I was very much struck by the argument of the Attorney-General, who said, "Are you not protected? Have you not got power in the Bill; have you not got guarantees and these exceptions? Are you not amply protected, because if the Irish Parliament transgresses any one of these guarantees, the matter can be carried before the Privy Council, and it can 314 be corrected; the Privy Council could disallow the provision or the Act containing it."
That is perfectly true with regard to the exceptions, and in regard to this individual guarantee in reference to religion. The hon. Gentleman beside me (Mr. M. Healy) made a very able speech, and said that all the Acts of the Irish Parliament could be carried before the Privy Council and disallowed. But nobody knows better than the Attorney-General and the Chief Secretary for Ireland that in regard to every one of those Acts passed by the Parliament of Ireland within its competence, and outside of the excepted subjects, the Privy Council would have no power whatever, and could not disallow a single one, because when appeal was made to the Privy Council the first thing their Lordships would ask would be whether the Act was within the competence of the Irish Parliament or did it fall within the excepted subjects? If it was ultra vires the Privy Council would disallow it, but if it was within the large general powers of the Irish Parliament and outside the excepted subjects, then the Privy Council would have no right to interfere with it. You have no great guarantee with regard to the Privy Council: that may be put aside, because, outside the excepted subjects, the Irish Parliament could not be interfered with. As I said before, under their powers the Irish Parliament could deal with the schools, could deal with the subject of banking, the appointment of judges, the administration of the police; it could put an export duty on whisky, on linen, or on anything else; it could repeal the criminal law of the country; it could repeal or amend the civil law of the country; it could abolish the writ of habeas corpus; it could abolish Magna Charta; and, finally, the Irish Parliament could abolish the right of trial by jury. These are serious matters, and they require serious consideration. In the second Bill of Mr. Gladstone's, in 1893, he inserted a Clause taken from the Constitution of the United States, which effectually protected the Irish people against two or three of the dangers which might destroy those rights and privileges which surround and guard their liberty. By Sub-section (8), of Clause 4 of the Bill of 1893, it was provided:—The powers of the Irish legislature shall not extend to the making of any law whereby any person may be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law in accordance with the settled principles and 315 precedents, or may be denied the equal protection of the law whereby private property may not be taken without just compensation.That is a most valuable declaration. It epitomises what is the essence of the common freedom of every British subject, and I ask why is it not in this Bill?
§ Mr. BIRRELL
Would the hon. Gentleman have attached any importance to it if it had been in the Bill?
§ Mr. MACMASTER
Most unquestionably. I am dealing with matters in the Bill to which I am opposed on general principles, and I consider that this provision is a most essential thing, and that it ought to be restored to this Bill, more especially as you are giving power to the Irish Parliament to abolish habeas corpus, Magna Charta, and trial by jury, supposing they elected so to do. It must be remembered that at this time we are making the framework of the Constitution on the assumption that it will come into operation. I am not at all surprised that the minority of the people of Ireland—I do not necessarily mean the Protestant minority, because some of these things are just as precious to the Catholic majority as of the Protestant minority—should feel very grave objection to the Bill on the score that I have pointed out. If a partnership is being formed you may not like the association, and although you have the capital and the co-partners have the capital, you do not want to enter into association with them. On the other hand, if it is a firm with which you are very much pleased, you do not care to be driven out of it by force; you wish to stay.
In this case, unfortunately, there is dissent. I am sure we should all be heartily glad if a scheme of local self-government could be devised for Ireland, and that the people of the country would agree to accept it. That is what they did in Canada, in Australia, in South Africa, and in the United States, and that is what makes a success of the federal system. But it is an unprecedented thing where one section of the country is keenly divided from the other, in the proportion of one to four, which is a very serious matter—it is unthinkable that those people should be forced to come in under a system of government that they do not wish to have. For those reasons it is perfectly conceivable that objections might be made without even the question of religion entering into them. I have noticed in reading this 316 Bill, though I hope I may be mistaken and I speak subject to correction, and I hope I will be corrected if I am in error, that whereas the Members of the Irish House of Commons are required to take the oath of allegiance under this Bill, the Senators are not, and there is no qualification with regard to Senators. I do not know whether there is some machination behind the absence of that.
§ Mr. MACMASTER
I should not think it was on the part of the right hon. Gentleman, but it might be that the hon. Member for Waterford might have in view the giving of a Senatorship to Mr. PatrickFord. In the Constitution of Canada and in the Constitution of Australia there is an express provision that Senators as well as Members of the House of Commons must take the oath of allegiance. Then we come to Clause 13 of the Bill, which provides for the representation of forty-two Irish Members in this Parliament. I hope that the number thirteen is not ominous. In Clause 26 we find a provision for the recall of certain Irish Members in the event of the Irish Parliament showing for three successive years a clean slate or a surplus. As to the surplus, it is entirely in the power of the Irish Parliament to control it. Once they show a surplus for three years, no matter how small, they are bound to contribute something to Imperial concerns, but they can always, by making the outgo larger than income, suppress the surplus and therefore for all time they may not contribute as much as a penny to Imperial support. That aspect must be taken into account. If, on the other hand, they did show a surplus, what are those representatives to do when they come here? I will not refer to the method of selection, as that has been criticised by higher and very much better authorities than I am When they come it is with the view to determining the future contribution and what in addition they shall receive. If a modification is made on this point you will find a demand will be made for full control of the Customs. No doubt the control of the Customs was a vital matter in the controversy between the Government and the Nationalist party, and the postponement of that period is the most convenient way of getting rid of that question for the moment. I do not pretend that I will be able to exhaust my criticism in the time at my disposal, and out of 317 deference for the rights of other Members desiring to speak I will only detain the House a few minutes more. If you look at the Report of the Committee named by the Government, they say that "a Government is unworthy of the name of a Government that does not only impose its own taxes, but that does not bear the odium of collection." Why do they make the British Government the instrument of collection, and, after collecting the taxes and deducting expenses, pay over the rest? The reason, I think, is perfectly obvious. For months and for years it has been stated as the fact that the Ulster people, and those who sympathise with them, will not submit to a Dublin Parliament. I am only stating that as a fact known to everybody. I suggest that this roundabout way of collecting the taxes is a scheme to bring the people of Ulster and their sympathisers in conflict with the British Government instead of with the Dublin Parliament.
There is another thing in this Bill which seems to me to be extremely slim. Under this Bill, why is the Post Office to be put under the control of the Irish Parliament? In all the modern federal systems that exist to-day the Post Office is under the control of the central Government. It is true that the Post Office in Bavaria, in the German Empire, issues its own stamps. That is because Bavaria was an independent kingdom at the time it became part of the German Empire in 1871, so that it just went forward as it was. On what grounds are we to have two sets of stamps and two Post Offices, one in Ireland and one in this country. Is it because it is going to bring any revenue to Ireland? It is not, because it is a falling revenue in Ireland, so that there must be some other reason. Let us recall the words that the people of Ulster would not pay taxes to a Dublin Parliament. Can it be that this is a scheme by which, under compulsion, the Ulster people will have to buy Irish stamps. Does it mean anything more than patronage and the control of the Post Office, or may it mean something more? The Post Office includes the telephone and the telegraph and connections with the cable system and the Marconi system. And it puts enormous power in the hands of the Dublin Government, if they wish to exercise it, in the event of any conflict between it and the Ulster people. Is this a preparation for that conflict? Seeing that the Post Office is conducted at a loss, it is suggested that there may be some other motive 318 for having it contrary to any of the federal systems. As I mentioned at the outset, I take no part in the question of religious differences. I stand entirely outside them as a Member of this House. I deeply regret that they should exist, and I am sure everybody in this House does, but you must take things as they are, and deal with them as they are, and it seems to me to put those two peoples into a Parliament disagreeing with each other as they disagree now and have disagreed for ages, would be a most unwise proceeding. They may disagree with each other now, but in this House there is no difficulty. It is said they want Home Rule, and that it is an aspiration to have self-government in Ireland. Why, to-day the Irish Nationalists, and I speak with respect, not only rule their own country, but they rule this House and they rule the United Kingdom. They are the masters of this House.
§ Mr. MACMASTER
They are the mainstay of the Government, for whenever the majority happens to go down the Prime Minister or those who represent him, have only to issue the C.Q.D. signal and immediately those benches are filled up and the customary vote restored to this House. So far as power goes, they will never have in an Irish Parliament the power they have here. The greatest power the people of Ireland will ever possess is the power they possess now just before this Home Rule Bill passes, if pass it does. There are other points to which I would like to refer, but I will only say this with regard to the financial question. If Ireland is insolvent to-day who is responsible for it? Take the one item of old age pensions. I am not criticising the merits of the question. If you put into the Bill to make Ireland insolvent the £2,600,000 for old age pensions, you must ask who created that liability? The liability was created by the present Government, and it is added to by the Insurance Act and one or two other Acts, including, to a certain extent, some of the Land Acts by the previous Government. It is an unmerited reproach to Ireland to say that she has been brought to a state 319 of insolvency through any infirmity of her own. The bankruptcy of Ireland is due to the acts of this Parliament and of this Government, supported by the votes of the Nationalist Members. I heartily sympathise with what was said by the right hon. Member for the Strand Division (Mr. W. Long) that, differ as we will with regard to detail, if a general plan could have been found, consistent with the maintenance of the integrity of the Empire and the preservation of the rights of minorities, in respect to the reasonable endowment of Ireland, we should not assume any cheeseparing attitude. If Ireland does not bring in the return she used to, if her out-go exceeds her income, it is not her fault. If she remains under the Union and prospers as she is prospering to-day, and I hope will prosper in the future, and if ends do not meet, the people of the United Kingdom, who are rich and able to bear it, must make up the deficiency without any complaint whatever.
§ Mr. GLADSTONE
It is with considerable diffidence I venture to intervene in this Debate. If it is not taking the House too far back I should like to refer to something which fell from the hon. Member for South Birmingham (Mr. Amery) earlier in the Debate. In the course of his argument he referred to a time when the Irish Members would again find a weak and venal Government prepared to buy their votes at the cost of national safety and national honour. That indeed is a prodigious charge for the hon. Member to make against the Government. We are not entitled to object to straightforward accusations and criticisms against this Bill; but to our mind the attempt to prejudice the fair consideration of the Bill by introducing an atmosphere of prejudice and insinuation is a method not only which should be considered irrelevant to this discussion, but which I would have thought ought to have been inconsistent with the self respect and dignity of the hon. Member who made such an accusation. Why is the Liberal party not to be allowed to cooperate with the Irish party without being subjected to insinuations and accusations of venality and corruption? Has it come to this, that no great party in the State is to be allowed to co-operate with another party in this House without being accused of venality and corruption? I would ask hon. Members who hold this view to apply to themselves the rule which they apply to us. If we attached any importance to 320 such a line of speechification, we should repeatedly ask the Leader of the Opposition by what means and by what inducement he secures the support of the handful of Unionists who come from the North-East corner of Ulster. We do not descend to make these imputations. For one thing, we think we know how it is that he secures their support. We think it is because they hold in common the same views and the same objectives, that they are actuated by a common agreement and a common sentiment, and even perhaps by a common enthusiasm, and therefore to our mind their co-operation is perfectly healthy, desirable and honourable. But it is rather difficult to discover why hon. Members opposite cannot give to us what we give to them unconditionally, namely, a recognition that we have the right every bit as much as they have to co-operate with those Members of the Irish party who agree with us for the purpose of securing those ideals which we hold in common.
I say now that such a line of rhetoric should be considered irrelevant to this discussion. After all, the country is looking to this House during these Debates, I presume, for guidance as to whether this Bill on its merits is a good Bill and one likely to bring about a settlement of the Irish question, of which the country is so heartily ashamed and weary. I think it is present to the minds of the public, at any rate, if it is not always present to the minds of hon. Gentlemen opposite, that the insinuation of bad motives is a notoriously weak gambit, because you are not in possession of the workings of the minds of your opponents, and therefore you have no right to set yourselves up as the judge of their motives. It is evident, under these circumstances, that accusations are being made which are not susceptible of positive proof. Further, I think it will be recognised in the country, at any rate, that the party which is now accused of believing only in the expediency and not in the principle of Home Rule is the party which has only recently put that principle into operation in the Transvaal. At the instigation of no party in this House, when the Government was neither dependent upon nor stood to gain the votes of any party, and in the face of difficulties of the first magnitude, they carried through that scheme, because they relied upon the strength of their Home Rule convictions. Part of the admiration with which the country greeted the success of that settlement was due to the fact that the country recognised that it was nothing but sheer strength and pure courage of 321 conviction that could have foreseen the ultimate success of such an experiment, could have overborne all the difficulties in the way, and that could have won for the Ministry of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman that undivided triumph. I trust that hon. Members opposite who feel it their duty to attack this Bill will pause and think twice before they commit themselves to further attacks upon the motives of those who support it.
I notice one difference between the Debate upon the First Reading and this Debate. All hope that Irish opinion would be hostile to this Bill has been mercilessly extinguished. We heard the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Waterford, when, in the name of the Irish people on the First Reading he was accepting this Bill, interrupted by a taunting interjection by some hon. Member opposite: "You cannot speak for the Irish Convention." But the hon. and learned Gentleman did speak for the Irish Convention. I know that expectations to the contrary were entertained, and expressed in other quarters as well. The "Times," we must acknowledge, has contributed a little towards the acceptance of the Bill by Irish opinion, because it prophesied that the Convention would not accept it; a little later it prophesied that the Convention would accept it, but only grudgingly or reluctantly. We know the Convention did neither. With a unanimity and with an enthusiasm which was quite tremendous, and also inspiring and uplifting, that memorable Convention endorsed the Bill, and gave a tremendous triumph to the whole of the Irish party and, above all, to their Leader. I think it proved beyond all reasonable doubt that the Irish people sustained their demand for Home Rule, that they demand the Home Rule which this Bill is going to give to them, and that the party which sits upon those benches opposite in their demand for this Bill have the Irish people behind them. If there was one impression with which I was more deeply impressed than another when I came away from that Convention it was that the people of Ireland are eager for peace and friendship with England upon honourable terms, and that this Bill, whatever else may be said against it, provides an admirable and golden opportunity for bringing about the final reconciliation of the two countries.
I referred just now to the Irish people being behind the party that sits upon the opposite benches. I do not desire, of 322 course, for a moment that it should be inferred from that that I desire to minimise the opposition that comes from Ulster, but I do not believe that Ulster will prove irreconcilable or unreasonable. We are often asked how we expect to overcome the opposition of Ulster. I do not believe that the Government will ever be called upon to exercise physical force to overcome that opposition. I believe the operation of moral forces will be amply sufficient to overcome it. In the first place it is becoming recognised in the country that as nearly as possible half Ulster demands Home Rule, and after all it is a, matter of opinion and a matter of calculation as to whether or not there are more Home Rulers than Unionists in Ulster. When this country accepts the principle of "one man one vote," with or without a Referendum, it will mean the transference of several seats, three, four or five from the Unionists to the Home Rulers in Ulster. We feel sure that we can rely upon that subtle feeling of consciousness of being in an overwhelming majority to bring some reason to those representatives of Ulster who protest that they will resist. There is more than that. We rely upon another feeling to abate the opposition of Ulster. We know that it, comes to this: to a collision between the opinion of North-East Ulster and the whole of the British Empire, and we feel bound to bow to the opinion of the whole British Empire rather than to that of Ulster.
We are surprised that hon. Members opposite in whose hands the interest and well-being of the Empire is supposed by them exclusively to exist have forsaken their more recent Imperial love for the more familiar and more passionate embrace of Ulster Unionism. We do not believe that hon. Members opposite can be deaf to the call of the whole Empire. We do not believe that they can disregard, can "bolt, bang, and bar" the door upon the opinion of the Dominions, which we have been told so often by them will drift further apart if we do not consult them more. Can hon. Members opposite disregard the petition which the Canadian Parliament passed unanimously in March, 1903? I would like to read one or two sentences from that petition:—We would respectfully represent to Your Majesty that in 1882, the Parliament of Canada adopted a humble Address to Her Most Gracious Majesty, the Queen, expressing the hope that a just measure of Home Rule would be granted to the people of Ireland, and that in the year 1886, by a Resolution of the House of Commons, the sentiments of the said Address to Her Most Gracious Majesty were earnestly reiterated, and 323 hope again expressed that such a measure of Home Rule would be passed by the Imperial Parliament.More. There is the Australian House of Representatives, who petitioned His Majesty in October, 1905, and urged that Home Rule should be granted to Ireland. This petition said:—Enjoying and appreciating as we do the blessings of Home Rule here we would humbly express the hope that a just measure of Home Rule may be granted to the people of Ireland. As subjects of Your Majesty we are interested in the peace and contentment of all parts of the Empire, and we desire to see this long standing grievance at the very heart of the Empire removed.I venture to think it is hardly consistent with the reputation of hon. Members opposite to go back upon the views which they have so often expressed. It is almost impossible to me that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Worcestershire can be so lacking in filial piety and respect that he will no longer think Imperially. There is one more feeling upon which we rely to abate the opposition of the Ulster Members. We do not believe that the opposition will survive the general desire of all patriotic Irishmen that the experiment of Irish self-government should be made a success for the credit of the Irish people. After all, Ireland will be on her trial. Hon. Gentlemen from Ulster belong to Ireland as well as to Ulster. When Home Rule has passed the reputation and the credit of the Irish nation will be at stake, and it will be a time when Ireland will want the support and allegiance and loyalty of all her sons from whatever part of the country they come. We on this side of the House cannot believe that when Home Rule has passed the Ulster Unionists will bring themselves to do what it is in their power to do, to make a failure of Irish self-government. We do not see upon what basis they will oppose Home Rule once it has passed.
When Home Rule has passed, they will be no longer able to base their opposition to it upon loyalty to the Crown, because then the Crown will have lent its express approval and sanction to Home Rule, and they will be no longer able to use that cry of loyalty. They cannot even base their opposition to Home Rule even now upon the solidarity of Ulster, because the cause of Irish nationality has won many seats in Ulster. They cannot even now resist the cause of Irish nationality on the ground of the solidarity of the opposition in Belfast, for even there their citadel is no longer intact. The spirit of Irish nationality has broken into their very 324 citadel and is within their very gates. We cannot see upon what basis hon. Members for Ulster once Home Rule is passed are going to bring themselves to refuse the claim of their country rather than their province to their allegiance, their support, and their loyalty. After all this is not the first time that such a situation has been created within the British Empire.
We have been reminded only this afternoon how, when the agitation was proceeding in Canada for self-government, the movement was hampered and embarrassed by a section of the Canadian people who fought bitterly against that movement. Things were said then which find an echo now, but what happened once self-government was given to Canada? It was not long before the Canadian loyalists, as that section which opposed self-government called themselves, took the honourable and patriotic course presented to them, and ceased from their anti-national and unpatriotic opposition and came in to make the experiment of Canadian self-government a success for the credit of the Canadian people. We know that Ulster is so determined that she will put up a tremendous fight against us, but should the Government be successful in carrying through Home Rule against their opposition we believe that hon. Members from Ulster will be actuated by the same feelings and the same motives that actuated the Canadian loyalists. They do not hold out to us much hope that it will be easy, but we think that they underrate their affection for their country. We believe that when it comes to choosing whether they will be Irishmen or Ulstermen they will prefer to subordinate the love of their province to their love of their country.
EARL of KERRY
The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down may, I suppose, be regarded as somewhat of an authority on the question we are now discussing, for he told us that at the beginning of his speech he attended the other day at the Convention which was held in Dublin to consider the Government measure. The hon. Gentleman was, in fact, one of the trump cards of that assembly. I think there were three altogether. He was one, the newly elected Mayor of Cork was another, and the third was a Protestant clergyman who when I happen to be in Ireland is my own spiritual adviser. We have had the views of the hon. Gentleman opposite who was there, and we also know the views of the newly elected Mayor of Cork, whose 325 history is known to hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway from Ireland, but I must say of the third representative, although he is a gentleman whom I respect most sincerely as a spiritual adviser, yet, as I happen to know, as I frequently sit at his feet, he is not entitled to speak in political matters for any member of his congregation except himself. The hon. Gentleman opposite spent some time in the course of his speech on the South African and Canadian analogies to this measure. I think these analogies have already been blown to the winds. I will not reargue the question now, as it has already been argued more ably than I could do it. But I wish the hon. Gentleman had dealt with that question and had seen fit to answer those very pertinent questions put from the Front Bench by my right hon. Friend the Member for the City of London (Mr. Balfour). No one has ventured to deal with his questions, and I do not suppose anyone will venture to deal with them before the Debate concludes, because they are absolutely unanswerable.
I notice the hon. Gentleman opposite was somewhat guarded in his language about this Bill. He talked about a final reconciliation between England and Ireland, but he did not say anything about a final settlement. I wonder does he think that the settlement will also be final. I should like to know his views upon that. One other point he argued at some length was the question of the views of Ulster. I wish he had seen fit to inform us what the real attitude of the Government and hon. Gentlemen opposite is with regard to Ulster. He treated, as many other hon. Gentlemen opposite have treated this question, with great respect. And he treated it as a genuine opposition, which ought to be considered. Other speakers on the Front Bench have also so treated it, more especially the Secretary of State for the Colonies and the First Lord of the Admiralty. I read in yesterday's paper that the Colonial Secretary, speaking at Rossendale the day before, used these words about it. He talked of—the bombastic threats of Ulster as threats founded on nothing more substantial than the nightmare of unrealised and unrealisable suspicion.I think it would help hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House if the Government were to decide how they regard the opposition of Ulster. Do they really regard it as bombast or empty threats, or do they think that the Ulster opposition was a genuine opposition which might possibly 326 be further considered, because there have been broad hints about Ulster being left out of the arrangement under this Bill altogether. I think they ought to make that matter perfectly clear before these Debates go much further. The hon. Gentleman who preceded me dwelt mainly, as I noticed most of the speakers on the other side have done, on the broad grounds of the principle of Home Rule in the abstract. Everyone knows very well on both sides of the House that it is easier to argue Home Rule in the abstract than Home Rule in the concrete. I do not know that I am sufficient of a logician to discriminate nicely between what in a question of this sort may be principle and what may be practice, but it has always seemed to me that this is a question in which the practice is really the important part, and it is because Home Rule has already been proved to be impossible in practice and is once more being proved to be absolutely impossible by the present Bill that I for one oppose it so strenuously.
We are told on the question of principle that we should look at it with a modern eye. The modern eye may be a very convenient one for some people who have changed their views especially if it is only one eye, and they shut the other eye to anything which has happened before. But if we do not confine the modern eye to the present it shows us some things in the past which we are bound to take into account, and one is that any financial estimate on which a Home Rule Bill may be built up is a very insecure foundation to go upon. It is common knowledge that if the finance of either of the previous Home Rule Bills had taken effect Ireland would have long before now been a bankrupt country. Can anyone show that under our present finance, subject to the rapidly shifting changes of modern days—more rapid still under the Chancellor of the Exchequer than in any previous times—the financial question may be very materially altered in the space of a very few years? I think the modern eye also tends to show that the necessity for a measure like this, even from a nationalist point of view, is less than it was before. I know hon. Members below the Gangway will contradict that statement. I know they are all anxious to get Home Rule, but I question very seriously whether all their supporters, and especially those who have purchased their land under the Land Acts have that keen desire for Home 327 Rule which they used to have. I know that they vote almost unanimously for hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway because they have been taught to vote for Home Rule, and they voted for it in the past not so much for Home Rule as a means in itself but rather as a means to an end.
I do not think hon. Members will contradict me when I say that votes for Home Rule in the past were given because they expected to get certain material advantages out of it. What they wanted then, amongst other things, was cheaper land, better wages, more roads, better harbours, and everything else which it was thought Home Rule might bring to them. But now most of these things have been or are being given, and therefore there is much less necessity for a measure of self-government for Ireland than before. There are many idealists who will always vote for Home Rule. One hon. Gentleman not long ago said that he would rather see Ireland free and bankrupt than under present conditions. [An HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear."] At any rate, I do not think all the supporters of Gentlemen below the Gangway take that view. They do not want to be bankrupt, and they would rather have the money which this country is so generously giving them. It seems to me that this Bill it not going to do any good to the people of Ireland, and I cannot see that it is going to do any good to the people of this country. I am not going to go into the argument about the congestion of business in this House, and the question whether this Bill is a final settlement of the Irish problem. Those questions have already been dealt with, and I will simply say that on the question of principle the matter seems to me to stand exactly where it did in 1885 and 1893. I think the reasons for opposing Home Rule are stronger now than they were then. There is another fundamental objection to this Bill, or rather to the manner in which this Bill was brought in, and it is the way in which this question has been brought to the front. That is a question which has been much discussed in this House, and I am not going to deal with it at length. I remember the Prime Minister, when introducing this measure, said:—It was a debt due to the honour of the Imperial Parliament.I think he ought to have confined that assertion to his own side. I do not see that he had any right to rope us all into that debt. If there is one thing we object 328 to more than another, it is that the Prime Minister put himself, his Government, and his supporters, into the position of having to pay this debt of honour. We object to the fact that he should have rendered himself liable to bring in this measure as a debt of honour for value already received from hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway. We quite understand the exigencies of the situation from the point of view of hon. Gentlemen and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, and we realise that the Government is irrevocably pledged to bring in, as they have done, this measure and proceed with it. I think when we come to examine the actual provisions of the Bill, we are entitled to wonder that it is not, I will not say a better Bill than the previous Bills, because I do not think any Home Rule Bill could be a good one, but at any rate that it is not a less vulnerable Bill in every single detail it contains. The Government and their predecessors have given this question twenty years' consideration, and during all that time they have told us that this question has been in the forefront of Radical politics, and has never been absent from their thoughts—in fact, they say it has been an integral part of their policy and the best minds of their party have been devoted to finding a solution of all the thorny questions which surround the Irish problem.
I am aware that a good deal of their meditation has been conducted with strict secrecy, and this was most noticeable at the time of the General Election, when many hon. Members did not vouchsafe to give their views on the subject, and others did not even mention it in their election addresses. Still, I suppose we cannot complain now we have at length got the measure; it is our business to criticise it, and criticise it we shall. What is this measure? It seems to me to be one of the worst examples of makeshift which one could possibly conceive. It is nothing but a collection of half-measures. It may be well described, as it has been described by one hon. Gentleman, as an invertebrate Bill. It is a compromise, not, of course, between convinced Home Rulers and convinced Unionists, because everyone realises no compromise is possible between them, but between the various sections of Home Rulers and quasi Home Rulers on the other side and in the country generally.
It is notorious that the path of every Home Ruler has been in the past and is in the present beset by certain notable 329 obstacles and pitfalls, and it is rather interesting to examine the way in which the Government have attempted to circumvent and get away from these obstacles. The first one that occurs to me is the question of Irish representation in the Imperial Parliament. Of course, the old conundrum was, "How are you to justify the interference by Irish Members in Imperial affairs if you are not going to give the Members of the Imperial Parliament any interference in Irish affairs?" The 1893 Bill started without giving any Irish representation in this House and ended by giving eighty Irish Members. What is the present solution of the Government? It is really the good old-fashioned plan of splitting the difference. They will not have eighty and they will not have none, but they will have forty-two. Possibly their argument would be, "it is only a little one" and cannot really do any harm, but I need scarcely remind the House that if Ireland had at present proportional representation they would not have so many Members over the forty-two. I believe sixty-five would be the number. I need hardly remind the House that forty-two Members, if there be any chance and according to hon. Gentlemen opposite there is a probability of their all voting together would count eighty-four on a Division, and would be more than enough to turn out any Government in power. I cannot conceive any reason why they take the number of forty-two except that they are arguing, as everyone is apt to do, from their own experience. I think they have in their knowledge the fact that forty-two Irish Members in 1910 would not have, been sufficient to stop the people's Budget coming into law. That, I suppose, is the idea they have in their heads.
Another obstacle which has always surrounded this question is in the matter of taxation. If it is desirable that Ireland should have self-government and is worthy of self-government, surely she should impose, collect, and control her own taxation. That was the recommendation of the Finance Committee of Experts as expressed very strongly indeed. What does the Government do on this question? Once more it is a kind of splitting the difference arrangement. They give the power of imposition to both countries concurrently. They give the power of collection to one country, and that not the country on the spot but the more distant country. I remember in the earlier stages of this Debate the Chancellor 330 of the Exchequer said it had frequently been the case that in a state of federation one country collected and another country administered the taxes, but I strongly suspect there has never been a case before where the central authority collected the taxes in the branch of the federation. If the collection and administration were separated, I think it has always been the local Government which collected the taxes and the other which administered them. I need scarcely say once more the result of this arrangement of splitting up the control and the imposition of taxes will be to create endless friction, and it must necessarily blow to the winds all that argument based on the congestion of business in this House which hon. Gentlemen opposite are so fond of advancing. But, the crux of this question and the most important obstacle has always been the question of the financial provisions and the profit and loss account which was to be brought in with regard to the two countries. Everyone has long recognised that as the most thorny part of the problem, and as soon as the Government definitely announced their intention of bringing in a Home Rule Bill the papers and magazines were full with attempts to solve this question by every sort of expert and every sort of amateur. The Government itself recognised it was a very difficult matter to adjust. They said, to all intents and purposes, they were not the right people to solve that question, and they appointed for the purpose of solving it a Committee of Experts. That Committee was not an ordinary Committee in any sense of the word. It was not a Committee appointed in order to get rid of a troublesome question; it was, on the contrary, a Committee appointed to deal with a matter in regard to which the Government were under obligations to legislate and to legislate speedily. It was not an ordinary Committee either in the sense that both sides were represented or were equally represented among its Members. I have been informed, though I believe the statement was questioned this afternoon, that all the Members of that Committee were Home Rulers. They were, at all events, all Radicals and strong supporters of hon. Gentlemen opposite, and, as Home Rule has been for some time the chief plank of the Radical platform, I think we must therefore conclude they were all Home Rulers. In that way, again, the Committee differed from ordinary Committees, 331 on which both sides are generally equally or more or less equally represented. The members of this Committee were gentlemen who were well qualified to pronounce on the questions which were submitted to them. They were, I think everyone will admit, gentlemen without any axes to grind. They were not politicians, and that made them very much stronger in judging the questions submitted to them. There were no cranks or faddists, representing certain sections of opinion known to be hopelessly irreconcilable, as there often are on Committees of this House. They were all independent men, well qualified to judge on the questions which were referred to them. Finally, they examined a large number of witnesses competent to speak on the subject, and they presented a unanimous Report. That Report was founded on the Treasury White Paper, a Government publication which this Committee accepted, to all intents and purposes, as a true statement of the case. I think everyone must admit, however little they may care about the general drift of the proposals which were made, the Report was a very masterly document, drawn up with great breadth of view after careful consideration. Does it not seem extraordinary, after these gentlemen had taken all this time and trouble to arrive at a solution of a difficult question, and after they had stated the pros and cons for their findings, their Report should have been absolutely thrown over without reason given by the Government? We are entitled to hear something from the Government, in the first instance, why the Committee were appointed, if there was no intention to accept its proposals when made, and, in the second place, we ought to be informed why those proposals were not accepted, seeing that they were put-forward after due deliberation.
I can only imagine what the feelings of the members of this Committee must be. They certainly have been made to look unutterably foolish by the Government's reception of their Report. Why did the Government fly in the face of the proposals that they made? I should like to mention some of the proposals which were thrown over by the Government. For instance, their suggestion as to the forms of accounts in dealing with Irish finance has not been adopted. They recommend that any settlement should leave as little as possible open for revision at a future date. But as a matter of fact every financial pro- 332 vision in the Bill is left open for revision. They say there should be no probationary period during which the cost of the services and responsibility for the regulation of those services should be divided between the British and the Irish Government. But the whole Bill is built up on probationary periods. They say there should be full powers given to the Irish Government of levying taxation. You will find that the Bill provides exactly the contrary. They say there should be full control over expenditure by the Irish Government. Again the contrary is the case. They say the obligation on Ireland to contribute to our general expenditure should be affirmed. I do not know that there is any actual provision for that in the Bill. It was no doubt mentioned by the Prime Minister, but nobody can assert that it has been distinctly affirmed; it is only in the nature of a pious hope that some day in the distant future it may be possible for Ireland to make some contribution towards Imperial expenditure. Further, the Committee point out the danger of allowing British schemes of social reform to be continued to be applied to Ireland. They emphasise the difference in the needs of Ireland as an agricultural country and those of England as an industrial country, and they show how any continuation of the application of these schemes to Ireland must lead to extravagance and waste, which would be bad both for Ireland and for England. That recommendation, again, is thrown to the winds. Under this Bill, as long as the reserved services remain, any extra expenditure in respect of those services will still go to Ireland, and, according to the Report of members of the Committee, it can only lead to extravagance and waste. Finally, the Committee disagree with the present scheme of the Government in its estimate of the cost of old age pensions and certain other services. In every way it seems to me the Government have absolutely thrown out their recommendations, and I sincerely hope that before long we may be given some reason why they have done so; otherwise we shall be entitled to think that the only reason can be that the proposals were submitted to hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway, who did not approve of them, and, therefore, they had to be changed.
In the result, What are the financial provisions? We give a contribution of £2,000,000 a year for an indefinite period. It will probably be more in the future. It 333 certainly will not diminish, and there is an attempt to conceal the fact that this money is handed over to Ireland by the system of the transferred sum and reserved services. National defence has gone by the board. There is no contribution for that service. When we complain of these things, the only answer we get from hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway and from hon. Members opposite, is that Ireland is costing us money already, and that that in itself justifies continuing this subsidy. They fail to grasp the position altogether. We do not, and we never have looked on the Union as a money-making affair. We have not looked upon Ireland as a source of profit. But we think it is desirable, in the general interests of the two countries, that they should remain united as at present. This Bill seems to have the fatal defect, which some of us have noticed, in a great deal of the policy and legislation of the Government. It is a kind of makeshift policy—a wait-and-see policy. It shirks and conceals the real issues. It is built up on unstable finance, and on altogether illusory safeguards. As far as we can see there is no statesmanship in it at all, unless it is statesmanship intended to ensure the Government a continued lease of power in the country and in the House. It relegates all really difficult points to future decisions. Like the Parliament Act it does not give effect to many of the principles which it professes to advocate, and, like the Insurance Act, it is built up on a system which may be described as "deferred liability." Like the Minimum Wage Bill, it leaves difficult points to be settled subsequently, not by the Government itself, but by other bodies which are constituted under the Bill. It seems to me that as a settlement of the Irish question it is absolutely impossible. There is no finality about it, and its provisions, even when they are not so stated, as many actually are in the Bill, are transitory provisions.
I was much struck by the argument which the Foreign Secretary used in favour of the Bill, in answer to the allegations made on this side of the House that it did not provide a final settlement. The right hon. Baronet said that, in his opinion, the great virtue was that it would "precipitate" further arrangements. After that statement from a Member of the Government, will anyone dare to say that this Bill is to be considered as in any sense a final settlement of the Irish question? As an instalment of federalism, what can this Bill be said to do? It actually creates 334 difficulties, which most schemes of federalism try to eliminate. It sets up, instead of taking away, Customs barriers; it gives an unequal, instead of an equal, status to the two contracting parties. It institutes a mixed responsibility between the two parties to what, we are told, is going to be a general system of federalism in the British Islands. It actually starts by giving unequal representation to those two parties on the supreme authority. These are all provisions which are the actual converse to federalism, as federalism has hitherto been known in the world. I do not think the treatment of such a big question as this can possibly be successful on lines such as are proposed by the Government. Makeshifts do not generally succeed in politics in this sort of question. We have a striking instance of the failure of a makeshift in this House in the "Conciliation" Bill. That was a makeshift, designed to placate opposition to woman suffrage. Everyone knows how that absolutely failed the other day, and, consequently the question of woman suffrage has been put off for a very long time. Another makeshift was the Coal Mines (Minimum Wage) Bill, which was brought in a short time ago. Although some people claim success for that measure, we have yet to see whether it will achieve its object. This Bill, if it fails, will drag the Government down with it. It has had only half-hearted support from the hon. Gentlemen opposite and in the country, and the well-engineered support of hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway at their Convention. I am certain it will not be successful in its primary object of reconciling the divergent views among Home Rulers and Radicals themselves, and I am still more certain that it can never be successful in its secondary object of being a working measure and settling the important question of the government of Ireland. I think right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite will soon discover that they cannot at the same time run with the hare of federation and hunt with the hounds of Irish Nationalism. They will come, before very long, to remake for themselves the discovery that was made more than one hundred years ago by the then rulers of this country, that for England and Ireland there was then, as there always will be, no via media between real union and real separation.
§ Mr. PIRIE
The Noble Lord dealt very little with the question of the congested business in this House, but I think that if 335 he had represented a constituency which finds that ten-elevenths of the votes were closured, a constituency which finds that it has had to wait years and years, and even generations for reform for which it has repeatedly expressed a desire, a constituency which finds that year by year, instead of proper time for Debate being given, merely a few hours per annum given to debating matters of vital importance to the nation, and a constituency which suffers loss of population through emigration, I believe he would have some sympathy with Members who come from the less numerous nationalities, who have very much to complain of in the congestion of business. Earlier in the evening two hon. Members from Ulster spoke in this Debate. They had, perhaps, some reason to complain of expressions of amusement—they called it laughter—at some remarks that they made. Since I have been in this House I have never approached a question with a greater sense of gravity and seriousness, or with more difficulty in making up my mind as to what action I should take, than I have upon this question. I consider it even a more important question than the House debated last year, the constitutional question with regard to the House of Lords. I am not a survivor of the Debates which took place twenty-five years ago, but while those Debates were going on I was sent with my squadron to take part in certain evictions in Ireland. That episode was the origin of my entering public life, and therefore I have some right to feel very strongly on this question of Home Rule. But I honestly say that although I came into this House a strong Home Ruler, I am now, after sixteen years of it, less of an Irish Home Ruler and more of a federalist Home Ruler. I admit at once the accuracy of the statement of the hon. Member (Mr. Macmaster) that the word federalism is grammatically misused. Federalism is, strictly speaking, the assignment of power to a central body, but it has now become recognised as meaning Home Rule all round. It conveys a perfectly clear meaning of what has now come to be used in this country as a delegation of powers from this House to subordinate assemblies in the United Kingdom. I found myself obliged, as a federal Home Ruler, therefore to abstain from voting on the First Reading of the Bill, and I wish to give my reasons for the course I felt obliged to take.
I found in the opening speech of the Prime Minister but the very vaguest and 336 faintest references to federalism, and in the latter part of his speech I heard the suggestion—on which I decided to abstain from voting—that as regards Scotland, after the Irish Home Rule Bill was passed, there might be an alteration of the Standing Orders as a preliminary method of dealing with a delegation of the power of Home Rule to Scotland. I said to myself, "No more of that." I could have conceived nothing more repugnant to what I felt to be in the best interests of Scotland than that expression of opinion of the Prime Minister. Of all the painful experiences as a Scotch Member that I have had none has been more painful or more scandalous than what took place as regards Scotland on the last alteration of the Standing Orders as affecting Scotland, namely, the institution of the Scottish Grand Committee. The hon. Member (Mr. Gulland) and I had Amendment after Amendment down begging that the Scotch Members should have more chance of debating and expressing their opinion on the institution of that Grand Committee. We proposed that we should have at least a chance of nominating our chairman. We proposed that the English Members should not be added. We proposed that at least there should be some official report of it. We proposed that the Report stage might also be before the Scotch Committee. These Amendments were put on the Paper, but the closure was enforced by a Scotch Prime Minister, and this institution was forced on Scotland without a word of Debate. I say therefore that the Scottish Members, considering the importance of this matter, have a scandalous grievance against this House. When I heard what the Prime Minister said in introducing this Bill I declared that, so far as I was concerned, I would have no more to do with it. A mere alteration of the Standing Orders would not suffice, because that could be reversed by the succeeding Government. We do not wish to go on with the management of Scottish affairs with the Scottish Members who come here. We want to have our local and national affairs attended to by men who know more of the requirements of the Scottish people than we can, living as we do 500 miles away from Scotland. We want men who make their livelihood in Scotland, who conduct great businesses there, and who cannot leave the country, to be given a chance of managing the affairs of Scotland. Therefore, I object entirely to reconstituting what I can call nothing else than the legislation in 337 camera that goes on in the Grand Committee upstairs. I am glad to see that what was put forward as a suggestion by the Prime Minister has already been abandoned. I do not think we shall hear any more of that suggestion.
As to my attitude on the Second Reading of this Bill, I am happy to be able to say that I will vote for it. I have some reason for the action I am taking. I have done my best never to be swayed by servile adhesion to party. Had it not been for the interview which the Scottish Members had with the Prime Minister yesterday, my vote would have been absolutely against the Second Reading. At that interview when we demanded that this Irish Home Rule Bill should be a prelude and forerunner to devolution and decentralisation, the Prime Minister told us that as soon as this Bill becomes law the constitution of and representation in this House will be so lop-sided, incoherent, illogical, and inconsequent, that it cannot be allowed to last, and that the Government are just as determined as the Scottish Members to put an end to that illogical and incoherent situation by further steps in the way of devolution. That marks a very important stage, because for the first time the Prime Minister, as Leader of the Liberal party, takes up in the official programme the question of Scottish Home Rule. I wish to draw the attention of the House to the fact that Lord Morley was one of the greatest enemies of Scottish freedom on the occasion to which I have referred. It was he and Lord Wolverhampton who prevented the Scottish Members from getting their rights on that occasion. I should like to remind the Colonial Secretary (Mr. Harcourt) of the Prime Minister's attitude on this matter. I read a speech he delivered last Saturday from which it appears that he only looks at this question from the Irish point of view. I would ask him and the right hon. Member for East Bristol (Mr. Hobhouse) to look at it from the federal point of view. I would ask them to become federal Home Rulers or resign their seats in the Cabinet. I might mention the Postmaster-General also. We do not want a divided Cabinet on that point, as we have to a certain extent on Woman Suffrage. If they hang together at all they should hang together with one view.
I am glad that I shall be able to vote on the Second Reading for the principle of the Bill, but there are many unsatisfactory points, and unless it is greatly 338 altered in detail I shall certainly vote against the Third Reading. I take the vote on the Second Reading to be a vote on the principle of the Bill, and in voting for the principle of Federal Home Rule I am only voting as I have felt consistently for the last twenty-five years. I am delighted to testify by my vote my admiration of the splendid struggle and the self-sacrificing attitude of the Irish party during all these years. I do not know anything more splendid in history than the advocacy, courage, and perseverance of that party. Then people talk of these men wanting jobs. I say that they are a model to all political parties, refusing all advancement and reward simply for the love of their country. They are the model to all struggling nationalities. If I abstained from voting for the Second Reading it might be thought that I was favouring the attitude of Ulster or of Unionists. Considering that this is a great Imperial question, Ulster cannot possibly stand in the way of the advancement of the interests of the Empire by opposing what is taking place now, as a first step in federation. Ulster, when the time comes, as it will probably if this Bill passes this House, should remember that the Parliament Act is now in existence, and if there were no other solution, then I think Ulster should have the option of standing out, though I do not think she will accept it. As regards the attitude of Unionists, I might refer to what took place in my Constituency the other day, when Lord Selborne came down to address a Unionist meeting. He found in a leading local newspaper a letter with some columns of extracts from Unionist newspapers of eighteen months ago in favour of Home Rule or a scheme of devolution. The letter attracted so much attention that he could not ignore it. What did he say? He said that those extracts caused him no embarrassment, and they were not responsible. But that was not the question. The point was this, that the Unionist party, for a month or six weeks, without a single protest, allowed the publication of those extracts and of leading article after leading article to the effect that they were ready to adopt Home Rule. Therefore, I say, if that was not their position, they ought to have made their protest at that time. As a somewhat independent Member, I think that the party game should be dropped on both sides, and that there should be no obstacle to arriving at some common-sense agreement on this question. What happened at the time of that 339 Conference in 1910? If rumour is correct, we had the senior Member for the City of London (Mr. Balfour) and we had the Chancellor of the Exchequer ready to make an advance and to have a conference on this question if their followers had allowed it. Allusion has been made to what took place in South Africa after the war. We had both General Botha and Dr. Jameson holding out the hand of friendship in order that they might come to an arrangement to reconcile two warring races. I say that the present case is more serious than that of South Africa. The country is face to face, not with a question of party warfare, not with a question of racial warfare, not with a question of national warfare, not with a question of civil warfare, but with something much more serious and grave—it is face to face with the question of religious strife, which we had hoped that Christianity at last had for ever abandoned. I say it is a question on which statesmen of all parties should come together. Men on both sides should sacrifice some of their prejudices, and see if they cannot come to some common arrangement and agreement on the subject. We see what is taking place, and it is somewhat shocking to see leaflets distributed broadcast containing some of the most terrible accusations. There is another precedent for what I am suggesting, namely, a convention of the men of all parties—I refer to the Philadelphia Convention of 1787. After three great attempts, there was settled at that convention the most remarkable Constitution which the world has ever seen. I have here an extract from the "Encyclopædia Britannica," of which I will read the last few lines:—With hardly an exception the fifty-five delegates were clear-headed, moderate men, with positive views of their own, and firm purpose, but with a willingness to compromise.I do not think it is too much to ask this great Assembly, the mother of Parliaments, to consider this question with a willingness to compromise on all sides. I believe that sooner or later it will come to this. I feel that the situation would have been easier, and a solution more likely to be come to, if the Bill had been differently framed. I remember a speech of the Chief Secretary, the general sense of which was that the Government of Ireland Bill should be so framed that through the open door others could come in and hang their hats up in the hall. I do not see so much open door in this Bill as I should like. There is too little trace of this in 340 the Bill. In the British North America Act there is a Section, and I put forward this as a suggestion for a new Clause on the same lines in this Bill. Clause 146 of the British North America Act leaves the door open for other provinces to come in. It says:—It shall be lawful for the Queen by and with the advice of Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council on an Address from the Houses of Parliament of Canada, and from the Houses of Parliament of the respective Legislatures of the provinces of Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, and of British Columbia, to admit those colonies or provinces or any of them, into the Union, and on Address from the Houses of Parliament of Canada to admit Ruperts Land and the North Western Territory, or either of them, into the Union on such terms and conditions in each case as are in the Addresses expressed, and as the Queen thinks fit to approve, subject to the provisions of this Act; and the provisions of any Order in Council in that behalf shall "have the effect as if they had been enacted by the Parliament of the United Kingdom, of Great Britain, and Ireland.If that Section were in this Bill it would pave the way more easily than anything else for your system of federation for the United Kingdom. I do think the Committee ought to give serious consideration as to whether something of that sort should not be included in this Bill. I believe in Committee that the Bill will be radically changed. I distrust, and I question greatly, the desirability of having the Post Office given to Ireland. I think the Customs proposals at the present moment require a great deal of justification, and as regards the financial provisions, I think they deserve and demand the closest scrutiny, especially from the Scottish point of view. I think the whole House is handicapped by want of knowledge of what the Government have ultimately in view and that we ought to be taken more into the confidence of the Government, and that they should disclose more fully, even before the Committee stage, what their ultimate idea is as regards Home Rule for all parts of the kingdom. The great fact remains that we are at the present moment in this country attempting to legislate for an Empire which is a fourth of the globe in population and a fifth in surface by practically the same legislative machinery that we had 341 eighty years ago, when we were a small country of 20,000,000 in population. I trust that from the great Imperial point of view hon. Members will realise the responsibilities of this country.
Mr. WORTHINGTON - EVANS
The hon. Member for Aberdeen (Mr. Pirie) has surely given most curious reasons for his change of attitude towards this Bill. He has told us that he is going to vote for a Bill which is unsatisfactory, a Bill which ought to be amended by leaving out Ulster, and which ought to leave the door open for Scotland to come in. He tells us that he is going to vote for it, although afterwards it will leave the Constitution lopsided, inconsequent, incoherent, and illogical. I envy the hon. Member his wealth of adjectives, but I cannot say I envy him his facility for change of opinion. I do not propose to deal with the general question; I shall confine myself to the financial provisions of the Bill. The Bill has been recommended from the Government Benches to Great Britain as a means of cutting the loss, and to Ireland as a means of gaining for themselves any economies they may be able to effect. The argument as to cutting the loss is an extremely important one, which will no doubt be repeated throughout the country, and by which the Government doubtless hope to gain the support of the people. May I call the attention of the House to a statement of the Foreign Secretary on this point, because on that statement the Government ought to stand or fall by the question whether or not this Bill will enable Great Britain to cut the loss. The right hon. Gentleman said:—We propose to put a definite limit to that loss, and in putting a definite limit to it we are told by the other side of the House that we ought not to go on incurring that loss at all unless we also retained control of Irish affairs. If we were not putting a limit to the loss I should agree, but we are putting a limit to the loss.That loss, as stated by the Government, is £1,500,000 a year. That statement is based upon a White Paper issued with the Bill, but it is in direct contradiction to the Report of the secret Committee on Irish Finance. That Committee put the loss at £2,000,000, and based the estimate on the greater productivity of taxes which they expected to be realised in the course of the next two or three years, so that the actual loss at present is, in their opinion, greater than £2,000,000. To that is to be added the £500,000 a year with which the Government propose to start the Irish Government. That is not all, because the loss may be, and will be, increased by the additional cost of the transferred services. 342 The known increase of the transferred services—I have no time to give them in detail—will amount to over £736,000. There may be some dispute as regards about £136,000 of that increase, but there can be no doubt that the £2,000,000, or £1,500,000, whichever it is, will be increased by at least £600,000, and probably by £700,000, in the course of a relatively short time. The loss, therefore, that we have really to consider is over £2,750,000 or £3,250,000. We are told that that loss is to be cut, but we are not told in what way we are going to cut it. It can be cut only in one of two ways—either by increased taxation on Ireland or by the existing taxes showing additional productivity. If the Govern-met relies upon imposing a special tax on Ireland, it has surely counted without the new Irish Parliament. What would be said if in addition to, say, the existing tax on tea, a special tax were put on tea in Ireland? Would it not be said at once that we were exacting tribute from Ireland, that we were treating her differently and that that was not the bargain when the Home Rule compact was entered into? Not only would the tribute argument be raised, but we should be told by the Irish Chancellor of the Exchequer that we were invading his province, and that that was the very tax upon which he relied to make provision for the betterment of the people of Ireland. It is quite impossible, I think, as a matter of practice, that we should be able to attempt to reduce this loss by any increased or special tax upon Ireland which is not also made upon the United Kingdom.
In regard to the greater productivity of taxes, we have got to remember, as the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cork reminded us, that the present revenue is derived at a time when there has been a constant succession of good harvests; when Ireland has been prosperous more than her wont; it is not at all certain that even the present yield of taxation will be continued, and there is at least quite as much chance of there being a reduction as of their being an increase. In answer to my right hon. Friend the Member for East Worcester the right hon. Gentleman the Postmaster-General said: "Yes, but what is the Unionist policy? It is to continue this loss, to increase it, and to go on increasing it, and the alternative before the country was really this: either to take the present loss, and to believe the Government that there is some chance of 343 cutting it, or to follow the Unionist policy of continuously increasing it, and bearing that loss. He asked what prospect there was under the Unionist policy of that loss being reduced? Surely, if the Unionist policy was financially developed and continued, there is every probability of a turn coming and of that loss, in fact, being reduced. To England this argument of cutting the loss is offered and to Ireland that economies can be made, and that the Irish will be able to retain the economies made. The old argument was that the administration of Ireland was so extravagant that if you only gave Ireland a Parliament and allowed the Irish to be governed by Irish ideas, they would be able to cut down to a very large extent the expenditure and would be able to save that for the people of their country. The hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of Cork disposes of that argument at once. The other day in the House he asked, "What are these services upon which we are expected to economise? There are none such." On the contrary, rather than there being any expectation of economy there is much more likelihood of there being an increase of cost.
The Postmaster-General (Mr. Herbert Samuel) to-day said, "Oh, there will be the Post Office." There might be some economy there, but I think the economy suggested would be an economy in wages and in the salaried staff carrying out the work of the Post Office. There is one special economy possible, and that is the reduction of old age pensions, and there seems to be some possibility of that being carried out. The hon. Member for Waterford the other day said that if Ireland had a Parliament Ireland never would have expended £2,500,000 on pensions; Ireland would have saved half that sum and given reduced pensions suitable for Ireland, and the Chief Secretary for Ireland said he conceived that Ireland would have cut her cloth according to her measure, and that instead of 5s. pensions there would be 3s. 6d. pensions. If it is the case that the pensions are too high and that they are not, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer said, compensation for a life of hard work and low wages, then we in the United Kingdom ought to have the benefit of any reduction of cost that arises from these pensions being lowered. It is our money. These are transferred services for which the United Kingdom pays, which Ireland does not pay for; and, if Ireland does not require 344 pensions at that high rate, then the£1,500,000 that might be saved by the reduction of old age pensions ought to be returned to the people who are paying for them and not to the people who do not require them.
There is one other point with which I wish to deal. The Postmaster-General claimed many benefits for his peculiar-financial scheme. He admitted, of course, that it is not a federal scheme, that it does not run on the lines of a federal scheme, and it certainly does not run on the lines of the Secret Financial Committee's Report, for Clause after Clause of the Report runs counter to this scheme. This may be a scheme of the modern eye or the Glad Eye, or something else, but it is a scheme which never has been tried.
The scheme, however, according to the Postmaster-General, is to leave each Chancellor of the Exchequer free, and that is a great matter if it is true to budget for his own particular country. The British Chancellor is to be free of any interference of the Irish Chancellor, and the Irish Chancellor is to be free of any interference of the British Chancellor. It is not so in actual practice. If the English Chancellor wants to remit, let us say food taxes, what will happen? It has always been a point of Liberal platforms that they want a free breakfast table. Let us take the Tea Duty alone. If the Liberal party, or more probably the Unionist party were to try to free the breakfast table and take the tax off tea, they cannot take off that tax in this country without at the same time making a present to Ireland of £560,000. That cannot be denied unless Ireland is to be taxed on a different footing. If this Tea Tax was to be taken off in Great Britain it would mean a release to Ireland of £560,000 a year. A fivepenny duty raises that amount, and this scheme has the effect of hanging the food taxes round the necks of the people of this country unless at the same time we are able, as a British Exchequer, to make an extra present to Ireland of £560,000. By the very nature of your scheme is not that an interference with the free action of the British Exchequer?
§ And, it being Eleven of the clock, the Debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed to-morrow (Wednesday).
§ Adjourned at Five minutes after Eleven o'clock.