§ Arrangements may be made by any Department of the Government of the United Kingdom for the exercise and performance on behalf of that Department of any powers or duties of that Department by officers of an Irish department, or by any Irish department for the exercise and performance on behalf of that department of any powers or duties of that department by officers of a Department of the Government of the United Kingdom on such terms and conditions as may be agreed:1706
§ Provided that no such arrangements shall diminish in any respect the responsibility of the department by which the arrangement is made.
§ Mr. JOYNSON-HICKS
I beg to move, to leave out this Clause, which proposes to make arrangements for the exercise of the powers and duties thrown upon a Department over here to be deputed to officers of the Irish Government, and which allows officers of any department of the Irish Government to make arrangements with departments for the management of Irish affairs over here. This Clause is entirely a new one, and it was not in either of the Home Rule Bills of 1893 or 1886. It received no explanation in the Debate upon the Guillotine Resolution dealing with the Home Rule Bill. I think it is an important Clause, because it is not merely a transitory one; it is not one which has to be in operation for only a year or two in order to tide over the difficulties between the inception of the Home Rule scheme and the coming into force of a permanent Clause, but it is to be included in the Bill for all time. This Clause will enable permanent arrangements to be made between the two sides of St. George's Channel without any control by this House or by any Department of the Government. So loosely is the Clause drawn that it does not even include the Department making these arrangements, that is the corresponding Department. For instance, it would be possible for the Post Office here, which has to deal with foreign telegrams in Ireland, to ask the President of the Board of Agriculture to look after that portion of Post Office work. One would imagine that the Government draftsman might have taken pains to secure that a Department having some knowledge of the matters in question would have been chosen for the making of such arrangements. The Clause applies to all Departments in both countries. The importance of this Clause lies more in its possibilities than in its probabilities. It was understood in Committee that it was not proposed to transfer the dual duties relating to Customs and Excise to an Irish department, but it will be perfectly possible to do so under this Clause. The right hon. Gentleman may have said that it is not the intention of the Government of the United Kingdom to transfer the control and management of Irish Customs and Excise to the Irish department, but we have no pledge to that effect, and even if we had it would be a mere expression of opinion. The right hon. Gentle- 1707 man might easily say that he thought differently, and he might perhaps transfer the whole management of the Customs and Excise to an Irish department.
There is an Amendment standing in the name of the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Chaplin), and others, exempting Customs and Excise Duties from the provisions of this Clause. I do not know whether the Chief Secretary is going to accept one of those Amendments or not. There are several Amendments down on the Paper exempting certain special duties from this Clause. Of course, I do not want to anticipate the discussion upon subsequent Amendments, but what I want to impress upon the House is that under the provisions of this Clause all the benefits which the United Kingdom was to derive from the arrangement about the reserved services will be completely done away with. In Clause 2 we have especially reserved to Great Britain certain specified services. We begin with the Army and the Navy, which could never be transferred to any Irish organisation. There are, however, such things as coinage, legal tender, trade marks, merchandise marks, and copyright which we know now as reserved services which never can be transferred only under certain conditions, but they may be transferred by a stroke of the pen, as far as I can gather, under the provisions of this Clause; they may be transferred even by a telephone message from the head of the Board of Trade here, who deals with copyright and trade marks, without any notification whatever to this House, or the general public. A letter or a telephone message may be sent to Ireland authorising a particular Department to make arrangements on behalf of the English Department for the management of all these services. There are two services around which a great deal of controversy has raged, and one of those services is the land purchase system throughout Ireland. That has been rightly reserved to the Imperial Government, but even that may be transferred without the leave of this House and without any notification to this House. It would be quite possible for the right hon. Gentleman opposite, the Chief Secretary for Ireland, to make arrangements with the Estates Commissioners in Ireland—or with any Department in Ireland, with the Post Office or the Board of Agriculture—authorising them on his behalf to manage and control the whole system of land purchase in Ireland.
1708 4.0 P.M.
I need hardly say that the collection of the Imperial taxes is now an Imperial Service, but under this provision it is open to the Chancellor of the Exchequer here to say, "I do not want the bother of collecting these Irish taxes; we have told the people of Great Britain, I know, that we are going to retain the collection of Imperial taxes, and we have made it a reserved service," but under the provisions of this extraordinary Clause 40, it would be open to them to write a postcard to say to some department, "On our behalf, please manage and collect all the taxes in Ireland; make what arrangements you see fit, and do not bother the Imperial Parliament." The more important question of the Royal Irish Constabulary can also be dealt with in this way. The constabulary in Ireland is a service reserved for the control of the Imperial Parliament for a period of six years, and after that, under certain circumstances, they go over to the control of the Irish Government There is nothing whatever in this Bill, in spite of the Royal Irish Constabulary being a reserved service, to prevent the right hon. Gentleman telegraphing or merely by word of mouth sending a message to the Irish Home Secretary saying, "Would you kindly make arrangements under Clause 40 for the exercise and performance by your Department of the powers and duties of the Royal Irish Constabulary; arrange them, control their promotion, and pay. I have the right, as an officer of the Imperial Government, to manage them for six years, but under Clause 40 I appoint you as my deputy to control and manage that force." With the greatest ease and certainty you can drive a coach and four through the Bill. Lawyers often try to drive a coach and four through Acts of Parliament, but the Government have provided a Clause, I will not say for the express purpose of driving a coach and four through the Act, but any Government official has authority under the provisions of this Clause to drive not merely a coach and four, but a traction engine through any provision in the Act. In this way the alleged benefits of the reserved services are done away with, and under Clause 40 dual control can be established between all the Imperial Services and all the local services in Ireland. A Post Office official in Ireland is bound to occupy a dual capacity. When he is delivering Irish letters he is an Irish officer, but when he is delivering foreign correspondence or foreign telegrams he is an English officer amenable to the control of the English 1709 Department, but the whole of the English side of the Post Office can, under the provisions of this Clause, be handed over to the Irish Department. Take the case of an Irish postman driving a cart with mails running over somebody. If he is carrying Irish letters to an Irish Department, he would be responsible to the Irish Government; if he were carrying foreign telegrams that would be an Imperial service, and I assume the Imperial Department would be responsible to the person run over; but it is quite possible, if this Clause is to be taken advantage of, the unfortunate person run over would not know in the first place whether the postman was carrying Irish or foreign correspondence, and, in the second place, whether he was responsible to an Irish or an English Department. The Clause is entirely vague. I do not like to accuse the Government, but I think one might call in aid here the very celebrated phrase of the Prime Minister, "incurable sloppiness." Has there ever in a Bill presented to this House been a better example of "incurable sloppiness"? How are the arrangements to be made? How are they to be carried out? By whom are they to be made? It could be done by word of mouth, or by writing, or by telephone. There is no provision for Parliamentary control. There is no provision even that this House is to be consulted. It may know nothing about the arrangements. The right hon. Gentleman or the head of any Department—I do not think it is necessary that it should be the head of a Department, it might be any officer—which has control of any reserved service in Ireland might of his own motion agree with any Irish Department, whether a corresponding Department or not, and make arrangements with it for the carrying out of that service, giving no public notice of the fact. He might, indeed, drive a complete coach and four through this Act. Such arrangements might involve this country in financial liabilities. If there is one thing of which this House should take special care it is its financial responsibility. This Clause would enable any Government Department in England to incur financial responsibility in Ireland without any cheek by this House, or, so far as I can gather, without the expenditure coming on to the Estimates. An hon. Member shakes his head, but I should be most delighted if he would get up and explain any point 1710 where I have gone wrong in my interpretation of this Clause, and especially of the financial side of it.
When another Government started a Home Rule scheme of its own, they were much more careful about carrying out the provisions of the Act. It was considered it might be necessary under the South African Act, 1909, that certain arrangements might have to be made with regard to certain officers of State, although there were no reserved services and none of the extreme difficulties which are bound to occur here in the management of the reserved services as between England and Ireland and the management of complicated financial relations between England and Ireland. The Governor-General, by Section 141 of the South African Act, 1909, was directed to appoint Public Service Commissioners to make recommendations for such reorganisation and readjustment of the Departments of the public service as might be necessary. Everything was to be done in due order, and there was a public body set up to manage all these things. Why have we not got some such public body here? The Government need not answer that it would involve another long Clause. They could Closure it. They could insert half a dozen more Clauses in the Bill without giving any more time, because they could Closure them all. They could set up a Commission, as they did in South Africa, responsible to this House, in order, if anything went wrong, that somebody might be called over the coals. We should then know what the arrangements were. Nothing of the kind. The Government does not even treat this House as well as the Government of the South African Federation treated their own House and their own subordinate Legislatures. The whole Clause emphasises the difficulties in the scheme itself. The Government have tried to minimise those difficulties as far as possible by granting Home Rule which is only a sort of Home Rule, Home Rule with these reserved services, with this dual control between England and Ireland, and with the administration as between the various Departments in England and Ireland inexticably mixed up. They seek to save this trouble by saying to any Department in Ireland, "Just manage this for us. Do what you like and what you think right. The Imperial Parliament will never hear of it and will never have any control over it." Under these circumstances I beg to move the omission of the Clause, and, unless the 1711 right hon. Gentleman can give us his promise that at least a considerable number of the Amendments limiting the operation of the Clause will be accepted, I shall certainly ask my hon. Friends to follow me into the Division Lobby.
§ The CHIEF SECRETARY for IRELAND (Mr. Birrell)
We have now got to Clause 40 of this Bill, which is, as we might have expected, having regard to its position in the Bill, a purely business Clause. We have got by the previous Clauses certain important services reserved to this Imperial Parliament, which are called reserved services, and we have got a number of important services transferred to the new Irish Parliament and Irish Executive, which are called transferred services. We have, therefore, got these two sets of services. If the hon. Member had simply been content to say it is always better to have one thing than two and that there are certain difficulties, business and otherwise, which will arise from the fact that we do by this Bill divide the Irish services into those which are reserved and those which are transferred, I should have been at no pains to contradict him. We have got these Departments over here and we have got Departments in Ireland both charged with duties which are carried on in Ireland itself, and, therefore, we found it necessary to insert this Clause.
"Arrangements may be made by any Department of the Government of the United Kingdom for the exercise and performance on behalf of that Department of any powers or duties of that Department by officers of an Irish Department, or by any Irish Department for the exercise and performance on behalf of that Department of any powers or duties of that Department by officers of a Department of the Government of the United Kingdom on such terms and conditions as may be agreed."
Then in order to meet the criticisms of the hon. Member and his Friends we inserted a proviso, although I think it would have gone without saying, providing—
"that no such arrangements shall diminish in any respect the responsibility of the Department by which the arrangement is made."
Thereupon, the hon. Gentleman, exercising his critical faculty which by this time is 1712 well developed, proceeds to say we ought to have elaborated this Clause—he suggested it would probably have taken half-a-dozen Clauses—by stating all the infinite variety of possible ways of arranging business which, although not involving points of principle, do involve convenience of detail endless in imagination and probably very numerous in fact, but in themselves insignificant. You ought, the hon. Member says, to say how these arrangements are to be made. Take, for example, old age pensions. That is a reserved service, managed by the Treasury and by Excise officers, but the pension itself, a not unimportant part of the operation, is paid through the Post Office. It might very well be desirable that the Treasury over here should make arrangements whereby the Irish Post Office would continue to be the office where this interesting transaction takes place. They are not bound to do so, they may make other arrangements, but, if they are minded to employ the Irish Post Office for that purpose, they can do so. Can anything be more reasonable than that The hon. Member asks how it is to be done, and says that under the sloppiness of this Clause it might be done in writing or it might be done by word of mouth, and then he proceeded further and said it might be done by telegram or by telephone. It matters very little. I do not think you require another Clause or the sanction of an Act of Parliament to say how a responsible Imperial Department here should make this convenient arrangement with a department in Ireland having machinery at its disposal to carry out this business. It is an arrangement carried out by payment and by agreement. I can hardly imagine it will be left to word of mouth.
I should imagine it will take place with all the glories of red-tape. I think it would be most undesirable to get into too free and easy a way of transacting business as between public departments. I do not think the habits of the Treasury here will be revolutionised even by the passage into law of this Bill, and I imagine they and all the departments here who have charge of reserved services will be very careful indeed in carrying out their arrangements to see they are carried out properly, so that there will be no dispute as to what the terms are. It is really impossible and foolish to attempt in business relations—and these are big business relations, just as big as those between 1713 private firms, or bigger—to lay down a code of conduct which would extend over more than half a dozen Clauses and all the rules which are to govern sensible business men in endeavouring to obtain in Ireland their own agents for carrying out a job for which they will remain responsible to this Imperial Parliament. The hon. Member says that under the wording of the Clause you could defeat the object of this Act. You could calmly hand over all the War Office and the Admiralty, and all the things expressly left outside the purview of the authority of the Irish Executive. He says you could by some loose and ready agreement hand them all over in such a way as to obliterate Clause 2 of the Bill altogether and upset the whole scheme. That is not the reading which anybody, lawyer or anybody else, could possibly give to a business Clause of this sort, which is simply to enable persons who have a particular job to transact in Ireland to transact it in the easiest, best, and most effective manner. To suppose that you could transfer to an Irish department something over which the Bill says no Irish department is to have any authority or power whatsoever is another example, as my right hon. Friend the Solicitor-General said the other night, of the fact that there is nothing so technical as the law of a layman. But I remember the hon. Member is not a layman, and therefore I withdraw that remark.
§ Mr. JOYNSON-HICKS
The whole illustration against me just now was that of old age pensions, which is one of the reserved services.
§ Mr. BIRRELL
You cannot transfer that reserved service, but you can make arrangements whereby the actual payment of the pensions shall be made on the responsibility of this Imperial Parliament by an Irish Department, and, in the same way, you can still continue, in the Irish Post Office, to exhibit those enticing pictures of Grenadiers and Hussars in order to show the people who go to the post office what fine services they may enter if they only think fit to take advantage of them. In the same way with the Admiralty, there may be a number of small petty services—not petty in the sense of unimportant—in connection with the payment of pensions and other things which might, for the mere purpose of convenience, and in order to satisfy all the parties concerned, be transferred to an Irish department. The idea is simply to allow an Imperial Department 1714 freedom in the choice of its agents. We hope to have in the Irish Executive a body which will be trusted by and enjoy the confidence of the people, and to say it is never to be employed at all for the purpose of carrying out details by an Imperial Department the responsibility of which it is not affected, is going too far. The hon. Gentleman seemed to suggest that there were certain possibilities which ought to be guarded against, and he gave one or two examples. He spoke of the case of a person injured by a motor car employed by the Post Office, and he said the man would want to know whether that car was carrying Irish mails or foreign mails. All I can suggest is that he would be a lucky man if the motor were carrying both, because then he would have two Treasuries against whom he could press his case. He will at any rate have one, but, if he is a Unionist I have no doubt he would prefer, if he is run over at all, to feel that he can go against the British.Treasury rather than against the Irish Treasury. In any case, however, he will not be injured in his pocket, and, therefore, I do not think the hon. Member can make much of that point.
Then he referred to land purchase, and said that that might be transferred to the Estates Commissioners. They already are a reserved service to carry out land purchase. But do you suppose we are going to transfer the whole machinery of land purchase, which goes to the root of Irish society, in that way? It cannot be suggested. It was hinted that my right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General might instruct the Board of Agriculture to look after postal telegrams. Such a suggestion is an absurdity. I can suppose nothing of the sort. The hon. Member says there ought to be a provision that the transfer should be to an analogous service. But there again you would have difficulty in deciding what is an analogous service. It would be a ridiculous thing for the Postmaster-General in this House to get up and say that he has handed over the duty of dealing with telegrams to the Board of Agriculture. He would be subject to a good deal of criticism and ridicule, and I think no Postmaster-General would wish to expose himself to that. Does the hon. Gentleman really ask the House to believe that, under cover of this Clause, an attempt is being made to undo the preceding provisions of this Bill, and that, under these harmless words, all kinds of important duties are contemplated to be transferred to the Irish Departments, which are to 1715 have no responsibility for them, the responsibility still remaining in this Imperial Parliament? Is he going to suggest that these duties are to be handed over to an Irish Department which is not to be responsible and which can snap its fingers at the Imperial Parliament? I really cannot believe that. I cannot give the hon. Member the promise he sought—that I would accept subsequent Amendments on the Paper. I cannot do anything of the kind. I can only ask the House generally to regard this as a business Clause, coming at the close of a long and difficult Bill, and simply enabling responsible persons either here or in Ireland, when they are selecting the right kind of agent to perform certain duties, to choose the best agents they can, reserving full responsibility to themselves. That, I suggest, is a proposal which would commend itself to all business men. It is not desirable to multiply this Clause into five or six Clauses, because that could only result in leaving many gaps in the Bill, and in raising more doubts than it would solve. It is, I suggest, a course no business man would recommend.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
The right hon. Gentleman, in the course of this very interesting speech, made one remark with which I agree, and that was his approval if not of red tape, of some methods of procedure which are described by that term. When I first came to this House I was one of those who had a great prejudice against red tape, but whether it is a result of evil communications or a result of the slap-dash methods adopted by the present Government I have changed my view and am now in favour of some kind of regularity of procedure in all matters affecting, at any rate, the Government proposed to be set up in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman complimented my hon. Friend on having developed a highly critical faculty. I am prepared to pay the right hon. Gentleman a compliment of a somewhat similar nature. Probably by reason of practice he has, in the last few months, developed a capacity not of answering but of evading the points put before him. What is the defence the right hon. Gentleman has just advanced? He treated the whole matter as if it were merely one of difficulty connected with machinery; as if it were purely a matter of business arrangement, and as if no question of substance could arise out of it. I do not think that that is the case at all. I hold that, under this Clause, there is not 1716 only a possibility but a probability—and a great probability—that the intentions of this House in regard to this Bill will be evaded by the Clause. The right hon. Gentleman pointed out quite truly that under the Clause the responsibility will rest on the heads of the Imperial Department. That is quite true, but in effect, though the responsibility may rest there if the whole duties of management of the reserved services are transferred to the Irish Department they become no longer reserved services in the sense in which this Bill intended them to be.
Let me deal with one or two of the illustrations quoted. Take the case of the Customs. There has been a good deal of discussion as to the possibility of protection by Customs regulations in regard to goods which are manufactured in bond where there is a duty. The danger of such a course has been admitted by the Government. But they said that these regulations would be entirely under the control of this House and of this Government. What, however, will be the position if those carrying the regulations out are not directly in the service of the Government, but are under the transferred Customs and Excise service of the Irish Department? The whole possibility will depend on the way in which the regulations are made and carried out. Can anyone doubt that, if they are in the hands of the Irish Department, even although nominally the control is on this side, representations would be made, pointing out that there ought to be an alteration in the regulations, and that the result will be to give to those in Ireland Protection as against similar industries in the United Kingdom? The right hon. Gentleman says that that will not be the effect, but he can only fulfil his promise by making certain that the regulations are precisely the same in the two countries, and that cannot be the case if the working is under the direction of two Departments. Then, again, take the case of old age pensions. It is not merely a question of using the Irish Post Office to pay these pensions. That is not the point at all. Suppose you transfer to the Irish Service the whole control of old age pensions. Then they will have to decide whether or not a man is to get a pension, and under what conditions, and, if yon make the transfer, what will happen under this Bill? The Irish Parliament will have the right, on two years' notice, to take over any reserved service, with certain 1717 exceptions. Suppose they decide to take over old age pensions. The Postmaster-General of the Irish Parliament will consider that his first duty is to the Irish taxpayer, and, in the event of deciding to take over the service in two years, he will say, "We have now the management of it; we will make it amount to as much as we can, so that when the transfer takes place at the end of two years the amount will be not what we now pay, but what we can raise it up to in that time." The result will be that an additional burden will be placed on the British taxpayer. The right hon. Gentleman may suggest that in this we are assuming the Irish will be very unreasonable. I am doing nothing of the kind. Does anyone imagine that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would trust the local authority with the control of old age pensions if the Imperial Exchequer had to pay for them? He would not; he would not allow the local authority such control, because he would know that they would not exercise it in the same way as if the money came out of their own pockets. Therefore, it is not merely a machinery difficulty, and there ought to be some means of making certain that such a change shall not be carried out without the express approval of the House of Commons.
Then take the case- of the constabulary. Here we have a still more striking instance. The object of keeping that force under the control of this House for six years is to convince the British people that property and life will be under the direct control of this House. But suppose the Home Secretary hands this over to agents in Ireland, does anyone believe that the same control will exist? Of course it will still be possible to raise questions in this House, but the fact that the work is carried out by men who are not responsible to the Government and who are responsible only to the Irish Government will make all the difference in the world. If such a change were made, it is perfectly obvious that the intention of Parliament in reserving these services would not be carried out. I quite recognise that this should not be too minutely carried out. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that no Government of the day should have power, if it chooses, to practically override the whole of this Act of Parliament, but is it too much to ask that, in this Clause, something should be inserted to show in some way that no reserved service shall be transferred unless 1718 it is agreed to by this House of Commons? That surely is reasonable, and that is not a big demand to make upon the Government.
§ Mr. DAVID MASON
After the admirable speech of the Chief Secretary I cannot add much to the particular point we are on. Indeed, I should not have intervened in the Debate at all, had it not been for the hon. Member who moved the Amendment (Mr. Joynson-Hicks) who challenged me when I shook my head when he said that this Clause did away with all Government responsibility. The hon. Member has apparently not studied the Clause, for the latter part of it says that any arrangement which may be made by any Imperial Department for delegating powers to officers in Ireland shall be made provided that any such arrangement shall not diminish in any respect the responsibility of the Department by which the arrangement is made. Nothing could be clearer than that. As the Chief Secretary pointed out, it is a business Clause, giving power to the Imperial Departments to utilise officers in Ireland. It is specifically provided that the responsibility shall remain with the particular Department which uses the men in Ireland. As to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition, he apparently does not seem to understand either the Bill or this particular Clause. He drew a lurid picture of various services which might be transferred under this Clause to the Irish Government. Those services cannot be transferred under this Clause, for there are specific provisions in the Bill relating to the transfer of those reserved services. We have always been led to believe that the Leader of the Opposition is a business man, therefore this Clause ought particularly to appeal to him, because it is a business proposition. Instead of having to create new Departments, it enables the Government to utilise those already existing. It is in essence a business arrangement, which ought to command the right hon. Gentleman's admiration. He accused the Government of being guilty of slap-dash methods. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] It is very easy to applaud that sentiment, but you must show where those slap-dash methods were used.
§ Mr. D. MASON
On the contrary, we on this side of the House have just cause to believe that the arrangements made 1719 for the gradual transfer of certain services, for the reserving of others, and the provision that, after a certain period of years, as the Home Rule Parliament gains experience and as there is a development of local self-government because of that experience, there shall be a gradual increase in those powers—we have cause to believe that that is a businesslike and a sensible arrangement. The hon. Member spoke with scorn of dual control. If you had given Ireland under this Bill supreme and entire control of all services straight away, would there not have been a great deal of criticism, probably just criticism, to the effect that Ireland was not ready for such a measure, and that it was a foolish thing to hand over such powers at the outset to Ireland? If, on the other hand, you had given only narrow powers, you would have had objections from hon. Members from Ireland, who would have said, "This is no Home Rule scheme, but a very miserable Home Rule Bill, which does not provide full self-governing powers." But you have in this Bill an admirable arrangement, because you can easily satisfy the timid critics who complain of too great powers being given by reserving certain services, and you satisfy hon. Gentlemen from Ireland by holding out to them that if the measure is a success it will increase their powers and that they will develop in future if they show themselves, as we believe they will, able to properly exercise the powers given to them under this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the Chief Secretary evading criticism. I do not think there is any justification for that remark, because the Chief Secretary went to the root of the matter when he explained what the Clause was for, and pointed out that the proviso still reserved to the particular Department concerned all the responsibility. The speech of the Leader of the Opposition seemed to be unworthy of a leader. There was no point in his criticism, and on every count he failed to make good his criticism. He was good enough to admit that the particular Department would still remain responsible. If he admits that, what complaint has he to make of this particular Clause? The right hon. Gentleman also spoke of a Department being able to transfer old age pensions. You cannot transfer old age pensions under this Clause. The right hon. Gentleman evidently does not understand the Bill. Provision is made for transferring old age pensions in another part of the Bill, 1720 but this Clause is a purely business Clause.
§ Mr. D. MASON
Because another Clause provides for it. Old age pensions do not come under this Clause at all.
§ Mr. D. MASON
For a very good reason—they do not. If the hon. Member will read the Bill he will find out why not. If the hon. Member will read this Clause he will find it provides for Imperial Departments utilising officers in Ireland for carrying out certain services, while the responsibility is still to remain with the particular Department. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to think that the mere utilising of officers did away with the responsibility, but the responsibility will still remain with the original Department. That original Department can easily use its business instincts and common sense if they find that the Irishmen they utilise for the carrying out of the particular work do not perform it in a businesslike manner. They would surely have sufficient courage and common sense for that. The responsibility will rest, as specifically stated in the Clause, with the original Department. It is puerile and childish for the Leader of the Opposition to deny it at this stage of our proceedings, after we have been hammering away at this Bill, and have been supposed to be discussing it. He has attended some of these Debates, but evidently he has not profited from them, or he would not have made so absurd and foolish a speech. He threw scorn on the provision with regard to the constabulary. That was all beside the mark. This Clause has nothing to do with the constabulary, and, as the Chief Secretary has said, it is a purely businesslike Clause which ought to appeal to the common sense of all business men.
Sir GILBERT PARKER
I hope the hon. Member who has just sat down will not think me unusually lacking in intelligence if I venture to submit a few remarks to the House, because there is nothing that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition has said with which I do not agree, and as the hon. Member has cast opprobious reflections upon my leader I have no doubt he will apply them to myself. Since the hon. Member is not the only person in the House to whom I address my remarks, perhaps the House 1721 will allow me to say a few words on this Amendment. The House undoubtedly realises that there may be some difficulty in the working of this Clause, even if they believe in it. For instance, if it is the the Chief Secretary evidently allows, that the whole of the duties, not any or any particular duties or powers, of any Department, but the whole of the duties, may be transferred—
Sir G. PARKER
My right hon. Friend, during the course of his speech, addressing his remarks directly to the Chief Secretary, said that the whole of the duties of any Department might be transferred, the Department reserving its responsibility. It is like a commander-in-chief sitting in London and sending out an army, and then transferring all the duties a commander-in-chief would naturally exercise, and saying to the generals in the field, "I transfer all my duties and powers to you, but I still take the responsibility."
Sir G. PARKER
That is a most extraordinary position. Does the Chief Secretary really deny that all the duties and powers may be transferred? May I ask him to answer that question now? Is it the case that all and any of the duties and powers of any Department may be transferred to an Irish Department, or that any and all of the duties and powers of an Irish Department may be transferred to an Imperial Department?
§ Mr. BIRRELL
I certainly think that the transfer of a reserved service in a lump to a Department in Ireland would be an unfair and improper reading of the powers conferred by this Clause.
Sir G. PARKER
But the right hon. Gentleman does not assure the House positively that all the duties may not be transferred.
§ Mr. BIRRELL
I certainly say that the transfer of the duties specially reserved by this Bill—and this Bill provides the only means by which their transfer can be effected—to transfer them all bodily in a lump under this Clause would be an illegal and absurd thing to do.
Sir G. PARKER
Of course I am not a lawyer, and I am not a legal authority, but I have as much opportunity for realising the English of this Clause and, perhaps can apply as much intelligence to it as an average Member of Parliament can apply to the information at his disposal. I interpret it in this way: that any of the powers or duties of a Department may be transferred. We have the Chief Secretary's assurance, but with all my respect for his sense of responsibility, the assurance is not quite sufficient, because he does not bulwark his assurance by reference to the fact that the Government agree with him in his interpretation. He granted that the Department reserves its technical responsibility and reserves some portion of its powers. Can you not see in what grave difficulties you are engaging yourselves when you part with the greater number of your powers and only reserve for yourself a technical responsibility? Though you may be legally correct in interpreting the Clause so, you will certainly open up a great field for difficulty and misunderstanding.
Suppose the Clause did not exist in the Bill, or, as he would have the House believe, that it was only intended to grant the Imperial Government power to delegate or depute certain powers and duties of a Department to certain officers in Ireland to carry out Imperial duties. I should like to ask the Chief Secretary if it is not a fact that at present in some of our Oversea Dominions federal duties and powers are carried out by provisional Governments. But it is not in the Constitution. Note the difference. When these duties and powers are given by this federal Government or the Union or Commonwealth Government to the provincial Government it comes directly under the view of the House of Commons, the federal Parliament or the Union Parliament, and the action of the Government is subject to immediate criticism, and the Government cannot fall back upon the constitution of the Bill of 1913, or 1914, or whatever it may be that is to be given to Ireland. This Clause is absolutely unnecessary. It opens up difficulties which would not exist if the ordinary course of constitutional proce- 1723 dure had been followed, and it was left to the Imperial Government to do what it would have power to do, and make a bargain with the Irish Government if it so pleased for the employment of Irish officers to carry out Imperial duties, for that is what occurs at the present time in Canada, in Australia, and in South Africa. The Clause is unnecessary, and, being unnecessary, it ought not to be included. It opens up the way to great difficulties which could be avoided if it were not included, for there remains to the Imperial Government the power to do the very thing that this Clause empowers it to do, but with this difference, that once you grant the authority under this Clause to the Imperial Government to transfer its services, the Imperial Government ceases to be directly and immediately responsible for the employment of any Irish officers to do any particular duties, whereas if the Clause were not in, the action of the Imperial Government every time it gives to the Irish Government its authority to exercise certain powers and duties would come under the immediate survey and criticism of this House, and, because of that, because of the uselessness and the danger of the Clause, I support very strongly the Amendment of my hon. and learned Friend.
§ Mr. LARDNER
I have listened with considerable interest and not a little amusement to the speech of the Mover of the Amendment. He talked about the inherent sloppiness of the way in which the Bill is drafted, and I think I might apply the same remark without any offence to the argument which he addressed in support of his Amendment. His principal argument was based on this, that Jihere was nothing to prevent the transfer of any duties or powers by an English Department to the officers of an Irish Department by telegraph, by telephone, or by letter, and that the matter might never be questioned by anyone. I think he must have forgotten to read Clause 45, or perhaps he was not advised of it in the proofs of his speech. Clause 45 deals specifically with this particular point. It reads as follows:—
"His Majesty may by Orders in Council (in this Act referred to as Irish Transfer Orders) make such Regulations as seem necessary or proper for setting in motion the Irish Parliament and Government, and also for any other matter for which it seems to His Majesty necessary or proper to make provision for the 1724 purpose of bringing this Act into full operation or for giving full effect to any provisions of this Act or to any future transfer under or by virtue of this Act of a reserved service; and in particular His Majesty may by any such Order in Council—…(d) on any transfer under this Act of the public services in connection with the administration of the old Age Pensions Acts, 1908 and 1911, make provision for securing the payment of an old age pension to any person who is entitled to the payment of such a pension at the time of the transfer, while he continues so entitled;"
I think it is perfectly clear from that that the matter has been considered, and that it is impossible that such a method as the hon. Gentleman suggests could be adopted.
§ Mr. JOYNSON-HICKS
Is the hon. Member suggesting to us now that the arrangements which the Chief Secretary suggested in regard to old age pensions, which is a reserved service, would need an Order in Council?
§ Mr. LARDNER
I was trying to deal with the point of the transfer of duties and powers by letter, telegram or telephone, and I am going to argue afterwards that in regard to these particular matters to which he refers, the reserved services, this is purely an administrative Clause and the powers and duties which are or may be transferred are purely of an administrative character. The Leader of the Opposition said very frankly, and with the precision for which he is noted, that under this Clause there were no longer any reserved services. Where does Clause 2 stand? He must know, as also must the hon. Member (Mr. Joynson-Hicks), that where you retain the responsibility as it is specifically retained in this Clause, you also retain the exercise of your discretion. No trustee can delegate his discretion. When a public Department retains responsibility it also retains the discretion for the direction of the policy of the matter which they have under their control. The only matter that can be delegated from an English to an Irish Department, or vice versa, is the administrative acts of the office in accordance with the settled policy of the English Department at the time. It is utterly ridiculous to suggest that the whole administration of old age pensions, as has been suggested, could be transferred to an Irish Department, and that they could turn round and say, "Because we are authorised to do the 1725 administrative acts necessary for the payment of pensions and for the management of the scheme in Ireland, we are going to say pensions should be paid at sixty and not at sixty-five." The right hon. Gentleman frankly admitted that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is made to transfer Customs and Excise over to an Irish Department or management. Why? Because the responsibility rested with him, and in him was vested the sole discretion which directed the management and the policy of Customs and Excise. The same remark applies to every one of the reserved services. I think I may go a little further in the argument than perhaps hon. Gentlemen may appreciate. I am going to argue that the insertion of this Clause is beneficial from the British standpoint, and that it makes for economy and efficiency. Take the Clause and see what it means. The hon. Member (Mr. Joynson-Hicks) suggests that the Post Office, I think, will be managed by the Board of Agriculture. I forget exactly what was the extravagant example he put forward. It was too extravagant to be worthy of serious consideration, because, after all, you have to recollect that even if Home Rule is passed, you have an Imperial Government. Surely an Imperial Department is not going to be managed by lunatics or fools.
§ Mr. LARDNER
I have greater faith in my own country and my own Government than the hon. Member has. They are going to transfer to Irish Departments administrative acts of a similar and analogous character. The hon. Member says that is not provided for in the Clause at all, and that you can give it to any Department, but surely if an English Department is to relieve itself of any of these duties and administrative acts, if they are going to relieve themselves of the collection of pensions and of the transaction of various small things which could be better done on the spot, they are going to do it having regard to the best interests of this country and the best interests of the British taxpayer and the efficient management of the Department for which they are responsible. It is a very simple answer to the outrageously extravagant argument that the hon. Member put forward, that the Department of Agriculture could or would be given, under any possible Government sitting on these benches, the management of the Post Office in Ireland. It was also suggested by the hon. Gentleman, though not 1726 directly, that all this could be done either by telegraph or telephone, or by letter, and that no one might know of it, and even if they did know of it, they could not stop it. The hon. Member appears to have omitted to read Clause 46 of the Bill, because there is still a House of Lords left to them if this House should fail them, Clause 46 says:—
"Any Irish Transfer Order in Council made under this Act shall be laid before both Houses of the Parliament of the United Kingdom within forty days next after it is made if Parliament is then sitting, or if not, within forty days after the commencement of the then next ensuing Session; and if an Address is presented to His Majesty by either of these Houses within the next subsequent forty days praying that any such Order may be annulled, His Majesty may thereupon by Order in Council annul the same."
The remarkable thing about the Clause is that it is an Address from either House, so that if the House of Commons should refuse the Address the hon. Gentleman has still the House of Lords, and I am sure there will be no difficulty in the present Parliament of advising that anything done by this Government is absolutely wrong and should be annulled immediately. I think I have made it clear in the first place, that you cannot do it by telegraph, or telephone; and, in the second place, that if you do, it is not irrevocable; and in the third place, I think I have shown that this is not a delegation of discretion where you retain the responsibility, but it is only a delegation of administrative Acts, and that it is in the interests of efficiency and economy.
I should like to develop that a little further and examine it in the light of practice to see what it would mean and how it stands at present in regard to Ireland. You have given the Post Office over to the management of the Irish Government, but you have retained the Post Office Savings Bank. At present in the Post Office in any country village in Ireland, at one counter you can send a telegram, you can buy your postage stamps, you can draw your old age pension money, and you can also draw your savings bank money. If this Clause is omitted the inevitable result will be that the Post Office will have to erect in every town and village in Ireland a separate office for the savings bank. They have no power to continue the work in 1727 the Irish Post Office once it is transferred to the Irish Government, because their service is a reserved service and must be carried out by officers of the Imperial Government and not the Irish Government. Old age pensions can no longer be paid unless with the assent of the Irish Post Office and the Irish Government. I want to ask the hon Gentleman if he looks forward as a British taxpayer with equanimity to the possibility of having to set up two distinct sets of officials, for which he will have to pay out of his own pocket, for administering an Irish service, which by this Clause can be carried on efficiently at the same cost at which it is carried on at present. That is a concrete example, and one which cannot be got away from at all. Take another example. You have reserved as a reserved service all the public loans made before the passing of this Act. Very often small sums have to be collected under these public loans from persons who are in default with the payment of their interest. At present they are collected through the Board of Works, which is a branch of the Treasury Department in Ireland. Under the Government of Ireland Bill you will have a separate branch of the Treasury, presumably with its own staff, and an Irish Office of Works, or perhaps a Department of Works. Are you, then, to ask the British Treasury to maintain a separate Irish Department with a separate Irish Office and a separate Irish staff to collect small sums which may be in arrear in the repayment of these sums? The hon. Gentleman says it can be done without this Clause. If it can be done without this Clause, what harm is done by its insertion? I deny that it can be done without this Clause. It is absolutely impossible to do it, and I will tell the hon. Gentleman why. The amount must be sued for in a Court presumably, and the debt must be proved. What would happen if the hon. Gentleman's contention is correct? The Irish official would go down to the Court and say, "There is due on the loan made before the passing of the Government of Ireland Act a certain sum for interest. I am an official of the Irish Treasury." It would immediately be pleaded, "You have no right to come and claim that sum. This is a reserved service under the control of the Imperial Parliament, and nobody can give a valid receipt for the amount unless he is a duly authorised official of the Im- 1728 perial Parliament." The official of the Irish Government would not be an official of the Imperial Parliament, and therefore would not be in a position to sue for the amount or to give a discharge for it I have taken as illustrations the Post Office and the Office of Works. There are various other matters that might be dealt with. Reference has been made to land purchase. The Land Commission is transferred under certain limitations to the Irish Government. But the Imperial Government has reserved all matters relating to land purchase. The arrears in connection with land purchase in Ireland are very small indeed. The Irish tenants have shown a record for prompt and regular payment unexampled elsewhere. The point I am going to make is a very small one, but the smaller it is the more important it is that there should be authority for this proposed interchange of duties between the Departments. The arrears of annuities must be collected as an Imperial service. There should be nothing to prevent the Land Commission delegating authority to collect the money and give receipts on behalf of the Imperial Department. That would save the necessity for another set of officials in Ireland. That example shows what is exactly meant under the Clause. It occurs to me that there are other matters of very grave importance to us in Ireland which, though they may seem small matters in a discussion of this kind, are also covered by the Clause. For instance, there are the Grants under the Road Board. These are made to the various local authorities, and if this Clause is omitted from the Bill the result will be that the Road Board will have to establish an Irish Office and an Irish staff. Why? At the present time you have the Road Board Grants made to the public authorities, and they are all vouched for by the Irish Local Government Board. I do not know anybody acquainted with administration in Ireland who will question the authority of the Local Government Board, or its fitness to do the work they have hitherto done. If this Clause is omitted, you will make it impossible for that Board to do it with the staff of officials they have at present, and you will impose the necessity of setting up a separate office with other officials to audit the accounts.
Take the administration of the Factory and Workshops Act. That Department of the Board of Trade work is at present done by English officials in Ireland. The 1729 working of the Factory and Workshops Act, and the amending of it, comes within the scope of the Irish Government. There will be presumably a Department for that work. Take it that there are breaches of the law—are you going to hinder the English Board sending over officials to the Irish Department in regard to cases where the common interests of a particular trade are at stake in the two countries? There is another and more serious example which, I think, has not occurred to any person, and that is in connection with the administration of the Criminal Law. I should like to know, if you omit this Clause, what is going to happen in the case of a person who breaks the law in Ireland and escapes over to this side. It appears to me that the state of things would then be that you would have to wait until an Irish officer came with an Irish warrant before you could arrest that person. Therefore, you see that the omission of the Clause would absolutely strike at the economic and efficient working of the whole Act, whether on the civil side, or in regard to the administration of the Criminal Law. There are other cases which might be mentioned, but I do not intend to trouble the House with them. I think those who are anxious for the efficient working of the Bill, and for harmonious co-operation between the new Irish Government and the Government of Great Britain, and who desire efficient management and economical administration in the interest of the British taxpayer as well as the Irish taxpayer, will support the retention of the Clause, believing that to strike it out would be to set up a certain cause of friction between the two Governments.
§ Mr. MOORE
I do not think the hon. Member (Mr. Lardner) fully appreciates the point. Our case is this: We do not say that you are going to transfer the reserved service under this Clause at all, but we do say that while you nominally keep the reserved service as it is, you are going to put the whole administration and working of it in the hands of the Irish Parliament. It is the grievance occasioned by this that causes the fraud upon the Act—for a legal fraud it would be—and the injury to Ireland. The hon. Gentleman does not meet that when he quotes Clauses 45 and 46. It only arises, as the House will see by looking at the proposal, when you have set the machinery in operation by which you can transfer the administration of a reserved service. You have to get the 1730 approval of both Houses, as provided for in Clauses 45 and 46, but that has nothing to do with the case we have put forward. Where you retain a service in your own hands, you transfer the administration of it to the Irish Government. See how this matter really works. Those reserved services are put in because the theory is that the Government, who are quite prepared to hand over, the control of the Irish Protestants to hon. Members below the Gangway, are not going to trust them with the Savings Bank and the Land Purchase Department, because they have an interest in them. It is altogether to maintain credit for these particular departments, because the Government cannot afford to have public confidence shaken in them, and they say they are going to keep these in their own hands. I was going down the road early last year before this Bill was explained, and I met a poor old woman who said to me that she and her sister had been saving all their lives and had their money in the Post Office Savings Bank. She asked, "Would you advise me to take it out"? and I said, "I would not touch it. I would leave it in the Post Office Savings Bank, because it is still under the control of the British Government." In fact, when I gave her that advice the Bill had not been printed, or, at any rate, it was quite early in the proceedings. At that time I was not conscious of Clause 40, but if I had been aware of its existence, I would not have given that advice, because we have it now made perfectly clear by the hon. Gentleman what the view of the Nationalist party is. The Government may say, "We are going to reserve the Post Office Savings Bank as a reserved service, and the people will have the same confidence as ever," but the hon. Gentleman says, "We are going to have the administration of it."
§ Mr. LARDNER
I never said anything of the sort. I said it would be much cheaper for this country to carry out the administration of the Post Office Savings Bank through the Irish Post Office than to set up another set of officials all over the country.
§ Mr. MOORE
I do not think there is any difference between us. The hon. Gentleman said it would be impossible to have an Imperial official with a separate office for the Savings Bank in every part of Ireland. He said that in little country towns where a woman sells stamps you 1731 will have to allow her to do the duties of the Post Office Savings Bank. He said that the Government are not transferring the service, and that this is a mere matter of administration. He also stated that the Clause is to enable the transfer of the administration to the Irish Post Office. I am not misprepresenting the hon. Gentleman. He said there is only to be one official in Ireland for these services—what the Chief Secretary calls petty services. Hon. Members below the Gangway never seem to realise—or if they do they are the last people to tell the House about it—that there is a large section in Ireland who have the most profound distrust of their administration, and if you take the Savings Bank depositor and tell him that the security of the bank will not be affected by allowing the British Parliament to appoint the nearest head of the United Irish League, or of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, to conduct his deposit business—for the appointments will go on political lines—that at once would hit at all confidence in the Post Office Savings Bank.
§ The POSTMASTER GENERAL (Mr. Herbert Samuel)
Does the hon. Gentleman suggest that the security of the Post Office Savings Bank would be in any way affected?
§ Mr. MOORE
If I was wrong in saying "security," I agree that under this Clause, while the Post Office Savings Bank remains a reserved service, the Post Office in London is, of course, responsible for every penny. I never suggested otherwise. [An HON. MEMBER: "You said security."] The point I was making was that it is perfectly plain that if you put in the hands of a local opponent knowledge of a depositor's private affairs, and if she is asked to subscribe to the league, and says she has no money, the official will be able to say, "Why I got £10 from you on deposit last week." Then a person who is asked to subscribe to this or that, and declines, may be subjected to persecution. Every depositor is entitled to have a sense of security that his affairs will be carried on in secrecy when he deposits in the Post Office. There are two sorts of security 1732 One is about getting one's money back. I do not think that that is affected because the Department retains responsibility. But, after all, what trust is left when the Postmaster-General hands over, under this Clause, the working of an Irish Post Office Savings Bank to persons such as I have described, or rather to a Department which makes appointments such as I have described? The Postmaster-General may say, if anything goes wrong, "I am very sorry, but I was here in London and could not do any more. The Irish Department appointed a wrong person; I am sorry it did not appoint a better person. I am responsible for the money, but I had to delegate the duties."
What relief is it to the person who is suffering to say that you keep on responsibility for the money deposited? You may think you have discharged your duty to the public by saying so, but I say you have not. You have no right to put a depositor in the position that he is subject to illegal pressure and disclosure of his private affairs. The very instant you begin to delegate what you say you keep yourself, namely, the reserved services, all this will come. Of course, the Postmaster-General says he does not believe it. It-does not suit him. When we say we believe it we are called prejudiced, but suppose it does happen, what relief is there for the depositor? It is made perfectly plain now in the case put forward by the hon. Member for North Monaghan that in every one of those reserved services the Irish Parliament is going to grab the administration by arrangement with the Government under this Clause. If that is so, this Clause is a fraud on the Bill, which says you are going to keep yourself the reserved services, while you are giving command of the working of them entirely over to the Irish Parliament. If the Chief Secretary represents not his own mind only, but the mind of the Government, something ought to be put in this Clause to limit it to merely ancillary matters and cases where there is no other way out of them, but not to leave it in the large form in which it is here, that although the Government is given no real control, it is willing to remain responsible and absolutely indifferent to the working of the thing. Some limitation or safeguard should be inserted to show that the Chief Secretary's assurances are not mere words, but are something which, in the view of the Government, ought to be carried into action.
§ Mr. AMERY
The House knows very well that again and again during these Debates right hon. Members on the Government side have appealed to the representatives from Ulster to ask what safeguards they required, and they have promised to introduce any reasonable safeguards. Here you have a Clause which, in their opinion, and certainly in my opinion, goes behind every existing safeguard of the Bill, slight as it is. All you are asked is to have the Clause so altered as not to go behind those safeguards. The right hon. Gentleman said, in his airy manner, as usual, that this Clause dealt with trifles, and was not meant for anything serious, but dealt only with administrative matters. Does the right hon. Gentleman remember that in November I asked him a question on this Clause as to the various matters not within the legislative purview of the Irish Parliament, which I specifically enumerated, and I asked if the administrative and Executive powers could be transferred to the Irish Government under the provision of Clause 40? The right hon. Gentleman, in reply, said:—The provision of Clause 40 are wide enough to include the making of agreements between Irish Departments and Departments of the United Kingdom Government with respect to the administration of the subject-matter enumerated in these two questions in any particular instance. Whether ouch an arrangement will be made will be a question to he determined if and when it arises by the Departments concerned with the consent of their respective Governments.It is perfectly clear that it was admitted by the right hon. Gentleman that the administrative control of all the most important services in Ireland may at any time, without the slightest reference to or consultation with this House, be transferred to the Executive Government in Ireland. It is true that, theoretically, responsibility remains with this House. Questions may be asked in this House, but what in fact will be the kind of answers given, or that the head of some Department in this House can give, after a transfer of a service has been in operation for some years? All he can say is the Irish Parliament advised him so and so. The answer may not be satisfactory. He may not think it satisfactory himself, but he cannot do anything. He cannot dismiss anybody who gives him an unsatisfactory answer, or acts in an unsatisfactory manner. This is not purely a speculative case. We have already had a most striking instance of it in the case of the Post Office. Hon Members on that side of the House pressed the Government very 1734 strongly, both here and outside this Chamber, as to the inadvisability of transferring to the Irish Government a matter like the Post Office, which is not only a matter of business convenience but a great question of strategy and defence, and in deference to their strong views the Postmaster-General has introduced an Amendment which reserves the whole postal service, in so far as it is a United Kingdom service, to this Parliament, and only leaves it open to the Irish Parliament to institute a local service. As far as the Bill stands, apart from Clause 40, the effect of the Bill will be to leave the Post Office in Ireland and the postal service exactly where they are to-day, in the hands of the United Kingdom Parliament, though the Irish Government may afterwards, if they like, set up a local service between Dublin and Belfast on their own responsibility in their own new offices, or if they like to approach the United Kingdom postal service in the post offices of the United Kingdom.
We have also had it made plain by the Postmaster-General, the Chief Secretary, and the Attorney-General that the Government have already made up their minds to transfer the whole postal service and the Post Office staff to the Irish Government. In other words the whole administrative power is to be transferred and the responsibility will remain. How is it going to be exercised. Suppose two or three years after the transfer a great deal of petty pilfering went on in the post offices in Ireland, what power has the Postmaster-General got? He will be responsible for the United Kingdom postal services, but if people post letters here and they do not arrive safely, what can he do to make them arrive safely? He can complain, but what redress can he get for his complaint? Take again the case of war, or the danger of war. It may be a vital matter in a critical period, if a member of the postal service is suspected of carelessness or laxity to dismiss hint on the spot or transfer him to another place. How can you do that in Ireland when the whole thing has been handed over? How can you insure that if secret measures are taken to open letters for the purposes of censorship, which is an absolutely essential precaution in time of war, those measures will be effectually taken in Irish post offices? So yon have here already a very vital reserved service under the Home Rule Bill, which, nevertheless, we are already told by the right hon. Gentleman opposite is going to be transferred in fact to the Irish 1735 Parliament. This is not one of those minor points which the hon. Member for North Monaghan mentioned. This is a great Imperial interest; it may be a very vital Imperial interest that all correspondence should be opened, stopped, or otherwise dealt with as the safety of the Empire demands.
If that is done already to-day, when there is some desire to attempt to make people believe that there are safeguards in the Bill, what will be the position a few years hence when a Government, again in the plight of the present Government, dependent for its existence on the votes of Irish members, transfers other services. The right hon. Gentleman says they would not be transferred in a lump. Nobody suggests that these services should be transferred in a lump. What we fear is that inch by inch, service by service, the administration will be given over, while the pretence of responsibility is kept up, and later on the pretence of responsibility is thrown aside, and the Minister will get up in this House and say, "After all, hon. Members must recognise facts. This service has been administered by Ireland for several years. Unless you ask us to have an open breach with the Irish Government and take it over again by force, we have no redress; we must recognise the situation." One of the things we complain most of, over and above the complications and difficulties which the Bill itself creates, is that there are vast areas of possible difficulty left open to private arrangements and private treaty and negotiations between the Governments. You have had all through the discussions on finance the continual answer of the Postmaster-General that it would be settled by the House of Commons at the time whether certain things are Imperial or domestic services, and so on and similarly the question of what are called the reserved services will be really a matter for the Executive Government at the time to settle at its own convenience whenever it wants the necessary number of votes.
§ Mr. BUTCHER
The questions raised by this Clause are very serious and of great importance, at any rate on the assumption that this Bill ever passes into law. The position under the Bill is that the Imperial Government is responsible for the reserved services, including such important matters as land purchase, old age pensions, national insurance, and the collec- 1736 tion of taxes. Under the Bill the Imperial Government is appointing no staff of Executive officers to deal with these services, and instead of making provisions, as the Government ought to have done if they wanted the Bill to be effective, enabling them to appoint Executive officers who would be responsible to them for carrying out the services, this Clause proposes that the powers and duties of the Imperial Government in regard to reserved services may be delegated or handed over to an Irish Department. The question has been asked of the Chief Secretary, would it be possible under this Clause for the Imperial Government to hand over all its duties and powers in relation to a reserved service to an Irish Department. My hon. Friend, the Member for Birmingham, has referred to an answer which the Chief Secretary gave to that question in last November. Certainly it is surprising, after the answer which the Chief Secretary gave to the effect that these powers can be delegated or transferred without any exception, to find the right hon. Gentleman telling us to-day that such a transfer would be "absurd and illegal." I think I am right in saying that those were his words. As regards the absurdity, when a particular interpretation of a Clause of this Bill leads to absurdity, and it is said that therefore the interpretation must be wrong, to my mind that is a very strong assumption indeed, and if the test were applied to all the Clauses of this Bill, then all I can say is that it would be found that is not the experience we have had in the course of these Debates. The Chief Secretary tells us further that such a transfer would be illegal. I suppose he means that it is contrary to the terms of the Bill, on the assumption that it is going to become an Act. The words of the Bill provide for the transferring of any powers or duties in relation to the reserved services. Where does the right hon. Gentleman get the limitation? If the Imperial Government can transfer any powers and duties, why should it not transfer all its powers and duties in relation to the reserved services? The hon. Member for Monaghan (Mr. Lardner) came to the rescue of the Chief Secretary, and said he noticed that the only powers and duties that could be transferred under this Clause were administrative powers and duties. I observed that the Chief Secretary cheered that statement, and I understood from those cheers that he agreed with the view of the hon. Member for Monaghan.
§ Mr. BIRRELL
That is what I said in answer to a question put to me. I said that with respect to administrative matters referred to there was no restriction in this Clause as to what could be transferred.
§ Mr. BUTCHER
If that is the meaning, is there any objection to putting words into the Clause to make it. clear that only administrative powers are to be transferred?—"the exercise and performance on behalf of the Department of any administrative powers and duties." If that be the meaning of the Clause, there can be no objection to saying it. If that is not the meaning, and if it is intended to give some wider power of transference, then I cannot understand the Chief Secretary's observations. It seems to me essential that some words should be put into the Clause to make that sure.
Again suppose those Irish officers who are to carry out duties in connection with a reserved service fail in their duty, suppose they do not obey the order of the Imperial Government, or suppose that, without disobedience, they are neglectful of the duties they have to discharge, what is the remedy? The Imperial Government cannot dismiss them because they are not their servants. What is the Imperial Government to do? They can withdraw some of the duties from those officers. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I do not think that will carry hon. Gentlemen much further. Supposing they withdrew those duties from the servants of the Irish Government, who are to be appointed? [An HON. MEMBER: "Others."] They have no power to appoint their own officers, and therefore they would have to go to the Irish Government and say, "You have got such incompetent servants under you that they do not carry out the duties which we delegated to them. Will you kindly appoint some competent officers to act under us."
I can understand the answer of the Irish Government, who would say, "We are the best judges as to whether our servants are competent or incompetent, and we certainly shall not dismiss them." There may be an answer to this point, but I do not know what it is. I ask the Postmaster-General to tell us, supposing those Irish officers do not discharge the duties delegated to them in a satisfactory manner, what is the real remedy of the Imperial Government? As I have pointed out, the Imperial Government cannot dismiss them and appoint others, and certainly, if the 1738 Irish Government would not dismiss them and appoint others, the result would be an entire deadlock. Let us remember that this is a matter which not only affects Ireland, but affects Great Britain, which I think has been very often too much neglected in the course of these Debates. Great Britain is certainly responsible for these reserved services, and the taxpayers of Great Britain have got to pay for them, and unless the reserved services are properly carried on, and their duties properly discharged, Great Britain will greatly sutler. Therefore I do ask the Postmaster-General to consider for a moment the interests of Great Britain, and tell us how, under this Clause, these interests can be safeguarded, and how we are to get Irish officers who are competent to discharge the duties which will devolve upon them. The truth is, and the remark is applicable to many of the Clauses of the Bill, that this Clause was originally drafted badly, and without sufficient consideration. It was never discussed for one moment in Committee, which is the only real opportunity for discussing and amending complicated provisions of this description. Now we are driven, on the last day of the Report stage of this Bill, to consider a Clause of which no adequate explanation has yet been given, though many difficulties have been pointed out, and we have tried to induce the Government, at the eleventh hour, to make some alteration and Amendment so that it may work properly. This is all part and parcel of what I may call the scandal under which these proceedings have been conducted throughout, and I trust the Postmaster-General will be able to give us some explanation.
§ Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
The hon. Member who has moved this Amendment proposes to the House that this Clause should be altogether omitted. I submit to the House, on the contrary, that the Clause is essential to the smooth and businesslike administration of the matters which have to be dealt with. My own Department perhaps affords the best illustration of the way in which one Department of the State may assist other Departments. The Post Office is to some extent maid-of-all-work for other Departments. For instance, on behalf of the Treasury, we pay week by week many hundreds of thousands of pounds for old ago pensions. On behalf of the Board of Trade we assist the working of the Labour Exchanges Act. For the local authorities we collect motor licences. In aid of the War Office we exhibit notices 1739 with regard to recruiting, and so forth. And the most recent duty which has been thrown upon us is to assist, as we are very glad to do, in the administration of the National Insurance Act. Only within the last day or two I have been asked to give permission for the exhibition in our post offices of lists of doctors for the insured. As to this, my officers inform me that they were rather reluctant to give permission in London, because the list of doctors is so bulky that the smaller offices might be overcrowded when people were turning over the pages. These are merely matters of illustration of the way in which one Imperial Department does assist other Imperial Departments in their duties. It is a right and proper thing, if we establish Home Rule in Ireland and there are Irish Departments, that those Departments also, where it is convenient for both parties, should render similar assistance to the Imperial Departments which have functions to perform in Ireland. That is the purpose of the Clause. The hon. and learned Member opposite has mentioned the Savings Bank. It has been made quite clear from the beginning—I have myself stated again and again in answers to questions—that there is no intention whatever of maintaining over the whole of Ireland a network of Savings Bank agencies apart from the Irish post offices. The hon. Gentleman opposite pointed out very forcibly that such a scheme would really be quite impracticable and most wasteful, and just as post offices in England, Scotland, and Wales act as agents for the Savings Bank—which is really a distinct organisation, with its own office, its own balance-sheet, and its own correspondence, so in Ireland the post offices there will act similarly.
Then it was suggested by the hon. Member for South Birmingham (Mr. Amery) that if it was really intended to carry out the provisions of the Act with regard to the Post Office being under the control of the Postmaster-General here in respect of foreign correspondence and in respect of the United Kingdom correspondence, we should require two separate Post Offices all over Ireland. Hon. Members will have seen places where there are double pillar-boxes and persons are requested to post in one orifice letters intended for London, and in the other orifice letters intended for the provinces or abroad. I am not quite sure whether that is the correct division, but it is something of the kind. It really can- 1740 not be suggested that in every town and village of Ireland there shall be two Post Offices, and that if a person wants a 2½d. stamp to send a letter to a foreign country, he must go to the Imperial Post Office, and there post the letter, and if he wants a penny stamp to send a letter to some town or village from Dublin or Belfast, he must go into the Irish Post Office next door. Obviously the method proper for adoption is that the Irish Government should have their own local Post Offices, and, in the administration of those Post Offices, in so far as correspondence was intended to be Imperial, they would act on behalf of the Imperial Post Office. That is the intention of the Bill, and that will be the application of this Clause. There will be no more difficulty in making such arrangements than there is now in sending letters from here to France, which will be delivered in France by the French Post Office, though that Post Office is not under the control of the British Postmaster-General. It has been suggested that this Clause might be twisted to serve a much more formidable and a quite illegitimate purpose. The Leader of the Opposition, in the speech he made earlier in the afternoon, used these words, which I noted at the time:—There is a great probabilityI emphasise those words—that theintentions of this House will be evaded. It the whole of the duties of the reserved service are transferred then those services will no longer he reserved at all.I listened with care to the latter part of his speech in order to follow the development of his argument, and to hear the proof that there was great probability that these things would occur. He offered no such proof; he advanced no such argument; he was able to indicate no case in which there was any probability of these things occurring. What he did say was that if the Imperial Government were to transfer to Irish Departments the administration of the collection of Customs and Excise, that then certain regulations might have to be altered and results which this House did not desire would follow. He gave us as a second illustration if the Imperial Government chose to leave to an Irish Department the determination of the persons who should have old age pensions, that then old age pensions would become much more expensive. No doubt that is very true. He gave us as a third illustration that if the Imperial Government were to transfer to an Irish Minister control of the constabulary during the first six years, 1741 that then that constabulary would not be under the command of the Imperial Government as it otherwise would be and as it is intended to be by this Bill. But not one solitary proof did he give, or attempt to give, and I am within the recollection of the House that these things, which undoubtedly are conceivable possibilities, are to be regarded as great probabilities, not a reason he advanced for thinking that any of these things would in fact be done. He said that our answer would be that we should say to him, "You are assuming that the Irish would be very unreasonable to ask those transfers" That is not our answer. Our assumption is that the Imperial Government would be exceedingly foolish to make such transfers, and the Imperial Parliament would be very neglectful of its duties if it were to allow them, under such circumstances.
True, those things are quite possible—quite true, as the hon. Member who moved the Amendment said, that the Postmaster-General under this Clause might have the legal power to hand over the administration of the affairs of the telegraph service to the Irish Board of Agriculture. I dare say that the Postmaster-General now at this moment in this country has the power to hand over all his functions, so far as Statute is concerned, to the President of the Board of Agriculture. [An HON. MEMBER: "No, no."] I do not know that there is any statutory bar to doing so. The suggestion is absurd, but not more absurd than the instance given by an hon. Member opposite, who solemnly mentioned the transfer of the telegraph to the Board of Agriculture. I dare say there is no Statute which prevents the First Lord of the Admiralty transferring the care of his duties to the First Commissioner of Works. Those things, in fact, are not done and cannot be done, because if any Minister attempted a folly of that character he would receive an early intimation from the Prime Minister that considerations of health rendered it advisable he should seek a rest, and if that course were not taken by the head of the Government one may be quite sure this House would immediately demand the Minister's head upon a charger. So it would be in these cases. Really, I suggest to the House that hon. Members opposite are straining possibilities too much when they suggest we should deliberately tear up one of the plain provisions and disregard the obvious meaning of this Bill, and transfer wholesale to Irish Departments, in defiance or in forgetfulness of the control over Minis- 1742 ters which always resides in this House, functions which are clearly intended by the Bill to remain in the hands of Imperial officers.
§ Mr. BUTCHER
Will the right hon. Gentleman answer my question? What is to happen if the Irish officers do not do their duty?
§ Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
The first people to suffer would be the Irish themselves, and they would very soon bring them to book.
§ Mr. MITCHELL-THOMSON
I do not wish to refer to the nature of the responsibility of the Irish Ministers, as that has been pressed by my hon. Friend, but there are three questions which I desire to put to the Government, and which I think arise out of this discussion. First, let me say that the right hon. Gentleman's defence consists in drawing a line between what we may call major and minor duties of administration. He says that this Clause is intended for minor duties. That line of demarcation exists solely in the Postmaster-General's imagination. It does not exist on paper or in the Bill. I do not think there is anything to prevent any or all of the powers of an Imperial Department being transferred at any time to the officials of an Irish Department. My first question is whether there is any precedent for this Clause. When it is convenient we hear a great deal about Colonial precedents and analogies. The only precedent quoted so far was that by my hon. Friend, who moved the Amendment, from the South African case, and that was against the Government. I should have thought that by this time the Government might at least have been able to say whether there is any precedent. My second question has reference to the remarks of the hon. Member for North Monaghan (Mr. Lardner). He said, if I understand him aright, that my hon. Friend who moved this Amendment was talking nonsense when he said that these arrangements might be made by telegraph or telephone, and that it was quite absurd to say that arrangements could be so made. The view of the hon. Member for Monaghan is that those arrangements for transfer would have to be made by Order in Council under Clause 45. I own personally that is not my reading of Clause 45. I am curious to know whether I am right in thinking that these arrangements could in fact be made, I do not say by telegraph or telephone, but by minute of a Depart- 1743 ment, and do not require the whole machinery of an Order in Council. Am I right, or is the hon. Member for Monaghan right? I believe that could be done by minute.
§ Mr. BIRRELL
I do not myself think that it would be necessary to obtain an Order in Council to enable a department in charge of a reserved service to employ an Irish Department to do some administrative act.
§ Mr. MITCHELL-THOMSON
That is a perfectly frank admission. I only wanted to get that in order to show how entirely beside the mark was the whole of that part of the speech of the hon. Member for Monaghan, which was founded on the assumption that we should have behind these transfers of administrative officers what he called the security of the Order in Council. He was very strong on the fact that it would have to go before the two Houses. The plain fact, which the Chief Secretary admits, is that these transfers can take place by minute of the Department.
§ Mr. MITCHELL-THOMSON
With the consent of the heads of the Departments. The Chief Secretary docs not suppose when he is going to make an arrangement of this kind with the Irish Local Government Board, he is going to consult formally with the Prime Minister or the Cabinet. Everybody knows the sort of arrangements which the right hon. Gentleman has in mind, and which are Departmental matters. My third question is this: The House will have noted that these transfers are to be made on what the Bill calls agreed terms. I
§ take it agreed terms means payment by the Imperial Government for the discharge of duties by the Irish Government. I take rather a serious view of that matter. I do not think financial arrangements of that kind ought to be made by minute of the Deparement behind the back of the House of Commons. I think it is all the more dangerous when we consider that the political situation in future may be not at all unlike the political situation in the present. If this Bill went through there might be a Ministry in this country dependent for its existence on the support of hon. Gentlemen from Ireland. Is it not, at all events, a possible assumption which we are to guard against that those Gentlemen from Ireland might demand, as the price of their support of the Government, the transfer of certain administrative services to Irish Departments. That is a contingency which is more than possible. It is not even so remote as some hon. Gentlemen appear to think. I should not be a bit surprised if it should happen in the near future, and I suspect strongly that in those conferences which took place before the Bill was introduced that there was something of the kind suggested.
§ Mr. MITCHELL-THOMSON
At all events, I think those financial arrange-arrangements ought to be carefully scrutinised, and ought not to be done as this Clause proposes, behind the back of the House of Commons by minute of the Department.
§ Question put, "That the words of the Clause to the word 'duties' ["any powers, or duties"], standpart of the Bill."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 248; Noes, 129.1747
|Division No. 510.]||AYES.||[5.55 p.m.|
|Abraham, William (Dublin, Harbour)||Boyle, D. (Mayo, North)||Craig, Herbert J. (Tynemouth)|
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Brady, P. J.||Crawshay-Williams, Eliot|
|Addison, Dr. Christopher||Brocklehurst, W. B.||Crean, Eugene|
|Agnew, Sir George William||Brunner, John F. L.||Crumley, Patrick|
|Alden, Percy||Bryce, J. Annan||Cullinan, J.|
|Allen, Arthur A. (Dumbarton)||Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Dalziel, Rt. Hon. S. J. H. (Kirkcaldy)|
|Allen, Rt. Hon. Charles P. (Stroud)||Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Davies, David (Montgomery Co.)|
|Arnold, Sydney||Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, North)||Davies, E. William (Eifion)|
|Baker, H. T. (Accrington)||Byles, Sir William Pollard||Davies, Timothy (Lines., Louth)|
|Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.)||Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Dawes, James Arthur|
|Balfour, Sir Robert (Lanark)||Cawley, H. T. (Lancs., Heywood)||De Forest, Baron|
|Barlow, Sir John Emmott (Somerset)||Chapple, Dr. William Allen||Delany, William|
|Beale, Sir William Phipson||Clancy, John Joseph||Devlin, Joseph|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Clough, William||Dickinson, W. H.|
|Beck, Arthur Cecil||Clynes, John R.||Donelan, Captain A.|
|Benn, W. W. (T. Hamlets, St. Geo.)||Collins, Stephen (Lambeth)||Doris, W.|
|Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine||Compton-Rickett, Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Duffy, William J.|
|Boland, John Plus||Condon, Thomas Joseph||Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)|
|Booth, Frederick Handel||Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Duncan, J. Hastings (Yorks, Otley)|
|Edwards, Clement (Glamorgan, E.)||Lardner, James Carrige Rushe||Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.)|
|Esmonde, Dr. John (Tipperary, N.)||law, Hugh A. (Donegal, West)||Pringle, William M. R.|
|Esmonde, Sir Thomas (Wexford, N.)||Lawson, Sir W. (Cumb'rld, Cockerm'th)||Radford, G. H.|
|Esslemont, George Birnle||Leach, Charles||Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (South Shields)|
|Falconer, J.||Levy, Sir Maurice||Reddy, M.|
|Farrell, James Patrick||Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)|
|Fenwick, Rt. Hon. Charles||Lundon, Thomas||Redmond, William Archer (Tyrone, E.)'|
|Ferens, Rt. Hon. Thomas Robinson||Lyell, Charles Henry||Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)|
|Ffrench, Peter||Lynch, A. A.||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)|
|Field, William||Macdonaid, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)||Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)|
|Fitzgibbon, John||McGhee, Richard||Roberts, Sir H. (Denbighs)|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||Maclean, Donald||Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradford)|
|George, Rt. Hon. David Lloyd||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T, J.||Robinson, Sidney|
|Gilhooly, James||MacNeill, J. G. Swift (Donegal, South)||Roch, Walter F.|
|Ginnell, L.||Macpherson, James Ian||Roche, Augustine (Louth)|
|Glanville, Harold James||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Roche, John (Galway, E.)|
|Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford||M'Callum, Sir John M.||Rowlands, James|
|Goldstone, Frank||M'Kean, John||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter|
|Greenwood, Hamar (Sunderland)||McKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Russell, Rt. Hon. Thomas W.|
|Greig. Colonel J. W.||Markham. Sir Arthur Basil||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)|
|Griffith, Ellis J.||Marks, Sir George Croydon||Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Guest, Major Hon. C. H. C. (Pembroke)||Marshall, Arthur Harold||Scanlan, Thomas|
|Guest, Hon. Frederick E. (Dorset, E.)||Mason, David M. (Coventry)||Schwann, Rt. Hen. Sir C E.|
|Guiney, P.||Masterman, Rt. Hon. C. F. G.||Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)|
|Hackett, J.||Meagher, Michael||Sheehy, David|
|Harcourt, Rt. Hon. L. (Rossendale)||Meehan, Francis (Leitrim, N.)||Sherwell, Arthur James|
|Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)||Menzies, Sir Walter||Shortt, Edward|
|Hardie, J. Keir||Millar, James Duncan||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John Allsebrook|
|Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochale)||Molloy, M.||Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.)|
|Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, W.)||Molteno. Percy Alport||Soames, Arthur Wellesley|
|Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)||Mond, Sir Alfred Moritz||Spicer, Rt. Hon. Sir Albert|
|Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry||Morrell, Philip||Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West).|
|Hayden, John Patrick||Morison, Hector||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radeliffe)|
|Hayward, Evan||Munro, R.||Tennant, Harold John|
|Hazleton, Richard||Murray, Cant. Hon. A. C.||Thomas, J. H.|
|Healy, Timothy Michael (Cork, N.E.)||Nannetti, Joseph P.||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Hemmerde, Edward George||Neilson, Francis||Toulmin, Sir George|
|Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||Nicholson, Sir G. N. (Doncaster)||Verney, Sir Harry|
|Henderson, J. M. (Aberdeen, W.)||Nolan, Joseph||Wadsworth, J.|
|Henry, Sir Charles||Norton, Captain Cecil W.||Walsh, J. (Cork, South)|
|Herbert, General Sir Ivor (Mon., S.)||Nugent, Sir Walter Richard||Walton, Sir Joseph|
|Higham, John Sharp||Nuttall, Harry||Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Hinds, John||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)|
|Hobhouse, Rt. Hon. Charles E. H.||O'Brien, William (Cork)||Wardle, George J.|
|Hodge, John||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)||Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay|
|Holmes, Daniel Turner||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)||Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)|
|Horne, C. Silvester (Ipswich)||O'Doherty, Philip||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||O'Donnell, Thomas||Watt, Henry A.|
|Hudson, Walter||O'Dowd, John||Webb, H.|
|Isaacs, Rt. Hon. Sir Rufus||O'Grady, James||Wedgwood. Josiah C.|
|Jones, Rt.Hon.Sir D.Brynmor (Swansea)||O'Kelly, Edward P. (Wicklow, W.)||White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston)|
|Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth)||O'Kelly, James (Roscommon, N.)||White, Fatrick (Meath, North)|
|Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)||O'Malley, William||Whitehouse, John Howard|
|Jones, Leif Stratten (Rushcliffe)||O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.)||Whittaker, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas P.|
|Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.||Whyte, A. F. (Perth)|
|Jones, W. S. Glyn- (T. H'mts, Stepney)||O'Shee, James John||Wiles, Thomas|
|Jowett, Frederick William||O'Sullivan, Timothy||Williams, Llewelyn (Carmarthen)|
|Joyce, Michael||Outhwaite, R. L.||Williamson, Sir Archibald|
|Keating, Matthew||Palmer, Godfrey Mark||Wood, Rt. Hon. T. McKinnon (Glas.)|
|Kellaway, Frederick George||Pearce, William (Limehouse)||Young, Samuel (Cavan, East)|
|Kennedy, Vincent Paul||Pearson, Hon. Weetman H. M.||Young, William (Perth, East)|
|Kilbride, Denis||Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A. (Rotherham)||Yoxall, Sir James Henry|
|King, J.||Phillips, John (Longford, S.)|
|Lambert, Rt. Hon. G. (Devon,S.Molton);||Pointer, Joseph||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Mr.|
|Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)||Illingworth and Mr. Gulland.|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Bull, Sir William James||Cory, Sir Clifford John|
|Amery, L. C. M. S.||Burdett-Coutts, W.||Craig, Charles (Antrim, S.)|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major William||Burn, Colonel C. R.||Craig, Ernest (Cheshire, Crewe)|
|Astor, Waldorf||Butcher, J. G.||Crichton-Stuart, Lord Niniari|
|Baird, J. L.||Campion, W. R.||Cripps, Sir Charles Alfred|
|Balcarres, Lord||Carlile, Sir Edward Hildred||Croft, H. P.|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Cassel, Felix||Dalziei, Davison (Brixton)|
|Barrie, H. T.||Castlereagh, Viscount||Dickson, Rt. Hon. C. Scott|
|Bathurst, Hon. A. B. (Glouc, E.)||Cator, John||Duke, Henry Edward|
|Bathurst, Charles (Wilts, Wilton)||Cauticy, H. S.||Eyres-Monsell, B. M.|
|Benn, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth)||Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Falle, Bertram Godfray|
|Bennett-Goldney, Francis||Cecil, Lord R. (Herts, Hitchin)||Fell, Arthur|
|Biglaud. Alfred||Chaloner, Col. R. G. W.||Fetherstonhaugh, Godfrey|
|Blair, Reginald||Chambers, J.||Finlay, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert|
|Boscawen, Sir Arthur S. T. Griffith-||Clyde, J. Avon||Fisher, Rt. Hon. W. Hayes|
|Bridgeman, W. Clive||Cooper, Richard Ashmola||Fitzroy, Hon. Edward A.|
|Flannery, Sir J. Fortescue||Ingleby, Holcombe||Samuel, Sir Harry (Norwood)|
|Fleming, Valentine||Jessel, Captain H. M.||Sanderson, Lancelot|
|Gastrell, Major W. H.||Kebty-Fletcher, J. R.||Sandys, G. J.|
|Glazebrook, Capt. Philip K.||Kerr-Smiley, Peter Kerr||Sassoon, Sir Philip|
|Gordon, John (Londonderry, South)||Kerry, Earl of||Scott, Leslie (Liverpool, Exchange)|
|Gordon, Hon. John Edward (Brighton)||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir clement||Smith, Rt. Hon. F. E. (L'p'l. Walton)|
|Goulding, Edward Alfred||Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Bootle)||Stanley, Hon. Arthur (Ormskirk)|
|Grant, J. A.||Lloyd, G. A.||Stanley, Hon. G. F. (Preston)|
|Guinness, Hon.W.E. (Bury S.Edmunds)||Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury)||Staveley-Hill, Henry|
|Gwynne, R. S. (Sussex, Eastbourne)||Lockwood, Rt. Hon. Lt.-Col. A. R.||Steel-Maitland, A. D.|
|Hall, D. B. (Isle of Wight)||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. A. (S. Geo.,Han. S.)||Sykes, Mark (Hull, Central)|
|Hall, Fred (Dulwich)||Lyttelton, Hon. J. C. (Droitwich)||Talbot, Lord E.|
|Hardy, Rt. Hon. Laurence||MacCaw, Wm. J. MacGeagh||Terrell, G. (Wilts, N.W.)|
|Harris, Henry Percy||M'Neill, Ronald (Kent, St. Augustine's)||Thomson, W. Mitchell- (Down, North)|
|Harrison-Broadley, H. B.||Magnus, Sir Philip||Thynne, Lord Alexander|
|Helmsley, Viscount||Malcolm, Ian||Touche, George Alexander|
|Henderson, Major H. (Berks, Abingdon)||Middlemore, John Throgmorton||Tryon, Captain George Clement|
|Herbert, Hon. A. (Somerset, S.)||Moore, William||Valentia, Viscount|
|Hewins, William Albert Samuel||Nield, Herbert||Walrond, Hon. Lionel|
|Hill, Sir Clement L.||O'Neill, Hon. A. E. B. (Antrim, MId)||White, Major G. D. (Lancs., Southport)|
|Hills, John Waller||Parker, Sir Gilbert (Gravesend)||Wilson, A. Stanley (Yorks, E.R.)|
|Hoare, Samuel John Gurney||Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)||Worthington-Evans, L.|
|Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Peel, Captain R. F.||Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George|
|Hope. James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||Peto, Basil Edward||Yate, Col. Charles Edward|
|Hope, Major J. A. (Midlothian)||Pollock, Ernest Murray|
|Houston, Robert Paterson||Pryce-Jones, Col. E.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Mr.|
|Hunt, Rowland||Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)||Joynson-Hicks and Sir J. D. Rees.|
|Hunter, Sir C. R.||Salter, Arthur Clavell|
§ Mr. S. ROBERTS
I beg to move, after the word "duties" ["duties of that Department by officers of an Irish Department"], to insert the words, "not being powers or duties relating to Customs or Excise Duties."
My excuse for moving this Amendment, on behalf of my right hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Chaplin), is the very great importance of the subject. That which the Amendment seeks to prevent is clearly within the intention of the Government, because the Chief Secretary in answer to one of my hon. Friends on 4th November, said:—The provisions of Clause 10 are wide enough to include the making of arrangements between an Irish Department and a Department of the United Kingdom with respect to the administration of the subject matters enumerated—and one of the subjects enumerated is the collection of taxes. Both the Government and the Nationalist party place very great importance on the question of Customs and Excise. We know very well that the Nationalist party were very anxious that they alone should have the control of the Customs and Excise in Ireland, and it was the Government who resisted that claim, and especially a large part of their followers, as was evidenced by an Amendment moved the other day. But I rely still further in support of this Amendment upon a statement made by the Postmaster-General on 20th November on the Report stage of the Financial Resolution. I must trouble the House by quoting what was stated on that occasion, because it is really my chief reason for urging the Government to fulfil now the promise then given. On the previous even- 1748 ing the Leader of the Opposition had made a speech in which he argued that under this Bill the Irish Government could setup a system of Protection. In the speech from which I am about to quote the Postmaster-General gave reasons why the Irish Government could not under this Bill set up any system of Protection, and he alluded to the speech made by the Leader of the Opposition in these terms:—The right hon. Gentleman hits given no proofs at all—that is no proof that Protection could be set up.The proof he gave last night from Sir Thomas Pittar, in which what he said was based on the assumption that the Irish Parliament would have the control of revenue restrictions—would have the management of the bonded system in Ireland, and would be able to differentiate the regulations with respect to tobacco in bond. I interrupted him, as he had obviously been misled by his informants, to point out that such powers were not vested in the Irish Parliament, that they had no control over these matters, and that all Customs and Excise restrictions were in the hands of the Imperial Government as a portion of the machinery for the collection of revenue.Mr. Bonar Law: That may be the intention of the Government, but I do not find it in the Bill nor in the Amendment, for this reason: It is a reserved service. So are old age pensions. Does the right hon. Gentleman contend that because old age pensions are a reserved service, therefore it will be done by' British officials? In the same way does he now say that the Irish Government will have nothing whatever to do with the appointment or control of any officials in Ireland dealing with Customs or Excise?Mr. Herbert Samuel: Certainly, I say that.Mr. Bonar Law: It is not in the Bill.Mr. Herbert Samuel: It has been clearly stated from the beginning that that is the intention. As it is a reserved service, and as there is nothing in the Bill to transfer it to the Irish Parliament, unquestionably these officers are retained in the hands of the Imperial Parliament, and, until this moment, through all out-long Debates no one has ever suggested for an instate that the Excise and Customs officers are to be officers of the Irish Government. All our Debates have proceeded 1749 on the assumption of the contrary, and, indeed, the right hon. Gentleman and his Friends have again and again pointed out the inconvenience, as they regard it, of having the Excise officers appointed by the Imperial Parliament, while the police officers would be controlled, after an interval of years, by the Irish Government.Then comes the statement to which I wish to call the attention of the Government and of the House. My hon. Friend the Member for North Down (Mr. Mitchell-Thomson) interrupted and said—Do I understand the right hon. Gentleman to say-that the British Government do not intend to avail themselves in regard to Customs and Excise of the provisions of Clause 40?That was the question interjected. What did the Postmaster-General say in reply?Mr. Herbert Samuel: Certainly, we do.Mr. Bonar Law: Why not put it ill the Bill?Mr. Herbert Samuel: There is no reason to put it in the Bill. We should have put it in the Bill if it were otherwise."—(OFFICIAL REPORT, 20h November, 1912, cols. 318–9, Vol. XLIV.)By my Amendment I say that there is reason why it should be put in the Bill. It is certainly in the power of the Government to make arrangements for the fulfilment by Irish Departments of the duties connected with Customs and Excise. Is that a thing which this House can ever permit? It is clearly impossible. The first reason is that there will be no officials in Ireland competent with knowledge of how to administer Customs and Excise. They will have to get gentlemen quite unaccustomed to those duties and ignorant of them. But there is a still stronger reason against this proposal. It is this: Under this Bill the whole revenue and taxes in Ireland is to be paid into the British Exchequer, and the only part, the share, going back to Ireland is that which represents the Transferred Sum, which is only about half, or, rather, more than half of the whole amount. That is the fixed sum which the Irish Government will receive from the British Government. It is fixed at the time of the passing of this Act, with no allowances for any increase. Therefore all the revenue received outside that sum will be revenue coming to this country for the benefit of the British Government and the British taxpayer. I think that is perfectly clear. If that is so, it is also clear that the interest of the Irish Government only goes so far as to collect money which will cover the Transferred Sum. There will be no object or inducement to exceed that or to make a good selection, because the money will go, not for the benefit of Ireland, but for the benefit of Great Britain and the Imperial Government.
That is, to my mind, a very strong reason why this provision should be put 1750 into the Bill. It makes it impossible that the British Government should make arrangements whereby men in Ireland, ignorant of the duties, should be allowed to collect the taxes and the revenue which the object of the people in Ireland would no doubt be to make the least possible sum. There would be no inducement to make a good selection, simply because the money collected would come over for the benefit of Great Britain and for Imperial purposes. That is the main reason why I venture to urge this Amendment upon the notice of the Government. The present position of this Clause is one of the great disadvantages the Government are labouring under in not following out the recommendations of the Primrose Commission. We know that the main principle of the Primrose Commission was that the same country should raise the money that spends it. That was the main principle of the Primrose Commission. That principle, as we all know, the Government refuse to follow. Instead of that we have a Bill here which is neither one thing nor the other. The money is to be collected by this Government in Ireland. Part of it is to be handed over, and this exactly the same sum each year, without any provision for expansion. Therefore all moneys raised outside that Transferred Sum, all future taxation put by this Parliament on to the Irish taxpayer, will come over to Great Britain for the benefit of Great Britain and not for the benefit of Ireland. I think myself that it will probably—I am afraid very probably—in future years be a very great cause of discontent among Irish taxpayers to find that that extra and increased taxation will not come back to Ireland, but come over to Great Britain for Imperial purposes. They will say, "We are raising money, the money is charged to us, and we are not going to get any benefit; we resent it." Certainly it is perfectly clear that there will be no inducement for the officials who collect the tax to make a good collection; in fact, the inducement will be all the other way—to make the collection of revenue over and above the Transferred Sum as little as possible. For these reasons I venture to hope that after what I have quoted from the speech made by the right hon. Gentleman opposite on the Report stage of the Financial Resolutions he will now see his way to think that this Amendment is sufficiently important that an exception should be made in its favour.
§ Mr. PETO
I beg to second the Amendment so clearly and ably explained by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Sheffield. I would not detain Members at all were it not that it seems to me that there are one or two considerations which can be urged on the Government in addition to those which the hon. Member has put forward. The first consideration is this, that there is no doubt, no matter what has been said in previous Debates in the Committee, that the Government have in this Clause taken power to make arrangements which will affect the collection of the Customs and Excise Duties and other matters connected with the revenue, because they say distinctly—
"Arrangements may be made by any Department of the Government of the United Kingdom.…"
In effect, that means that any Department of the Government of the United Kingdom may delegate to others, to Irish officials, any duties which belong under the principle of the Bill to this Parliament, and to those Departments of the Government. The words my hon. Friend quoted seemed to be a conclusive argument in favour of the acceptance by the Government of this Amendment. He quoted the fact that the Postmaster-General said that it had been clearly stated from the beginning that it was the intention of the Government practically to do what we ask them in this Amendment to make clear. Surely there are sufficient opportunities for discord and for dispute among the various details in one Clause and another of this Bill without here deliberately leaving out words that are essential to make it clear that Irish officials will never be entrusted with this delegated duty. I think there is one pitfall which the Government can avoid by accepting this Amendment. We have to consider that, without doubt, this question of Customs and Excise will be, if this Bill ever becomes an Act of Parliament, a very burning question, and a source of much discord and dispute in Ireland.
It. seems to me the Government should welcome the opportunity of making it perfectly clear that, whereas it is a principle of the Bill that this Government undertakes all duties in connection with the collection of the revenue and matters of that kind, that there will, with people receiving applications for the payment of revenue, or people who are in various ways brought in contact with Government officials, never be any doubt in their minds 1752 that they are dealing with Government Departmental officials under the Executive Government, responsible to this Parliament, and not to any other Parliament. If this is not to be so, then I think you introduce another possible source and cause of grave difference in the working of this Bill after it becomes an Act of Parliament. I cannot conceive what answer the right hon. Gentleman is going to make. He has stated clearly that it is the Government's intention to carry out the purpose of this Clause precisely as if the words of the Amendment were included in it: that he has no intention of doing any thing else. I cannot see therefore what argument there can be for leaving this matter vague and indefinite, as it is in the wording of the Bill as at present. Surely there are enough things that are vague and indefinite and that will require to be threshed out and settled in the future! Many of these might, and ought to, be made perfectly clear before the Bill leaves this House, and it is a mistake deliberately to go out of the way to leave another loophole of dispute and of difference. I would just like to point out on this question that in the possible introduction of some technical principle, quite apart from the variations of the duties themselves, that there is no doubt, even if this Amendment were accepted, it would still be possible for the officials responsible to the Departments to give advantages here and there and help individual trades and industries by the remission of rates and in various other ways, which would give them advantages over either this country or one part of the country over similar industries in other parts. If this Amendment is accepted, it will be perfectly clear therefore that in matters concerning powers or duties relating to the Customs and Excise we shall have officials who are directly responsible to the Government here, and that we shall not have Irish officials, who might in the exercise of the duties delegated to them have the strongest possible reason—purely local it might be—to give every advantage they possibly could in one direction and to withhold a similar advantage in another.
It is extremely undesirable in this question of Customs and Excise Duties—which we know is bound to be a grave source of difference between the North-East of Ulster and the rest of Ireland—that there should, in the first instance, be no official not responsible to the British Government. I admit, of course, that under this 1753 Clause, although these duties maybe delegated, that does not take away the final responsibility of the Government here. But these questions of Customs and Excise should have nothing to do with the administration of the officials directly responsible to the Government that is to be set up in Ireland. If you do not make this thing perfectly clear there will always be a doubt in the minds of those who will be the taxpayers in Ireland that possibly some advantages will be given in the duties that have been delegated to people who would look upon questions through coloured glasses—coloured by local considerations, prejudices, and so forth—without wishing to go into other and even more potent reasons that might influence them. On that account it seems to be clear that the Government should accept this Amendment, so that it might go, as it were, to the people over whom they propose to place this new Government, that it will have perfectly clean hands in the matter of the collection of Customs and Excise Duties; that the Government will be able to say that at any rate they have taken special precautions to insert these words into this particular Clause to make it clear, after the Bill becomes an Act, that in these matters at any rate they are keeping entire control, not only the main overriding control, but the control of the right to appoint their subordinate officials, and that these officials will be in every case directly responsible to the Government of this country and to no one else, and that there shall be no question of the delegation of these important duties.
§ Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
Let me say at the outset the Government fully adheres to the statement made in these Debates which the hon. Gentleman who moved this Amendment quoted. There is no intention whatever to neutralise this Clause in order to transfer the appointment of Customs and Excise officers to the Irish Department or to allow the Irish Government to interfere with the regulations which relate to the Inland Revenue Acts; and, indeed, the hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment showed very forcibly, if I may say so, and quite conclusively, that it would be wrong to do so. He told us that the officers of the Irish Government would not have any real interest to collect the revenue up to its full extent, and that if there was any slackness in collection the loss would fall, not upon the Government appointing these officers, but upon the Imperial Exchequer 1754 here, and he ended by saying, "It is quite clear that it would be quite impossible for this House to permit it." In that I entirely concur, and, furthermore, I would add that it is quite clear that it is impossible that any Minister here should sanction it because the loss he foresees would be one for which the Imperial Ministry under this Clause would be responsible. He would be accountable to this House for any deficiency in revenue resulting from his action, and it would obviously be impossible for this House ever to permit such a thing, and it is also inconceivable that any Minister would ever propose it to this House or do a thing for which probably this House would afterwards bring him to book. It may be said, in these circumstances, why not accept this Amendment, and make it quite clear in the Bill that such a thing is impossible. The reason is because we have in view contingencies of a very much humbler character, but still not without their importance. I will give three instances which occur to me now as possible in the future working of the Act to arise.
Possibly the Board of Inland Revenue may desire to supplement their staff in certain districts by police officers, and they may require the police in some cases to check the removals of spirits or beer or to inspect premises upon their behalf. If the work was badly done, of course it would have to be stopped; and if there was any real danger that it would be badly done, the duty would not be conferred upon them. My second illustration is this. The Post Office at the present time issues game and gun licences, and establishment licences, and acts as agent to collect the revenue to that extent, where certain amounts may be paid over the counter in regard to particular taxes. That is going on now, and very likely it would be convenient to continue an arrangement of that kind. Here again, if there was waste or insufficiency it might be possible to report to other measures, and the responsibility would rest with the Minister here to see that the working was properly performed. But I am sure hon. Members opposite will agree if the Irish Government does not do its work badly it would not be an unreasonable thing for the Post Office, subject to proper appointment, inspection, and collection, to continue doing the work now done in the collection of these very Excise Duties. There is a third small restriction suggested to me. The Board of Customs is charged with the duty of collecting statistics of trade. It has not 1755 got officers at every little place and it may require local harbour officers to supplement the work of its own officers and to supply statistics relating to the incoming and outgoing of small ports.
These are a few illustrations, but it is very likely there are other cases similar in extent and similarly small in importance, but none the less real eases which cannot now be foreseen in which there would be convenience from such a course in the future. Therefore, I suggest to the House that this Clause should not be limited, as proposed by this Amendment. With respect to the possibility of its being abused and of duties which we have clearly set out, which are not to be transferred to the Irish Government, nevertheless, being transferred, such as the collection of Customs and Excise or the control of regulations relating to duty upon articles in bond and so on, the answer which was given by the Chief Secretary and myself to the last Amendment on this subject applies here; also, namely, that for maladministrations, Ministers are subject to the control of this House, and that if such impropriety occurred the Ministers can and would be brought to book here. Therefore, in conclusion, I ask hon. Members not by this Amendment to create a real inconvenience in order to guard against what we believe and suggest to be an imaginary danger.
§ Mr. GODFREY LOCKER-LAMPSON
I do not believe that the right hon. Gentleman, in his reply, has in the least allayed the anxiety of hon. Members upon this side, or that he gave any answer to what seems to be the unanswerable argument put forward by the Mover and Seconder of this Amendment. He has given one or two cases which possibly might occur in the future. He instanced inspection by police officers, game licences, and the collection of statistics, but, after all, this Clause leaves it open, as far as I can understand, for the whole of the Excise and Customs work, which presumably is to be done by Imperial officers to be handed over to Irish authorities. If you leave it open, and in that condition, it seems to me that all the Amendments introduced into Clauses 15 and 16, in reply to criticism from this side of the House are absolutely valueless. If you leave this Clause as it stands at the present moment, and allow the whole of the work of the Customs and Excise Departments, which are Imperial Departments, to be 1756 handed over to Irish authorities, you immediately set up the possibility of a protective policy on the other side of the water. Supposing this Clause comes into operation, who will the Irish officers be? The Irish officers who will look after Customs and Excise will be officers in sympathy with the Irish Executive, and they will do their best to interpret the revenue restrictions in favour of the Irish manufacturers against the British manufacturers. In fact, in the future, under this Clause, the Irish Department will be delighted to do this work of Customs and Excise of the Imperial Government for the benefit of Irish industries and manufactures.
The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that these revenue restrictions are enormously difficult to collect, and enormously difficult to check. Not so very long ago, in 1905, a report was issued by a Departmental Committee on Industrial Alcohol, and they gave a list of the various revenue restrictions which had to be taken into account, and amongst those restrictions one finds "prohibition against brewing and distilling simultaneously; prohibition against mixing of worts during fermentation; compulsory stoppage of work between Saturday and Monday; separation of distilling and rectified premises; and the loss of duty upon spirits rectified;" and the gentlemen who drew up that report said this:—From this enumeration of factors which have to be taken into account it will be obvious that anything like precise accuracy in fixing the value is unattainable.The Joint Exchequer Board under the Bill have to decide what these revenue restriction are to be, but they will have to base the whole of the result of their investigation upon information brought to them by the officers in charge, and if these officers are Irish officers under Clause 40 the whole of the information brought to the Joint Exchequer Board may be absolutely wrong and inaccurate as regards the true value of these various restrictions. Again in the year 1904 a Departmental Committee on tobacco drawbacks sat and reported practically exactly the same thing. They drew up a list of these restrictions and their words were these:—The list does not include all that some manufacturers may have to provide for, such as agency in payment, the payment of duty, and the collection of drawbacks.And they went on to say—To estimate precisely the average value of all these contingent charges is out of our power, nor could very definite particulars be given by members of the trade whom we consulted.1757 What I should like to know is how, if this Clause takes effect, is the Imperial Government in the future going to check and supervise attempts that may be made to benefit Irish industries at the expense of British industries, and if the Imperial Government fail to check these attempts you immediately set up a protective policy in Ireland. Up till now all these revenue restrictions, as the House knows, have been in the hands of a central authority, but in the future if this Clause takes effect there will be two administrative bodies with various conditions and divergent interests, and the revenue restrictions will, of course, vary with the peculiar kind of establishment set up. To take only one instance. Supposing Clause 40 goes through in its present form it is quite conceivable that the Irish officers who will be put in charge will allow less costly, less elaborate, less suitable buildings for warehousing, for Irish manufactures, and the result will be that the Irish manufacturer will immediately have a competitive advantage over the British manufacturer. As hon. Members know, the fiscal burden on manufacturers at the present day is made up of two factors—the duty on raw material and the costly revenue restrictions on the manufacture of articles in which these buildings are included. Therefore, if the revenue officers under Clause 40 choose to relax these restrictions, you immediately give the Irish manufacturer an advantage over his competitor in this country. Again, I should like to ask if this Clause goes through, and this is my final point, how will the Imperial Government check the improper assessment of articles for duty? Because you have to remember who the duty goes through, and if the Imperial Government take advantage of this Clause the whole of these matters will be in the hands of the Irish officers in sympathy with the Irish Exchequer. Take, for instance, a bale of tobacco.
§ Mr. G. LOCKER-LAMPSON
The hon. Member says "Oh!" but I would remind him that this is really a business question, and I should be very glad after I have sat down if he would tell us what he thinks would be the safeguard if this Clause goes through in its present shape. Take a bale of tobacco weighing a thousand pounds and standing in an Irish warehouse. In the course of time, as always happens if it is left there for some time before assessment of duty, the moisture sinks to the 1758 bottom of the bale. If an Irish officer comes round, and draws his sample from a moist part, the rate of duty per pound to be paid will necessarily be less than the rate of duty upon a pound drawn from the dry part. If, therefore, duty is assessed upon the whole of that bale of Irish tobacco drawn from the moist part, it is perfectly clear that the merchant owing that bale will have protection as against the British manufacturer. The right hon. Gentleman will probably say, and did say in his speech, that the position is safeguarded by the proviso at the end of the Clause, which says, "that no such arrangements shall diminish in any respect the responsibility of the Department by which the arrangement is made." I submit that this is really no safeguard at all. In reply to a question asked, I believe, by the hon. Member for South Birmingham (Mr. Amery) on 26th November, the Prime Minister said:—In the event of such powers being handed over to the Irish Department, Irish officers dealing with these Imperial matters would be subject to the jurisdiction and disciplinary obedience of the Irish Executive, and would not be amenable to the Imperial Government.So that if any maladministration took place on the part of the Irish officials under Clause 30, it would be absolutely outside the power of the Imperial Government to dismiss them at all. Having once handed over the whole of this business to an Irish Department, it might be perfectly possible to withdraw the powers at very short notice, and it would be quite conceivable that the mischief would have to go on and continue for a considerable period of time before the matter could be rectified. The fact is that this Clause, like Clause 78 of the Insurance Act, can be utilised to repeal practically any provision in the Home Rule Bill, and it has merely been framed to get over difficulties created by the Government themselves owing to the indecent manner in which they are running this measure through the House of Commons. To my mind the chief objection to this Clause is not that it gives the Imperial Government power to make arrangements which under the terms of the Bill itself are after all inevitable, but that it will introduce enormous complication into the machinery of British and Irish Governments, and more serious still it leaves open the power of destroying the spirit of the Bill itself and gives the Government an opportunity—I do not say they will take advantage of it—of putting back into the Bill what they have taken out owing to the criticisms made on this 1759 side of the House. For these reasons I have great pleasure in supporting the Amendment of my hon. Friend.
§ Mr. BIGLAND
When I listened to the Debate on the previous Amendment I received a considerable shock, and I think many other people in the country will also receive a considerable shock, when they read that it is possible under any condition that this Excise and Customs Department may be delegated from the Imperial to the Irish Government. I agree that so long as the Gentlemen who at present sit on the Treasury Bench conduct the business which falls to their lot that this wholesale transfer will not take plaec, but it must be remembered that we are now legislating for years to come, and it is quite possible that in a number of years that the entire Customs Duties will be altered.
Let me suppose, for example, that there is an Import Duty put on foreign manufactured goods in Ireland and in this country. According to this Bill, as I read it, the Irish Parliament will have power, after we have put a 10 per cent, duty on foreign manufactured goods, to increase that to 15 per cent., and they will naturally say to the Executive of that day, "Why should you trouble to have officers here? We will collect the 5 per cent., and we will also collect the 10 per cent, for you at the same time," and in that way future Governments may be very drastically pressed to allow the collection of those duties to pass out of their hands into the hands of an Irish Parliament. I cannot express in language too strongly my desire that the present Government should prevent the possibility of that ever happening. The Postmaster-General said to-day that there are three little occasions upon which the present conditions may be used to advantage. Surely a responsible Government, knowing that more than half of the revenue of Ireland is collected through Customs and Excise, and knowing that the vast sum of millions of pounds is at stake, will not in any way allow the possibility of the loss of these paltry little sums to form a possible leakage whereby the whole system can be changed. This Amendment is a most reasonable and necessary one, because there is nothing that business men are more jealous about than the possibility of an opponent getting an advantage over them in trade. Take the case of Huntley and Palmer's, in Reading, and the case of Jacobs', in Dublin, both biscuit manufacturers. Under the Customs Regulations these 1760 firms receive considerable sums in the form of a rebate on the sugar they use in regard to their exports to foreign countries. If a different system of arriving at that result took place in Dublin as against London, Reading, or Glasgow, there would be jealousy as to whether other manufacturers were receiving fair conditions and treatment as compared with the manufacturers in Dublin.
It is absolutely necessary that these regulations must be under one authority and one authority only, because if once we begin to allow anything of this kind I can conceive how Clause 40 might be made a useful adaptation to put in. Surely the Government must see that wherever the coll lection of money is part of the administrative work on that ground they must retain the control absolutely in their own hands, or otherwise these jealousies must increase. My hon. Friend has already mentioned several cases. The complications where Excise is to be allotted are enormous today and will be greater in years to come. The Irish Members have asked over and over again for special Excise regulations in regard to the growth of Irish tobacco. I, for one, would be willing to give them 9d. in the £ as against tobacco grown in the United States. But it would be impossible for us to give that rebate if the collection, allotment, and calculation of the rebate was left to people over whom our own Treasury had not entire control. The same thing would happen with regard to the sugar beet grown in Ireland. Do the Irish Members think it is fair for this country to give a rebate to farmers in Ireland who grow beet while our Imperial Exchequer should not appoint (he officers to gather all the statistics and weights and particulars on which that Excise shall be based? We roast keep these things entirely under our own control, and I appeal to the Government to accept this Amendment. If they lose a few paltry thousands in the matters which the Postmaster-General has already named—three little matters, one where they might save a little in the calculation of statistics and another where a few county officials who grant licences for the use of guns and such other matters—is he going to leave not his Government but for a future Government to come to decide whether they will transfer the control of an administrative power which we say should always be kept in the hands of the Imperial Exchequer? I sincerely hope that the Government will accept this Amendment.
§ Mr. AMERY
The answer to the Amendment given by the Postmaster-General was practically a demand from this House for a blank cheque in order to buy three pennyworth of pepper and salt, or a demand to use a steam hammer in order to crack a nut. Without this Clause it seems to me perfectly easy to provide for the minor matters upon which the right hon. Gentleman laid so much stress. Is it reasonable to entrust this and future Governments, which may be in a very difficult position politically, with a power to transfer the administration of Customs and Excise to an Irish Government, with all the consequences which my hon. Friends have so ably put before us? I do not wish to traverse again the ground they have covered, but I will just give one more instance of the sort of difficulty which may arise. The House knows well enough that there will be very serious difficulty from time to time in deciding what is the real result of Irish variations of Imperial taxation, whether the increase in the yield of a duty has been due to an addition to that duty by the Irish Executive or whether the duty was rising on account of good trade. When the Joint Exchequer Board consider a question of that kind they must try and get some evidence. They will go to the Excise officers and ask for specific instances to see how far good trade or the additional duty has been responsible for the additional yield. Their evidence would naturally be given so as to please their own master, the Irish Chancellor of the Exchequer.
I will put the matter on even broader constitutional grounds. I would ask what is the ultimate future which the right hon. Gentleman contemplates with regard to the finance of the United Kingdom? We have been told over and over again that this Bill is a provisional instalment of a great federal scheme in the future. Now you cannot have a federal scheme without federal finance. This Bill implies that its finance is absolutely provisional, and the ground which the right hon. Gentleman has given is that at the present moment, owing to the deficit we hear so much about, it is impossible to make a real allotment between federal and State finance. You have practically to give Ireland the yield of the Customs because, unlike England and Scotland, she cannot stand alone on her internal revenue. What is to be the future? Are we really going to have a 1762 federal system in the future? If so, then, when the revision of finance comes, obviously your Customs and your Excise too must be perfect; and in that case you will want to make sure that your Customs and Excise officers are the same as in the United Kingdom, bred and born in the same condition, and working under the same rule, and applying absolutely fair principles between one part of the United Kingdom and another. If that is what the right hon. Gentleman means, surely it would be disastrous to leave it in the hands of a weak and embarrassed Government to hand over that important service which you want to retain for federal purposes and hand it over temporarily to Ireland, and perhaps make your federal scheme an impossibility, and thus prevent the thing you say you want so much to bring about. The only answer the right hon. Gentleman gives is that, after all, no Minister would be foolish enough to do such a thing, because he is accountable to the House for the revenue, and it is inconceivable that any Minister would propose anything which meant bad finance. Really is it inconceivable that a Minister could introduce land taxation which costs £500,000 to collect and yields less than £40,000 a year? It might have been inconceivable once, but it is not inconceivable now. This very Bill adds £500,000 to the present Irish deficit. Is it inconceivable that proposal could have been introduced into this House? It is justified, of course, on political grounds and on grounds of high policy. Every reason that operates for the granting of this Bill, with all its confusing and inexplicable provisions, will operate again at some time for the transfer of Customs and Excise to the Irish Parliament. If we are right in our contention that the Irish Government can in fact make absolute hay of the fiscal system of the United Kingdom—if they can introduce protective duties on the sale of goods, and if they can introduce protective duties by the combination of higher Excise Duties and bounties—then you will in effect be giving the Irish Government an instalment of a protective system, and their demand subsequently to have the administration of that system placed in the hands of officers in sympathy with it will be very strongly urged by their representatives in this House. I think, so far from it being inconceivable that a Minister would yield to such a demand, there are very few Ministers in the position of right hon. Gentlemen opposite who 1763 would not yield. Therefore, the evil we have predicted seems to me to be not imaginary cobwebs spun out of the brains of an opposition anxious to oppose, but the natural and probable course of events
§ which we are making an endeavour—I fear a vain one—to prevent.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted in the Bill."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 148; Noes, 258.1765
|Division No. 511.]||AYES.||[7.5 p.m.|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Fell, Arthur||Mackinder, H. J.|
|Amery, L. C. M. S.||Fetherstonhaugh, Godfrey||Macmaster, Donald|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major William||Finlay, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert||M'Neill, Ronald (Kent, St. Augustine's)|
|Astor, Waldorf||Fisher, Rt. Hon. W. Hayes||Magnus, Sir Philip|
|Baird, J. L.||Fitzroy, Hon. Edward A.||Malcolm, Ian|
|Balcarres, Lord||Flannery, Sir J. Fortescue||Middlemore, John Throgmorton|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (City, Lond.)||Fleming, Valentine||Moore, William|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Forster, Henry William||Mount, William Arthur|
|Barlow, Montague (Salford, South)||Gardner, Ernest||Neville, Reginald J. N.|
|Barrie, H. T.||Gastrell, Major W. H.||Newton, Harry Kottingham|
|Bathurst, Hon. A. B. (Glouc, E.)||Glazebrook, Captain Philip K.||Nield, Herbert|
|Bathurst, Charles (Wilts, Wilton)||Goldsmith, Frank||O'Neill, Hon. A. E. B. (Antrim, Mid)|
|Benn, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth)||Gordon, John (Londonderry, South)||Parker, Sir Gilbert (Gravesend)|
|Bennett-Goldney, Francis||Gordon, Hon. John Edward (Brighton)||Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)|
|Bentinck, Lord H. Cavendish.||Grant, J. A.||Peel, Captain R. F. (Woodbridge)|
|Beresford, Lord C.||Guinness, Hon. Rupert (Essex, S.E.)||Peto, Basil Edward|
|Blair, Reginald||Guinness, Hon.W.E. (Bury S.Edmunds)||Pollock, Ernest Murray|
|Boscawen, Sir Arthur S. T. Griffith-||Hall, Marshall (E. Toxteth)||Pretyman, Ernest George|
|Boyle, William (Norfolk, Mid)||Hardy, Rt. Hon. Laurence||Pryce-Jones, Colonel E.|
|Boyton, James||Harris, Henry Percy||Quilter, Sir William Ely C.|
|Bridgeman, W. Clive||Harrison-Broadley, H. B.||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel|
|Bull, Sir William James||Helmsley, Viscount||Salter, Arthur Clavell|
|Burdett-Coutts, W.||Henderson, Major H. (Berks, Abingdon)||Samuel, Sir Harry (Norwood)|
|Burn, Colonel C. R.||Herbert, Hon. A. (Somerset, S.)||Sanders, Robert Arthur|
|Butcher, J. G.||Hewins, William Albert Samuel||Sanderson, Lancelot|
|Campbell, Rt. Hon. J. (Dublin Univ.)||Hill, Sir Clement L.||Smith, Rt. Hon. F. E. (L'p'l, Walton)|
|Campion, W. R.||Hills, John Waller||Stanley, Hon. G. F. (Preston)|
|Carlile, Sir Edward Hildred||Hoare, Samuel John Gurney||Steel-Maitland, A. D.|
|Cassel, Felix||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Stewart, Gershom|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Hope, Major J, A. (Midlothian)||Strauss, Arthur (Paddinnton, North)|
|Cator, John||Horner, Andrew Long||Sykes, Mark (Hull, Central)|
|Cautley, H. S.||Houston, Robert Paterson||Talbot, Lord E.|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Hunt, Rowland||Terrell, G. (Wilts, N.W.)|
|Cecil, Lord R. (Herts, Hitchin)||Hunter, Sir C. R.||Terrell, H. (Gloucester)|
|Chaloner, Col. R. G. W.||Ingleby, Hotcombe||Thomson, W. Mitchell- (Down, N.)|
|Chambers, J.||Jessel, Captain H. M.||Touche, George Alexander|
|Clive, Captain Percy Archer||Kebty-Fleteher, J. R.||Tryon, Captain George Clement|
|Clyde, J. Avon||Kerr-Smiley, Peter Kerr||Valentia, Viscount|
|Coates, Major Sir Edward Feetham||Kerry, Earl of||Walker, Col. William Hall|
|Cooper, Richard Ashmole||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Walrond, Hon. Lionel|
|Cory, Sir Clifford John||Lane-Fox, G. R.||White, Major G. D. (Lanes., Southport)|
|Courthope. G. Loyd||Larmor, Sir J.||Willoughby, Major Hon. Claud|
|Craig, Charles Curtis (Antrim, S.)||Law. Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Bootle)||Wilson, A. Stanley (York, E.R.)|
|Craig, Ernest (Cheshire, Crewe)||Lawson, Hon. H. (T. H'mts, Mile End)||Worthington-Evans, L.|
|Crichton-Stuart, Lord Ninian||Lloyd, G. A.||Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George|
|Cripps, Sir Charles Alfred||Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury)||Younger, Sir George|
|Croft, H. P.||Lockwood, Rt. Hon. Lt.-Col. A. R.|
|Dalziel, D. (Brixton)||Lonsdale, Sir John Brownlee|
|Duke, Henry Edward||Lyttelton, Rt Hon. A. (Hanover Sq.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Mr.|
|Eyres-Monsell, B. M.||Lyttelton, Hon J. C. (Droitwich)||S. Roberts and Mr. Bigland.|
|Falle, Bertram Godfray||MacCaw, Wm. J. MacGeagh|
|Abraham, William (Dublin, Harbour)||Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine||Clancy, John Joseph|
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Boland, John Pius||Clough, William|
|Addison, Dr. Christopher||Booth, Frederick Handel||Clynes, John R.|
|Agnew, Sir George||Boyle, D. (Mayo, N.)||Collins, Stephen (Lambeth)|
|Alden, Percy||Brady, P. J.||Compton-Rickett, Rt. Hon. Sir J.|
|Allen, Arthur A. (Dumbartonshire)||Brocklehurst, W. B.||Condon, Thomas Joseph|
|Allen, Rt. Hon. Charles P. (Stroud)||Brunner, John F. L.||Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.|
|Arnold, Sydney||Bryce, J. Annan||Craig, Herbert J. (Tynemouth)|
|Baker, H. T. (Accrington)||Buckmaster, Stanley O.||Crawshay-Wiliiams, Eliot|
|Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.)||Burke, E. Haviland.||Crean, Eugene|
|Balfour, Sir Robert (Lanark)||Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Crumley, Patrick|
|Baring, Sir Godfrey (Barnstaple)||Burt. Rt. Hon. Thomas||Cullinan, J.|
|Barlow, Sir John Emmott (Somerset)||Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, North)||Dalziel, Rt. Hon. Sir J. H. (Kirkcaldy)|
|Beale, Sir William Phipson||Buxton, Rt. Hon. Sydney C. (Poplar)||Davies, E. William (Eifion)|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Byles, Sir William Pollard||Davies, Timothy (Lines., Louth)|
|Beck, Arthur Cecil||Carr-Gomm, H, W.||Dawes, James Arthur|
|Benn, W. W. (T. Hamlets, St. Geo.)||Cawley, H. T. (Lanes., Heywood)||De Forest, Baron|
|Bethell, Sir J. H.||Chapple, Dr. William Allen||Delany, William|
|Devlin, Joseph||Kilbride, Denis||Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.)|
|Dickinson, W. H.||King, J.||Priestley, Sir W. E. B. (Bradford, E.)|
|DoneIan, Captain A.||Lambert, Rt. Hon, G. (Devon.s.Moltoni||Pringle, William M. R.|
|Doris, W.||Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||Radford, G. H.|
|Duffy, William J.||Lardner, James Carrige Rushe||Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (South Shields)|
|Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||Law, Hugh A. (Donegal West)||Ready, M.|
|Duncan, J. Hastings (Yorks, Otley)||Lawson, Sir W. (Cumb'rld, Cockerm'th)||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)|
|Edwards, Clement (Glamorgan, E.)||Leach, Charles||Redmond, William Archer (Tyrone, E.)|
|Esmonde, Dr. John (Tipperary, N.)||Levy, Sir Maurice||Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)|
|Esmonde. Sir Thomas (Wexford, N.)||Lewis, John Herbert||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)|
|Essex, Sir Richard Walter||Lough, Rt. Hon. Thoma,||Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)|
|Esslemont, George Birnie||Lundon, Thomas||Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs)|
|Falconer, J.||Lyell, Charles Henry||Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradford)|
|Farrell, James Patrick||Lynch, A. A.||Robertson, John M. (Tyneslde)|
|Fenwick, Rt. Hon. Charles||McGhee, Richard||Robinson, Sidney|
|Ferens, Rt. Hon. Thomas Robinson||Maclean, Donald||Roch, Walter F.|
|Ffrench, Peter||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. D. T. J.||Roche, Augustine (Louth)|
|Field, William||MacNeill. J. G. Swift (Donegal, South)||Roche, John (Galway, E.)|
|Fitzgibbon, John||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Rose, Sir Charles Day|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||M'Callum, Sir John M.||Rowlands, James|
|George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd||M'Kean, John||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter|
|Gilhooly, James||McKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Russell, Rt. Hon. Thomas W.|
|Ginnell, L.||Markham, Sir Arthur Basil||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)|
|Glanville, Harold James||Marks, Sir George Croydon||Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford||Marshall, Arthur Harold||Scanlan, Thomas|
|Goldstone, Frank||Mason, David M. (Coventry)||Schwann, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles E.|
|Greig, Colonel J. W.||Masterman, Rt. Hon. C. F. G.||Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)|
|Griffith, Ellis J.||Meagher, Michael||Seely, Col. Rt. Hon. J. E. B.|
|Guest, Major Hon. C. H. C. (Pembroke)||Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.)||Sheehy, David|
|Guest, Hon Frederick E. (Dorset, E.)||Menzies, Sir Walter||Sherwell, Arthur James|
|Guiney, Patrick||Millar, James Duncan||Shortt, Edward|
|Hackett, J.||Molloy, M.||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John Allsebrook|
|Harcourt, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Rossendale)||Molteno. Percy Alport||Smith, H. B. L. (Northampton)|
|Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)||Mond, Sir Alfred Moritz||Smyth, Thomas F.|
|Hardie, J. Keir||Morgan, George Hay||Soames, Arthur Wellesley|
|Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale)||Morrell, Philip||Spicer, Rt. Hon. Sir Albert|
|Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)||Morison, Hector||Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)|
|Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)||Munro, R.||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radeliffe)|
|Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry||Murray. Capt. Hon. A. C.||Tennant, Harold John|
|Hayden, John Patrick||Nannetti. Joseph P.||Thomas, J. H.|
|Hayward, Evan||Nicholson. Sir C. N. (Doncaster)||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Hazlston, Richard||Nolan, Joseph||Toulmin, Sir George|
|Healy, Timothy Michael (Cork, N.E.)||Norton, Captain Cecil||Verney, Sir Harry|
|Holme, Sir Norval Watson||Nugent, Sir Walter Richard||Wadsworth, J,|
|Hommerde, Edward George||Nuttall, Harry||Walsh, J. (Cork, South)|
|Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Walton, Sir Joseph|
|Henderson, J. M. (Aberdeen, W.)||O'Brien, William (Cork)||Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Henry. Sir Charles||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)||Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)|
|Herbert, General Sir Ivor (Mon., S.)||O'Connor. T. P. (Liverpool)||Wardle, George J.|
|Higham, John Sharp||O'Doherty, Philip||Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay|
|Hinds, John||O'Donnell, Thomas||Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)|
|Hobhouse. Rt. Hon. Charles E. H.||O'Dowd, John||Wason. John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Hodge, John.||O'Grady, James||Watt, Henry A.|
|Hogge, James Myles||O'Kelly, Edward P. (Wicklow, W.)||Webb, H.|
|Holmes, Daniel Turner||O'Kelly, James (Roscommon, N.)||Wedgwood, Josiah C.|
|Horne, C. Silvester (Ipswich)||O'Malley, William||White, J. Dundas (Glasgow. Tradeston)|
|Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||O'Neill. Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.)||White. Patrick (Meath. North)|
|Hudson, Waiter||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.||Whitehouse, John Howard|
|Isaacs, Rt. Hon. Sir Rufus||O'Shee, James John||Whittaker, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas|
|Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth)||O'Sullivan. Timothy||Whyte, A. F. (Perth)|
|Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)||Outhwaite, R. L.||Wiles, Thomas|
|Jones, Leif Stratten (Rushcliffe)||Palmer, Godfrey Mark||Williams, Llewelyn (Carmarthen)|
|Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)||Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)||Wood, Rt. Hon. T. McKinnon (Glas.)|
|Jones, W. S. Glyn- (T. H'mts, Stepney)||Pearce, William (Limehouse)||Young, Samuel (Cavan, East)|
|Jowett, Frederick William||Pearson, Hon. Weetman H. M.||Young, W. (Perth, E.)|
|Joyce. Michael||Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A. (Rotherham)||Yoxall, Sir James Henry|
|Keating, Matthew||Phillips, John (Longford, S.)|
|Kellaway, Frederick Geerge||Pointer. Joseph||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Mr.|
|Kennedy, Vincent Paul||Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)||Illingworth and Mr.|
§ Viscount CASTLEREAGH
I beg to move, at the end of the Clause, to insert the words—
"The full terms and conditions of any arrangement made under this Section shall be laid forthwith before each House of Parliament of the United Kingdom, and if a Resolution against the arrangement or any part, thereof is carried by either of those Houses within 1766 the next subsequent thirty days on which that House has sat no further proceedings shall be taken thereon without prejudice to the making of any new arrangement under this Section."
This Clause has a very vague and general aspect. It appears to me to be possible under it to alter a great many of the provisions which come before it in the Bill. The whole attitude of the Government is 1767 the optimistic one that when Home Rule is set up all will be well, that everything will work for the best possible interests of all concerned. There are various provisions which they certainly have not explained to us and upon which no information whatsoever has been forthcoming though we have asked manifold questions. Clause 40, to my mind, alters a great many of the provisions which come before it in the Bill. There has been an Amendment with respect to Customs, endeavouring to define what the Government mean, but they seem to be under no obligation whatever to define clearly what is the real intention of the Bill. It is possible by this Clause to go back upon the decision of the House of Commons and to carry on negotiations with the Executive of the Irish Government without the cognisance either of this House of Parliament or of the House of Parliament proposed to be set up in Dublin. The intention of the Amendment of my hon. Friend is very definite. We have already been given to understand by the right hon. Gentleman (the Chief Secretary) that it is possible for one Department to make a transfer to another Department merely by a Minute. It must be obvious to all hon. Members that when it is possible for Departments to so act together without the actual cognisance of this House of Commons these transfers may be brought about by reason of political pressure or by the views of various individuals in either of the two countries, and these negotiations may be carried into effect without any Member of either of the two Houses of Parliament being able to make a Motion to the contrary or to alter them in any sense.
I really would commend this proposition to the right hon. Gentleman. I have no doubt that when he rises in his place to reply to the Amendment he will give the usual answer that "you can trust the Irish Government." He will tell us he has such confidence in them that he cannot understand why hon. Members opposite him should not have equal confidence in their integrity, honour, and good sense. Much as I should like to be optimistic, I confess I do not feel very optimistic as to the working of this Bill, and if the right hon. Gentleman would only define something by adding words which would give expression to our views I should be glad. I have no doubt the right hon. Gentleman has no desire that any of these backdoor negotiations should go on between the 1768 officials of the various Departments in regard to making transfers from one Department to the other, and, therefore, I would ask him to put in these words so that this House of Commons should have the power of deciding what shall be done. In asking him to do that I am not asking him to include anything in any way detrimental to the ideas he has in view.
§ Mr. BIRRELL
The objection which the Government takes to the Clause the Noble Lord has just moved is that in their view, at all events, and it is the view expressed very plainly throughout this Debate, it would really be breaking a butterfly on a wheel to lay on the Table of this House for thirty days the sort of thing which this Clause contemplates. It seems to be the view of hon. Gentlemen that what is contemplated by this Clause has been the subject of long negotiations, even before this Bill was introduced, between myself and the hon. and learned Member for Waterford. I venture to think that the hon. and learned Member never heard of this Clause until he saw it in the Bill, although, indeed, it has formed the subject matter of a good deal of consideration on my part. But that consideration was entirely had with business people in relation to business problems, on the assumption that this distinction between transferred and reserved services was going to be made. If that does not take place, the thing is at an end. But if it does take place, it will be the bounden duty of authorities—grave authorities, not flippant persons like myself, but persons concerned with Customs and the Post Office, to see that there shall be means in this Bill enabling the Department in this country to employ as their agents, without parting with any authority, a Department in Ireland on the spot possessed of a staff capable of transacting these affairs. That was the sort of point in the mind of my advisers, and they must be surprised to see the enormous importance attributed to the passing of a Clause of this sort.
The Noble Lord spoke about things being done behind Parliament Well, such things will have to be done behind two Parliaments. It may be an agreement, say, for the collection of game licences or of statistics respecting harbour dues, in order to throw light on problems connected with Customs and Excise—these are the kind of things which we have in our mind, 1769 and these are the kind of things for which authority is given in this Clause. There has been a good deal of talk about the word "minute," as if it had some disparaging meaning. What is in view is an agreement, and if it is an agreement involving the payment of money, that money will have to be voted in this House on the responsibility of the Minister concerned with the particular reserved service. His responsibility will remain unaffected. There will be a Minister in this the work was well done, the agreement and he will have to defend the application of public money for the purpose. He will have to explain to an eager and attentive House why it was he employed an Irish Department to do his work, and unless he can give good reason, unless he can show that the work was well done, the agreement will have to be revised and some other agreement will have to be made, thereby adding probably to the expense to the British taxpayer. It has been said that the words are wide enough to enable some Department here, it may be under a Tory or it may be under a Liberal Government, if it chooses to come to some sort of agreement with the thirty odd Irish Members that may be in this House—if it is a Tory Government they will have to rely on the Ulster Members, while if it is a Liberal Government they will rely on the Nationalist Members, although I am inclined to think that after the passing of this Bill there will be a considerable upset in this hitherto stereotyped relationship—it seems to be suggested that they may make a corrupt bargain whereby some really reserved service will be handed over to the Irish Government, anxious for some reason or other to carry out the orders of the British authorities. Drafting is always a matter of criticism. Hon. Members ask, "Why not define?" I sometimes wish draftsmen would define more than they do, but long experience has taught them to beware of attempting to say exactly what sort of thing they have in their minds. I have indicated the sort of thing which is intended here. But there may be hundreds of other examples, and if you include one by the well-known legal argument of analogy you exclude others. Therefore, the general sense of people responsible for drafting an Act of Parliament is, as far as possible, to avoid conclusive and exhaustive descriptions. I should have thought that the words were as plain as they could be. The provisions of the Bill for securing the transfer under certain conditions, and the handing over 1770 by agreement of certain duties to somebody in Ireland, surely indicate purely Executive acts and nothing more. It may be an important matter, like the paying of old age pensions, which involves no liability on the British taxpayer; on the contrary, it would save him a great deal of money, for there could be nothing more hopeless than the idea of duplicating all over Ireland district post offices to pay the people their pensions. It would really be a most preposterous idea. The acceptance of the words proposed by the Noble Lord would mean, by requiring these transactions to be made the subject-matter of a Resolution or to lie on the Table of the House for a period of thirty days, the breaking of a butterfly on a wheel.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I am not convinced by the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman that the powers proposed to be conferred are so small. If that is so, why not lay them on the Table of the House for thirty days? There would be no objection offered to them. There would be no opposition in this House. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the kind of things that were in the mind of the Government. But the kind of things in the mind of the Government when an Amendment of this sort is being discussed is not the kind of things in their mind after the Clause has been passed. We had an illustration of that in the Parliament Act, and I can remember many instances during the last seven or eight years when in discussing Motions the Government have said, "It is only a question of detail, why worry the House of Commons upon it," but their minds have changed when they have got the power to do greater things and they had forgotten all about the state of their minds when the Amendment was under consideration. A further reason is that I do not like to give a blank cheque to hon. Gentlemen opposite, and, indeed, I am not at all sure I should be in favour of giving an absolutely blank cheque to my right hon. Friends on this side. I do submit it is necessary we should preserve the powers we have at the present moment and not give so many blank cheques to right hon. Gentlemen opposite.
It being half-past Seven of the clock, Mr. SPEAKER proceeded, pursuant to the Orders of the House of the 14th October and the 30th December, 1912, to put forthwith the Question on the Amendment already proposed from the Chair.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted in the Bill."1772
§ The House divided: Ayes, 162; Noes, 272.1773
§ Mr. SPEAKER then proceeded to put forthwith the Question on any Amendments moved by the Government of which notice had been given, as necessary to dispose of the business to be concluded at half-past Seven of the clock at this day's sitting.