§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I propose on this Motion to make a brief statement, not so much for the purpose of discussing again in any detail the provisions of the Bill, or even its principles, but to make clear how the Government and the House of Commons stand in regard to the first measure which it has been sought to bring under the operation of the Parliament Act, passed two years ago. Let me say at once that, of course, I am not going—it would be out of order to do so—to attempt to re-debate the policy of the Parliament Act. It is now the law of the land. It is a law which was not put forward by its pro- 1284 moters, and, I may add, which was not resisted by its opponents, as though, if it once got on the Statute Book, it was meant to be, or likely to be, a dead letter. The question, therefore, with which I propose very shortly to deal, is whether we are justified in asking the House of Commons to apply it to this Bill, and what, in view of the declared intentions and the actual scheme of the Parliament Act itself, is the proper procedure to be adopted at this stage. To answer that question I will first ask another. What is the Parliamentary history of this Bill? This Bill was introduced in the month of April, 1912, and it left this House in the month of January, 1913. In the interval it was subjected to a discussion as prolonged in duration, and thorough in character as any great constitutional measure ever passed by this House. That is a matter of statistics or history. On the Bill itself we spent fifty-four Parliamentary days, and if you add the time that was consumed on incidental proceedings connected with it, the total amount is fifty-seven and a half days. Compared with any great constitutional measure from the time of the Reform Bill of 1831 downward, you will find that this Bill has taken a longer time and has been more considered by the House than any other. As it progressed, it cannot be said that in any of its critical stages there was any sign of a falling off in its Parliamentary support. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I make hon. Gentlemen opposite a present of a certain Division in November. I was speaking of the critical stages of the Bill, and I will take for that purpose the First, Second, and Third Readings. On the First Reading it was carried by a majority of 94; on the Second Reading by a majority of 101, and on the Third Reading, after it had stood the ordeal of this unprecedented Parliamentary discussion, it was carried by a majority of 110. And, since the point has been so often raised, although I think it has been as often disposed of, I may point out that in every one of those stages, if you subtract the Irish vote, both from one side and the other, the Bill was carried by a very substantial British majority. It follows, I think, that the Bill may be taken as representing, if ever a measure did, the considered judgment of the House of Commons—a House of Commons which is still not a long way on in the third year of its existence.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
There is no Preamble in this Bill. It may be said, and I dare say will be said or suggested, that while this is the state of opinion in the House of Commons as disclosed by our Debates and Divisions, it does not correspond with what is going on in the country. With regard to the by-elections which have taken place—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—I expected a much greater demonstration than that—with regard to the by-elections, since the introduction of the Government of Ireland Bill on the 11th April, 1912, there have been twenty-three contested by-elections. In two of those, namely, Bow and Bromley, and Shrewsbury, there was no Liberal or Labour candidate. In the case of Bow and Bromley, the Conservative candidate was opposed by the Women Suffrage candidate, and in the case of Shrewsbury by a gentleman who described himself as an Independent, and who was not supported officially by any political party. Leaving out those two cases, the figures I am going to give to the House show the total votes cast in the twenty-one other by-elections since April, 1912. If you take the Liberal and Labour candidates together, and every Liberal and every Labour candidate was in favour of Home Rule, the total number of votes cast for them was 121,269, and if you take the Unionist candidates, every one of whom, I assume, was against Home Rule, the total number of votes cast for them was 105,568. Of the votes polled, the Home Rule majority over the Unionist majority was 15,701. I am not going to shirk any part of this question. That is the total number of votes polled, and I am speaking now of the indication of the opinion of the country since the introduction of this Bill. Let us see what has been the Parliamentary result. Out of those twenty-one by-elections, the Government have lost four seats, and they gained one, not an unimportant one, but one of the most significant of all. What were their losses? Two of them were Crewe and Midlothian, and each of those were what are called three-cornered contests, and both of the defeated candidates in each case were strong supporters of Home Rule. The votes cast in those elections for Home Rule candidates were 16,181, and those cast for the Unionist candidates 12,281. The other two lost seats, from the point of view of the Government, were North-West Manchester 1286 and Newmarket. In North-West Manchester the retiring Liberal Member, Sir George Kemp, everybody knows was not and never professed to be, and made no concealment of it, I rather think, when he was opposed by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, a strong, if indeed he was at all, a supporter of Home Rule. [An HON. MEMBER: "Newmarket."] What about Newmarket? Does any hon. Gentleman challenge me on the subject of Newmarket? Does he profess or contend that the result of the Newmarket election is a verdict against Home Rule? I will read a short statement made before the election was declared on the eve of the poll by a very well-informed authority who certainly cannot be supposed to be anything like partial to the Government. I refer to the special correspondent of the "Times," who carefully investigated the electoral situation, and, says this well-informed spectator:—It has become increasingly evident that questions affecting the agricultural industry and the Insurance Act will have more effect on the result of the election than broader political issues. It is doubtful, for instance, whether a single voter who has decided to vote for the Liberal candidate will be deflected from his purpose by Sir Edward Carson's plea for Ulster. Ireland is a far country from those quiet Cambridgeshire villages, and the agricultural labourers who form the bulk of the electorate are more interested in problems affecting the land on which they live. Indeed, the invariable ignorance of many of them of the state of affairs in Ulster, and the professed indifference of others to the consequences of Home Rule, are the despair of the two ladies who have come over from Ulster.That is as to the Newmarket election. Is that going to be claimed as an indication that there is a revulsion of feeling against the Government on the subject of Irish Home Rule? Then there follows, and I only mention it because it was not the gain of a seat at all, but undoubtedly there was a large increase in the Unionist majority at Altrincham. What part precisely the Irish question played in the Altrincham election, I do not know. [An HON. MEMBER: "A very important part."] I will assume that it was a very prominent issue, but, as a matter of fact, Altrincham is a seat which, with the exception of three or four or five years during which it was represented by Sir William Crossley, for twenty years has been uniformly and strongly Conservative. Therefore, I think that is a perfectly impartial review of the results of the elections. I shall be very glad to hear any criticism or anything in answer. In point of fact with the figures I have brought forward, and when you add to this that from the time since this Bill was introduced we have won London- 1287 derry, which has transformed the representation of the province of Ulster from one which had been Unionist to a Home Rule majority, then it is impossible for anyone to contend that we have any evidence to show whatsoever, any evidence worthy of the name or worthy of consideration, that the verdict which the House of Commons has pronounced in regard to this Bill is a verdict which is disapproved of by the mass of the electorate of the country. That, so far, has been the electoral history of the question since this Bill was introduced into the House of Commons more than a year ago. It was rejected on its Second Reading by the House of Lords. No Amendments to the Bill were suggested or offered there. It is quite true that strong and strenuous, and I might almost say pathetic, appeals were addressed to the House of Lords by some of the most distinguished and formidable opponents of the Bill on Second Reading, to take a different course. We had Lord Grey, with his large experience of Colonial administration. I am going to quote what he said, and I have no reason to think that it is in any way altered. He said:—While I hope this House may decide that this Bill cannot be accepted as a satisfactory or final settlement of the long-standing Irish question, I also hope that a clear and positive message may issue from the Unionist leaders in this House which will convince the people of Ireland that the Unionist party as a whole are prepared to assist in some other form of settlement which may be more safely relied upon to promote the well-being of Ireland and to increase the security of the Empire.Another very distinguished opponent of the Bill, in a speech which I have often heard quoted and referred to, not unnaturally, by those who object to the Bill—I mean the Archbishop of York—said:—Few of us can deny that there is a real and an urgent Irish problem.…and some recognition must be found for the persistent and sustained desire of the majority of the Irish people to have some liberty to manage their own affairs in their own way.… I agree that some measure of Home Rule is necessary, not only to meet the needs of Ireland, but to meet the needs of the Imperial Parliament.4.0 P.M.
These are statements made in the course of the Debate—appeals to those who are opposing to this Bill an absolute non possumus to suggest some Amendment or alternative to meet the real, deep-seated, and persistent demand of the majority of the Irish people. There was no response to those appeals. This Bill was met by a blank, summary, uncompromising negative. Those are precisely the conditions with which the Parliament Act was intended to deal. If that be so—and it 1288 cannot be denied—I may say one word upon the question of procedure. As the House is aware, in order that a Bill which has passed this House and been rejected by the House of Lords may take advantage of the provisions of the Parliament Act, it is necessary that there should be sent up to the House of Lords the same or an identical Bill as the Bill of the previous Session. That being so, it obviously follows that a Committee stage in which there could be introduced in the structure of the Bill Amendments which would destroy or modify such Bill must be an unreal stage. I do not think there can be any dispute of that. [An HON. MEMBER: "The whole thing is unreal."] If anyone looks at the speech made by Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, I think in 1907, on what was called the Anti-Veto Resolution, on which the Parliament Act was ultimately founded, he will see that he clearly stated that in the second Session a Bill must pass, if it was still the considered judgment of the House of Commons that it should pass, in a substantially unaltered form. It was in consequence of that, and because of our feeling that that might give rise to Parliamentary inconvenience, and indeed might destroy the possibility of agreement between the two sides of the House, that when we framed the Parliament Bill three years ago and brought it into this House we borrowed from the Constitution, I think of the Australian Commonwealth, at any rate of one of the self-governing Dominions, the provision which now appears in the Parliament Act, under which, although the Bill is unaltered in form, and its structure and provisions are identical when it passes from this House in the second Session as compared with that structure and those provisions in the first Session, there is a procedure by which the House can suggest Amendments. The Leader of the Opposition laughs. That is what the Australian Act provides.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
This is in addition to the Referendum. They have devised this for the very purpose of dealing with differences between the two Houses, the Senate and the Lower House. We adopted this principle of suggestion, by which, if the House is so minded, there can be put forward Amendments which do not alter the structure of the Bill, but 1289 which accompany the Bill on its passage to the House of Lords, and if the House of Lords is minded to accept them their incorporation in the Bill does not destroy its identity or prevent its being the same Bill. The right hon. Gentleman just now in an interruption suggested that the whole thing was unreal. That is not the case. There might be a patent mistake—[HON. MEMBERS: "It is all mistake"]—acknowledged on all sides, in the structure or form of the Bill as passed by this House, or there might be what I confess I had hoped there might have been, such a development of opinion in the sense of agreement or compromise upon one or more of the many disputed points, that both sides or a majority of the House might have been willing to say, "We do not like the Bill, but accepting the principle of the Bill, seeing that it must pass into law—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—seeing that the principle must be accepted by Parliament, as it has been accepted by the House of Commons and by the people—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—our objections would not be removed, but they would be at any rate mitigated if this or that were incorporated in the Bill." I do not call this procedure by way of suggestion a stage, because it is not a stage in the actual history of the Bill—
§ The PRIME MINISTER
It is only a farce if the hon. Gentleman chooses to make it so. What I am pointing out is that, if there were a general desire for amendment consistent with the structure and purpose of the Bill, this procedure is expressly provided by the Parliament Act to take the place of what would otherwise be the Committee stage, and would enable such Amendments to be made, if acceptable to the House of Lords. We propose to give the House, if they wish to take advantage of it, the opportunity of making such suggestions. If they do not like to do so, the Bill will go to the House of Lords in its present state, unaccompanied by any suggestions which the House are willing to reconsider if the House of Lords are prepared to accept them. In regard to this procedure by way of suggestion, it does not appear to us that any change in our Standing Orders is needed, because it is not a stage in the actual progress of the Bill itself; it can be done by Motion in the ordinary way if the House is minded so to act.
1290 I have said so much in regard to the procedure, because I want to make our position in that respect perfectly clear. But I observe that the right hon. Gentleman who is to follow me is going to move the out and out rejection of the Bill. That, we may take it, is the attitude which the Opposition is going to take up. How does the case stand? This Bill, as we believe, applies principles, which are familiar and have often been adopted throughout the self-governing parts of the British Empire, to the case which is closest to our own shores.—["No."] The right hon. Gentleman dissents. I agree that the application is novel in form, for this reason, as I have pointed out half a dozen times in the course of the Debates on the Bill. There, in all those cases, you were starting from separate entities, more or less sovereign, more or less independent, which had local control of their own local affairs, to establish a central body to deal with matters of common interest. Here, with the same object in view, namely, local autonomy in local affairs and central control in matters of common concern, we start from the opposite point. We begin with a congested centre. At this moment none of the local entities which are the constituent elements of the United Kingdom, and are represented in this Imperial House of Commons, has, as all our Colonies had when they began the process of federation, complete or anything like complete control over its own local concerns. Whether you begin from bodies which are locally autonomous and go to the delegation to a central body of matters which are common, or whether you begin from a centre which is omnipotent and go to the devolution to local bodies of matters which are of purely local concern, the process is different mechanically and in form, but the object and goal is the same. What is it? It is to enable the locality to be supreme or practically supreme, subject as here to the overriding power of the Imperial Parliament, in all matters which are of purely local interest, and to keep to the central body all those matters in which the constituent elements have a common interest. Therefore when I say that we are applying principles which are familiar throughout the British Empire, and which have been justified in experience over and over again in every quarter of the globe, I am stating that which is literally and substantially true.
1291 That is the principle on which our measure proceeds. As regards the backing which it has, it was steadily supported all through the long and arduous Debates of last year, and will continue to be supported by a large majority of the representatives of Great Britain, and by no less than four-fifths of the representatives of Ireland. That surely is a matter which ought to give you pause when you are moving, as you are, a blank negative to the suggestion of any alternative. As I pointed out a year ago, when I first introduced the Bill, at eight successive General Elections the people of Ireland have returned a majority of four-fifths in favour of Home Rule. For three out of the four provinces of Ireland not a single Unionist Member sits in this House, and in the fourth province in that respect, as I pointed out a moment ago, the balance has shifted from what it was when I spoke last year, because in the province of Ulster there is now a majority of representatives in favour of Home Rule. Is it not, in view of these facts, increasingly apparent, as we see this controversy developed, that the whole case against the Bill—I am not speaking now of matters of detail, like the financial provisions—but the whole case against the Bill, as a Bill, rests upon the supposed hostility of Ulster—not all Ulster—as I have before pointed out, the majority of Ulster's representatives are in favour of the Bill—but upon the hostility of four counties. I have always said, and I repeat to-day, that I respect the motives of, and I am the last person in the world to underrate the significance and moment of that opposition, but I would just like to put to-day—I have put it before—the question: "Is there any reasonable expedient or suggestion consistent with the governing purpose and policy of this Bill by which that sentiment of hostility can be reconciled or appeased?" It is a very serious question—it is serious from both points of view. You will say to us—it has often been put to me by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition—"What, if you pass your Bill, are you going to do with Ulster?" by which he means these four Ulster counties. I say, and I ask the same question with the same seriousness, "What, if you reject this Bill, are you going to do with Leinster, Munster, Connaught, and the remainder of Ulster?" That is the point of view from which statesmen should look at it. Are there any means, are you prepared to suggest any means by which—
§ The PRIME MINISTER
Very well; we will come to that in a moment. Let me first say—I am dealing with the suggestion which has in fact been made—there is the question of the exclusion of Ulster, or rather the exclusion of these four counties. We have been told, I think quite honestly and properly told by those who profess to speak, and I have no doubt do speak, for the dissentients, that the exclusion of Ulster, or these four counties of Ulster, would not in the least degree mitigate their antagonism to this Bill. If their premisses are correct, if they believe that an Irish Parliament, elected by a majority of the Irish people, would be guilty of persecution and oppression they are perfectly right, because the people who most need protection upon that hypothesis are not the people who live in those four counties—they can very well look after themselves—but the people scattered throughout the length and breadth of Ireland. The exclusion of Ulster, upon the premisses of the opponents of this Bill, affords no solution of any sort or kind whatever. What other suggestion has been made? The hon. Member for the London University just now suggested a General Election. Will that solve the difficulty? Will it? [An HON. MEMBER: "Try it."] Yes, if you win we know exactly what will happen. My right hon. Friend (Mr. Harcourt) properly corrects me; we do not know what will happen. I should not be very much surprised if something exceptional happens; but for the moment it would involve undoubtedly the disappearance of this Bill. We are agreed upon that! Suppose the result were that we were to win, what then?
§ The PRIME MINISTER
Suppose you did give them a chance, and suppose the result were that we were to win, is that going to stifle, or subdue or get rid of the hostility of Ulster? [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I quite agree with the Leader of the Opposition, who, I think, intimated last Session that it might deprive the Ulster minority of a certain amount of moral, and possibly contingent, very contingent, material support from the Unionists of Great Britain. That is not what they care about. The people who repeated the celebrated pledge of my right hon. Friend the Member for Dublin 1293 University (Sir E. Carson), the people who have signed the Covenant—are they going to abandon their attitude because a majority of the electors of Great Britain think they are wrong? [An HON MEMBER: "They are not."] If they are not, what is the use of asking for a General Election? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Strand Division (Mr. Long) had a letter in the papers a day or two ago in which he stated that quite explicitly and plainly; and I am sure he adheres to that.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
Let us face the situation as it actually is. I do not say there is anything new in it at all. On the contrary, it is what I have said, throughout. What it comes to is this: This is a claim on the part of the inhabitants, or a majority of the inhabitants of four counties in Ireland, to interpose, in defiance of the express opinion of a majority, however, large and however often repeated, of the electors of the United Kingdom—it is a claim to interpose an absolute veto. I say to the House of Commons there is no legislative assembly that would tolerate such a claim.
§ Sir E. CARSON
Would the right hon. Gentleman say whether any legislature in the world has ever driven out people like this?
§ The PRIME MINISTER
Show me that under this Bill—the right hon. Gentleman talks about driving them out—show me that under this Bill the safeguards we have provided—[HON. MEMBERS: "Rubbish."]—for liberty, civil and religious, are in any respect inadequate: show me any means by which these safeguards can be strengthened or improved. What you are claiming is to prevent your fellow-countrymen, the vast majority of your fellow-countrymen, from obtaining and enjoying that which they have a right to demand, and that which they are determined to achieve. Therefore, I say to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Strand Division and his Friends who are now opposing the Second Reading of this Bill, without suggesting any alternative of any sort or kind; if they succeed, either now or hereafter, in preventing its passage into law they will be undertaking a responsibility infinitely greater than ours. They will, in effect, be asking from Parliament and from the country a mandate to coerce the vast majority of the Irish people. I am not an 1294 advocate or a prophet of civil war. I do not disparage or minimise in any way what may happen. There are difficulties inherent in any attempt to settle this problem which has been bequeathed to us partly by the unwisdom and partly by the misadventures of a most unhappy past. This I do say, you cannot leave it alone. In our belief, if you give free and local autonomy for Ireland as a whole there will come, as there has come elsewhere, the sense of responsibility and the spirit of tolerance.
I beg to move, as an Amendment, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words, "upon this day three months."
I rise, as the House will readily understand, with special feelings of emotion in respect to that great loss which the House generally, and his old friends and colleagues in particular, has sustained by the death of Mr. George Wyndham. The Prime Minister has, with admirable taste, referred to the matter, and I have little or nothing to add to what he has said. Naturally and inevitably I feel the tragedy more personally and more acutely than he or perhaps any other man in this House can be expected to feel it. I, perhaps from my longer and more intimate knowledge of Mr. Wyndham, feel myself justified in speaking with greater confidence than any other man in this House as to the width of his accomplishments, as to the great literary and imaginative powers, which never received, I think, their full expansion and their full meed of praise, and perhaps their full theatre in which to show themselves. Though there were speeches made by Mr. Wyndham which those who heard them will not readily forget, yet I think all must feel that he has been cut off at a time of life when there was still before him the hope and promise of greater things in the future than ever in the past. These are the great tragedies of life. That I, whose public work in the natural course of things is drawing to a close, should have to say these few words of one whose politics from the beginning have been, as it were, in close co-operation with myself, who was almost young enough to be my son, seems to me to add deeply to the tragedy of what is a tragic situation.
There was one point most emphatically referred to by the Prime Minister when he touched upon the question of Irish land purchase. It was the great, I had almost 1295 said the unique good fortune of my departed Friend to have his name for ever associated with that great Irish measure, which, though a great Irish measure, was yet not the subject of bitter Irish controversy. That has happened to few men before. It has happened to him, and those who like myself have the greatest admiration for his high intellectual and moral qualities are happy in the thought that his name will be so closely associated with the greatest reform that this House has ever introduced into Ireland. My fortune to-day is less happy in that I am going to ask the House to reject the Home Rule Bill, and that I am thereby immediately and inevitably plunged into a controversy which has divided parties and embittered feelings for the last twenty years or more. I do not like—as I grow older I like it less and less—to keep up bitter controversies, but on this question of the Home Rule Bill I am certain that if the Government pursue the course which they are pursuing we may be on the verge, I believe we are on the verge, of a great national tragedy, and it is to this aspect of the case that I should like to address my remarks to-day.
I will not follow the Prime Minister into the earlier parts of his speech, in which he gave us long electoral calculations showing that in his opinion, at all events, there was not the slightest evidence either to be drawn from this House, or to be drawn from by-elections, or the movement of public opinion outside this House, to show that the country was in any sense hostile to the measure now before us. I have heard these electoral calculations before; I may perhaps have made them myself, though I hope not very often; but anything more inconclusive, anything more unsatisfactory, anything which less carries conviction to a man who knows the current of public opinion than this sort of arithmetic cannot be imagined. The right hon. Gentleman, as far as I can make out, has lost some four or five elections in the last year, and he proved to us that, in spite of having lost four or five elections, that that is not the slightest evidence of the feeling in the country upon Home Rule, and the election upon which he most relied as showing not merely the feeling of the country but of Ulster itself—the four counties of which we hear so much—was really turning in the direction of the Government Bill, was that there was a turnover of seventy-five votes in the city of Londonderry. An attack of in- 1296 fluenza, if it had been discriminating enough, might have produced the whole of this result upon which the right hon. Gentleman so confidently relies as proving that he still retains the confidence of the country. I am not sure that that view of the right hon. Gentleman is shared by his Friends around him. At all events, I do not think I am wrong when I say that the heartiest, the most obviously spontaneous, cheer which was given in the whole course of his speech was when he indicated that nothing would induce him to appeal to the country before forcing this Bill under our present revolutionary system through the House of Lords and on to the Statute Book.
I think if this House rashly follows the advice which the Prime Minister has again to-day most rashly given it, there will be consequences which none of us can contemplate with equanimity. I am not going to give my own estimate of the strength and the depth of the feeling which animates the population in the four Ulster counties. There has been a great variety of opinion on that point expressed by Members of the Front Bench opposite. Some of them, I hope on the whole the less responsible ones, have described the Ulster opponents of this measure as little better than blusterers, lawbreakers, and all the contemptuous vocabulary of obloquy which occurs to the rhetorician in difficulties; but I am bound to say that the more responsible Members of the Government—the Prime Minister first of all, the Chief Secretary for Ireland in the second place—have, so far as my knowledge goes, so far as I have heard or read their speeches, never indulged in this kind of contemptuous attack upon Ulster or upon those representing Ulster in this House. I believe they know something about the subject; at any rate, they have means of information better than I command, and I am not sure that they have come to a different conclusion than that to which I have been forced, and that conclusion is exactly the opposite to that which some Gentlemen whom I see before me on the opposite side of the House have represented to the constituencies of this country as accurately describing the state of Ulster. I believe there is there a firm and intense determination at all costs to maintain what they regard as their inalienable rights as members of the United Kingdom and subjects of the Crown, and, if that be their feeling, the passage of this Bill by the method foreshadowed by the right hon. 1297 Gentleman is going to take you straight on to a great national tragedy. You may know it, or you may not know it, but, if these facts be true, it is the only conclusion I can possibly arrive at.
I remember there was a great national disaster during manœuvres in the Mediterranean, in which two great ships of war started upon a course in perfectly calm weather, and, to the eye of the landsman, were moving in perfect safety, yet a point was reached when, to those who knew, it became perfectly certain that no skill upon earth could avoid a collision between these two great vessels, and that one or both must sink with all their crew to the bottom. I do not say we have reached the point at which this collision in Ulster is inevitable. God forbid! But I say you are moving in that direction. I say that the hours are running out which will enable you to make the necessary changes in your course, and, if you are deaf to reason, if you refuse to believe the evidence of the men whom you have behind you—and who can tell you—why, then, all these evils that I and others foresee must surely come on us. Now, do not let it be supposed that I take a weak and sentimental view of governmental or national responsibilities that would make me shrink even from the extremest measures to carry a great policy or to preserve great interests. Of course, I do not take that view. I think it is cowardly. I neither take it myself nor do I recommend it to others. But you must remember this: If you are going to have a tragedy in Ulster, you will all have to give an account to your constituencies, and I am quite sure there is not a man upon the other side of the House any more than upon this side who would not shrink with the utmost repulsion from such a tragic result, and while all should be prepared to face it, if they know they are in the right, let them search their consciences and convince themselves that they are not making demands upon Ulster which if made upon themselves they would never grant, and demands which are absolutely contrary to the spirit of that Constitution which it is your boast you are endeavouring to preserve.
If these four counties in Ulster be indeed only animated by petty jealousies and ignoble fears, if they have nothing behind them, if they are not supported by anything except the memories of a time when there was a Protestant ascendency in Ireland, if it is simply the old bitterness 1298 and the old quarrels which are keeping open this sore, then, Sir, may be, time will easily heal, and further consideration may even prevent any serious difficulty. But I do not take that view of the situation. That, in my view, is not what is animating the population of these four counties. On the contrary, I think they are moved by arguments which would weigh with every single Member of the House as representing the best traditions of British liberty. Now just consider what you are doing! What I am now going to try and do is to ask hon. Gentlemen to search their consciences and see whether the cause of this Bill, in so far as it touches Ulster, is a cause in which they mean to shoot down Ulster. That is what it comes to, put quite plainly and shortly. I do not, of course, deny you have the power to do it. Sir George Trevelyan, discussing our quarrels with the American Colonies, says somewhere:—The British Government now tried the experiment of carrying through a political policy by the pressure of armed force. That experiment has never succeeded where on English-speaking population was made the subject of it.I do not go the length of Sir George Trevelyan. It is quite true that he was thinking of the revolt of the thirteen American Colonies, and it is quite true that there the attempt of Great Britain to enforce its rights failed. Those Colonies were 3,000 miles away, and they were aided by, or had as allies, all the maritime Powers of Europe. I do not think you will fail with Ulster. I think the power of this country exercised ruthlessly would succeed. If you did exercise your power ruthlessly it is not on your impotence, and it is not to the feeling of impotence I am making an appeal, but to your consciences. May I just ask the House to consider what it is they are asking Ulster to accept? In the first place, you are requiring Ulster to maintain her full payment for Imperial purposes, and at the same time to be shorn of half her representation in the Imperial Councils. Nobody denies that, I presume. You are requiring Ulster to pay her full share of taxation for Imperial purposes, and you are depriving her of half her representation in the Imperial Councils. That is absolutely inconsistent with every conceivable constitutional arrangement that any country ever consented to accept.
The right hon. Gentleman talked to us this afternoon in strains implying that we were only going to do for Ireland what had already been done in the Colonies. 1299 Show me a Colony where one province or one area was taken out and left with the full responsibility for general taxation and deprived of half its fair share of representation! Show me that! Can you find me one example? There is a bench rich in knowledge of constitutional history. If you choose to say that there is no country in the world where representation accurately and mathematically follows population, of course I agree. We tolerate anomalies which are the growth of historic causes. We live under many anomalies of that sort at the present moment, including the over-representation of Ireland. Those anomalies are tolerable or are not tolerable because they are of historic growth, but the idea of coming down here and deliberately and formally depriving a given area of half its fair representation while leaving the whole of the taxation upon it, has never occurred to the mind of any statesman who knew what constitutional government was before the present occupants of that bench came into power. May I ask what would be thought if you tried to bring Canada into the Imperial system under such a plan as that? If you said to Canada, "Hitherto you have not been contributing your full quota to the defence of the British Empire; there are great Imperial purposes to which you have never contributed; we will ask you to contribute your full share, and if you do that we will give you half the representation which, if you really were an integral part of the United Kingdom, would be your due." The proposition would be treated by Canada as the grossest of insults, and no power on earth would enable you to force such a proposal down the throat of Canada.
What has that got to do with it? That is exactly the kind of argument that was used in this House and in this country at the time of our dispute with the American Colonies in the eighteenth century, when the then British Government reduced the actual amount asked of the thirteen States to almost a nominal sum. All they said was: "We have a right to tax you. We do not mean to exercise it in any disagreeable or odious fashion." But that was not accepted by the American Colonies, and I am thinking it would not have been accepted by the right hon. Gentleman opposite had he 1300 been a citizen of Massachusetts or any other of the American States. But it is not a question of the amount. The amount paid by Belfast and the four counties is very much the same amount as that paid by Dundee and the adjoining portions of Scotland. I gave Canada as an imaginary illustration of this gross, unconstitutional unfairness, but let us come nearer home. Let us go to Scotland; let us go to Dundee. We had a Debate on Friday week, and I do not think the right hon. Gentleman was present, because no Cabinet Minister was present except the Minister for Scotland, but a good many of my countrymen were present and gave vent to their opinion on that subject. What was that Bill? That Bill retained in this House the full Scottish representation, and not only did it retain in this House full Scottish representation, but the Scotsmen who spoke in defence of it said nothing would induce them to abate one jot or tittle of their full representation in this House, although they were to be given control of their own affairs. Such an arrangement would have been a monstrous injustice to England, but I entirely agree if I were a Scotsman, or, being a Scotsman, if I had been a Scotch Home Ruler, I would not have given up any one of the seventy-two Members. If I had been challenged on that I should have said, "Very well, I will wait until the whole question of Federalism, if it is ever to come, is settled in this country, and then we will see what Scotland ought to have."
The point I want to drive into the House is this: The Secretary for Scotland, a Member of the Cabinet, presumably speaking for the Government of which he is a Member, and, certainly speaking for the majority of Scottish Members, declared most emphatically that on principle he would never allow Scottish representation to be diminished. Then why are you going to diminish the representation of Ulster? By what right do you do to Ulster what you dare not do to Scotland? I know of no argument or no reply to that at all except that Ireland has accepted the bargain, and that is no argument at all. That may be an argument good or bad, but I do not think it is a good argument for any part of Ireland. If it is good for any part, that part is the South and West counties outside what we agree to call, for the purposes of this Debate and for shortness, Ulster. Possibly hon. Gentlemen representing that great area have 1301 a right to say for themselves and their posterity that they are prepared to pay their full share to Imperial taxation, and are prepared to have half the representation provided they have complete control over their own affairs. But where does Ulster come in under that system? What control is Ulster going to have over her own affairs, and is she a party to that bargain? She objects to it root and branch. She objects to it on Imperial grounds. She objects to it because she knows she will not have control of her own affairs, but that other people will have the control of her affairs. How you can under those circumstances have the courage to come forward and say that Ulster in claiming the full equality of British citizenship in this respect represents a community which ought to be coerced passes my comprehension completely. What is the so-called constitutional argument which lies behind all this contention of the Prime Minister? They say the majority must rule, and that is a constitutional principle, and you cannot work any Constitution unless the elected representatives of the community, backed up by the majority of the electors, are given supreme control.
That is a perfectly sound legal argument, but it is not a sound moral argument. It was a sound legal argument that this Parliament being supreme had the right to tax America. That is a perfectly sound and legal argument from a legal point of view, but we all feel now that it was a hollow argument, because there was not behind it any real, solid, moral, constitutional basis, and so it is in regard to the questions which this majority claim to rule connected with this Bill. The majority have no right to use their power to deprive a portion of the area which they rule of their rights and put them on an unequal footing. The essence of democracy is that whether you pass good laws or bad laws they are equal laws. This is an unequal law. On the very face of it it is an unequal law. By the very nature of the case it is a gross injustice, it is a moral and constitutional abuse of the rights of the majority for them to turn to Ulster and say, "We, being the majority, and you the minority, mean to put you in a position of permanent inferiority." They are in that position, as I have shown already. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Then answer my argument. By the part of the Bill I have dealt with I say that you are putting them in an inferior position, and if you presumed 1302 to put Kent, Sussex, Yorkshire, or Lancashire in that position everybody would see how grossly unequal it was, and what an unconstitutional abuse it was of nominal constitutional powers. You must remember that behind the Constitution there are the principles on which the Constitution rests, and I say that in this Bill those fundamental principles are broken. To say that those who believe in the Constitution and wish to work the Constitution are bound to accept the verdict of the majority is to forget that the majority may do things which are outside the principles of the Constitution, and by their very acts lose all moral claim which their majority would give them. I think that you are not merely putting Ulster into this impossible and invidious position as regards representation and taxation, but you are doing what I think Ulster feels more, and what I think it is properly right to feel more, you are deliberately putting it under the control of a majority which is divided from it, unhappily—I do not say through any fault of that majority; I am not going into ancient history; I am taking facts as I find them—by ancient wrongs, ancient centroversies, ancient bitterness, existing religious differences, and the whole atmosphere of the present born of the past, which makes it a cruel wrong to take a small area and put it under the control of a large area thus profoundly differing from it. If it were Albania that was being treated so, if the Foreign Secretary for the time being heard that in one of these rearrangements of European policy anything was being attempted by other Powers to do for any fraction of Eastern Europe or Western Asia that which you are now doing to Ulster, why the Foreign Secretary would send dispatches of the most convincing and conclusive description, the Chancellories all over Europe would be moved, and a Resolution in this House would certainly be moved by one of the Gentlemen below the Gangway opposite, much more anxious for the liberties of other people than for the liberties of the people for whom they are primarily responsible. It is the misfortune of Ulster that it is not two thousand miles away, that it does not speak a different language, and that it does not have another religion, but that it is within the sight of your shores, that it speaks your own language, and that it shares your own religion. Therefore, it loses all title and claim for that careful regard which hon. Gentlemen opposite have for distant populations and 1303 alien races, and, without the least hesitation—they seem to think that they are doing a highly moral action, an action which is in conformity with the best spirit of the Constitution, and an action which is going to promote the liberties and government of mankind—they are putting this area of the North-East corner of Ireland under the control of a dominating Nationalist Assembly. I think that is bad, but I do not think it is the worst that you are doing in this respect.
There are, so far as I can see, if you think it impossible to maintain the present state of things, only four alternative courses which you can possibly pursue with regard to this divided and distracted country. You may, if you think devolution necessary, adopt something like the South African Constitution. You may have your provincial councils or whatever they are called all over the United Kingdom, in which case Ulster presumably would be separated administratively from the rest of Ireland just as I presume parts of England would be separated from other parts of England. That is the system of provincial councils which, I take it, commends itself, or did commend itself, to the First Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. Churchill). That was something like it. You may give Home Rule to the South and West of Ireland and leave Ulster exactly where it is in relation to the general legislative Constitution of the United Kingdom. There would, in that case, be Home Rule for Munster, Leinster, and Connaught, and Ulster would remain an integral part of the rest of the United Kingdom. That I do not say to be good. You could say, "Ireland had been a source of nothing but trouble and perplexity to Great Britain from the time of Henry II. downwards. We will have no more to do with it. Ireland shall become what she professes, or did profess that she wanted to become, a separate nation with its own finance, its own responsibility, asking nothing and getting nothing from that Empire of which she was once a part." In that case I think, somehow and in the long run, Ulster would get its full weight in the councils of this new Republic. That is not the policy I recommend. What I do say, and not for the first time, is that bad as that policy is it is incomparably better than the Home Rule policy, and it is better than the Home Rule policy for the reason which I am now going to give the House.
1304 If you pass Home Rule in its present shape, you are practically putting Ulster for all domestic purposes and subject to what you call your safeguards under the control of the rest of Ireland, and, however the rest of Ireland use their power, provided they keep within the four corners of your Bill, everything Ulster does against the rest of Ireland is rebellion against you, and all the forces of the Crown I presume would be asked for by the dominant party in Dublin, and possibly given by the occupants of that bench. At all events, they would be claimed, and that, I think, is the atrocity of this Bill. That seems the greatest of the atrocities—I have pointed out some of the others—and do not tell me that the majority have a constitutional right to establish that system within their limits. That is a violation surely of the most fundamental rights which any district within the United Kingdom now possesses, and yet you are recklessly going not merely to deprive Ulster of its fair share of representation, not merely to divorce it from the general system of the United Kingdom, and not merely to put it under the control of a majority which it profoundly distrusts, but you are actually going to take upon yourselves the function of keeping it under the heel of that majority. Europe has tried these distributions of territory. They tried it in the case of Norway and Sweden; and they tried in the case of Belgium and Holland. In both cases it failed, and in both cases the thing could be put right, because neither the Scandinavian Peninsular nor the Low Countries were under the control of a greater Power which made itself practically and constitutionally responsible for seeing that arrangement was maintained. But you are not going to give Ulster the chance which Belgium and Norway had. You are going to make yourselves for all time the policemen and the guardians, and possibly the tyrants of this area in Ireland without yourselves having any responsibility in the management of its affairs. I think that in those respects this Bill is unconstitutional in the true and profound sense of the word. It is so unconstitutional and its violations of sound principles are so deep that you cannot expect Ulster to submit, and what is much more important from your point of view, you cannot expect the British public, when they understand what is going on, not to take the side of Ulster.
If anything were required to complete the picture which I have attempted to 1305 draw, it is the fact that you are doing this under what, in our view, is a mere interim revolutionary Constitution, and what even in your own view is a provisional Constitution. If you are going to have an Act, as I think, of unconstitutional tyranny performed for any portion of the United Kingdom, at all events do it with the authority of your Constitution as it was, or as it ought to be. [An HON. MEMBER: "Ah!"] Well, one or the other. You think your Constitution as it was before the Parliament Bill was a bad Constitution. Very well, this country has a perfect right to alter it, and, when the Constitution is remodelled and made what you wish to have it, let the country, acting through that Constitution, carry out any real constitutional policy which may commend itself to the majority. You have not done that, and, what is more, you have cynically said you are not doing it. You have told us in the most formal and explicit manner—you have even put it on the Statute Book—that this is a provisional Constitution. If it is only a provisional Constitution, if we have not the safeguards that we once possessed, nor the safeguards which, in your own view, we ought to possess, what a moment it is to choose to strain to the breaking point every principle by which British Parliaments, British lovers of liberty, and British lovers of sound representative government have hitherto always stood.
The Prime Minister flatters himself that the country, if it is not moving violently in his favour, is not showing any very strong signs of dissent from his policy. I think that he rather flatters himself, I think that his view is a little over-sanguine; but, even if it were accurate down to the last letter, it would leave me quite unmoved, because what I want hon. Gentlemen to think of is not the condition of the country as it is now, but the condition of the country as it will be when it realises the possible tragedies into which you are deliberately dragging it. I grant that in this House there is calm, the calm of exceeding weariness. I am perfectly ready to grant that the country is not stirred to its depths of indignation over the Home Rule Bill. I am quite ready to grant it. I was very much impressed by an extract the Prime Minister read from the "Times" correspondent about Cambridgeshire, in which the correspondent said, rightly or wrongly, I know not, but with great plaus- 1306 ibility, that in that quiet rural district men thought little of distant Ulster, and were moved chiefly by thoughts of their own condition, how in the past legislation had injured or benefited it, and how legislation in the future was to be of a desirable kind. We are as a nation perhaps, somewhat sluggish in imagination. Certainly we are as a nation immersed in our day to day labours, our toils and our pleasures. We give and are given in marriage. We eat and drink. We work and labour, and how can we expect the great mass of the electorate to have that vivid imagination of what is going on in Ulster when they only see it echoed faintly through the colourless medium of the newspapers, or in a perhaps highly coloured picture drawn by some orator on the platform.
What do you think will be the condition of these quiet, rural parishes if you by your Act bring yourself into conflict with the men of Ulster? How will you deal with the situation if you call out the Cambridgeshire regiment and send that over to deal with Belfast? Do you think that the people of this quiet, rural district, chiefly interested in the Insurance Act, will remain dully oblivious to the tragic goings on on the other side of St. George's Channel? I tell you "No." You will have to explain to your constituents when that time occurs that the Ulstermen are wrong. You will have to explain, not merely that they are acting illegally in the sense that those who take part in such proceedings can be brought before a Law Court and charged with this or that misdemeanour or crime, but you will have to prove to them that the cause in which English blood is being spilled in order to coerce Ulster has got its moral basis deep in the whole history of our country. I say you will never be able to do that, do what you will. You may crush Ulster. Nothing I believe would be more easy if all your forces are directed in a whole-hearted manner against that small corner of the country. But you cannot do it if my diagnosis is right, that the present indifference of the rural districts, and of urban districts as well, is an indifference based upon want of knowledge, want of imagination, want of that power of realising the difficulties of other people, of realising their hardships, their feelings and their emotions. When you bring the hardships of these men really home to the hearts of Englishmen, I tell you there is no rhetoric which any Gentleman on that side of the House can use which will 1307 enable you to face the indignation that you will have brought upon yourselves, when under the cloak of the Constitution, and under the guise of respect for the will of the majority, you have really imposed upon those who are now your fellow subjects upon equal terms, a condition of things which no Englishman would tolerate for himself and which no Englishman has a right to impose upon others.
§ Mr. T. P. O'CONNOR
I hope the House will permit me, although I do not belong to the same party, and could not claim the honour of personal friendship with Mr. George Wyndham, to add on my own behalf and on behalf of my hon. Friends, our tribute of deep regret at his sudden and tragic taking off. He had the blood of one of our heroes in his veins. He always wished well to our country, according to his lights. I am a little disappointed at the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down—able and brilliant as that speech was and as all his speeches are. He was asked a definite question by the Prime Minister and he declined to give an answer. The Prime Minister asked him this question, "What is your alternative policy?" What was the answer of the right hon. Gentleman? He did not give any alternative of his own, but he spoke of there being four alternatives. I suppose it was by a lapse of memory that he only mentioned three. I do not know what his fourth was. His first was provincial councils; his second was Home Rule for the South of Ireland and the exclusion of the North; the third was separation. He did not mention his fourth.
§ Mr. T. P. O'CONNOR
The right hon. Gentleman did not mention this Bill as his fourth alternative, because what is nearest to the heart seldom is spoken on the lip.
I may have expressed myself badly, but I intended to say, and I thought I did say, that of these four alternatives to the situation, I thought Home Rule by far the worst.
§ Mr. T. P. O'CONNOR
I observe the right hon. Gentleman was careful not to say which alternative policy he would support, and, therefore, so far as his contribution to the Debate is concerned, he was giving us one of those delightful, discursive, but entirely irrelevant philosophical statements which we all appreciate but 1308 which really do not add to the wisdom of the Debate or to our means of dealing with this problem. I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman, with regard to his first and second propositions, namely, provincial councils and a Home Rule with the exclusion of Ulster, has he read the speeches of his right hon. Friend the Member for Dublin University, and has he read the speeches of other Irish Unionist representatives? If he has read them, he must know that there is no policy, even excluding this fourth alternative, the present Home Rule Bill, to which they give such fierce hostility. As to the second of the two alternatives which he puts forward in substitution for the Bill, I have the words, here of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dublin University with regard to this question of the exclusion of Ulster. The right hon. Gentleman in substance said, "We do not want a Parliament for Ulster. That is not our policy, and never has been our policy." Further, the right hon. Gentleman went on to say that in place of a separate Parliament for Ulster, or Ulster being kept in the present Parliament, and the rest of Ireland getting Home Rule, so far from that being an advantage in favour of a Home Rule settlement, it would be an additional disadvantage, because it would deprive the Home Rule Parliament of the Protestant blend that would come from the Protestant population of the North. It is no use, therefore, discussing the right hon. Gentleman's alternatives, against which his own party are just as strong as they are against the policy of this Bill.
Now with regard to the alternative of separation. I wonder what the right hon. Gentleman would say if speeches in favour of separation were delivered from these benches! Almost the whole case of hon. Gentlemen when dealing with English audiences is that we are in practice separatists, and that we regard this Bill as merely a means to separation. But here the right hon. Gentleman comes down and declares that he will have nothing to do with this paltry, miserable compromise of Home Rule, and he adds, "Separation is my idea." That is the statement we get from this Leader of the Unionist and Conservative party. We all know that that talk is not practical politics; it is Parliamentary dialectics. The right hon. Gentleman in a similar method of futile dialectics, when he talks of the forty-two Members, says, "Fancy this monstrous injustice to Ulster! You are depriving 1309 her of the contribution of Imperial taxation. You are depriving her of half her representation." What about the rest of Ireland? If the Ulstermen suffer from this, so do the men of Connaught, of Munster, and of Leinster. Is not that also mere dialectics? These forty-two Members have filled every kind of conflicting rôle in this Debate. First, we are told they are so small and miserable a number as to constitute an insult to Ireland and a grievance in particular to Ulster, and the next day some hon. Member will get up and say, "You are giving Ireland the right to govern her own affairs without any interference from us, and here you send this big band of forty-two Members to dominate and destroy self-government in England.
The right hon. Gentleman says Ulster is fighting for her primordial rights. He says Ulster could not be put down by force, and there is a well-known passage in Sir George Trevelyan's book to the effect that no race can be put down by force when its primordial rights are refused it. I fully accept that statement. But what about the primordial rights of the majority of Irishmen? We hear a great deal about the rights of the minority of the Irish people, but surely we have a right to ask some respect for the rights of the majority. When you build up the claim of Ulster and realise its reality it amounts to this: that the minority of the Irish people claim to govern the majority of the Irish people, and, what is more, they claim to govern the majority of the British people as well. Sympathy with the rights of Ulster! Certainly within reason, but Ulster may push rights really beyond reason. Let us analyse this claim. The right hon. Gentleman has not said a word to answer the powerful speech of the Prime Minister upon this point. Ulster says, "We will not give Home Rule to the rest of Ireland, even if we get it ourselves." Therefore, this minority stands against the majority of the people of Ireland getting self-government. What is more, the Leader of the Opposition says that if a General Election takes place in this country, and if that General Election called upon the people of Ulster to yield to the demand for Home Rule he would not further resist it. That is not what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dublin University said. That is not what all these hon. Gentlemn above, the Gangway representing Ulster constituencies say. They say that if twenty General Elections were to decide in favour 1310 of Home Rule—twenty elections in which English, Welsh, and Scotch, as well as Irish electors took part—whatever the majority might be in favour of Home Rule, they would still stand out and still resist by force. This extraordinary minority is to govern the majority of Ireland and the majority of England, Scotland, and Wales as well.
Let the right hon. Gentleman do down to Cambridgeshire, and with tears in his voice, try to get the people to rise to the pathos of this tragic situation in Ulster, and even the poorest agricultural labourer will laugh in his face at such a ridiculous pretence upon the part of a minority in the country. The Ulster men will get the sympathies of the people of this country in defence of their primordial rights! What are their rights? The right of free worship, the right of free speech, the right to protection of their lives and their property. Will the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for the City of London, get up and venture to declare that any single one of these rights is threatened by this Bill, or will be threatened by an Irish Parliament? I know very well all the skill—we have suffered here too often under it ourselves not to appreciate it better than anybody else—of the right hon. Gentleman in Debate, but his greatest skill is in evading real issues. The real issue, and I put it to him, and I demand an answer from him or from some of those who are to follow from that bench—I am not talking of the hon. Gentlemen from Ulster now. I know there is no reasoning with them upon this subject; I am sorry for it, but they have got themselves into a state of feverish reactionary and mediæval bigotry upon this question, so it is impossible for me to argue with them—but I will ask any responsible Unionist leader in this House to get up and say that this Bill will interfere with the right of free speech, the right of free worship, the right of commerce to protection and of life and limb to protection under an Irish Parliament. I do not believe there is a single man who will have the courage or, perhaps, I should say, the meanness to make any such declaration with regard to the Irish people.
The right of worship! Have we ever interfered—I mean we of the Nationalist party—with the right of worship? We had three Protestant Leaders in succession. We have seven or eight Protestants in our party at present. We have sometimes had ten, twelve, or fourteen Protestants in our party, and they were among 1311 our ablest and most honoured and popular Members. So far as we in Nationalist politics in Ireland are concerned we have never asked, and never will ask, the question with regard to what particular religious communion or faith a man belongs. The answer I will give to the right hon. Gentleman with regard to his appeal on behalf of the people of Ulster is this: He says that the Government will be called upon to use force—I do not believe the Government will ever be called on to do so—because Ulster Orangemen are fighting for their liberties. What liberties? Then he says, to make the thing more atrocious and tragic, that the very Imperial Government which sees these Ulstermen prejudiced in their liberties and fighting for their liberties, and threatening them to shoot them down, will be shooting them down because of those things for which that Government has no responsibility. Has he read the Bill? No responsibility! There is not a Clause in the Bill which does not retain the responsibility of the Imperial authority for the faithful, loyal and literal maintenance of every provision of the Bill. There are innumerable provisions in the Bill for safeguarding the religious liberties of everybody in Ireland of every creed and in every province of Ireland. Therefore, if the Ulster men were fighting against an attack upon their religious liberties, the Irish Parliament would have broken the contract and the responsibility of the Imperial Government would begin and the responsibility of the Imperial Government would be exercised. I put it to hon. Gentlemen opposite who are mostly Protestants in religion. Is there a single one of them who, if he saw an Ulster Protestant suffering, not from an imaginary, or an anticipatory, but an actual grievance, if he saw the Irish Parliament or the Irish Executive doing any act of injustice to an Ulster Protestant, as a Protestant, and if this Government refused to take action against that Parliament and against that law and against that Executive action, would not be compelled by the Protestant opinion of England to rise up and denounce the Government for not doing its duty. All this talk is really in the air, it means nothing.
I will tell you the points upon which the right hon. Gentleman will not be able to appeal with any confidence to the British elector. I confess that I share some of his sympathy with the Ulster Protestants. We all desire to be on good terms with 1312 them. We never shall be on good terms with, or they with us, until we have liberty and self-government. I take up the challenge of the right hon. Gentleman, who drew a parallel from the condition of the Balkan States. I accept the parallel. He took the case of Albania, and I will accept Albania. If anybody proposed—even if the Foreign Secretary, high as my confidence in him is—were to propose to put large bodies of men of Greek faith, Greek tongue, Greek religion, Greek culture, wanting to belong to the Mother country of Greece under the rule of Albania, I should object. But take Albania itself. Albania is going to be made a kingdom. I am in favour of that, and in favour of Albanian as well as of Greek nationality. But the Albanians consist of Moslems and orthodox Roman Catholics, and everybody knows that the only chance of these religions being reconciled and of the giving up their present religious feuds is that they should be put into the healthy crucible of a common national existence. I go further with regard to the Balkan analogy brought forward by the right hon. Gentleman himself. What is the history of the Balkan States? Take Macedonia under the Turks. Year after year there were hideous violence and massacres, not only between Mahomedan and Christian, but between Christian and Christian, between race and race, between Bulgar and Greek. There was horrible violence upon both sides. When Macedonia gets autonomy I am sure that this state of things will come to an end. Take Bulgaria, where, before she got her freedom, there were persecutions and massacres, where the Mahomedan hated the Christian, where the Christian hated Mahomedan, where the Mahomedan murdered the Christian, and the Christian murdered the Mahomedan. What is the state of things there now?
I have read innumerable pages about the recent and terrible war, but there is one page which has remained impressed upon my memory as the most wonderful feature of that struggle. I read a description of the troops leaving Sofia to go to the war. There were their wives, mothers, children, brothers, and sisters attending them to the station, amid the wildest excitement and the terrible passion of war, everybody knowing that many of them would never come back again. I read a description of how, in the middle of the streets through which these soldiers were passing in all the panoply, passion, and excitement of war, 1313 the Mahomedans, who are now Bulgarian subjects, and have been so for the last twenty-five years, put down their mats at the corners of the streets, uttering their Mahomedan prayers to Allah and to Mahomet as his Prophet, and these men, Bulgarian Christians, who twenty-five or thirty years ago were massacred wholesale by Mahomedans, going on their way to the war, passed them by without a look. The Mussulman to-day under liberty and self-government has the same rights and privileges as the Christian and perfect freedom to worship. No, Sir, the Balkan analogy does not help the right hon Gentleman, but rather goes the other way. I said a few moments ago that I had a good deal of sympathy with Orangemen in the North of Ireland. I will tell you why I have sympathy with them. They are not a very well-educated body of men; they know very little of the history of any time subsequent to the battle of the Boyne and William III.; they are excitable; they know very little of their own countrymen, and their passions have been played upon by skilful and educated masters of the music of political, religious, and bigoted feeling. I do not know that there is a more shameful chapter in the history of religious intolerance than that contained in the Ulster campaign of the last ten years. Read some of the language that is used in Ulster. A certain reverend Dr. M'Ilveen addresses his congregation and says:—When, in 1641, ignorant Romanists, instigated by their priests, slaughtered with the most horrid cruelty 40,000 Irish Protestants, they were prepared for the carnage by receiving the Sacrament. Thus fortified, they went forth swearing they would not leave a Protestant alive in the Kingdom.The statement is not historically correct. I have the authority of Professor Lecky, who says:—My firm conviction is that the common assertion that the rebellion of 1641 began with a general massacre of Protestants is entirely untrue.What does a sermon like that mean? What is it meant to convey? It is meant to convey that Home Rule means the repetition of a massacre like the massacre of 1641. Why should not these unfortunate Orangemen be excited when their clerical leaders, men of education, men belonging to the Christian ministry, actually suggest to them that when Home Rule is passed the throats of everyone of them will be cut?
§ Mr. T. P. O'CONNOR
I read a good deal of Professor Kettle. He is a very charming writer. Does he recommend that the Protestants of Ireland should have their throats cut?
§ Mr. HARRY LAWSON
If the hon. Member asks me, I would refer him to what he said the other day—that those who appealed to the sword by the sword will their blood be shed.
§ Mr. T. P. O'CONNOR
I have a faint recollection of having heard that language before. I believe it has much higher authority than Professor Kettle. It did not prevent its original author from being called the "Prince of Peace," though perhaps those who are his Ministers in Ulster somewhat forget that side. That is the kind of language that is used. Here is another speech. "What keeps Ireland going now," says a gentleman called Colonel Wallace, Grand Master of the Orangemen. He calls himself a colonel, but I understand that he follows the more peaceful and, I am sure, lucrative occupation of a solicitor:—What keeps Ireland going now? Protestant money and English subsidies. What keeps the mills going and employs the workers? Protestant money. What pays the wages of thousands of Roman Catholic workers? Protestant money. What would happen if the Protestant men of wealth realised what they could and left the country? If the Protestant employers of labour shifted their works to the other side of the water, and if the Protestant employers refused to employ anyone who was not a Protestant, do you think the wretched Roman Catholics, who would be starving, would be shouting for Ireland a nation then? Let them pause and carefully consider all these things.This is the religious liberty which is threatened! This is the apostle who is going out to shed blood or to have his own blood shed for civil and religious liberty! A man should be deprived of his employment by a Protestant because he happens to be a Catholic! I could quote some verses! though I think they would shock the House. There is a volume of verses which contains this:—We won't give up the Bible,The Beacon of our hope,For all the powers of darkness,The devil or the Pope.What though the Drunken Womanshould gnash her blood-stained jaws,Their strength is more than humanWho fight in God's own cause.We won't give up the Bible,Which set our fathers freeFrom Rome's polluting bondageAnd blind idolatry.Beneath whose living powerThe reign of terror ceased,And men refused to cowerBefore a sinful priest.
§ Mr. T. P. O'CONNOR
The hon. Member is very sensitive about Patrick Ford, but he is not sensitive about his fellow Catholics in Ireland. May I incidentally remark that this is one of the gentlemen under whose lash I, as a rather lukewarm zealot for Catholic schools in England, have frequently had to submissively bend my back?Farewell to your worship of pictures and stones,Your rags and your relics and rotten old bones.Your images winking—your bleeding imposture,Your ten Ave Maries for one Paternoster.The second commandment you cunningly hideA service of sense for the true one provide.The Word of the Lord by your rubbish disguiseAnd cheat all the world with your refuge of lies.
§ Mr. T. P. O'CONNOR
If the hon. Member has heard them all before he ought to be ashamed. Sometimes this gospel of religious hate is put in even a coarser form—for instance, we saw this in Derry:—We'll kick the King and we'll kick the Pope all over Dolly's Brae. Hurroo, to Hell with the Pope! No King, no Pope, no holy water and no surrender.Then comes this parody of the music-hall song:—Good-bye, Georgie, we must leave you and we are not ashamed to go.But the answer of Derry was to return my hon. Friend as a supporter of Home Rule. These are the coarser forms of the pepole, but there are other forms. For instance, the Bishop of Derry made a speech, reported in the "Times" to-day. It is a terrible thing to preach political sermons in chapels in England, but it is quite a right thing in Ireland. This bishop is a man who deals faithfully with his political opponents. The other day he described my hon. Friends on the other side of the House as a "hireling party, who, having sold themselves for office, were of course ready to sell the Protestants of Ireland." I hope you like that description of the political motives which induce you to support this Bill. He was dealing yesterday with a text from the Scriptures, "Render therefore unto Cæsar the things which are Cæsar's, and unto God the things which are God's." This was his comment:—The claim of Cæsar must be subordinate to the claim of God and Irish Protestants. If they were persuaded that their freedom to worship God was at stake, must they shrink from defending it in order to render to Cæsar what was his? This would be rendering to Cæsar that which was not Cæsar's.Is not the suggestion there that Protestants will not be allowed, under Home Rule, to freely exercise their religious 1316 worship and their religious creed, and is not that a foul aspersion, a most miserable and ungrateful calumny against the most tolerant and generous nation that ever existed? I think the House will not be surprised if the men of Ulster are dreaming of bloodshed. But these gentlemen go a little further. They are contemplating something which I believe lawyers call sedition and high treason. I do not pronounce upon their proceedings, but they have, in a strange kind of way, following the very bad example of their leader, brought the name of the Sovereign into this controversy—I think a most unconstitutional and a most indecent and most unmannerly thing to do, but what can you expect from gentlemen who, like one hon. Member above the Gangway, commits himself to this statement:—I don't know but would have said 'Well done' to that suffragette who dropped the hatchet into his, apple-cart."—meaning the carriage in which the Prime Minister was travelling in Dublin—All that I am sorry for is that she was so woman-like in her aim.The champions of civil and religious liberty! That is one of the hon. Members for Fermanagh. He says various other things which it would not be fair for me to insult the House with. What does all this mean? First, I have shown that the resistance of Ulster is the resistance of a minority to prevent the majority of the Irish people getting self-government even if Ulster were excluded; secondly, it is the resistance of that minority against the majority of the British as well as the Irish people against giving Ireland Home Rule; and, thirdly, I have shown that what these gentlemen fear, and what they are taught to fear, is that their religious freedom will be interfered with by an Irish Parliament, and that that fear has been encouraged and stimulated by unscrupulous appeals to them by men who ought to have known better. There is another aspect that this campaign in Ulster takes. These gentlemen are almost becoming separatists. There is a gentleman called Sir Robert Anderson, of whom the House has heard before. We know his record. We know the kind of man he is and the kind of type he represents in Ireland, who live on the blood and tears of the Irish people. He said:—The Front Opposition Bench kept saying, 'Let there be a General Election, and then if the country decides in its favour let that be final.' He repudiated that altogether.1317 This gentleman has just come from Scotland Yard, where he has been sending anarchists to gaol, and working men, for breaches of order. He says:—The Democracy of England has no right to exclude any citizen from the Empire.Who is excluding anyone?He would very much rather be under the German Kaiser than under the rule of a Home Rule Parliament.I would like to see them try their Orange tricks with William the Kaiser. There is another hon. Member above the gangway who has also been treating the subject in the same strain. I mean an hon. Member who has been referred to in the Press as "Herr Von Chambers." He said:As regarded the future, what if a day should come when Ireland would be clamouring for independence complete and thorough from Great Britain? What side would they in Ulster take in that crisis of their country's fate? They would have been betrayed. England would have thrown them off; their King would have told them that he valued their allegiance no longer. He would have placed his hand to a statute which, in their minds, made them perpetual slaves to men who had ever been hostile to the British throne and hostile to everything they held dear. What side would they take then? (A Voice: 'Germany.') He (Mr. Chambers) bound no man by his opinions. They owed to England allegiance, loyalty, and gratitude; but if England cast them off, then he reserved the right as a betrayed man to say, 'I shall act as I have a right to act. I shall sing no longer "God Save the King."'6.0 P.M.
This gentleman, by the way, is a Crown prosecutor in Ireland. I have often heard Ireland called a land of topsy-turveydom, and I begin to think the statement is not altogether incorrect. It was brought home to myself on one peaceful occasion when, as a London citizen, I went to address a meeting at Dungannon on the question of the Franchise. When I started to speak, a revolver was fired in the air, which did not tend to the cohesion of my thoughts. I had afterwards to pass in the centre between a number of soldiers and policemen on the way to the station, in order to get back to my peaceful home in England, where I was not subjected to such forms of protecting civil and religious liberty as prevail in the north of Ireland. The leaders of the men who were opposed to me and who put down a legal meeting were deputy lieutenants and other local magnates who on that occasion acted rather as law-breakers than law administrators, just as those gentlemen now, with all this hideous persecution,proclaim themselves the champions of civil and religious liberty. An hon. Friend tells me that the hon. Member (Mr. Chambers) was a Crown prosecutor under the Tory Government. If the Tories should come into Office he will not be 1318 idle, and I do not think his previous utterances in favour of disloyalty and anarchy will keep him from taking his fee.
These Belfast Protestants, because of the clever, cunning, and wicked appeals made to them, may be incited to lawless acts. I would ask, "What do they understand by civil and religious liberty?" If you were to separate Ulster from the rest of Ireland, you would have two minorities in Ireland instead of one. You would have a Protestant minority in the South deserted by their friends in the North, and you would have a Catholic minority in Belfast, where nearly 2,000 of them, men and women, were beaten, had bolts thrown at them, were thrown out of their employment to starve, and were compelled, many of them, to come on trade union funds in England and to seek occupation in England and Scotland. Women were attacked as well as men. One woman was described by the judge as suffering from assault, and one was permanently disabled. They were attacked in the glorious name of civil and religious liberty. Go to the people of Cambridge and say that is your grievance, and you would be told, "What you mean by civil and religious liberty is tyranny and ascendency for yourselves." Is this new in the history of Ireland? Edmund Burke had to deal with this question in his time. He was a Protestant, and he said:—I am deeply and bitterly afflicted to see that a small fraction of Ireland should arrogate to itself the whole of that great kingdom. I am more afflicted in seeing that a very minute part of that small fraction should be able to persuade any person that on the support of their power the connection of the two kingdoms essentially depends. This is a strange error, and if persevered in I am afraid it must accomplish the ruin of both.
§ Mr. T. P. O'CONNOR
Does the Noble Lord think that we would regard a Home Rule Parliament, as he is pleased to call Grattan's Parliament, in which not a single Nonconformist or Catholic could hold office, as a Parliament which would bring peace, contentment, and equality? The Noble Lord is strangely excited.
§ Mr. T. P. O'CONNOR
I would like to know the reason why the Noble Lord, with that high courtesy which belongs to him, tells me to go to Bagota. I understand the allusion, and we all know what he means. When a party is bankrupt in principles 1319 and arguments it is very glad to take refuge in personal calumny and abuse. Lord Palmerston, in 1826, writing from Derry, said:—The day is fast approaching when this battle will be settled as it must be, and in spite of the orgies and the bumpers pledged to 'No surrender.' The days of Protestant ascendancy are numbered.The Noble Lord (Lord Hugh Cecil) goes and makes an academic speech in favour of anarchy to the men of Belfast after they had beaten and batoned and driven out the poor Catholics. This unctuous and pedantic anarchist, speaking for the Union, is one of the most contemptible sights politics ever saw. That is the only reason why I say I have some sympathy with those poor deluded working men. Palmerston said that the days of Protestant ascendancy were numbered, but it is a strange fact that a large and enlightened country should be still debating, as we are now, eighty years afterwards, whether it is wise to convert 4,000,000 or 5,000,000 from enemies to friends, and whether it is safe to give power to Ireland. We are still discussing the question whether it is right to get the friendship of 4,000,000 Irish Nationalists in Ireland, and of 20,000,000 of the Irish race in every part of the world who have offered you their friendship. Autonomy and liberty is the only solvent for these racial and religious passions. They have been created by alien rule, and for political and party purposes. The day will come when, in the unity of political life, and working together for the common good of their country, the Protestants of Belfast will understand their Catholic fellow countrymen. As far as we are concerned, we long for, we hope for, and we believe we shall get the assistance of their strenuous support, not in dividing our country, but in helping to make Ireland a nation once again.
§ Mr. CAVE
I do not think this House will be satisfied with the manner in which the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. T. P. O'Connor), dealt with the Ulster question. The Prime Minister treated the matter, as we all expected, as a serious and grave matter—one requiring the attention of the House, and the Chief Secretary for Ireland has always taken the same view. Now the hon. Member for the Scotland Division comes here, and uses his great rhetorical powers to misrepresent the Orange situation, and to urge on the Roman Catholics 1320 of Ireland against their Protestant fellow subjects. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I can only say, if the hon. Gentleman is to be taken as representing the fairness of the dominant party in Ireland, "God help the Protestants of Ireland."
§ Mr. CAVE
I do not want to import heat into the matter, because I think the Ulster position can be put in very few and very simple words. The Government desire to subject a part of Ireland which values the British connection to the rule of a Parliament in Dublin which that part of Ireland absolutely distrusts. They intend to do that by force with the help of British troops, for there is no other way to do it. You have no moral, no constitutional right to take that course. You may abandon a part of the Realm which is now under the Government of this Parliament; you have no right to barter it or give it away to any other part. You cannot do it effectively, because while you may by the use of British force coerce Ulster into submission to-day, you will have to send your British force there again and again. You will have in effect to hold that country down, and in the end you will have to retrace your steps. You are trying to set up that which Carlyle called the worst form of slavery, the slavery of the strong to the weak, the slavery, as he said, of the great to the small. And even if you could do this thing, it would be, I believe, the greatest betrayal known in our history. The Foreign Secretary said the other day that it is not the way to make new friends to desert old ones. That is exactly what you are doing, and an older statesman than the Foreign Secretary, John Bright, said this in his election address in 1886, and every word of it applies to-day:—You are asked to thrust out from the shelter and the justice of the united Parliament the two millions who would remain with us, who cling to us, who passionately resent the attempt to drive them from the Parliament of their ancestors. I may express the hope that this stupendous injustice and blunder will fail.I believe that he would repeat every word of that if he were alive to-day. Even Mr. Gladstone recognised, and recognised in a 1321 practical way, the importance of this question, because what he said in 1893 was this; he referred to the Debates of 1886:—In 1886, in proposing the Irish Government Bill, we did face this very question, and we did state that if the inhabitants of the North-East corner of Ireland, only a very small and very limited portion indeed of the general community, were resolutely desirous of being exempted from the operation of that Act, we should have been prepared to entertain a proposal to that effect, and I believe we made that declaration with the general concurrence of those who are returned by the Nationalist party.That was Mr. Gladstone's position. The Government of to-day, recognising the gravity of the matter, decline to take even the position which Mr. Gladstone took. England has twice refused to do this thing. You may by the operation of the Parliament Act pass this Bill into law, though I do not think you will. But I am certain of this, that England will never deliberately consent to it, and if by the exercise of artifice you make it the law of the country, at the first opportunity that law will be rescinded. My right hon. Friend delivered a speech which we all appreciate, and with every word of which our hearts go on these benches. The conditions of this Debate are not very conducive to serious argument, because we all feel that even if we could hope to persuade hon. Gentlemen opposite they are tied hand and foot by the Parliament Act. They cannot, as otherwise they might do, use their influence with the Government to induce the Government to modify this Bill, because that is a thing which is really impossible, except upon the condition, which I also hope will be impossible, that the other House will accept the principle of this Bill. They must, therefore, either support the Bill as it stands or vote against the Government. But I do want to deal with one point, because what we say, though it has no effect in the Division Lobby, may have its effect hereafter. We often hear it said that we offer a blank opposition to this proposal, that we have no proposal of our own. I believe, and I want to say it with all earnestness, that assuming all you believe to be true, you are yet taking the wrong step, you are adopting the wrong remedy. What are the basic facts upon which you formed your policy? I suppose that they are these: That the greater part of Ireland in number is dissatisfied with the Government under which they live, and in which, of course, they have a right to take a, share, and that this House is overburdened with work and ought to be relieved of some part of the detail which 1322 takes up so much of our time. On the other hand, you agree with us, I think, that in all the greater matters of government, Ireland must needs be one with Great Britain, though I know you differ from us to what these matters are, and also that any measure proposed for Ireland ought to be of a nature to apply to Scotland also. Even on that footing, I would say that you are taking a wrong step. Surely, if there is one remedy which the considerations that I have laid down point to, it is what is called rightly a measure of devolution—that is the delegation to local authorities of some of the powers of this House in every part of the United Kingdom. I cannot too strongly express my dissent from those who call this Bill a measure of devolution. The man who says that either does not know the meaning of words or he is misleading his audience. Devolution is a delegation which postulates that the authority making the delegation shall retain effective control over the exercise of the powers delegated, and shall have an effective right to resume them. Therefore you cannot treat this Bill as a measure of devolution. The Bill for which the right hon. Gentleman opposite was responsible, the Irish Council Bill, was a measure of devolution. After all, the Irish Council Bill was brought in by this Government with the name of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary and the name of the Prime Minister to recommend it to the House. They have not given any reasons why they depart so widely from it. Just contrast for a moment those two Bills. The Council Bill provides that a council shall be established to be called the Irish Council; and that the Irish Council shall have control over the exercise of those powers to which this Act relates,—those were powers of certain Boards in Ireland; that the Lord Lieutenant may reserve any resolutions of the Irish Council and may confirm or annul it; that then there shall be a charge on the Consolidated Fund of certain Grants to Ireland. That was a true measure of devolution. This Bill provides that there shall be in Ireland, not a council, but an Irish Parliament, and that the Irish Parliament shall have power to make laws for the peace and good government of Ireland, that the Executive power in Ireland shall be exercised through such departments as may be established by Irish Acts, and that provision shall be made by the Irish Parliament for the cost of Irish services.
1323 The two things are as different as two things can be. The earlier Bill simply decentralised administration. This Bill sets up a new power in the country and surrenders our powers to an Irish Parliament. So really in no sense is it a devolution Bill. If you are to have real devolution, you must first put an end to this Bill. This Bill is not even federal. Lord Grey, who is a federalist, which I am not in this matter, says that there is no federalism in this Bill, and that before you can have a federal Constitution, you will have to repeal this Bill if it passes. This Bill merely sets up a kind of Colonial independence in Ireland, but vitiated by a subsidy from this country, by the need to which my right hon. Friend referred, the need of military support from this country for the Irish Constitution, and a certain measure of control over our affairs in this country through the Irish Members. The Irish Parliament has all the independence of a Colonial Government, with certain vices which make it not comparable to a true Colonial Government. Take the other question. Is it possible to apply this Bill to Scotland? Does anybody say that this Bill is going to be applied to Scotland? Is this Parliament going to undo not only the union of a hundred years ago, but the union of two hundred years ago. You cannot set up in Scotland a Parliament like this which you hope to set up for Ireland. I do not believe that anybody out of a madhouse wishes that, and yet you are telling hon. Gentlemen from Scotland that what you are doing for Ireland you desire to do for Scotland too. They understand that, and you are actually by this Bill encouraging them to expect and to work for a Bill applicable to that country, such as you now apply to Ireland. What, folly it would be; what a deception it is for them! I noticed that a Scottish Home Rule Bill passed its Second Reading last week. I noticed also that it was immediately referred to a Committee of the Whole House, and all of us know what that means. You are simply using the Scottish Members for your purposes and obtaining their votes by promises which I venture to say no Parliament in this country, however formed, will ever venture to carry out.
I do not intend to make a long speech on this question, but I do wish to insist on the point that it is not right to say that we oppose a blank negative to this Bill, having no policy of our own. We do 1324 oppose a negative to this Bill, a convinced and firm negative, because we think that it is not only vicious in itself, but that it stands in the way of a proper solution of the difficulties which exist. But the Unionist party has always had a policy of its own. It has a good record in Ireland. A Unionist Government restored order in that country. A Unionist Government, thanks to the two statesmen whom we have quite recently lost, found a solution of the Irish land question. A Unionist Government gave local government to Ireland. I have no authority to speak for anyone but myself, but our leaders have said more than once that if by a further process of true devolution—that is, if by enlarging the area of local government, we can do something not only to relieve congestion in this House, but to give satisfaction to the desire of the Irish people to take part in the administration of their own affairs, we are very ready to consider any proposal of that kind. But even if we hold that view, we have, first, to get rid of this Bill. When this Bill has gone, as I believe it must and will go, then I fervently hope not only that we may discuss this other remedy, but that it may be considered in a non-party spirit. Then, and then only, I think, we may be able to take a further step which will involve no loss of honour to us, and which you need never retrace.
§ Mr. WILLIAM O'BRIEN
I have not one word to say against the speech which we have just heard, and the only criticism I would make is that if every other speech had been pitched in the same key we would probably be a little nearer than we are to a reasonable settlement of this question. For myself, I do not intend to re-discuss our own objections to this Bill, for, of course, it would be farcical to do so, since we know that nothing can be done. To my mind, the only thing that mattered about this suggestion stage was whether or not there was any possibility of its serving to modify the position of our Protestant fellow countrymen. Even the most sanguine of us, I am sorry to say, have already seen reason to abandon all such hope as that. Judging from the course of events, the Opposition have manifestly made up their minds for war. The speech of the Prime Minister to-night, like all his speeche out Ireland, was conceived in a spirit of statesmanship, and I could not help thinking that if his spirit had been allowed to prevail more largely in the framing and in the conduct, of this Bill, we 1325 might now be a little nearer than we are to a settlement that would not merely be a triumph for one particualr party, but would be a triumph for this Empire and a triumph for humanity. Unfortunately, the putting of this suggestion stage without any preliminary understanding seems to me very like putting the cart before the horse. If you had wished for any practical outcome you would have commenced by inviting attendance to a non-partisan and confidential conference first, to thresh out and to frame suggestions, and then to back them up with the whole authority of the Government.
By leaving everything, as I am sorry to say you have done, haphazard up to the last moment, when passion and prejudice have been raised to white heat, of course any suggestions made now would be instantly cast in the form of a party controversy, and would of course be foredoomed to failure. I would ask the House to bear with me while I make some unpopular observations on this subject—unpopular, I am afraid they will be, on both sides of the House. Although for the moment I have very little hope indeed of any practical proposals, I have the most absolute hope that it is in the direction I have indicated that we must look for any satisfactory settlement of this question. At all events, that is my inference after an experience of almost half a century of both Irish parties in this House. Let me say frankly and at once that I blame the Government, and especially their Irish advisers, for not having up to the present made any real effort for a conference. I make all possible allowances for the difficulties of the Government in dealing with two extremes, two Irelands, or I think they might be more accurately described as the "two Belfasts." It is the two Belfasts. I am afraid, that are giving the trouble. On our own side, any Nationalists who have made any regular offers to one-fourth of the Irish population, have been publicly denounced as "compromisers and conciliationists," as if this Bill were not already a mass of compromises, and rather humiliating compromises some of them for Irishmen. Compromise and conciliation, a very horrible project indeed—a question of winning to the Irish cause a million Irishmen. The Irish people have been exhorted to treat as public enemies those of us who preach conciliation and who do not use scoffs and gibes about wooden guns, or make such allusions, such as we heard not long ago in this House in 1326 regard to a matter which is regarded by a section of this House as very serious indeed for the future of the Irish cause.
We have never been intimidated by threats, but I am sorry to say that I am afraid the Government have allowed themselves to be to some extent intimidated by fear of another character—by fear of having to suffer in the Division Lobbies if they should incur the reproach of being "compromisers and conciliationists." At any rate, I know of no other way of accounting for the fact that, while this Government have made the most noble efforts and with conspicuous success to bring about, by negotiation, harmony, and peace amongst half a dozen Ulsters in the Balkan Peninsula, not a single real effort, so far as I know, has been made by them up to the present moment to make this Bill acceptable here, in the heart of the Empire, to a million of Irishmen, by relieving them of the apprehension, unreal as we know, but still to them real enough, that this Bill may be thrust upon them with all the bitterness of a second victory of the Boyne. That is the trouble of the Government, and our trouble. I make the fullest possible allowance for the position of the Government, for I am fully sensible how their hands have been fettered by the obstinate and unreasonable temper of Ulster party politicians, as distinguished from the mass of the Irish Protestant population. We poor compromisers and conciliationists have been in the rather uncomfortable position of having to stand fire from two opposite and hostile camps for the past ten years. The right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Trinity College, has threatened to march his army upon Cork, of all places in the island. That is exactly what the party who sit behind me have threatened during the last ten years. They are going to march with their army. I am glad that neither one force nor the other has made any serious impression upon Cork. I confess that if it were not for one consideration, which I shall mention in a moment, some of us would have been tempted often enough to despair of certain classes of our countrymen, who held aloof whilst some of us were running risks in endeavouring to secure for them and their children an honourable and happy future.
I do not think any Members above the Gangway from Ulster will deny that for more than half a century past that every Government that has been in power, Conservative as well as Liberal, and perhaps 1327 Conservative more than Liberal, have been stripping them of one branch after another of their ascendancy. They have lost their Church Establishment, they have lost the control of the Government of the counties, they have lost their territorial power as landlords, they have been losing all the time, whether Liberals or Tories were the people in power, until, for the first time since the Act of Union, the treaty of peace between landlords and tenants in Ireland in 1903 reversed the process and to a great extent gave instead of taking away from them. That treaty, which I venture to say will yet be recognised as one of the turning points in Irish history, did enable them, not of course, to regain their old ascendancy, which not under any circumstances could they get back or could any Government give them back, but to exchange the position of the deepest misery and uncertainty for themselves as well as for everybody else as rackrenters and evicters, for a secure, and not merely secure, but actually enlarged income from their property, and that upon terms which were equally satisfactory to their old tenants. If there is one man, no doubt above all others whose work that was, it is he (Mr. G. Wyndham) who lies dead in Paris. Unquestionably his work in Ireland will live as an immortal monument to his memory. He would himself be the first to acknowledge that great as was his part that even that part of it would have been impossible without the collaboration of the Nationalists of Ireland, and those of us who in a smaller degree gave him that collaboration have been called landlord's men and Orangemen. "Orangemen" has been quite a common endearment on the part of some of the orators of the party who sit behind me. As to that our minds are perfectly easy, for you will generally find that it was the men who fought the stoutest battles to deliver three-fourths of the Irish people from landlordism who will be the least ashamed of the ambition to complete the work of their lives by endeavouring to reconcile the remaining fourth of our country to the change and to enlist their intelligence in the service of Ireland.
If that great treaty, if that land settlement had only been allowed to go on, it would only have been the beginning. It was blocked from both extremes, I am sorry to say. That treaty would have been only the beginning of all those men's return to a 1328 large position of power and popularity on the one condition of their recognising that their future lay in identifying themselves wholly with the legitimate aspirations of their fellow countrymen, and never again would there be any question of them being oppressors or of devoting themselves to their own selfish material interests in maintaining the imposition of a foreign garrison in Ireland. The minority in Ireland, I am sorry to say, did not at least openly close with that opportunity. They did their part to break the great treaty, and I confess that sometimes even the most sanguine of us would be tempted to lose heart, only that, unhappily, they have been furnished with excuses for their attitude when they can point to the facts that those Irish Unionists who came over to the Irish cause—"O'Brien's Converts," as they are chivalrously nicknamed—were reviled as "Landlord Swindlers," as "Black-blooded Cromwellians," and as "Hereditary Enemies." Gentlemen laugh at that, but they are able to point out that even those Nationalists who extended a fraternal hand to those men did not find even the longest life of sacrifice for Irish nationality any protection to them against the conspiracy to defame and to exterminate them as landlords' men and as Orangemen. We ourselves take all that kind of thing, all that conspiracy, in the day's work. We have fought it, and, to a very large extent, we have put it down. The Irish people are as sound as a bell at heart, and if you trust them you will find it so. Undoubtedly the effect on our Unionist fellow countrymen was to drive the more timid section of them to recoil from all the discomforts of Irish public life, and to drive the bolder spirits amongst them into the organisation of Ulster party politicians.
The consequence is, in our view, both categories of our countrymen, Unionists and Nationalists, have been cheated of the fairest opportunity that ever offered of uniting all Irishmen for national purposes, and they have both of them in consequence become a mere appendix and the mere hangers-on of the two rival British parties. While the Irish Unionists place all their hopes on the return to power of the Unionist party in the belief, which I think they will find an infatuated belief, that that will be an end of all their trouble, on the other hand the Ministerial Nationalists have been publicly pledging themselves to every part of the programme of the Liberal party, the 1329 Parliament Act, the Insurance Act, and the Budget, in the equally infatuated belief that Irish Liberalism and Irish Nationalism are convertible terms. No doubt that is not a very hopeful prospect, but is the prospect any more hopeful of on one side a mere party settlement or on the other hand of a breakdown of any settlement whatever? The Prime Minister to-day made reference to the Debates in the House of Lords last Session which I thought was not characterised by the scrupulous fair play which the Prime Minister almost always displays towards his opponents. He spoke as if some great appeal had been made and had been left unresponded to. There was an appeal. Those Debates in the House of Lords last Session opened up a prospect of a better understanding, which it had been little short, I do not like to say criminal, to have allowed to pass unproductive, but I do say it was for the Government, who had the power in their hands, and had the responsibility upon their shoulders, to make the first advance, or rather, as I will show the House in a moment, to have made any genuine response to the very perceptible advances that were made by some of the most distinguished men in the Unionist party and by some of the most notable men in the Liberal party as well. The Prime Minister quoted from the speech of Earl Grey, and seemed to think that there is an absence of any response to it, but he omitted—I am sure the passages did not come under his eye—what Earl Grey himself said as to how a settlement of this Irish question is to be brought about. He said:—Why cannot we follow the example of Canada, South Africa and Australia? When the Constitutions of those self-governing Dominions were to be remodelled men of both Parties, selected because of their width of vision and of their high patriotism, met together and, sinking for the time being their party differences, worked together in order to create a Constitution which might be trusted to secure the permanent well-being of the State. If ever there was a time when the necessity of the United Kingdom called for the co-operation and combination of patriotic men that time would seem to be the present.That was the declaration of the man who represents the highest traditions of Imperial Government and of democratic government in the greatest of the self-governing Dominions, Canada. I should like to trouble the House with one or two quotations and to quote some words of Earl Curzon, who, I should think, would be as good a specimen as you could pick out of the straight-laced and orthodox English Tory, and, undoubtedly, one of the powers and one of the pillars of 1330 Conservatism in the future. Earl Curzon said:—Then the question arises, why do you not accept our proposals? The answer lies in the Bill itself. Would this Bill give us that sort of settlement? The Noble Lord who preceded me (I think it was Lord Abercrombie) suggested that this question might be settled and could alone be settled by the concentration and co-operation of all parties. For our part we are content to see Ireland advance on her career of increasing prosperity with the institutions which she at present enjoys, but if consultation and co-operation are desired surely the last way in which to effect that result is to adopt the methods embodied in this Bill. Reference has been made again and again to the precedent of South Africa. I happened to be in South Africa when, the South African Constitution was being drawn up. The circumstances were even more difficult than those of framing a Constitution for Ireland, because the two parties were not only separated by great differences of race, religion and so on, but had been actually engaged in war.… How was it done? The four States elected their delegates and sent up their most important men. Those persons met in conference, first at Durban, next in Cape Town, and third in Bloemfontein, the three capitals. They met without the embarrassing presence of the Press, and they discussed the matter in secret conclave.… Line by line, word by word, they went through the proposed Constitution. They did not approach the matter as antagonists. They approached it as statesmen. Not a single man had any desire to revive old sores or to score on the other party. They wanted to build up a new Constitution in which all could join for the benefit of the country. If you are constructing a new Constitution for a country sundered by great differences that is the method and those are the lines on which you ought to proceed.7.0 P.M.
The speech of the Archbishop of York, referred to by the Prime Minister, was upon the same lines, and was undoubtedly couched in the language of statesmanship and magnanimity. Even Lord St. Aldwyn himself, although he made a very powerful argument against the finance of the Bill, wound up by a most impressive plea for peace on the basis of provincial Home Rule. I could quote at least half a dozen other men, some of them Irish Unionists like Lord Dunraven, Lord Killanin, and Lord Massereene, and Liberal Lords of the most unimpeachable loyalty to the present Government, like Lord Macdonnell, Lord Abercromby, and Lord Weardale, who, while objecting to this or that in the Bill, agreed in appealing for something like a friendly reconsideration of the entiresituation. I need not detain the House by reminding them of what I am sure every Member has already remarked, namely, the very striking opinion and the attitude of the "Times" newspaper upon this question for the last few years. I hope I shall not offend anybody by saying that the progress of the Irish cause from its utter hopelessness of twenty-five years ago to its present hopefulness may be almost summed up in the difference between the "Times" of 1887 and the "Times" of to-day. Let me trouble the House with one 1331 other quotation, this time from the right hon. Gentleman now sitting on the Front Opposition Bench, the Member for the Strand Division (Mr. W. Long), who all men in the House, whether friend or foe, will be agreed is the very quintessence of the English Tory gentleman, and the man who I believe personally commands more confidence among Irish Unionists than any other man in this House. In moving an Amendment to the Address, on 12th March, 1913, he said:—What attempt through all this long controversy has there been made to obtain conferences and discussion? What attempt has there been made to conciliate opponents and to remove reasonable grounds of objection? I venture to say none. Through the long history of this Home Rule movement, you have done nothing to heal sores or to bring together combatants.… Is there no precedent that you, the Government of the day, as great Constitution makers, could have adopted?He then refers to the case of Canada, and explains how by conferences an agreement was gradually brought about. He said:—Did they try to force their measures on parts of Canada? They travelled about the country, and had conference after conference. They met every objection they could. They appealed in every way to the sympathies and hearts of men, and eventually they laid the foundation of that magnificent structure known now as the Dominion of Canada, one of the greatest glories of the British Empire.So the right hon. Gentleman went on in the same vein to this conclusion:—Never have I felt more profoundly convinced that the line which I rise to advocate to the House, and the course which I venture to recommend to the House, is the line and the course that in the interests, not of a party or of a section, but of the whole country, they would, if they were wise and prudent, adopt.Finally, and most important of all, the Leader of the Opposition himself, in a speech, on 16th January, said:—I admit there is a problem, and if it were possible to see it solved on the lines suggested by the hon. Member for the City of Cork, no one would be better pleased than I.He, moreover, gave a pledge in this House that if this Bill, objectionable as it is to him, were adopted by the people of Great Britain at a General Election, the opposition of the Unionist party would be at an end.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member, but he is quite wrong. We should still oppose the Bill on grounds with which the House is quite familiar. But I said that in that case, I, as representing the Unionist party, would not give any assistance or encouragement to armed resistance in Ulster.
§ Mr. W. O'BRIEN
I am sorry if I in any way seemed to misconceive what the right hon. Gentleman said. What he has 1332 just stated is all that I should wish to impute to him or all that could reasonably be expected from him. I say that if those pledges were carried out and that was the result of a General Election, in my opinion the whole trouble would be at an end. All that no doubt does not bring us to anything very definite. But what reasonable man could have expected more from an Opposition who are in a minority of over 100 in this House, and who, of course, have to count with the alarms and the suspicions of their own party in Ulster? I say that the initiative ought to have come from the Government. They are the stronger side, they are the men in possession. There has been no initiative. There has been no genuine response even to those very remarkable declarations by some of the leading men of the Unionist party. There has been a certain amount of what I may call languishing generalities about peace proposals, but they did not come to business. Up to the present moment I am sorry to be obliged to say that there has been made on the authority of the Government no proposal which goes to the root of the Ulster difficulty, or which ought to give them any reasonable hope of disarming the opposition of the minority in Ireland. Nobody really believes in the so-called safeguards. We are all agreed upon that. The only peace proposal of the smallest consequence introduced in the Committee stage was in regard to electing the Senate by proportional representation on the basis of an impossible constituency extending over the entire province, a proposal which simply turned the Upper Chamber into a freak Legislature. We ourselves, under a good many discouragements, suggested an Amendment which would have secured all but half the representation in the Upper House to Ulster, which the hon. and learned Member for Waterford professed himself quite willing for them to have. But our Amendment was contemptuously pooh-poohed by the Chief Secretary upon a few pettyfogging points which were really too silly to be taken seriously. I dare say that it was enough for any Amendment to come from us; but really if Gentlemen would think a little less of their party, and a little more of the country, they might find, although they are fond of talking of us as a minority, that 500,000 Irish Nationalists who have given up everything for the double programme of peace with England and peace in Ireland, with every class and with every religious denomination in the country, are not altogether a negligible quantity.
1333 At all events, I am afraid that the Government weltered under the threat of being treated as enemies if they should incur the reproach of being compromisers and conciliationists, and the consequence is that they have, wilfully or compulsorily, shut their eyes to the fact which to my mind is the fundamental fact of the whole situation, and that is that a modest experiment in self-government which united the whole country, would be a greater blessing for Ireland and for England than almost the largest measure you could have imposed by force upon a large portion of the country. We shall support, under every circumstance, and to the last, any proposal tending towards a settlement by consent. But I am afraid the time is not now for Amendments intended to be effective. It may be either too late or, as I should hope, too soon. But let me repeat it was for the Government to have taken the initiative after the House of Lords Debate, and not for an Opposition exasperated by gag and guillotine in this House, and now, unfortunately, as I believe, ridiculously over-elated by their success at by-elections. Suggestions ought to have come from the Government, and they ought to have come frankly after the Debate in the House of Lords. Even if the invitation to a friendly conference had been rejected, all the same and all the more the Government would have enormously strengthened their position before the country if they had made large and generous proposals and the Opposition had refused to discuss them
It would be useless for private individuals to offer any suggestions of their own. But some of us did take the responsibility many months ago of respectfully making suggestions which, at all events, were definite, and went to the very root of the difficulty in Ulster. We did not take our stand upon the ultimatum of this Bill—the whole Bill, and nothing but the Bill. Nothing of the kind. We proposed to make Ulster for a few years, while the experiment was being tried, practically master of the situation, so as to guard against even any possibility of injustice or oppression. The Ulstermen complained that they would be a mere handful of thirty or thirty-five to the 164 in Dublin Parliament. We proposed doubling the representation of the Protestant counties, and by giving them also the prospect of a more liberal representation throughout the rest of the country by means of the cumulative vote. Their next apprehension was that the over- 1334 riding authority—as it has been called—of the Imperial Parliament would be a sham. We proposed to meet that difficulty, again, by maintaining the authority of this Imperial Parliament for those experimental years precisely as it is at the presnt time by giving to this Ulster minority the right, practically and unconditionally, of appeal to the Imperial Parliament before any Bill of the Irish Legislature, which they might think endangered liberty or property, became law. No doubt that would be practically giving a veto to Ulster, but it is only one more veto added to a great many. Finally, we in Ireland know that perhaps the most acute anxiety of Protestant Ulster is in the fact that even if an Irish House of Commons were really archangels, that their children Would be deprived of any career in the public service in the future, and that in the scramble for Government office and patronage the whole of the spoils would go to the politicians and to the secret societies. I have never denied that that is a substantial point for us who are the Nationalist minority, just as for the minority in Ulster, and I have no doubt that it would be in the highest interests of the whole country and that a tremendous stroke for the future prosperity of Ireland would be gained if, as we suggested, some non-political body of Irish Civil Service Commissioners were appointed through whose hands the whole of the patronage, except, of course, the nominations for the Ministry, would pass and be disposed of according to the merits and qualifications of the candidates, so taking the whole thing out of the hands of the politicians and secret societies.
These were only a few of the suggestions that might have been made before a friendly Inter-party Conference. At all events, I do not think but that even the most belligerent hon. Gentleman above the Gangway will admit that these proposals, at all events, were not mere electioneering poetry or embroidery, but that they go to the very heart of the difficulties that you will really have to face in Ulster. I do say, and say it with very deep regret, that while the Leader of the Opposition wrote us a public letter promising to give our proposals at least full and fair consideration, not a single Member of the Ministry expended a postage stamp in response. No doubt these concessions would be of a most sweeping character. They would only be tolerable at all if they were the means of gaining the assent of the general body of Irish Protestants, of 1335 the mass of the population, to an experiment in self-government, during which they would have every possible power—even despotic power—that could reassure them against any possibility of oppression. We have been taunted in certain Nationalist quarters with our audacity in making those suggestions when nobody had any practical suggestion to offer. I quite recognise that we are a minority in this House, for the present; and that we have no power at this moment to give effect to our suggestions, but is it too late to make the suggestion? The hon. and learned Member for Waterford was himself as deeply committed as I was to the Treaty of 1903. The only difference between us—I do not like to say it offensively—was that he ran away from his signature, and I did not.
Let all that pass! Even if at the present hour the Member for Waterford would listen to his own better self, and his own better judgment; if he will have the courage at this suggestion stage to propose some Amendments of the character I have indicated, or authorise the Government to propose them—[laughter]—certainly, there is no earthly reason that I know why the Government and others should not concert together, and adopt any policy for Ireland. Making proposals of this kind even now will give to this suggestion stage some air of reality. I venture to say, as the hon. and learned Member for Waterford knows well, that the mass of the Irish people would welcome those concessions not grudgingly, but with a universal feeling of relief and joy. The Irish people do not want to triumph over any party, nor to trample upon any party. For my own part, if we have to pay a great price for Home Rule, I, for one, would rather pay it to my own Protestant fellow-countryman, than to the English authorities. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Trinity College, so far as he is himself concerned, has undoubtedly shut himself off from any formal acceptance of compromise which might be as the healing waters. It is this that is the disaster and tragedy of our history. I speak with some considerable knowledge of my fellow Protestant countrymen when I say that I believe the enormous overwhelming majority of them would feel that proposals of that sort offered them an unexampled power and a magnificent opportunity for themselves and for their children in their own country. More than 1336 that, even if it were otherwise, I am convinced that if offers of that kind, great and genuine concessions were offered, and were rejected, it would put an end to and remove the last serious obstacle in reasonable English minds to a broad-minded measure of self-government, which would not involve a shadow of possibility of injustice to any Irish Protestant, be he the highest or the humblest, who would be willing to live among his Catholic neighbours on terms of equality, of mutual respect, as a brother Irishman, and as brother subjects of a common Emperor. It may be too late so far as this Bill is concerned—I am afraid it is too late—but I tell you straight that I can see nowhere else, either for England or for Ireland, any prospect except trouble, misunderstanding, conflict between the two countries that ought to be friends—conflict that may last for many a bitter year to come.
§ Mr. WALTER LONG
The speech to which we listened from the hon. Member who represents what is called the Nationalist party is in strange, and I will venture to say, painful conflict to the speech to which we have just listened from the hon. Member for Cork; because, however much we may have disagreed with the hon. Member who has just sat down in the past, or may disagree with him in the future, he has proved himself during these recent years to be a genuine friend of Ireland, ready to make great sacrifices, ready to do everything in his power to hold out the olive-branch to those who have been and are his political opponents. The speech which he has just delivered has been entirely in that direction. Whether or not it is acceptable to his opponents it is, at all events, a genuine effort on the part of an opponent to meet his opponents and to deal with them fairly and in a friendly way. Even that speech, sincere and genuine as it was in every word and letter, presenting, as it did, completely and clearly the case that he particularly represents—that speech can hardly, by the most sanguine supporters of the Government or the most blinded Member of the Government itself, be held to be a speech in favour of the Home Rule Bill. From beginning to end the hon. Member in his speech bewailed, what? Not the action of those reactionaries—to whom I and my Friends are supposed to belong—who will support no reform! The hon. Gentleman's speech was directed first of all to showing how the Government are to blame, how they have blundered, how they 1337 have failed to deal with Home Rule in any practical, businesslike way, and it was concerned in showing that hon. Members behind me, who are led by the hon. and learned Member for Waterford, have taken an entirely wrong course: that they have done everything in their power to make lifelong enemies of the hon. Gentlemen with whom he works. What about the speech of the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool? I wonder whether the Government listened to it with satisfaction? I wonder whether they thought that speech was a happy augury for the future of Home Rule? If I may ask another question, I wonder what the hon. Member for the Scotland Division thought himself of his own speech? I wonder what object he had in view?
What did he do? He began by assuring us that he was one of those whose lives would be devoted to bringing about reconciliation between Ulster and the rest of Ireland. All he said they wanted was co-operation. He trusted that their brains, wealth, and industry would be applied in common with those of the members of his own party to the future development of Ireland. He said in his speech that it had sometimes been said that Ireland was topsy-turvy. I will venture to say that a more topsy-turvy speech has never been made in the whole history of this subject than the one made by the hon. Member himself. What did he start out to do? He told us he started cut to conciliate. What was his process of conciliation? He proceeded to read and pour contempt upon a whole lot of extracts from the writings and deliberate opinions of opponents? He referred to things that have happened, and the things that he believes may happen again. He described the Ulster party as uneducated, stupid, with no knowledge of history, and unable to appreciate the difficulties of any political situation generally. He either poured contempt and derision upon them or he made a series of quotations from speeches, which, if they have not any effect at all here in this House, in the North of Ireland—and the hon. Member should have borne in mind not only in the North of Ireland, but in many parts of England and Scotland—would have the effect, through his speech, of making the breach infinitely wider, not of lessening it, and of making the exasperation greater than at present. Yet that was the speech he delivered in favour of Home Rule and above all in favour of the 1338 present Bill which we are now discussing. The hon. Member for the Scotland Division repeated the challenge which the Prime Minister made earlier in this Debate, and both of them turned to us and said, "It is not sufficient for you to say you will not have this Bill, but you must tell us what your policy is in these circumstances." I venture to say that with great respect to the Prime Minister that a more extraordinary proposition I never heard put forward. I rely not upon any evidence of ours, I will not make any boast of what the Government to which I had the honour to belong say with regard to our policy, I rely upon the testimony of the Government themselves.
What was the first declaration which the right hon. Gentleman who succeeded me as Chief Secretary for Ireland made after having three or four months experience of Ireland. He said he found Ireland more peaceful than she was for nearly 600 years. He said she was steadily developing her resources, and that her prosperity was great. And what was the first statement made by the Vice-President of the Department of Agriculture. It was that her prosperity, advancement and progress enabled her to compare favourably with any part of the United Kingdom. That was the state of things we left to hon. Gentlemen opposite. They then, for reasons of their own, not in their first year of office, or in their second, or in their third, when they had a majority which made them independent of all other parties, and enabled them to deal with this question fairly as between the different countries of the United Kingdom, indicated that they were going to bring in a Home Rule Bill. Every speech that was made by any Member of the Government opposite or by their supporters in the country was intended to lead the country to believe that the model of Home Rule would be the provincial Parliaments in Canada, or South Africa, or Australia that was the indication they gave. They then brought in a Bill which bore no relation whatever to the precedent of South Africa, or of Australia, or Canada. They brought in a Bill which the Prime Minister described to-day, and I wonder at the inaccuracy of the statement, coming from him, as based upon these provincial models, but a Bill which contains powers to be found in no provincial Parliament throughout the whole of the British Empire. They brought in this Bill which they offer to the Irish people when they themselves created these ideas and raised 1339 these hopes. They tried to deal with this problem in a Bill which my right hon. Friend (Mr. Balfour) described in tones of absolute accuracy as the very worst attempt ever made to deal with this question. Having raised these hopes and created for themselves this problem, when they find that we are determined to meet them in opposition, they turn to us and say, "What is your remedy for the difficulties which we ourselves have created?"
What was the next argument of the Prime Minister? I listened to it, coming from him, with amazement. It is that because Ireland has demanded Home Rule for eight consecutive elections, therefore, we are compelled to give it to her. Here, again, what precedent is there to be found for conceding a demand from one portion of the United Kingdom, not for a federal system, not because they have made up their minds that a united system will not do, that the central Government is overcharged with work, that the doors of Parliament are blocked, and that nothing can be done to ease the work, but simply with a view to allowing one portion of the United Kingdom not only to say what shall be the terms upon which they shall govern themselves, but what shall be the terms upon which this House shall do that portion of the work left to it. I venture to say not only is this the worst proposition ever made, but that to tell us that because the Irish have made this demand for themselves we are therefore bound to give way to and are to concede to it, is to use an argument that may tell with the Prime Minister and with the Government, but that has no weight and no influence whatever with the party with which I have the honour to work in Parliament and out of it. The Chief Secretary for Ireland no doubt treats that statement with derision. He is quite welcome to do so, but I mean what I say in the fullest possible sense. So far as we are concerned, we repudiate altogether the theory of the Prime Minister and the Government that we are bound to deal with this demand because it comes from a portion only of the United Kingdom. But even if we did accept the view of the right hon. Gentleman what should we have done. Our speeches in the past are proof that I am not making this statement for the first time. We should, if we believed a federal system would be advantageous to this country, follow the example of all other countries and of all other portions of the Empire 1340 and call a conference of the people interested in this great question, and try to find a solution.
The Prime Minister was wholly wrong when he tried to brush away the charge that our proceedings under the Parliament Act are a farce. I personally do not care how short the Debates are under the Parliament Act, because I think our proceedings under the Act are not only a farce but something more than a farce. So far as Ireland is concerned, a portion of the Irish people believe that these proceedings are not only a farce, but they are a tragedy, because if there was any practical suggestion to be made, anything in the way of conference that might lead to a solution, it is idle to make it here. These proceedings are intended not to deceive us; we know the worst in Parliament; they are intended for the Government shop window; they are intended for the electors in the country who have not got the time nor the leisure to follow our proceedings very carefully, and they are intended to enable the Government to say, "Under the Parliament Act, we have a Second Reading stage and a Committee stage; it is true we have no Report stage, because we do not allow any Amendments in Committee, but we have a Third Reading stage, and in this way every opportunity is given for reconsideration by the country and by Parliament." I cannot help regetting that in this, as in other matters, the Government find themselves not brave enough to give full effect to their inclinations. Why do they not make this policy a real one, and instead of these farcical proceedings, table a Resolution, saying: "The following Bill shall pass into law." It would give exactly the same time for discussion, the same opportunity for stating our views in an academic fashion, and the Government would save a little time, and the country would understand what havoc they have made with our Parliamentary procedure and with the Constitution.
We are told that this is a suggestion stage, and we learn from the Prime Minister for the first time that there is no necessity to alter the Standing Orders before we Debate this new procedure. We are told that there is some stage at which suggestions may be made. Personally, I think this part of the Parliament Act procedure is as farcical as anything else. What the Government seems to lose sight of is when dealing with this part of the question, that by force of circumstances it 1341 is inevitable that the Parliament Act could really never apply to measures which, on matters of principle, are objected to by the other House. And therefore we are asked to take Bills, which, in the opinion of our party, and not only Members of our party alone, but very often Members of other parties, measures which in themselves in principle are practically wrong, at the eleventh hour and attach to them some suggestions which we cannot make by Amendment, but which might possibly improve them. Such procedure is really ludicrous as a way of passing legislation, and all we can do on an occasion like this in my judgment is to express, as briefly as we can, but I hope clearly, what our views are on the general policy of the Government. With all our experience, with everything that we have learned by study at home and in different parts of the Empire, we find everything that my right hon. Friend (Mr. Balfour) said this afternoon strongly confirms our opinion that Home Rule in any form would be disastrous for this United Kingdom, and would be still more disastrous for Ireland. My right hon. Friend said this particular kind of Home Rule was the worst of all. I agree; but what of this Bill? Supposing we agreed, for the sake of argument, that we must have some form of Home Rule.
What about this Bill? What experience have we gained in the months that have passed? I should like to adjourn the sitting of this House for twenty-four hours to some other Chamber, I do not know where it is to be found, but I believe it is called the Palace of Truth, where, by some remarkable process, everyone is required to answer accurately every question put to him. And I should like to ask hon. Gentlemen opposite a question then which I do not ask now, and which would be whether their experience in the time that has passed since we separated last Christmas and the present moment has led them to believe that the Home Rule Bill as it passed out of our hands a few months ago is better or worse now than it was at that time. It would be very interesting to have their personal experience. I can only tell them what mine is. I have been looking up the Debates that took place during the various stages of this Bill last year. I have been reading what was said upon the finances of this Bill. Have the proceedings which have taken place in Ireland led the Chief Secretary, for one, to believe that the financial pro- 1342 visions of this Bill are as good as he thought them to be or as bad as we thought them to be? Does he believe that the commercial classes even in the City of Dublin—I leave Belfast out—think they are practical or possible? Does the Chief Secretary for Ireland believe that the association of the county councils in Ireland look upon these financial provisions as practical or possible? Can he, in the course of the speech which I understand he is going to make to-morrow, and that gives him twenty-four hours' notice, find any authority in Ireland that has said a single word in favour of the Financial Clauses of this Bill? I only ask for one. I should like one representative authority, commercial or otherwise, in Ireland, who has expressed approval of the Financial Clauses.
As far as this part of the country is concerned I have no hestitation in saying that the feeling has been growing, and is now settled and convinced, that your finance is not only bad for Ireland, but wholly unjust and wrong for Great Britain. Although I believe that is the opinion held by many hon. Members opposite and distinguished people, and certainly by Lord Macdonnel, it is a fact that under this procedure we have no power to introduce any Amendment which will make these financial provisions more workable than they are. I want to call the Chief Secretary's attention to what I think is the most serious blunder in the Bill. I called attention to it on the Second Reading, and the Government at that time were unable to answer, but subsequently my question was answered by the Solicitor-General. My question deals with the administration of the land laws in Ireland. Reference has been made to-day to the tragedy under which we have all suffered by the death of one of our most brilliant statesmen, whose name will always be associated with the administration of the land laws in Ireland, and who will ever be remembered as the man who found the best and most durable solution of this troublous problem. Let me say to the hon. Member for Cork that my late right hon. Friend often alluded to the fact that he never could have found this solution or carried out his difficult task with success if it had not been for the co-operation of the Nationalist Members. In this way this question has been brought within reach of a final settlement.
What is this Bill going to do? You are ready to lend lip service to this question in Ireland, but what are you doing under this 1343 Bill? You have adopted what I believe to be the hopeless and confused system of reserved services. What are you doing with the Land Acts? I was reading the Bill to-day, and really I found it extremely difficult to make out what the future administration of the land would be. Under the Bill it simply says that all the acts dealing with the purchase and sale of land in Ireland are to be a reserved service. I do not know whether the Government can make any alteration, but I beg of them if they think they are going to pass this Bill—personally I do not believe they are—to look once again into this land question. What are they going to do? The Estates Commission is to be a reserved service. That portion of the work of the Congested Districts Board which deals with the Land Act is to be a reserved service, but the Land Commission, which fixes the rent, is to remain under the Irish Government. I ask any man who knows Ireland, or who has been responsible for the government of Ireland for three months, how a system of that kind can possibly work. In Ireland the land question is the most important of all. It is the one that comes closest to the hearts of the people, and is inseparably bound up with the future of the country and the prosperity of the people themselves, and yet here you are deliberately introducing confusion into a system which has worked admirably and smoothly under one administration. Anything more calculated to break up the land administration in Ireland and produce trouble in the Irish Parliament and difficulties here it is impossible to conceive. I ask the Government to take advantage of their own provision and make suggestions themselves, because I am convinced as the Bill stands nothing on earth can make it work.
I do not propose to make any other criticisms on the Bill, but I want to say a word as to the reasons which have led the Government to introduce this Bill again. We are told that this Bill is a message of peace that has to be sent to Ireland. We were told even by the Prime Minister himself to-day that he cannot and will not believe that it will have any other effect than that of bringing peace and comfort to Ireland. I asked just now what has been the experience of hon. Gentlemen opposite since we separated in regard to the reception of this Bill. Let me ask a much graver question. What 1344 have they learned of what will happen in Ireland if the Government determine to force this Bill upon Ireland by the methods which they are now adopting? Is there a man in this House who doubts for one moment that if your policy is carried to its bitter end the result will be not outbreaks and passing difficulties, but, to put it in plain language, civil war in Ireland, which will not be confined to Ireland itself? Can any man doubt that if this result follows those who will be parties to this civil war will have an immense number of sympathisers here? The Prime Minister rather scoffed at one of my hon. Friends who suggested that before trying to force this Bill upon Ireland you ought to have a General Election. The right hon. Gentleman, in answer to my hon. Friend's suggestion, asked what is the good of a General Election, because we have been told by the representatives of Ulster—and I said it myself in a letter I wrote on Saturday—that whatever happens, election or no election, the people of Ulster will resist Home Rule and will never accept it. That is not the only point. Surely in a matter of this kind it is not only the people of Ulster who are concerned, grave though their peril is. It is not only the people of Ireland, for, unless you are blind to every sign of the times and deaf to language so plain that it cannot be mistaken, you must know that if you force on your policy you will produce these awful results in Ireland which we have described to you to-day. What is it you are imperilling? In this conflict, if you bring it on, you are risking not only your own place and power and even your own seats in this House, but there are stakes in that awful competition which will not be limited to your own advantages as Liberal Ministers and supporters of the Government, the stakes will be the lives and the liberties of the people in Ireland and of thousands of people probably on this side of the Channel who will go to their support. Surely, before you undertake for the people of the United Kingdom these awful and terrible responsibilities, the least you can do in the name of justice is to ask the people of the United Kingdom whether they are prepared to do what you are proposing!
We believe that they will never give you authority to do what you are asking. This is not a question of whether Ulster will accept this measure after an election or not. The question we ask is, Can you 1345 doubt that the results will be as we have described them? You know, as far as men can know in advance, that there is this terrible responsibility. Morally, is there any right except the mere one of law which will justify you in laying upon the shoulders of the people of this country a burden so terrible, and exposing them to danger so grave, without first of all telling them, and letting them have an opportunity of saying what their view is as to what will happen? By neglecting to take this step you are incurring a terrible responsibility. Do you believe that this Bill is a good one after all the criticisms which have been showered upon it? Do you believe that this policy is one which is going to bring peace and happiness to Ireland? If you persist, as you are now doing, with these proposals, you will produce this outbreak in Ireland. Do you think that even if you make up your minds and harden your hearts and deal with this question by force of arms you can do that without imperilling for a very considerable time the passage of legislation through this House which is intended to benefit the workers of the country by social reforms. Do you believe for one instant if you make up your minds to shoot down loyal men whose only demand is to remain under this Government and under the Imperial Parliament; do you think when you are engaged upon that task you will be allowed to proceed here with your domestic reforms that you are promising to the people of this country, and which if you continue in office you say you will pass—if you choose the policy of bloodshed and civil war in preference to social legislation. If you do that you cannot lay the blame on us or upon the people of Ulster, but the blame will rest with those who have in the first instance created the difficulties, and who in the next instance have produced for it the very worst remedy that has ever been suggested in connection with the solution of this problem, and who are now determined to press on with their policy regardless of all consequences and force upon a loyal, brave, high-minded people who deserve none of the contemptuous epithets applied to them by the Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. T. P. O'Connor). If you force upon these men a measure which they say they will not have, and which we in Parliament, echoing the opinions expressed on the other side of the Channel say you cannot do, and you shall not do; if you outrage the Constitution and break every 1346 record and cast aside every precedent, and take upon yourselves a responsibility which is the gravest ever taken by any Government in the history of this country, most assuredly the price you will pay will be a heavy one, and the price the country will pay will be heavier still.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Mr. MOLTENO
The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has dealt with this matter in the serious way in which he always approaches this question, and I hope in any words of mine I shall treat the subject as one of serious and grave importance. The right hon. Gentleman has not on this occasion gone into any very detailed arguments, but he has endeavoured to rouse our fears in order to prevent us doing that which we consider to be our duty in this matter. One thing the right hon. Gentleman said shows the great difference between him and the party of which he is a leader and those who sit on this side of the House. He said that he was opposed to Home Rule in any form whatever. I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that his party have always been opposed to Home Rule in every part of the Empire. No system of self-government which exists in any Colony is due to the right hon. Gentleman or his party. They have consistently and throughout opposed Home Rule whenever and wherever it has been proposed at any period of our history and in any part of our Empire. They are the lineal descendants of those who refused Home Rule to the American Colonies. The senior Member for the City of London (Mr. Balfour), in his very interesting speech to-day, spoke of the very difficult situation in which he found himself. On what ground could he get up in this House and say that a measure constitutionally placed before the people of this country and constitutionally passed could be the subject of resistance? This is a very serious and very difficult subject, and I think we ought to throw as much light as we can upon it from history, and particularly from our own history during the last hundred years. The right hon. Gentleman finds himself in a very awkward position, not only because this policy has been endorsed by Great Britain and by the majority in Ireland, but because it has the unanimous support of the whole Empire. There is only one small portion of the whole of the British Dominions in which there is any resistance to it, and that is in Ulster. Ulster, indeed, 1347 has also constitutionally declared in favour of this policy. We cannot forget that when Home Rule was being considered and was on the point of being rejected by the House of Lords an election took place in Ulster. It was fought in an orderly manner and was a perfectly quiet and peaceful election, resulting, not in an extreme opponent of Home Rule being returned to tell us that we were wrong, and to warn us of the great dangers that we were incurring, but my hon. Friend beside me coming to this House authorised by the people of Derry (Dr. David Hogg) to tell us that we were quite right, that we were doing the proper thing, and that we should be supported certainly by Derry and by the majority in Ulster.
If that is the constitutional position and if the whole of the Empire supports this policy, what possible justification can the right hon. Gentleman suggest—and I was glad to note that he did not suggest it—for actual opposition to this by physical force. He did say that in his view it was not really quite constitutional, but, when he came to that point, he left it, and never made it clear and certainly never attempted to prove that statement. He said that it was unconstitutional because it placed a portion of the United Kingdom in a position of inequality. That is a very general term. He did not condescend to give us any explanation what that inequality was, or why it was so great that it would justify anybody resisting it by force. This is not the first occasion on which the Empire has had to face a problem of this kind. In every Colony to which self-government has been granted there existed an Ulster of the same kind. There was a portion of each Colony and a section of its people who opposed the grant of self-government in the most determined manner, and, if we had listened to them, there is not a Colony which would have self-government to-day. There was the very strongest opposition from one portion of Canada. The language of protest then used was almost identical with the language of protest of Ulster to-day. If hon. Members will look up the language of protest in the Legislative Council of Upper Canada, they will see that in substance it is identically the same as the language of protest we have had from time to time in recent years from Ulster.
Take another Colony, take the Cape Colony, the first Colony to receive self-government in South Africa. We had iden- 1348 tically the same problem there. We had one province putting itself forward, as Ulster does, as the most enterprising, the most energetic, the most wealthy, and, at the same time, the most loyal and British section of that Colony, and we had the very strongest, gravest, and determined protest on the part of men who really believed what they said, and who really did possess the fears they professed, that they would not receive proper treatment from a local Legislature, and that their interests and industries would all be injured and damaged. What was the result? When a local Parliament was established, that portion of Cape Colony discovered exactly what that section of Canada which opposed Home Rule discovered, namely, that being fairly represented and being men of ability and intelligence and of large interests, when they came to address the local Parliament it was perfectly easy to get proper and adequate consideration and protection for all their interests, and those men, be it said to their credit, were the first to admit that their fears were really groundless and mistaken, and that they and their country were much better off for having the right to manage their own affairs. If that be the position in Canada and South Africa—and it is the same in Australia—are we to ignore all our experience during the last fifty years of what self-government does in matters of this kind, namely, that notwithstanding the protests of certain portions of the countries to which we have granted self-government, that self-government has been entirely successful in every part of the world wherever we have had the wisdom and the confidence to accord it.
I know the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Strand Division sees the cogency of some of these arguments and realises, as the country realises, what the grant of self-government has done in South Africa. That was a remarkable triumph fresh in all memories. "But," he said, "that is not a precedent." Why? "South Africa," he said, "is not a precedent, because no sooner had the two Colonies got self-government than they actually gave up that self-government and joined in forming the Union and a common Government for South Africa." He said that is the reversal of what we are doing here. So far from South Africa being no precedent, it is one of the most valuable we could possibly have. Self-government was given to those two Colonies. They prized that self-government more than anything 1349 else; they valued it enormously. It actually gave the Dutch a majority in those Parliaments. They therefore, as it were, almost received that country back into the management of their own hands. You would have thought they would have been very loth to part with that Government so recently accorded to them, but they were quite ready, in their own interests and in the common interests of South Africa, to join with the other Colonies in the Union. Before that attempts had been made to bring about that very same Union by force. What was the result? No union was effected, though a great deal of bloodshed took place. An attempt was made to unite South Africa after the war. It was quite unsuccessful. It was only when the absolutely vital condition, namely, self-government, to each Colony by which it was able to secure its own interests had been granted that it was possible to bring about the Union. Is not that a very good precedent for us here? Ireland is united to us in a Union, not by consent but by force. Let Ireland have its own Government and let that Government he in a position to secure its interests, and then we shall have a real union of hearts, because it will be by the consent of both parties to that Union. South Africa is one of the most valuable precedents we could wish in encouraging us on the course mapped out by this Bill. We have had a very long and bitter controversy over this Bill; we have discussed all its details, and what do we find? What did the senior Member for the City of London say to-day? He admits that so far as the United Kingdom is concerned it has no feeling on the subject whatever. All hon. Members know that you cannot get up any enthusiasm on the questoin of opposing Home Rule. Great numbers of emissaries were sent from Ireland to Scotland to appeal to their co-religionists and relatives. What was the result? The whole thing was an absolute and complete failure. They were unable to persuade the people of Scotland away from their common idea that Home Rule is a good thing for Ireland.
This is a very serious and very difficult problem. It is the same serious and difficult situation which in the case of Canada was settled by these very same means. You had, indeed, in Canada actual rebellion. Responsible government followed, and you had order out of chaos and loyalty produced from disorder and rebellion. Again, 1350 in South Africa you had a very difficult situation, but with the Liberal principles of liberty, freedom, and self-government applied, what a wonderful change and what a marvellous scene we have in South Africa to-day! Peace and concord prevail where recently there was strife. Why not go forward on the Colonial plan? Why not take a lesson from history and apply it to Ireland? I can perfectly well understand hon. Members opposite not doing it, because the right hon. Gentleman the senior Member for the City of London, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's (Mr. A. Lyttelton), and the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken (Mr. Long) have all given tangible proof and evidence that they have no appreciation of the value of self-government in the Empire. They give lip-service to it, but they never understand it or intend to apply it. They speak and act as if we still lived in 1837, before self-government had ever been introduced in the Empire. When they had the opportunity of settling the Constitution for the new Colony of South Africa so late as 1905, did they go to Colonial self-government for a precedent? No. They went to the Constitution of Canada, which led to the rebellion of 1837. They proposed a nominative Executive and Council. I know that this nominated Executive and nominated Council were regarded as essential by them. A protest was raised from Canada, and Lord John Russell quoted that protest in this House with approval. He said, when it was proposed to give responsible government, "What are you doing? You are abandoning the nominated Executive and the nominated Council," and he added "that we were throwing the shields of our authority away." That expresses exactly the opinion of right hon. Gentlemen opposite. I make bold to say that if their new Constitution had been put in operation in South Africa, we would have had a similar result to that in Canada.
We cannot, therefore, wonder that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite have no faith in this policy of Home Rule. They never have had. They never could have, and, if they could have helped it, they would never have conceded self-government to one single Colony. They oppose it whenever and wherever they can, and at all times. We cannot be surprised there should be this great difference between that great Liberal policy which has given us that loyal and united Empire of which we are all so proud, and their 1351 policy which would have curtailed freedom and would have led to the results which have occurred elsewhere. In that connection I would just like to read a question put by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London, when he spoke on the Second Reading of this Bill last Session. He put the question to the Foreign Secretary in words which bring out the point I should like to emphasise. Those words were: "Does he know of any case where a centralised and unified Government has been broken up in obedience to a demand for national self-government in which a stable community has been the result?" I should like to answer the question in this way. If you want an example, take Canada. Upper and Lower Canada were united in 1837. They were separated in 1867, yet the Dominion of Canada is a perfectly stable, community. But I do not wish to confine myself to such a very small example. I will take the record of this Empire. What has been that record? When it refused to breakup its centralised Government, as it did when the Amercian Colonies demanded self-government, it lost those Colonies; it lost the New World, and the Empire was broken up to that extent. But when it gave Canada self-government, it built a prop and gave a foundation to our Empire. In the same way, when giving Australia self-government, it provided another prop and another foundation, and so, with South Africa, it again strengthened and added to the security and stability of this great British Empire.
I would ask right hon. and hon. Gentlemen what is there in our history which gives such valuable lessons? If they will only look at it closely they must come to a right conclusion. Let them observe what occurred to those Empires which refused self-government to outlying portions. What happened to the Roman Empire? No self-government was developed, and, as soon as the central authority was withdrawn everything collapsed. What happened in the case of the British Islands when the Roman commanders went from the South-East Coast of these shores? The whole civilised society collapsed under the attacks of the Norsemen because we were not organised for self-government in those days. What happened in the case of a more recent Empire—the Colonial Empire of France? Why has that disappeared? Because it was managed entirely from one centre—in France. What happened to the Spanish Empire? Did it 1352 remain a solid stable community? No, the Colonies broke away and gained independence for themselves. None of them remained with the Mother country because they were all managed and controlled from a central, undivided, unified Government, and that was the result. Again, take the Colonial Empire of Portugal. We have identically the same course of events there; the management of the Empire from a centre, a centralised and unified Government, and that centralised and unified Government battered to atoms because it developed no self-government, and placed no reliance on the people on the spot who knew far better what was in their own interests than anybody at the centre could know. I say the answer to the right hon. Gentleman's question is absolute and complete, not only from our own records, but from the history of other Empires, if he will only take the trouble to look at it.
But let us regard the development of our own Empire. If we look into the matter, we shall see that Ireland is the only case in which we have met with failure—in which we have failed to get the assent of the great majority of the people of a particular place to their government. It is one of the failures which still stands to our discredit. We propose to take that remedy which has been applied in every other part of the world, and under every clime, with success. We want to do for Ireland what we have done elsewhere. Why are our Colonies so unanimous in support of this policy of Home Rule for Ireland? It is because they understand it. They have it in their every day life. There is no one who does not know and feel it is the best thing that could be given to Ireland. What is the position there? You have a nominated executive, and a nominative Lord Lieutenant. They, therefore, say to us, "Why not give to Ireland what you have given to us—that gift which has made us what we are, an independent, self-reliant community, absolutely loyal and united." Is not the philosophical summing up of the Irish question to be found in the few homely words that anyone worth his salt is able to manage his own affairs for himself better than anyone else. There is the whole philosophy in that sentence. Let us look at it from another point of view. Autocratic Government, however able and however benevolent, is a machine, but self-government has the power of assimilation and growth. It may start as a small thing, but, having 1353 that power of assimilation and growth, it has great possibilities. It is full of interest. It is full of suggestive possibilities for the future. That is the difference between a machine and a living organism. From my Colonial experience, I entirely support the principles embodied in this Home Rule Bill. I do not desire to dispute the seriousness of the problem we have to deal with, neither do I dispute the fears which legitimately exist in the minds of the people of Ulster. But I ask hon. Members opposite to look at the precedents of their own history, and they will realise that, with free and equal representation in the Irish Parliament, with their abilities and their energies, it is ridiculous to suppose that their interests are likely to suffer, or that they will be unable to protect what they consider most vital and essential. I would, therefore, in the strongest manner, support this measure. It is the last and ultimate solution of the problem of getting the assent of every part of this Empire to the Government, which is placed over them.
§ Mr. JAMES HOPE
No one who has heard the speech of the hon. Member can dispute either his learning or his earnestness. But I really should like to ask him whether he can possibly draw any analogy between the affairs of Colonies that cannot, from the nature of things, send Members to the Imperial Parliament, and those of a country close at our doors which has, for better or for worse, been a part of this realm for many hundreds of years. I would add, further, that the analogy of Canada he suggested surely points to the other conclusion, because there he admits that peace was attained only when it was recognised that Upper and Lower Canada were different communities, with different traditions, different associations and different ideals, and that the attempt to weld them together had been and must be a failure. The analogy from that is surely applicable to the dual position in Ireland to-day. However, I am not sorry that the hon. Member has taken the discussion on to a different plane, because I think it rather important to assert that the special question of Ulster, although it is the most prominent, although unhappily it promises to be the most tragic element in the situation to-day, and although no one arguing this matter can ignore its importance, is by no means the only consideration that Members of this House have to take into account in giving their vote upon this Bill. I would say that 1354 if there were no Ulster, if all Ireland demanded this Bill, all the same every argument from analogy and from the contents of this Bill would operate against it. For my own part, no statesmanship in Dublin and no possible violence or folly in Belfast—if all that has been said against Belfast were accurate—would weigh one iota in my judgment upon this Bill. The structure of this Bill is fundamentally bad. If it were a Bill for Scotland instead of Ireland it would equally deserve similar unqualified and uncompromising rejection.
In the course of last year's Debates we put various arguments forward from this side of the House, and I venture to say that the Chief Secretary answered none of them. I will give just one or two, very briefly. There is, for instance, the position of the Lord Lieutenant, the constitutional monarch of Ireland, and, at the same time, the servant of the Imperial Government. How is his position tenable? We put this question over and over again to the Chief Secretary. The Lord Lieutenant is responsible for finding an Irish Executive to run the Government of the country, and, at the same time, he has to consider the instructions which the Imperial Government may give him. How can he combine the two functions? His first function, in his capacity of constitutional ruler, is to find a Ministry for Ireland. Suppose he cannot find such a Ministry. Suppose a Government exists in Ireland, and that he vetoes, as, under the Bill, he has power to do, some measure they have passed; they resign, and he can find no other Ministers who can command a majority in the Irish Parliament. What is he to do? What has happened in such cases in Colonial legislatures? In all such matters the Imperial Government, where the question at issue was one of internal affairs, has given in. The right hon. Gentleman knows well enough the case of Natal a few years ago, in which the Natal Government took a strong line against the Imperial Government in an effort by the Imperial Government to interfere in their administration of affairs, and, after a protest, the Imperial Government gave way. So it would necessarily be. If the Lord Lieutenant cannot find Ministers who will carry out the policy that he, in obedience to the instructions he has from London, has to enforce, he has no choice but either to resign himself or to yield to the demands of the majority in an Irish Parliament, as was the case in Natal. There is an absolute impasse. No suggestion was made for overcoming it, 1355 and nothing in the nature of an emergency paragraph, as it is called in foreign countries, was attempted by the right hon. Gentleman. I cannot believe his intelligence did not acquaint him with the difficulty, but his intelligence found no way of solution.
This brings me to the second point. The Government you propose to set up is neither the Colonial form of Government nor the provincial form of Government. That is where the difficulty lies. In the Colonial form of Government we readily and freely admit that in internal affairs the will of the Colony must prevail. Are you willing to admit that in the case of Ireland? If you are willing to admit that the will of the majority in the country must prevail, what of the position of the Lord Lieutenant, what of the value of his veto, and what of the value of all the safeguards founded upon his veto? They are gone. We admit that in the case of the Colonies the will of the local Legislature must prevail, but you do not admit it in this case. You keep your Lord Lieutenant and your safeguards, you keep your veto and your reserved services, and if you once do that the whole Colonial analogy breaks down. On the other hand, it is not the provincial form of Government. It is not the form of Government that exists in Brunswick or in Manitoba, as there their powers are extremely limited, and the Dominion Government overrides them. But you do not propose that, and you will not propose it, because you have not the smallest security that hon. Members from Ireland will ever be content with such a Government. If they will come forward and say that they will be content with such a Government as Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, and Manitoba have, then the whole question would come upon an absolutely different plane and basis. At present you are trying a hybrid form, which is neither Colonial nor provincial. Such things have been tried. They have been tried in four cases of recent years. There was the case of Russia and Finland, the case of Norway and Sweden, the case of Austria and Hungary, and the case of Hungary and Croatia. None of them were quite alike, but all had something similar in them. Hungary and Croatia comes nearest, and the record in each case is a record of dismal failure. Where the superior country is strong enough the inferior country has been eliminated, their Constitution has been taken away and no 1356 longer exists, or only exists at the will of the Executive Government. That has happened in the case of Russia and Finland, and in the case of Hungary and Croatia, upon which Mr. Gladstone founded his Bill of 1893. But where the lesser Government had the strength they have prevailed. They have prevailed absolutely in Norway, and they have prevailed to such an extent in Hungary that the whole fabric of the Austro-Hungarian Empire totters in consequence.
These are your analogies, and, if your analogies are of any value, the Bill you propose is condemned from the outset. Suppose you want a real plan of federation, a plan in which the different communities of the United Kingdom are banded together upon a basis of common rights, with one permanent Imperial authority. Personally, I am against such a plan, but, if it were seriously put forward, the arguments to be used against it would be of a totally different nature from the arguments against this Bill. Suppose you had the different communities of the United Kingdom—Scotland, Wales, Ulster as understood in this Debate, the rest of Ireland, and England—five separate communities, and assigned separate Parliaments to them, with one pre-eminent Imperial Parliament, you would, if you pass this Bill, condemn that scheme from the first. You condemn it, first of all, by a separation of the Post Office. In all federations the Post Office is one of the essential attributes which must be reserved to the Predominant Imperial or Federal Parliament, as you like to call it. You condemn it, secondly, by the Customs. Customs, again, is a mark of federation. I know not whether you will find a federation in which the separate members have different Custom Houses. It is not even proposed, I understand, in the Scottish Bill that there should be a separate Custom House for Scotland, but as long as you adhere to a separate Customs for Ireland you vitiate the whole possibility of establishing a federal Parliament on equal lines, and you vitiate it again in this way: It is proposed in this Bill that a certain number—too few from the Imperial point of view and too many from the point of view of the other countries affected—of Members shall continue to come to this House. You give them power to prejudge the settlement. Having got what they want for themselves, you admit them still to the Imperial Parliament to help to settle the federal Constitution and 1357 the powers of the different Parliaments which remain. This is an invidious and an odious power. It is proposed in this Bill. It has been proposed in the Scottish Bill, and apparently, as England is to come last of all in the process of granting autonomy, these other countries, as they each get their powers, will have an invidious advantage over the English people when apparently, according to the plan of the Government, the turn of England comes. Therefore, if you want to have a sound federation on equal principles, you have begun at the wrong end, and you must begin the process again from the beginning.
Then take your financial position. We have sometimes been taunted with inconsistency in this matter because we have said that the financial plan must break down in Ireland and at the same time that it is unjust to England. The two contentions may perfectly be reconciled. The analogy is this: Supposing a man wishes to set up his son with a separate establishment. He may give him an allowance which will cost him more than if he kept him at home, and yet will not be enough for what the son has to maintain. So it is in this case. The British Parliament will have to pay a large annual sum, including the cost of the reserved services, for the privilege of an Irish Parliament, and yet that Irish Parliament may find itself, with all the large visions which have been conjured up before its eyes, straightened, cabined, cribbed, and bound in, to carry on the work not only of a Government that aspires to carry on all the functions of a fully-developed country, but even for carrying on the necessary work of administration. At the same time you have this extraordinary dual control, these two taxing authorities, the English Chancellor of the Exchequer, able at any time to upset the calculations of the Irish Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Irish Chancellor of the Exchequer at the same time gravely hampering the field of taxation that the English Chancellor of the Exchequer has, and you have such a situation as does not exist either in the Colonies or anywhere in the provincial Governments, as in Canada, nor even in any of those European examples which I have quoted—an absolutely anomalous system of finance which every independent witness from Ireland herself has almost unanimously condemned. It would be inconvenient to this country, but it would be intolerable to Ireland.
1358 Then, again, what finality have you? Have you any contracts signed, sealed, and delivered with the Irish people that they will be satisfied? If it were worth while, I have quotation after quotation from Irish Nationalists saying they will not be satisfied, and they regard this as a beginning, and they take it only for what it is worth in order that they may use the lever that they have got to extort further concessions, exactly the same as in the case of Hungary with regard to Austria, and exactly the same as Norway in regard to Sweden. Take only one instance. You have in this Bill a provision that the Irish Parliament may establish agents abroad to promote their trade. Those agents will soon claim to be Consuls, and it was exactly upon this point of Consular representation that the final breach between Sweden and Norway came. That is only one instance, and there are many others. It is perfectly clear, on the face of the Bill, that what you are giving to the Nationalist majority in Ireland is far short of the expectations which the Irish people have been led to indulge in, and they would not be human, they would hardly he patriotic, holding the views they do, if they did not immediately ask for more. There is another and a greater danger, and that is that you are diminishing the power of the central Executive in time of war or emergency. All experience has shown the immense danger in war time of separate Executives. Last Session I quoted two examples, both of the Cape and Natal, at the time of the last war when the Cape Government, and certainly the Natal Government, were perfectly loyal to the Empire. In the case of the Natal Government, local pressure was suffered to overbear the decision of the general commanding, with very grievous and disastrous results. In the case of the Cape Government, though I believe Mr. Schreiner was absolutely loyal to the Imperial connection, yet his refusal to act in stopping munitions of war passing on the Cape railways at the beginning of the war was a grievous hindrance to the success of the Imperial arms. If I go back to the old field of analogy of Austria-Hungary you find the same thing. The duality of the Government there is a source of embarrassment in peace and danger in war, and even in the German Empire itself the separate powers of the different units have gravely hampered them, at any rate with regard to finance, 1359 which is the sinews of war, and those difficulties are only got over in time of war by a special device whereby the Emperor is made an Over-War Lord and supersedes the powers of the different States. There are the practical difficulties that this Bill would cause were there ever so much goodwill in both countries, were there no difficulties of race or of ancient association or of religion, and the greater part of this argument, if not all, would apply to any such Bill with regard to Scotland.
In saying this I do not want for a moment to appear to burke the question of Ulster. On the Second Reading of the Bill last year I felt it my duty to protest against certain utterances that there had been in the country whereby what is a great political issue had been turned into an occasion for embittering the differences and passions which arise out of religious conviction. I am happy to say that during the last year there has been much less occasion for any such protest, at any rate in the way the controversy has been carried on in this country, and I want to bear my tribute to the right hon. Gentleman (Sir E. Carson) that he has done and said nothing to place this controversy upon a sectarian rather than upon an Imperial basis. It is perfectly true that when you are considering the duality of Ireland you cannot lose sight of the fact that there are differences of religious conviction any more than you can lose sight of such facts when you consider the problems of the Balkan Peninsula. This issue has been clearly fought by my right hon. Friend as it ought to be fought, upon the political issues and upon the fact that there is a duality in Ireland, whatever the remote cause of it may be. But will it always be so? I look forward to the future, both on the ground of civil and religious strife, with no little anxiety, because if the Government persevere with this policy they are going straight back to the conditions of 1798. Some hon. Gentlemen opposite are generally shocked to think that there are in these islands a number of people who are willing to kill and be killed for a cause, rightly or wrongly. I could wish that they had had the opportunity I have had this year of seeing in the Balkan Peninsula what racial and hereditary strife really means. I think it might have opened their eyes to the somewhat analogous conditions at home.
I feel that if this Government persevere in their course, and this Bill is actually 1360 passed into law, my right hon. Friend may not be able to hold the people within pacific limits, and from the date when the first Unionist blood is shed by the Executive there would be bitter and sanguinary reprisals, and a bitter religious war would break out. With the belief which I have in the faith I hold, I confess I deeply fear such a catastrophe. The Government had an opportunity—I do not say they have now—of making this thing right from that point of view if they had separated the four or six counties in Ulster from the rest of Ireland. They would not have reconciled our Imperial objections to the Bill, but they could have saved the catastrophe which I say is imminent if they persevere in their present policy, because no one supposes that an Army will arise in Ulster and will seek to conquer Dublin and keep the three provinces for the Union. No one contemplates that.
This catastrophe of civil and religious war in Ireland could have been avoided, but that opportunity the Government have allowed to pass. I see now no chance of that catastrophe being avoided unless the whole of their design is dropped. I am sorry to see that the Chief Secretary has left the House, because I should have liked to put to him whether he is prepared to go through with this policy. He is a somewhat enigmatical personality. I have most charming accounts of him from private and literary quarters, but I confess that when he stands at the Table of this House and makes jokes on occasions of great Imperial moment, I feel myself in mid-channel on a particularly rough day. I do not know whether his nerve or conscience would be equal to the occasion in the event of these difficulties arising. He will be confronted with this situation: If he perseveres in his policy he will be face to face one day or other with having to issue orders which will bring death or grievous wounds to hundreds, perhaps thousands of his fellow countrymen. I doubt if the dignities, the emoluments, and the powers attached to a seat on the Treasury Bench are worth preserving a tenure of blood. That, and nothing less, is the course before him. If he and his colleagues will take the proper constitutional course of asking sanction for their policy from the whole people of the country, then, if they win, they know that we English Members will bow to that decision. If they lose they will lose honourably, they will have done their best for a cause which, I will 1361 assume at any rate, they believe in, and they will have escaped that crimson stain which will inevitably be attached to their record if they pursue the disastrous path on which their feet have entered.
§ Mr. HOGGE
I have not intervened in these Debates in the previous Session, but as a Scottish Member who represents in the capital of Scotland the feeling of Scotland in regard to this Bill, I may be allowed to say now that, so far as we in Scotland are concerned, we have no hesitancy in maintaining the position we took up last year with regard to our support of the Irish Home Rule Bill. I notice that after the Division on Tuesday night, the Ulster Members are going to make an exodus into Scotland. That exodus will be followed by Scottish Members who will probably correct some of the kind of exaggeration to which we have listened in the speech of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. James Hope). The hon. Gentleman put this position: That if the Government appeal to the country, and the country support the Government, then he and his colleagues would be in a different position. But I venture to address this question to him: Assuming that the country supported the policy of the Government, I understand the hon. Gentleman would acquiesce in that expression of opinion?
§ Mr. JAMES HOPE
I have only said that I would deprecate any armed resistance by Ulster in such an event.
§ Mr. HOGGE
The hon. Gentleman says he would deprecate armed resistance in such a case, but he knows from the speeches and interjections of his colleagues this afternoon that, in spite of the General Election, they would still resist, and I ask him as an honest man, as an honest politician—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Yes, I venture to put it in that way: What position would he then be willing to take up in regard to the opposition of Ulster? I want to deal with one point raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Balfour) this afternoon. It seems to open up a fresh channel of thought for those who sit on the opposite side of the House. It was suggested by the right hon. Gentleman that if it were necessary to call out troops to deal with the Ulster difficulty, the problem which would be set to politicians on this side of the House would be that of convincing the electors of this country that it was morally 1362 right that they should be called out for that purpose. I venture to ask this question: Where is that going to lead His Majesty's Opposition? We have had, in the past, very unluckily, I think, from my point of view, the intervention of the military in industrial strikes in this country, and on every occasion on which the military has been called out to deal with industrial strikes His Majesty's Goverment have had the unanimous support of the Opposition. They are the first section of opinion in this House to acquiesce in calling out the military to deal with industrial strikes. I would ask—are they prepared in future, before they acquiesce in calling out the military in industrial strikes, to enter upon a propaganda with the soldiers called out, that they are morally bound to intervene before they are asked to carry out their executive duties as soldiers? That is a fair question to put to the Opposition. It is a fair question to put to the senior Member for the City of London. It is all very well to take up this high falutin position when dealing with a small portion of the United Kingdom in Ulster. It is a very different question in dealing with the great industrial masses of the people of this country, when that position arises where there is no question at all of moral considerations. The whole influence of the party opposite is used in the direction of bringing the military forces of the country up to protect the capitalist industries of the country. There are no moral considerations that enter into the question on these occasions. This wants some explanation from the Opposition, and I shall be very glad if, in the course of this Debate, some Member from that side, who proposes to intervene in the Debate will take up that point, and explain the position with regard to the calling out of the military in industrial disputes, and the question of calling the military out in the case of Ulster.
§ Mr. DILLON
I do not know that there could be a more conclusive proof of the bankruptcy of the Unionist cause, as it is called in this country, than the fact that for the last year all the arguments, which we, old stagers in this controversy, have been acustomed to, against Home Rule for Ireland, have disappeared with the solitary exception of the argument of Civil War in Ulster. If anybody doubts that fact, let him compare the reports of the Debates of this year and last year with the reports of those in 1886 and 1893, both of which I have listened to. There we 1363 were engaged for many long nights in constitutional debates maintained with great eloquence on both sides of the House. In these recent Debates on the present Home Rule Bill, no argument, I may say almost without challenge, has been used, or at least no argument has been relied upon, except the one argument that Ulster will fight, and Ulster will be right. When a cause is driven to such an argument as that, in a constitutional country like Great Britain, that cause is really bankrupt, and the people who rely upon that argument confess themselves that they are defending a bad cause. One of the questions that have most interested the people of this country, so far as they take an interest in the question, and in Ireland, is the question whether the present threats of Civil War in Ulster are bluff, or whether they really mean fight. This morning I took up a paper which I rarely see, the London "Daily Express." It is not a paper of high authority, but it is a very great champion of the Unionist cause, particularly the Ulster part of it, and it is suggested by their special correspondent himself that he found it to be a very general opinion in Belfast that the recent seizure of arms had been arranged by the Unionists for the purpose of impressing public opinion in England with the determination to fight.
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ Mr. DILLON
I assure the hon. Member that we have not got money enough to buy Italian rifles, and I trust that certainly we would spend our money on better purposes than that. But this is the suggestion of a Unionist paper. It is not my suggestion, and I myself hold this view very strongly, as regards the conditions in Ulster, that if any of the catalogue of evils set forth by the "Daily Telegraph" correspondent in Belfast on Saturday last was likely to occur to the people of Ulster they would fight and fight very bravely, because, although I am a strong opponent of the Unionists of North-East Ulster, I do not believe that they or any other section of the Irish people are cowards. The people of Antrim and Belfast are good fighters. So are the people of Tipperary and Cork and the South, and whatever has been said of the Irish people and their faults—and I quite admit they have their faults as well as any other people on earth—I do not think that their most bitter critics ever 1364 accused any section of the population of Ireland of being cowards or of being timid about a fight. On that point I agree for once with the hon. Members for North-East Ulster. I am perfectly convinced that if any one of the things set forth in the correspondence as feared by the Protestants of Ulster were to occur, they would fight, and a very wicked crowd they would be and very difficult to put down. But the reason why I believe that all this talk about civil war in Ulster is bluff, and will end in nothing, is because I know that if Home Rule was passed into law next year not a single one of these things would happen, and that of all the things that have been said in this House to justify the fear of the Ulster people not one single act of oppression or interference with their civil or religious liberties would occur. Therefore, it is, I am convinced, that there would be no civil war and no bloodshed in Ulster.
In order to have bloodshed, the Ulster Protestants should be the aggressors. Nobody would interfere with them, and when men talk about the possibility and the responsibility of shooting down the people of Ulster under Home Rule, I say that nobody would shoot them because nobody would interfere with them, unless they indulged in the amusement, which has not been unknown in the past, of burning down or sacking Catholic houses; in which case they would be dealt with as any other rioters in any civilised country, and I do not believe that any sympathy Would be aroused in this country if such proceedings were somewhat roughly handled. There was a very curious trial in Dublin last week, and a very interesting trial, and there were three witnesses examined, who had signed the Covenant, of which we hear a great deal in regard to the determination of those who signed it. These three witnesses under cross-examination declared on oath that they had signed the Covenant because they were convinced that no fighting would ever occur, and these are the only men who signed the Covenant who have been examined on oath about it. It is a very significant fact, because we are told both in the House and in the country that every man who signed the Covenant was determined to shed the last drop of his blood rather than submit to Home Rule. As to the claim of Ulster, we are told now that all they want is to be left alone. That is the stock expression which is used on every platform in Ireland, and in this country. They want no ascendancy and no power over the rest of the people 1365 of Ireland. They simply want to be left alone, to enjoy the blessings of British Rule under the Union. Let us examine for one moment in the light of recent utterances of the leaders of the Ulster Unionist party what is really the nature of the claim of Ulster. I take first of all an extract from a pamphlet written by the hon. Member for East Down (Captain Craig). I take him because, although the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Trinity College, Dublin, is the Leader of the Irish Unionist party, yet if you really want to know the spirit of that party you must look to the hon. Member for East Down or the Member for North Armagh. What does the hon. Member for East Down say? On pages 4 and 5 of the pamphlet he says:—In dealing with the Roman Catholic Church, two things must always be remembered—first, there can be no such thing as equality, for if you are not top dog she will be.There you have the whole essence of the spirit of Ulster Unionism put, as it were, into a nutshell. They want to be top dog, and they say unless they are top dog there can be no such thing as equality in Ireland. I admire the hon. Member's honesty. That is the spirit of Ulster Unionism. So long as their principles are not admitted, they frankly state that there can be no equality. That is an intolerable position to take up, and one to which the masses of the people of Ireland will never submit, even if this Bill were swept away into the waste-paper basket. If you think that you will settle the question by the majority of the population of Ireland remaining bottom dog, while the hon. Member and his Friends are top dog, you are mistaken. We are all for equality. We say there can be equality, and we say there must be equality before there is peace in Ireland. We have been told by leaders of the Ulster Unionist party that all they require is to be let alone to enjoy the blessings of British Government under the Union. But how have they described British Government under the Union? Let me remind the House of a few quotations which have been given before, but which are so apposite and so important from this point of view that I must repeat them. Take the speech delivered by the junior Member for Trinity College, another leader of the Unionist party, delivered on the 4th January, 1912. He said:—We have enjoyed for the past five years the advantage of living under a good Constitution, but a miserable Executive. He would venture to say that they would fail to find a parallel in political history to compare with the five years of oppression, tyranny, 1366 injustice, political jobbery, and corruption which had prevailed since the Liberals came into office.These are the blessings of the Union, according to the junior Member for Trinity College. If that is his description of the blessings of the Union, it is rather strange that he should take up the position that all the Tories want in Ireland is to be let alone. But that is not what they want. What they want is the protection of an absolute Tory Government. I have put a question in this House to which I have never received an answer: If the Members for Ulster were offered to-morrow twenty years of Radical Government or Home Rule, which would they select? They have declined to answer, and they will never answer. Let me read a passage from a speech by the leader of the Ulster Unionists. Speaking, according to a report in the "Times," on 8th December, 1907, with very great vehemence, he said:—As an Irishman speaking to Englishmen, I say that if they are not prepared to govern Ireland according to the ordinary elementary principles of civilisation that prevail in every other country. let them go out of Ireland and let Ireland govern herself.That is the description given by the Leader of the Unionist party of the blessings of the Unionist Government. He thinks that it would be preferable to have Home Rule, because he ordered the English out of the country rather than submit to any continuance of the Radical system of government. Here is another quotation which will be very instructive to Englishmen. It is from a speech made in the month of April last by the hon. Member for South Belfast (Mr. J. Chambers). He said:—The Irish people are recognised everywhere as very clever. They have succeeded in bamboozling the poor dull-headed Saxons, and making them imagine that they were dying for an opportunity of taking them into their arms. They have succeeded to a remarkable extent in Great Britain, and they are now trying the game on Ulster.They look upon the people of this country as poor dull-headed Saxons, whom we Nationalists have succeeded in bamboozling, and yet they want to be governed by the Anglo-Saxons. That is an extraordinary condition of mind. What they really are afraid of, and what they have been afraid of for a great many years, is that the Irish people and the English people may become friends. What the hon. Member called bamboozling the English people is that we have succeeded at last, after long years of misunderstanding, in reaching the intellects and hearts of the people of this country. Irish speakers and English representatives frequently meet 1367 on the platform and any patriotic man who is really interested in the future of this country and the Empire, as it is called, must welcome that from the bottom of his heart. Therefore I say it is perfectly clear from the speeches of hon. Members themselves that they do not desire to be left alone. Their demands are much more extensive, and they would not be content with being left alone. What they desire is that there should be a perpetual Conservative Government in this country, so that they might be top dog in Ireland. There is another statement constantly made, though I do not hear it so much in this House, but it is made by the Unionist Press. It is said with great vehemence and persistence, that while Ulster will persist in a determined opposition to Home Rule, the Nationalists have become indifferent and careless about Home Rule, and no longer desire it, at least with any earnestness. What are the reasons? What are the criteria which you are prepared to accept of the earnestness of any political campaign like this?
It is quite true, I frankly admit, that we do not import arms, we do not abuse the Government, we do not threaten rebellion, or drive from their employment the Protestants in the South of Ireland, although there are tens of thousands of Protestants in the South of Ireland depending for their daily bread on the custom of Irish Catholics. I will quote from an article published last week in the "Irish Times," in reference to a certain speech delivered in Dublin. The "Irish Times" is the chief Unionist organ in Ireland, and it declared that there was not a thread of foundation for the statements made in reference to the hostile feeling between Protestants and Catholics in the South of Ireland, and that thousands of Protestants living in purely Catholic communities were prosperous and living in peace with their Catholic neighbours, and making their living practically out of the custom of Catholics. Are those the criteria which this House wants in order to show that the people are earnest in their demand for Home Rule? We do not do those things; we confine ourselves to such methods as the returning of Members to this House in eight successive elections pledged to this policy of Home Rule. I ask the Unionists if they really believed, and of course they do not, that there was the slightest change in the feeling of the masses of the Irish people on this ques- 1368 tion of Home Rule, why did they not try conclusions in Queen's County, where there was a vacancy only filled to-day? Why did they not put up a Unionist there in Queen's County, where there are great wealthy Protestant landowners with great influence? At least they would have the chance of the poll in order to give the people the opportunity of showing whether they had ceased to care for Home Rule. I ask this further on this point. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition came to Dublin the other day, I suppose on some secret political mission, but, at all events, he devoted himself to a game of golf. Did he receive, during the four or five days he passed in Dublin, one single act of discourtesy of any sort or kind? What would be the kind of welcome for the First Lord of the Admiralty if they went to play golf in the neighbourhood of Belfast?
§ Mr. DILLON
Will the hon. Member guarantee that? I would not advise them to try the experiment. The Leader of the Opposition has announced that he is coming to Dublin to hold a meeting there during the autumn. I am perfectly certain that when he comes to Dublin to that meeting he will receive an equally kind reception. I do not believe there will be a single uncivil word said to him. We could organise mobs in Dublin too, though I do not know whether we could, since I think the people are too sensible to indulge in such a proceeding, but the people are Nationalists. If they were to yield to the baseness of following the example set them in the North by way of proving their earnestness in the cause, then I do not think the visit to Dublin would be very agreeable. The truth is that there is no change. By all reasonable and proper tests that can be applied, there is not the smallest symptom of a change in the spirit of the great majority of the masses of the Irish people on this question. I was greatly amused, I must say, the other day by a speech delivered by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Trinity College, the Leader of the Irish Unionists in Belfast, in which he declared that tears were brought to his eyes, nearly brought to his eyes, by the action of a mill girl, who came in and handed him a subscription of some shillings which she said she had saved up for a holiday or a day out. When we read that tears were brought 1369 to his eyes by the subscription of a few shillings by the Belfast mill girl to the Unionist party, it was brought to the minds of myself and my colleagues that during all these years, because we had the subscriptions of servant girls in New York and elsewhere, there were constant jeers at this class of subscription. I have always said, long years before, that as a proof of the earnestness of a people in a cause, I attach far more importance to the subscription of the servant girl than to the subscription of the millionaire. That is so. There is no change in the spirit of the people of the South of Ireland.
The real truth is, and this is the root of the whole question, there is a section of the minority of the Irish people who are not afraid of any interference with their liberty, religious or civil, or of their right to go about their business in their own way, but who, for three hundred years have occupied a position of ascendancy in our country, and who are gradually losing grip of that ascendancy, and who will not yield it up without a very severe struggle; and until they have accepted, and they have not accepted it yet, the principle that there must be equality in Ireland, and no top dog, I do not believe that much will be gained by these appeals for conferences. You must get all parties to accept the broad principles on which your policy is to be based before you get any good out of conferences. The other day the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's, Hanover Square (Mr. A. Lyttelton), went down to Cork of all places in the world. He selected that city—
§ Mr. DILLON
I assure the hon. Member I did not mean to say anything at all. I was only pointing out it was a queer place to select to make the speech he did make. In that speech he clearly encouraged British officers to mutiny in case they were called upon to maintain order against a rebellious Ulster. That really brings into bold relief what is largely at the base of the whole of this trouble. We had a speech to-day from the Member for the City (Mr. Balfour), which I might boil down into one sentence, namely, that Ireland was divided into two nations, one of which 1370 you should not hesitate to shoot if it were troublesome, and the other of which, the smaller the minority, are not to be shot. That was really the gospel of the right hon. Gentleman's speech. He was in Ireland himself, and went through a very stormy period there. He did not hesitate to shoot nor to use the bayonet, as we remember, on very much less provocation than we are told the Ulster people are now about to cause. There was no talk then about the awful responsibility; they were the mere Irish, the Catholic Irish, the rebel Irish, but if the loyal Irish rebel, then you must hesitate to shoot. It is for the loyal Irish rebel that a responsible Member like the right hon. Member for St. George's is entitled to go down and state, because that is practically what his language means, that British officers would be justified in mutinying and refusing to obey the commands of the Government, and of the King, if they were called upon to put down trouble and disorder in Ulster. That is a very dangerous doctrine to preach to people who have suffered great grievances for many years, and who, after all, are the great majority of the country. He alluded in that speech to the authority of a great soldier, the late Lord Wolseley. He said that that was the opinion of Lord Wolseley, that if Ulster fought that a large number of officers of the British Army would resign their commissions rather than serve the King against them. Here is an extract from the letter of Lord Wolseley, in which that opinion was made public. It was a letter written to the Duke of Cambridge on the 23rd April, 1893, and I read it because here again you have got stated, and by a man whom I quite admit was a great soldier, but who was an Ulster man.—[HON. MEMBERS: "No, no."] At all events, he had the Ulster spirit. Here is what he said:—Of this I beg of your Highness to be quite assured—that is, that Ulster is determined to resist and will fight if at any future time she is to be cut off from England and placed at the mercy of a race which her people hate as much as they despise.I put it frankly to hon. Members above the Gangway, although they are Tories, do they ask us to sit down under that? Do they ask us to accept a message of that kind from a man speaking on behalf of the Ulster Unionists, as he claimed to do? As long as that spirit animates the Unionists of Ulster, Ireland can never be prosperous or agreed. Although we have passed through centuries of oppression and ascendancy, we will never sit down and 1371 submit to be hated and despised in our own country. Here is another expression which gives an idea of the kind of thing to which we have been obliged to submit in the past. At this time Lord Wolseley was commander-in-chief of the troops in Ireland, and this is what he wrote in a private letter to the Duke of Cambridge:We had all arrangements made last evening for cutting off the rebel quarter of the city of Belfast from the other three parts of the city.That is from the impartial man who had been sworn to maintain peace and order, and at whose mercy the Nationalist people of Belfast were placed. That is the spirit at the bottom of the whole of this trouble. That is the spirit which has created all the mischief in Ireland. That is the spirit which it is impossible can be allowed to continue, or, at any rate, it is impossible for peace and good will to have any fair chance of prospering so long as that spirit is encouraged. I have an extraordinary statement from a man who writes a very remarkable and interesting letter in the "Daily Telegraph"—the special correspondent whom they sent over. I read this, because it gives so clear a description of the result of the system that Unionists are seeking to maintain by preserving the Union in Ireland. He is describing what is said to him, by a great employer of labour in Belfast. He says:That a population so robust, so intelligent and hardheaded, so full of common sense and of the qualities of civilisation in the ordinary relations of life as these men are, should also be the raw material of the most quickly roused and the most dangerous mobs in Europe is a strange thing. A man who is an employer told me that he had seen English, Scotch, French, and Italian mobs, but had never encountered anything so ugly as a Belfast Protestant mob.That is from a Unionist leader in Belfast, who goes on to admit that they are utterly beyond control. That is the product of ascendancy. Here is another example:—There is only one local explanation of the fact, whatever philosophers may make of it. Both sides are firmly persuaded that Protestants and Catholics thrown together in large numbers, however well they may get on with each other as individuals, must naturally hate and despise each other in the aggregate, and nothing on earth will cure them.That is a nice description of the success of Unionist civilisation in Belfast. It is grossly untrue as regards the rest of Ireland. In the South, in Dublin, where you have great masses of Protestants, although Catholics are in a majority, no such condition of things exists. Yet you have these declarations of despair coming from leaders of the Unionist party in Belfast.
1372 A more bitter confession of failure was never heard from any community. On that admission alone I say that the whole system of Unionist government in Ireland is condemned. In conclusion I ask this question in all earnestness of hon. Members above the Gangway. After the last thirty years, supposing you were successful at an election, do you really imagine that this question would be done with? We have now some indication of the alternative policy of the Unionist party. It consists in a policy of development, of called, "Against Home Rule," and in the speeches of the Leader of the Opposition. It consists in a policy of development, of spending money upon Ireland, a policy which has been tried fairly extensively during the last few years, but has not produced any effect in changing the opinion of the people. I have gone through that book with great interest. I consider it a valuable one. I am too old a politician not to know that there are ups and downs in politics. I have been through stormy times, and have no doubt whatever as to the ultimate settlement of this question. I am, however, too old a politician not to have in mind the chances of politics; therefore this alternative policy of the Unionist party interested me very much. That policy involves the expenditure of very large sums of money—on education, something like £750,000, which is badly wanted; on drainage, which has been neglected by all Governments for many years; on land purchase, in regard to which the pledges are very extensive. I have made a calculation that the policy indicated in that book will cost this country well over £1,500,000 per annum in addition to the present expenditure.
There is another authority equally interesting. The Leader of the Opposition went to Belfast, where he made an extremely interesting speech, and pledged himself without reserve that the Unionist party if it came into power would apply to this country a tariff scientifically constructed for the purpose of benefiting Ireland's chief industry. That means—there is no use beating about the bush—a tariff on food, of such a character as would increase the price of our produce. Therefore the pledges that we have in regard to the Unionist alternative policy are the expenditure of a very large additional sum upon Ireland and a tariff upon food. I remember the first speech made by the right hon. Gentleman as Leader of the Opposition in this House. It was in a 1373 debate in reference to Irish cattle, and it was a most remarkable speech. He stated that the present legislation prohibiting the importation of cattle from abroad except for immediate slaughter, was an indirect protection for Irish cattle, and he said that he would deal with that matter honestly and give them direct protection by a tariff. Therefore he is pledged beyond all question. I observe, however, that that has been thrown overboard as regards the English people. What I want to warn you of is this: Supposing you come into power once more, would you carry out these promises, or are they made for the simple purpose of humbugging the Irish people and deluding the people of this country? Ireland has been treated in that way very often in the past. One thing you may rest perfectly assured of, and that is when an election comes—and an election is sure to come—whatever may be the fate of the Bill, the question will not be settled except on terms at least as good as this Bill.
For my part, I believe this is a good Bill. a workable Bill. The best that has ever been offered to Ireland of all the measures that have been offered. The people of Ireland have accepted it, and the people of Ireland are prepared to fight for the Bill as it stands, and if they get it, to work it honestly for the good of their own country. They will not oppress any of their own countrymen. I would say to those who criticise and find fault with this Bill that it is the only practical proposal that has been put forward, and that those who find fault with it ought to put some alternative proposal forward. Certainly, I cannot understand how there can be any doubt in the mind of any man who is interested in the future strength and power of this Empire as to the true policy he ought to adopt towards the Bill. Whatever happens to it, as I have said, Ireland will remain faithful to the cause. As we have maintained the fight for thirty years under much less favourable circumstances, it is not likely, when we have succeeded in obtaining a majority of the representatives of Great Britain in favour of Home Rule, that we are going to go back. Let me bid the Conservative party also remember that if they decide upon this course of intractable opposition to the Bill that they are dealing not only with our people in Ireland but with millions of Irish, both in Canada and in the English Colonies where they are unanimous in support of this Bill; above all in the United States. I would 1374 ask them to take carefully into consideration the effect of that opposition upon the minds of our people after all that has passed, after they have seen a great Government pledged to effect this change—all I say, that this means to our people if the Conservative party persists in a policy of blank opposition to the Bill.
§ Mr. GODFREY LOCKER-LAMPSON
I am very disappointed with the hon. Member for East Mayo in saying that this Bill is a good Bill when he did not show us in one single sentence what real benefit it is going to be to the Irish people. In that he merely followed the example of the hon. Member for Cork and the hon. Member for the Scotland Division. I am sure that those on these benches were very much more pleased with the tone of the speech made by the hon. Member for Cork than they were with the poisonous stream of provocative bitterness that issued from the hon. Member for the Scotland Division. None of these three hon. Members showed in the least what real benefit this Bill is going to be to Ireland. Certainly I shall vote against the Bill. I believe it, will be fatal to the future prosperity of the Irish people themselves, and I believe the system of devolution proposed in this Bill is radically unsound from the start.
After all, whichever way you look at it, Home Rule for Ireland is a colossal experiment. I believe it will prove to be a disastrous experiment. If the Radical party really insist upon giving Home Rule to Ireland, surely it would be only prudent to give the Irish a little at a time, tentatively, by very gradual instalments, until you know how this particular change is going to work, and not to give the whole machinery of government straight away—for that is practically what the Government are doing. The Government are surrendering practically the whole machinery of government into the hands of an untried Irish Legislature. I do not believe that there is a single hon. Member who sits on any of these benches in this House who knows in the least what the final issue will be. The giving of Home Rule in this Bill is nothing but a wild leap in the dark. I should have thought it would have been far more prudent, and far more in consonance with any future federal scheme which may be introduced, to have delegated a few enumerated and specific powers to Ireland, and to have retained the whole of the rest until it had been seen how this particular policy 1375 was likely to work out. It would be so very easy to give a little more if the experiment proved a success, and it will be so infinitely difficult to take anything back if the experiment proves to be a failure. To my mind, there is a far graver objection to this Home Rule Bill than the actual system of devolution. I would like to say a few words on this Bill from the point of view of the Irish people themselves, although I have no doubt that hon. Members below the Gangway will think it very presumptuous for a mere Britisher to give any opinion at all upon the Irish side of the question. I can imagine even Unionists having some sympathy with this Bill if they really believed there would accrue the least benefit to Ireland itself; but what is Ireland really getting out of the Bill? I could understand hon. Members below the Gangway pressing for this Bill if Ireland were going to derive some great, some signal, and some genuine advantage from it which she has not had in the past. After all, what is Ireland's position? Practically every social and economic reform that she has asked for during the last twenty-five years has been conceded by the Imperial Parliament. Enormous sums of money have been spent upon her ungrudgingly, and without any hesitation. Enormous sums of money are, under the Union, being spent still. There is no doubt whatever that great sums would continue to be spent.
Do hon. Members below the Gangway realise that by accepting this Bill they are deliberately cutting Ireland off from the vast and increasing resources of Great Britain? Do they realise that by accepting this Bill they are stopping up that bountiful stream of wealth and help that has flowed from Great Britain to Ireland, and irrigated every corner of Ireland during the last twenty-five year? In fact, that they are under the Bill reducing this stream of wealth to a mere trickle? I know that it is suggested, if the Bill passes into law, that hon. Members below the Gangway may be able to engineer an increase an the Transferred Sum as at present estimated by persuading the Government during the next few months to give additional Grants for education, agriculture, and various other economic developments, And that is clearly what they ought to do in their own interest, because under the Transferred Sum the cost of Irish services is calculated as at the passing of the Act; And they may be able to do this, but this 1376 will be there last great chance, for once this Bill is passed, Ireland will have absolutely to rest upon her own resources. I certainly cannot imagine any business-like or any patriotic Irishman who has taken the trouble to study the financial side of this question accepting this Bill for one moment.
I can understand this Bill being accepted by those who are looking forward to the distribution of patronage, who will have the jobs to give, and supporters to reward. I can also understand its being accepted by those who expect to receive the patronage and to enjoy the jobs, although I would recommend them not to look forward too confidently to the, reproduction of the miracle of the loaves and the fishes. But I cannot possibly understand this Bill being accepted by any disinterested Irishman after studying the needs of Ireland to-day. You have only to turn to the evidence given before the Committee on Irish Finance for a proof of the financial disaster that awaits Ireland if this Bill passes into law, and I should just, in passing, like to comment on the way in which this evidence has been withheld from the public until the very last moment, for I am quite sure if it had been published, and had been read in Ireland, before the Committee stage or during the Committee stage of the Bill last year, we should have had a good many more Amendments suggested to the Bill from Ireland herself, and the task of the hon. and learned Member for Waterford (Mr. John Redmond), not always a very easy one, would have been even more difficult than it is at present.
Under the provisions of the Bill Ireland is going to enjoy an eventual Grant over her existing expenses of a couple of hundred thousands a year, and out of this, unless indeed hon. Members below the Gangway are prepared to tax Ireland to a very much greater extent than at the present moment, she will have to pay for all those great social and economic reforms which are absolutely essential to her development if she wants to keep abreast of the other countries of the world. Arterial drainage, as was mentioned by the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon), railways, afforestation, housing reform, Poor Law reform, education—all these at the present moment cry aloud for organisation and for expenditure. The Postmaster-General and various other Members of the Government have talked very glibly as if Ireland could deal with all these economic 1377 reforms out of her own economies under the Bill, but not a single Member of the Government and not a single Member from Ireland below the Gangway has shown how this can be done, or how these economies can possibly be effected. How can Ireland, with all the good will in the world, however much she tries, possibly cut down her present expenditure beyond the merest trifle, as compared with her future inevitable liabilities?
It may be, to take an instance, that the expenses of the Royal Irish Constabulary will be able to be cut down when they are eventually taken over by the Irish Parliament. It may be that the cost of the Irish judiciary will also be able to be diminished. It is conceivable that about a quarter of a million may be saved under the first head and a few thousands under the second, and this was given in evidence before the Committee. But what other Departments are there? What other branches of administration are there which will afford scope for Irish economies in the future sufficient to deal with the tithe of the inevitable outlay and the additional demands upon the Irish Treasury? For instance, will hon. Members below the Gangway cut down expenses by giving reduced old age pensions to future Irish pensioners, as they could do under the Bill? They know perfectly well that kind of policy will never go down in Ireland. I do not believe that there is any practicable economies possible of the slightest importance. Economies in civil administration are the last things in the world that hon. Members from Ireland will find to be a popular policy when they get the reins of power in Ireland. The most lavish spender will be the man who will have the largest following in the Irish Parliament, and we shall probably see in the future many and many rivalries between the hon. Member for Waterford, the hon. Member for East Mayo, and the hon. Member for West Belfast, in attractive proposals for relieving the Irish Treasury of its surplus funds. I repeat, I do not believe that for years to come there will be any practicable economies possible in Irish administration. Mr. Ennis, who is chairman of the general council of the county councils in Ireland gave evidence before the Committee and gave it as his opinion—and I quote his own words here in answer to Mr. Huth Jackson, a director of the Bank of England, that:—It will take a period of twenty to twenty-five years to bring down the cost of civil administration in Ireland to anything like a reasonable figure.1378 That is the opinion of the man who knows Ireland through and through and whose evidence was considered so important by the Committee that he was the only witness who was examined on more than one day. And in conjunction with this deliberate opinion by a man who really knows what he is talking about, you have what is admitted to be necessary an enormous expenditure if the progress of Ireland during the last quarter of a century is to be maintained. Mr. Bailey, one of the Estates Commissioners made this question of enormous future expenditure perfectly plain in his evidence before the Committee, and I hope the House will forgive me if I quote one or two answers he gave to questions put to him. The Bishop of Ross asked him the following question:—You require a higher national development or a much wider development than merely assisting the individual tenant?and Mr. Bailey answered:—Yes, I think you must face it in a big way.The Bishop of Ross asked:—In districts you must have large drainage schemes?—Yes.For those you could not combine the individual tenants; they must be a sort of national Work?Mr. Bailey: Quite so, districts like the Barrow Valley and the Bann and a large part of the Shannon area. You must do it on a big scale.The Bishop of Ross then asked:—In the same way with afforestation, it must be done, if done at all, in a big way, must it not?Mr. Bailey answered:—Yes. At the present they are trying, under the Department of Agriculture, to do a great deal of work in that way, and they have got a good deal of money, I understand, from the Development Commission; but very much more requires to be done.And, finally, the Bishop of Ross asked:—It requires a long time, and it requires to be done in a regular way?".And Mr. Bailey answered:—Yes; it requires to be done on a great scale.The career of the country, or of an individual that tries to do things in a big way on a small income, may probably be glorious, but it certainly will be short. After all these answers merely deal with two economic improvements, drainage and afforestation, but there are a score of others, and it is perfectly safe to assume that after the first General Election in Ireland the number will not have diminished. I know it is a sordid question and unworthy of the highest Celtic patriotism, but I should like to ask again where is the money to come from for all these things when Ireland is once 1379 separated from Great Britain. I wish we could get an answer to that question. The Secretary of the Estate Duty Office of the Inland Revenue, gave his opinion before the Committee, and he stated that any further increase in the Death Duty in Ireland would practically bring no additional revenue. He also showed that the ultimate effect of land purchase by breaking up the large estates and substituting a large number of small owners for large owners, would largely destroy the Income Tax producing power of Irish land by transferring the bulk of it from Income Tax to the exempted class.
If hon. Members below the Gangway want additional revenue from Income Tax in Ireland, they will under this Bill have to lower the exemption and tax the small holders. Are they going to tax Irish beer, which is gradually taking the place of whisky in Ireland amongst the working classes, or do they intend to impose the Inhabited House Duty and send up the rents? They know perfectly well that that kind of policy will not go down in Ireland, and I do not believe any national Parliament would dare to propose it. The first thing a new Government will have to consider in Ireland, is its popularity. Perhaps hon. Members below the Gangway think they will be able to raise money by loans. It is all very well to say money can be borrowed, but a loan does not drop out of the clouds, and they will have interest and sinking fund to pay. At the presnt time Ireland has the whole weight of Imperial credit at her back to fall back upon, and even with that Irish land stock has greatly depreciated in the market. Without Imperial credit, how do hon. Members below the Gangway propose to raise these great loans for these great public works for education and other economic reforms which will insistently be asked for directly this Bill passes into law. I will make one more very short quotation. Mr. Lawrence Waldron a distinguished Member of the Dublin Stock Exchange, gave evidence before the Committee, and he was asked by Sir Henry Primrose:—Do you consider, if there was an Irish Executive established subject to an Irish Parliament, that that would make it more difficult to raise money than it is now?His answer was:—I think it would.10.0 P.M
He went on to explain the effect of Home Rule on the general question of Irish 1380 credit and borrowing powers. The truth is that the interest on big Irish loans, under Home Rule, would be so heavy that no Irish Government would be able to afford to raise the money. The terms would be so onerous that the last thing in the world that an Irish Chancellor of Exchequer would want to do would be to raise money for any outlay of an extensive character in Ireland. From having had the whole credit and resources of Great Britain at her back, Ireland will be left to enjoy a lower and ever-increasingly lower standard of development than exists in this country. She will be left a pauper, and a comparatively stationary country, unable to afford that continuity of national progress without which it is not worth while being a nation. I do not believe for a moment that hon. Members below the Gangway would dare to put this Bill to the test of an Irish Referendum. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"] Its finance is so rotten that even they have not attempted to defend it—indeed, some hon. Members below the Gangway have attacked it bitterly. We have had one outspoken expression of opinion from the General Council of Irish County Councils as to the minimum they are prepared to accept, and it is a minimum utterly at variance with the provisions of this Bill. How, then, can hon. Members below the Gangway come to this House and pretend that this Bill, that was smuggled through a packed and gagged Convention in Dublin, has received the sanction of the Irish people. [An HON. MEMBER: "You know nothing about it."] Then I will say that the Convention was carefully organised by the hon. member for West Belfast, and how can it be said that this Bill has received the sanction of the Irish people? If Ireland really wants Home Rule I should like to see a Home Rule Bill framed on the authority of the Irish people themselves. We have never seen such a Bill in this House and I do not think we are ever likely to see one. What happens is this. The Radical Government of the day brings in a Home Rule Bill and hon. Members below the Gangway swallow it with grimaces and then pretend that it is the wish of the Irish people. The finance of this Bill is nothing but a huge tour de force and a first class conjuring trick, in fact it is one of the omelettes which the Postmaster-General brings out of his hat, and which, thank heaven, 1381 nobody is expected to eat. The fact is that this Bill is introduced merely to save the face of the Nationalist party, and I believe it is just as unreal as the whole of this Debate is under the Parliament Act. After all, why has the hon. and learned Member for Waterford not had the courage to bring in a Home Rule Bill? The answer is a very simple one. He does not do so because he knows perfectly well that if he did both he and his Bill would be repudiated, not only in the North-East of Ulster, but in every corner of Ireland. If the Irish people really want Home Rule, let them send a Bill up to this House at the hands of their accredited representatives. Let them formulate their demands and let us see exactly what it is that the Irish people really want. It will be much more interesting to see what the small Irish holders, the Irish tenants and the farmers really want—and they are an ever-increasing community—than to hear what the hon. and learned Member for Waterford says they want. We all know perfectly well that the leaders of the Nationalist party secretly detest and fear land purchase, because it spells death to the agrarian agitation, and with it the collapse of the cry for Home Rule. Not a single owner or tenant in Ireland would agree with them, and the opinion of the owners and tenants in Ireland to my mind is far more important than that of any professional politician.
I should like to know how many representatives of the Irish small owners and tenants were on the Committee of Irish Finance? There was not a single one. How many representatives of the small owners and tenants gave evidence before that Committee? Again, there was not a single one. Not a single hon. Member of this House has ever had before him what kind of Home Rule it is that the Irish people really want, and until we know what the Irish people really want no Government has any right to force a Bill of its own through this House under the Closure and the guillotine. If hon. Members below the Gangway cannot formulate their own proposals, if they cannot produce a Home Rule Bill themselves, then I say they are not fit to have Home Rule or to guide the future destinies of their country. If the difficulty really is that Irish Nationalists cannot agree upon any measure proposed by Nationalists, then I say that until they can agree, Parliament and the Union hold the field. 1382 I do believe from the bottom of my heart that this agitation for Home Rule is an agitation which is kept alive by the professional politician, and by the professional politician alone. Although there may be some sort of sentimental feeling for Home Rule in the abstract, a sort of semi-romantic aftermath of the struggles of the last two centuries, I do not believe that there is the slightest demand for this Home Rule Bill. The demand for Home Rule in the past has been linked up with the agrarian movement; in fact, the agrarian movement has carried Home Rule on its back for the last quarter of a century, but the agrarian question is now rapidly approaching its final solution, and I believe that directly that question is finally settled—and, according to the evidence given before the Committee, it can be settled in about ten or twelve years' time from now—even the sentimental feeling for Home Rule will completely disappear. The hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) knows this perfectly well, and the last thing he wants to see is a peaceful settlement of the Irish land question. But, after all, there are more important questions than the interests of a clique of professional politicians. You have got the interests of Ireland to consider. Under the Union she has been progressing by leaps and bounds during the past thirty-five years. Every corner of Ireland testifies to that great cardinal fact, and I believe that we shall be wanting in our duty to Ireland if, while this precious change is going on before our eyes, we plunge Ireland once more into the political cauldron, crippled financially, a danger to her own peace and progress, and an ever-increasing weakness to the rest of the Empire.
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL (Sir John Simon)
The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has bestowed upon the Irish question considerable attention, and from the depths of his experience he tells us that there is no Irish problem at all. He tells us that the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) and his Friends, some of whom have served in this House as private Members for a generation in the interests of what they think to be to the true advantage of the Irish people, are pursuing a mare's nest, and he does not even see how improbable his view of their action must be when he denounces them as so many professional politicians. If you want to search in this House for the quarter in which you find 1383 Members of Parliament who have never sought what are sometimes called the "sweets of office," and who have never fought any campaign in this House with the object of occupying the Treasury Bench, it is to these professional politicians you must look, and, when the hon. Gentleman the Member for Salisbury, who, as we all recognise, has devoted his talents to a careful study of more than one aspect of the Irish question, condescends to suggest that those who are returned by the mass of the Irish people to advocate the Home Rule solution are merely so many professional politicians seeking to line their own nests, I cannot help thinking—
§ Sir J. SIMON
Then what does the hon. Gentleman mean when he says "professional politicians." Does he doubt that those who come here to represent the mass of the Irish people, and who have come here for a generation without any personal object to serve, have come here with anything but a single-minded desire to do that which they believe it is in the interest of their country to do? If he does believe that, what business has he to get up, and in a superior tone say that those who are in favour of Home Rule are "professional politicians." I do not want to say anything which might not be thought courteous to the hon. Gentleman, but what does he mean by saying that other people may come here with the honest and single-minded intention of serving their country's good, but, as for the advocates of Home Rule, they are so many professional politicians. The nature of this Debate to-day shows clearly enough that whatever has happened since the Home Rule Bill was discussed last year, this fact, at any rate, remains the same: There is still no answer to the question which the Prime Minister repeated when he opened the Debate to-day. The Prime Minister repeated to-day the question which has been put more than once from this bench since the Home Rule Bill was introduced. We propound this solution of the Irish problem, and we are asked to withhold our hands because one-fifth of the representatives of the Irish people are bitterly, and I doubt not sincerely, opposed to our proposal. Be it so. What is the alternative which hon. Gentlemen opposite propose in view of the fact that there are four-fifths of the 1384 Irish representatives in this House who with equal energy and with equal determination insist that some change of this sort is required in the interests of their country? There is still no answer to that question, no answer at all, and the only way in which it is sought to deal with it is very much in the way in which the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken has tried to deal with it, by denying that there is any Irish problem at all.
The central fact of the whole Irish question is that for a generation past and down to to-day, whatever change you may find in political parties in this country, and there have been many, and whether you pursue a policy of twenty years of resolute government or whether you pursue a policy of trying to kill Home Rule by kindness, whatever policy you pursue and whatever the complexion of Great Britain, you find the mass of the Irish people sending here from that island people demanding a change in the direction of Home Rule. When I heard the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Strand Division (Mr. Long) earlier in the Debate to-day deal with this point, I confess I began to wonder what the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. W. O'Brien), with his sincere pursuit of the doctrine of conciliation, would think of it. The hon. Member for Cork wants to sit round the table and discuss this thing with other reasonable people in a reasonable spirit. Does he expect the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Strand Division to take a seal at that table? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Strand Division has got a very summary way of dealing with this matter. He says there is no Irish problem at all. He says that when this present Government came into office in 1906 Ireland was a smiling country. There was nothing the matter with it. Everything was going along perfectly well. It is you, the Liberal Government, and those who help to keep you in office, who created this Irish problem. But a problem is not solved by denying its existence, and here you have staring you in the face a demand which comes not from the Irish people of to-day or of yesterday, but from the Irish people of a generation—not a demand which comes from the island of Ireland only, but a demand echoed by Irishmen throughout the world, and a demand, moreover, which is supported, as far as my information and reading carry me, by every democracy within the British Empire and by the great and friendly 1385 democracies of other countries. Whatever else may be done with it, the Irish problem cannot be disposed of by cheerfully assuring the people of Great Britain that it does not exist.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Strand Division goes a step further. There is no half-way house with him. He exhibits in the way in which he deals with this subject a straightforwardness and downrightness which we all know to be the essence of his character. The right hon. Gentleman said this afternoon, in plain terms, that it may be quite true that it is the view of the majority of the Irish people that they want self-government. But he told us—"That is no argument, that is no reason, why we should grant their request." He assured us on behalf of the Unionist party, of which he is such an ornament, that the view of the majority of the Irish people does not weigh with them. I wonder what the hon. Member for Cork thinks of his round-table party after that.
§ Sir J. SIMON
Be it further observed that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Strand Division and the Ulster Unionists, with whom he is particularly associated, are the very people who are calling on the House of Commons and the country to give full weight to and bestow the most careful study on the views and opinions of certain persons in North-East Ulster, and these very persons are entreating us not to overlook the strength and sincerity of the opinions of the people in that corner of Ireland. Then they come down and say, "There is no Irish problem. The view of the majority of the Irish people does not matter. It does not weigh with us and we do not understand why it should weigh with anybody else." [An HON. MEMBER: "Who said that?"] I am sorry the right hon. Gentleman is not here, but I thought his language was quite plain—that the view of the majority of the Irish people in favour of Home Rule would not weigh with the Unionist party.
§ Mr. W. O'BRIEN
Then why did the right hon. Gentleman himself propose a friendly convention for the settlement of the Irish question?
§ Sir J. SIMON
I will deal with that point with great pleasure. Let us consider in the most friendly way any suggestion which is made with a real desire of solving this present difficulty. But we are met by 1386 a refusal to consider our proposals, and the suggestion does not come from those who are anxious to discuss them with a view to compromise. We are met by opposition from one quarter of Ireland which really is not content with urging its own rights, which most certainly we desire carefully to respect and provide for, but which in effect is saying that the only way these rights are to be respected and provided for is by denying their rights to four-fifths of their fellow-countrymen. We for our part have always determined, and we are still determined, to give the fullest consideration to any suggestion which is honestly made with a desire to adjust the difficulties of this problem in order to solve it in the interest of the Irish people as a whole. What we are not prepared to do is to recognise that the minority in Ireland have any right to veto what we believe to be for the happiness and what is certainly in accordance with the desires of the vast majority of the people. We are sometimes told that the claim of Ulster is merely a claim to have her own way in her own area, and to let other people have their own way in their own area. Many people are, no doubt, prepared to believe that that is the claim which Ulster makes. But we have in our minds the course of the Home Rule Debate during last year, and it will be remembered that nobody has been clearer and more specific on this point than the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Dublin University, and nobody is more qualified to be so. He told us in the plainest terms last year that separate treatment for Ulster was not his policy, that it was not the policy of the Unionists of Ulster, and that it never would be his policy or the policy of the Unionists of Ulster. He told us that if Ulster was left out of the Home Rule Bill, then Home Rule would become impossible, and he added with the greatest frankness, "That is why I intend to vote for the Amendment to leave Ulster out of the Home Rule Bill." The right hon. Gentleman is quite within his rights in taking that course in order to defeat a Bill which he dislikes and detests, but he is not entitled to come here at the same time and in the same breath tell us that all he is doing is to try and preserve the rights of the Protestants of North-East Ulster, while he desires to leave to a conference the liberty and freedom of the Irish in other parts of Ireland to get their own democratic institutions in their own way.
1387 The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Strand Division (Mr. Long) this afternoon made a speech, and, as he was making it, I could not help turning up an ancient declaration of his last year, in which he said that Unionists would not accept Home Rule with Ulster excluded. Therefore, when the Debate this afternoon was carried on by the right hon. Gentleman the ex-Leader of the Opposition, and he discussed with that delightful philosophic air various alternative ways of dealing with this problem, and threw out the suggestion that there might be this sub-division, we are met with this difficulty: We are willing enough to discuss that sub-division, but we are only willing to discuss it if those who speak in the name of Ulster come forward with a sincere desire to reach a compromise, and with a sincere desire to see that the rest of their fellow subjects get their rights while Ulster preserves hers. In the second place, it is very often urged by those who speak on behalf of the four counties in Ulster that the fact that there is in that corner of Ulster a sincere, passionate, concentrated opposition to Home Rule is in itself proof that Ireland is not entitled to local self-government. That is a complete misunderstanding, as I conceive it, of the principle and the reason upon which the grant of self-government is based. I do not believe there has ever been a case in which local self-government has been granted to an area within the British Empire where there could not be found, within that area, before it was granted, a nucleus of opinion, passionately in earnest, deeply attached to the old order, who resisted the proposed new institutions with all their might and main. Does anybody suppose, when local self-government was granted to the Transvaal, that the whole population of Johannesburg was enthusiastically in favour of the change? You have always found in any case of this sort—I do not believe there is a single instance to the contrary—and you must always find, within the very area which as a whole, by a majority, has asked for leave to manage its own local affairs in its own way, a number of persons deeply attached to the old order, sincerely convinced that the change is likely to do them and all they care about injury, and therefore passionately resisting the proposals put forward.
1388 Upon the grounds of history, upon the grounds of constitutional propriety, upon the grounds of common sense, I submit to the House that there is really no justification for the argument so frequently and so freely used, that those who still persist in proposals for the self-government of Ireland, are disregarding the fact that there is this deep and sincere resistance in the North-East corner of Ireland. In the third place, we may fairly be asked, "You say you recognise the sincerity and depth of this feeling. What is your attitude towards it?" Sir, our attitude towards it is this: We are prepared to provide, within the four corners of this Bill, any and every safeguard which Can be shown—[An HON. MEMBER: "Name one."]—I quite appreciate that, interruption. We are prepared to provide any and every safeguard which can be shown to be needed in order to secure the interests of that minority. But if every suggestion of that sort is treated—
§ Sir J. SIMON
If a suggestion of that sort is to be treated as it has been treated to-night and as it has hitherto always been treated by the Opposition in effect saying, "We do not care how complete your safeguards are, we do not care how far-reaching they are, we do not care how honestly they may be put forward, we have one answer and only one answer to the whole proposal, namely, that we will not have it," then we are justified in saying that the claim which is really being made on behalf of Ulster is not a claim to secure her position, and to maintain her right, but it is a claim to ride roughshod over the whole population. There really is, when all is said and done, only one argument which is put forward—one argument as opposed to mere assertion—on behalf of this population around the great city of Belfast and the adjoining counties, and it is an argument based on the fear of religious persecution. But no one has more completely exploded the fear of religious persecution than the leaders of the Ulster Unionists themselves. The right hon. Gentleman who is their leader has said more than once, in the plainest terms, that the idea that the Irish Parliament would pass laws which would oppress the Protestants of Ireland is an idea that never entered his head.
§ Sir E. CARSON
The hon. and learned Gentleman is accurate in saying that I said that much, but he leaves out that I said it would be unnecessary because they would do it by administration.
§ Sir J. SIMON
I was not going to do the right hon. Gentleman an injustice. I will repeat exactly what I said again. The right hon. Gentleman said again and again that it never entered his head that the Irish Parliament would pass laws which would oppress the Protestants of the country. It is quite true that there were suggestions that it was by administrative processes that that result would be achieved, and it is quite true that he seems to think the Catholics of Ireland would trample upon the Protestants of Ireland in that way, but what is the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Long)? He said, dealing with the suggestion of the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. John Redmond), that it was a gross attack upon Catholic Irishmen to suggest that they would behave in that way.Mr. Redmond complains that we talk about religions differences in Ireland and that we believe the Catholic majority would trample upon the Protestant minority.Not legislate against them, but trample upon them. The right hon. Gentleman went on:—That again is an argument to which I have never attached importance. I know Ireland well and I have a great many relatives in Ireland, and friends, both Protestant and Catholic. I believe that in this and in any other country, religious difficulties will always be settled by the general common sense of the people.If that analysis be correct, or anything like correct, we, who support this Bill are faced, unfortunately, with nothing more than an obstinate, flat refusal by a section of the Irish population to consider by what means their opposition to this Bill may be mollified, or met, or adjusted, and it is no fault of ours that we are left in that situation. We are told by Irish Unionists, as we were told by the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon, that we ought to submit this once again to the electorate. If there is anybody who is not entitled to make that demand it is the Ulster Unionists. No man is entitled to ask that this matter should be again submitted to the electorate unless he says he is prepared to accept the judgment of the electorate. After the conclusions of the Home Rule Debates of last year that very enterprising newspaper, the "Daily Mail," sent out a question to the different Ulster 1390 Unionists of this House. They were invited to answer this question:—Would you advise Ulster to submit if a Home Rule Bill is approved by the country after a General Election?I have here some of the answers which were sent by these very gentlemen who are now clamouring for a General Election. The hon. and gallant Gentleman (Captain Craig) answered:—Never will I advise Ulster to submit to Mr. John Redmond and his disloyal followers. If England casts us forth we will still hold faithfully that loyal province intact for the King and the Empire.
§ Sir J. SIMON
May I ask the hon. and gallant Gentleman to consider whether, if that is his view, he at the same time demands a General Election on the subject? [Hon. MEMBERS: "Yes."] The hon. member for West Down (Mr. MacCaw) being asked the same question replied:—I would most certainly advise Ulster to resist, whether the Home Rule Bill be approved by the country or not.The hon. and learned Member for North Armagh (Mr. Moore) said:—In my opinion no British party has a right to sell its fellow subjects into slavery,—that is his view of a General Election—and we will resist while ten men hold rifles.The hon. Member for East Belfast (Mr.McMordie), who is or was Lord Mayor of Belfast replied by saying:—Certainly not, and if I did I would not receive a vote in an election beyond those of less than 100 Liberals who constitute the Liberal party in my constituency of over 19,000.Whatever may be said as to the wisdom, the prudence, or the loyalty of these answers, how can anybody who applies his mind to the logic of the situation suggest that Ulster is entitled to say, "Why do you not take an election on this issue?" Then it is said, "But you have no right to deal with this matter under the present constitutional interregnum." We have heard a great deal in this Debate and in the country about proceeding with this Bill under the Parliament Act. The right hon. Gentleman who spoke this afternoon said that the "suggestions" made under the Parliament Act would be simply farcical. To listen to the argument so constantly repeated—I am obliged to suppose it is believed in—you would suppose that some monstrosity was being perpetrated in submitting this Bill to a House of Lords which is more deeply committed to the Conservative point of view 1391 than any reformed Upper Chamber could possibly be. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition made a speech just before the last General Election in which he committed himself, in the heat of the moment, to an electoral exaggeration. He said, "If this precious Veto Bill were law now, Home Rule would be passed to-morrow." Well, that was an exaggeration. He must have been thinking of Conservative legislation. If the Home Rule Bill were a Conservative measure, it would have been passed into law last Session. The last General Election resulted in the continuance in office of this Government in spite of the right hon. Gentleman pointing out that if the Parliament Bill became law, the Home Rule Bill would immediately follow. Let me point out that if the right hon. Gentleman had wanted to be accurate he would have said, "If this Veto Bill promoted by the Liberal Government becomes law, the Home Rule Bill will be passed in two years' time." We have to submit to the Bill remaining for two years without passing into law. I say most deliberately that if the interval which is thus allowed for suggestions under the Parliament Act is not taken advantage of, the fault does not lie on the shoulders of those who provided such opportunities for discussion and arrangement. The right hon. Gentleman the late Leader of the Opposition intervened in the Debate this afternoon and gave us his view of the matter. His method of approaching the Irish problem is very different from that of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Strand. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Strand makes a direct attack with perfect clearness, perfect bluntness, and simply says he will not have it, and there is an end of it. The right hon. Gentleman the senior Member for the City invariably deals with this problem with all the dialectical skill of which he is master by presenting a dilemma. He presented a dilemma this afternoon. He says, "Consider this aspect of Irish Home Rule. You are going to leave Ulster liable to its full Imperial contribution at the discretion and dictation of the Imperial Parliament, yet you are actually going to cut down the representation of Ulster in this House by one half, and I ask the House to observe that fatal flaw upon the Irish Home Rule Bill." He passes almost in the next sentence to the Scotch Home Rule Bill which he helped to debate last week. "Why here 1392 is a Bill which is going to leave Scotland the control of its own affairs, just as the Irish Bill leaves Ireland with the control of Irish local affairs, and you are actually going to leave in the Imperial Parliament all the Scotch Members." He says, "There is a fatal blot which makes it hardly tolerable."
§ Sir J. SIMON
I am very sorry if the right hon. Gentleman does not think so, but I listened to him and I certainly understood him on the one hand to object to this Irish Bill because it cut down the Irish representation in this House, while on the other hand he objected to the Scotch Bill because it does not cut down the Scotch representation.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
The argument would be: You are giving to Ulster only half its representation and you would not dare to suggest the same thing for Scotland.
§ Sir J. SIMON
If that is all, which is right? Is it right when you hand over local affairs to a local body that you should cut down the representation here or not? Which is right? And that is what I mean when I say that the right hon. Gentleman invariably deals with those problems as though they always could be expressed in terms of a dilemma. He tells us that it is a fatal blot on the Bill that it should cut down the representation of Ireland in this House. He himself was a Member of a government which proposed to cut down the Irish representation from 103 to something like sixty-three. Let me take the lower figure—sixty-three Irish Members in this House. As I calculate there might be thirteen Ulster representatives. We propose an Irish representation as part of the new scheme of forty-two of which one might calculate there would be eight or nine Ulster representatives. Are we really to understand that criticism of the Bill is reduced to this, and serious complaint is to be made of it, and it is to be regarded as a topic beyond adjustment, that we provide eight or nine representatives of Ulster in this House, when the scheme of the late Government would have provided twelve or thirteen. The truth is that the policy of this Bill, whatever may be said of this issue or that, holds the field. It is only by denying that there is any problem to be solved at all that hon. Gentlemen opposite are able to suggest that this Bill is not needed. 1393 We do not suggest that the carriage of this Bill is going to get rid of every possible ground of difficulty and doubt. What we do suggest is that a candid and fair-minded man will say: "This is a problem a generation old and more which urgently needs to be solved." We suggest that it can only be solved by having regard to the opinion of the mass of the Irish people throughout the world, and we suggest that our Bill, whatever the imperfections which may be found in it here and there, is the means by which we can really reconcile the Irish and British peoples.
§ Mr. CASSEL
The Solicitor-General never addresses the House without saying from his point of view, in eloquent and cogent terms, what is to be said on behalf of the law. What has the Solicitor-General to say to-night with regard to Ulster? All he offered Ulster was safeguards. He knows perfectly well that the attitude Ulster has always taken with regard to safeguards is that no possible safeguards are of any use whatever. The hon. Member for East Mayo has said that safeguards would not be worth the paper on which they were written. The very fact that safeguards are offered or considered necessary shows that the Bill itself ought not to be passed, because you ought not to put Ulster in the position where she requires safeguards. On the admission of hon. Members below the Gangway no adequate safeguards could be provided. There is something else for which Ulster asks, and which the right hon. Gentleman is not willing to concede, and I think it is the most important point of the whole of this Debate. What Ulster asks for, and which the right hon. Gentleman is not willing to concede, is a General Election. What Ulster asks for and what hon. Members on this side of the House are entitled to ask for is, that before this Bill is passed into law it should be submitted to the constituencies for their decision. We are not discussing to-night merely whether this Bill should pass into law or not, but whether it should pass into law under the provisions of the Parliament; Act or whether it should be passed into law without any opportunity being given to the electors of the country to say whether or not they desire it to be carried into law for the first time under the provisions of the Parliament Act. What were the conditions the Prime Minister himself laid down for passing any measure under the Parliament Act? The 1394 conditions the Prime Minister laid down were these: That there should be unswerving support in the House of Commons and a stable and sustained opinion in the country. What is the unswerving support which the Bill is getting in the House of Commons? It is true that the Government are able to crack the whip and to bring the Members of the Coalition into the Division Lobby, but have they a real opinion backing this Bill behind them? Let me put that to the test by asking the right hon. Gentleman whether he has read a pamphlet published by one of those who are supposed to be giving unswerving support to this measure pamphlet on the Constitutional crisis, by a Liberal Member of Parliament. If I may offer one word of caution to hon. Members opposite, it is that if they wish to remain anonymous when writing anonymous pamphlets, they should not introduce precisely the same quotations as those they make in their speeches in this House. In this instance, I think anyone who studies the Scottish Home Rule Debate with care cannot fail, on the internal evidence, to recognise who was the author of the anonymous pamphlet. [HON. MEMBERS: "Name."] I would advise those who ask for the name to read the speech of the Seconder of the Motion for the Second Reading of the Scottish Home Rule Bill. Let me see what it is that is supposed to be unswerving support in the House of Commons for this measure. This is what the writer of the pamphlet says with regard to this Bill:—But to proceed as we are now doing, to take things by bits and scraps, piecemeal and haphazard., is not only to fail to rise to the height of a great situation, but is to court inevitable disaster.So that while openly, and on occasions when his name is marked off in the division lobby, he still gives this Bill his unswerving support; under the cover of anonymity, or supposed anonymity, he writes that the course which the Government is adopting is one which is to court inevitable disaster. Is that the unswerving support on which you are relying. Let me give the right hon. Gentleman some more of the unswerving support, which he is getting from his supporters following him into the Division Lobby. The writer of the pamphlet further says:—The Government of Ireland Bill has been successfully launched on its journey towards enactment under the Parliament Act. Party exigencies demanded this.What party exigencies? The only party exigency was in order to get the consent of the Irish Party to the passing of the 1395 Budget. And while that same hon. Member, "Liberal M.P.," who has written a pamphlet called "The Constitutional Crisis," gives his unswerving support to the right hon. Gentleman, he will only give it because party exigencies demand it. He himself writes in that pamphlet that the course which is being taken is to lead to inevitable disaster. Let me give the right hon. Gentleman some more instances of unswerving support the reason for their unswerving support. Recently there was a meeting at Cardiff, and in the course of that meeting protests were made against some of the concessions which had been made by the Government to the Welsh Church. The hon. Member for West Carmarthen said:—What will the Government care if we only vote against this Bill and vote for everything else. I want our Party to copy the Irish teachers in this matter.Here, again, the right hon. Gentleman gets what he may call unswerving support, but it is only so in this sense, that it will continue to be unswerving so long as not another halfpenny of the money to which it is now by law entitled is left to the Welsh Church, but from the moment that you give another farthing to the curates in Wales from that moment that support not only will swerve, but will pass right about and go in the opposite direction. That is the unswerving support that you have got in the House of Commons. What about your stable and consistent support in the country. If there is one thing about which the country has been stable and consistent since this measure was introduced into this House it has been stable and consistent in this, that in Great Britain I believe in every single by-election the position of the Government has been worse than it was at the last General Election. The right hon. Gentleman may give us all the ingenious calculation that he likes, but he cannot get away from that fact, that at every election the position of the Government has been worse, and considerably worse than at the last General Election. That is the sort of stable and consistent support that you are getting in the country. The Prime Minister has always admitted that a majority in Great Britain was necessary to justify him in persevering with this Bill. Would any hon. Member opposite really have the courage to say that if this Bill were put to the test of a General Election the Government would continue to have a majority in Great Britain? If 1396 any hon. Member said so, certainly the results of the by-elections would be against him. By going to a General Election the Government would not delay Home Rule by a single day. The Parliament Act expressly provides that it is to operate even though a General Election has taken place. If the Government are confident that they still have the support of the country, why need they fear a General Election? If, on the other hand, they fear that the confidence of the country is not with them, this Bill ought not to pass under the Parliament Act. Let me give one other reason why this Bill should not be proceeded with under the Parliament Act. It is a constitutional change of a far-reaching character. The Government themselves admit that it is only a step in a series of constitutional changes the result of which would be to set up separate Legislatures in England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. The Prime Minister himself said that to carry this out in Ireland alone would leave the Constitution lopsided and illogical. In a case of that kind you must, in the first instance, get the consent of the four constituent parts of the new Constitution. You start with the fact that you have a majority in England against you. To a constitutional measure of that description you can have no justification in applying the provisions of the Parliament Act.
The Solicitor-General complained that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Balfour) had said that Ulster was not getting its fair share of representation in the Imperial Parliament, and at the same time that every Scotsman ought to object to not having his fair share in the Imperial Parliament, and he asked us which was right. I asked the Solicitor-General which he said was right, but he did not condescend to answer. I say that neither is right. The whole Bill is based upon a vicious principle. You cannot evolve a federal system piecemeal. This Bill is an attempt to do so, and it must lead you to the absurd conclusion that you leave one branch of the Federation without a local Legislature at all, and governed by the Federal Legislature. It follows that, whether you have forty-two, sixty-three or a hundred and three Irish Members in the Imperial Legislature, you cannot get the right number, because you are not giving at the same time a local Legislature to England. If you give local Parliaments to England, Scotland, and Wales at the same time, you would get over that diffi- 1397 culty. The difficulty is insoluble by attempting to deal with this problem piecemeal. The principle on which the Bill is based, and which the Solicitor-General has tried to defend, is the principle of two blacks make a white. The fact that forty-two Irish Members have the right of voting upon English affairs, even after they have got their own local Parliament, is to be compensated for by the fact that when it comes to taxing then they are underrepresented. I put it to the Solicitor-General and to the House that these wrongs do not make a right between them; that both proposals are wrong to the Irish people, who are to be liable to be taxed without having proper representation in the Imperial Parliament. It is a monstrous injustice to the Irish people, to the Ulster people, and to the people of the West of Ireland, too, that they should be allowed to be taxed by the Imperial Parliament just as being without adequate representation, according to their population. At the same time, it is an injustice to Great Britain that while Ireland has got the right to manage her own affairs she is also, whether by forty-two Members or whatever number, I do not care what it is—to have the right to take a part in the administration of English affairs. I think the reason why the Solicitor-General gave me no answer was that there is no answer, and the right hon. Gentleman knows it! There is only one other point I should like to mention as showing the unwisdom of dealing with this measure under the provisions of the Parliament Act. That is that we are getting more and more conclusive evidence both 1398 from Ireland and England that this is not going to be accepted as a final settlement. We have had it from the hon. Member for Cork and from other prominent Nationalists that they cannot accept this Bill as a final settlement. Subsequent events are making it more and more clear to us that the main object of the Bill cannot be attained by the Bill; therefore that we should not proceed under the provisions of the Parliament Act. I should recommend the right hon. Gentleman and the Government to take their courage in their hands and go to the country and see whether or not the country really approves of this.
§ Question, "That the Debate be now adjourned," put, and agreed to.
§ Debate adjourned accordingly; to be resumed To-morrow (Tuesday).