§ Considered in Committee.
§ [Mr. WHITLEY in the Chair.]
§ The CHIEF SECRETARY for IRELAND (Mr. Birrell)
I beg to move,That it is expedient, for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to amend the provision for the government of Ireland,—To authorise the payment in each year out of the Consolidated Fund of the United Kingdom into the Irish Exchequer or to any body or person in the stead of the Irish Exchequer—
And to authorise such Customs Duties to be charged on articles brought into Great Britain from Ireland or into Ireland from Great Britain, and such alterations of drawbacks or allowances to be made in respect of those articles, as may be provided for by the said Act, in cases where any Customs or Excise Duty levied in Great Britain is levied at a different rate from that at which the duty is levied in Ireland, or where any Customs or Excise Duty is levied in Great Britain and not levied in Ireland, or levied in Ireland and not levied in Great Britain:
- (a) of a fixed sum based on the cost at the time of the passing of the said Act of the branches of government to be administered thereunder by the Irish Government and, in the case of the future transfer of any other branches of government to the Irish Government, of further sums based on the saving to the Exchequer of the United Kingdom resulting from the transfer; the
985 amount of the said fixed sum and any such further sums to be determined in manner provided by the said Act, with power to make payments on account of those sums pending that determination; and
- (b) of a sum of five hundred thousand pounds, diminishing in each year after the third year of payment by the sum of fifty thousand pounds until it is reduced to the sum of two hundred thousand pounds; and
- (c) of sums equal to the proceeds of any taxes imposed by the Irish Parliament in pursuance of the powers given by the said Act, the amount of those proceeds to be determined in manner provided by the said Act:
And to authorise the payment out of the Consolidated Fund or out of moneys provided by Parliament of any salaries, pensions, superannnuation allowances, gratituities, or compensation, for the payment of which to or on behalf of any judges or Irish officers, or officers or constables of the Royal Trish Constabulary or of the Dublin Metropolitan Police force, provision may be made in pursuance of the said Act, and also of any sums for the payment of which out of the Consolidated Fund or out of moneys provided by Parliament provision may be made by the said Act in the event of the failure of the Irish Government to make any such payment."
In rising to move the Financial Resolution standing in my name, I think that it is best to sketch the general nature of the financial scheme of the Bill. Of course, I should be the first to admit that this financial scheme for some months past has been the subject of a great deal of useful criticism. That criticism has, naturally and properly, taken place in Ireland, the 986 country most affected by its proposals. Some of that criticism has undoubtedly been of a kind which I will not exaggerate if I call it unfriendly. Some other portions of that criticism have been, as one often notices in financial proposals of a tentative character, as generous and as enthusiastic as the circumstances of the case and the nature of the subject permit. Nothing else could possibly be' expected. Those Irishmen and Englishmen who are opposed to the main and substantial proposals of this measure, namely, the establishment of an Irish Parliament, and an Irish Executive responsible to that Parliament, would have, indeed, very little of that compound known as human nature if they did not make the very most they could of what they consider to be the deficiencies and impropriety of this financial scheme, because, of course, it is an advantage to them to be able to show not only that Home Rule is in itself a wicked proposal, and a thing which the Irish nation is wholly unworthy to receive, but that it is also impossible from a financial point of view; while, on the other hand, those who disclaim with vigour any such dishonourable aspersion of the character of Irishmen, naturally wish, and, indeed, would fall short of their duty if they did not seek, to obtain as favourable financial provisions as they could, in order that the new Government should be supplied not, indeed, with the sinews of war, but what in these days is very much more expensive, the sinews of peace.
While, therefore, I think on the whole we have no cause whatsoever to complain of the reception which has been given to these financial o proposals—no one is expected to be satisfied with them—hon. Members opposite have been doing their best to create in the minds of the English people the impression that they are being very badly treated, and the persons who are supposed to be receiving the benefits, the new Irish Government, cannot naturally be expected to express the liveliest acknowledgment. Nobody is ever satisfied with the amount of money which he receives, and recently I have had it brought home to me very clearly that even the Irish landlords are not satisfied with the provision made for them under the Land Act of 1903. If they were not satisfied with that it would be asking too much of human nature to expect people to be satisfied with any financial proposals whatsoever. However, I can only put it to the Committee in this way, that the financial 987 scheme of this Bill had of necessity to differ from those of its predecessors, the Bills of 1886 and 1893; I am not now dealing with deeper national questions as to what ought or ought not to have been the treatment which Ireland received in past times but with matters of national accounts kept by the Treasury, which, in the eyes of many people, is even worse than Dublin Castle. Even those accounts of the Treasury in 1886 and 1893 showed, in fact, that the revenue from Ireland was sufficient, and mere than sufficient to meet the ever-increasing cost of the government of that country; whereas now, on the same basis, and on the same accounts, kept in the same way and in the same place, it cannot be disputed that there is a deficit shown upon paper. That deficit in 1912–13 amounted to the sum of £1,493,000; an estimate is formed of what that deficit will be in 1913;–4, and the figures are £1,706,500, proving that there is an increase year by year in the deficit, as shown in that particular way.
§ Mr. T. M. HEALY
Will the right hon. Gentleman say why the Estimate is not signed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, by himself, or by the Secretary to the Treasury. Are the Estimates authorised in any way'?
§ Mr. BIRRELL
They are in the ordinary form. But perhaps there was a desire to escape the sarcastic tones of the hon. and learned Gentleman, who used to read out the name of the present Chancellor of the Duchy, and used to say "Signed, Hob-house,' "with marked emphasis breathed into that somewhat innocuous patronymic. The Treasury officials really could not stand the effect of the sarcastic voice of the hon. and learned Gentleman. But the value of the Paper is in no way interfered with by the fact that it does not contain the actual name of any person. This deficit is of elementary effect in the consideration of the financial scheme of this Bill. It governs and conditions the whole case; but, as the hon. and learned Gentleman is here, I should like to mention a subject cognate to this of the deficit. Although it is not the actual subject to be dealt with, it is a question which I know weighs a good deal upon the hon. and learned Gentleman's mind, and that is what he considers to be the discrepancy between the Estimates that were formed in this House as to what the cost of the 988 additional Budget taxation upon Ireland was likely to be as compared with what it has proved to be. What I am dealing with is really an important point, because although it is not concerned with the actual deficit, it is a matter of consideration which we have to bear in mind—the additional taxation that has been imposed on Ireland in consequence of recent Budget legislation. The estimate of the ultimate annual yield given in the House of Commons was £602,000. That was supposed to be the extra amount of taxation which Ireland would be called upon to pay in consequence of the increase in the various duties and the like. It is said that the estimated yield in 1912–13 of these very same taxes, instead of being £602,000, amounts to £1,131,000. I have to ask the hon. and learned Gentleman, and, indeed, the whole of the Members, to bear in mind that it was from the very first, made perfectly plain that the estimate of £602,000 omitted altogether the estimated Irish contribution to the increased duty on spirits and other taxes.
§ Mr. BIRRELL
If the hon. and learned Member will just listen, I have the figures here which it is now my duty to lay before the Committee. It was distinctly stated at the time that the estimate of £602,000 did not include those sources of possible taxation. It was a very palpable omission, and it was made distinctly and perfectly plain to this House that there was that omission from the estimate of £602,000. I will ask the Committee's attention to these figures: As to spirits, which were not included, and which were purposely emitted from that calculation, the estimated increased yield in 1912–13 is £180,000.
§ Mr. BIRRELL
I am reading the figures to the hon. and learned Gentleman. I thought it only right, having regard to the statements that are made again and again, for my own satisfaction and for my own information, to find out what the figures are. These are the figures with which I have been supplied: Spirits, which were omitted as I have already said, £180,000; liquor licences, also omitted from the Estimates, made only £66,000; and Land Value Duties, £5,000. Those sums must be added to the £602,000. Those 989 items were totally omitted; there were ethers which were included in the £602,000 of which the yield has proved to be larger than was contemplated. As to Estate Duties, the estimate of the ultimate annual yield was given in 1910 as £133,000, whereas the estimated yield in 1912–13 is £240,000. Stamps were estimated at £48,000—they are now down by nearly £10,000, having only produced £39,000; for Income Tax and Super-tax, the figures were £184,000, estimated yield £27(,000; for tobacco, £213,000, estimated yield £285,000; motor spirit, partially estimated, and motor car licences, do not show much difference in the Estimates. It may be that the estimate, as estimates often are, was very much under the actual sum, but the only point I wish to make is that it is essential, in considering that aspect of the case, to remember that the sums that have been realised from spirits, liquor licences, and Land Value Duties, were wholly omitted from the Estimate made by my right hon. Friend.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
Can the right hon. Gentleman give me the figures again as to the liquor licences?
§ 4.0 P.M.
§ Mr. BIRRELL
Spirits, £180,000; liquor licences, £66,000; and Land Value Duty, £5,000. We have often been told that we ought to have accepted the view that was recommended with so much clearness and so much force by the Primrose Committee, namely, that we should have given to Ireland complete fiscal autonomy. Some hon. Gentlemen have gone so far, though I do not think any right hon. Gentleman did, as to say that we were bound to take the report of the five or six competent gentlemen whose opinions we asked on this question. I do not think any responsible Minister would accede to that view. If we were bound to take the opinion of the five gentlemen whom we appointed without any reference whatsoever to what we may conceive their preconceptions to have been, but simply and solely to get the benefit of their unaided and unbiassed intelligence in this matter, then I do not suppose any responsible Ministry would be ever able to seek advice at all. What would our position be in the House of Commons if we came and said, "We asked five or six gentlemen to advise us and they advised us in a particular way. We do not make ourselves responsible intellectually or financially for their proposals, 990 but as we thought fit to take their advice we are bound to act on it." Such a conclusion as that is impossible. Everybody would have been very well disposed if they could to accept a policy which seems, if you divorce yourself from the actual situation of the case and from the future of Ireland and other circumstances, a clean and clear way of dealing with the question. What sort of reception would such a proposal have met from hon. Gentlemen opposite, or from hon. Gentlemen behind' us, or from astute and accomplished financiers even in Ireland itself? It is not a scheme which recommended itself to us. Having regard to the deficit, to the fact that we have got to deal with the reserved services, and to the fact that this measure, so far from being a separating measure, will be found to be a uniting measure, I do not think it would have been wise or prudent or right to introduce at this stage the whole question, aye or no, whether Ireland is fit for and ought to, have fiscal autonomy. Would it be fiscal autonomy without any contribution? No, for fiscal autonomy would have had to be accompanied by some contribution.
I venture to say any such proposal as this would have received far greater. hostility not only in England and in Scotland, but also in Ireland itself. In England and in Scotland it would have been regarded as inevitably leading up to, some people would say, complete separation between the commercial interests of these peat countries, which are closely, as every day shows, and intimately bound together. I think, therefore, we were not to blame because whilst very grateful indeed to the Committee for the illuminating Report, we did not feel ourselves able to take upon ourselves the responsibility of making any such proposal, a proposal which I am satisfied would not have got us out of any of our difficulties. There is the case of the transferred services. That was, of course, an essential part of our scheme. We estimated as best we could the actual cost of the services that we are transferring to Ireland, great and important services, and we pay into the new Irish Exchequer the cost of those services, retaining in our own hands and this is, I submit, inevitable, having regard to the deficit and since we did not adopt fiscal autonomy, the, collection of the revenue. Those are the main features and outlines of the scheme. Then there are the reserved services. Those do, indeed, 991 complicate, if I can use that word, the financial condition very much since the days of Mr. Gladstone, as we have had since that time the great and most beneficent use of British credit for the purpose of carrying out land purchase. Millions and millions of money are outstanding, the interest of which is dependent upon the payment, the regular, punctual payment, hitherto most regular and most punctual, of the Irish tenant purchaser. Still, what would have been said in this House by anyone, by financiers, or by persons of any ordinary degree of prudence, if we had not kept in our own hands and reserved to this Imperial Parliament the duty of looking after that money, and also the obligation of concluding as best we can, as far as financial arrangements will permit and the credit of the country suffices, that great scheme which is more then half carried out and on the completion of which so much of the prosperity of Ireland depends?
These facts conditioned the circumstances and formation of these financial schemes, and, great as is the intelligence of hon. Gentlemen opposite who deal with this question, they really do not do full justice to that intelligence unless they look at this question from the point of view of the conditions, financial and otherwise, under which this country stands at the present moment towards Ireland. It is no good looking at the matter as if you were free to disregard these governing factors. You have to consider them. If we departed from them we should have been called to book by some hon. Gentlemen whom I see sitting opposite. I say, therefore, that the scheme for the creation of an Irish Exchequer, and the payment into that Irish Exchequer of the cost of the transferred services and the reservation of other services, and the obligation of seeing that the new Irish Government is provided, to begin with, with this Grant of £500,000, which gradually drops down so as to be for the first eight years on an average £400,000 and afterwards a fixed annual sum of £200,000—all those things were essential and could not be avoided as part of our scheme, unless, indeed, we did as was suggested by the Primrose Committee, and gave to Ireland absolute fiscal autonomy, leaving over the question of what Ireland's contribution to the Imperial Exchequer was to be. We have given Ireland a freedom, restricted, I agree, in a 992 considerable degree. If hon. Members opposite like to say that that restriction is offensive to Irish nationality and to Irish feeling, all I can say is I do not agree with them, because the whole scheme —and I glory in it, and I am not ashamed of it in the least—is ultimately subject to revision, and, when the deficit is wiped out, there will be the question of a contribution for Imperial purposes. I am sanguine enough to believe that at whatever distant date that period arrives, it will be welcomed, she contribution will he given with pleasure and received with pride. Such, at all events, is my belief.
The whole thing is subject to review at a future date. I see nothing to ridicule in the matter. It is very easy to ridicule anything and to make fun of all democratic institutions, and to picture the absurdity of what will happen when this period arrives, and to say that such strange figures of men from Tipperary and Connemara, with strange features and hardly human, are going to come up the floor of this House to take part in this great financial question. I am an old man and may not be here at that period.
§ Mr. BIRRELL
Then I will be here to bless the labours of those who come after me. I honestly cannot bring myself to see why this great country, in dealing with a people like those of Ireland, should view with contumely and scorn the proposal of this Bill in that respect. I say it is an honourable one, and one which may be very quickly realised, very probably in the lifetime of many people here present, and I think it is to be deprecated that any attempt should be made to pour scorn on this proposal. With regard to the restrictions on the power of taxation which are imposed on the Irish people and the increases or reductions which they 'have power to make subject to certain conditions, it has been alleged that the problems, if that be the proper word to apply, which will arise under the financial proposals are beyond the reach and intelligence of the members of the Exchequer Board. Here again I deprecate such observations. Our Treasury, and all Treasuries, not only of this country but those abroad, are engaged constantly in determining as delicate questions as these. Even I myself in the humble capacity I occupy, very often have to settle rating questions of very great 993 difficulty between different portions, say of the County and City of Dublin. Those questions take hours to consider, and put a very severe strain upon my intelligence, but I am glad to say with the assistance of experts I was able to come to conclusions, and to issue awards, which have not in any degree, or in any way been questioned by the ratepayers of the different districts surrounding Dublin. They are a class of people, by no means averse from a high conception of their own rights and the advantage of litigation in their own case. These things are delicate but they can be done. We had a long list which was read out to us of the things which this Exchequer Board might not necessarily but possibly have to settle. None of them seemed to be beyond the powers, limited as they are, of human beings, supposing they are approached with goodwill. It is true there is equality between Ireland and the United Kingdom in their representation on the Board, which is two on each side with the chairman. I think it would have been a cowardly thing indeed if we had not sought to preserve an equal balance on that Exchequer Board between the representatives of the treaty making parties—the representatives of the two divisions of the United Kingdom. It is unfair, say some hon. Gentlemen opposite, to give the Irish two representatives when the United Kingdom only had two. I think it would have been unfair the other way.
It was, I think, giving a measure of confidence to this Exchequer Board which could only be given in that way, and we have supplied a Board which admits of, on the whole, a very possible career of usefulness assuming that there be decent goodwill between the parties. If there is not that goodwill no Exchequer Board, any more than any Board of arbitration between war-like Powers, could have the faintest chance of success. Given that and the fact, which I admit, that some of the arrangements of this Bill are complicated, and that some of the restrictions which are made may require revision as time goes on, T think we have hit upon a scheme which, assuming you have any goodwill to the main proposals of the Bill, on the whole presents the best possible solution of an exceedingly difficult problem. You may say that Ireland will riot have enough money to conduct all the great enterprises which, possibly in the next twenty or thirty years might have been financed, if I may use that word, by the wealth of the general taxpayer. I 994 agree that in that sense you may be in the dilemma that you cut yourself off from some resources which in convenient times and under circumstances of political pressure might be amply tapped. The notion that any Government will always be ready to pour out money upon Ireland wholly irrespective of the political situation, is one which I venture to dispute. As time goes on, it will be more and more difficult to obtain the free discharge of Treasury money over any particular isolated portion of the United Kingdom. I think we are getting rather to the end instead of the beginning of this bountiful display. Therefore, I think the Irish people rightly, at last, rejoice at the opportunity of managing their own affairs, of spending their own money, and raising their own funds.
Without troubling the House with further detail, I venture to submit that this scheme, as indicated in the Motion which I am moving, is, on the whole, the best that can be devised in the circumstances of the case. I might mention some of the alterations, not being merely drafting Amendments, made in Committee and on Report in this financial scheme. I am not saying that all of them were, in my opinion, very great improvements, but when it is said, as it has been said, that these Financial Provisions received no discussion or consideration at all, and that everything passed silentio—which is a monstrous figure of speech—these Amendments show that that is not really the case. I will state the principal alterations made in the financial scheme whilst the Bill was in Committee and on Report. First, the power of the Irish Parliament to reduce Customs Duties and corresponding Excise Duties was taken away, leaving only the power to make a 10 per cent addition. It may be wise or it may be foolish, but that indicates very well the feeling of this House, and what might have been said if there had been any attempt to give fiscal autonomy. There are some things which even the most powerful Government cannot do. Various Amendments were inserted preventing, in more express, and I dare say in better terms, the adoption by the Irish Parliament of any policy of protection or discrimination. There, again, although some hon. Gentlemen opposite do not take the Free Trade view that prevails on this side, there was a very strong feeling that, inter se, there ought to be no protection or discrimination. I think that was the 995 general view. I do not know whether any hon. Gentleman opposite is so good a Protectionist that he would object to Protection being guarded against in the same manner as the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University is so good a State Churchman, that he objects to the danger of Establishment being guarded against.
§ Mr. BIRRELL
I rather thought that the Noble Lord would not think it. a bad thing to let the Irish people establish their predominant faith.
§ Mr. BIRRELL
I will not argue that, as the Noble Lord represents a University where logic has long been studied. An Amendment was inserted preventing the Irish Parliament from imposing Death Duties on the personal property of a person domiciled in Great Britain. Amendments were inserted protecting the United Kingdom Exchequer in cases where the increase of a tax by the Irish Parliament produced a decrease of the total revenue of the tax, or where the Irish Parliament imposed a tax the cost of collection of which was out of proportion to its yield. Clause 26 was amended so as to allow economies made by the Irish Parliament to count in reduction of the deficit. That is a very valuable Amendment. Lastly, Amendments were made making it clear that members of the Joint Exchequer Board were not appointed for life. Amendments were also made in a later Clause giving an appeal to the Privy Council on a point of law from any decision of the Joint Exchequer Board. I am not going to say that if we had unlimited time and were discussing the measure at length, further Amendments might not very properly be made, but I do not think they would make any substantial improvement in the constitution of the Joint Exchequer Board. Therefore, I commend the terms of this Resolution to the Committee.
§ Mr. T. M. HEALY
The right hon. Gentleman has made a good humoured and moderate statement, and for my part I do not intend to say a word which could possibly embarrass him in the discharge of the very delicate duty he has to perform 996 in connection with this Bill. I recognise the difficulties of the Government in passing a measure of this kind. I also recognise that those difficulties are very largely increased by this complicated question of finance. It was so on previous occasions. We did not accept Mr. Gladstone's figures in 1886. It was so in 1893; and certainly as regards the figures and the whole scheme of this Bill I regard them with abhorrence. Having so stated, and while I would not make myself responsible in any way for this Resolution or for the finance of the Bill, I, on the other hand, think that the Government are entitled to fair and full consideration for the measure they have brought forward, which I quite recognise is one which would have been better, more generous, and better conceived, but for the tremendous avalanche of opposition to which they have been subjected. I should regard it as unjust not to take these very grave difficulties into account. On the other hand, the suggestion having been made that a stage should be allotted in which it would be possible for us to set down Amendments—that is to say, Amendments coming from those who were friendly to the principle of the Bill—we find proposed in advance a Resolution which, as I understand, would make any Amendments by us on the Suggestion stage impossible. It is a new stage to the House of Commons. I do not know whether the Chairman or Mr. Speaker will be in the Chair. That is a thing I would like to have settled to begin with. As we are to make suggestions in connection with finance, are the ordinary restrictions which apply to private Members with regard to imposing extra taxation upon the subject to remain? Furthermore, is the House of Lords, when it gets those suggestions, which, as far as I am concerned, would relate to finance, to become a Financial Chamber of Revision contrary to the principle of the Parliament Act?
Though I dislike some of the restrictions of the Bill, I am prepared to swallow them, and, what is more, to say very little about them, because I think if we got sound and honest finance everything else connected with the measure would go smoothly. So far as the Chief Secretary is concerned, I have never, at any time, blamed him for any figure or comma connected with the finance of the Bill. I have never said that he should be charged with these figures. He says that he has been harshly criticised. I have never criticised 997 him during the time that he has been in Ireland. I never remember a Chief Secretary, whether owing to his own merits or to the moderation of his critics, who escaped with more good fortune, considering the very thorny and difficult office he holds. Therefore he can have no ground of complaint upon that score. I say, however, that this Resolution has been devised in my judgment to kill the Suggestion stage so far as finance is concerned, because were I to occupy your Chair, and had passed upon me the duty of considering the "suggestions," I should be bound to look at the Financial Resolution, and I should say to the suggestors, if I may use the term, "I cannot allow any Amendment by you which is in conflict with the fundamental Resolution in Ways and Means." Mr. Speaker might take a different view, but he would probably follow much the same line. I think I have demonstrated that the Suggestion stage, so far as our intervention is concerned, is a dead letter; and if that be so, I think the whole Suggestion stage goes, because the general Opposition are told that the Government cannot accept any of their Amendments, because they are not proposing Amendments friendly to the principle of the Bill, and when we who are friendly to that principle propose Amendments, in the only sense in which we desire to do so, namely, in regard to the finance, we are bound and tethered by this Financial Resolution. I should like to add this: that as this Bill has so many perils, including, as suggested by the First Lord of the Admiralty, the perils of a General Election, I am content, having made my proposition in regard to this financial question, to see it proceed along its course. I shall certainly put no difficulty in the way. I should, however, like to say one word as to what the Chief Secretary let fall in regard to the Command Paper which was issued this morning. He said the reason that was not signed was because of the play I made with the name of Hobhouse on a former occasion. The right hon. Gentleman has done me a great injustice. I not only made play with one name, but I made play with four names, because there were four of them in it. It was not merely Mr. Hobhouse, if I may use his name, but three other members of the Government, the Postmaster-General, the Home Secretary, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Every one of these endorsed the figures that were put forward by the Treasury three or 998 four years ago. Let me add this. The right hon. Gentleman now has been supplied with an entirely new set of figures, figures that we have never seen; figures we have been pressing for for the last two months, and which, when we pressed for in Debate six weeks ago, we were told by the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not be ready until July.
I put this to the House: we are all equal in this Assembly. Some may get a higher salary than others, but nobody should be in the possession of figures to the disadvantage of his opponents. In other words, there should be discovery of documents before a Debate comes on, and each side should be furnished with the same figures as the others have. In order that that might be so I have pressed, not once in this House, but many times, for a continuation of this Paper which we riddled some six months ago. We were told again and again and again that we could not get the Paper. How is it then that on the 24th June the right hon. Gentleman has been supplied with these figures? I venture to think that the figures are astray. I think when the Government come to publish the exact figures they will not publish the figures of the right hon. Gentleman. Certainly, so far as spirits are concerned, if the figure given is the correct one, and I speak entirely from memory, the figures in the return published last year gave only £40,000 for spirits. The figures now given by the right hon. Gentleman, as I understand, reach the astounding total of £180,000. Is there a difference in the yield of spirits, in extra taxation, as between last year and the year before of the astonishing sum of £140,000? It amazes me. Is there the enormous difference in the Income Tax which is given? I am surprised. I only say, if so, the right hon. Gentleman has thrown a further discredit upon the White Paper of 1910. In this matter I quite see that Ministers are to a large extent dependent upon the officials and the clerks. Really I begin to think that a Treasury clerk is like certain compartments of Irish Government. They will produce whatever figures you want. If you want coercion, if you want crime in the country under a Tory Government, up go the murders and cutrages. If you want to show that the country is peaceful in view of a Home Rule Bill, down drop the figures. It is like a concertina. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary knows I am speaking the truth.
999 Let me take now what the Government published in 1910. Then the Budget was in question, and the importance of it is this: If you cannot rely upon the figures of 1910, how can you rely upon the Command Paper of this morning? I do not believe that Ireland is £1,700,000 to the bad. Remember this: we want none of your money; we do not want one farthing of English money; we only want to be left to, manage our own money. That is all we want. Let us see about the figures of 1910, which, remember, were published to catch the votes of eighty men who had voted against the Budget of 1909. If these figures cannot be relied upon, how can you now to-day, when we have entered into a more peaceful period, rely upon the figures which have just been nut out without the authority of a single Minister so far as I can snake out, though the Chancellor of the Exchequer and Mr. Hobhouse were very glad to sign the White Paper of 1910. In order that there may be no doubt in this matter let me quote from the OFFICIAL REPORT. Here you have four Ministers, three Cabinet Ministers and an Under-Secretary, pledging their honour to catch these eighty votes. I begin with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I go down the gamut—or perhaps I had better say up—to the Postmaster-General. The hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon), of course, having voted against the Bill of the previous year, was anxious to salve his conscience. He said this:—This Budget., in my opinion, passing as it now will pass, will lay upon Ireland the charge this year of about £480,000.Mr. Lloyd George: £435,000."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th May, 1913, col. 2272, Vol. LII.]That may be said to refer only to the Budget of that year. Therefore, the right hon. Gentleman is entitled to have that diminution of statement made in his favour. But then the Postmaster-General did not put a tooth in it. He did not say that the figure was confined to the whole year that was then under discussion. Here are his words:—The hon. Member for Cork (Mr. William O'Brien) declared that the additional burden cast upon Ireland by this Budget amounts to £2,000,000 per year. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has given the House another estimate. His estimate is £435,000 a year. There is this difference between the two: That while the estimate of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, supported by published figures, showing in detail precisely how—Mr. T. M. Healy Is it supported by unpublished figures?Mr. Herbert Samuel: The figures had been laid before the House, and each item that makes up the £435,000 has been declared, and that is the difference between 1000 the estimate of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the estimate of the hon. Member for Cork. While particulars of this £435,000 are given in all detail, the figure of £2,000,000 of the hon. Member for Cork is a peroration and nothing more, and is unsupported by one single fact or figure."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th May, 1913, col. 2274, Vol. LII.]So the matter stood, until I think the Home Secretary came on. In this matter, remember, many Ministers came forward, not "as single spies, but in battalions." Here was what the Home Secretary said:I am endeavouring deal with the argument that this Budget is costing the Irish taxpayer £2,000,000. I am endeavouring to show that, so far from that being true, for last year the cost of the Budget for Ireland was well under £450,000.—Now mark this:—We do not anticipate that ever in the future it will exceed £500,000—a quarter of the alleged charge which it is supposed we are imposing upon the Irish taxpayer."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th May, 1913, col. 2275, Vol. LII.)It was not I or any of my Friends who treated that as a pledge. The men who treated it as a pledge were the men who voted for the Budget. I voted against it. Accordingly you can say you did not make any promise to Me. How did the hon. Member for East Mayo treat this pledge. He said, speaking at Dungannon:—This country has begin deluged with lies about the Budget. He held Mr. McKenna's speech as a distinct pledge given to the Irish party that at no future period would Ireland be called upon to contribute more than £500,000 under the Budget.Why is that statement not cheered? It has contributed £1,333,000. Why do you not cheer that?
§ The POSTMASTER-GENERAL (Mr. Herbert Samuel)
How does the hon. and learned Gentleman get the £1,333,000?
§ Mr. T. M. HEALY
I get it from the Return of last year. I quite agree that there are certain non-taxed things to be taken off. [Hex. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Oh! do not cheer so loudly. The admission of the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself is that the addition caused by the Budget is £1,100,000. I notice that that is not even cheered. So I suppose hon. Members must be thankful for small mercies. That year passed over, and the Government had a year's experience on this question of Irish taxation. After the year's experience we brought the question up again, and then the Secretary to the Treasury, with the full year's experience, and knowing what was the yield to the Budget, what did he say?
In confirmation of what I have said, if the hon. Member for Cork had referred to another Return, which was issued by myself en 20th April, 1910, he would have seen that the amount to be collected in excess from Ireland in a full year—ihat is, when the Land Value 1001 Duties have reached their maximum—in respect of the new duties imposed by the Act, will amount to £84,000, and in respect to the existing duties will amount to about £518,000, or somewhere thereabouts. That is, of course, subject to adjustments to be made. But the total excess revenue to be collected from Ireland in a full year, when all the duties have come to full fruition, will be £600,000, or a very close approximation to the figure named by the hon. Member for East Mayo.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th May, 1913. col. 2276, Vol. LII.]That was after he had had a year's experience of the Budget. The hon. Member for East Mayo boasted that he was the only person who was not afraid to tell the truth to the Irish. I called attention to these facts to ask for an explanation, and really, when an Irishman gets up in this House to ask for an explanation on the question of finance, he is treated as if he were a bandit. All we want to know is where is our money going to? When we ask that question we should be entitled to receive some serious consideration. What did the Chancellor of the Exchequer say. He said:—We had omitted from the Return to take into account three serious items of account"—I have his words. As the right hon. Gentleman, the Chief Secretary has referred to it, I will do so, though I did not Wish to do so:—Three serious items: Spirits, I think, licences and Land Duties.According to the Return of last year—I am again speaking from memory—because we have none of us had the advantage of the right hon. Gentleman—these three heads of accounts, I think, came to spirits £40,000, and the rest to something under £134,000—that is to say, the whole of these three great things. So that even if you take that into account Ireland would still be £500,000 to the bad over the promise of the right hon. Gentleman. Under the circumstances I say that, though the subject is a difficult one, really we have no other function that I can conceive in respect to this measure, except to criticise the Budgets of the country, their finance and other matters of that kind, especially in connection with a Bill of this kind. I quite agree you are going to have a sort of Chapel-of-Ease in Dublin to this great Cathedral at Westminster. It will not have a great deal to do, and it is not a strong demand to make that the dowry to be given to that Parliament, taking one year with another, should at least exceed in amount the cost of the extra tax put upon tobacco smoking by the Budget of 1910. We do not get the cost of the extra Tobacco Tax, that is to say, permanently. There will, of course, be £500,000 in the 1002 first year reducible to £200,000, but on the average remaining we shall not have the spending of the cost of the tax of extra tobacco smoke. And having regard to the extra expenditure the talk of robbing England of £2,000,000 is all nonsense. I think it would be very cheap at the figure to get rid of us and of all the trouble that Ireland has caused for the last hundred years by really allowing us our own money in our own hands.
There is one other subject upon which I ask a question. When are we to have the figures that, the right hon. Gentleman read out? Shall we have them for the Third Reading? Let us have veritable figures for the Third Reading. It is England's interest as well as our interest to have a good Bill for Ireland. The loyalty of Ireland is well worth paying for, and it will be a cheerful loyalty if this Parliament is well established. It will be well worth your while to gain the goodwill of the twenty-eight counties in Ireland. They are only anxious to be friendly with you, and as for the other four counties in Ulster they will come right in the course of a few years, in spite of all the talk to the contrary. My feeling is that something should be done for them, and as far as I am concerned I would not stop to inquire into words, but would come to real facts such as those suggested by the hon. Member for Cork City. We are not afraid of these four counties. They are only four out of thirty-two, one-eighth of the whole, but I would give them one-half of the management of the country. They would do well to consider what they got from England during the last hundred years. What reason have they to be thankful for what this Parliament, gave them? Do they like the Land Acts, Church Acts, Ballot Acts, Local Government Acts? Every Act of this Parliament has sliced and sliced away the power of what is called the Garrison in Ireland—but I will not pursue that subject any further. I will drop that consideration altogether. The only thing I say, in conclusion, is that we are not satisfied with your figures. We are not satisfied with this Resolution, and I believe that unless this financial question is put upon a proper basis, we shall be taunted by and by, if we have to come back to this House to ask for better consideration, and we shall be told, "You allowed this Bill to pass, you submitted to it, and having made your bed you must lie upon it." I must say I was gratified and appeased by the speech of the right hon. 1003 Gentleman upon that point, because for the first time a Minister has admitted that many of the financial propositions in this measure must be regarded as provisional. I think that was a fair and candid admission, and well calculated to smooth the passage of this measure. If this measure did pass into law with a good financial start, the whole ground of grumbling which comes from Ulster would largely tend to disappear.
§ Mr. HAYES FISHER
The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland said it was possible to ridicule anything. It is quite possible for him to ridicule anything, and I only wish he was upon this side of the House to-day, because there is no one who could more and more make the House laugh at the very ridiculous position in which it finds itself to-day than himself. The right hon. Gentleman says the financial provisions of this Bill had been subjected to a very great deal of useful criticism. That is true. He admitted it was subjected to very useful criticism, and that we may subject the financial provision of this Resolution to very useful criticism. The hon. and learned Gentleman who has just sat down demanded new figures, and expected new figures, but nothing that we can do can alter one line or Clause, or Section, or even one comma of this Resolution. Here we are under a new procedure which is brought into being by the Government under the Parliament Act, allowing for the discussion of the whole of the financial provisions of this Bill, which forms a new partnership between Great Britain and Ireland, but practically precluded from making one single suggestion which could ever be operative. This Resolution must be the Resolution, and nothing that we can do will alter it. The hon. and learned Member for North-East Cork said just now, with quaint good humour, that it is left for the party opposite to make suggestions, and that no suggestions upon our part can be made, and that any alteration of the finances of this Bill should be made in the House of Lords. That is a very ridiculous suggestion to come from the party opposite. Figures are in dispute to-day, figures of a very large character and of a very big amount, and I am a little surprised that no representative of the Treasury should have been here during the whole of this discussion on a matter which might possibly form the ground of some great contention hereafter between this Parliament and the Irish 1004 Parliament, if ever it should be set up. I cannot help thinking that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, with all his knowledge of the Bill, cannot have that knowledge of the figures relating to the Financial Resolution which are in dispute between him and the hon. Member for North-East Cork.
Since this Bill passed its Second Reading and Committee stage and Third Reading there has been legislation in this House which alters many of the Financial Clauses, or might alter very considerably many of the Financial Clauses of this Bill. Are we not to be able to point out that the Financial Clauses in this Bill and this particular Financial Resolution ought to be altered and modified in consequence of legislation that has to be passed since the passing of this Bill by this House? There was the Provisional Collection of Taxes Bill. That gives very large powers to the Irish Parliament which, I undertake to say, were never contemplated for one moment when this Bill for the better government of Ireland was brought forward. No one of its authors could have had in mind these new powers of taxation for the Irish Parliament. If they had the knowledge that the Irish Parliament in future would have power by a single Vote in its Committee, followed up by a Vote in their own House ten or twenty days later, to propose some very large measure of increased taxation for Ireland, I am perfectly certain even they would hesitate to give these powers to the Irish Parliament. There may be many alterations necessary in this Bill necessitating many alterations in the Financial Resolution, yet we cannot make any alteration; we cannot even suggest any, and I suppose, if we are Members of this House., and if it is sitting in about a year's time from to-day, we shall all be going through the same farcical proceeding and discussing the same Financial Resolution for the third time. All kinds of things may happen. Other Acts may have been passed which would have led the Government to modify very much the power given to the Irish Parliament; all the calculations may have been disturbed, rendering a new Financial Resolution necessary.
We had a little incident to-day when a Bill was introduced under the Ten-Minute Rule. The Chancellor of the Exchequer introduced a Bill which, I am told, will add a quarter of a million of money to the money already voted for national insurance. I presume Ireland will get some 1005 share of that money. There may be, next year, as a result of a Committee which is now sitting to settle great questions of Imperial and local taxation, legislation which will entirely alter for the benefit of the localities and local authorities the whole system of local taxation. Will that make no difference to the finances of this Bill? There may be much legislation and many Votes passed in this House before this Resolution is again submitted a third time, yet it is this Resolution and it is this Bill only we shall ever be able to have. The identity of the Bill will be fatally destroyed under the Parliament Act if we were to alter the Bill in any material shape or if we were to alter the Financial Resolution. Therefore, the care of the Government is that it must be the Bill of 1912, the whole Bill of 1912, and nothing but the Bill of 1912. All our calculations may be upset, every single basis of the financial superstructure may be altered and undermined, yet, because of the Parliament Act, it must be the same Bill. And that is the only thing we can discuss. You may undermine it or show it is another Bill, and that we ought to have another Financial Resolution brought forward, yet nothing can happen as a result of these discussions. Nothing could be more ridiculous than the position which the House of Commons finds itself in to-day, and certainly, for my part, I deprecate taking any part in the discussion another year, unless the Government devised some means by which, if criticism is well directed, searching and just, there may be some result from that criticism in an alteration of the Bill and in an alteration of the Financial Resolution upon which the finances of the Bill are based. This Bill, in my opinion, violates every sound canon of finance, every high ideal of finance; and when the right hon. Gentleman said that there have been some generous critics of the finances of this Bill, I should like him to give the names of those generous critics. I should like to know who they are.
§ Mr. HAYES FISHER
I will pair him off against Lord MacDonnell, the great financial authority and a man of experience, who has as deep a love for Ireland as any Member of the Nationalist party below the Gangway.
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Mr. HAYES FISHER
Lord MacDonnell told us that Ireland would not cease to be a source of weakness to the Empire under this financial scheme after the establishment of Home Rule. The hon. and learned Member for North-East Cork (Mr. T. M. Healy) was kind and complimentary to the Chief Secretary, although he denounced the finance of this Bill on every occasion when he spoke and declared that it was absolutely putrid, and I do not think the hon. and learned Member has changed his mind. In a Bill of this kind we ought to look for simplicity and inducements to economy and not extravagance. We should look to the finance of this Bill to provide a satisfactory settlement for both parties for a long period in accordance with the dicta laid down by the Prime Minister it should have been possible, under the finance of this Bill, to fit it in with some future federal system. This Bill is an all-round failure from every one of those points of view, and it has been met with a perfect chorus of disapprobation by all the great local and spending authorities in Ireland and by every man of financial reputation in this country.
§ Mr. HAYES FISHER
I do not know that I should accept Lord Welby. I know his opinions in regard to financial questions on the London County Council, and I remember on one occasion when the council tried to raise money by loan they were unable to do so and had to borrow the money from bankers at a very high and exorbitant rate of interest. The hon. Member will have to give me some better authority than Lord Welby if he wishes to convince me. These proposals have been received with a perfect chorus of disapproval, and everyone who has studied this Bill must conclude that it is lacking in simplicity, that it will lead not to economy but to extravagance, it will give every inducement to extravagance and very little inducement to economy, and it will not create anything approaching a settlement between the two parties in Ireland. Under these circumstances how can this measure possibly be the beginning of a purely federal system of finance for all parts of the United Kingdom, if ever we have a federal system? It is really the most complicated system of 1007 finance that has ever been proposed, and the most complicated gig-saw puzzle would be simple to understand compared with the finance of this Bill. A great many people try to understand these financial proposals, and some think they do understand them, but few of them do. I do not pretend to understand them myself, but I understand certain things about them, and I can see that this system of finance will lead to chaos in the Irish Treasury and the British Treasury, and chaos in the Irish Parliament and the British Parliament. It will be a source of constant friction between both Houses of Parliament and both Houses will argue with one another as to how much should be given for this and that, and what increase should take place here and there.
Where are the inducements to economy On the contrary there is every inducement to extravagance. All the reserved services are transferred at their very height, and the object of the Irish Exchequer will be to raise the expenditure in regard to those services to the most giddy height, and then demand that they should be taken over. The Irish Parliament is to get whatever money it costs at the time when the services are taken over. What possible hope is there of effecting economy in regard to the transferred services? The greatest expenditure is upon education, and Ireland wants a great deal more money spent upon education. I do not think even the Chief Secretary anticipates that an Irish Education Minister would ask the Irish Chancellor of the Exchequer for any less sum of money for education than is being spent now. The whole cost of education is gradually and rapidly rising in this country, and, whatever party we belong to, most of us are enthusiasts for education.
§ Mr. HAYES FISHER
My hon. Friend is not, but I am. I think the tendency is to spend more and more upon education, and not less, and in this matter is Ireland to be left behind?
§ Mr. HAYES FISHER
I think every penny of the money handed over to Ireland will be wanted for education, main drainage, harbours, and all kinds of things in order to develop the resources of Ireland. As they will not have the money without some fresh taxation, the Irish 1008 Parliament will either have to impose new, taxes—in which case it will become unpopular—or else they will send forty-two representatives to this House, who will urge, "The settlement you made was one which you said must be reviewed under modern circumstances." They will have forty-two representatives who can be kept on this side of the water, and the day will come when the British Minister being dependent upon those forty-two votes, will find the Irish Chancellor of the Exchequer coming here and saying, "Well, after all, you were very shabby with us when you made this settlement, do not you think you ought to give us another half a million?" What will that be to a British Chancellor of the Exchequer who wants forty votes upon some political occasion. That will be a very serious danger, and under those circumstances I would not trust British Chancellors of the Exchequer. The Irish representatives would probably make out a very plausible case for more money from the British Exchequer, and how easy would it be for the British Chancellor of the Exchequer to offer it and say that it only meant one-fifth of a penny on the Income Tax. That is the way the Irish Chancellor of the Exchequer will make up the deficits and not by economies in the reserved services. He will make up the difference by gradually squeezing the British Chancellor of the Exchequer. That is one of the fatal defects in this Bill.
Hon. Members below the Gangway have raised all kinds of expectations in Ireland about the good things that are going to happen if only Home Rule is granted. They will then have to go to their constituents and say, "You cannot have an these things, we told you everyone would dwell under his own vine and fig tree and have all these good things, harbours and main drainage, but you cannot have them, because we have not got the money. We asked for the money but it was not given. It really is owing to us and we will use pressure to get it before many months are over." That is a fatal blot on these proposals. If I were to attempt to make a suggestion for the alteration of this Bill or for the alteration of this Resolution I should not be allowed to do so. I should be stopped, because I should be violating the rules that private Members may not indulge in suggestions for an increased expenditure by the Government. If I were a Home Ruler I would be even more generous than hon. Gentlemen opposite, but I would have a much simpler system. I would alter the whole of this finance 1009 root and branch and the Financial Resolution and adopt a different system altogether. I would not tinker with such things as Excise and the Post Office and all that sort of thing, but I would boldly increase the £500,000.
It would have been far better to have done that at once and not wait until it has to be squeezed out of you by forty Members in a moment of party stress. This financial system has been well described by the hon. and learned Member for North-East Cork as bad from top to bottom, bad from the point of view of Ireland, Scotland, and England, and it cannot settle the question. It is a system which will only lead to more and more friction and contention on the floor of this House. It never can form the basis of any federal system, because it is ridiculous to suppose you can begin a federal system by giving one Kingdom power to remain outside of your federated financial system for the Army, Navy, and the National Debt. Scotland would demand the same thing, and so would Wales, and how would it be possible to recommend that England should pay the whole cost of the services of the Army and the Navy and the National Debt? That is impossible, and therefore this financial scheme fails in every possible point of view. It is a pity we are not able to make suggestions on this occasion or do anything to remedy the great and glaring defects of the financial scheme of these Home Rule proposals. If we are called upon to take part in a discussion of this kind under these circumstances we shall one and all refuse, because it tends to lower the whole dignity and tone of the House of Commons if, when we are asked to discuss matters of this kind, we can neither make suggestions nor secure alterations, although our criticisms may be just and tend to improvement.
§ Mr. DILLON
The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for North-East Cork (Mr. T. M. Healy) commenced his speech by making a very bitter complaint of the way in which the Government are tying up this discussion by proposing the present Financial Resolution, and he proceeded to argue that the passing of this Financial Resolution would make the Suggestion stage an absolute farce. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Fulham (Mr. Hayes Fisher) followed upon the same lines. There is not a shadow of foundation for those complaints. The House is in precisely the same position as 1010 if we were going into Committee on the Bill, and the present Financial Resolution or any Resolution which may be passed will have no more effect in tying up the Suggestion stage or limiting liberty on the Suggestion stage than it would have in limiting liberty on the Committee stage of the Bill. When, therefore, the right hon. Member for Fulham raises a melancholy complaint and says the House is being degraded by being asked to consider this Financial Resolution without its being at liberty to make any proposal for its alteration, he is quite mistaken. As I understand the Order, he is just as much at liberty to propose 'an alteration in the Financial Resolution to-day as he was last year.
§ Mr. HAYES FISHER
On a point of Order. Should I be at liberty in proposing to amend this Financial Resolution, and particularly should I be at liberty to amend it in the direction of altering it in reference to the amount of £500,000 a year?
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Mr. Maclean)
My attention was not at the moment directed to what the hon. Member was saying, so I do not quite appreciate the point which the right hon. Gentleman has put to me. Perhaps he will put it to me a little more fully.
§ Mr. HAYES FISHER
Would it be possible for us on this side of the House to put down Amendments to this Financial Resolution proposing some alteration in it; and would it be possible to propose alterations of a kind that would increase some of the amounts, particularly the amount of £500,000 a year which is allowed under this financial scheme as a kind of housekeeping present to Ireland?
§ Mr. DILLON
The point I was putting was this: Would not the hon. Member have all the liberty to move Amendments on the Financial Resolution this year that he would have had last year or any other year?
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
Yes, the same liberty is given to hon. Members with regard to the Resolution this year as last year. Of course, it is quite obvious and well known that you cannot propose Amendments to increase the amount of money.
§ Mr. DILLON
That does not apply any more stringently to the present case than it has ever done in the whole history of the. House of Commons.
§ Lord HUGH CECIL
May I ask whether, in view of the Order of the House yesterday, it would be in order to amend the Financial Resolution, seeing that no Amendment can have any operative effect unless a subsequent Amendment is made in the Bill, and seeing that the Order of the House yesterday precludes any Amendment being put in the Bill?
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I have nothing to do with that. I must just take the matter as it stands, and there is nothing, so far as I can see, to prevent Amendments being moved to this Resolution the same as last year.
§ Mr. DILLON
Therefore, I am perfectly right that there is not an atom of foundation for the complaint made by the hon. Member for North-East Cork, nor by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Fulham. They are deprived of none of their rights in regard to this Financial Resolution; they have just the same rights as they had last year. Of course, in order to be successful they would have to get a majority in the House of Commons. Well, they had to do the same last year.
§ Mr. DILLON
The Noble Lord is now referring to the famous snap Division. That is going into a different matter. They did create a considerable degree of confusion on that occasion, and, if a way had not been found out, they would have destroyed the Bill. No doubt, if they could move an Amendment to the Financial Resolution which the Government would not accept, and could defeat them on it, and would probably destroy the Bill. But they are at liberty to try, and I am perfectly borne out by the ruling of the Chair that there is not an atom of foundation for the complaint made by the hon. and learned Member for North-East Cork and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Fulham. The House on the present occasion is as much at liberty as it ever was in the whole course of its history to move Amendments or to alter 1012 the Financial Resolution. That complaint, therefore, is entirely disposed of.
§ Mr. DILLON
I say it is. I feel bound to immediately challenge another statement made by the hon. and, learned Member for North-East Cork. He stated in his very moderate speech—it was quite a revelation to us after his description quoted by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Fulham, that the finance of this Bill was putrid; he seems to have made up his mind to accept this putrid finance—that one of the reasons for the extraordinary change we welcome to-day was that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. Birrell) was the first Minister to announce, and this was the first occasion on which the declaration was made, that this arrangement was subject to revision. Was there ever such a statement made in the House of Commons? The whole matter was discussed over and over again last year, and not only was it stated by the Prime Minister and by the Postmaster-General in the discussion of the financial provisions of the Bill, that this arrangement was subject to revision when the deficit in the Irish accounts is met, but it is in the Bill itself. Yet the hon. and learned Member stated that this was the first occasion they had had the announcement, and the Chief Secretary was the first Minister who had declared that this was an arrangement subject to revision. The Chief Secretary, in his opening statement, alluded to the criticism to which this financial system had been exposed in Ireland and on this side of the Channel. Of course, it has been exposed, naturally and inevitably, to a great deal of criticism. It has been exposed to skilled and to unskilled criticism. I have noticed during a rather long experience of public life that the most confident critics of any complicated system of finance are the critics who are constitutionally unable to understand figures or finance at all. That is the experience of every public man. The criticism on this side of the water is of the most extraordinary kind. We have been accustomed throughout the discussions on this Bill to hon. Members above the Gangway, turning to us and saying, "Are you going to accept this Bill for your people, to pauperise them, and to leave them without resources to develop their education and drainage and all the great matters that require attention in Ireland," and to-night that has been 1013 repeated. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Fulham has said—I heartily thank him for it, and I hope he will stand by it when the Bill has become law; we shall welcome his assistance—that, if he had his own way and regarded Home Rule as inevitable, he would propose to deal generously with Ireland and increase the margin of £500,000 a year.
Of course, we would all like to have that margin increased, and if, when the Bill is finally passed, hon. Members above the Gangway will stand by their words and assist us in getting an increase of the surplus, I certainly, for one, will thankfully accept their assistance. Naturally, we would like to get as much money as we can; we know the difficulties which are before us in Ireland. Observe the curious inconsistency that marks the criticisms of hon. Members belonging to the Unionist party. I make an exception of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Worcestershire (Mr. Austen Chamberlain), because he has been always consistent. He has always said that this Bill inflicts an injury upon Ireland. But all the other Members of the Unionist party have a different story when they go to the country. There they talk of England paying tribute to Ireland of £2,000,000 a year to bribe her to accept Home Rule. That is their universal description of this Bill in the country. They speak of placing England under tribute to Ireland. How can you reconcile that with their statements in the House? The Leader of the Irish Unionist party went down to Bristol the other day and appealed to the people there, "Are you prepared to place your country under tribute to Ireland to the tune of £2,000,000 a year," and yet here he joined with the hon. and learned Member for North-East Cork in describing the finance of the Bill as "putrid" from the Irish point of view. It is a very curious sort of criticism, and I, with my Irish intellect, cannot reconcile it. It is impossible that this Bill should be financially unjust to Ireland and, at the same time, financially unjust to Great Britain. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] Yet the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Fulham says that if Home Rule must come, he would add to her surplus.
§ Mr. DILLON
That is not finance; I am talking about finance, not powers. I say, 1014 therefore, that the criticism which has been applied to the whole financial scheme of this Bill in Great Britain by the Unionist party surpasses my power of understanding, and I cannot say, trying to be as fair as I can, that it is consistent. Then the right hon. Gentleman challenged the Chief Secretary to name one man in Ireland who has a good word to say for this Bill.
§ Mr. DILLON
Yes, the finance of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman entirely ignores the representatives of the people of Ireland. They do not count. He challenged the Chief Secretary to mention one man. If the Chief Secretary had replied, "There are 103 Members for Ireland, and out of those 103, seventy-five approve of the finance of the Bill," I suppose that would have been no answer at all.
§ Mr. DILLON
Yes, we have committed ourselves to it, and the Convention in Ireland accepted it. If the Chief Secretary had, in reply to that challenge, said that seventy-five out of the 102 or 103 Members for Ireland approved of the finance of the Bill, it would have been a considerable answer, though I do not say it would have been complete. The Chief Secretary, however, had a reply. He was challenged to mention one man, and he mentioned one, Professor Bastaple, of Dublin.
§ Mr. DILLON
At all events, he is not an active politician. He is not in any way committed to us, and he is; without dispute, the great authority in Ireland upon public finance, and, not only is he a great authority upon public finance, but his 1015 books are accepted and used as text-books in this country. I have not, and I do not believe any Nationalist has, asked him to express any opinion, but he did on his own motion come forward and deliver a lecture in Dublin on the finance of this Bill, and the conclusion he came to was that it was on the whole a good, workable system, quite as good a system as he thought could well be devised to meet the difficulties of a very difficult case. None of us have ever, for a single moment, attempted to deny—no man who understands figures at all would attempt to deny —that it is a very difficult question. I do not suppose that there was ever presented to any statesman a more difficult case of a financial settlement between two countries than this case between Ireland and England. Professor Bastaple is, I think, the greatest authority in Ireland on the subject, and it is his opinion that, on the whole, it is as good a system as can be devised to meet the difficulties of the case. The right hon. Member for Fulham quotes Lord MacDonnell. He seems to have wholly misunderstood our position. He seems to think we sneer at Lord MacDonnell. But we do not sneer at him. We regard him as a man of great experience and success in administration, and yet Lord MacDonnell, who has been such a success as an administrator in India, where for years he ruled over 40,000,000 or 50,000,000 of people, has never been allowed to use his powers in Ireland except for a very brief period. There are many men like Lord MacDonnell, who, under such a system as we are trying to set up under this Bill, would devote their great abilities to Ireland, but who are now working for the Empire in Canada, Australia, India, Singapore, and other places at the end of the world. We want to open careers in Ireland to men like Lord MacDonnell. We do not sneer at him or at men like him, but we do feel this: that to quote Lord MacDonnell as an authority in public finance against Professor Bastaple is wrong. Of these two men, Professor Bastaple, as an authority, is the greater. Moreover, he is a man who has resided all his life in Ireland, and has the advantage not only of being a scholar, but of being familiar with the peculiar circumstances of Ireland from his youth upwards. That familiarity is absolutely essential in order to understand the complexities of the case and the difficulties that have to be overcome.
1016 The right hon. Member for Fulham talked at great length about the awful fate which is before England and the Chancellors of the Exchequer of this country in the future with forty-two Irish Members coming over to put pressure on the Government for another £500,000 a year. The right hon. Member was honest enough not to confine that criticism to the Liberal party alone. Let me ask hon. Members in every part of the House what will be the fate of future Chancellors of the Exchequer if we remain here as we are now. Why they should read the pamphlet put forward by the Unionist party as their counter programme to the present Bill, and I say deliberately, after studying it carefully, it would cost this country two millions a year at least to redeem the pledges given there. But what will our position be if the Bill is defeated, not with forty-two Members, but with our seventy-six pledge-bound Members? With this pamphlet and programme of the Unionist party in our hands, how could any Chancellor of the Exchequer refuse to cash these promises? It is all very fine to talk about abuses which may arise, or about attacks upon the English Exchequer under this Bill. I do not think that they will arise, for reasons I need not go into at present, but under no conceivable circumstances could they approach the assaults which will certainly be made by a pledge-bound Irish party, which has maintained its independence now for thirty years, and is not likely to break it or lessen in its discipline until a system of Home Rule is passed. Therefore, I say, there is no foundation for the complaints with which hon. Members commenced their speeches against the effects of these Financial Resolutions. There is no foundation for those pictures of the dreadful fate that lay in the future before English Chancellors of the Exchequer if Home Rule is granted. On the contrary, if there is one thing more certain than another, it is that the best stroke England ever did from an economical point of view, as far as her relations with Ireland are concerned, would be to pass the Home Rule Bill. It is the, only way you can ever obtain from Ireland again any contribution towards the common ordinary expenses of the Empire, and I am as confident as I can be of anything that., if England does adopt Home Rule, if she does adopt such a scheme as this Bill contains, a scheme based on the calculation that at some reasonable, moderate, and 1017 not too distant date, the deficit may disappear, I am, I say, confident that Ireland, in due course, will contribute her fair share to the common expenses of the Empire.
Let me say a word or two about the effects of the Budget. The hon. Member for North-East Cork challenged me in his speech and the answer I have to give is absolutely clear and conclusive. No doubt, in the year 1910, a Debate took place—it was on the 20th April—as to what the effect of the Budget would be upon Ireland, and a Return was issued to which the hon. Member has frequently alluded, making out that the effect would be an increased burden of £602,000 per annum when the new taxes and the increased taxes have come to their full fruition. I estimated in that Debate that the burden of new taxation on Ireland in the first year would be £1,200,000. On the 9th August, 1911, the hon. Member for North-East Cork took part in a debate in this House, and undertook to prove, holding the Return in his hand, that the Budget had inflicted upon Ireland, by extra taxation, an extra burden of £2,000,000 per annum for the last two years; that is for the two years previous to the 9th August, 1911. A somewhat acrimonious debate ensued, and, really, it was proved beyond all question by me, that the Budget had only inflicted a burden of considerably less than £500,000 a year, instead of £2,000,000 in those two years. In the Debate which took place in May last, the hon. Member for North-East Cork did a thing I had never known him do before; ho acknowledged he had made a mistake, and he admitted that I was right. I am glad he recognised that fact. But on the 8th May last, he says, "It, is true I was wrong on the 9th August, 1911, when I said that the Budget had laid a burden of £2,000,000 a year extra taxation on Ireland; but although I was wrong then, the taxes have grown to such an extent that there is now an extra burden on Ireland of £1,100,000." That is a big fall from £2,000,000. But what an extraordinary position was taken up by the hon. Gentleman. He said, "You are budgetting for all time. It is not for the years 1909, 1910, or 1911, but for all time; and, therefore, I say it is an infamous thing that whereas the Government calculated in 1910 that the extra taxation would only come to £600,000, excluding the Whisky Tax, which we are now told amounts to £140,000, after three years these extra taxes have swollen to £1,100,000."
1018 Pray observe what that brings him to. If, in the course of the next ten or fifteen years, the wealth of Ireland doubles or trebles, the grievance of the hon. Member is doubled or trebled with it, because, of course, accordingly as the wealth of the country increases, the product of these extra taxes must proportionately increase, and so the more rapidly the wealth of Ireland-grows, so in equal proportions grows the grievance of the hon. Member for North-East Cork. When you come to analyse these figures, you find this extraordinary fact that the main increases which have to some extent falsified the figures and anticipations of the Government are those from Income Tax, Supertax, the Death Duties, and the Tobacco Duty. Let me just direct the attention of hon. Members for a moment to the grievance of the hon. Member for North-East Cork. He says the main burden of this increase—the enormous increase of £470,000 in the Tobacco Duty—is a burden thrown on the poor. But if you analyse these figures—I am sorry we have not got the analysis yet—it is really accounted for in my opinion largely in this way. If you distribute £2,600,000 in old age pensions amongst a poor population, does it not stand to reason that a great deal of your money must come back in the form of duties on tea, sugar, and tobacco, particularly with a population like the Irish, who love these things, which are the luxuries of the poor. And forsooth, because the Government omit to make full allowance in their forecast in 1910 for the effect of old age pensions in increasing the consumption of these luxuries of the poor, the hon. Member for North-East Cork calls us swindlers and ruffians, simply because so much of the old age pension money is flung back into the Treasury in the shape of increased taxes from tobacco, sugar, and tea. He goes on to say, "How intolerable it is that we have more millionaires than I imagined. I thought that there would be only one man in Ireland subject to the Super-tax." That man was, of course; Lord Iveagh, who always does his duty. Lord Iveagh is a very generous man both in this country and in Ireland, and notwithstanding all the talk about the Budget and taxation, I do not think he ever allowed his political prejudices to interrupt his very admirable work in the City of Dublin or in this City of London.
What is the grievance of the hon. Member for North-East Cork 4 It is that we have more millionaires—he calls a million- 1019 aire a man with £5,000 a year—than the Government supposed, and he drops a sympathetic tear over the grievances of these millionaires, who have been obliged to pay more Super-tax than the Government calculated upon. He says that once upon a time the present Lord St. Aldwyn asked, "Would you hesitate to tax a man like Lord Iveagh?" And the reply was," I would. You cannot tax a millionaire without driving some poor gardener out of his employment." That argument I have often heard from the Unionist Benches against the Death Duties, but to come from an Irish Member it really is somewhat novel. In so far as the Government were deceived as to the product of the Super-tax, I congratulate the Government, and I congratulate Ireland. Then there is the question of the Income Tax, which has produced a good deal more than was actually estimated. What is the reason of that? It is simply because Ireland has undoubtedly increased year by year in prosperity. There is no doubt about that. Another reason is well known to anyone who lives in Ireland. It does not apply to Ireland only; it applies to this country also, for I see you lost several votes at Altrincham and Newmarket on the point. The reason is that the Goverment has instituted a system involving a much closer collection of the Income Tax, and that largely, I think, accounts for the increase in the tax. A great number near the exemption line seems to have passed it under the improved conditions of the country, while those just over the exemption line, who for years and years have paid nothing, are now very angry because they are being made to pay. I understand that feeling. Very often a poor person who has only £200 or £300 a year is hard put to it. I am bound to say I think the Government are right in making them pay, because you cannot evade a tax without putting it on to the shoulders of somebody else. Although that creates a great deal of irritation, on the whole I think the Government have done right. It is more a question of administration, and, no doubt, a good deal of the increase in the Income Tax is due to that.
These are the explanations why the extra taxes of the Budget have produced more than the Government calculated. I desire to say that in this one respect I entirely agree with the hon. and learned 1020 Member for North-East Cork. I do not accept his figures, and I ask the Government, and I have pressed them by questions, to give all the details they can get, so as to enable us to judge of the method of calculating—to give all the details they can get, and all the data upon which these figures are based. I confess that after giving the whole subject the best attention I can, I do not believe, even allowing for all the other matters with which I have dealt, that the extra taxes under the Budget have even yet brought in £1,100,000 a year. That is a matter which we must investigate in the future. There is one other point in regard to the effect of the Budget upon Ireland upon which I should like to say a word, although one must always speak subject to correction, because of the doubt as to the figures. It is this: It will be within the recollection of everybody that when the Budget was passing, hon. Members were besieged—I was myself—with statements that the Budget would undoubtedly ruin a large number of breweries in Ireland, and would destroy the barley trade. I speak in the presence of men who understand the barley trade, and I invite them to contradict me if. I am wrong when I say that we have never had so good a time in the barley trade as the last three years, that there are many thousand acres more under barley this year than perhaps there have been for many years, that prices have been good, and that the trade has been extremely prosperous. I find in the Return that the Beer Duty in Ireland has considerably increased, and increased more than in proportion to the increase of the tax. I would like to draw attention to a passage in the Financial Report of the Primrose Commission. They went into all these matters. What is the conclusion at which they arrived? They made an elaborate calculation to show that the Tobacco Duty, the Beer Duty, and the Tea. Duty have all increased very much more than would be accounted for by the increase of taxation. They say:—The figures in the fourth column show a substantial increase in the consumption of the commodities—tea, tobacco and beer—in spite of the considerable decrease in the population and the higher rates of duty, and may he regarded as distinctly indicative of improved economic conditions in Ireland.That is the real explanation. We have a constantly declining population, I regret to say, although that decline is less than it was In spite of that declining population and of this increased taxation, the country is evidently prospering, because the con- 1021 sumption of these articles, which are the luxuries of the poor, has increased per head in spite of everything. Yet the hon. Member for North-East Cork weeps a bitter tear over these figures and thinks they are a matter for mourning and lament. If within the next five years the wealth of Ireland is doubled the hon. Member for North-East Cork will dissolve in tears, because then the burden of these taxes would be more than doubled according as the superfluities of the poor people increase. In conclusion, while I have the greatest possible gratitude to the men who sat upon the Primrose Commission, and while I consider their Report as one of the most illuminating, ablest, and best-drawn documents upon Irish finance that has ever been published—I have read it over and over again, and every fresh time I read it I admire it the more—still, taking all the circumstances into account, and after discussing that Report with many men who are versed in the difficulties that have to be fought against, I am of opinion, in spite of my admiration for the Primrose Report, that the Government have acted wisely in making the alterations they have made. I desire to draw attention to this remarkable fact, that throughout the ten or eleven days we spent in discussing this financial system in all its details, no single man from any part of this House proposed any alternative to the scheme which the Government have introduced.
§ Sir WILLIAM ANSON
I rise with some reluctance to take part in this Debate, because, whatever may be said as to the technical right of anybody to move an Amendment to this Resolution, there can be no doubt that our action last night has turned this House, for the purposes of this Bill, into a debating society, and any discussion we now have is obviously of a negligible character. That is clear from the fact that the authorities of the Treasury are entirely absent from the House during the discussion of the financial relations with Ireland. There is one point, to which allusion has already been made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. Hayes Fisher), to which I ought to call the attention of the Government, because I am surprised at the attitude alike of the Government and the Nationalist Members from Ireland—I mean the probability, amounting to certainty, that under the arrangements with regard to the Transferred Sum, and the other financial arrangements under the 1022 Resolution, the very important service of education will be starved. An important document appeared in the latter part of last summer from the Commissioners of National Education for Ireland, who felt it necessary to state their position and their anxiety because they entirely failed in their efforts to obtain a hearing from either the Prime Minister or the Chief Secretary for Ireland. The case which they stated and supported with figures is undoubtedly strong, and commends itself to one's common sense. They state, first of all, that they regretted that a good many necessary reforms were retarded or altogether prevented through the difficulty of getting money from the British Exchequer, but that for the ordinary services of their Department, provided for in their rules and regulations, they had not any difficulty in obtaining the money. They pointed out that these charges automatically increase, that between the years 1908–9 and 1911–12 those figures had, by mere automatic increases which affected almost every educational expense, gone up by something like £23,000 a year, and at the end of the time were about £90,000 larger than they were at the beginning, and that there was no probability that that automatic increase would fail to continue. It is certain in regard to these educational expenses that the increase will go on automatically, unless the country ceases to be prosperous and unless public opinion sets strongly against the enforcement or the promotion of the, education of the children.
As a matter of fact, if you look at the statistics of school attendance in Ireland, although the population has slightly decreased—more slightly, I am glad to say, as the years have gone on—the average attendance has increased, and is larger now than it has ever been before. The, average attendance is a necessary element of automatic increase. There is another element. As the older teachers, who were less well trained, pass off and become, superannuated, their places are taken by younger teachers, trained and more highly qualified teachers, entitled to higher salaries, and there is the necessary promotion of the younger teachers to better salaries and better positions. That is another necessary increase which is bound to go on. That, coupled with the increase in the average attendance which we hope will go on if Ireland prospers and interest in these matters continues to expand, will form a continuous charge upon the fund 1023 which is stereotyped and fixed by the passing of this Bill. There is another item, namely, the fact mentioned by the Commissioners that certain schools which have hitherto not formed a charge upon the funds will henceforth undoubtedly form a charge upon them. That will be another considerable item of expenditure. If you take the automatic increase of the existing system of education, that alone is a serious matter, seeing that it increases at the rate of £25,000 a year. There are the other matters which no one interested in education will fail to regard as important. There is no doubt that in England, according to the Report of the Board of Education, there is a deficiency of teachers. You, can only make the teaching profession attractive by improving the position of the teachers. The salaries of teachers all over the country have increased, are increasing, and will go on increasing. Unless the education of Ireland drops considerably below the standard corresponding to the position in England, the salaries of teachers will inevitably increase, and the charge on the Transferred Sum will increase. In the same way one hopes and believes that the higher grade schools will increase, and will be better equipped with laboratories and all the other appliances of education. Again, medical inspection and medical attendance are constantly increasing items of expenditure. I do not profess to be an expert in Irish education, and I do not know how far medical inspection and medical attendance have gone in Ireland, but there is no doubt that as it goes on it does increase the expense in England, and it will certainly do the same in Ireland. We constantly hear complaints from one local authority or another, or from one set of managers or another, of the demands made either by the Board of Education or by the local education authority for the enlargement of school buildings. There again you will find the cost of education increasing. Elementary education in Ireland has always been expensive in proportion to its results, partly owing to the difference of religion, and partly owing to the views taken by the Roman Catholic Church as to the separation of the sexes. Therefore elementary education is always costly in Ireland, and will go on being costly.
Where is the money to come from? It cannot come from the Transferred Sum, 1024 because that is fixed and stereotyped at the date of the passing of the Act. Is it to come from this £500,000 a year which is to diminish year by year? There will be many claimants on that £500,000, and I should be sorry if the chances of Irish education depended on the educational experts or enthusiasts getting any reasonable proportion of the £500,000. From what other source can it come? I suppose from taxation. The right hon. Gentleman, like myself, has endeavoured to get money from a reluctant Chancellor of the Exchequer, and he knows how difficult the process is. Of one thing we may be quite certain. The new Irish Government will not wish to do an unpopular thing by increasing taxation, and the Minister for Education, whoever he may be, who will have to present these unwelcome demands to the Irish Chancellor of the Exchequer, whoever he may be, will find that his request is addressed to unwilling ears, and he will have very considerable difficulty in getting this money. The money cannot come from the Transferred Sum because that is fixed. There is very little likelihood of the bonus to any appreciable extent being employed for the purpose of education. The remainder of Irish taxation is appropriated to the reserved services, and we are constantly told that Ireland is taxed to the utmost of its capacity to endure taxation. I believe there is no doubt about that. Then what is to happen? The Irish Minister for Education will go to the Irish Chancellor of the Exchequer and will ask for money, which can only be found either by starving some other service whose income is similary fixed at the passing of the Act, or else he will have to go to the taxpayer and the Government will become unpopular.
I am surprised that in a matter of such importance, of which the Chief Secretary has had abundant experience both in England and in Ireland, this matter did not receive a more gracious consideration before these Resolutions were settled and the financial system fixed. I am also surprised that the Nationalist Members have not had more regard to a matter which vitally concerns the prosperity of their country. It is a matter which concerns us, because the relations of the two countries will be so close and intimate that a serious difference in the scale of education in Ireland must inevitably have some relation and some effect upon England, and one would be glad to think that some way was discernible out 1025 of the difficulty which undoubtedly presents itself of enabling a larger sum to be devoted to this purpose. I do not see any. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will explain. No doubt, some day or other, when he would describe himself as a venerable figure watching the proposed revision of the Irish system of finance, and when I shall probably not be either here or in any other part of the habitable globe to see what goes on, some representation will be made to draw Irish legislation out of the Slough of Despond in which it will by that time be embedded. Till that time, it appears to me that Irish education will starve owing to the neglect of the Government to attend to the warning given them by persons of experience and authority, and the neglect of the Nationalist Members in a matter which vitally concerns the future of the citizens of their country and its prosperity in having failed to impress upon the Government the need for making some provision, either by a further contribution to the English Exchequer or by some modification or readjustment of the money which is already at the disposal of the two countries for meeting this urgent and growing need, a need which we feel in this country and which, I believe, is and will be even more keenly felt as time goes on in Ireland under the new Constitution.
§ Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
The discussion to-day has covered two fields which, although they are in relation to one another, are really distinct. One is the financial scheme of the Home Rule Bill, which is in outline embodied in the Resolution, and the other is the effect of the Budget of 1909 upon the taxation of Ireland and the extent of the burden which it laid upon the Irish people. The facts of that case are simply these: When the Budget of 1909 was before the House it was stated by the Government that Ireland's contribution to the new taxation imposed would be in that year £438,000, excluding the yield of certain taxes. Subsequently a White Paper was presented to Parliament which said that in a full year, when the complete effects of the taxes had been realised, the yield would be £603,000, exclusive of spirits, liquor licences, and Land Value Duties. These three heads of revenue have, in fact, brought in £251,000. If you add the £251,000 excluded explicitly from the White Paper to the Estimate of £602,000, you get a total yield of £853,000. 1026 As a matter of fact it is now found that the yield from the new taxes then imposed upon Ireland may be estimated to be £1,131,000, an excess of £278,000, and that fact is the cause of the denunciations hurled at the head of the Government by the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. T. M. Healy). Let me say in answer to him and the hon. Member (Mr. Dillon), that we shall very shortly indeed publish the new figures which have been quoted to-day and explain the basis on which they have been calculated. But perhaps I may explain, in answer to their questions, how it comes about that the increased yield of the Spirit Duties is so large in Ireland compared with the figures which are given in the annual account. The reason is this: It is true that the yield, in actual money, that goes into the Exchequer from the Spirit Duties has shown not only no increase of £180,000, but no increase at all, and, indeed, a decrease of £8,000. That is the actual yield. But the Treasury, with that scrupulous fairness for which the hon. and learned Gentleman is never ready to give them credit, have taken this fact into account, that the yield from the liquor duties in Ireland was falling, and if the taxes had been left unaltered the yield would in normal circumstances have fallen by about £180,000.
§ Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
The Spirit Duty. But the new taxes have brought them up again within £8,000 of their previous level, therefore, although an unfair Treasury anxious to strain points against Ireland would have said there had been no increase in the yield of the Liquor Duties, as a matter of fact it has been estimated that there is an increase in the Spirit Duties from Ireland owing to the new taxes of 1909 to the amount which has been stated by my right hon. Friend of £180,000. The total increase on the Estimates which were given in the White Paper, taking into account the liquor licences, the Spirit Duties and the Land Duties, was £278,000. The hon. and learned Gentleman told the Irish people and told this House again and again that the new burdens upon Ireland would amount to about £2,000,000 a year. He now quotes the ascertained figure of £1,131,000, which he says is in itself a condemnation of the Government, seeing that it shows an increase above what was estimated of £278,000.
§ Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
No. The hon. and learned Gentleman's own figure was no less than £870,000 in excess of what the facts have proved to be, and if the Government did in truth, as was the case, somewhat under-estimate the yield of these taxes from Ireland, the hon. and learned Gentleman himself over-estimated them to the extent of about three times the error which was made in the Government calculation. He ought to rejoice that Ireland is so much more prosperous than was anticipated. He ought to be glad to discover that there are more millionaires in that country than he or the Government had supposed, and that the yield to be derived from these duties has proved to be higher than was expected. The taxes are equal. A millionaire in Ireland is charged at the same rate as a millionaire in England. Tobacco in Ireland is charged at the same rate as tobacco in England. I do not see that it can fairly be called a new grievance for Ireland in that the estimates made by the Government beforehand have proved to be somewhat below the mark. One cause, and a very happy cause, has just been given us by the hon. Member (Mr. Dillon), who pointed out that in particular the grant of old age pensions itself has enabled a larger expenditure than would otherwise have been possible to be made by the poorer classes in Ireland on such commodities as tea, tobacco, and sugar, which yield large sums to the revenue. And in return for this sum of £1,131,000 what does Ireland receive? Old age pensions alone, the finances of which were provided by the Budget, have brought to the Irish people a gift of £2,600,000, and the sums paid by the State for the purposes of national insurance represent another sum of £400,000, so that hi return for the added taxation of £1,100,000 the Irish people get back benefits, not merely in value, but representing in actual cash a sum of £3,000,000 per annum. Surely it is a strange thing to claim that a bargain of that character, which means a payment of £1,000,000 and a return payment of £3,000,000, is a fresh grievance of the Irish people.
But the hon. Member's point was the fact that the estimate then given was proved to be somewhat below the mark showed that Treasury figures are in themselves untrustworthy, and that therefore the financial scheme of the Bill 1028 is suspect. He said "as regards the figures in this Bill, I view them with abhorrence and dislike." What figures in the Bill? There are no figures in the Bill. He may look through the Bill from the first Clause to the last, and with the exception of the £500,000 which is the surplus, and the figures numbering the Clauses and the Sub-sections, I do not think he will find any single figure on any page of the Bill. The returns are given to show what the effect would be if the present estimates are correct, but the Bill is not based on these estimates. For the information of the House, it was right and proper, and indeed necessary that we should lay before the House such figures as to Irish revenue and expenditure as are now available, but, as the hon. and learned Member is well aware, the Bill itself sets up a Joint Exchequer Board of five members, two of whom are representatives of the new Irish Treasury, who will themselves have to examine all the details, and themselves frame Irish Estimates, and on the figures so ascertained— the fuller particulars which the Bill enables them to secure—the finances of the new system will be based. Therefore, when the hon. and learned Member complains of our Bill and its proposals on the ground that the people of Ireland have good reason to distrust Treasury figures, he is beside the mark, and his criticism is forestalled by the very provisions of the Bill itself.
The financial provisions of the Bill have, indeed, as the Chief Secretary has said, been made the subject of a good deal of criticism. I can only say that the criticism has been much less in extent, and much milder in nature, than we anticipated when we sat down to solve the problem of Irish finance, and that. criticism has been largely due to misrepresentations, conscious or unconscious, of the provisions of the Bill itself. Some of it, I will not deny, is quite fair criticism. No doubt from various points of view there are things in the Bill which are open to objection by those who wish to criticise. Some of the attacks on the finance of the Bill are, on the other hand, the outcome of misrepresentations, gross and occasionally deliberate. I shall not to-day deal with any-anonymous attacks upon the financial proposals of the Bill. A pamphlet has lately been circulated widely; it is written anonymously by one who calls himself "An Irish Taxpayer," and it is full of errors on every page. If the author of that pamphlet were to reveal himself and be 1029 found to be anyone whose views are deserving of answer, I should be very glad indeed to make publicly a reply showing in parallel columns what this pamphlet declares to be the provisions of the Bill and what the provisions of the Bill in fact are. In this House itself and outside, we find Members of Parliament, right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Opposition Bench, declaring things to be in the Bill which are not in the Bill at all. Only yesterday the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Worcestershire (Mr. Austen Chamberlain), said:—How many Members on the opposite side of the House told their constituents when they stood before them at the last General Election that in their view Home Rule bore, as a necessary consequence, the payment of two millions per year from the British Treasury to the Irish Exchequer?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd June, 1913, col. 829.]That statement has been made on the platforms of the Opposition from one end of the country to the other, and the impression conveyed, and I think intentionally conveyed, has been that that is a new two millions. Hon. Members have not troubled to state to their constituents that, of that sum £1,500,000 is already being paid under the existing system for Irish purposes, and that the only new charge is the surplus of £500,000, reduced in a few years to £200,000. That is the extent of the financial burden which the Home Rule Bill will throw upon the British Exchequer. If they would go on to explain that they have no objection to paying £1,500,000 now but object to continuing the payment to an Irish Parliament and Executive, then indeed my criticism on their action would be largely ill-founded, but they do not give that explanation. On how many occasions have they done so? Is it not rather a brief and misleading statement which is usually made, such as I read out from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Worcestershire, when the electors are told that the Home Rule Bill means £2,000,000 a year from the British Treasury to the Irish Exchequer? Speaking by the book, of course, it is true, but I think it would have been fairer to have said that the added burden under this Bill is a sum of £500,000, which is reduced in a period of eight years to the sum of £200,000. Not only is it suggested that this is a new £2,000,000, but it is suggested that it is a permanent £2,000,000. How often have the critics of the Bill taken the trouble to explain to their audiences that all the increases of Irish revenue are to flow 1030 into the Imperial Exchequer in order to meet the deficit? They may say that the revenue will never increase, but they are not treating the finance of the Bill fairly unless they say that while the payment from the Imperial Exchequer for the services transferred to the Irish Government is stereotyped, the revenue from Ireland as it increases will go to pay off the present deficit of £2,000,000.
§ Sir FREDERICK BANBURY
The deficit might be more unless I am very much mistaken, for the cost of the reserved services may increase, while the revenue may decrease.
§ Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
That is so; it has been stated in the House by us, and also in the papers published as to the finance of the Bill. It is expected that there will be an increased charge for Irish land purchase and national insurance, but, on the other hand, there will be a decreased charge for old age pensions, and the £500,000 surplus will be decreased. On the whole there will be an increase as years go of about £200,000. But that would be so if there was no Home Rule, and when hon. and right hon. Gentlemen criticise the Bill, are they prepared to say that if there were no Home Rule the expenditure by the British taxpayer would be less? I do not know whether any right hon. Gentleman upon the Front Bench opposite intends to speak in this Debate, but if anyone does, I would venture respectfully to put this question to him. Is he prepared to tell the British taxpayer that if Home Rule is rejected, he and his party will not propose an increase of expenditure from the British Treasury for Irish Government? I venture to say if he makes any such assertion, he will be contradicting distinct pledges given to the Irish people by the leaders of his own party. The critics of the finances of the Bill on the Opposition side are attempting to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds. They declare that Lord MacDonnell, the hon. Member for North-East Cork (Mr. T. M. Healy), and the hon. Member for Cork City (Mr. William O'Brien) regard the Bill as inadequate because Ireland is not treated with either fairness or generosity, and that Ireland is receiving too little under the Bill.
§ Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
I am speaking now solely of the finances of the Bill. 1031 It is suggested that Lord MacDonnell and others say that Ireland is treated unfairly because it is receiving too little money. At the same time hon. Members opposite say that the British Exchequer is treated unfairly because Ireland is receiving too much money under the system of Home Rule-—[An HON. MEMBER: "No."]—and therefore they say, "What is to be thought of your system of Irish finance, which is condemned on all hands in Ireland and England, one saying that they are receiving too little and the other saying that they are receiving too much? "On the contrary, the conclusion which may be drawn from counter attacks of that character is that on the whole the Government have done very substantial justice, that we have held the balance fairly between the financial interests of the Irish taxpayer on the one hand and the Imperial Exchequer on the other hand. It is perhaps proved that some measure of equality has been attained when we find complaints from one quarter as well as the other.
§ Mr. T. M. HEALY
Will the right hon. Gentleman give us the figures which were mentioned by the Chief Secretary?
§ Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
I have said that we will certainly give these figures within a few days. There is another misrepresentation of the Bill. It is said that it establishes a Customs barrier between the two countries, and the conclusion naturally drawn by any audience in this country—the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Strand Division (Mr. Long) has been discussing the matter at length in Canada—the conclusion naturally drawn by any audience on hearing a statement so unqualified as that is that the Bill proposes that the Irish Parliament should have power to impose what Customs Duties it likes, should have power to tax English products for the advantage of Irish products, and should have power to include new subjects of taxation in its tariff. How often have hon. Members who have criticised the Bill gone on to explain to their audiences that the Irish Parliament will have no power to establish any prosection for the benefit of Irish products against British products? How often have they gone on to say that they would have no power to extend the tariff? How often have they explained that the Irish Exchequer would not receive more than an increase of 10 per cent. of the Customs Duties? How often have they pointed out 1032 that they will not have power to lower the taxes on tea, sugar, and other commodities, below the figures they stand at for the purposes of taxation in this country It is indispensable to give the Irish Parliament some authority to raise additional revenue if it so desires, and to add to the Import Duties, and also to the Excise Duties, on such articles as alcoholic liquors, tea and sugar. I am glad to see the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's, Hanover Square (Mr. Alfred Lyttelton), in his place. He addressed, not long ago, a great meeting at Cork, and in the course of his speech he criticised the financial provisions of the Bill. I quote from the "Times' "report of his speech. He said:The provisions of the Bill go to the very root of sound business. While it professed to aim at encouraging thrift and economy in Ireland, the fact was that the more thrifty an Irishman was the larger the sum he would have to pay over to his rich neighbour in England.That was received, not unnaturally, with laughter. If there is one thing which more than another we set out to do, and which we have achieved in this Bill, it is to secure that if the Irish Government by careful administration is able to make economies, they themselves shall have the benefit of those economies. The revenue which is handed over to them is the fixed Transferred Sum to spend as they like, and if they are able to make economies in any of the services which are transmitted to their care, and spend less than the amount which we are spending now on the present government of Ireland, they may use the moneys so saved to do as they will. They may spend them on education or on other subjects, or on Grants in relief of rates, or they may lower certain rates of taxation, but it is absolutely incorrect to say that the Imperial Treasury will lay hands upon, or is empowered to lay hands upon, any economies made by the Irish Government.
§ Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
It is not a question of administration; it is a question of the growth of population and the greater prosperity of the country. The right hon. Gentleman's words were:—the more thrifty an Irishman was, the larger the sum he would have to pay over to his rich neighbour in England.
§ Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
And the only conclusion which any audience in Ireland could draw from that remark was that the effect of the Bill would be that if the Irish people made economies in their government they would have to pay over those economies to the Imperial Exchequer.
§ Mr. LYTTELTON
The right hon. Gentleman may say that that is his grasp of my speech. It was not its intended effect; it was not understood so, and it was not the effect of it.
§ Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
I can only express regret, which I am sure the Committee generally will share, that the right hon. Gentleman was not quite so lucid as he usually is, and I still repeat that any Irish audience, or any audience, could hardly fail to draw from a sentence of that kind the conclusion which I have said is the obvious meaning of the words.
Mr. WILLIAM REDMOND
Might I ask the right hon. Gentleman as he is quoting the speech at Cork of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hanover Square, would he also quote those portions of the right hon. Gentleman's speech in which he advocated and palliated armed rebellion in Ireland.
§ Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
I should be very glad to do so, but I am afraid that it would be out of order on this occasion. Hon. Members opposite have asked what authority in Ireland has expressed satisfaction with the financial provisions of this Bill, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Strand put that specific question a few nights ago. He said:—I challenge the Chief Secretary for Ireland or any o his colleagues to quote any one representative authority in Ireland who is generally in favour of the financial provisions of the Bill. Let him say who he is or where he comes from.One authority has been quoted, and it comes from the most unexceptional place, from Trinity College, Dublin, and from, as the hon. Member for Mayo says, probably the greatest living authority, not merely in Ireland, but in this country, on public finance. Professor Bastaple, professor of political economy and Regius Professor of Law at Trinity College, is the author of a book called "Public Finance," which is, as any student of the subject knows, the chief text book in the English language on that subject, and he has not been identified with any party. He recently gave a lecture which was a critical examination of the financial pro- 1034 visions of the Bill, and he pointed out various provisions of its finance where he personally would like to see some amendment which he indicated. His conclusion was this:—In conclusion I must express the opinion that the financial plan of the Government of Ireland Bill, alike in its provisions for retaining on expenditure the check of due responsibility as in those for apportioning the revenue to meet that expenditure, and at the same time in its arrangement of financial machinery to secure the working of the system, is carefully adapted to the conditions of the problem. Though certainly by no means perfect it is quite capable of being worked satisfactorily by reasonable human beings. Amendments may be called for after the measure comes into being, but unforseen contingencies apart, no radical alteration of the financial basis is required.And when we also have in this country the man who is, perhaps, one of the greatest, and possibly the greatest, authority on matters of public finance, from the point of view of the practical administrator, Lord Welby, whose experience is perhaps unrivalled among living men, and who also endorses with approval the general financial scheme of this Bill, I think we can afford to regard with equanimity the criticism of lesser men.
§ Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
He may have done so. I do not say they were not adapted to the conditions of that time. The conditions have entirely altered, and financial conditions in Ireland are now quite different, and must be met by a different scheme. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford University referred forcibly to the cause of education in Ireland, and asked what was to be its future in view of the restrictions imposed upon the amount of revenue at the disposal of the Irish Government. I may say incidentally that at Present the Irish people are in a position of very great privilege with regard to education, compared with the rest of the United Kingdom, inasmuch as the ratepayers, as ratepayers, make no contribution whatsoever to the expenses of education, and the whole cost of education comes out of the taxes, while in this island they are borne in certain proportions by the taxpayer and the ratepayer. But apart from that the Irish Government will be at liberty to dispose of the additional revenue of £200,000 a year given under the Bill, which is equivalent to a revenue of several millions in this country. Further we have always been told, and we believe, that the 1035 general expenditure in Ireland is now upon a somewhat extravagant scale, since no one in that country has any interest in effecting economies, and that under the more watchful eye of a local government there are various directions in which economies certainly can be attained. So we have been told over and over again by advocates of Home Rule in this country and elsewhere. As economies are realised in one sphere of government the money so saved will be available for expenditure in another. Lastly, as the hon. Member for Mayo has pointed out, no suggestion has been made in this House for any alternative scheme.
§ Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
I shall mention one. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Fulham denounced the financial provisions of the Bill, and roundly declared that he would have a completely different system. But what that system was to be, and in what the difference was to consist, he did not inform us. It is true that the Association of Irish County Councils proposed an alternative scheme to which I was about to refer, which has been to some extent advocated here by hon. Members for Cork. But that scheme rests upon the foundation that all the revenue collected in Ireland is to be regarded as revenue derived from Ireland, and that the whisky manufactured in Ireland and consumed in England is to be regarded as contributing revenue which is to be considered Irish revenue for the purpose of public finance. It is perfectly impossible to defend that scheme. The hon. Member for Cork has never sought to defend it in argument, except by pointing to the fact that in the Bill of 1886, which, it is admitted, was somewhat hurriedly drafted, Mr. Gladstone did include this basis in his plan, but he dropped it, of course, as all the world knows, on further consideration. That was an alternative which it was perfectly impossible for this House to adopt. A second has been proposed by Lord MacDonnell, which does not differ greatly from the scheme in the Bill in many respects, but it was open to objections which in our opinion have been fatal. If you do not accept those alternatives what is there to be done? Is there anyone who says that we ought permanently to pay to Ireland a subsidy of £2,000,000 or £1,500,000, whether the prosperity of Ireland increases or the revenue is swollen or 1036 not? That surely is an impossible position to adopt. Or is there anyone who says on the other hand that if we adopt Home Rule we should immediately throw upon the shoulders of Ireland this heavy additional burden amounting to £1,500,000 to be met out of new taxation to be levied in the first year? Those proposals must necessarily be ruled out because they are open to objections so obvious and conclusive as to be fatal to their adoption.
In those circumstances the plan which is embodied in the Bill still holds the field. The plan of right hon. Gentlemen opposite is to keep Ireland politically dependent and financially parasitic upon Great Britain. They would coerce the majority of the Irish people to accept a system of government which they dislike and at the same time endeavour to bribe them into submission. It is a policy of both "kicks and ha'pence," and at the same time they make promises of large advantages to Ireland from the policy of Tariff Reform. What has become of Tariff Reform so far as it relates to Ireland? At Belfast the Leader of the Opposition told the Irish people that if Home Rule were rejected and he and his party had authority in this country they would devise a new system of tariffs, framed with a special and anxious regard for the interests of Ireland. That must mean a tariff which would be advantageous to the agricultural industry, for I cannot imagine that the right hon. Gentleman intended that a tariff on manufactured goods, which might be an advantage, indeed, to Belfast, was to be fastened upon Ireland to the detriment of four-fifths of the population who belong to the agricultural industry. That promise was made. We have never been told whether the right hon. Gentleman intends to keep it; and since then he has shown a certain coyness and reluctance to proceed further with his plans for taxing imported agricultural produce. I think that the Irish people are rightly very sceptical with regard to suggestions that they may be benefited by a change in our fiscal system. However that may be, whether Ireland will gain advantages by the taxation of foreign agricultural products or not, whether she will gain advantages by fresh showers of gold being poured into the country in the form of doles for this or that, one thing I believe is quite certain, that you never can bribe with money a nation whose heart is set upon self-government into an abandonment of the cause which it has in view.
§ Lord HUGH CECIL
We have bad a discussion, which I do not propose to follow, as to the effect of the Budget of 1909–10 upon Irish finance. As far as I understood that discussion, which was begun by the hon. and learned Member for North-East Cork, the effect of it was this, that the hon. Member for Mayo estimated at the time that the additional burden of taxation on Ireland would be £500,000, while the hon. Member for North-East Cork estimated it at £2,000,000. The truth is that the burden is about £1,100,000.
§ Mr. DILLON
Not at all, the Noble Lord is misconceiving the matter entirely. My estimate was that the burden cast on Ireland during the two years subsequent to the Budget would be about £500,000, and I was absolutely accurate, or rather I slightly overestimated the amount. The hon. Member for Cork admits that he was wrong and that I was right, but says that since that it has risen to something like £1,100,000.
§ Lord HUGH CECIL
The observation which I was about to make when I was interrupted was that the effect of this discussion does not tend to suggest that the Budgets of a future Irish Parliament, if such a body ever comes into existence, will be of a very reliable character. Two very distinguished Members from Ireland find very great difficulty in estimating the financial position of that country with any accuracy. The point I was anxious to ask the Postmaster-General a question about is one which he did not deal with, namely, the point raised by the Member for North-East Cork, relating to procedure upon this Resolution and to any Suggestion stage with reference to finance. The Member for North-East. Cork pointed out that there were difficulties in dealing with this Resolution and with the suggestions arising on finance. I think it must be conceded that no Amendment on this Resolution can really be moved except with a view to destroying it altogether. That is obvious, since no alteration in the Resolution could be carried into the Bill, because it, would be destructive of its character. Therefore no real Amendment is possible. I should have thought that Motions or suggestions made, with Mr. Speaker in the Chair, for the other House of Parliament, would be subject to the regulations of this House in Committee of Ways and Means, and that the proposals or suggestions would be affected by the custom of Parliament relating to privilege, 1038 and would prevent the House of Lords from dealing with them. In matters of finance, the House of Lords is bound by the privileges of this House. I submit that the hon. Member for North-East Cork is justified in his observation that this House has no power either of Amendment or suggestion over the financial provisions of this Bill.
To come to the main controversy that underlies this discussion, the Postmaster-General says that it is the substantial complaint of every speaker in defence of the financial arrangements of the Bill, that the provisions are criticised from two contradictory points—that they are too harsh to Ireland, and that they are unfair to Great Britain. That double criticism must always arise when you are separating a rich district from a poor quarter, in endeavouring to adjust their financial arrangements. It is perfectly clear, where you have a poor district, which has been for a long time in the same financial area as a rich district, that the poor district benefit by being included in that financial area with the rich district. If you cut the poor district out of that area, you necessarily inflict hardship upon it, and if you take money out of the pockets of those who live in the rich district and hand it over as a solatium to the poor district for being cut out, it would be regarded as unfair. Suppose, for example, London County and West Ham had been in former times united in a financial area, and suppose you cut out West Ham from the County of London, and set it up, as it now is, as a separate borough. We know what the conditions in that borough are now; we know that it is very hard pressed, and that London County is comparatively rich; we know that the rich district always drains money out of the poor district. So, in the case of Ireland, a large part of the poverty of that country arose from the fact that the rich central part of the Empire draws from the poorer district into the richer. Wealth draws wealth. It is the mere contiguity of the two islands that has made Ireland comparatively poor. I do not deny that there is great difficulty. There is, in truth only two ways of dealing with the financial problem between England and Ireland—either starve Ireland or you rob England, or you do a little of both. That is what the Government are doing—a little robbery and a little starving. To say, "We cannot do any better" is to condemn the Bill.
The third way of dealing with the poverty of Ireland is to keep it as one 1039 country with this, and then making the rich central fund of the country liberal to the poorer parts of it. There has never been any hesitation on our part in recognising that great expenditure has to be made in Ireland from Imperial sources, and will be made in the future; that is part of the normal process by which a rich nation has to care for its poorer districts. It applies to Scotland, it applies to the poorer parts of England. Any financial system properly constructed always helps the poorer parts of the country more than it helps the richer parts. It always draws more revenue from the richer part than from the poorer part. As long as we maintain the system of the United Kingdom, we must rightly and justly be liberal out of the common fund for the purpose of relieving the distress of the poor people living in the country. It is really unsound and misleading to speak of districts, but Ireland is an area in which live poor people, and it is a part of the United Kingdom, and it is for those poor people that the common fund may legitimately be called in aid. That is, very shortly sketched, the Unionist answer to this problem. If the United Kingdom is a single nation, then it is fair; but if the two nations are separated, it ceases to be fair and becomes grossly and palpably unjust. We are on the best possible terms with the French nation and people, but who would suggest giving old age pensions to the French people or finance a land purchase scheme for them? If Ireland is to be another nation, then they have no claim on British finance in aid of their expenditure. Hon. Members opposite say, "Ireland is not a nation in that sense; it is not with that meaning we call Ireland a nation." It is quite true that the term "nation" or "nationality" is used without any particular meaning at all, and without its having been thought out what are the real meaning and political consequences of the term. The absurdity of the whole system of dividing the United Kingdom into two nations comes out quite plainly, and it is obvious that it must break down completely.
To make a nationality you want a certain segregation of interest, so that you can deal with Irish interests as a whole. But that is precisely what you cannot do. The moment you entered into a financial discussion you would find at every turn that the financial arrangements and interests 1040 of the two countries are hopelessly interlocked, and that you would only inflict harshness upon Ireland and injustice upon England. We are told by the Chief Secretary that these financial arrangements, after all, are to be provisional, and the hon. Member for North-East Cork observed that while it would make the Bill more easy to pass, it would make it a great deal harder to work, because provisional financial arrangements are certain to be a fertile source of quarrel. At every turn you are going to have the two parties to the arrangements complaining of hardships. You will have the British people indignant at the idea of a great sum of money being sent over to another country, as Ireland would be if she were separated, and the Irish people would always have the claim of the poverty to which they were reduced by Home Rule. Its being necessary to say that these financial arrangements are provisional shows that it is anticipated that there will be discussions about monetary difficulties. Of all the arrangements, this is the most likely to lead to bitterness between the two countries. The Postmaster-General, in answer to my right hon. Friend's criticisms in connection with education, said that the ratepayers of Ireland have not yet been called upon in reference to education. Does the right hon. Gentleman really think that the Irish people will make a great addition to their rates in order to defray the cost of education, when under the legislative union they are accustomed to be free from that impost, which is very unpopular in this country? Is it not clear that at every turn the financial system under this Bill will be an embittering and a vexatious one? It will be one of the many causes, if the Bill ever passes, by which the two nations will be taught that their interests are against one another, and they will be taught, as every country in the world has been taught where it has been made a separate nationality, that the interests of separate nations are hostile and conflicting.
There is one remark I wish to make arising out of the Postmaster-General's observation, in which he complained of our saying that Great Britain would pay a great sum of money to Ireland without adding the explanation that a great sum of money is already paid. That is really misapprehending our case. We do not complain of a single country paying for the benefit of the poorer parts of that country. What we complain of is paying British 1041 money to people who have become citizens of another nation. In respect of Customs barriers, I never heard of a more unreasonable criticism. The Postmaster-General suggests that the Customs barrier necessarily implies a protective tariff. He must know that there have often been barriers of the most injurious and mischievous kind which have nevertheless been devised without any idea of protection. The old monarchy of France found it one of the most injurious things. France was divided into all sorts of fiscal systems and fiscal barriers coming from old times and from arrangements which have never been reformed. But it was not a case of protection of one part of the country against an-other, but at every turn the people were forced to pay tolls which dislocated trade. The establishment of a Customs barrier in Ireland would undoubtedly dislocate trade between the two countries, but without in any degree setting up protective tariffs. I protest altogether against the Resolution, which commits this House to a financial system which would inflict a great injustice on the people of Great Britain, which will take their money out of their control, for purposes which will no longer be subject to British authority, and which will, on the other hand, reduce Ireland from the state of prosperous comradeship which she is now in, sharing in the commonwealth. Why are we to change a financial system which is confessedly bringing Ireland great prosperity, and why are we to inflict upon Great Britain what she certainly will feel, if not at once, then sooner or later, is a deep and burning injustice. Why are we to do these things when under the existing system we have nothing to do but persist in the policy of the past, to bring peace and contentment to Ireland, to- bring and increase the wealth and prosperity which are in large measure already hers, and make that policy of the Union the complete success which is already more than three-fourths of the way towards achieving the fondest hopes of those who originally set it up, and of disappointing those pessimists who in the years which intervened since its original passing had almost begun to despair of its ultimate success.
§ Mr. LEES SMITH
I desire to deal with one point on which I happen to have formed a rather strong opinion. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Fulham (Mr. Hayes Fisher), speaking both this 1042 year and last year, expressed considerable apprehension that these financial provisions might be used to very considerable and very evil effects against a particular part of Ireland, that is against Ulster, and presumably I suppose by means of direct taxation. It is on that point I wish to make a few observations. I believe that all those who followed the discussion on this Bill carefully, as I did my-self, could not help coming to the conclusion with regard to the discussion last year, that they were of a character entirely different from those which took place on the Bill of 1886 and 1893. In the discussions on those Bills with regard to the financial provisions or any others the opposition was based chiefly, if not largely, upon the interests of Great Britain and upon the effect of those proposals on the integrity of the United Kingdom and the development of the British Empire. But in the discussions which we had last year that point of view was comparatively little expressed. The whole issue between the two parties has now narrowed itself, for all practical purposes to the one question of how we can deal with the four counties in the North-East corner of Ulster. I wish to express my personal opinion, which I think is shared by a large number of people outside this House, that both in finance and on the whole view of this subject that fact deeply alters the situation. It was in 1884, I think, Mr. Gladstone proposed to Lord Salisbury that the whole of this problem might be lifted out of the arena of party politics and settled by consent, but owing to the wide and deep differences of view which then prevailed, I can see that that was impracticable. But, I am bound to say, now that we are left with the one difference concerning Ulster, it does seem to me both in finance and in the whole problem that if all parties desire it would be possible and probably easy to settle this question by general agreement.
With reasonable give and take on both sides it is possible to establish a Home Rule Parliament for the whole of Ireland, and yet to make it impossible that the people of Ulster should be vindictively oppressed. I believe that can be done not only by one method, but that we have several alternatives. I may mention one method which has very strongly attracted me. I believe that both in finance and on the whole question it would be possible to establish between the people of the four counties and Nationalist Ireland, a relation similar to that which exists 1043 between Ontario and Quebec. Just as you have a legislature for Ontario and a legislature for Quebec, with a Parliament for the whole of Canada, so you could have a State legislature for the four counties, ant a State legislature for Nationalist Ireland, and an all Ireland Parliament for the whole nation. You could devolve upon the two State legislatures powers over all direct taxation, and, of course, other subjects could be left to the all Ireland Parliament. That is only one method, but there are others which could be suggested by which in this question of finance as in the rest of the problem it would be possible to come to an agreement upon this question, and yet to make it impossible either in taxation or legislation or administration that the people of North-East Ulster should be oppressively treated. I felt that I should like to make those few remarks. It is scarcely necessary for me to say that I make them entirely for myself. I have not had any communication with any Member of the Government, or with anybody else of any particular importance. I should like to add one learns a good deal by sitting in this House. As I sat and listened to the Debates on the Home Rule Bill I could not help conceiving a very great sympathy both for Nationalists and Unionists. That is the reason that I venture to hope, if not now that at some time, it will be possible for us to settle by agreement a problem which after all has confronted other countries as well as ourselves, and which, as a matter of fact, has been quite successfully dealt with.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Resolution to be reported to-morrow (Wednesday.)