§ Order for Committee read.
§ Mr. JAMES HOPE
I beg to move, "That it be an Instruction to the Committee, notwithstanding anything in the Order of the House of the 23rd day of June, that they have power to divide the Bill into two Bills, the first dealing with the constitution and powers of the Irish Parliament, and the second dealing with the alteration in the constitution of the Parliament of the United Kingdom."
This Motion, of course, brings in an exception to the procedure arranged by the Order which the House passed on 16th June, but I am sure that the House will welcome the reopening of the discussion of this important and fundamental point, because it is a fact that the Imperial and British side of this question is too often overlooked. There are two sides to this Bill. The Bill has its Irish side and it also has its British side, and it is certain that both in the discussions in this House and elsewhere that, I will not say an undue amount of attention, but a very great amount of attention has been directed to the purely Irish side, and its bearing upon the future government of Ireland and upon parties in Ireland. Its bearing upon the Constitution of the United Kingdom and upon the prosperity of Great Britain have been rather overlooked. In saying this, I am very far from saying that my hon. Friends from Ireland have been wrong in devoting special attention to the Irish side. I fully admit that they have an exceedingly strong case, as I was very glad to testify on the public platform at Leeds with my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dublin University (Sir E. Carson) the other day; but I do not want that case to overshadow the Imperial side and the constitutional side as it affects this Parliament, with all its history and its traditions, and the working of the Imperial machine at large. Therefore, I hope that my hon. 1576 Friends from Ireland will bear with me when I say, if it is not so imminent, though it does not arouse such passions, and though happily it is not likely to lead to the tragic consequences to which the purely Irish provisions of this Bill are likely to lead, still in the end, considered in its historical perspective, it is likely to be important too. There are two Clauses which affect the Constitution of the United Kingdom. There are other provisions intertwined with the Irish Clauses, but there are two Clauses in special which do make grave and fundamental alterations in the Constitution of the United Kingdom. The first is Clause 13, which says that until another Bill of this description is passed:—After the day of the first meeting of the Irish Parliament the number of Members to be returned by constituencies in Ireland to serve in the Parliament of the United Kingdom shall be forty-two.At the same time, it places no limitation on the powers and rights of those Members when they come here to take part in our discussions. Their powers are in no way limited, as it was proposed in former Bills by Mr. Gladstone to limit them to special matters affecting Ireland. Obviously, this is a very great change, and it is a change which, I think, has prejudicial effects in two ways. From the Imperial point of view I say that the number of Irish representatives is too small. As long as Irishmen are taxed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom it may be argued, when we come to this Clause, that they ought to have a proportionate numerical representation. Therefore it affects the Parliament of the United Kingdom in this way, that on Imperial matters it deprives us in our councils of the advice of the full number that hitherto came to this Imperial Parliament. On the other hand, as regards our local affairs, it 1577 enables the representatives from Ireland, though in a reduced number, to exercise control over the local affairs of Great Britain, while at the same time it withdraws Irish local affairs from the ordinary jurisdiction of this Parliament. That will make a very great and very important change in the Constitution of the Imperial Parliament. I may point out that the Members coming from Ireland will be to a very great degree irresponsible in these matters. Knowing that they have entire control of their affairs at home, they will only vote on matters in this Parliament in pursuance of and as part of some plan in furtherance of Irish interests.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Gentleman is not entitled now to discuss the Clause. He is only entitled to give reasons why the Bill should be divided into two Bills in the manner suggested in the Instruction. He must reserve the discussion of the merits of the Clause until his Resolution is carried.
§ Mr. HOPE
I quite appreciate that. My remarks were gradually being focussed on the point that the provisions of Clause 26 were of such importance, and were so far-reaching and so special in their consequences, that they did deserve to form a separate Bill, with the intention that at later stages in this House, and in the discussions in another place, these matters should be dealt with separately and should be brought under the notice of the Legislature as separate considerations. I will now turn to Clause 26. I do not propose to discuss it, though it is necessary to remind the House of its provision. It provides that, if it appears to the Joint Exchequer Board that certain matters have happened, then the Joint Exchequer Board shall specify in what proportion the Irish Members sent to the Imperial Parliament shall be increased. That would bring a very great change about, as was pointed out by one of my hon. Friends who moved a similar Instruction last year. It gives a body not responsible to Parliament the power of interfering with its constitutional mechanism in a way certainly without precedent in our Constitution, and I should say without precedent in any other Constitution, because I do not think that any parallel can be deduced between the decisions and proceedings of this body and those of a judicial body like the Supreme Courts of the -United Kingdom or elsewhere.
1578 This irresponsible body will have power to interfere with and to interrupt and dislocate Parliamentary proceeding by giving the Report mentioned in Clause 26. and if such a Report is presented it will be necessary to alter the whole numerical quota of Members from Ireland. The additional Members will come not empowered to vote upon all matters, but only on certain matters. There will be forty-two Members who will take part in all our discussions, and there may be thirty more who will have power only to take part in some. That would obviously produce an entire revolution in our constitutional machinery. It was Mr. Gladstone, think, who described it as passing the power of human ingenuity to devise any possible means of distinguishing between Imperial and local matters under such circumstances. Undoubtedly the effect of introducing this extra number will be to create a position of peculiar difficulty with regard to the Rules of Order; it may offer to the occupant of the Chair in the future very great difficulties, and it will lead to great dislocation of, and great confusion in, all our proceedings. No doubt I shall not be in order if I attempt to point out what I consider to be the main evils attaching to this Clause; but it is enough for the Motion I make this afternoon to point out the very great transformation which it foreshadows in our Parliamentary proceedings. It will be a great and vital change. If I were able to comment further on the duties of this Board I should be able to show in detail, as indeed I hope to do when my Motion has been accepted, that the Clause extends to an extraordinary extent the powers given to this Board.
I pass from that to the position of the Lord Lieutenant. Here again we have a great change affecting the status of Ministers. The Lord Lieutenant has hitherto been a Member of the Government, understood as such, a politician siding with his' political party, assuming office with his political party and relinquishing office with his political party. Now he is to have a dual position. He is, as regards Ireland, to be a constitutional sovereign in the same way as the Governor-General of Canada or of the Dominions of Australia is a constitutional sovereign. But at the same time he is to be the servant of the Ministers at home. The Governor-Generals in the Dominions, though they may nominally, do not practically occupy that position, because it is 1579 understood that, in all internal affairs, the Governor-General will act on the advice of his Ministers. But it is contemplated in this measure that the Lord Lieutenant shall not always do so. He is sometimes to act under the direction of the Government at home. But there is nothing specified in the Bill, as far as I remember, providing that he is not to have his life coterminous with that of the Ministry which appoints him, as at present.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I do not see that the position of the Lord Lieutenant is raised in this Instruction, neither do I see how it is relevant to the Resolution.
§ Mr. HOPE
I had thought it was relevant, because his position as regards the Imperial Government undergoes a change. However, I will not further deal with that point. But I do ask the House to consider these Clauses and these provisions, not merely as to the effect that will be produced by the Bill as a whole, but that they should be separately considered, and that the attention of both Houses of Parliament shall be directed to their effect on the old traditions and usages of the House. I should be sorry indeed, even if it were possible, to go into the many provisions of this Bill as relating to Ireland, and the effect of my Instruction, if carried, will not be to do that, but I do think that the purely British case, the purely constitutional case, whether it related to Ireland, Scotland or Wales, in this Bill was somewhat overshadowed by the more dramatic and lurid side presented by my hon. Friends from Ulster. It is to take back the discussion to those calmer constitutional reasons, and to allow the proposals to be put separately before both Houses of Parliament and to be presented separately to the electors, that I move this Instruction.
§ Mr. SANDYS
The proposals contained in my hon. Friend's Instruction were before the House last year when this Bill was for the first time under consideration. I do not propose to recapitulate the arguments then employed in support of a similar Instruction moved on that occasion, but, speaking for myself, so far as I am concerned, my view is that the reasons which occurred to me at that time as extremely adequate and weighty reasons for dividing the Bill in the way suggested by my hon. Friend, have been very much strengthened by the events which have 1580 taken place since the time when the Instruction was originally moved. For instance, we are now in the fortunate position of being able to review the whole situation of the Committee stage of the Bill, and I think it must be apparent, even to hon. Members opposite, who time after time told us that every facility would be afforded to this House for the proper discussion of this important question—it must now be apparent to them that in considering these great questions in one Bill they undertook a task far larger than they were really able to tackle. Clause after Clause of this important measure was absolutely unconsidered——
§ Mr. SPEAKER
These considerations are not relevant to a proposal to divide the Bill into two parts.
§ Mr. SANDYS
Owing to the fact that this Bill contains two proposals, one dealing with the establishment of a new Government in Ireland and another reconstituting and remodelling the British Constitution, I think it would be better to divide the Bill into two parts. The argument I was endeavouring to put before the House, but which I am afraid I did not make quite clear, was that the attempt to deal with it in one Bill has been a complete failure, because we have had no opportunity of adequately discussing important questions dealing with these two different subjects during the Committee stage of the Home Rule Bill. My argument is, therefore, that this is an additional reason why we should adopt the plan suggested by my hon. Friend and divide the Bill into two portions, so that, at the subsequent Committee stage, we shall not be under a similar disadvantage.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The only question is whether the Bill should be treated as a whole or split into two. The Motion does not propose any alteration of principle laid down by this House on the Second Reading.
§ Mr. SANDYS
No, neither do I propose any alteration. But I do suggest that it would simplify any discussion which may take place, and which will probably take place if this Instruction is passed, and it would facilitate discussion if the suggestion of my hon. Friend was adopted and the Bill was divided into two parts, one dealing with the constitution of the Irish Parliament and the other dealing with the alterations in the constitution of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It is 1581 not necessary, I think, at this stage of our proceedings, to emphasise the extreme importance of both these proposals. Each of these questions appears to be of such paramount importance, both to the people of Ireland and to the people of this country, that they absolutely demand that they should be treated in separate and distinct Bills. Several hon. Members on this side, at the time of the original discussion, urged that it would be far better if two Bills were drafted instead of one, and I still think so. One reason why I think so is that because we have, time after time, been told by lion. and right hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House that this Home Rule proposal is to form the basis of a new Federal system which is ultimately to be extended—I am glad to see from the cheers just given that I have the approval of hon. Members for Scotland —to all parts of the United Kingdom, and that while this proposal only deals with the establishment of a new Parliament in Dublin, ultimately, if things go all right, we are to have a new Parliament established in Edinburgh, and another new Parliament established in either Cardiff or Carnarvon —I am not sure whether the selection has yet been made—and, I suppose, when all these subordinate Assemblies have been decided upon we shall begin to think about a Parliament for England, although there has been very little enthusiasm displayed, so far, in regard to the position of the predominant partner.
We have made some progress since the first discussion in connection with the question of Home Rule for Scotland, and, as the situation is rather different from what it was before, I think that is an additional reason why we should make the division I suggest, so that we can consider the position of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, both in relation to the new Parliament which is to be established in Dublin and also with reference to the new Parliament that is now foreshadowed for Scotland. The point I desire to emphasise is that if we proceed under this haphazard method, so much favoured by the right hon. Gentleman in the Home Rule Bill, the result, will be that the poor British Constitution will come out as a thing of shreds and patches. It is not to have an Act of Parliament to itself. It is to be a curious conglomeration of little bits of Acts of Parliament dealing with other parts of the United Kingdom. If the Irish precedent is to be followed, it is to be built up out of a Clause here and a Clause there in the 1582 Bill for Ireland, in the Bill for Scotland, in the Bill for Wales, and in the Bill for England. I think we shall do far better to stick to our own Constitution, that old system which has served us so well for so many generations. If we are going to have a new Constitution for the United Kingdom, which seems to be the ultimate intention of the right hon. Gentleman, let us have it in an Act of Parliament to itself, so that we can see how it stands and the people—I know hon. Gentlemen opposite do not attach much importance to this—whom we represent in this House may have some idea of what is actually going on. To treat the Constitution of the United Kingdom in this contemptuous fashion is an outrage upon the past history and the traditions of this country. Under the provisions of the Home Rule Bill forty-two Irish Members are to come here to represent Ireland in the Parliament of the United Kingdom. That sounds fairly well so long as we are only dealing with the question of Ireland, but we must know the whole position of the representation it is desired to allocate to Wales, Scotland, and England before we say that forty-two is the proper number.
§ Mr. SANDYS
I was endeavouring to point out that it was difficult for us to allocate the proper representation, say, from Ireland, until we were in a position to know what was going to be the representation from the other parts of the United Kingdom. That question could be dealt with if we had a separate Bill dealing with the Constitution of the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
That would not be affected in the least, because all that the hon. Member proposes is to cut Clause 13 out of this Bill and put it in a separate Bill. That would not affect what was done in Clause 13.
§ Mr. J. HOPE
On a point of Order. If this proposal were carried, there would be two Bills, upon each of which a Motion might be made on Third Reading to recommit. Therefore, it would be relevant to allude to the considerations which might arise upon such Motions for recommital.
Mr. SAN DYS
As to the argument regarding the number of representatives from the different countries under the new proposals, I may point out that the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University (Lord Hugh Cecil), in a very interesting speech he made upon the occasion of the original moving of this Instruction, did deal with this question, and was allowed to do so when you, Sir, were in the Chair, and was not ruled out of order. Had that not been so I should not have dealt with it on this occasion. The Instruction being similar, I thought similar arguments would be allowed. It is obvious that the question of the Constitution of the Parliament of the United Kingdom and the great changes in it foreshadowed in these proposals are of such vital importance that they demand separate treatment in a separate Bill. We shall then let the people of the country know how the matter really stands, because my impression is, and it is one generally shared by hon. Members on this side of the House, that although the people of this country may perhaps understand that proposals are before us for the purpose of establishing a new Parliament in Dublin, I am perfectly certain that the vast majority of the people have no idea whatever of the far-reaching changes which are being made in the Parliament and Constitution of the United Kingdom. I may point out that the Prime Minister himself has admitted the desirability, nay, the necessity, of the people of this country being fully informed as to what is going on in the case of any constitutional change. He made a very strong statement to that effect in speaking in this House on the 6th May. He said:—The House of Commons in my opinion, is perfectly competent to determine this question as it thinks fit, but that does not in the least degree preclude me or anybody else from asking the House, if it is to preserve its authority, and if it is to retain the confidence of the country, to think twice, to think thrice, before it takes a step unprecedented in its extent "—This is the point to which I wish particularly to call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman—without a full and assured conviction that it has behind it in taking that step the deliberate and considered sanction of the community. These are general considerations which are applicable, in greater or in less degree to any constitutional change."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 6th May. 1913. col. 1907. Vol. LII.]I maintain that the right hon. Gentleman is not justified in assuming that he has behind him in this vast change in the Constitution of the United Kingdom the deliberate and considered sanction of the community. I attach great importance to 1584 the argument that the people of the country are not fully aware of the great changes which the right hon. Gentleman proposes to make in the Constitution of this country, and I believe that they can only be put into a position of greater knowledge, which is most desirable in dealing with important questions of this kind, by adopting my Friend's suggestion and embodying these changes in our Constitution in a distinct and separate Bill. This Bill, which my hon. Friend suggests should be drafted——
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member is labouring under a mistake. The principle of this Bill and everything contained in the Bill has received the assent of the House upon Second Reading. The only proposal before us now, is that the Bill which the House has already sanctioned should be divided into two parts. The hon. Member is labouring under a mistake if he thinks that a fresh Bill win have to be introduced.
§ Mr. SANDYS
I am sorry if I have not made my meaning clear. The point I desired to make from the quotation I read from the Prime Minister's speech, was that the people of the country did not fully appreciate what was going on, and that it would be far easier to explain to them the changes that were being made in our Constitution, if that part of the Bill which deals exclusively with the changes made in the Constitution of the British Parliament were embodied in a separate measure. There is another point which I think is of particular interest to hon. Members specially engaged in dealing with the question of Home Rule for Scotland. It is that the right hon. Gentleman himself has admitted upon several occasions that this Bill is to form the basis of a Federal system, that is to say, that these two Clauses out of the Irish Home Rule Bill, which I now propose to be embodied in a separate Bill, are to form a basis of an Imperial Parliament and a Federal system for the whole of the United Kingdom. The right hon. Gentleman made that perfectly clear in a speech which he delivered upon the 6th May last year, to a deputation of Scottish Liberal Members, when he declared:—Home Rule for Ireland would leave the Constitution lobsided, incoherent, illogical and inconsequent.Time after time he has said, in the course of Debates and in speeches he has made in various parts of the country, that this 1585 Home Rule Bill was to form the basis for a new Federal system, which was ultimately to be extended to all parts of the United Kingdom. Therefore, these two Clauses with which we are dealing this afternoon, and which my hon. Friend proposes to embody in a separate Bill are, as we understand them, to form the basis for a new Federal system which is to be extended to different parts of the United Kingdom. My point is this—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"]—I had to recapitulate these arguments because hon. Members opposite, when it is inconvenient to discuss the Federal system in connection with the Home Rule Bill are rather anxious to back out of it—I think it is admitted that this Bill is to form the basis of a new Federal system. If that is so, it requires the most careful consideration and demands that it should be embodied in an absolutely separate and distinct piece of legislation. If this portion of the Bill is going to form the basis of a new Federal system, if it is going to be drawn up in this haphazard, lobsided manner, it is not going to give us a proper system of administration in this country in the future. Let me point out to the right hon. Gentleman what difficulties there are under a Federal system which has not been carefully and thoughtfully considered beforehand. Within the last few weeks we have had a very striking example of the dangers to which a Federal system may expose a great nation. We saw that legislation brought forward by the State of California had the effect——
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member is now wandering into the merits. We cannot discuss the merits upon this Motion. We are now merely discussing a matter of precedure.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Mr. SANDYS
I shall endeavour to avoid a discussion in regard to the merits. My object was to show that a Bill of this kind, embodying a new Federal system for the United Kingdom, required very careful consideration, and that we could not give it that consideration unless it were embodied in a separate Bill. I was trying to show that a Federal system which had not been carefully considered and drawn up was a source of very great danger to any nation. I maintain that, unless our new Federal system receives the most careful consideration by this House in a distinct and separate Bill, we are liable to expose ourselves to exactly the same dangers as 1586 those to which the American Constitution has been exposed during the last few months, and on these grounds I sincerely hope that this House will give its most careful consideration to the proposal of my hon. Friend. I believe it will facilitate the discussion of this matter if the provision which my hon. Friend suggests is carried into effect, and what is even more important, it will make it clear to the people of this country that we are dealing by means of this Bill, not merely with proposals for establishing a new Parliament in Dublin, but that we are also endeavouring to make far-reaching changes in the British Constitution itself.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The words "notwithstanding anything in the Order of the House of the 23rd day of June "are unnecessary, because there is nothing in the. Order of the House relating to this stage. Therefore I will put the Instruction without them.
§ Question proposed, "That it be an Instruction to the Committee that they have power to divide the Bill into two Bills, the first dealing with the constitution and powers of the Irish Parliament, and the second dealing with the alteration in the constitution of the Parliament of the United Kingdom."
§ The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Asquith)
I assume, from what you have just said, that the fact that you did not intervene before indicates that in your judgment this Instruction is not inconsistent with the Order made by the House a week ago in regard to the Committee stage of the Bill. I would not venture to do anything but defer to that ruling, but it is very difficult to see how, if the Instruction were carried,. any effect could be given to it consistently with the Order which must regulate the proceedings of the Committee, because when we go into Committee the Chairman is directed to formally put the Question that he report the Bill without any Amendment to the House, and no other Question. That is a matter which I have no doubt they have carefully considered, and to my-mind it seems to raise primaâ facie rather startling difficulties of procedure.
§ Mr. J. HOPE
I did consider these difficulties, and therefore I put the words in, basing myself on the precedent of the famous Motion of the right hon. Gentleman that the Division on my hon. Friend's. (Sir F. Banbury) Amendment should be rescinded last year.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
There is nothing so dangerous as to act on a precedent which is not in point. As regards the merits of this Instruction, they were most carefully debated a year ago, when it was proposed and, after full consideration, rejected by a majority of more than 100. The arguments which prevailed then are just as forcible to-day as they were, and the Motion the hon. Gentleman has just propounded, of splitting the Bill in two, which would, in some mysterious fashion that he has not explained, require greater sanction from the electorate and from public opinion for each of the two halves than if put as a whole, if the whole passed as one, is an entirely novel departure in our Parliamentary procedure. The arguments which I used upon that occasion seem to me as conclusive to-day as they were then. In the first place, there is a certain absurdity about the Instruction, because it proposes to divide the Bill into two Bills, the first dealing with the constitutional powers of the Irish Parliament and the second dealing with the idea of the constitution of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, but that leaves a great part of the Bill which does not fall either -within one category or within the other. The hon. Member, when he was called to order, was alluding to a very important topic, the position and functions of the Lord Lieutenant. That has nothing to do either with the powers of the Irish Parliament or the constitution of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. So with the judiciary, and so with many provisions in regard to finance. So that if this Instruction were really acted upon by the House, something I calculate like a third of the Bill would not be covered by either of the two measures into which it is proposed to separate it. I do not know whether that strikes the hon. Member as a very logical proceeding.
But, quite apart from that, it is quite impossible, I will not say to discuss, but even to consider the expediency of the proposals in this Bill which deal with the setting up of an Irish Parliament on the one side and those which deal with the necessary changes in the constitution of the Imperial Parliament on the other as if they were in two water-tight compartments. On the contrary, they arc inter dependent, as our discussions last year showed when we got into Committee. At every stage when you are discussing one, you inevitably discuss the other also. In fact, you cannot form any intelligent, 1588 certainly any trustworthy, opinion as to the merits of either unless you consider its relation to the other. So much for the merits of the question as they were last year and as they remain to-day. But, of course, there is a further point which comes in this year which did not exist last year. If this Instruction should be acted upon by the Committee, it is quite clear that the two Bills into which the present Bill would be split would neither of them come within the operation of the Parliament Act—the hon. Member is a very astute Parliamentarian and knows that very well—because each of the two, I will not call them twins; that physiological term has been very much abused in recent Parliamentary elections; but each of the two halves into which the present Bill was divided would clearly not be identical with the Bill which was passed last year as a whole and rejected by the House of Lords, and, therefore, neither of them could claim the privilege of the Parliament Act. In addition to the objections which were urged against it, which proved overwhelming, and which were approved by the House last year, the fact is that it is an attempt, perhaps an honest attempt, but a very obvious attempt, to exclude the Bill altogether from the operation of the Parliament Act. In these circumstances, I need not say that the Government must ask the House to repeat the decision it gave last week and to reject this Instruction.
§ Mr. HEWINS
At a very early stage, if I remember rightly, in the Home Rule Bill of last Session the question was referred to you whether the provisions of the Bill did not go outside and beyond the title of the Bill, and the very important question on a point of Order was put to you, and I think at any rate the impression left upon us by that discussion was that undoubtedly the Bill did go beyond purely Irish questions and trespass upon English questions, and did go beyond the title of the Bill. I should not for a moment dream of commenting in any way upon the decision. I only refer to the incident to prove that there is something in this of very great importance, because, supposing the contention of my hon. Friend, who addressed the question to you had been upheld, the Government would have been in a position of the greatest possible difficulty, awing to the fact that they had introduced a provision in the Bill which was not consistent with the title. That case does not stand alone. We had a repetition 1589 ef the same sort of thing in regard to the Welsh Church Bill, where there are Clauses independent of, and outside and beyond the title of the Bill. If procedure of that kind is to be allowed to go forward without comment, we are getting to a very dangerous stage. The Prime Minister rather ridiculed my hon. Friend in regard to the use of the term "Constitutional." I cannot imagine a disquisition ever being written on the constitution of any country which would not include its financial powers and all the other things which are, as a matter of fact, included. It is simply a question of the proper, ordinary and common meaning of the term "Constitution," and the very narrow interpretation the Prime Minister chooses to put upon it. In these circumstances, I do not see the ground on which the Prime Minister criticised my hon. Friend. The course he suggested is perfectly practicable in the sense of splitting up the Bill.
The next question is whether it is desirable so to split up the Bill and take two votes instead of one. I contend that it is extremely desirable that we should have two separate votes, in view of the great interest this question excited at the very beginning of the Home Rule discussion, when the question to which I have alluded was referred to you. In view of the fact that there are great changes brought about by this Bill, it is very desirable that we should have a separate vote. Hon. Members should, at least, have the courage to vote definitely on proposals to alter and disarrange the Constitution of this country. It is a very moderate thing. The Prime Minister said we cannot do one without the other. I contest that statement. I could not go into it without going outside the rules of order, but I protest against that statement. It is perfectly possible to draw up a Constitution for Ireland which does not affect it in the way the Prime Minister said. In fact, what he says about the impossibility of the interdependence of these two Constitutions merely gives one more proof that the Prime Minister is doing what he said all along he would not do. He is not creating a subordinate Parliament. He is creating a coordinate Parliament. I do not see that anything has been said by the Prime Minister which diminishes the great importance of this question in regard to the procedure of the House and the procedure which may be adopted in future Bills. The course my hon. Friend suggested is perfectly practicable, and it is 1590 desirable in the interest of this House and in the interest of sound constitutional government in this country.
Mr. RONALD M`NEILL
At first I had a certain amount of doubt whether I could support the Instruction. I was not at all sure that the two parts of the Bill—that affecting Ireland and that affecting the United Kingdom—were not so inextricably mingled together that it really would not be possible to divide one from the other. But the speech of the Prime Minister was quite sufficient to convince us on this side of the House, if we had any doubts before, that the course proposed by my hon. Friend is a perfectly practicable one.
It being a Quarter-past Eight of the clock, and there being Private Business set down by direction of the Chairman of Ways and Means, under Standing Order No. 8, further Proceeding was postponed without Question put.