§ Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [28th April].
§ "That, in view of the serious nature of the Naval and Military Movements recently contemplated by the Government against Ulster, of the incompleteness and inaccuracy in material points of the statements made by Ministers, and of the continued failure of the Government to deal frankly with the situation, this House is of opinion that there should be a full and impartial inquiry into all the circumstances."—[Mr. Chamberlain.]
§ Question again proposed. Debate resumed.
What the Opposition has been asking for for some time past is an inquiry into the circumstances which have been the subject of such animated debate in and out of this House. The Government have refused, and apparently are going to continue to refuse, to give any such inquiry. The justification for their refusing the inquiry was given by the Prime Minister a few days ago, when he said that the proper place in which the honour and the credit of Ministers were to be vindicated was the floor of this House. The doctrine may or may not be right, and may or may not have exceptions, but at all events those who announce the doctrine should follow it. Having insisted that instead of an inquiry we should have a Debate, surely it is their bounden duty to take advantage of that Debate to explain the contradictions and the lacunas in the whole story laid before us, and which are not brought before us now for the first time, but which have been put in the most specific language by persons of authority on previous occasions on which an answer, if there is an answer, could easily and 1721 satisfactorily have been given. These opportunities were never taken advantage of, but I certainly thought, when at their own suggestion and under pressure, I may almost say, from the Prime Minister, we asked for a day to discuss these things, that the Government would take advantage of that opportunity and reply seriatim to the various statements, charges, and difficulties which have been made or felt on this side of the House. Nothing of the sort has occurred. They put up the First Lord of the Admiralty to reply to the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for East Worcestershire (Mr. Chamberlain). They might have known by experience that, when the right hon. Gentleman is put up to reply in detail to specific and perfectly clear charges made by my right hon. Friend the Member for East Worcestershire, the invariable result is an outburst of demagogic rhetoric which may be very appropriate to certain occasions and in certain places, but which is not appropriate, if he and the House will allow me to say so, when the subject in dispute is statements or misstatements made by the Government of which he is a Member. It was his business to deal with these statements. After he had dealt with them, after he had, to the best of his ability, given a reply to them, any little outburst of eloquence which he might have thought fitting or appropriate to the occasion would doubtless have been received with toleration on this side of the House.
The right hon. Gentleman's speech was made up of two wholly dissimilar parts, neither of them relevant to the subject under Debate. There was the demagogic part, which lasted for most of the hour and a half during which the right hon. Gentleman spoke. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] It was not thought too long by hon. Members opposite, of course, but it lasted the greater part, at any rate, of the speech which the right hon. Gentleman made to us. Then there was the statesmanlike part which came as a peaceful close towards the end. Neither of these parts had had anything to do with the Debate—well, that is going too far. Neither of these parts supplied a specific reply to the specific allegations; these the right hon. Gentleman altogether ignored. Whether he was trying to imitate the best platform style of the Chancellor of the Exchequer or the most tactful persuasiveness of the Prime Minister—whichever of the two models he tried to copy—on neither one side nor the other did he make 1722 the smallest effort, to deal with the particular charges which we have desired here to raise. I quite admit that though the right hon. Gentleman has not thrown any light on those charges, though he has not attempted any specific or detailed defence of the position of his Government, or of the statements made from time to time by that Government across the floor of the House, he has thrown a most interesting and important light on the whole course of events between the 9th March and the 21st or 22nd—during that fortnight or three weeks that followed the 9th March.
What is the story the right hon. Gentleman told us? What is the impression which every impartial auditor must carry away from the account which he gave? I will venture to the best of my ability to tell the story as I reconstruct it, or as I deem it to have occurred after hearing what the right hon. Gentleman said. He told us that in his view the turning point of the whole Ulster question, the critical moment in this episode, was the rejection, as he called it, of the offer made by the Prime Minister in his speech of the 9th March. What occurred is tolerably obvious. The right hon. Gentleman was deeply indignant that the offer to exclude Ulster for six years, and then bring her in, whatever the circumstances were, whether Ulster liked it or not, was one which ought to have been accepted greedily by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Bonar Law) and by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Trinity College (Sir E. Carson). He must have known—he did know; the Government must have known—they did know, that it was quite impossible that peace and reconciliation should be established on that basis. It might form a subject for discussion—well and good; but that offer, as it came from the Government, was to be accepted in the form in which it came from the Government. That is obvious; and anybody who knows the circumstances of the case knows that it could not be accepted, and was not expected to be accepted, by a single Member of the Cabinet who made it. Nevertheless, so infuriated was the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty that, from that moment apparently, a new policy was adopted, by him at all events; I do not say by the whole of the Government—I rather think it was not adopted by the whole Government—but it was adopted by him and by those whom he could persuade or influence, and it was that 1723 policy which has led to all the subsequent trouble. The right hon. Gentleman worked with, amongst others, the hon. and learned Member who leads the Irish Nationalist party (Mr. John Redmond), and with the hon. Gentleman who sits for West Belfast (Mr. Devlin). It is a matter of newspaper notoriety that they consulted together. I understand, though I do not read the fashionable news, they twice breakfasted together at a critical moment.
§ The FIRST LORD of the ADMIRALTY (Mr. Churchill)
No; I did not have the pleasure of having either of those Gentlemen to breakfast.
The fashionable news is, as it often is, completely incorrect, and if it is regarded as an injurious charge against the right hon. Gentleman I entirely withdraw it.
§ 4.0 P.M.
But the right hon. Gentleman and the two Nationalist Members of whom I have just spoken, made immediately afterwards three speeches in rapid succession, and I do not think that those speeches can be dissociated either from each other or from the movements, military and naval, which accompanied them or shortly followed them. I need hardly say it was perfectly proper, being engaged on a common enterprise, that they should pay each other very full-flavoured compliments in these three closely associated speeches. I think the hon. and learned Gentleman the Leader of the Nationalist party talked of the "superb" speech of the First Lord of the Admiralty, and the First Lord of the Admiralty talked of the "patience, wisdom, and eloquence" of the learned Gentleman. Lest there should be undue favouritism he talked ofthe brilliant and courageous speech of the Member for West Belfast.These reciprocal compliments were all in order—nobody would object to them—but they emphasise the fact that all these Gentlemen were driving at one object, and that object certainly was not peace in Ulster. In the "superb speech" we know that the First Lord of the Admiralty had almost ad nauseam talked of putting things to the proof, that he talked of the possibility of extensive bloodshed, and that he explained to his audience that when the first British 1724 soldier or sailor or coastguardsman perished in a riot or an engagement, or whatever it was, the whole British nation would be roused to fever heat, and I think he said that the foundations of society would be shaken; in other words, he suggested that the time had come when steps should be taken to see whether Ulster meant business or not, and that if, as a result of that most dangerous and wicked experiment, a single man in His Majesty's service suffered, then the whole of this country would be in a blaze, Ulster would be crushed by the might of Britain, and the future thereafter must look after itself. That was his suggestion. He was backed up by the prudent, wise, and eloquent Leader of the Irish party, who said thatForce must be met by force,and by the courageous and brilliant Member for North-West Belfast, who said that the whole Ulster movement was a sham, a fraud, a humbug, and shameless bluff. So you had in these three speeches, made almost on three consecutive days, made within a very short space of each other, every element of provocation to Ulster, combined with every effort to incite the British nation to deal with the superior strength of the British arms against their countrymen in Ulster. So far these were merely preparatory speeches. They merely prepared the ground in this country for what might occur in Ulster. But when that was over, or in part while that was going on, the right hon. Gentleman and those who acted with him were reflecting how these matters were to be put to the proof. The device they hit upon was to discover that stores which had been in danger apparently since last December for the first time required looking after in the middle of March. They also discovered that in order to look after those stores which had been in danger from the middle of December to the middle of March, it was necessary not merely to move a company or two of troops, but to make almost as extensive military and naval preparations for dealing with Ulster as the United States are now making to deal with Mexico. The result was, as we know, that ships were directed—that a Battle Squadron was directed—to go to a spot within easy reach of the possible scene of action, that a Military Governor was appointed for Belfast, that Naval attachés or Naval advisers were added to the staff of the Commander-in-Chief, and that 20,000 men were to be ready to be on the line of the Boyne. I believe that even 1725 Aldershot was given notice that further troops might be required. All this, mark you, in order that stores which had been in danger from December should be protected when nothing new whatever had happened. The result might have been absolutely disastrous to the whole future of this country. There might have been, not unnaturally, though most lamentably, provoked some kind of resistance which might have led to bloodshed, however trifling. Then we know that in the language of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty, England would have been in a blaze from one end to the other, and the foundations of society would have been shaken.
That was the scheme. Through no merits, so far as I can see, on the part of the Government, the scheme miscarried. Mark you, I do not think, I have not said, and I do not believe that the Government as a whole desired this plan or were conscious of all that they were doing. I may be wrong in that, but I think I am not wrong. In any case wiser counsels prevailed. It was clear that it was impossible in the then state of public opinion to force the pace in Ulster, or to carry out with a high hand any of those schemes which appear to have crossed the minds of some Members of the Government, in other words, it was impossible, in the language of the First Lord of the Admiralty, to put matters to the proof. Let me observe here, that there has been a counter explanation. Everybody will admit that the story I have told requires explanation. There is a counter explanation. [An HON. MEMBER: "It only requires denial."] I think the hon. Gentleman is mistaken. If he reflects on the admission of the First Lord of the Admiralty that the turning point in the whole matter was what occurred in this House on the 9th last, if he considers the speeches thereafter made, and if he considers the orders to the Fleet and to the Army, imperfectly as we are allowed to know them, he will feel that something requires explanation, and that a mere denial is totally and utterly insufficient either to persuade contemporary opinion, or, let me tell him, the opinion of those who in future times will investigate, with more knowledge than we are permitted to have, the transactions of these three weeks.
After the courteous interruption of the hon. Gentleman, of which I do not complain, I return to the alternative explana- 1726 tion upon which I think I should say a word. It has been given, I think, in more than one quarter, but the most authoritative quarter in which it has been given is that of the late Secretary of State for War (Colonel Seely), who gave it with great lucidity last night, and has given it before. The theory he wishes us to accept is this: That all the Government wanted to carry out was a perfectly insignificant and innocuous military operation, little more than a purely police measure, but that the information they received indicated that this might grow and grow and grow until the force required to carry out these trifling acts of protection might require a gradually increasing amount of support until, apparently, almost without limit, the military resources of the Kingdom were to be strained and the Fleet were to be drawn into requisition. That, let me tell the House and the hon. Gentleman who interrupted me, in itself is a most extraordinary story. I do not at all suggest that the right hon. Gentleman (Colonel Seely) does not fully believe it.
I do not suggest that. But has it occurred to him that you have got into a state of things in which the whole military and naval forces of the Crown are to be used in order to protect a few rifles and a few military stores in Ulster—that things have got to a point at which something other and different should be done? If you are, as I think, wicked enough and insane enough to think that the proper course is to coerce Ulster, then frankly coerce her. I think that is a terrible policy even to contemplate, but go in frankly, as the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty said—and as, to do him justice, I believe he would have done—go in frankly and say, "We are going to fill Belfast with troops; we are going to cover every perilous spot with our Artillery; we are going to see that nothing goes along the high road except by our permission—[HON. MEMBERS: 'By permission of King Carson!']—and we are going to strangle the whole Province in the strong grip of our superior military and naval forces." That is a wicked and insane policy, but I think it is a frank and open policy. This idea of gradually getting in all your troops under the excuse of a row to protect a few rifles and ammunition cases seems to me not frank, and seems to me to be in the nature of what is constantly called, and always will be 1727 called, "a plot," and which has all the evils which attach to the open and frank policy of the First Lord of the Admiralty, without its simplicity, its candour, and not undue or unnecessary concealment.
I rather think I have. In that connection let me point out to the late Secretary of State for War why I think it is quite impossible to accept this theory that round the nucleus of these two or three companies of Infantry gradually were organised the whole naval and military forces of the Crown, and for no other purpose than to protect these stores.
§ Colonel SEELY
No. That is a totally inaccurate statement, made quite inadvertently no doubt. Had the right hon. Gentleman heard what I said on this and previous occasions, the object was not to use all the forces of the Crown to protect these particular stores, but in order to maintain law and order and to support the civil power in its ordinary duty. The whole forces of the Crown might have been required, and had they been required would have been sent so long as I had the power, but not in order to protect these stores.
I think the light hon. Gentleman has hardly apprehended my point. Surely what he has just said confirms what I was pressing upon the attention of the House. They were to begin by a perfectly innocuous movement of two or three companies. This was to produce civil disturbance. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] This might have produced civil disturbance. There are plenty of subjects on which we may very well differ, and I do not wish to bring in others unnecessarily. In his view this might produce disturbance. That in turn might require the assistance of soldiers; that in turn might require you to introduce more soldiers; and that in turn might require even Aldershot to be drawn upon and the Fleet.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I will ask the hon. Member to try and break himself of the habit of constantly interrupting. It does not lead to orderly debate in this House. It is very difficult, if the hon. Member indulges in it, for me to restrain hon. Gentle- 1728 men on the other side. He has made a practice of doing it, and I would most respectfully suggest to him that it is not the best way of carrying on debate.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
It was quite unnecessary for the hon. Member to repeat his observation, whatever it was. It is not the first time the hon. Member has interrupted. If it had been, I would have passed it over. I have noticed that the hon. Member time and again has adopted the same procedure, and that makes it extremely difficult for hon. Members to speak and extremely difficult for me to restrain hon. Members on the other side from interrupting.
§ Mr. HAMAR GREENWOOD
On a point of Order. Is it in order when you deal with a private Member of this House, and that hon. Member gets up to make an explanation, and it may be an apology to the Chair, for him to be shouted down, as the hon. Member has been shouted down?
I have never complained of individual interruption as far as I myself am concerned, though, of course, I am not discussing the general order of the House. I was trying to explain to the right hon. Gentleman the late Secretary of State for War why it is that. I cannot accept this theory of his about the slow accretion of force which would be required, and I find it impossible to believe that that was a true and complete account of all that passed through the minds, at all events, of some of those who were responsible for what took place. I cannot reconcile it, for example, with the action taken about the Fleet. I never heard of a First Lord of the Admiralty who thought it necessary to go to the Cabinet to get leave to move the Fleet from one position to another in the ordinary naval routine. That may be the practice of the present Government, but it has certainly never been the practice of any Government of which I ever heard in the past. Then I should like to know how that theory is to be reconciled with the statement that officers connected with Ulster might temporarily disappear. It is one of the unexplained contradictions which have occurred in the course of these discussions. The Prime Minister at one time stated that this was 1729 a general order given as far back as December. I do not see how to reconcile that with Sir Arthur Paget's statement that it was a concession extracted in March from a semi-reluctant Minister for War. It is not with the contradiction that I am dealing now, it is with the fact that Sir Arthur Paget quite clearly, when he went to the Secretary of State for War, and begged for this concession, anticipated that there were to be great operations in Ulster in which it would be cruel to involve men who were themselves connected with Ulster. Then I do not see how it is to be reconciled with the appointment of the Governor of Belfast, because that was a hurried measure. The officer first designated for the post happened, unfortunately, to be ill, and another man had instantly to be put in his place. How is all that to be reconciled with the theory of the right hon. Gentleman?
Then there are two other grounds which I would respectfully bring before the House. One is—it has been mentioned before, but it has never been explained or answered—how is it that General Paget did not put an end to the whole difficulty when he got the letter from the officers explaining that if they were only to go to Ulster to protect life and property and to carry out the ordinary duties of a soldier in supporting the civil authority, they were all prepared to go, but if there were to be military operations in Ulster they were not prepared to go, and were prepared to sacrifice all their professional prospects rather than go. If it had been in Sir Arthur Paget's power to say to them, "Gentlemen, you have quite mistaken the intention and the policy of the Government. I shall ask you to do nothing but protect property and life; all you are asked to do is what soldiers have to do, namely, to support the civil authority in case of disorder, which cannot be controlled by the magistrates and police"—if he had told them that they never would have resigned, their resignations would never have been sent to London, they never would have been summoned over to London, they never would have been dismissed, they never would have been reinstated, and they never would have required reinstatement. Hon. Members do not see this argument staring them in the face on the White Paper because the documents have been put in the wrong order. There are three documents in succession. The first is a telegram from Sir Arthur Paget to the 1730 War Office saying that officers had resigned, then a telegram from the War Office telling them to come to London, and then a letter from the officers to Sir Arthur Paget. A hasty reader might think that these events occurred in the order in which they appear on the White Paper, but the first document should have been the letter from the officers to Sir Arthur Paget. It is on the basis of that letter that the General Commanding-in-Chief telegraphed to the War Office, and in that letter the officers declare that they are perfectly prepared to carry out those duties which are the ordinary duties of a soldier in supporting law and order, and if Sir Arthur Paget could have honestly told them that in his opinion they would have had to do nothing else, it is clear that the whole of these incidents would never have occurred, and all these difficulties would have been avoided. Therefore, I point out to the late Secretary of State for War that in Sir Arthur Paget's view it was perfectly clear from that telegram of his to the War Office alone that he contemplated something much more than the mere preservation of life and property.
Then there is one last argument that I shall bring before the House in this connection which by itself ought to persuade the late Secretary of State for War that he is mistaken. The First Lord of the Admiralty told us yesterday that the pith of all these transactions, the central point from which they all sprang, was the Debate in this House. How can they have sprung from a Debate in this House if they were concerned only with rifles and ammunition?
§ Colonel SEELY
I have stated before that I had urged on my colleagues that we should protect these stores long before we had that Debate—two months ago.
Quite so. The right hon. Gentleman first began to urge upon his colleagues when he first heard in December that these stores were isolated, and that there was possible danger from ill-disposed persons. But his appeals fell on deaf ears until 9th March—until you have got, in other words, to what the First Lord of the Admiralty calls the critical occasion. Then you have the whole transaction. I ask the late Secretary for War whether it is conceivable that the protection of a few rifles, and a relatively small amount of ammunition, should have sprung from a Debate in this House with regard to the 1731 terms that were to be offered, or not offered to Ulster? The truth is that the whole of this minimising case was given away yesterday, and given away for ever by the First Lord of the Admiralty, and it is the attempt to minimise that which it is difficult to minimise, or impossible to minimise, which has led to all these un fortunate discussions across the House as to the truth or untruth, consistency or in consistency, of Ministerial statements. No body can deny that there have been contradictions in the Ministerial statements. Nobody can pretend that the accounts they gave of transactions within their own experience correspond with each other. Nobody, for example—I merely give it as an example—can pretend that the account given by the right hon. Gentleman himself in this House of the events of the clay which preceded his first resignation were at all in conformity with the account of the, same transaction given in another place by his own colleague, Lord Morley. Nobody can pretend that the statements made by the First Lord of the Admiralty yesterday about the free use of troops politically to coerce Ulster were in conformity with the doctrines to which the late Secretary for War has often given expression, and to which, as I understand, he still unreservedly holds—
Namely, that it would be criminal and impossible to use the forces of the Crown to exercise political pressure on Ulster.
The same doctrine was preached by the Lord Chancellor in another place, by Lord Morley in another place, and even in this House I heard myself the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs say that the idea of coercing Ulster without first appealing to the people of this country was a thing he would never contemplate. All these things are inconsistent with each other, and show that the Ministry were not agreed either as to what ought to be done, or even as to the general principles which should govern what ought to be done in the case of Ulster. I suspect that even the right hon. Gentleman animated, irritated, and infuriated by what he thought the improper rejection of what he offered on 9th March, had become incomparably more violent in his attitude towards Ulster since that fateful day. Nobody, I 1732 think, who looks over all the statements that have been made in the two Houses of Parliament, who tries to make out a coherent story from them, who tries to reconcile the assertions made by one Minister on one day with those of another Minister on another day, will not see that the Government had got info a hopeless tangle, and that they were helplessly struggling to get out of all that has been brought upon them by the unfortunate policy which broke down. I confess that little as I think those contradictions and errors and misstatements made by Ministers are to the credit of the House, still less, I think, is it to the credit of the House that they should never have been explained when opportunity of explanation presented itself. Melancholy as I think it is that we should be in the position of being told that there was an explanation given yesterday, or that there would be an explanation-given to-morrow, but that there was never an explanation forthcoming to-day—melancholy as is that example, I think all these unfortunate Parliamentary incidents show almost white and innocent compared with the larger scheme, the possibility of which certainly loomed before the minds of some Members of His Majesty's Government. The First Lord of the Admiralty made a most violent speech yesterday—at the beginning—and he told us that when we brought forward this vote of censure it was rather like criminals bringing forward a vote of censure against the police. There is one character disgusting to every policeman, and which even the meanest criminal thinks inferior to himself in point of morals, and that character is the agent provocateur.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I presume the right hon. Gentleman is now going to bring forward some evidence in support of that statement?
The evidence which I think amply sufficient is in the right hon. Gentleman's own speech yesterday, interpreting the speech he made in the country, and throwing a light on all the transactions in which he has been concerned. I do not want to quarrel unnecessarily with the right hon. Gentleman. Nor do I think anybody will think that so great a master of vituperation as the right hon. Gentleman has any special claim to tender treatment from those from whom he differs.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I am not asking for tender treatment. I know the right hon. 1733 Gentleman will permit me to say that he has made a charge as shocking as it is possible to make. I am certainly not asking for tender treatment, but I invite him to prove the charge.
I think we might have an inquiry. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite have an inveterate dislike to that form of investigation. Let me briefly point out to the right hon. Gentleman, as has been pointed out before, that he himself has made certain public statements which no other explanation will satisfy bat that he contemplated operations in Ulster which, if they had produced any result at all, would have brought out the result of repressing Ulster at the cost of much shedding of blood. I base that statement on his assertion that everything began with the rejection of the Prime Minister's proposal on 9th March; that that was followed by his famous speech at Bradford; that that was followed by all these unexplained movements of the Fleet and the Army; and that he openly told the country and his own followers—and they enthusiastically received the statement in this House—that of course if, in these transactions, a single soldier or sailor were shot, all England would rise, and the bases of society would be shaken. He lent himself to transactions which might easily have caused the loss of life in Ulster. He did it knowing the danger, and he apparently boasts now that it is the first and fundamental privilege of His Majesty's Government to use soldiers in as provocative a way as they like. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!" and "Quote!"] Will you read his speech? [HON. MEMBERS: "Quote!"] I am not going to read his speech, because I have not got it before me. Is it denied by those who heard it that the right hon. Gentleman said in this House that everybody would admit the right of His Majesty's Government to march troops up and down Ulster exactly as they liked?
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I said that, though it was our right to do so, I thought it would be a very unwise thing, and we had never contemplated it.
Let me quote a statement:—If the military, even within their rights, come upon the streets in circumstances when their doing so may create disturbance, they may be committing an offence against the law.That is the view of your Lord Chancellor. It is not an obiter dictum of the Lord Chancellor. It was the statement given by the Lord Chancellor in evidence before a Com- 1734 mittee to look into this very difficult question of the relation of the soldiers to the civil population, and it was in the course of that evidence, given on his responsibility as a great lawyer dealing with these cases, that he laid down that proposition. We now, at all events, know that the opinion of the Lord Chancellor as regards the law governing the relation between the civil and military population is not the view of the law entertanied by the right hon. Gentleman, who has so much knowledge on many matters. I have already spoken longer than I intended, and perhaps more controversially than I intended, but I must leave the right bon. Gentleman in his character as a demagogue and come to him in the character which, I hope, is more natural to him, and which certainly suits him bettor—his character as a statesman. In his character as a statesman the right hon. Gentleman made certain proposals yesterday, and made certain suggestions. That travels, I think, far beyond the limits of this Debate; but when a Minister of the position and authority of the right hon. Gentleman travels from the comparatively narrow issue raised by my right hon. Friend's Resolution, it is inevitable that those who follow the right hon. Gentleman should take some notice of his statements. It is clear to everybody, whether he be a Home Ruler of the Nationalist type, or of the British type, or a convinced Unionist like those who sit on these benches, that there are two questions which have to be considered in the grave position in which the Government now finds itself. I cannot exaggerate my sense of the gravity of the position. I believe that it is shared by many who differ profoundly from me in general opinions, and perhaps by some who are offended at what I have said this afternoon, but I do not think that anybody can doubt it.
I am not going to discuss the ethics of civil war. The right hon. Gentleman appears to hold a view, which, so far as I know, has never been held by responsible British statesmen—at any rate, not for centuries—that there are no circumstances in which it is justifiable for a population to resist the Government. They must be most rare. Such circumstances in any reasonable community must be of a kind which could only occur once in two or three centuries without shattering the whole fabric of society. But they may occur; they have occurred; and there has never been any question with regard to 1735 some of us on this side of the House that the coercion of Ulster, in the sense of compelling Ulster to leave a free Government under which she is happy, and put her under a Government which she detests, is one of those cases, I hold now, and I held nearly thirty years ago, that if Home Rule was forced upon Ulster, Ulster would fight and Ulster would be right. I have held the same view consistently ever since, and have never wavered from it. But, because I have never wavered from it, does anybody in this House suppose that I do not think that it is one of the most appalling and terrible calamities that could ever happen to a great nation? I do not merely contemplate or even chiefly contemplate its results in Ulster. To think of that great industrial community devastated, perhaps ruined, perhaps permanently losing its great industrial position through civil war, is in itself a reflection of horror, but I do not believe that even that would be the greatest calamity that would ensue. The very discussions which we have had show how, when you over-press these problems, when you drive your legislation to the breaking point, you will get discussions which I think are utterly demoralising to the general community.
You think that they are demoralising only to us. They are demoralising also to you, and even now at the point which we have reached I believe that some injuries have been done which cannot easily be repaired. I believe that what I think—though you may differ from me—are the unscrupulous attacks made on the Army have been more disastrous to that force than the loss of a pitched battle. I believe that we are not only suffering now, as the First Lord of the Admiralty told us yesterday, but that we are going for a long time to suffer in the councils of Europe by what has occurred, and I think that if to these evils are added the further actual evils of civil war the ills which will follow on it are beyond the power of human computation. I have said, and perhaps I am still going to say, though I hope not, things which are not likely to appease the bitterness which exists between the two sides of the House; but I felt bound to be candid on this matter. But we have to consider, surely, whatever views we take of Home Rule, what the result of civil war will be. To judge by the sort of language in which, in a part of his speech, the First Lord of the Admiralty indulged, and to judge by the cheers with which those observations 1736 were heard, he contemplated the possibility of having to crush Ulster with fire and sword. I have no doubt that it is in their power. May I ask who is there, and what are the opinions of him, who thinks that any cause that any of us hold at heart is going to be furthered by that transaction, which is to be done in the interests of Home Rule?
Do you think that Home Rule would be possible after you had done it? Peace and good government to Ireland with Ulster devastated and trampled under foot—the thing is an utter absurdity. It would ruin Ulster. It would ruin a great deal more than Ulster. Would it help Home Rule? Not a bit of it. There is no cause, whether of social reform, political reform, Home Rule, the federation of the Empire, or a federal system in this country, that would not be ruined by such a catastrophe. Then let us hear no more. I beg the House, of putting things to the proof. I listened with the deepest attention to the final words of the right hon. Gentleman, and I confess that when I heard them yesterday, I thought that they had in them the potency and the promise, not indeed of a solution of the Irish question, not indeed of the settlement of the Home Rule question, on any lines which I should consider tolerable, but at all events the promise and the potency of a settlement which would avoid this final and irreparable catastrophe of civil war. I do not know how to interpret the observations, made by the Prime Minister at Question Time to-day, upon the subject of his colleague's suggestion. The Prime Minister himself, I believe and I know, has earnestly desired a peaceful solution, however little in my opinion he may have contributed to this result, but the Prime Minister indicated, as I thought, that this was a mere experimental suggestion of the First Lord of the Admiralty—what the French call a ballon d'essai, and that it had neither his authority, nor the approval of Gentlemen behind him—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear"]—nor the assent of the Nationalist Members below the Gangway.
If that is so, I do not know that it is worth either my while, or worth the while of the Leader of the Opposition or of my right hon. and learned Friend near me to say more about it. But when I heard the statement uncommented upon by the Prime Minister I certainly thought that a great advance had been made by the Government towards a solution which, however unsatisfactory to everybody, did 1737 at all events show a way of escape from the final and irremediable catastrophe. Because what was the suggestion? If I understood the right hon. Gentleman aright, the suggestion was this, that Ulster should be excluded, or, let us say, that the North-East of Ireland should be excluded, without time limit, from the operation of the Home Rule Bill, and that my right hon. and learned Friend should do his best after that arrangement had been put on the Statute Book to preach the doctrine that, when federalism or Home Rule all round—federalism, I think, it was called by the right hon. Gentleman—was accepted as part of our Constitution, Ulster should form with the rest of Ireland one of the units of that federal system. There was part of this proposal which in itself, I think he will agree, is a little fantastic. It was not an essential part of it, but it was on the fringe of it. I do not see how my right hon. and learned Friend can promise to spend the rest of his life in preaching the doctrine of federalism—I do not know what his views on federalism are—and accompany that propaganda with the doctrine that, if there was federalism, Ireland as a whole should be one of the constituent States within the whole system. But what it did show me was that the right hon. Gentleman had returned, if I may say so, to his pre-9th-of-March attitude of mind, that he did now really desire to seek a solution which would avoid civil war, and it indicated to me that he had grasped, what I think is the undoubted basic truth of the situation, that unless you exclude the North-East of Ireland from your Home Rule Bill, do what you will, you cannot get over the probability of civil disturbance, which would be an incalculable misfortune in itself, and would destroy all prospect of Home Rule for the present succeeding.
I do not believe that you would ever get Ulster to join the rest of Ireland in the future unless you exclude it in the present. Whether Ulster would ever be prepared to throw in her lot as part of a federal unit with the rest of Ireland, who on earth has prophetic power that will enable him to tell? Does it not turn upon how hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway manage their affairs? Does it not turn upon the most incalculable thing in the world, the progress of public opinion and the movement of human thought? And who is audacious enough to say that he can tell that by the time we have matured this prospective federal system, either what the Irish 1738 Parliament will have done or what Ulster will be feeling, or what the general views of the population of the United Kingdom may be? All those anticipations are vain. In my view, there is nothing this House can do which will save the horrors of civil war except the total exclusion of the North-East of Ireland, with, of course, provisions, if you please, when the North-East of Ireland alters its opinion, that its status should be altered. That is another matter. At all events, leave the future to take care of itself, not attempting to make impossible prophesies or to embark on impossible pledges as to what this House will or will not do in a future which cannot be immediate and may be remote. In view of the fact that the Prime Minister gave no endorsement—he gave no contradiction—gave no sign of approval of the suggestion made by his right hon. Friend, I do not know that it is worth discussing what other obstacles there may be; but it seems to me that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Churchill) was perpetually afraid lest those who dislike Home Rule on this side of the House should regard the exclusion of Ulster as a party triumph which will enable us to make some political boast over our opponents.
I suppose that I and my right hon. Friend (Mr. Chaplin) are the oldest Members of this House, and we have been concerned—certainly I have been concerned almost the greater part of my political life—in fighting the cause of the Union. And if anybody thinks that I should regard it as a triumph that there should be put on the Statute Book of this country anything which I regard with such horror as a Home Rule system, even without Ulster, they little understand the ideals for which I have striven through all my political life. There was a time, and it is not so very long ago, as my life is measured, when I cherished the dream that if law was restored in the Southern provinces of Ireland, if every grievance was removed, if every inequality was smoothed away, if every encouragement was given to legitimate industry, if every equality, and more than equality, were given to our Irish fellow subjects, ancient memories would gradually soften, men would look forward as well as backward, and there would grow up what there ought to be as between these two islands, a common hope, a common loyalty, confidence in the common heritage, and all this might be accomplished under one Parliament. For that— 1739 I must put it egotistically—I have striven; for that I have argued in this House and out of this House, for that I have worked weary hours at legislative projects, and striven to accommodate legislative details to the needs and necessities of the moment. If the result of all this is that, in order that civil war may be avoided, with all its incalculable horrors, that there is yet to be established in Dublin a separate Parliament, to the injury, as I personally think, of the Irish people, and not less perhaps of the British people, then I, for my part, may be an object of pity to the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Churchill); but he need not think that I shall regard such a consummation as a triumph over my political enemies. On the contrary, it is the mark of the failure of a life's work; it is the admission that the causes for which I have most striven, which I have most earnestly sought to accomplish, are fated to break down, and that long labours spent in this House and out of this House in political work have not borne the fruit that I once hoped they might.
§ Sir RYLAND ADKINS
I hope the House will not think it improper if, in the first words I venture to address to the House, I desire to express the admiration, which I think we all feel, for the dignity, sincerity and skill of that memorable utterance to which the House has just listened. The right hon. Gentleman's opinions are his own; his position and his talents are part of the common property of this House. Whether we agree with him or not, or however profoundly we may be moved to most acute disagreement with his position, we are glad indeed to have his point of view presented to the House in so eminently and so admirable a way. There can hardly ever have been in the Parliamentary experience of anyone in this House a Debate more remarkable, more unreal in form and more profoundly real in substance, than the Debate which has taken place here yesterday and to-day. The House is asked to grant an inquiry as regards the action of the Government some weeks ago as regards their omissions in Debate or their imperfect and incomplete answers to questions. While this Motion calls the direct attention of the House to events of three weeks ago, there is no one in this House whose mind is not absorbed in the position to-day, and who is prepared to deal with the events of three weeks ago in the light of the knowledge we have to- 1740 day? The right hon. Gentleman's speech, like more than one of the speeches we have heard already, had great divergencies of tone and method. He recapitulated, with a dexterity that we all envied, his view of the events from the 10th of March onwards. He has constructed from those events, as he sees them, a theory which apparently comes to this, that while the Government were actually dealing with the necessary protection of the stores, they were dealing with it in a way which would lead, inevitably and designedly, to some movement of the troops in Lister, which, in the opinion of Ulster, was provocative of civil war.
It is open, of course, to every Member of this House to judge of those acts according to the evidence before us. But we have not yet heard from any Member of the Opposition in this House, nor have we seen any argument directed to it in any newspaper or from any person supporting the Opposition, that, in fact, contradicts the statement of my right hon. Friend that every order given for the movement of troops has been made clear on the White Paper, and that any further movements than those connected with the defence of the stores were contingent only on the defence of the stores being followed by disturbance on the part of evilly disposed persons. Unless and until the Opposition are able to show that the movements which did take place, and the abstinence from movements which followed thereupon, were part of a scheme to act independently of the action of evilly disposed persons, neither this House will believe, nor the public will believe in this monstrous theory of the troops having been moved for the purpose of bringing about a civil war. From what hon. and right hon. Gentlemen said on that side of the House one would imagine that in Ulster there were no persons armed, that there was no action other than that of ordinary political crowds, that there were no conditions which were laying the train for an explosion, that there was nothing being done by persons, having no connection with the Government, which rendered the atmosphere inflammable and the situation dangerous. And when blame is to be allotted, when responsibility is to be assigned, are we to hear nothing of those who have passed from political action to provocative action, month after month, and year after year?
If we are to come to a just conclusion, if the country to whom we all alike look, 1741 is to give a sound judgment on the subject, are we to hear everything as to what the Government have done, and nothing of what has been devised, compassed, and carried out on the other side for more than two years now? We are told that the critical date was the 9th March, when the concessions of the Government were mentioned in so strange a manner. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Trinity College (Sir E. Carson) will find it consistent with the spirit of full revelation which is apparently current for the time being on those benches, to tell us what he meant in the famous letter of his, in which he said that the time has come for a new forward movement. What was there left in the way of a forward movement, except to break the King's peace by gun-running or some other action. When a person with the power of the right hon. Gentleman, a person with the traditions of the right hon. Gentleman, whose resoluteness and will has before now spoiled the best chance of the prosperity of Ireland, and who is more responsible than any living man for the failure of those projects of devolution and land reform, which will ever be associated with the name of George Wyndham, whom we all deplore, when, then, a person with the right hon. Gentleman's traditions and power and strength of will has said openly to a number of persons that he has trained and organised and armed, and when he talks about the time coming for a new step forward, what would anybody think, and how would anyone construe such language? The Executive Government, being made aware of that, would be faltering with their duties if they did not reconsider how far the King's peace in Ireland was put in fresh peril by what the right hon. Gentleman said, and if we are to go with the meticulous care of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Worcestershire into the facts of all those days and hours, and if we are to have a large part of the time at Question Time occupied by the conundrums of the hon. Member who sits for a Division of Birmingham, we should, at any rate, remember that it was not only the reception of these concessions here, but that the action of the right hon. Gentleman in Ireland and in that letter are material factors in seeing the consequence of events, and in judging of the currents of opinion and action which actually lay behind them.
The Resolution that we are dealing with is in three parts. The first deals with the 1742 serious nature of what the Government did in March and in April. With regard to that, I would merely say that when we are asked to consider it, and to vote for an inquiry turning on that point, we are bound to ask what about the much more serious things which have happened since. Then we are asked, in the second place, to deal with the incomplete and inaccurate statements of the Government. We may very well leave that to what has been said by ray right hon. Friend who sits next to me (Colonel Seely), and to what was already pointed out by the Prime Minister in his intervention in the course of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Worcestershire (Mr. A. Chamberlain) and to the right hon. Gentleman's reply to-night. The third part of the recital, and the third ground which is put forward for an inquiry into these events of the past, is because it is suggested that the Government did not deal frankly with the House. When information is asked in this House as regards naval and military movements, surely not only the Government, but Members of the House, are entitled to know for what purpose those questions are put. How can anyone believe that it is for the public service to have any further information given to hon. Members who showed clearly that they are in the closest and most irregular touch with officers in his Majesty's Army, and who themselves in the whole of this Debate, and, so far as I know, at no time in this House, have ever said a word to deprecate that combination against the law which is now existing in the North-East corner of Ireland? Therefore, when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dublin University boldly, as he always does, affirms his responsibility for present illegality, and for further illegality as it suits him, it is intolerable that the Government should be blamed in this House for not providing ammunition or such arguments as can be constructed, and should be blamed for refusing to give information which would be merely used for the purpose of weakening the arm of the Executive, and bringing, unhappily it appears, not the Army, but individuals of the Army, into a frame of mind in which they would thwart the decision of Parliament and of the responsible Government of the day.
So much for the plea alleged, and so much as to the ground on which the inquiry is asked. I think we are surely entitled in this House, when we are asked to 1743 vote for this inquiry, not only to deal with the reasons which are given, but to remind ourselves of the circumstances under which the Resolution is brought forward. What are the circumstances of the case to-day? Everybody knows at the present moment that neither Ulster nor any part of Ulster is being coerced, nor is there the slightest risk of its being coerced. All these questions have been used with great skill by those who argue from the other side of the House, but behind them all the fact remains that as long as the law is not broken by persons living in Ulster itself there is no Member of the Government, and there is no supporter of the Government, who is desirous of using armed force in the controversy at all. It is only when the initiation of law breaking is taken by those opposed to the Government that the Government is bound, if it does its duty, to use such arms as are effective so that the King's peace reigns there as in other parts of the United Kingdom. I suppose now we may take it that this combination against the law in Ulster which the right hon. Gentleman opposite has organised with such patience and care and skill now meets with the whole-hearted and undisturbed approval of His Majesty's Opposition. Of course it has the full and hearty approval of the hon. Member opposite whose methods take us back to the seventeenth century. It would be scarcely courteous to refer in this House to the name, but we are reminded of the days of the Popish Plot, and the mixture of faction and of fiction in which its promoters indulged by the action of the hon. Member. One would still imagine that there were some Members of the Opposition who thought that great political controversy, described in none too grave words by the right hon. Gentleman who spoke last, could be conducted without condoning offences against the law which happened last Friday.
So, Sir, there is no question of Ulster being coerced now or of Ulster being coerced in the future. The offer of the Government to exclude North-East Ulster for six years, whether it be taken or not, has of necessity altered the situation materially. Those offers cannot be made in public without having a very great effect for good or evil upon the whole of the situation. Everybody knows that if Ulster be excluded from this Bill, or if any part of Ulster be excluded from this Bill for any period, short or long, that the final 1744 determination or destiny of Ulster would turn not upon the theory of Home Rule, but upon its success in actual practice. Therefore it is perfectly certain, and it is known outside this House to men of all political opinion, that there is no risk whatever, so long as people in Ulster are law-abiding, of the forces of the Crown being used to coerce them in any sense in which that word can be honestly applied. Accordingly, we are asked to vote for this Resolution at a time and under circumstances when there can be no question of coercing Ulster, and at a time and under circumstances when Members of His Majesty's Opposition have no word to say in support of the inhabitants of Ulster keeping the peace, and have no word to say in reprehension of what happened last Friday, and have no word of advice to give, or of moderation to exercise, upon a brave but prejudiced people, who have been exploited year after year for the political ends of an Opposition whose other methods are so absolutely a failure.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Strand (Mr. Walter Long) indicates with his genial courtesy his disagreement from the last contention I put forward. I will only remind him briefly that I am not here to embitter this controversy, but we, at any rate, and many people outside other than professing Liberals or Labour or Nationalists, have been impressed, perhaps not as they were intended to be impressed, by the famous utterance of the Leader of the Opposition in his Blenheim speech, by the statement of Sir Edward Clarke the other day, that there was no longer need to have any concessions in Ulster, because now the Army would not act, and by the whole argument which lay behind the surface geniality of the speech of the Noble Lord the Member for Portsmouth (Lord C. Beresford), who, while saying that of course soldiers and sailors ought to obey, was equally of opinion that they would not—a new and dexterous bearing of the old saying, "Don't nail his ears to the pump." There are those speeches to which one refers, and of course there is the policy, the continued and no doubt quite conscientious policy of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dublin University, and even more remarkable because of its different tone was the speech last night of the hon. and learned Member for Kingston (Mr. Cave), who devoted all his legal acumen to suggesting that the Executive have no power to keep order unless the 1745 local magistrates ask them to do so. True that is so in normal times, but in abnormal times it is the Executive of the country which in the last resort is responsible for peace and order, and is to behave accordingly. What is to happen if magistrates are infected by those doctrines of illegal resistance against those who do not act in the way in which their political wishes accord.
We have heard a great deal about Ulster. I yield to no man in this House in my desire to see this problem solved with peace in Ulster. The description of North-East Ulster as a solid body of protestors organised to break the law for righteousness sake is a caricature. There is not a little evidence that in North-East Ulster there are some of the elements of a reign of terror. Woe betide the man who does not agree with the local majority. Woe betide those there who do not make their utterances conform to the policy, and to the words of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dublin University. Who can tell as to whether the precepts which we hear from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bootle (Mr. Bonar Law), the constant reiteration that servants of the Crown would be right in taking sides, the constant suggestion that the person who is to be obeyed is not His Majesty, but the Anti-King from Dublin University, who can tell whether those things may not, God forbid they should, but who can tell whether they may not prove stronger in some cases than those of oaths of allegiance or military discipline. Therefore, under those circumstances we are asked to vote upon this Resolution, and those events of last Friday are present to the minds of all of us on this Motion.
I wish to add a few words as to the spirit and the hope with which one votes against this Resolution. I say nothing here and now as to the possibility of varying concessions, or as to the ultimate issue of the legitimate constitutional controversy with regard to Home Rule. I, at any rate, have never said anything here or elsewhere to embitter that controversy within constitutional lines, but I have said strong things, and I would say far stronger things if I knew how, as regards these extra constitutional and illegal methods which are brought into use. I hope, as must as any man in this House, that the Irish question may be settled, if not by consent, by the assent of all parties concerned. In voting against this Resolution, and thereby voting confidence in the 1746 Government, I am confident that the public now require that law and order should be restored and maintained in North-East Ulster. We do not ask the Government to move hurriedly, or to do anything in a panic, but we look to them to see that actions like those of last Friday shall not be possible in the future. If it be that the proper instrument for maintaining order should break in their hands, the sooner that is known the better. If the intrigues of unscrupulous politicians have been effective, let us know. The Conservative party have of late abdicated their guardianship of law and order in these realms. That is now part of the burden which the Government exclusively have to bear.
At the present moment there are two great multitudes in this country whose eyes are turned to the Prime Minister and the Government. There is the great multitude of those who think most of law and order, and of the maintenance of the King's peace, believing that to be an indispensable condition of any civic freedom at all. There is another great multitude whose minds are full of the question of self-government and of the supremacy of this House. They see the supremacy of this House threatened. They know what are the declarations of right hon. and hon. Members opposite. That great body of opinion also looks to the Government. If it adds to the Government's responsibility, it adds to the strength which is behind them. They have difficulties around them and in front of them, but they have no danger if they will maintain the King's peace, and not be bullied by anyone. It is because I have confidence in my right hon. Friend and the Government, as well as for the reasons I have already given, that I shall have no hesitation in voting against this Resolution. I am certain that it is only when these threats against the ordinary execution of duty by the King's servants have proved ineffective that all parties in this House will be in a frame of mind to consider on their merits the proposals for reconstruction in Ireland, and to find, as I believe will be found, that the solution of this great controversy is not by giving way to that side which would leave us with four-fifths of Ireland exacerbated instead of with one round spot of opposition, but by adopting means which will, if not solve the problem by consent, solve it in a way which will be increasingly successful as practice proves the dicta of political theory.
§ Sir EDWARD CARSON
I should not intervene in this Debate at all, nor, indeed, would I be entitled to do so, having regard to the amount of time already taken up by this bench to-day, did I not feel that I am bound to state my views, having regard to the latter part of the speech of the First Lord of the Admiralty last night. Before I come to that, may I say to the hon. and learned Member who has just addressed us (Sir Ryland Adkins) that I willingly bear all the censure which he has bestowed upon me for my lawless action, and that I willingly bear any consequences of that action that may ensue. For two and a half years, weighing all the consequences, I have taken up the position that I have in leading men who have asked me to try to preserve their rights under this Imperial Parliament; and, while nobody is more anxious to avoid all the consequences which have been so well depicted of the forcing of this Bill upon the North-East corner of Ireland, as it has been called, I can assure the hon. and learned Member that neither I nor those who follow me have negligently or inconsiderately entered upon the course upon which we have entered. We have done it because we are acting morally in accordance with our consciences. We fear no abuse; we fear no terms of opprobium. And as regards any consequences that the law gives us, not only will we bear them cheerfully, but we will be glad to bear them, having regard to what our feelings are in relation to the wrong that is being attempted to foe done. The First Lord of the Admiralty yesterday read to us Statutes about treason, treason-felony, and other matters of that kind. Does he not think that I know all these laws? Does he think that I have not considered them? Does he not think that the men with whom I am acting have considered them? Perhaps he will allow me to read him a statement issued the other day by the trade unionists of Belfast—a statement which I never saw nor knew of until it was issued. I will read it because I want the House, if they will, at this grave and deplorable crisis in our history, to do me the honour of really trying to believe that I am not masquerading in this House, but that I am trying faithfully to represent the interests of those who are affected by this great controversy. Here is what they say. It is an appeal to English trade unionists:You have been told by the Radical and Socialist Press, and from Radical and Socialist platforms, that Ulster's resistance to Home Rule is an aristocratic 1748 plot, engineered by the aristocracy for its own ends, and for the oppression of the people. This is false. We, your fellow trade unionists in the North of Ireland, the only part of the country where labour is as fully organised and articulate as in your own country, tell you that this is false.The statement goes on:—Have yon read that these workers are ready to die rather than be robbed of their right to be governed under the same laws and administration as yourselves—robbed by a Government which will not and dare not consult the people? If you have, you know that we are prepared to die fighting for our freedom, and for our birthright of British citizenship under a British Administration. How then can you think that we hold our lives so cheap as to become the dupes or cat's-paw-of any class or section of the community? Sir Edward Carson leads us, because we, the workers, the people, the democracy of Ulster, have chosen him as the champion of our stubborn determination to remain under the same Government as you do, and if anything befell him we would still find a leader, perhaps from the aristocracy, perhaps from the ranks of trade unionists, but the leader would he chosen by the people of Ulster to fight the battle of democracy.What I would observe about that is, that these men are members of the same trade unions as those who are represented by the Labour party below the Gangway. If any body of trade unionists in this country issued a document similar to that, the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty would be grovelling before them. And, after all, is there not something more to be learned from all this than merely to be lecturing us upon the penalties attaching to the breaches of the law into which you are driving us? [A laugh.] Hon. Members may laugh or jeer at that statement, but do they think that men sacrifice their lives, as these working men say that they are prepared to do, unless they are conscious of the very deepest wrong, a wrong which they believe to be incompatible with the future existence of the rights which they have either as citizens of the King, or in relation to the business which they are carrying on? No; the lesson you ought to learn is the desperate reality of the question with which you have to deal, and when you are up against feelings of that kind, I would really ask the First Lord of the Admiralty, what is the use of telling me or of telling these men, "If necessary we will send 40,000 troops against you to put you down. If necessary we will send my troops to put you down." I know that you can. I have made almost that speech myself over and over again. I have said over and over again, in Belfast and throughout the country, that I should be sorry to think that the British Army and the British Navy were not strong enough to put down a community such as is in Ulster. But, said the right hon. Gentleman, "We will conquer you, if necessary." Conquer you? 1749 Yes, Sir, a pleasant prospect—that Ulster should remain for all future time as a conquered province of Great Britain. A conquered province, and why? Simply because she wants to remain under this Parliament and an Executive responsible thereto. You are to conquer her, and, if necessary, to use force to the extent of conquering her, because she is trying to preserve what not one of you would give up.
While the right hon. Gentleman was speaking yesterday I often asked myself this question: Are we talking about a message of peace for Ireland, or are we talking about a message of war? Are we really discussing in this Session, the last Session in which it can come before the House, a Bill for the better government of Ireland? The whole speech of the right hon. Gentleman, as has been said to-day by my right hon. Friend, was far more suitable to the relations between Mexico and America than what we ought to be attempting to do in relation to a solution of the Ulster question. But, Sir, I see one gleam of hope in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman—that was the violence of his speech; because I have always noticed that whenever the right hon. Gentleman has something to say towards a solution of a peaceful character he always thinks it necessary, with a view, I suppose, to sustain his position, to adopt the rôle of the demagogue on a platform playing to the gallery. I do not know myself whether that is the best way of introducing pacific proposals, but, for my own part, I deplore the condition of affairs so much that I do not believe any violence of speech, or any insults or taunts to myself would move me one iota from my desire to assist in any reasonable solution to prevent bloodshed in the North of Ireland. I hope the right hon. Gentleman, and the Prime Minister, will give me credit for being able to see all the disasters which are following at the present moment from the prolongation of the existing state of affairs. I do not mean merely at home, though I do think that six months ago, when Lord Loreburn's letter first appeared, it would have been far easier to come to terms than it is now. I am not referring to that, though I do think that is of importance, because what may happen from day to day may have a very great bearing upon the whole future of this question.
I mean also foreign relations. I mean the question of the Army and the question of the Navy. We cannot shut our eyes to the 1750 fact that we are weakened in the councils of Europe by having domestic troubles and domestic quarrels. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!" and "No, no!"] I know hon. Members put it all down to me. [An HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear!"] How absurd that is! Where would I get the power to create these disturbances? No, Sir, I can assure you, whether you believe me or not, that I am as anxious as any man living to find a way out of this Ulster difficulty which will avoid bloodshed. When I am told—I may be told—"Look at what you were engaged in last Friday," I take full responsibility for that. You need not drag it out of me. I take full responsibility. It is nothing new. I have for the last two and a half years said that these people would, in my belief, resist by force. What they did on Friday was only an act in carrying out what they said they would do. That is so. I am not the cause of it. I have not got the power to be the cause of it. It is the people themselves, who are determined not to submit. The right hon. Gentleman—and this is really coming to the point on which I wish to be very specific—at least as specific as I can be under the circumstances—the right hon. Gentleman says that I run great risks in strife. I do; I know I do—quite willingly! The right hon. Gentleman says that I might also run great risks in peace. I certainly would be prepared also to do that. Nobody supposes at my age that I prefer strife to peace. But I think that the right hon. Gentleman's treatment of myself in what happened upon the 9th of March was grossly unfair to me, and was an attempt to put me in a very false position in relation to all the events which have occurred since. He said, in point of fact, that it was my rejection, and the rejection of the Leader of the Opposition, that led him into the lamentable courses, as I think they were, that have followed since that offer was made.
How unfair that is when all I asked in relation to the exclusion of Ulster was that when you fixed the six years' limit we should not be asked to come in until—what? Is it until Ulster dictated? Not at all. Until this Parliament asked us to come in! Because we asked for the intervention of this Parliament he went off and said that he was justified in preparing armies and fleets against us. It is quite untrue to say that I absolutely rejected the proposal. I did no such thing. I said I was quite willing to take it over and submit it to the people of Ulster. Nobody supposes that I am the plenipotentiary for Ulster! Take 1751 that limitation of six years away and put in instead: "Until this Parliament should otherwise determine." The right hon. Gentleman has now made a somewhat indefinite statement, which does not rest in a very satisfactory way, having regard to the statement of the Prime Minister this afternoon. I do not know whether, when the right hon. Gentleman said he was going to run some little risk, that he meant that if we received his proposal in a sympathetic way, he would help us even if others upon his side were opposed to it. But I am not going to quarrel now either with the indefinite language of the proposal, nor am I going to quarrel with the manner in which it is put forward by a Cabinet Minister, who says that he speaks not on behalf of his Government but on behalf of himself. The time is too short, and the circumstances are too difficult and too dangerous. I suppose what he means by his proposal is that if Ulster is left out until a federal scheme is proposed, I am to use such influence as I possess to try to bring about that, when that time comes, Ireland should form one integral unit in the federal system that is then proposed? I have already, I think, gone a long way in my former speeches on that very subject. I said in the autumn at Manchester that we could never complain if, as part of a system for the whole of the United Kingdom, there was—whether I like it or not—a federal system in which we got equal treatment with all the other subjects of His Majesty within the United Kingdom. In that case, so long as you are a subject of the United Kingdom, and you get equal treatment with all other subjects, it would be idle for anybody to say that there was any moral justification for resisting any Act of Parliament.
The real substance of our complaint at the present time is that you are not—you do not care—treating us as other subjects of the King in the United Kingdom. You single us out for political and party purposes to drive us out of this Kingdom, and to do something more—to place us under those in whom we have no confidence whatsoever for our government and guidance in the future. That I put forward at Manchester. I have already said in this House that if it were put into the Bill that Ulster was to be excluded until such time as a federal scheme which you said you were going to bring in on the introduction of this Bill—were put forward, and that it should then be recon- 1752 sidered in the light of the action of the Irish Parliament, and how they got on, as to whether Ulster should form a portion of the integral unit—as the right hon. Gentleman calls it—or should get separate or different treatment or remain under this Parliament, I said I should be perfectly satisfied to go over and press that proposal in Ulster. I am not, then, very far away from the right hon. Gentleman in what he says. The right hon. Gentleman cannot mean that I am to say now that I can prejudge what should happen when this federal scheme is considered—if it ever is considered. How can I?
Supposing the Parliament is a failure? Supposing it is disastrous? He does not suggest that I ought to say beforehand that Ulster is to come in whether the Parliament succeeds or whether it is a failure? No, Sir, but I shall try to make an advance on what I said before. I will say this—and I hope the House will believe me, because though I do not want to be introducing my own personality into it—I am myself a southerner in Ireland—I would say this: That if Home Rule is to pass, much as I detest it, and little as I will take any responsibility for the passing of it, my earnest hope, and indeed, I would say my most earnest prayer, would be that the Government of Ireland for the South and West would prove, and might prove, such a success in the future, notwithstanding all our anticipations, that it might be even for the interest of Ulster itself to move towards that Government, and come in under it and form one unit in relation to Ireland. May I say something more than that? I would be glad to see such a state of affairs arising in Ireland, in which you would find that mutual confidence and good will between all parts of Ireland, and between all classes in Ireland, as would lead to a stronger Ireland as an integral unit in the federal scheme. While I say all that, that depends upon good will, and never can be brought about by force. Having said so much, I think I had better end. I think I have met—to some extent at all events—what I understand to have been the advance made by the right hon. Gentleman, and all I would say before I sit down, Mr. Speaker, is that while I take in this matter a prominent part, which brings me into hostility and I dare say some times into the contempt of hon. Members on the other side of the House, who are so rigid about 1753 the enforcement of law and order, may I say this, that there is no one in the whole United Kingdom at the present time who feels his position and his responsibility more acutely than I do, and all I want to do, and I hope I will do to the end, is loyally to carry out the promises I have made to those who trust me, and to get for them such terms as will preserve to them their dignity, and their civil and religious freedom.
§ Mr. BECK
It must be with a sense of the gravest responsibility that any Back Bench Member takes part in this Debate, and particularly if one happens to be a Member who has for a long time believed that the true solution of the Irish question must be somewhere on the lines that have been discussed this afternoon. I think yesterday any man who had any feeling whatsoever of responsibility, or of what is called patriotism, must have been in the depths of despair. I beg hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite to remember this—that we on this side of the House do not consider their Motion is a Motion for the protection of Ulster, but is a Motion practically condemning the exercise of the powers of Parliament in this United Kingdom. But the worst phases of the past two days have passed by, and to-day we have had two of the most remarkable speeches that it has been our privilege in this House to listen to for a long time. It would be impertinent for anyone who has sat in this House for as short a time as I have to express appreciation of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the senior Member for the City of London (Mr. Balfour), but I wish to be permitted to welcome his reappearance in our Debates on so momentous an occasion, and to welcome so momentous a speech. I may say this for all of us, that while we profoundly admire him, we were really disappointed at the earlier portion of his speech. I think it showed that while he is the great Parliamentarian that we know him to be, and a great exponent of the old style with which we were familiar, we also saw in that speech a little of what is sometimes called the new style. On this side of the House we welcome anything which makes for a peaceful settlement of this question between us. We to-night will vote against the Motion before the House, although all of us feel it is a pity there should be any Division on the question which is to be decided to-day. We will vote against this Resoluton because we firmly believe, and 1754 we have heard nothing whatever which shakes that belief, that the Government is only concerned in using the necessary power to enforce law and order in Ulster. I do not assent to what the right hon. Gentleman has said. He said one very profound thing, that we are deteriorating to a certain extent in the House of Commons. If he meant by deterioration that we are all of us more touchy, more nervous, more suspicious, than we were, then I am afraid that is true; but I would ask the right hon. Gentleman, in fairness to us on this side of the House, to consider what we have had to go through during the last three years.
It is becoming, unfortunately, a commonplace in our Debates to hear the Leaders, whom we revere and respect, however much the Opposition may dislike them, accused of the most vile things that could be said of public men. We do not worry about what hon. Members of smaller calibre opposite say, but what does lead to exasperation is that right hon. Gentlemen who hold responsible positions should also lend themselves to that same course of argument, and that is the great danger of our present situation. I do not say that strong language is used only on one side, but I do feel that right hon. Gentlemen cannot say that we in this House or our leaders have accused right hon. Gentlemen opposite of any of the things which really touch their personal honour. This point is rather important. We may use strong language in attacking them, but we have not in this controversy made attacks upon their personal honour in the way that they have personally and repeatedly attacked right hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench. The danger of the situation is that people who hold Liberal opinions are slowly beginning to find the present situation almost intolerable. We have had our share in the government of this country for nearly ten years. During the whole of these ten years this type of Resolution has been the line of attack by certain people. Unfortunately now it is almost the only line of attack by the Opposition. We have always been told that we were bringing the country to the verge of some enormous calamity; but the calamity never arrives, and we have steadily, but slowly, driven right hon. Gentlemen opposite out of their various entrenched positions. This Resolution is resisted by us because it is typical of this sort of thing—that if they cannot beat us at the polls or by voting 1755 us down in this House, they call in some new ally which ought never to be summoned in our party polities.
To me it has always been an amazing thing that Members of another place should allow themselves to be used for party purposes by the party opposite. It is one of those strange things which are always surprising one in this world. Men not elected by popular franchise, and who are born into their positions prove themselves to be more bitter partisans than any of us in this House who have to be constantly mixed up in party warfare. That is the situation, and we have to make the best of it. We understand that this Resolution practically says that it is not legitimate for the Executive of the day, which happens to be a Liberal Executive, to use His Majesty's forces in any way they consider legitimate to maintain order and security in any part of His Majesty's Dominions, and that is what I mean by saying that we are coming to a dangerous position. What I think is forgotten is that there has never been, perhaps for 200 years or 300 years, more dangers of the storm of civil war than at present. Does this House think that the people are so content that they fear a change? Are there not many hundreds of thousands of people who would be prepared to see any change as a change for the better?
We in this House, who represent very largely, I am afraid, one class, are inclined to think that because we are more or less content with the world, and do not want to change, everybody outside holds this same view. I am afraid we are running a profound risk if that is our view, and what we feel is that this talk of force and of civil war falls not in Ireland only, but in this country also, on ground which is dangerously mined with discontent. I do not want to say anything unnecessarily controversial, but this point strikes some of us on this side very strongly. Our constituents have amazed some of us by the fierceness of their anger in this controversy. I think I might say, truthfully, they have frightened some of us. I beg hon. Members to believe that it is not our Front Bench that leads us on, but it is we that have to push that bench on, and if we take a more extreme view than right hon. Gentlemen on our Front Bench, I beg hon. Members to believe that those who sent us here take a still more extreme view, and that is the terrible peril of the present situation. 1756 I may be wrong, but I have been shocked at the fierceness that one finds amongst the British people to-day. I am told that it is still fiercer in the North. That is the real evil of the present situation. It is that situation which has brought about all the great catastrophes of the past. It is not the particular point we differ upon, but the method of our differing. As long as we differ along constitutional lines, we differ upon safe lines—that is to say, there is a feeling that whatever party is in power it is a party pledged to law and order.
If the people of this country get into their mind that we who sit-to-day in the majority were driven out, not by constitutional methods, not by argument or vote, but by the use of force, I believe that will bring about the greatest catastrophe this country has ever seen for 300 years. That is the danger which I suggest is in all our minds. It is supposed to be a terrible thing to say that if force is used it will be met by force, but the terrible thing about all these great controversies is that once force is used you cannot tell to what it is going to grow on either side. It is because I feel this risk so strongly that I made a speech on the spur of the moment the other day about the Army. It is really idle to suggest that any man in this country is against the Army as an Army. If hon. Gentlemen and right hon. Gentlemen choose to say that all Radicals are against the Army, it will be a pity, and it will be more serious for the Army than for the Radical party. What we feel is that however strong and genuine the passions may be of portions of our population on the great controversies of the day, it is our duty here, sitting as the supreme ruling power of the nation, to do all we can to minimise those passions and not to add to them, or drive them into acts of physical violence. It is because I firmly believe that the Government in any steps they took had this, and this only, in their mind, that I shall vote against this Resolution. My last word is, let us not believe that if once force starts we in this House will be able to control that force. Any of us I suppose in the present condition of affairs could, if we put our mind to it, light a fire in the great blast furnace of this country, but if we do the molten metal that comes out will be moulded by far fiercer hands than ours, and to-day we are not only discussing the perilous position in Ulster, perilous though it may be, but we are discussing 1757 the perilous position in which this old country, the centre of the British Empire, stands. I pray and I believe, after the speech I have listened to from the right hon. Gentleman opposite, that we are a great deal nearer peace than we were a few days ago. All of us, I believe, will not allow a few bitter men, a few men whose tongues are as reckless as their experience is small, to lead us away from our solemn duty in this matter. We can settle this question, or else British statesmanship is bankrupt, and I believe that this question can be settled in a way which will be entirely honourable to both great sides of this controversy.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
After the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Trinity College (Sir E. Carson), who spoke from the point of view of Ulster in this controversy, and after the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for the City of London (Mr. Balfour), a speech which moved me more than I have ever been moved before by any speech in this House, I should have been very glad to leave our case where it has been left by them. But that is impossible, and I shall endeavour as best I can to deal with the only speech which so far has been made from the Government Benches, namely, that of the First Lord of the Admiralty, which was comprehensive enough. That speech was divided, as the House will remember, into three completely watertight compartments. The first part of it pointed out the crime of the Opposition, and gave a disinterested lecture to the Leader of the Opposition. The second part, which my right hon. Friend the Member for the City of London had forgotten, because it was so brief, dealt with the Motion which is now before the House, and the third part was that in which the right hon. Gentleman made a suggestion which at least pointed in the way of peace. It came, I must say, in an incongruous setting. Perhaps that was part of the necessity of the case if the subject was to be raised at all. It came in an incongruous setting, but in whatever setting it comes, as the speeches from this Bench show, we are ready to welcome it, and give it a fair and honest consideration.
A portion of the right hon. Gentleman's speech dealt with our shortcomings, and in particular with my own backsliding. That is not a novel exercise for the mental agility of the right hon. Gentleman. I remember, I think it was two years ago, at the close of the Session, the right hon. 1758 Gentleman disturbed the beginnings of a holiday by writing two letters "to my dear Sir George Ritchie," and so far as I can remember they contained in substance the whole of his lecture yesterday. The right hon. Gentleman accounted for all my actions, and perhaps I may commend this to the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, who spoke about strong language. He accounted for all my actions upon the ground of my hunger for office. That is the explanation which would naturally occur to the right hon. Gentleman. It is a simple explanation, and it may be the correct one, but I do not think so. The right hon. Gentleman then went on to say—and if this had been true. I should have felt it more—that in the short time I had been the Leader of our party in this House I had destroyed their traditions, as I understood by my action mainly in regard to this question, which had been made by generations of leaders of our party. IF the right hon. Gentleman really holds this view, he shows an extraordinary ignorance of the political history of this country during the Home Rule controversy of 1886 and 1893. At that time every one of the prominent leaders of our party used in regard to this question language quite as strong, quite as clear, and quite as deserving of being classed as exciting to Ulster as any language which has been used by me. Such language was used by all the prominent leaders of our party. It was used for instance by the Duke of Devonshire and the Duke of Argyle, both of whom had been members of Mr. Gladstone's Cabinet. It was used by Lord Randolph Churchill and by Lord Salisbury, and as the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for the City showed this afternoon, it was used also by him during that controversy. I shall only quote one speech, and I take that of a man who was generally regarded as most courteous in what he said, and whose weight in this country was largely due to the confidence people had in his wisdom and foresight. The Duke of Devonshire used these words:—If, after weighing the character of the Government which it is sought to impose on thorn, they resolved that they are no longer bound to obey a law which does not give them equal and just protection with their follow subjects, who can say, how, at all events, can descendants of those who resisted James II. say, that they have hot the right if they think tit to resist, if they think they have the power, the imposition of a Government put upon them by force.If such language was excusable then, it is infinitely more justifiable now for this reason. At that time the Home Rule Bill 1759 could not be in force until there had been an appeal to the people of this country. The position is different now. The people of Ulster are being driven, as they think, out of a community with which they are satisfied. They are being made by force—at least that is their view—to do what is equivalent to changing their religion, and that is being done at a time when these people believe, and as I think they have a right to believe, that it is done clearly without the express sanction, and even done against the will of the majority of the people whose representatives are sent to this House. That is not representative or constitutional Government. It may be done in the form of law, but in essence it is as lawless as anything that has ever been done by any body of men in any country. Does not every hon. Member of the House realise that on this question we have got to a condition which really destroys all the guiding principles on which society generally rests. We are in the kind of position which, as ray right hon. Friend said this afternoon, only happens at intervals of centuries in a country when the ordinary rules have broken down. We have been in a similar position before in this country. We were in such a position at the time of the American War of Independence, and everything that is now being said about us, about our lawlessness, and about our preaching sedition, was at that time said with equal force, and in almost the same words in regard to the first Pitt, and to those who acted with him on that question. In the House of Commons, for instance, Pitt used these words:—Now if, as I assert. Parliament cannot tax America without her consent, the original contract, with the Colonies is broken, and they have the right to resist.What was the reply of the Government of the day? The Attorney-General, who was very different from the right hon. Gentleman who fills that post in the present Government, cried out:—My blood runs cold. The Gentleman sounds the trumpet of rebellion, for which he should he send to another place.This is the account by the biographer of Pitt of what took place:—'Send me, if you dare,' in effect, retorted Pitt, and Lord North collapsed.The conditions are not dissimilar. They were accused, as we are, of encouraging lawlessness, and what has been the verdict of history? On the whole, I think, that verdict is that the men who were accused of sedition were right, and that those who 1760 accused them were wrong, and I at least believe, I honestly believe, that if events are forced to the worst the verdict not only of history, but of our contemporaries will be that the responsibility does not rest upon us, but upon those who accuse us of lawlessness and sedition. The Debate to-day especially has had a note of seriousness which the facts justify. I confess that I am frightened—it is not too strong a word—by the position in which we stand to-day. It is not, I hope, fear of anything that can happen either to myself or to our party; it is a fear of what may happen to our country. Under such circumstances we are bound to look all round every question. Take the speech of the First Lord of the Admiralty, for instance. A great part of it was taken up on this theme: "Unless the people of Ulster do something, we will do nothing to them." That is the point of view, that it is a great thing to find out who is tie first aggressor, of which I have seen many instances in the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman, and which seems to fill a largo part of his mind. It is, really, to my mind, a very shallow view. If you bring things to such a condition that violence is likely to happen, who can foretell in what way it will first break out, and who can apportion the blame. To think that you can make it all right for yourself if the first blood is that of a coastguardsman, to use the words of the right hon. Gentleman, is a very mistaken idea. I happened to remember that Hallam, in dealing with our Civil War, had considered the question as to who was responsible for beginning it, and I turned up the book, and I found that this is what he said:—The aggressor in a war is not the first who uses force, but the first who renders force necessary.We may differ about that, but the point that I am wishing to make now is that it is really a small matter who strikes the first blow, and that if violence comes the judgment, both of our countrymen and of our posterity, will be directed not against those who first were guilty of it, but against those who made it inevitable. A great deal has been said—it has been the topic of all the interruptions and of many of the speeches of hon. Gentlemen opposite—about the episode in Ulster on Friday last. It was, of course, illegal. But what is the lesson, if we are serious, we ought to draw from it? The easy and the obvious lesson, and the lesson which I know is being impressed upon the Prime Minister by the Radical Press and by 1761 many, and perhaps, the majority of his own followers, is that the law has been flouted and that he must at all costs put it down. Very well, precisely the same view was taken when the tea was destroyed in Boston Harbour.
Lord North, in the House of Commons, used words to the same effect, though they were not so well expressed as those which were used by the Prime Minister the other day, and the House of Commons backed him up enthusiastically, but that did not alter the situation. It did not make Lord North and his Government right, and it did not save this nation from a great calamity. I really think, deplorable as it is, that there is another lesson to be drawn from it. I think it shows in a way which is utterly unmistakable that this movement in Ulster is not the work of my right hon. Friend as he himself has said this afternoon; it shows in a way that no one can mistake the unanimity and the determination of these people. I think it shows that. Does not that teach this lesson? The Prime Minister, in previous Debates, has often said, "How can you draw the distinction and say when an outbreak is civil war and when it is mere violence to be put down by force?" With the knowledge that the Government now have it is at least certain—I do not think anyone will doubt it—that if the Ulster volunteers are to be put down by force it will mean civil war, and nothing less than civil war. It may be possible to do that, though I am not sure that it will be very easy, for I do ask the House to remember that it is not merely a question of Ulster. When the hon. Gentleman who spoke last spoke about the whole country being in indignation about something or other he forgot that at least half the nation in my view would sympathise with Ulster. Is it not obvious, if half the nation were against the Government—as they would be there—that it would not be possible for us to engage in a foreign war? And how in the world do you think you can carry to a successful issue a civil war under such conditions?
I think that there is a higher lesson. The natural feeling of any man in the position of the head of this or any Government would be that what has happened is an insult not only to him, but to the position that he occupies. But there is a higher law. I think it really ought to teach the Government this lesson, that at the time they introduced this Home Rule Bill they 1762 entirely misunderstood the reality and the intensity of the hostility of Ulster, and that the knowledge of that hostility and the intensity of it is a good ground and would not be a sign of weakness for asking them to reconsider the policy on which they have embarked. Take, for instance, as an illustration, what happened at the time of Majuba. I think that it is a very good illustration. The Boers declared that they would resist the doing away with their independence. Mr. Gladstone paid no attention to their threats. They took up arms and they defeated our troops. Then Mr. Gladstone gave them what they asked. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Well, very nearly so. He met them, at all events, in a very different way. There is plenty of matter about which we can differ, and ought to differ, but it is no use differing about that. He met them in a very different spirit. Why? Mr. Gladstone never doubted, and nobody doubted, the power of Great Britain to put down the Boer, but what he felt was that the fact that they were willing, and had shown themselves willing, to risk their lives showed that he was wrong in his policy, and he gave way. I am not sure that he was not right. At all events, it is an old controversy, and I am not going into it. At any rate, from his point of view he was right, but would it not have been wiser to have met the claims before there had been bloodshed and before defeat? [HON. MEMBERS: "He did!"]
What I suggest now is that it was wisdom, not only for the Government, but for this House to recognise the fact, to realise the position, and to meet it before and not after blood had been shed. That, in my view, is the higher law. In my view, it is now the clear duty of the Prime Minister, who has a responsibility in this matter which no one envies him, and which nobody can share with him, to recognise now that the calamity with which we are faced is so awful that some way of peace at any cost must be found; and I can only say this, and I say it with all earnestness and with all sincerity, that if he does seek for peace, we on this side will do everything in our power to make a peaceful solution possible. The second part of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman dealt with the Motion which is now before the House. That Motion, as the House knows, gives as one of the reasons for demanding an inquiry, that we have not been able to extract the facts from the Government. I am willing to say this, that the last part of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman 1763 was so important that if the temperature of the whole House is not changed, mine has, and I should have been glad if it had been possible to leave this side of the question out altogether. The House, however, and I am sure hon. Members in all parts of it will recognise that is impossible. And all that I can do—and this I shall do if I can—is to make the case with as little bitterness as is compatible with the nature of the charges.
Our charge against the Government is this: We say that they contemplated something in Ulster entirely different from what they had admitted. They decided, rightly I think for good reasons, not to go on with it, and having abandoned their plan they had to choose between telling the House exactly what they had intended, and concealing from the House what their intentions were. In my opinion they decided to conceal it from the House, and as a result of that attempt there has been an amount of suppression of what is true, and of suggestion of what is false, of which there has rarely been such an instance in our lifetime. It is necessary for me to give some illustrations, for I must attempt to prove the charge. I do not think I shall give all I have before me; they are not exhaustive, they are all those that have occurred to myself, and which my own memory supplies me with, and I only wish to say this about them—indeed, it was said by my right hon. Friend who moved the Resolution—that we do not say that the Minister who makes the statements which are misleading is himself responsible for misleading the House of Commons with regard to these matters. Our charge is against the Government, and everyone of these cases, in my opinion, is a case which is not merely an accidental error, but probably every one of them is a case where the point of view put before the House was necessary to make good the case which the Government were then presenting to the country. The first of these which I shall take—I have referred to it before in this House-is the statement of the Prime Minister to the "Times" on the Sunday. These are his words:—As for the so-called naval movements, they simply consisted in the use of two small cruisers to convey a detachment of troops to Carrickfergus, without the necessity of marching them through the streets of Belfast,Two days later the First Lord of the Admiralty, in answer to a question, said:It was decided that the naval force, comprising a Battle Squadron, with attendant vessels, should be 1764 stationed at Lamlash, which is a convenient and usual station, where they would be in proximity to the coast of Ireland in case of serious disorders arising.I do not understand even now how these two statements can be reconciled. In an interruption made by the Prime Minister, when I first referred to this matter, he said that the naval movement referred to the movement of ships used for conveying troops. There is not a word in the paraphrase nor in the context to suggest that that is the meaning to be attached to these words. Then the suggestion has been made that this Battle Squadron, with the attendant ships, was something quite distinct from the other naval movement. This is the fact, as was shown by the answer to a question given by the First Lord of the Admiralty. I have it here if anyone wishes me to read it. The First Lord, in describing the naval movements, showed that all the orders were given on the same day and at the same time. How, then, is it possible for us to believe that they were not in connection with the same events? Then, in addition to that, as I understand, there is another explanation. It is that the movement of the Battle Squadron had nothing to do with the precautionary measures which were alone in the right hon. Gentleman's mind. I do not recognise, and I do not think any of us do, the distinction between precautionary and other measures. We do not recognise it, but, even taken literally, that explanation does not stand examination. The First Lord of the Admiralty, in a speech on the 25th March, said:—The squadron was allowed to hold on its course, steadily, so long as it was not certain whether the movements would he effected.And he added:—As soon as it was clear that there was no serious opposition, and that the movements had been safely conducted, my right hon. Friend countermanded it."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th March, 1914, col. 503, Vol. LX.]If it had no connection with precautionary measures, how in the world could it be a reason for countermanding it—that the precautionary movement had been satisfactorily carried out? On this incident I shall only repeat what I have said before in this House, that I hope the Prime Minister has some explanation to give of this discrepancy. If he does not explain it, this at least must be evident to every Member of the House, that he must indeed have been in a terrible strait when he took action so inconsistent as, I believe, not only with his position, but with his character. The next of these instances—I am passing over some of them—to which 1765 I shall refer has reference to the two White Papers which have been supplied to the House.
§ The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Asquith)
May I interrupt the right hon. Gentleman and ask whether he is going to pursue and substantiate another charge which he has made against me in connection with this communication to the "Times"—another deliberate charge of misstatement in regard to asking questions of the officers?
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
If the right hon. Gentleman wishes, but I have not got the statement here. May I look at it?
§ 7.0 P.M.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
Here is the paragraph:—The right hon. Gentleman says the third matter for misapprehension is to some extent the result of the second one. It concerns the recent action of officers of the Army at the Curragh and elsewhere. There is a wide-spread impression abroad that the Government contemplate instituting a general inquisition into the intentions of officers in the event of their being asked to take up arms against Ulster.I shall repeat, as far as I can remember, exactly what I said on that subject in the' House before. It was this: It is quite true that, taken literally—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"]—I said before that was the charge (I am not saying anything fresh), it is exactly what I said before—it is quite true that these words, taken literally, are true, but take them in connection with the context—the right hon. Gentleman says there is "a widespread impression" in connection with the events at the Curragh and elsewhere. What was that impression created by? Not by what was going to happen in the future, but by what had happened. Anyone who knew what had occurred and who read that paragraph would say the intention was to give the impression that there had been no such inquisition. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that I did not leave that out because I was afraid to repeat what I had said before, and the House, I think, can judge that I had no such intention. The next inaccuracy to which I shall refer is in connection with the two White Papers supplied to the House. I shall venture to put this to 1766 the House: that if we had no other argument in our favour the difference between these Papers was in itself a justification for the demand for an inquiry which we have made. When the first Paper was supplied we were told that it contained everything relevant. I shall give words to justify that statement. The Prime Minister said this:—The House will then be in possession of all the facts so far as they are contained in writing."All the facts"!—And any supplementary statement which has to be made with regard to oral matters will of course be given.That was the first White Paper. The Home Secretary made it still more definite. He said:—There are no written communications or dispatches or telegraphic messages relating to the matters in question which have not been produced."No communications, dispatches, communications, or telegraphic messages." That was dealt with by my hon. Friend behind me (Mr. Mitchell-Thomson) yesterday, and the Home Secretary got up to defend it. The question which was put by the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. John Ward) was perfectly definite and referred to the whole matter. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] The defence of the Home Secretary was not what his hon. Friends think, but it was that the supplementary question arose out of the original question, which only had to deal with the officers. I will take it at that. It shows the difficulty of defending yourself when you have got into a false position. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Hon. Gentlemen opposite feel the difficulty. It shows the difficulty when you get into a false position. That defence at least admitted that everything connected with the resignations had been given, but if the House will turn to the second White Paper they will find that three most important documents directly dealing with the resignations are included in it. The next of these illustrations has reference to the verbal orders given to General Paget The Prime Minister said in regard to them:—Then General Paget went back He had been instructed to do nothing, absolutely nothing, beyond carrying out these modest, but necessary, operations described in the letter of the 14th March.Then the Home Secretary said that the instructions were the same; "there was no variation." I heard the Prime Minister give this answer to a question on the 22nd April:—The written instructions given to Sir Arthur Paget in the letter of the 14th March were orally supplemented by directions to safeguard Dundalk, where there were 1767 three batteries without escort, and by the authority given to him by my right hon. Friend to grant exemption to domiciled officers."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd April, 1914, col. 923.]There was no variation, yet here we have additions admitted, and, what is certain, there must have been other instructions of which we know nothing now. When otherwise was the authority given to General Paget to have this inquisition of officers? We do not know, and I think it is certain that it was given at that time. Why is it that we have never been allowed to know exactly what these instructions were? I do not want to go over this in any detail. [Interruption.] I think I have given enough, but I will give one more, since hon. Gentlemen opposite are not satisfied, or more than one if they like. It has a reference to the statements made in this House by the First Lord of the Admiralty and by Lord Morley in another place. I shall give the exact words, without adding any comment. The First Lord of the Admiralty said, in regard to the peccant paragraphs:—Lord Morley never revised or examined these paragraphs or took any decision upon them.Lord Morley said:—I made one or two very slight alterations not in the least affecting the tenor.Anyone, upon whatever side he sits and however bitter his party feelings may be, who has followed not these illustrations I have given, but the whole course of the controversy across the floor of the House, will feel that the only explanation of the inconsistent utterances of Ministers was given by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald). What he said showed that he believed in the modest operations just as little as I do. His words were these:—Is their accusationthat is ours—against the Government that the Government really were taking precautions to maintain law and order in Ireland, but for purposes of expediency said they were only protecting stores? Is that the amount of the untruth that the Government is guilty of? If it is, if any untruth is justified, that untruth is."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th April, 1914, col. 1607.]I leave it there. Now I come to what is, after all, more important than particular differences of statement—I come to the story which the Government themselves told. It really is a story which is incredible, and which I do not think is believed by any Member of the House in whatever quarter he sits. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"] I do not think it will be difficult to 1768 prove that. It was proved up to the hilt by the speech of the First Lord of the Admiralty yesterday. His whole speech, if he will allow me to say so, consisted of a double defence. The first was, "We did not do it"; and the second, "If we did, we were quite right in doing it"; and the second line of defence was the one which filled by far the larger part of his speech. Take the facts as he stated them. He told us, and it will not be denied by him, that these movements of forces by the Government were made as the result of the Debate in this House when my right hon. Friend and myself had refused a generous offer made by the Government. How could that affect the defending of defenceless stores? What has that got to do with defending stores? He went much further than that. The right hon. Gentleman said that our action showed that the real issue, raised not merely by ourselves but by the people of Ulster, was not the rights of Ulster, but that what we were doing was trying to prevent the carrying out of Liberal principles. He said—I am not quoting his exact words, but if I am wrong I am sure he will correct me—the question was not whether the Government would bully Ulster, but whether Ulster would bully the Government. That was his justification for the action he took. How could they prevent Ulster from bullying the Government by defending a few defenceless stores? Is not the whole case of the Government as defined by him based on what happened in this House. Is not their case that they then took action to prevent themselves from being browbeaten by Ulster, which they would not have taken but for our action in this House. Is that the truth? How is it consistent with the small movements for the protection of stores? If you want another proof that the story in its first form is incredible, look at the mystery with which everything is carried out. Why were no written instructions given to General Paget, and why has the right hon. Gentleman persistently refused to allow General Paget to give to the House and the country an account of the instructions which he received from Cabinet Ministers in London? It is contrary to the whole spirit of the War Office and to everything which is done in the War Office. An hon. Friend has sent me these extracts from the "Field Service Regulations." I will read two of them:—The principles in this Manual have been evolved by experience. They are to be regarded by all ranks as authoritative, for their violation in the past has often been followed by mishap, if not by disaster,1769 The other paragraph says:—Orders issued by the higher commanders will normally be prepared in writing. When orders, reports or messages are for any reason issued verbally or sent by signal, they will be confirmed in writing whenever it is practicable to do so.Why were these orders not confirmed in writing? If you want an additional proof of mystery, look at what happened in regard to the naval officers sent both to Dublin and Belfast. They were told they were to go in plain clothes. As my Noble Friend (Lord Charles Beresford) has pointed out, that is against the King's Regulations when they are on duty. Why was it done? I can imagine some reason for it in Belfast, but why in Dublin? The "Firedrake" came there to be of service to the Commander-in-Chief in certain eventualities. The vessel was lying there, but the officer in command had to go ashore in plain clothes. People saw the vessel, but they were not to see the officer in uniform. There is no difficulty in deciding from whose quiver that kind of arrow comes. It is melodrama, and it is suited to the Napoleonic genius of the Commander when he filled another office at the siege operations at Sidney Street. I must, of course—I should in any circumstances—give the Prime Minister full time to reply, and I shall only give one other indication of what makes it really impossible to accept the first story told by the Government. I refer to the appointment of General Macready as Military Governor of Belfast. Let the House remember that General Macready was appointed, and that he was ready to be in Belfast on Monday. But that was not soon enough. A substitute must be sent to be there on the Saturday, and a substitute was sent. What right had the Government to take that course at all I have never been able to understand. [HON. MEMBERS: "What right?"] Yes, what right? Governments are subject to the law as well as individuals.
The right hon. Gentleman himself has laid down in my hearing more than once this definition of the law: That the military is only to be used in civil disturbances on the requisition of the civil authorities. Then why does he appoint a military governor who is to supersede the civil authorities in the control of the police? More than that, the military authorities cannot act as a rule—I believe it is universal—without the authority of a magistrate. What does the Government do? In order that there should be no difficulty and no delay they put the whole authority into the hands of a military officer 1770 and they make him a magistrate, so that he may himself give himself authority to use force if he thinks fit. I listened the other day to a Debate in this House on the Army (Annual) Bill, when an Amendment had been moved by the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Keir Hardie). What was the substance of it? That the military ought not to be used on the requisition of a single magistrate, but that there ought to be at least three magistrates. [An HON. MEMBER: "That was in industrial strife."] Only in industrial strife? I do not think the hon. Member, who I do not see in his place, took that line. He said they should not use the military on the requisition of one magistrate only, but that there ought to be three. They are quite pleased when it comes to using force against the democracy of Belfast—[HON. MEMBERS: "Armed rebels!"]—that it should not be a question of three magistrates, but a question of making a nominal magistrate in order that the military may have absolute authority. I say without hesitation that a step of that kind would not have been taken unless something more was meant than has been admitted by the Government.
I am sorry that the nature of the speech I feel it necessary to make has made it very difficult for me to refer at all to the suggestion at the end of the speech made by the First Lord of the Admiralty. Perhaps it is not necessary to say anything except this: that I identify myself in every way with everything that was said on that subject both by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Trinity College (Sir E. Carson) and my right hon. Friend the Member for the City of London (Mr. Balfour). What we are thinking of really is not whether the best solution, or the solution which would most commend itself to us, can be got. What we are thinking of is finding any tolerable way out of an impossible position. As regards the suggestion about federalism or devolution, I can only say that it is not a subject which I have thoroughly studied. I doubt if anyone has. I do not profess to know what the difficulties are or how they are to be overcome. But this is not a question of principle at all; it is a question of expediency, and a question of good working within the United Kingdom, and we shall be perfectly ready and anxious to consider any proposal of that kind, and to consider it all the more anxiously and with all the more desire to find a solution through it, if it means an end of the present position in Ireland. I have only one 1771 thing more to say. I think the position is very serious. I think the Government feel that also. I do not think there is much time to be lost. If the Prime Minister believes that it is in the interest of the country that there should be a renewal of conversations with the leaders of our party—I do not suggest it to him—but if he is of that opinion, I say this to the House and to him: This is no time for personal considerations to come in at all, and if for any reason the right hon. Gentleman prefers to have negotiations either with Lord Lansdowne or with my right hon. Friend whom he met before, no feeling of wounded amour propre will stand in the way, but I shall gladly welcome such a proposal.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
The right hon. Gentleman had no occasion to apologise for the comparative acerbity of the middle part of his speech, because I can assure him that as we listened to him we felt no resentment and no anxiety, but a certain sense of mild surprise at having been invited here to meet a charge of plotting with sinister, and, I might say, fiendish, ingenuity to provoke the people of Ulster to revolt, and, as far as some of us, and I myself am particularly concerned, having deliberately deceived the House of Commons by a false statement, it was, I will not say with a feeling of relief, for I have never felt any necessity to be relieved in the matter, but with a feeling of satisfaction that we learned from the right hon. Gentleman, the authorised exponent of the case of the Opposition, its flimsy and contemptible character. This Motion purports to ask for a full and impartial inquiry. An inquiry by whom? We have not heard a word in the course of this Debate to suggest the body which is to undertake this task, which is apparently to call before it Cabinet Ministers, generals, colonels, and naval officers, to require from them the most confidential communications which they have had under the seal of official secrecy and of personal confidence. Some strange, undefined, unknown body is to be set up to which these great powers are to be entrusted, as every man opposite knows, to the infinite detriment and ruin of the discipline of the great Services of the State. And what is it to inquire into? A mare's-nest.
What is this "plot"? I was amused by the right hon. Gentleman's ingenuous statement that the whole demand for this 1772 inquiry rests upon the assumption that the Government contemplated or intended something in Ulster different from what they have avowed. They believe that, or, at least, they suspect that. I give them credit for believing it, though their standards of evidence are not very exacting. They suspect it, and I dare say the bulk of them believe it; and because they suspect it, because as these Debates have shown, Gentlemen endowed with an unusual stock of credulity believe it, this figment, which never existed in the world at all, is to become the subject of a solemn, judicial investigation. What are the grounds upon which this extraordinary demand is preferred? There are two. First of all, that we have withheld information from the House, and next that we have given the House misleading information. First of all, as regards the withholding of information, I can speak with some authority on this matter. I suppose I have answered, since I returned to the House after my re-election, some 500 questions with regard to this matter. [HON. MEMBERS: "Answered?"] I answered every one of them. What is very remarkable is that in the catalogue—the shorter catalogue—the right hon. Gentleman told us he had other things in reserve, but I have no doubt he selected the most conspicuous instances of misdoing—which the right hon. Gentleman read out to us—of misleading statements. I do not think I find one which is founded on an answer of mine to any one of those 500 questions.
The day before yesterday I had to answer a hundred questions. To-day I had to answer something over fifty. In fact, the time-honoured and ancient practice of the House of question and answer—a most desirable practice, but a practice which, as these latter days show, is capable of abuse—has been perverted and degraded in a manner reminiscent of the worst traditions of the Old Bailey, and it reminded me more than once of the saying of an eminent Scottish judge when counsel who appeared before him apologised for the length of the cross-examination which he had been undertaking, and said, "I hope it was not too long." The judge replied, "Sir, it exhausted time and encroached upon eternity." Having gone through that experience, I hope with as much good temper as the conditions allowed, I want to give fair notice, which I now do, with all respect to the House, that after to-morrow I shall answer no further questions of any 1773 sort or kind on this subject. I say tomorrow because I see some that some hon. Members, including the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Walter Long), have some questions down.
So much for the refusal of the Government to give information. Now as to the charge that the information given was misleading, and in some cases false. I will deal more particularly with the chief charges, personal to myself, which are to be found, by the way, not in a statement made to this House, but in a statement made to the Press, not that I suggest that a different standard of veracity ought to be applied according to the persons to whom communications are addressed. I made that statement to the Press—a thing I very rarely do, and which I do not think I have ever done since I have been a Minister—in very exceptional circumstances. It was on a Sunday. There was a great deal of excitement and very wild rumours were current. It was suggested, for instance, that there were 200 warrants either prepared or issued for the arrest of the leading members of the Ulster Volunteers and their party—a pure fiction which never entered into the mind of anyone—and that a general inquisition was going to be addressed to the officers of the Army to ascertain whether or not they were prepared to do their duty, and there were many other rumours of a still wilder character afloat. I thought it my duty under the circumstances to make the communication which I did, and two points in it only have been singled out by the right hon. Gentleman for adverse comment. The first is as regards the naval movements, and the second is as regards the inquisition of the officers. If anyone will read that statement he will see that my observation in regard to naval movements—the context makes it perfectly clear—had reference to what had been going on in and about Ireland during the last few days. It begins:—In the first place it should be understood that the movements of troops which had been recorded during the last few days were purely of a precautionary character.And, secondly, as to the so-called naval movements, they were confined to two cruisers, and I agree I ought to have added—I forgot it, I take all the blame for it, and stand in a white sheet—a torpedo-destroyer. That is perfectly true, and it is the whole truth. What is it suggested that I ought to have said that I did not say? It is suggested that I ought to have given some account of what has been done 1774 in relation to the Battle Squadron which had been ordered from Arosa Bay to proceed ultimately, not to Ireland, but to Lamlash, on the West coast of Scotland, where it would have been within convenient and easy distance of the North-East coast of Ireland in the event of serious disturbance at any time arising. The Cabinet ordered the movement of that squadron—I think it was on 11th March—that is, nine or ten days before these transactions—and it left entirely in the discretion of the Admiralty the time and manner in which it should be carried out. The precautionary movements in regard to the protection of the stores had not then been decided upon. They were not decided upon, and certainly not finally settled till something like a week later. They were entirely independent of one another. It was never contemplated or intended at any time that this Battle Squadron should have anything whatever to do with these operations. When my right hon. Friend ordered the Battle Squadron to move, which he did in his own discretion quite properly, but without communicating it to me—there was no necessity to do so—it could not possibly have reached even Lamlash, which was its destination, until two, if not three days after these precautionary movements were over, when such a course would have been belated and altogether out of place. The Vice-Admiral was ordered to report himself in London on Monday morning, the operations having been carried on on Friday night or early on Saturday morning. I heard for the first time that the Admiralty had actually ordered the movement of this Battle Squadron on Saturday morning. There was already considerable excitement in consequence of the events which had taken place on the previous night at the Curragh, and I suggested to my right hon. Friend that in the circumstances it would be desirable that these operations should be perfectly peacefully carried through; but my main reason, I admit, was to allay further excitement. I suggested to my right hon. Friend that in view of the state of public anxiety and apprehension which these inflamed and exaggerated rumours had produced, it would be desirable to postpone for a time and to countermand the movement of the ships. They were a very long distance away from the Southern coast of England at that time, and they could not have reached the scene of operations if they had gone at full speed ahead. However, the movements had been countermanded 1775 on the Saturday, and I made this statement on the Sunday night, and the statement was the strict truth. Why was I not to confine myself to the strict truth? So much for that.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I did not know about the destroyers. The hon. Gentleman put to me a question the next day or the day after, and I said I did not know anything about them, and I did not. If the hon. Gentleman will allow me, though it is not an important point, I will explain it. The order authorised by the Cabinet was the movement of the Battle Squadron. I said nothing whatever about the torpedo flotilla. My right hon. Friend quite rightly, in the exercise of his own discretion, thought it right also to send these eight destroyers to accompany them or to join them when they reached Lamlash. I was not aware of that until some days later, and when I said in the House that I knew nothing about the destroyers I was telling the exact truth. Now as to the other charge. This is really, I think the right hon. Gentleman himself will agree, a charge that he ought never to have made. It has not a shadow of plausibility about it. What I said was this:—The third misapprehension is to some extent the result of the second. It concerns the recent action of officers of the Army at the Curragh and elsewhere. There is a widespread impression abroad that the Government contemplate instituting a general inquisition into the intentions of officers in the event of their being asked to take up arms against Ulster. No such action is intended, if only for the reason that the employment of troops against Ulster is a contingency which the Government hope may never arise.That is a statement which is true in the letter and in the spirit. The statement was made on Sunday, 22nd March. The Government never did contemplate anything of the kind. At the moment I said it, as was pointed out by the writer in the "Times," we still did not know what had taken place at the Curragh. The writer in the "Times" said:—On the subject of the officers immediately concerned—namely General Rough and his subordinates—Mr. Asquith declined for the present to make any statement. … So far the Government had heard only one side of the question and were awaiting the arrival of Sir Arthur Paget, who was expected in London last night.In the first place my statement related to, and related only to, what was in contemplation as to what might happen or have been done, and in the next place it is perfectly true as regards the past just as 1776 much as regards the future. The Government never did contemplate, the Government never authorised, the Government never would have allowed to be put any such questions to any officers at any time. So much for these two charges which have been brought against me. [HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw."] Oh, they will not be withdrawn. I do not care whether they are withdrawn or not.
The other discrepancies, or alleged discrepancies, which the right hon. Gentleman put, relate to minor matters, and I pass, if I may, for a moment or two to the plot itself—the actual, or rather the imaginary, plot. It is one of the absurdest stories that have ever been recorded in the annals of mankind. Let the House observe, in the first instance, the probabilities. We had just made—I had just made on behalf of the Government an offer which went far beyond anything we had ever contemplated before. It was regarded by our Friends then, and is regarded by many of our Friends now, as stretching almost to the breaking point the powers of concession. I had just deliberately made on behalf of the Government, two days before this so-called plot was hatched, an offer for the optional exclusion of the Ulster counties for a period of six years. Of course, it is quite easy for the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Worcestershire (Mr. Chamberlain), who, I think, showed his usual large-mindedness in his speech last night, to say:—But you made the offer knowing it would be rejected. It was not a sincere offer.That is what he said.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN indicated assent.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
He may think so. I tell him the contrary. It was a sincere offer. It was made in the hope that it would be accepted. It was made in the belief, at any rate, that it might be accepted. Whether you believe me about that or not—in these sceptical days perhaps you do not—it was an offer, at any rate, which had been put forward on the full responsibility of the Government on the floor of this House for acceptance or rejection by our political opponents, and of course, it was all-important that that offer should be discussed, and its ultimate acceptance or rejection determined, as far as possible, in a cool, calm, unirritated atmosphere.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
My right hon. Friend does not need any defence from me. I think the Bradford speech has been very much misrepresented. I am asking a House of sensible men, supposing some of us, at any rate, to be neither fools nor knaves—a large draft, perhaps, on their imagination—I am asking the House to consider whether, having deliberately put an offer of that kind on the Table of the House of Commons, the first thing—because this is the theory—that this Cabinet of wiseacres proceeded to do was to engineer a plot for the provocation of Ulster, which would lead, which was intended to lead, and which was certainly calculated to lead, the people of that province to open violence and resistance, in order, forsooth, I suppose, that our offer might have a better chance of acceptance. Was there ever such a wild invention? What we did was this: We had information. I think it began as far back as the month of December and it had been accumulating. We had information that there were dotted about in Ulster in those places, the names of which are now so familiar, stores of Government arms and ammunition very imperfectly protected, and which were at the mercy of any raiding party, and we came to the conclusion that that was a state of things we could not safely allow to continue. Accordingly, instructions were sent to General Paget, which appear in this White Paper in the letter of 14th March. General Paget did not agree with us. He was afraid that the sending of even a small force, which would be necessary for the adequate protection of these depots, would have, or might have, a provocative effect, and might lead possibly to disorder, and to disorder of even a serious kind in Ulster. He preferred the plan which he submitted to us as an alternative for the removal of the ammunition and stores, and withdrawing them to some safe place. It was because of that difference of opinion that General Paget was summoned to London, and also that he might enter into consultation with the Government upon the many large and difficult questions which arose, or which might arise, in view of the military situation in Ireland, both in Ulster and elsewhere. We appointed a small Committee of the Cabinet, consisting partly of the heads of the Naval and Military 1778 Departments, partly of lawyers, and partly of persons experienced in Irish administration, to confer with General Paget, both in regard to this particular measure and in regard to the general situation ins Ulster—not only with General Paget, but with Sir John French, General Ewart, General Macready and the officials at the War Office. The result was that the original opinion of the Cabinet prevailed. The depots were ordered to be protected, and the only variation from the original plan was that there was added to the places which needed protection Dundalk, where there were three batteries of Artillery which were entirely unprotected by Infantry. The only other further measure which was resolved upon, and which General Paget was instructed to carry out, was the removal of a battalion from the Victoria Barracks in Belfast to Holywood, because the military authorities were of opinion that in the event of disturbances the position of those barracks was one which was not very desirable for the soldiers to occupy.
That was the whole thing. General Paget took with him to Ireland, so far as the movement of troops was concerned, those instructions and those instructions only. I am not, of course, referring now to the conversation he had, I think, on the night of his departure with my right hon. Friend the late Secretary of State for War, when the question was raised as to whether officers domiciled in Ulster should not be exampted from service. As I have said in the course of these conferences and consultations—at only one of which I was present; that makes no difference, because I do not sever myself in any way from my colleagues—we undoubtedly discussed with General Paget the general military situation. What fools we should have been if we had not done so. He was of opinion that these small precautionary operations might not improbably lead to disturbance, an opinion we did not share, because we were advised by our Civil advisers in Ireland that that was not likely to be the case, and we were right as it turned out. They were carried out with the greatest case and without any disturbance of any sort or kind. But General Paget did entertain this apprehension, and nobody who is familiar, as we were, with the condition of Ireland at that time, with the existence of this large army well drilled, well organised, not altogether badly armed, in the shape of the Ulster Volunteers, and the growth side by side with it 1779 of another army, which I believe is growing day by day and week by week, I mean the army of the Nationalist Volunteers—having these facts in view, and having regard to all the possible contingencies which the future held in store, I say we should have been wanting in our duty to the King and country if we had not most carefully gone over the ground and conferred with these gallant officers as to what steps in certain contingencies it might or might not be advisable to take.
That is the full extent of the plot. "Oh," says the right hon. Gentleman, assuming the rôle of an amateur detective, "why this mystery? Why were instructions given to General Paget orally and not in writing?" He produced, owing to some collaboration, I suppose, of some military Gentlemen behind him, the Field Regulations. What has this got to do with the Field Regulations? The Secretary of State and the Army Council consult with a General. How do they come under the Field Regulations? There is a still more suspicious circumstance which has been attributed—but I am afraid that he has not the credit of it—to my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty. Two naval officers, not one, but actually two, were allowed to land—one I think at Dublin—in plain clothes. [HON. MEMBERS: "Ordered!"] They were actually ordered to land in plain clothes. What is the inference to be drawn from that? I do not know. Nor does the right hon. Gentleman, except that it is part and parcel of that kind of melodramatic mystery with which sinister conspirators always surround their movements. Then, again—I will do the right hon. Gentleman the justice to say that the point was made by the right hon. Gentleman who sits beside him—what were the places to which these precautionary movements of troops were to be directed? Omagh, Armagh, Enniskillen, and Carrickfergus—strategic points! That is exactly what they are not. I remember very well the only time I have ever discussed the matter at one of these conferences, someone taking the point. He said, "If this is a strategic movement, this is ridiculous." Why? Because you were dispersing small bodies of troops at distances in no way connected with one another, where they would be exposed to attack, and could not concentrate in support of one another. From a strategic point of view it was most ridiculous. If we had had motives of strategy behind our movements, the last 1780 thing we would have done would have been to take these precautionary movements. That is the whole story of the plot. This is seriously put forward as an indictment against His Majesty's Government by an Opposition, one of whose leaders, the principal, declared in this House not long ago, in the hearing of not a few of us, that in his opinion, in certain contingencies, it would not only be the right, but it would be the duty of officers to disobey their orders.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
I do not know if it is worth correcting, but I will tell the right hon. Gentleman what I said. What I said was that it was right for officers to do their duty, and at the time I said it I knew that they had been given the option of dismissal or of doing something which they thought against their consciences, and I said that they did their duty in preferring dismissal.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
These are the words of the right hon. Gentleman spoken on the 23rd March:—The House knows that we on this side have from the first held the view that to coerce Ulster is an operation which no Government tinder existing conditions has a right to ask the Army to undertake"—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"]And in our view, of course, it is not necessary to say that any officer who refuses is only fulfilling his duty."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd March, l914, cols. 77 and 78.]
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
What I said was that any officer who refused was doing his duty, but in that very Debate, I think, at all events I knew, that it had been made clear that the option of dismissal had been given.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
There is the record. I cannot go beyond that. Another leading Member of the Opposition—I do not think I see him at the moment on that bench—has also, told us—and my right hon. Friend quoted him last night—that if strategic positions had been sought to be occupied by His Majesty's troops, their occupation would have been forcibly resisted by the Ulster Volunteers. So much for their leaders! And may I not say am I calumniating them when I say that during the last few days the bulk of them at any rate, I hope not all of them, have been regarding with complacency, if not with admiration, a piratical adventure—I do not want to rate it too high—which at any rate involved the holding up and temporary imprisonment of His Majesty's officers and servants who were trying to do their duty? An Opposition of such 1781 antecedents, recent antecedents, has never presented a flimsier case against a responsible Government. In the circumstances it is not only unfounded, but I think reflects a certain amount of shame on those who present it. At any rate, I shall ask the House of Commons to dismiss it with the contempt which it deserves.
This Debate will be remembered not so much for the exposure of this myth of a plot which never existed, and which therefore never miscarried, as for the speeches which we have heard this afternoon from the right bon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin, which may prove to be landmarks in the history of this controversy. It was impossible for any of us, even those who like myself have been for nearly thirty years strenuously opposed to the right hon. Gentleman—I am speaking now of the Member for the City of London—to listen to the concluding passages of his speech without lively emotion. I have certainly never heard in this House a more remarkable or in some ways a more touching and appealing avowal. But what it amounts to is this. The right hon. Gentleman—not, I hope, Hearing the end of his political career, having I think for more than the life time of a generation been engaged in the party arena, and having during the whole of that time been perhaps the most strenuous and consistent, and I will add, the most formidable antagonist to Home Rule—is constrained to admit that forces which none of us can control have been or threaten to be strong enough not to alter his convictions in any way, but to make him recognise that Home Rule in some shape or other has become inevitable.
§ Mr. BALFOUR dissented.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
If I am reading too much into the right hon. Gentleman's speech I am sorry. At any rate, if it did not go as far as that it struck this note. The right hon. Gentleman no longer looks forward with the hopefulness, the optimism, and the confidence which had characterised his attitude in the past to further resistance. I do not want to put it too far, but that in itself was a very significant fact. Then we had an equally remarkable speech from the right hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin. Let me say at once—and 1782 here I come in contact with some of the concluding observations of the Leader of the Opposition—that I do not think that the road to settlement in this matter, which I am as anxious to pursue now as I ever have been at any stage of the controversy, will be successfully pursued by what I may call Parliamentary bargaining across the floor of the House of Commons. The conditions of the case are too delicate. The difficulties which have to be kept in view are too complicated. And it must always be observed, and I am sure it will be recognised by everybody and by the friends of settlement most of all, that for the purposes of settlement you must bring everybody in. It is no good, as we all admit, trying to settle this question behind the back of the men of Ulster for whom the right hon. and learned Gentleman speaks. It is equally no good trying to settle it behind the back of the men of the rest of Ireland. Any settlement come to must be a settlement which will be, I will not say hearty, it may be grudging and reluctant; but it must be accepted with sincerity by all the parties concerned.
I understood the general strain of the right hon. Gentleman's observations on this point to be this: He still held the view that Ulster, or, at any rate, certain parts of Ulster, ought to be excluded until the Imperial Parliament brings them in. As regards the rest of Ireland, much as he objects to it—for he, like the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City, has not in any way withdrawn his objection to a Home Rule Parliament being set up—he went on to say, as I understood him, he will correct me if I am wrong, that he hoped, and I was very glad to hear him say so—he did not say believed, but he hoped—that that experiment, grave as were his apprehensions as to its success, might succeed, and, if it did succeed, it would have, and must necessarily have an attractive power over Ulster in the excluded area. With regard to the other aspect of the matter, that which is usually called federation—a convenient term, though I have often pointed out a very inadequate one to describe the problem, but so long as we mean the same thing by the term it does not matter very much—as regards federation, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dublin University repeated the declaration he made at Manchester—which I welcomed at the time and acquiesced in, for I followed him immediately in that city—that 1783 he was not opposed to it, and if, and when, and as to what is called federation came to be applied to the United Kingdom, he would not regard it as impossible, far from impossible, that Ireland as a whole should be treated in that system as an integral unit. Of course, that would satisfy the test which the right hon. Gentleman laid down in his Manchester speech, and which he repeated here to-night, that the real objection of the people of Ulster to be represented was that against their will they were being, what he calls, transferred from the authority of this Parliament, while a similar process was not being applied to other parts of the United Kingdom. I think I am right in saying that. I take note of those statements. I think they are very important.
It is quite obvious that there is a good deal to be supplied before we can approach anything in the nature of a settlement. The right hon. Gentleman, purposely no doubt, perhaps discreetly, was indefinite in point of time, which is a very important matter; and he was indefinite also in regard to his own efforts, actual or prospective, to bring about such a system of federation, with the result that Ireland might be in it and under it treated as one united body. There are obviously a number of other questions which might be put. I shall, therefore, and I think I am right in doing so, say no more upon the details of the right hon. Gentleman's speech than this—that
§ I fully recognise its spirit. I think it was a speech which was intended to help and not to hinder a settlement. That spirit we entirely reciprocate. I cannot and will not say more than I have often said before: The Government have made an offer in this matter which they believe to be reasonable and fair, and which is still open. I have never closed the door, and I never will close the door until I am compelled by absolute force of circumstances to do so, to any means of arriving at a settlement in this matter, provided that it satisfies the condition that it meets with the assent, the honest and sincere assent, of those who are mainly interested, Irishmen both upon one side and upon the other, and of the two great political parties in the State. No other terms can possibly be satisfactory in this matter, and I assure the House that I pray to Heaven that we may be able to arrive at such a settlement.
§ Question put, "That, in view of the serious nature of the naval and military movements recently contemplated by the Government against Ulster, of the incompleteness and inaccuracy in material points of the statements made by Ministers, and of the continued failure of the Government to deal frankly with the situation, this House is of opinion that there should be a full and impartial inquiry into all the circumstances."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 264; Noes, 344.1789
|Division No. 86.]||AYES.||[8.5 p.m.|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Boscawen, Sir Arthur S. T. Griffith-||Coates, Major Sir Edward Feetham|
|Amery, L. C. M. S.||Boyle, William (Norfolk, Mid)||Cooper, Sir Richard Ashmole|
|Anson, Rt. Hon. Sir William R.||Boyton, James||Courthope, George Loyd|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major William||Brassey, H. Leonard Campbell||Craig, Ernest (Cheshire, Crewe)|
|Archer-Shee, Major M.||Bridgeman, William Clive||Craig, Captain James (Down, E.)|
|Ashley, Wilfrid W.||Bull, Sir William James||Craig, Norman (Kent, Thanet)|
|Astor, Waldorf||Burdett-Coutts, W.||Craik, Sir Henry|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Burgoyne, Alan Hughes||Crichton-Stuart, Lord Ninian.|
|Baker, Sir Randoll L. (Dorset, N.)||Burn, Colonel C. R.||Croft, H. P.|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Butcher, John George||Currie, George W.|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (City, London)||Campbell, Captain Duncan F. (Ayr, N.)||Dalrymple, Viscount|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Campbell, Rt. Hon. J. (Dublin Univ.)||Dalziel, Davison (Brixton)|
|Banner, Sir John S. Harmood-||Campion, W. R.||Denison-Pender, J. C.|
|Baring, Maj. Hon. Guy V. (Winchester)||Carlile, Sir Edward Hildred||Denniss, E. R. B.|
|Barlow, Montagu (Salford, South)||Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward H.||Dickson, Rt. Hon. C. Scott|
|Barnston, Harry||Cassel, Felix||Dixon, C. H.|
|Barrie, H. T.||Castlereagh, Viscount||Du Cros, Arthur Philip|
|Bathurst, Hon. A. B. (Glouc., E.)||Cator, John||Duke, Henry Edward|
|Bathurst, Charles (Wilts, Wilton)||Cautley, Henry Strother||Duncannon, Viscount|
|Beach, Hon. Michael Hugh Hicks||Cave, George||Du Pre, W. Baring|
|Beckett, Hon. Gervase||Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Eyres-Monsell, Bolton M.|
|Bonn, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth)||Cecil, Lord Hugh (Oxford University)||Faber, George Denison (Clapham)|
|Bennett-Goldney, Francis||Cecil, Lord R. (Herts., Hitchin)||Faber, Captain W. V. (Hants, W.)|
|Bentinck, Lord H. Cavendish-||Chaloner, Colonel R. G. W.||Falle, Bertram Godfray|
|Beresford, Lord Charles||Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. A. (Worc'r., E.)||Fell, Arthur|
|Bigland, Alfred||Chambers, James||Fetherstonhaugh, Godfrey|
|Bird, Alfred||Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry||Finlay, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert|
|Blair, Reginald||Clive, Captain Percy Archer||Fisher, Rt. Hon. W. Hayes|
|Boles, Lieut.-Colonel Dennis Fortescue||Clyde, J. Avon||Fitzroy, Hon. Edward A.|
|Flannery, Sir J. Fortescue||Kyffin-Taylor, G.||Rutherford, John (Lancs, Darwen)|
|Fleming, Valentine||Larmor, Sir J.||Rutherford, Watson (L'pool, W. Derby)|
|Fletcher, John Samuel||Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Bootle)||Salter, Arthur Clavell|
|Forster, Henry William||Lawson, Hon. H. (T. H'mts., Mile End)||Samuel, Sir Harry (Norwood)|
|Foster, Philip Staveley||Lee, Arthur Hamilton||Samuel, Samuel (Wandsworth)|
|Gardner, Ernest||Lewisham, Viscount||Sanders, Robert Arthur|
|Gastrell, Major W. Houghton||Lloyd, George Ambrose (Stafford, W.)||Sanderson, Lancelot|
|Gibbs, George Abraham||Lloyd, George Butler (Shrewsbury)||Sandys, G. J.|
|Gilmour, Captain John||Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury)||Sassoon, Sir Philip|
|Glazebrook, Captain Philip K.||Locker-Lampson, O. (Ramsey)||Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.)|
|Goldman, C. S.||Lockwood, Rt. Hon. Lt.-Colonel A. R.||Sharman-Crawford, Colonel R. G.|
|Goldsmith, Frank||Long, Rt. Hon. Walter||Smith, Rt. Hon. F. E. (L'pool, Walton)|
|Gordon, John (Londonderry, South)||Lowe, Sir F. W. (Birm., Edgbaston)||Smith, Harold (Warrington)|
|Gordon, Hon. John Edward (Brighton)||Lyttelton, Hon. J. C.||Spear, Sir John Ward|
|Goulding, Edward Alfred||MacCaw, William J. MacGeagh||Stanler, Beville|
|Grant, J. A.||Mackinder, Halford J.||Stanley, Hon. Arthur (Ormskirk)|
|Greene, Walter Raymond||Macmaster, Donald||Stanley, Hon. G. F. (Preston)|
|Gretton, John||M'Neill, Ronald (Kent, St. Augustine's)||Starkey, John Ralph|
|Guinness, Hon. Rupert (Essex, S. E.)||Malcolm, Ian||Staveley-Hill, Henry|
|Guinness, Hon. W. E. (Bury S. Edmunds)||Mallaby-Deeley, Harry||Steel-Maitland, A. D.|
|Gwynne, R. S. (Sussex, Eastbourne)||Mason, James F. (Windsor)||Stewart, Gershom|
|Haddock, George Bahr||Meysey-Thompson, E. C.||Swift, Rigby|
|Hall, D. B. (Isle of Wight)||Middlemore, John Throgmorton||Sykes, Alan John (Ches., Knutsford)|
|Hall, Frederick (Dulwich)||Mildmay, Francis Bingham||Sykes, Sir Mark (Hull, Central)|
|Hall, Marshall (E. Toxteth)||Mills, Hon. Charles Thomas||Terrell, George (Wilts, N. W.)|
|Hambro, Angus Valdemar||Moore, William||Terrell, Henry (Gloucester)|
|Hamersley, Alfred St. George||Morrison-Bell, Capt. E. F. (Ashburton)||Thompson, Robert (Belfast, North)|
|Hamilton, C. G. C. (Ches., Altrincham)||Morrison-Bell, Major A. C. (Honiton)||Thomson, W. Mitchell- (Down, North)|
|Hamilton, Lord C. J. (Kensington, S.)||Mount, William Arthur||Thynne, Lord Alexander|
|Hardy, Rt. Hon. Laurence||Neville, Reginald J. N.||Touche, George Alexander|
|Harris, Henry Percy||Newdegate, F. A.||Tryon, Captain George Clement|
|Harrison-Broadley, H. B.||Newman, John R. P.||Tullibardine, Marquess of|
|Helmsley, Viscount||Newton, Harry Kottingham||Valentia, Viscount|
|Henderson, Major H. (Berks, Abingdon)||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)||Walker, Colonel William Hall|
|Henderson, Sir A. (St. Geo., Han. Sq.)||Nield, Herbert||Walrond, Hon. Lionel|
|Herbert, Hon. A. (Somerset, S.)||Norton-Griffiths, J. (Wednesbury)||Ward, A. S. (Herts, Watford)|
|Hewins, William Albert Samuel||O'Neill, Hon. A. E. B. (Antrim, Mid)||Warde, Colonel C. E. (Kent, Mid)|
|Hibbert, Sir Henry F.||Orde-Powlett, Hon. W. G. A.||Watson, Hon. W.|
|Hickman, Colonel Thomas E.||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William||Weigall, Captain A. G.|
|Hills, John Waller||Paget, Almeric Hugh||Weston, Colonel J. W.|
|Hill-Wood, Samuel||Parker, Sir Gilbert (Gravesend)||Wheler, Granville C. H.|
|Hoare, S. J. G.||Parkes, Ebenezer||White, Major G. D. (Lancs., Southport)|
|Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Peel, Lieut.-Colonel R. F.||Williams, Colonel R. (Dorset, W.)|
|Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||Perkins, Walter Frank||Willoughby, Major Hon. Claud|
|Hope, Major J. A. (Midlothian)||Peto, Basil Edward||Wills, Sir Gilbert|
|Home, Edgar (Surrey, Guildford)||Pole-Carew, Sir R.||Wilson, A. Stanley (Yorks, E. R.)|
|Horner, Andrew Long||Pollock, Ernest Murray||Wilson, Captain Leslie O. (Reading)|
|Houston, Robert Paterson||Pretyman, Ernest George||Wilson, Maj. Sir M. (Bethnal Green, S.W.)|
|Hume-Williams, William Ellis||Pryce-Jones, Colonel E.||Winterton, Earl|
|Hunt, Rowland||Quilter, Sir William Eley C.||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Hunter, Sir Charles Rodk.||Ratcliff, R. F.||Wood, John (Stalybridge)|
|Ingleby, Holcombe||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel||Worthington Evans, L.|
|Jackson, Sir John||Rawson, Colonel Richard H.||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart.|
|Jardine, Ernest (Somerset, E.)||Rees, Sir J. D.||Wright, Henry Fitzherbert|
|Jessel, Captain H. M.||Remnant, James Farquharson||Yate, Colonel C. E.|
|Joynson-Hicks, William||Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)||Yerburgh, Robert A.|
|Kerry, Earl of||Rolleston, Sir John||Younger, Sir George|
|Keswick, Henry||Ronaldshay, Earl of|
|Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Rothschild, Lionel de||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Lord|
|Knight, Captain Eric Ayshford||Royds, Edmund||Edmund Talbot and Mr. Pike Pease.|
|Abraham, William (Dublin, Harbour)||Barton, William||Carr-Gomm, H. W.|
|Abraham, Rt. Hon. William (Rhondda)||Beale, Sir William Phipson||Cawley, Sir Frederick (Prestwich)|
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Cawley, Harold T. (Lancs., Heywood)|
|Adamson, William||Beck, Arthur Cecil||Chancellor, Henry George|
|Addison, Dr. Christopher||Benn, W. W. (T. Hamlets. St. George)||Chapple, Dr. William Allen|
|Adkins, Sir W. Ryland D.||Bentham, George Jackson||Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.|
|Agar-Robartes, Hon. T. C. R.||Bethell, Sir J. H.||Clancy, John Joseph|
|Agnew, Sir George William||Black, Arthur W.||Clough, William|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Boland, John Pius||Clynes, John R.|
|Alden, Percy||Booth, Frederick Handel||Collins, Godfrey P. (Greenock)|
|Allen, Arthur A. (Dumbartonshire)||Bowerman, Charles W.||Collins, Sir Stephen (Lambeth)|
|Allen, Rt. Hon. Charles P. (Stroud)||Boyle, Daniel (Mayo, North)||Compton-Rickett, Rt. Hon. Sir J.|
|Armitage, Robert||Brace, William||Condon, Thomas Joseph|
|Arnold, Sydney||Brady, Patrick Joseph||Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.|
|Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry||Brocklehurst, William B.||Cotton, William Francis|
|Baker, Harold T. (Accrington)||Brunner, John F. L.||Cowan, W. H.|
|Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.)||Bryce, J. Annan||Craig, Herbert J. (Tynemouth)|
|Baring, Sir Godfrey (Barnstaple)||Buckmaster, Sir Stanley O.||Crooks, William|
|Barnes, George N.||Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Crumley, Patrick|
|Barran, Sir John N. (Hawick Burghs)||Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Cullinan, John|
|Barran, Rowland Hurst (Leeds, N.)||Byles, Sir William Pollard||Davies, David (Montgomery Co.)|
|Davies, Ellis William (Eifion)||Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)||O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.)|
|Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth)||Jones, Leif (Notts, Rushcliffe)||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.|
|Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)||O'Sullivan, Timothy|
|Davies, M. Vaughan- (Cardigan)||Jones, William S. Glyn- (Stepney)||O'Shee, James John|
|Dawes, James Arthur||Jowett, Frederick William||Outhwaite, R. L.|
|De Forest, Baron||Joyce, Michael||Palmer, Godfrey Mark|
|Delany, William||Kellaway, Frederick George||Parker, James (Halifax)|
|Denman, Hon. Richard Douglas||Kelly, Edward||Parry, Thomas H.|
|Devlin, Joseph||Kennedy, Vincent Paul||Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)|
|Dewar, Sir J. A.||Kenyon, Barnet||Pearce, William (Limehouse)|
|Dickinson, Rt. Hon. Willoughby H.||Kilbride, Denis||Pearson, Hon. Weetman H. M.|
|Dillon, John||King, Joseph||Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A. (Rotherham)|
|Donelan, Captain A.||Lamb, Sir Ernest Henry||Philipps, Colonel Ivor (Southampton)|
|Doris, William||Lambert, Rt. Hon. G. (Devon, S. Molton)||Phillips, John (Longford, S.)|
|Duffy, William J.||Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||Pointer, Joseph|
|Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||Lardner, James C. R.||Pollard, Sir George H.|
|Duncan, J. Hastings (Yorks, Otley)||Law, Hugh, A. (Donegal, West)||Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.|
|Edwards, Clement (Glamorgan, E.)||Lawson, Sir W. (Cumb'rld, Cockerm'th)||Pratt, J. W.|
|Edwards, John Hugh (Glamorgan, Mid)||Leach, Charles||Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)|
|Elverston, Sir Harold||Levy, Sir Maurice||Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.)|
|Esmonde, Dr. John (Tipperary, N.)||Lewis, Rt. Hon. John Herbert||Priestley, Sir Arthur (Grantham)|
|Esmonde, Sir Thomas (Wexford, N.)||Logan, John William||Priestley, Sir W. E. B. (Bradford, E.)|
|Essex, Sir Richard Walter||Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Primrose, Hon. Neil James|
|Esslemont, George Birnie||Low, Sir Frederick (Norwich)||Pringle, William M. R.|
|Falconer, James||Lundon, Thomas||Radford, George Heynes|
|Farrell, James Patrick||Lyell, Charles Henry||Raffan, Peter Wilson|
|Fanwick, Rt. Hon. Charles||Lynch, Arthur Alfred||Raphael, Sir Herbert H.|
|Ffrench, Peter||Macdonald, J. Ramsay (Leicester)||Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (South Shields)|
|Field, William||Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)|
|Fiennes, Hon. Eustace Edward||McGhee, Richard||Reddy, Michael|
|Fitzgibbon, John||Maclean, Donald||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||Redmond, William (Clare, E.)|
|France, Gerald Ashburner||MacNeill, J. G. Swift (Donegal, South)||Redmond, William Archer (Tyrone, E|
|Furness, Sir Stephen Wilson||Macpherson, James Ian||Rendall, Athelstan|
|Gelder, Sir W. A.||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Richards, Thomas|
|George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd||M'Callum, Sir John M.||Richardson, Albion (Peckham)|
|Gill, A. H.||M'Curdy, C. A.||Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)|
|Ginnell, Laurence||M'Kean, John||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)|
|Gladstone, W. G. C.||McKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Roberts, George H. (Norwich)|
|Glanville, Harold James||M'Laren, Hon. H. D. (Leics.)||Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs)|
|Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford||M'Laren, Hon. F. W. S. (Lincs., Spalding)||Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradford)|
|Goldstone, Frank||M'Micking, Major Gilbert||Robertson John M. (Tyneside)|
|Greenwood, Hamar (Sunderland)||Manfield, Harry||Robinson, Sidney|
|Greig, Colonel J. W.||Markham, Sir Arthur Basil||Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)|
|Grey, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward||Marks, Sir George Croydon||Roche, Augustine (Louth)|
|Griffith, Ellis Jones||Marshall, Arthur Harold||Roe, Sir Thomas|
|Guest, Hon. Major C. H. C. (Pembroke)||Martin, Joseph||Rowlands, James|
|Guest, Hon. Frederick E. (Dorset, E.)||Mason, David M. (Coventry)||Rowntree, Arnold|
|Gwynn, Stephen Lucius (Galway)||Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.)||Russell, Rt. Hon. Thomas W.|
|Hackett, John||Meehan, Patrick J. (Queen's Co., Leix)||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)|
|Hall, Frederick (Yorks, Normanton)||Middlebrook, William||Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Hancock, John George||Millar, James Duncan||Samuel, Sir Stuart M. (Whitechapel)|
|Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Lewis (Rossendale)||Molloy, Michael||Scanlan, Thomas|
|Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)||Molteno, Percy Alport||Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)|
|Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds)||Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred||Seely, Rt. Hon. Colonel J. E. B.|
|Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithness-shire)||Money, L. G. Chiozza||Sheehy, David|
|Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale)||Montagu, Hon. E. S.||Sherwell, Arthur James|
|Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)||Mooney, John J.||Shortt, Edward|
|Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)||Morgan, George Hay||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John Allsebrook|
|Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry||Morrell, Philip||Smith, Albert (Lancs., Clitheroe)|
|Hayden, John Patrick||Morison, Hector||Smith, H. B. Lees (Northampton)|
|Hayward, Evan||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas||Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.)|
|Helme, Sir Norval Watson||Muldcon, John||Snowden, Philip|
|Hemmerde, Edward George||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert||Soames, Arthur Wellesley|
|Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||Murphy, Martin J.||Spicer, Rt. Hon. Sir Albert|
|Henderson, John M. (Aberdeen)||Murray, Captain Hon. Arthur C.||Stanley, Albert (Staffs, N. W.)|
|Henry, Sir Charles||Nannetti, Joseph P.||Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West|
|Herbert, General Sir Ivor (Mon., S.)||Needham, Christopher T.||Swann, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles E.|
|Hewart, Gordon||Neilson, Francis||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|Higham, John Sharp||Nicholson, Sir Charles N. (Doncaster)||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)|
|Hinds, John||Nolan, Joseph||Taylor, Thomas (Bolton)|
|Hobhouse, Rt. Hon. Charles E. H.||Norman, Sir Henry||Tennant, Harold John|
|Hodge, John||Norton, Captain Cecil William||Thomas, James Henry|
|Hogge, James Myles||Nugent, Sir Walter Richard||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Holmes, Daniel Turner||Nuttall, Harry||Thorne, William (West Ham)|
|Holt, Richard Durning||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Toulmin, Sir George|
|Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Hudson, Walter||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)||Verney, Sir Harry|
|Hughes, Spencer Leigh||O'Doherty, Philip||Walters, Sir John Tudor|
|Jardine, Sir J. (Roxburgh)||O'Donnell, Thomas||Walton, Sir Joseph|
|John, Edward Thomas||O'Dowd, John||Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Johnson, William||Ogden, Fred||Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)|
|Jones, Rt. Hon. Sir D. Brynmor (Swansea)||O'Kelly, Edward P. (Wicklow, W.)||Wardle, George J.|
|Jones, Edgar (Merthyr Tydvil)||O'Kelly, James (Roscommon, N.)||Waring, Walter|
|Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth)||O'Malley, William||Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay T.|
|Wason, Ht. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)||Wiles, Thomas||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)||Wilkie, Alexander||Winfrey, Sir Richard|
|Watt, Henry Anderson||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, N.W.)||Wing, Thomas Edward|
|Webb, H.||Williams, John (Glamorgan)||Wood, Rt. Hon. T. McKinnon (Glasgow)|
|White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston)||Williams, Llewelyn (Carmarthen)||Yeo, Alfred William|
|White, Sir Luke (Yorks, E. R.)||Williams, Penry (Middlesbrough)||Young, William (Perthshire, East)|
|White, Patrick (Meath, North)||Williamson, Sir Archibald||Yoxall, Sir James Henry|
|Whitehouse, John Howard||Wilson, Hon. G. G. (Hull, W.)|
|Whittaker, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas P.||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr.|
|Whyte, Alexander F. (Perth)||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Worcs., N.)||Illingworth and Mr. Gulland.|