§ Amendment proposed (10th February), at the end of the Question, to add the words, "But humbly represent that it would be disastrous to proceed further with the Government of Ireland Bill until it has been submitted to the judgment of the people."—[Mr. Walter Long.]
§ Question again proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL (Sir John Simon)
The Debate on the Amendment which opened yesterday has already provided some commentary, and, I think, some instructive commentary, on the passage in the Gracious Speech from the Throne dealing with Ireland. The Gracious Speech referred to the Irish situation as—a matter in which the hopes and fears of so many of My subjects are keenly concerned,not, be it observed, fears only, but hopes as well as fears—fears that we must frankly concede are genuinely entertained, though some of us think that they are founded upon unreasonable anxiety, and hopes which we ask Gentlemen on the other side to remember are no less genuine, no less deep seated, no less 162 tenaciously and passionately held and which, whether they be ill or well founded, are represented in this House by the great majority of the Irish representatives. The Gracious Speech invoked for this serious matter a spirit of mutual concession, and it appealed for the good will and co-operation of men of all parties and creeds. I say that the Debate yesterday has already provided an instructive and pertinent commentary on that portion of the Gracious Speech. No fair-minded man, in whatever quarter of the House he sits, can deny that the Prime Minister's speech yesterday was entirely consistent with the spirit of that speech. What was the response which, at the end of the day's Debate, was offered to him? I shall be the first to admit the vigour and sincerity with which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Austen Chamberlain) presented his argument. Is it a biassed view or anything more than a plain fact when I say that, whatever be the explanation, that was a speech in which it was very difficult to detect even the smallest grain of a wish for accommodation, and accommodation, be it observed, for a situation which we all feel to be anxious and difficult and which the right hon. Gentleman sincerely believes amounts to the verge of civil war?
Indeed, the right hon. Gentleman was so anxious to show his uncompromising spirit that he was led into one or two statements on matters of fact which are demonstrable inaccurate. Let me take one instance. The right hon. Gentleman was pleased to observe in regard to the Home Rule Bill, "No Irish authority, no man of competence in Ireland, has ever pretended that the financial solution offered by this Bill was practical or feasible." The right hon. Gentleman is entirely within his rights when he asserts that as his own opinion, and when he says his opinion is shared by some other persons whose claims to speak on financial facts we admit as readily as we do his own, but it is simply not the fact that no Irish authority, no man of competence in Ireland, has ever pretended that the financial solution offered by the Bill was practical. I take as an example a name which every informed and competent student of modern economics knows is one of the great names of European reputation in the realm of public finance, that is the name of Professor Bastable. Who is Professor Bastable? He is a Protestant, an admitted authority on public finance, and though the right hon Gentleman may not regard him as the best authority—he was 163 one of the signatories to a famous declaration as to the absurdity of Tariff Reform—one right hon. Gentleman opposite who will not deny that he is most competent is the hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir E. Carson), for Professor Bastable is a professor in Dublin University. He, who is not a Catholic and not a Nationalist, and who from any point of view is an authority, and a competent authority, on Irish as well as general finance, has pronounced as his mature conclusion on the finance of the Home Rule Bill:—The financial plans of the Government of Ireland Bill, alike in its provision for Trish expenditure under the check of due responsibility and in those for affording the revenue necessary to meet that expenditure, and finally in its arrangement of financial machinery to secure the working of the system, is carefully adapted to the conditions of the problem, and though certainly by no means perfect, is quite capable of being worked satisfactorily by reasonable human beings. Amendments will be called for if the measure comes into being, but, unforeseen contingencies apart, no radical alteration of the financial basis is required.I should have thought with an authority of that sort to be considered and weighed, the right hon. Gentleman would not have thought it right to go to the lengths he did. Let me see whether I can state, without any heat or desire to generate heat, what was the substance of the right hon. Gentleman's conclusions last night. Instead of expressing himself as willing to give fair consideration to suggestions which the Prime Minister undertook to make, he pronounced judgment beforehand. He selected as the only change worth a moment of his attention the change which the right hon. Gentleman (Sir E. Carson) has declared, rightly or wrongly, is a change which will make Home Rule impossible. He gave notice in advance that he would never regard any settlement as binding, and declared that the main attraction which the exclusion of so-called Ulster had for him was due to the disappointment it would cause to Nationalist aspirations and ideals. That is what the Gracious Speech calls the spirit of mutual concession. But the Debate is not over. I understood the right hon. Gentleman to claim to reserve for himself and his Friends hereafter and indefinitely the right, if they have the opportunity, of tearing up any settlement that might be arrived at. So I understood, and I do not understand that I am corrected in that statement now.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
The right hon. Gentleman did not accurately represent my view. I referred to the settlement contained in this Bill. I said that the mere exclusion of Ulster, though it 164 would be a great improvement to the Bill and would avert a great crime, would not induce me to be a party to the Bill or tie my future liberty and action.
§ Sir JOHN SIMON
I am very glad the right hon. Gentleman intervened because if I did not accurately state, as I am sure I desire, and as I thought I had, what is the meaning he has in mind, we at any rate have it now on record beyond all question. When this Debate is over, the House and the country will be able to judge how far the good will and co-operation of men of all parties can be relied on in this House, and what is the contribution to this end which is forthcoming from different quarters. Meantime we on this side stand upon the Prime Minister's declaration of yesterday, and colleagues of his whose duty it may be to take part in this Debate will, I think, best discharge that duty if they make it plain that they have no intention of either adding to or subtracting from the declaration that has been made. There is one other feature of this Debate which is worn and threadbare enough. It is the ostensible object of this Amendment. It is the demand for an immediate General Election. During the eight years in which I have been in this House I do not recollect any subject of high controversy in respect of which the Opposition thought that there was a danger that the views of the majority would be carried into law, which did not immediately provoke on their part a demand for a General Election. They were to have a General Election on the Education Bill of 1906; they were to have a General Election on the Licensing Bill of 1907; a General Election on the Budget of 1909 and on the Parliament Bill of 1911. Now we are invited to have a General Election immediately on the present subject. For my part, I quite concede that every Opposition is tempted to attach a possibly exaggerated importance to the advantage which a General Election will be to them before the election happens; and certainly every Opposition is, once the General Election has occurred, and, as usually happens in recent years, left them in the same position as that in which they were before, rather tempted to allege that the General Election proves nothing at all. And, indeed, I think it will be difficult for any hon. Member opposite to tell us now what it was which the last General Election really authorised and approved.
The right hon. Gentleman who closed the Debate last night, discussing what I admit is entirely germane to the Amend- 165 ment, spent some time telling us his view as to what would be the change in the situation effected by an immediate appeal to the country. He dealt with it naturally on two hypotheses. He told us what in his view would be the effect if there were now a General Election in which the Opposition was successful, and if, on the other hand, as we venture to think is more possible, what happened at the last election and the election before that and the election before that again, were to happen again. Take his alternatives in turn. What is his proposition if a General Election were now to take place on the assumption that the Opposition succeeded? He does not, I think, pretend that the success of the Opposition at a General Election at this time will solve the Irish question. Certainly he did not say so, and he has not explained to us if there were such an election now what the Irish policy of the Opposition is going to be. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why should we?"] Let me endeavour to answer that question. We are invited to have a General Election upon Ireland. [HON. MEMBERS: "The Home Rule Bill."] Only on the Bill. I will take it on that basis in a moment. We are invited to have a General Election on the basis of Home Rule. We are assured in advance by the Opposition that if there was such an election they would not be able to tell the country what their alternative is. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO."] Let me test it. The election is to be on the subject of Ireland. Is there in the view of hon. Gentlemen opposite any Irish problem at all independent of the Bill. [HON. MEMBERS: "You have made one."] All I know about that is that so recently as three days ago the most characteristic prophet of the Conservative party, the editor of the "Observer," was good enough to inform his readers that in his opinion the Dublin Castle system is doomed and inevitably doomed, and that it has long outlived its usefulness, and he went on to say:Unionists know that the interests of the Empire at large and of the whole English-speaking world, as well as the working of our own Parliamentary institutions, demand a thorough attempt to settle the Irish question. They know a great reconstruction of Irish government to be inevitable. All this the responsible interpreters of the Opposition have in effect admitted. Any pretence to the contrary is merely untrue.It is not enough to admit, and it is admited very frankly by that distinguished writer, that changes must come. If an election is to take place at this time with reference to this subject the country is entitled to know, and is bound to know, from those who speak for hon. Gentlemen 166 opposite, what are the changes, the great and important changes which the Unionist party suggest in Irish government. Unless that be the case, the General Election at this time, taking the hypothesis that it would result in the success of the Unionist party, would solve no question and get rid of no difficulty whatever. Let me take the other, and I venture to think the more probable alternative. What is to be the situation suppose a General Election now takes place and results in a confirmation of the present distribution of parties in this House? The declarations made at the beginning of the Debate yesterday by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Strand—and I hope he will allow me to say how sincerely we rejoice to find him returning to us again—show quite clearly that a General Election will make no difference to him. He tells us, with perfect straightforwardness, that he stands where he and his friends stood thirty years ago, and that it is a matter of conviction and principle with him, and naturally enough, from his point of view, an election more or less cannot change his conscientious opinion. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Worcestershire spoke as though the only effect of a General Election which resulted in our favour would be to confirm the Government in its action, and to facilitate their Irish programme, and he even hinted, if I understood him rightly, that a General Election would at any rate qualify the strenuousness of the resistance of British Unionists in the House of Commons. Is that the only effect of a General Election at this moment? Is it even the effect which some of the right hon. Gentleman's friends are thinking most about? There is another effect of a General Election at this moment, even though it results in our favour, which the right hon. Gentleman and his friends say nothing about, but which I venture to suggest is ever present to their minds. There is something besides the immediate future of our Irish policy which would be an issue if a General Election were to take place. It is not the immediate future of the Irish policy merely; it is the practical working of the Parliament Act. Let it be observed that this Amendment does not express any regret that there was no General Election during the holidays.
§ Sir J. SIMON
This Amendment which we are debating suggests, and the two 167 speeches made from the Front Bench opposite suggested, that what is wanted is a General Election now. Let us see what that involves. The Noble Lord who sits below the Gangway I am sure will not dispute that it involves the tearing up of the Parliament Act. If there is any doubt about it let us test it, and we can test it by a very simple test. Suppose that that which is asked for by this Amendment were granted, and a General Election took place now, would the Unionist party undertake, if they were successful in such General Election, to maintain unimpaired the Parliament Act against the time that they came back again? It is quite true that the Leader of the Opposition has already in this House undertaken that he will never repeal the Parliament Act simpliciter, and he bound himself at the same time that he will only do so when he persuades the present Members of the House of Lords to give place to another set of people, as part, I think, of a general scheme of reconstruction of the Second Chamber.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
As this is rather important, perhaps I may intervene for a moment. I think it right to say that the first statement of the right hon. Gentleman is accurate. I said we should never repeal the Parliament Act without making other alterations in the constitution of the Second Chamber.
§ Sir J. SIMON
The right hon. Gentleman, I am sure, has got our previous colloquy in mind on this point. I had the rather good fortune of getting an answer from him on the point in the course of the previous debate. What was then said stands on record, and I have no doubt that the passage can be referred to. We shall see, when we look at it, whether there is any real difference between what the right hon. Gentleman now says and what he then said. In the meantime I am very willing to believe that there is none at all. I say, therefore, that the second hypothesis, the hypothesis of a General Election, which resulted in our favour now, really involves the tearing up of the Parliament; Act, and it is not doubtful that my test is a true one. Hon. Gentlemen opposite would not, and cannot undertake, if they were to succeed, that they would keep the Parliament Act intact against the time we come into power. Let me take the other alternative. If the General Election took place now, even though it resulted in the confirmation of the present 168 Government in power, it would release the House of Lords to block a Home Rule Bill for two or three Sessions ahead. Would hon. Gentlemen say that the Unionist party would undertake, if there was a General Election now, and if they succeeded, that the Home Rule Bill should then pass through the House of Lords without delay and unamended?
§ Sir J. SIMON
I am glad to see that the Noble Lord, who has a very ingenious mind, perceives that the demand for a General Election will not do.
§ Sir J. SIMON
For the rest, all I have to say is that in the course of yesterday we had two speeches from responsible-leaders of the Opposition on the Front Bench. They both of them said a great deal about a General Election, but neither of them ever mentioned the blessed word "Referendum." The truth is that though the attempt is not avowed, the attempt cannot be concealed, and the attempt that is at the back of this Amendment is nothing less than the attempt to tear up the Parliament Act for all purposes and for all time. That is an attempt which all of us who have suffered under the unrestricted veto of the House of Lords are determined to resist to the last. It may well be, it can hardly fail to be, that there will be in this Debate much speaking which does not, at any rate, greatly advance this matter. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"] It may be that hon. Gentlemen opposite are right, and, if so, they are very fortunate in their self-complacency that that only happens on one side of the House. However that may be, when this Debate comes to a conclusion we may all of us be sure of this, that the support of public opinion, and, for the matter of that, the approving verdict of the future, will attach to those men and that party who have recognised that there is an Irish problem, who have recognised that it must be solved now, and who by word and by action contribute, within the measure of their power, to a policy of peace. I should be very slow to believe that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite do not, many of them, share that view, and certainly we are entitled on this side of the House to appeal to them to respond to the spirit and temper which was shown by the Prime Minister yesterday.
§ Sir E. CARSON
If I do not follow the Attorney-General into a great deal of the arguments that he has put before us it is not because I have no respect for the views he puts before this House. He has stated himself, very modestly, that he felt bound to follow the declarations of the Prime Minister yesterday. I should rather prefer to deal with the speech of the Prime Minister than to begin to weigh the relative weight of Professor Bastable as a financial authority as against the Primrose Committee, the Council of County Councils, Lord McDonnell, Lord Dunraven, Sir Horace Plunkett, and innumerable other persons. Nor shall I follow the Attorney-General into his effort to impute to us that our only motive in the present case is to get rid of the Parliament Act. I do not think any thing is gained by imputations of those motives—
§ Sir JOHN SIMON
I am within the recollection of the House. I do not think I said anything—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"]—which could be construed—and if I did I certainly had no intention of saying so—which imputes that that is the only motive of the Opposition. What I said was, and this is a very different thing, that I found it difficult to believe that there were not among the Opposition many who were thinking of that.
§ Sir E. CARSON
I am not really going to take up time in quarrelling with the Attorney-General. At all events, in my position, I have far too great responsibility in this matter not to wish to grapple with the real difficulties of the situation so far as I can, and to make it, as far as I can, perfectly plain and clear to the House, without any attempt at ambiguity, how I view the difficulty that faces us. I doubt if the House has yet realised, or if the country has realised, the unparalleled gravity of the statement in the Gracious Speech from the Throne. I venture to think that in the political life of no Member of this House has such a grave statement been made with reference to the domestic relations of fellow citizens of the United Kingdom. We have had in the past, no doubt, warnings of foreign complications, warnings of difficult diplomatic negotiations. When, I should like to know, has the Gracious Speech from the Throne told us that the hopes and fears of our own subjects within the limits of the United Kingdom threatened grave future difficulties; and I think the House may well re- 170 member that the Ministers who advise the Crown are not likely to put into the mouth of the Sovereign any but the very mildest terms in relation to a situation which they certainly would not like to exaggerate. What is the first lesson that we deduce or learn from this grave statement in His Majesty's Speech? We have been two years discussing this question, and I certainly have been two years trying to make the position of the loyalists of Ireland known, and now, after two years, the first lesson we learn is this, that the Bill of the Government, on their own confession, has utterly failed to find a solution of the Irish question. There have been two previous attempts by, I will not say greater, but I will say by equally great men as those who now occupy the Government Bench, and those two previous attempts were condemned by the votes of the people, and this third is condemned by the confession of the Government. And, being condemned by the confession of the Government, is it any wonder that they shirk leaving it to the votes of the people. But there is still more. After those two years is not that statement in His Majesty's Speech a strange commentary on the results of a message of peace for the healing of Irish difficulties? Hopes on the one side, for that is what the Speech means, I agree with the Attorney-General, which, if unrealised, may lead to civil commotion, or, at all events, to "grave future difficulties"—to quote the exact words of the Speech—fears on the other side which, unassuaged, will also lead to "grave future difficulties." What a position for statesmanship to bring this country to! There is something more. With this confusion, with this grave situation, requiring -those unusual words in His Majesty's Speech, with the new situation, as I think the Prime Minister called it, which had arisen, we are in this condition in the people's House, that we are not able to alter a single word in the Bill to meet the new situation which has arisen. Why, Sir, I should have thought, on account of the altered situation leading to "grave future difficulties," and a House of Commons paralysed and unable to meet that situation, that that alone justified us in having a reference to the people. So far as I am concerned, I think something is gained by acknowledging the gravity of the situation and the difficulties which we have to meet in the future. It is all very well to try and minimise difficulties, but if they actually 171 exist you will have to meet them in one way or the other. And perhaps now that we have reached this point, not that I mind personally, perhaps the Secretary of State for War (Colonel Seely) will give up telling his constituents that I am in sane—[An HON. MEMBER: "Oh!"] I beg your pardon.I do not think we can take seriously"—He said at Iikeston, which is his constituency,the vagaries of Sir Edward Carson on this mailer On all other subjects he is eminently sane, but I hazard the suggestion that on this he is not.
§ Sir E. CARSON
May I also say at the same time that I think the hon. Member for Dumfries Burghs (Mr. Gulland), the corrupter of Wick—
§ Mr. LEIF JONES
On a point of Order. Is the right hon. Gentleman in order in charging my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries Burghs with an offence against the law, which could easily have been decided by the presentation of an election petition? Is it in order for the right hon. Gentleman to call him "the corrupter of Wick?"
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I think the hon. Member must have misunderstood the point. There is no suggestion, and there never has been, that the hon. Member for Dumfries Burghs has done anything which could possibly have brought him within the scope of the Corrupt Practices Act. The word "corruption," which has been used, and which is clearly not a pretty or an agreeable term to use, does not, however, apply to that. What the suggestion was I need not go into; I think I have said enough to show the hon. Member that there is no suggestion of any personal or private corruption on the part of the hon. Member for Dumfries Burghs.
§ Sir E. CARSON
I should have thought that the hon. Member for Dumfries Burghs could have taken care of himself; but I think, perhaps, that I may pass from that, if it hurts the susceptibilities of the hon. Member opposite, and I will describe him, with apologies to the House, as the man who did not corrupt the Wick electors. I was saying that it is something, at all events, to have the grave possible future 172 difficulties acknowledged. The speech of the Prime Minister yesterday was no doubt intended to be, and was, a grave and serious speech. While admitting that, I am bound to say that to me, at all events, it was an absolutely disappointing speech. It is about five months since Lord Lore-burn, the ex-Lord Chancellor, who, I believe, had a good deal to do with the framing of this Bill, wrote his famous letter to the "Times" newspaper, which led to protracted controversies on the platform, not very edifying or very helpful, when one Minister puts forward one policy one day, which was immediately discarded by another Minister the next day, and which was eventually put an end to altogether by the intervention of the Member for West Belfast (Mr. Delvin). We have had also, as the Prime Minister said, what have come to be called "conversations." I entirely agree that these matters must be confidential and private. I only refer to them to show that after all these long months at a time of great tension in the north of Ireland, when men are hardening day by day in the anticipation of the dangers to which they are becoming accustomed, we were entitled to expect, and we did expect, that at this hour of the day, and having regard to the words which the Prime Minister had advised His Majesty to use in the Speech from the Throne, the right hon. Gentleman would have been able to give us at all events-some specific outline of what it was he had in his mind, as being the methods which he was going to suggest at the earliest possible moment. But he outlined no proposals whatsoever. He did take one step forward, and I gratefully admit it, in his admission that it was now the duty of the Government to take the initiative. When did they find that out? Because it does occur to us, who are perhaps growing suspicious from the delays which are always taking place, that this is a matter which, one way or another, the Government must be in a position, once they had made up their mind to take the initiative, boldly to put before the country and before this House, instead of our being allowed to go on another day advancing to those grave possibilities of which His Majesty speaks.
Then we are told that we cannot hear these important proposals until after the financial business has been concluded. I cannot help thinking, and the speech of the Attorney-General confirms me in the suspicion, that what the Government are 173 doing is manœuvring for position. They are attempting to raise on their side, by generalities, an atmosphere of reasonableness, knowing well that in a case of this kind we can deal with nothing until we come down to concrete ground and find ourselves faced with actual proposals in black and white. I say that the position, at all events to us Irish Unionists in this House, is an intolerable one. We are asked to sit here quietly and patiently, to vote for Estimates, to vote, I suppose, for the pay of the Army, which you are so ready to say that you will send, but which you never will send, over to Ulster. The position becomes daily more intolerable and more difficult in Ulster itself, where increasing sacrifices are made from day to day, not by great or rich men, but more and more by the democracy of the place, whose whole minds are turning practically on nothing else but this question, and for whom, at all events, you ought to have some consideration, and not tell them: "You men of Ulster, remain quiet, and be quite satisfied that when we have done our financial business we will try and see what we can do to relieve ourselves from the grave difficulties that face us in the future." Financial business need not be interrupted. There is only one way I know in which you can put these proposals in the Bill. At all events, it is one way. It is by an amending Bill. Put your amending Bill on the Table of the House, and let us have the proposals that you are prepared to make and we will consider them.
I desire above all things to make my own position perfectly clear. I am not going to be led into making any suggestions whatsoever until I see how the Government have discharged what is now their admitted duty of taking the initiative, but I think it right to say, and I would be a hypocrite if I did not say, what it would be impossible for us to accept, so that we may, at all events, give the Government some guide when they come to consider these suggestions. They are always talking of concessions to Ulster. Ulster is not asking for concessions. Ulster is asking to be let alone. When you talk of concessions, what you really mean is, "We want to lay down what is the minimum of wrong we can do to Ulster." Let me tell you that the results of two years' delay and the treatment we have received during these two years have made your task and made our task far more difficult. You have driven these men to enter into a covenant for their 174 mutual protection. No doubt you have laughed at their covenant. Have a good laugh at it now. Well, so far as I am concerned, I am not the kind of man who will go over to Ulster one day and say, "Enter into a covenant," and go over next day and say, "Break it." But there is something more. You have insulted them. I do not say the Prime Minister has done so. I would be wrong if I were to say that he has done so. He has treated them seriously, but the large body of his colleagues in the rank and file of his party have taken every opportunity of jeering at these men, of branding them as braggarts and bluffers and cowards, and all the rest of it. Well, do not you see that having done that, these men can never go back, and never will go back, and allow these gibes and insults and sneers to prove true.
The Speech from the Throne talks of the fears of these men. Yes, they have, I think, genuine fears for their civil and religious liberty under the Bill, but do not imagine that that is all that these men are fighting for. They are fighting for a great principle, and a great ideal. They are fighting to stay under the Government which they were invited to come under, under which they have flourished, and under which they are content, and to refuse to come under a Government which they loath and detest. Men do not make sacrifices or take up the attitude these men in Ulster have taken up on a question of detail or paper safeguards. I am not going to argue whether they are right or wrong in resisting. It would be useless to argue it, because they have thoroughly made up their minds, but I say this: If these men are not morally justified when they are attempted to be driven out of one Government with which they are satisfied, and put under another which they loath, I do not see how resistance ever can be justified in history at all. There was one point made by the Prime Minister yesterday, and repeated by Lord Morley in another place, which I should like to deal with for one moment, although it has been already referred to by my right hon. Friend last night. The Prime Minister said, it isas the price of peace that any suggestion we make will be put forward."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th February, 1914, col 82.]and he elaborated that by saying that he did not mean the mere abandonment of resistance, but that he meant that the Bill, if these changes were made, as I undertsood him, should as the price of the changes be accepted generally by 175 opponents in Ireland, and in the Unionist party, so as to give, as he hoped, a good chance and send-off to the Bill. If he means that as the condition of the changes in the Bill we are to support the Bill or take any responsibility whatever for it, I tell him we never can do it. Ulster looms very largely in this controversy, simply because Ulster has a strong right arm, but there are Unionists in the South and West who loath the Bill just as much as we Ulster people loath it, whose difficulties are far greater, and who would willingly fight, as Ulster would fight, if they had the numbers. Nobody knows the difficulties of these men better than I do. Why, it was only the other day some of thorn ventured to put forward as a business proposition that this Bill would be financial ruin to their businesses, saying no more, and immediately they were boycotted, and resolutions were passed, and they were told that they ought to understand as Protestants that they ought to be thankful and grateful for being allowed to live in peace among the people who are there. Yes, we can never support the Bill which hands these people over to the tender mercies of those who have always been their bitterest enemies. We must go on whatever happens, opposing the Bill to the end. That we are entitled to do; that we are bound to do. But I want to speak explicitly about the exclusion of Ulster. I am not at all sure that I entirely understood what the Prime Minister said yesterday in his spech on this subject. In one part of his speech I understood him to say that he did not, in making these changes, which are eventually to be put upon the Table of the House, reject the exclusion of Ulster as a possibility. In another part of his speech he said: "There is nothing we will not do, consistent with the maintenance of the fundamental principles of the Bill, in the solution of this question, to avoid the terrible calamity of civil war or bloodshed." If I take these two passages together I suppose I am entitled to say that the exclusion of Ulster is not opposed to the fundamental principles of the Bill. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Now that is a very important matter. If the exclusion of Ulster is not shut out, and if at the same time the Prime Minister says he cannot admit anything contrary to the fundamental principles of the Bill, I think it follows that the exclusion of Ulster is not con- 176 trary to the fundamental principles of the Bill. If that is so, are you really going on to these grave difficulties in the future that the Gracious Speech from the Throne deals with, and not going to make your offer now, at once, with a view, not to our adopting the Bill, but to putting an end to resistance in Ulster. Why do you hesitate? Surely something that is not fundamental to the principles of the Bill is a thing that you may readily concede, rather than face these grave difficulties which you yourselves admit to exist. I can only say this to the Prime Minister: If the exclusion for that purpose is proposed, it will be my duty to go to Ulster at once and take counsel with the people there; for I certainly do not mean that Ulster should be any pawn in any political game. I say once more, that no responsible loader, unless he were a lunatic, as the Secretary of State says that I am—
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Colonel Seely)
Mr. Speaker, if I have ever said an unkind thing about the right hon. Gentleman, I unreservedly withdraw it; perhaps he will unreservedly withdraw the unkind things which he may have said about me. [An HON. MEMBER: "They are always eating their words."]
§ Sir E. CARSON
No responsible man, whether he was a leader or follower, could possibly go to the people, under any condition, and say, "We are offered something," but say to them that, for political purposes, "You ought to prepare to fight for it rather than accept it"; and I am not going to do anything of the kind.
On the other hand I say this, that if your suggestions—no matter what paper safeguards you put, or no matter what other methods you may attempt to surround these safeguards with for the purpose of raising what I call "your reasonable atmosphere"—if your suggestions try to compel these people to come into a Dublin Parliament, I tell you I shall, regardless of personal consequences, go on with these people to the end with their policy of resistance. Believe me, whatever way you settle the Irish question, there are only two ways to deal with Ulster. It is for statesmen to say which is the best and right one. She is not a part of the community which can be bought. She will not allow herself to be sold. You must therefore either coerce her if you go on, or you must, in the long run, by showing that good government can come under the Home Rule Bill, 177 try and win her over to the case of the rest of Ireland. You probably can coerce her—though I doubt it. If you do, what will be the disastrous consequences not only to Ulster, but to this country and the Empire? Will my fellow countryman, the Leader of the Nationalist party, have gained anything? I will agree with him—I do not believe he wants to triumph any more than I do. But will he have gained anything if he takes over these people and then applies for what he used to call—at all events his party used to call—the enemies of the people to come in and coerce them into obedience? No, Sir, one false step taken in relation to Ulster will, in my opinion, render for ever impossible a solution of the Irish question, I say this to my Nationalist fellow countrymen, and, indeed, also to the Government: you have never tried to win over Ulster. You have never tried to understand her position. You have never alleged, and can never allege, that this Bill gives her one atom of advantage. Nay, you cannot deny that it takes away many advantages that she has as a constituent part of the United Kingdom. You cannot deny that in the past she had produced the most loyal and law-abiding part of the citizens of Ireland. After all that, for these two years, every time we came before you your only answer to us—the majority of you, at all events—was to insult us, and to make little of us. I say to the leader of the Nationalist party, if you want Ulster, go and take her, or go and win her. You have never wanted her affections; you have wanted her taxes.
I must say one word before I sit down about the question of a General Election. The Prime Minister, chaffingly, I think, yesterday said something about the mandate. It is really not worth while going over that old ground now; we will never come to agreement upon it. I am not sure whether you would not just as easily come to agreement about Ireland. But there is one thing I would like to ask. I have asked it before. Where is your mandate to coerce Ulster? I have asked this before. I have asked to be pointed to any speech of any Minister in which he ever put before the constituencies of this country the case of Ulster, and how he would deal with Ulster if Ulster resisted. You know there is not one who has said so. So far as I am concerned, I refuse to give any pledges as regards an election. How can I? I have never known this system crop up before in relation to Bills of cither side 178 asking the other side for pledges. How can we give them? It is quite plain. You are always putting to me: "Will you be bound in Ulster?" You never put it to the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Waterford. These pledges and these undertakings of what we would do with the Parliament Act, and all the rest of it, if we came in are all trifling. It will not solve anything. But I do say this about an election, to whatever party you belong, even if you belonged to an Ulster party, or an Irish Unionist party: Everybody knows that after an election you must reconsider the situation, having regard to what the country has said. You can say nothing more than that, because you do not know what the country means until you see what is being put before it, and how that has been received.
For my own part I might well rest satisfied, if I perhaps merely wanted to stand in the best position to push this thing to the bitter end—I might well stand satisfied with the declaration of my leader, that so long as there was no General Election he and the great party to which he belongs will back us up in our armed resistance in Ulster to the end. I know that pledge will be made good. I know it will be made good at any sacrifice. Surely the Ulster people, with at all events half, or nearly one-half—perhaps more than half—of Great Britain, with a majority even at the present moment here of thirty-two English Members, the predominant partner, the people who pay, against the Bill, I must really think I stand on a very solid foundation. Why, Sir, you cannot wage and carry on a war against a foreign power against such conditions as that, and do you mean to tell me when you cannot do it against a foreign power, you are going to do it against your own kith and kin in Ulster, solely because they desire to stay in your community? It is impossible. The extraordinary part of it all is that as I read the speeches from day to day, I always find that the men who most readily talk of coercing us in Ulster are the men who cried shame when you tried to coerce the Boers in South Africa. There was something said by my right hon. Friend, whom, as the Attorney-General gracefully said, we willingly welcome back here in renewed health and strength, about myself which was received with jeers by hon. Members opposite—that I deserve some credit for the peace that has hitherto reigned in Ulster. I claim no credit. Credit is due to the steady 179 good sense of the people themselves, who see that sporadic outbreaks mean nothing except suffering to themselves and injury to the community. I hope peace may continue to the end. I know and have weighed all the horrors that civil commotion may bring. It will not be my fault if resistance becomes necessary, but, Mr. Speaker, on my conscience I shall not refuse to join it.
§ Mr. JOHN REDMOND
Mr. Speaker, the powerful speech which has just been delivered by the right hon. Gentleman was heard by me, and I fancy I would be correct in saying was heard by all my colleagues, with very mixed feelings. There were passages in his speech which deeply moved me. It was not necessary for the right hon. Gentleman to remind me that he is a fellow countryman of mine. I have never in my life said a single word in the direction of desiring to repudiate my fellow countrymen in any part of Ireland. On the contrary, it has been my desire to see them all united under a common government for the benefit of a common country. The right hon. Gentleman at the commencement of his speech deprecated the imputation of motives, and yet he was not ashamed to turn round to a fellow countryman of his own and say to him that his desire was not to win the confidence of Ulster, or of his fellow countrymen in the North, but to get their taxes. Sir, I repudiate that statement. No such desire animates either my colleagues or myself. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I care not about the assent of Englishmen. I am fighting this matter out between a fellow countryman and myself, and I say it was an unworthy thing for him to say that I am animated by these base motives, especially after he had lectured the House on the undesirability of imputing motives.
I am afraid my speech will be a great contrast, in one respect, to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. I have no intention of delivering what might be called an ordinary controversial party speech. I would not speak at all were it not that I feel that this Debate ought not to be allowed to conclude without the voice of the Irish party being heard with reference to what I may call, very properly, I think, the new situation which has been created by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister last night. I have no desire, I repeat, to deliver on this occasion an ordinary controversial speech, and I 180 can assure the House, and I believe the great majority of the House will believe I am telling the truth, when I say I can assure the House that I speak on this matter under the stress of feeling of gravity and responsibility every bit as great as that claimed by the right hon. Gentlemen the Member for Trinity College. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister said that he hoped and believed that the words in the Gracious Speech from the Throne, with reference to Ireland, would arouse a responsive echo in the hearts of men in all parts of this House. Sir, that hope is not in vain so far as the Irish party is concerned. These words have raised a responsive echo in our hearts and we share to the full, and I share to the very fullest extent, the anxiety which is expressed in these words from the Throne for an amicable settlement of this question.
The idea of conflict with any section of my fellow countrymen is hateful to me, and hateful to my colleagues, and, therefore, though I must say, and I must be allowed to be candid in these matters, that we do not by any means take the tragic view of the probabilities, or even the possibilities, of what is called civil war in Ulster, which are entertained by some other people in this House, still, we are desirous and I am most sincerely desirous, to avoid saying one single word, or doing one single act, calculated to render more difficult the task of those who are engaged in trying to promote a settlement of this question by agreement. No one knows better, no one understands better than we do, the terrible handicap which conflict of any sort or kind, especially acute conflict with any section of our fellow countrymen, would inflict upon the beginnings of a new Parliament, and the beginnings of a new government in Ireland; and, speaking for myself, I can certainly say, that I would indeed have a very small sense of the responsibility of the position which I hold if I deliberately or thoughtlessly played into the hands of those, and I am afraid there are such persons, who want no peaceful and amicable settlement of this question, and whose policy manifestly is to wreck the possibilities of peace. For these reasons I will not, as I have said, attempt to deliver what might be called an ordinary partisan controversial speech. I decline to allow myself to be tempted or to be provoked even by that most uncalled for and provocative speech of the Member for East Worcestershire (Mr. 181 Austen Chamberlain) last night into ordinary party controversy. I will, therefore, confine myself to some observations, and they shall be very brief, with reference to the new situation to which I have alluded. As I understand that new situation, it is this, that the Prime Minister last night, for the first time, has accepted the responsibility for the Government for taking the initiative in making proposals with the object of effecting an amicable settlement of this question. That is the new situation. I confess I myself would have thought that the responsibility for initiative in this matter might fairly have been left upon the Opposition, and that that situation could have been adequately met by the Government undertaking to give, not only serious, but sympathetic consideration to any claim that they put forward. However, I accept absolutely the new situation, and I certainly will do nothing, and say nothing, to make that situation more difficult or more dangerous.
The Prime Minister has promised to put forward, on the authority of the Government, suggestions without undue delay apparently at or about the time when the necessary financial business will be over—that is to say, at or about the time when in the ordinary course this Bill would be coming up for Second Reading. The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down said that the House of Commons, under the operation of the Parliament Act was powerless to change anything in this Bill. Now, no one knows better than ho that, though that technically is accurate, it still in the larger sense is not true. It is provided in the Parliament Act that suggestions may be sent to the House of Lords, and that if accepted by the House of Lords and put in as amendments, then they become part of the Bill, and the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman really was too simple for words, that the only course the Government could take was to introduce a new amending Bill. How childlike! Introduce a new Bill, which at once would come under the Parliament Act and require three Sessions and two years to pass it. No, Sir, if suggestions are made in this House, and approved by this House, or even if no suggestions are made formally in this House, but if agreed amendments are put into the Bill in the House of Lords, and then accepted when they come back here, they become part of the Bill, and I take it for granted that is the procedure which the Prime Minister has in 182 his mind. Now the Prime Minister gave us no hint as to what these suggestions were likely to be, nor in fairness, let it be said, could he, in view of the facts of the situation. Every day, as he pointed out last night, new suggestions are being made by responsible people.
Only yesterday an important suggestion was made as to the merits, of which I will not say anything at the present moment, by a very important man, Sir Horace Plunkett, who represents a considerable section of moderate Unionist opinion in Ireland and in this country, and it would have been, in my humble judgment, a most, rash and unwise thing for the Prime Minister to come down here at this stage, while fresh suggestions are being made for consideration from responsible quarters, with cut-and-dried suggestions to this House. In view of the fact that the right hon. Gentleman, and that the Speech from the Throne contemplated the continuation of the efforts to arrive at some sort of negotiation on a common basis, the right hon. Gentleman would have been unwise, and I think he would have been most guilty, if he had come down here with, cut-and-dried proposals yesterday, or today, and thereby put an end to those methods whereby it is quite possible that in the future we may be able to arrive at a common understanding. Therefore, it would be manifestly absurd for any of us to speculate at all upon the proposals which the right hon. Gentleman is likely to put forward.
I note that he shut the door upon no possible suggestions consistent with the main principles of his Bill, and within those well-defined limits that have been repeatedly laid down. Now, Sir, I desire in advance to shut the door upon no such suggestions that may be made. Two suggestions were mentioned by the Prime Minister yesterday. On the question of the exclusion of lister the right hon. Gentleman repeated with overwhelming and convincing force, as it seemed to me, some, by no means all, of those arguments which convinced the House of Commons twice when this question was before it last year, that, such a solution was impracticable. There are many other arguments that might be used which he slid not mention, but in view of the fact that this particular suggestion has been put forward last night by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Worcestershire, and to-day by the right hon. Gentleman himself, in the 183 nature of an ultimatum, I think I may perhaps be allowed to mention at any rate some of the great outstanding arguments in this matter. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin did not tell us what he meant when he spoke of Ulster, neither did the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Worcestershire. What do they mean by Ulster? What is Ulster? Ulster is a province in Ireland that consists of nine counties returning seventeen Home Rulers and sixteen Anti-Home Rulers. It consists of nine counties, and of those nine counties five of them to-day contain large Catholic and Nationalist majorities. It is a province in which, taking it as a whole, Catholics are not very far short from being half of the population.
§ Mr. JOHN REDMOND
That is so, and allowing for a margin, as you must fairly do, of Protestant Home Rulers, it is a province where the majority against Home Rule is not really overwhelming, but there is a majority against it. It is a province in which, if you take out the one city of Belfast from your calculation, there is then a Catholic majority, and a large Nationalist majority, over the whole province. In view of these facts, it is absurd to contend that hon. Gentlemen, when they speak of Ulster mean the whole province of Ulster. What they mean, I presume, is the four counties in North-East Ulster, of which we have heard so much. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I think anybody who comes to argue this question will find it difficult to argue in favour of the total exclusion of the whole of Ulster. Let me deal with these four counties. There is a Home Rule Member comes to this House for every one of those counties.
In the County of Down the percentage of Catholics is 31.6; in Antrim the proportion is 20.3; in Armagh the percentage is 45.3; in Derry County the proportion is 41.4; in Derry City 56.2, and in Belfast itself the proportion of Catholics is 24.1. Now, Sir, the Protestants of the four counties number 729,624, and if you take the percentage of ten per cent., and surely that is a small percentage, of those Protestants who are Home Rulers—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh," and "Why not?"]—on that point we agree to differ. Hon. Members think that percentage is too high, but I think it is too low, and at any rate 184 we will agree to differ. If you add this ten per cent, to the number of Catholics in those four counties you find that the total Home Rulers in those four counties is 389,369. That is over thirty-seven per cent, of the whole population of those four counties, and for anyone to suggest that this great and complicated problem is to be settled by simply excluding from an Irish Parliament and from an Irish Home Rule Bill those four counties, leaving in those counties so large a minority as 37 per cent, hostile and against their exclusion, to suggest that seems to me to be utterly ridiculous and impossible.
But I go further. I say that there is no man I know of any party in Ireland amongst the Gentlemen from Ulster who speak in this House who have asked for the exclusion of Ulster and approved of it as a basis for a settlement of the Irish question, and least of all has it been approved by Unionist opinion in Ireland. Within the last few days we have had remarkable expressions of opinion on behalf of Unionists, both in the North and South of Ireland. Lord Farnham, who is, I think, a fairly representative leader of Ulster Unionist anti-Home Rule opinion, speaking the other day in January used these words:—There is another scheme of compromise which was full of imminent danger to them, and that was the exclusion of Ulster. That was a very serious matter for them, because it was quite possible that Mr. Bedmond might say he would consent to exclude Ulster. Now he did not believe there was anyone in Ulster who would consent to this exclusion.And he goes on to speak of the Convenant, and how they were bound to resist a settlement based on the exclusion of Ulster. Going from the North of Ireland Unionists to the South of Ireland Unionists, here is a declaration in a letter addressed to the Irish papers the other day by a certain Major O'Connor, who was the Unionist candidate for one of the seats of Dublin City at the last election, and who is the Unionist candidate now. He says:—Any attempt to detach one province from the others would meet with the determined opposition of both parties, and it would be an unparalleled betrayal. It would give an option that Ulster dare not accept, and which no official Nationalist could acquiesce in it. Even if she did, the Southern Unionists dare not go back on their constant declaration that the evils which Ulster is prepared to risk civil war to prevent are greater and more personal to them.He goes on to say that the similarity of aim is the same, and that Southern Unionists dare not accept this proposal, even if it was accepted by Ulster and expresses his opinion, that it dare not be accepted 185 by Ulster. One of the hon. Members above the Gangway, the hon. Member for North Fermanagh (Mr. Fetherstonhaugh), who is actually a member of the party sitting behind the right hon. Gentleman, speaking the other day to his constituents, said:The exclusion of Ulster or any part of Ulster was a wild idea. No one would accept it as a settlement. Ulster would never betray the rest of Ireland. The Nationalists would never agree with it, and for once he entirely agreed with them.The ex-Moderator of the Presbyterian General Assembly in Ireland, who is a strong opponent to Home Rule, wrote in the "Daily Telegraph" the other day:—We Unionists are Irishmen too. We love our country. We do not wish to be separated from our fellow countrymen. A large number of Irish Unionists live outside Ulster and are now looking to Ulster. To divide off some of the Ulster counties and give them separate treatment is no solution of this question, and it seems to be a ridiculous proposal.Only the day before yesterday the London "Times" made a declaration to the effect that this was an utterly impracticable suggestion. The "Times" said:—It is clearly a device and not a solution, and it it was carried its very inadequacy and instability might pave the way for a statesmanlike reconstructionThe "Irish Times" has been in season and out of season for many months past preaching the doctrine that Unionists cannot tolerate the suggestion of the exclusion of Ulster. The attitude of the Irish party on this matter, of course, has always been perfectly plain. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Worcestershire last night, in his speech, seemed to desire to commend this proposal to us by telling us that it would mean the statutory negation of Ireland's national claim. He has put into a phrase exactly how this appears in our minds. On this matter it is interesting to note that Sir Horace Plunkett throws his lot entirely in with the view which is hostile to the exclusion of Ulster. He says:—I object to the proposal because it would tend to isolate Ulster, and therefore impair the solidarity of Ireland. I believe as strongly as any Nationalist in the unity of Ireland. I see no hope of success for Ireland except in the united efforts of all Irishmen.I regard the attitude of Sir Horace Plunkett as a significant and remarkable fact in this connection, because he, for the first time, has publicly declared his acceptance of the principle of Home Rule for Ireland. He has declared his acceptance of the principle of an integral Irish nationality, and in this matter he speaks for many men of moderate views, both in Ireland and on this side of the Channel. I must be allowed to say that in my judg- 186 ment the cause of peace and the cause of agreement is not helped either by ultimatums delivered in this House or by threats of civil war, but, on the contrary, in my opinion, these threats of civil wav and these ultimatums injure—they are not always intended to injure but sometimes they may—but whether intended or not they injure the chances of peace and agreement, and therefore I deprecate them. And in this I do not presume to speak for the House of Commons, but I give my opinion that the House of Commons as a body ought to resent as an affront to them these threats of civil war. None of these things, none of these provocations, can absolve the Government, I quite admit, from discharging the responsibility they have taken upon their shoulders when they have undertaken to make suggestions for an amicable settlement. I repeat that my colleagues and I will put no obstacle in the way of the Government in this matter, and no obstacle in the way of peace. All we ask is that the proposals to be made shall be consistent with the main principles of this Bill, and if concessions are to be made we shall have an assurance that we will receive as a quid pro quo for them peace and consent.
Now, I can assure the House that I never in my life spoke here during the thirty-three years that I have been a Member of this House under such a deep sense of responsibility. It is quite easy to indulge in recriminations in this House, and in the ordinary methods of party controversy. It would have been, I do not say a congenial task, but, I think, an easy task for me to have made an answer to the right hon. Gentleman's speech of an entirely different character, but to-day I have felt too deep a sense of the gravity and the responsibility of my position to make any observations of that kind. It is quite true that my protestations in the past of a desire to safeguard the rights and interests of Ulster have been met in some quarters with derision and disbelief. It is quite true that my protestations of a desire for toleration between Christian creeds and for justice amongst all sections of a free people have been met in some quarters not only with incredulity, but with positive insult, and I make to-day no retort whatever, but I say to the House of Commons, and I speak from my very heart and soul, that I would cut out my tongue sooner than say one single word in support of Home Rule for Ireland if I believed it 187 would mean the slightest injury to the lives, the persons, the properties, or the religious convictions of any section of my countrymen. I am not only willing, but I am deeply anxious to remove every honest fear that may be entertained, no matter how unfounded that fear may be, and hence it is that I am quite willing to consider, in the broadest and friendliest spirit, any proposals the Government may make in the earnest hope that the aspirations of the Royal Speech from the Throne may be realised, and that in the end we may reach a peaceful and satisfactory solution of this great problem, upon which I believe in my heart and conscience, not only the well-being of all classes in Ireland depend, but the future unity and strength of this Empire.
I can assure the hon. and learned Member for Waterford (Mr. John Redmond) that the concluding remarks in which he expressed the hope that a settlement of this great question would be obtained without loss of life, peacefully, and to the satisfaction of all my fellow countrymen, is a sentiment that I can echo from my heart. When the hon. and learned Member makes a speech such as that we have listened to in this House, I think it is only fair criticism to say that it is a far different way from that in which he presents the case to the country and to his fellow countrymen. When he perorates to the extent of imperilling his tongue, as his colleague, the Member for West Belfast (Mr. Devlin), the other day imperilled his head, I may say that neither of those ornaments suffer after all the broken pledges with regard to the extension of local self-government to Ireland. We are fed in this House with a semblance of conciliation; but every word our Ulster leader has said is true. Not a single attempt has ever been made to persuade Ulster to come into an arrangement. We have from the beginning of this great conflict been threatened as no minority inside the British Empire was ever threatened before. It is not my intention to refer to the waste-paper basket for statements in confirmation of that state of affairs, because it is fresh in the memory of everyone in this House who has taken pains to follow the Home Rule question from its earliest inception. Unfortunately, for the hon. and learned Gentleman and his colleagues, we in Ulster are not so easily gulled as the British people and as a great 188 number of Radicals pretend that they are by speeches such as that to which we have just listened. The hon. and learned Gentleman is entirely wrong in the figures that he has presented, so far as the representation of Ulster in this House is concerned. His colleague the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Islington (Mr. Lough) speaking in the Debate yesterday afternoon said:—They have never had''—that is, the Ulster people—their proper representation in this House. They are ten or eleven Members short, but it does not matter here for the reason that the minority of Great Britain suffers the same injustice.''—[OFFICIAL REPORT,10th February, 1914, col. 140.]That is a more equitable description of the situation.
I at once acept of course, the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, but at all events I would not have put it at such a high figure. No one denies that if there were a proper distribution of seats in Ulster there would be much stronger representation sent here to this House, and it is therefore no use juggling with the question whether one man to-day or another man to-morrow represents Unionists or Nationalists in the province. The fact remains. If you make allowance for the large number of loyalists who are scattered throughout the South and West of Ireland and who have no representation whatever in this House, you may place that against the Nationalists who in Ulster you will say have got no representation. However you look at it, you will find that there is no way in which you can persuade yourself that she is not more than justified in her claim to be left alone, as she is now, under the same laws that exist in England and Scotland, and to resist the imposition of a Parliament dominated by the Ancient Order of Hibernians and by hon. Members below the Gangway. You will never persuade them by pointing out that at the present time the balance of representation in Ulster is in favour of the Nationalist party. You can never change anything by pointing out what would be the result if you took Belfast out of the province. I would like to see the Nationalists take it out for any purpose. We might just as well say, "Take Donegal out of Ulster." Those, arguments, may appeal to a few 189 academic students of this problem like Sir Horace Plunkett, but it does not impose for one moment upon those who in Ulster are dealing with realities.
The hon. and learned Gentleman said that this House should pay no attention to the threat of civil war. I dare say that commends itself to hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway, but I will ask them this question: If the people of Ulster had quietly and unostentatiously, but equally determinedly, gone on with their preparations to resist this iniquitous proposal of the Government by force of arms and had never said a word outside their own province, would not not that have been acting underhand and unfair towards the electors of this country, who would not have known the detestation that is felt for the proposals? That is the problem with which we were face to face, and we hold that we acted a manly part in warning the Government from the very beginning that their policy was bound to lead to disaster in Ireland and to civil war. The hon. and learned Member has permitted cattle-driving. If we had gone in for cattle-driving and moonlighting and terrorising poor shepherds and their wives on the lonely countryside, if we had brought the whole power of an organisation like the Ancient Order of Hibernians into conflict with those people, who desire nothing else but to live in peace and contentment in the country, would the hon. and learned Member then have said that this House had no right to interfere?
I pass from the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman because it adds nothing to the problem, and that, after all, and nothing else, matters. I pass from it in the second place because the hon. and learned Member knows that if this question is to be settled it is in his power to settle it, and to settle it at once. I shall come to his ready tool and mouthpiece, the Prime Minister. I would like to point out to the Prime Minister, with regard to the words in the King's Speech, which for gravity and solemnity have never before been experienced in this House with regard to matters concerning our own domestic affairs, that speech was written by my right hon. Friend (Sir E. Carson) two years ago, when he said the gravest consequences would arise if the Government pursued their present policy. The right hon. Gentleman, who leads the Ulster people inside and outside this House, warned the country and the Govern- 190 ment, and what else was in the King's Speech except a repetition of that warning to tell all parties in the House that this is drifting on towards disaster? When those warnings were made by my right hon. Friend and his colleagues touring throughout England and Scotland and on the floor of this House for two long years, what was the answer they received? The present Attorney-General (Sir J. Simon), who is a past-master at patting his opponents on the back and the moment afterwards stabbing them in the most cruel way, said that if the men of Ulster would only come to the House of Commons and place their case by argument before it and not by threats, the House of Commons would grant them all the safeguards that they required. I defy the hon. and learned Gentleman to point to any men in the House of Commons who have done more earnest work by argument to persuade him and his colleagues of the rottenness of their Bill. Ho was himself unable to answer a single criticism my right hon. Friend made with regard to that Bill. That is the way that we are treated. I think it worse than the jeers and taunts of some of the less noble people who sit behind him. It is placing on the people of Ulster one of the greatest trials that a people can be asked to bear. It is accusing them of insincerity, when everyone knows that they are waiting to learn their fate. If we are armed to prepare against eventualities, do speeches of that kind tend to conciliate, or in any way to bring about agreement between all parties in Ireland? It appears to us to be the deliberate intention of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite to provoke a sporadic outburst in Ulster in order that the troops may be sent there under the pretence of protecting the citizens, and upholding peace, but in reality to get a footing inside the province, so that the will of the Nationalist party in the future may prevail.
The hon. Member for Salford, who spoke on the 6th inst., said, "There must be Home Rule with a responsible Executive for the whole of Ireland. It is a new thing for minorities, if they cannot get what they want, to try and get it by armed force, but if they do exercise force it must be put down, even if Sir Edward Carson, Lord Londonderry, and Captain Craig are led out and shot." He said that seriously, and that is the sort of thing that makes the people of Ulster really boil with rage when 191 responsible politicians on either side of the House use language of that sort. Some one will say we should pay no attention to it, but it is of no use telling us that. The question is, Do his constituents or his followers—and he must have some—think that that is a proper way to deal with the matter when as we know, Ulster is waiting, waiting, waiting, to ascertain whether the Prime Minister is serious in the proposals he puts forward? I delivered a speech a few days before the meeting of Parliament, and I predicted on that occasion that the Prime Minister would give us another of his Preamble speeches, if I may use that expression, in order to tide over the anxieties of the first few days of the new Session. I said then, and I repeat to-day, the unfortunate thing for us is, that we cannot rely on the right hon. Gentleman's promise, and that we should probably be treated once more in a way in which no community ought to be treated when it has so much at stake.
The right hon. Gentleman has told us that ho has proposals to put forward. I ask why, in the name of God, does he not put them in black and white and let us see them? Why, when he comes to the point of bringing forward a solution of this great difficulty, does he always shy and say that in a few days, or it may be in a few months, he will announce it. The golden days have been allowed to slip by; the longest recess we have had since the present Government came into power has come to an end, and if the right hon. Gentleman has any proposals which are sincere and real, they should have been ready for us when we met here yesterday. But the right hon. Gentleman says, "When certain business is done, then I will lay the proposals before the House." Are we to believe him or not? On two occasions—and I have the quotations here—I listened to speeches by the right hon. Gentleman with regard to the Parliament Act. I will not quote the speeches, but the outstanding feature of them was that the measure brooked no delay; that it was a debt of honour that had to be performed to carry out the Preamble of the Parliament Bill at the earliest possible moment. One of his colleagues talked about the Preamble and the rest of the Bill in a way that would lead one to think that they were twin parts of a great measure. He conveyed the impression that one was dependent upon the other. What has become of all the solemn promises and 192 pledges made in this House with regard to that Act? They have all gone, where many other promises and pledges have also gone, and we are now told that we are to wait until Easter, until after the financial business has been completed, and then, and not until then, are we to have these proposals put before us.
What we are afraid of is this: We are afraid, and I say it in all sincerity, that we are once more being tricked and humbugged, as was the case on a former occasion, and that when the time arrives the Prime Minister will declare, "I made no promises at the opening of the Session," and other Ministers will say, "We pledged ourselves to nothing whatever." We are afraid, too, that at the last moment proposals will be made and rushed through, and my right hon. and learned Friend, who leads our party, will not be given an opportunity to go over and consult the men who have borne the heat and burden of the day; proposals will be rushed through against the will of the country, and against the desires of those who understand the problem, and we shall have the awful catastrophe of civil war facing us in Ulster. That is a position lightly undertaken by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. They have never really begun to study the subject, even up to now the eleventh hour, when it is almost too late, and it has only been by the courage and firmness of one man that Ulster is at the present time enabled to maintain an attitude which must evoke the admiration of everybody who recognises the strain on the temper of the people. Yet we come here to-day and find no reality about this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman threw out a challenge tome yesterday. He asked what difference it would make to Ulster if there were a General Election? The Amendment of my right hon. Friend deals with the prospect of a General Election. We consider the Home Rule Bill a great mistake. We consider it a grave mistake to attempt to separate any of the people of Ireland from a Parliament under which those who desire to prosper have prospered, and under which those who desire to be loyal have been able to remain loyal. These facts stand out. The boiling indignation of the people has been aroused because, not by fair means, but by foul means, they have been tricked into the present situation. They have not been treated fairly. Ulster has always been used as a pawn in the political game, and the consequence is the people of Ulster naturally say that the 193 present Parliament, at all events, has no moral right to use British troops, at the dictation of the Nationalist party, to coerce the men of Ulster into an allegiance to them. The Prime Minister yesterday stood at that box, and, with a face that really would have taken in anyone who did not know him, declared that there had been no change in public opinion since the last General Election in regard to this question. He said:—I myself made it perfectly clear that the first use of the Parliament Act would be to carry the Home Rule Bill.
The Prime Minister went on to say, when interrupted by one of my hon. Friends, "It is inconvenient to be reminded of these things; I, myself, made it perfectly clear," and so on. Still, if the right hon. Gentleman says it was a quotation, I will accept his view. But the Prime Minister further asked if there was any evidence in what had since taken place, and particularly in what had taken place since the House rose last August, to show that the country had really changed its mind. He said he had asked in vain for such evidence showing that anyone who, in 1910, voted for either a Labour or a Liberal candidate had changed his mind on this question. But anyone who has followed this controversy knows perfectly well that at the annual meeting of the National Liberal Federation, at Leeds, last November, one of the speakers, a gentleman from Croydon, stated that many workers at the last General Election felt as he did—that they did not understand that any such measure as a Home Rule Bill was to be passed, and he went on to say that it was on other matters that they worked. I note that the Chief Secretary has a very pleasant smile on his face. Perhaps he will listen to this: "He would give his authority, Mr. Birrell said, in December, 1910, that Home Rule was one of the questions which ought to be left, and should be left, to the judgment of the people." I notice, too, in this day's "Times," that Mr. Tweedie, for seventeen years Liberal agent for South Bucks, has written to Mr. Tonman Mosley, the Liberal candidate, saying:—I cannot give you my vote, for to do so would mean supporting what I regard as, without any exception, the worst and most corrupt Government of modern times.Yet the Prime Minister pretends that there had been no chance of opinion on 194 this subject since the House rose! Who was it who acted most energetically in attempting to thrust this Bill down the throats of the people of Ulster? It was the late Attorney-General, who stood there night after night persuading us he had a mandate from the country for Home Rule. But the moment he was promoted to another place it was discovered that his own people in Reading were against Home Rule, and their opinion was such that they actually returned the Unionist candidate by a majority which covered the votes cast for both of his opponents. How then can the Prime Minister say that no evidence has been produced to prove that there has been a change of feeling in the country? A General Election we know would prove, at all events, two points that to us are all important. We should know, in the first place, whether the Government have the people of this country at their backs in the proposal that we should be coerced.
In the second place, it means that the bitterness we have felt for those men who so recklessly hound on the Prime Minister and his Cabinet along this path will be intensified far more by refusing this Amendment, which would put a straight issue before the electors, for, so far as we are concerned, we would do our best to fight the election on the issue whether we are to be coerced away from your Crown and Constitution, and our citizenship lowered to a status which is to be settled by those who are unable to govern even a board of guardians in their own country. We should then know whether there was sanction for this dastardly proposal. But as to changing our attitude because the country had said we must, and swallowing all our convictions and changing our attitude to what we consider a hideous crime, no man in Ulster would make any such promise. We would still fight on as we are doing now, conscious that if it were a foreign country we should have everybody to our rescue, and hoping against hope that at long last the people would say that they would back up the community that has for all time been proud to be your friends, who stuck to you in your darkest hours, who helped you when your country was in danger, and who are prepared to do the same at the present moment. We should hope, even at the last moment, to get sufficient support throughout the country to save us from what we undoubtedly look upon as the gravest calamity that can fall not upon Ulster alone, but upon Ireland.
195 I only wish to refer to one more matter, which is of the gravest importance. Over and over again Radical speakers throughout the country have been making charges of the most serious character with regard to our tampering with the forces of the Crown. Only the other day a Captain Macey stated that a circular had been issued by the loyalists of the North asking the officers serving in His Majesty's Navy and Army what action they proposed to take if they were ordered against Ulster. I cannot say in this House what I think of that. It is a lie, Mr. Speaker. I suppose I must not call it that, but I will call it a falsehood of the worst description. From the very beginning of this grave trial we have been, as always, loyal to the Crown, the Flag, and the Constitution, and all through to anyone who has consulted us with regard to giving their services to Ulster we have always said the same thing, that they were casting in their lot with those who had to bear great responsibility. We have never asked a man to do it. These people came forward because their hearts were with us. They tendered their services, without hope of recompense of hope or reward. They were prepared to share all the dangers that we share. These men have never, directly or indirectly, by word or by ire, by circular or in any other way, been asked to deflect for one moment from their allegiance to the officers over them or to the King whom they serve. My right hon. Friends and others in a position to speak on the subject have made that clear from the very beginning. The men of Ulster have far too great reverence for the Services of the King to attempt in any way to subvert or break down the allegiance which they have tendered at all times to the Sovereign. Ulster will not blame one soldier who goes there to carry out the behests of the officers set over him, but Ulster will condemn, and posterity will condemn, not the officers or the men of the Army and the Navy, but the swindlers who sit on the Government Front Bench.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The last expression used by the hon. and gallant Member is not a proper one, and I must ask him to withdraw it.
I apologise to the House. I immediately withdraw it. I was a little carried away by my feelings. I withdraw it fully.
§ Mr. LEIF JONES
The last three speeches to which we have listened have come from Irish Members, who have spoken with the fullest knowledge, from their different points of view, of the Irish question, knowledge to which I make no pretence, but I agree with the remark which fell from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Worcestershire (Mr. Austen Chamberlain) yesterday, that English Members are in only one degree less interested in the solution of this Irish question than are the Irish Members themselves. Therefore I make no apology as an English Member for intervening in this Debate to-day. The last three speeches which have been delivered, with the exception of the unfortunate lapse into which the last speaker was betrayed, which he has fully and amply withdrawn, have answered the appeal put forward in the King's Speech that Members of all parties should bring their minds to bear on the Irish question in order to procure a peaceful settlement. The three speeches have been directed not to the Amendment immediately before the House, but rather to the question of the Home Rule Bill, and how it should be dealt with. The line of speech adopted by those Irish Members shows a true instinct on their part. It disposes of the Amendment, and shows that they are aware that all the factors of this Irish problem are known factors, that there is nothing new which any election can disclose, that all the parties to the dispute are ready, and what the House has to do is to produce a solution of the problem of which all the factors are clearly before them at the present time. We should do nothing towards helping to a solution of the Irish problem if we accept the proposal made from the Front Bench opposite and have a General Election at the present time. The three speeches from those three Irish Members amply dispose of the particular proposition to which the House should really be directing its attention now.
Is it not perfectly clear that a General Election could not alter the situation in reality in the smallest degree? It might alter the mode by which the problem would be dealt with, and it might postpone the dealing with some aspects of it, but it would not furnish a single new argument which could be brought to bear upon any of the problems in Ireland. I put aside the point that it could not, and would not, be fought on the Irish question alone. With the best will in the world, even if all candidates made a self-denying ordinance, 197 and endeavoured to put before the electors the Irish problem only, what guarantee have we that the voters would cast their votes on that question alone. It is really trifling with Members of the House to suggest we could have a General Election confined to that particular question. I do not know that hon. Members opposite would so confine it. We have had no such offer from them as yet. I see the Noble Lord, the Member for Oxford University (Lord Hugh Cecil), is in his place. Would he be prepared at the present time to go into a General Election and to refrain from any expression of opinion, or any demand for votes, in regard to the Welsh Church Bill—a question not less important to this House than this Irish question? It would be absolutely impossible for him and me, who feel strongly on that question, to go into a General Election at the present time without raising the question of the Welsh Church Bill as well as the question of Home Rule for Ireland.
Is that not really a condemnation of the Parliament Act?
§ Mr. LEIF JONES
That may or may not be so. I will deal with the Parliament Act presently. I suggest it is a condemnation of the Amendment the hon. and gallant Member has just been supporting. Putting aside that question, is it suggested in any quarter of the House that the verdict of a General Election would be accepted by the Irish Members of any party? The hon. and gallant Member has just said that no General Election would change his opinion upon the question of Home Rule for Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Strand Division (Mr. Long), speaking yesterday, said that his attitude towards Home Rule was absolutely unchanged, although there had been seven General Elections since the question was first presented to the House by Mr. Gladstone. I cannot see that an eighth General Election, with Home Rule as part of the Liberal programme, would modify the attitude of any of the Irish parties. It cannot be said that the Nationalists who have been absolutely staunch throughout all these years in fighting for their cause would change their attitude, and it cannot be said that any of these parties could be influenced by the result of a General Election. The truth is that Ireland has not needed education on the question. The Irish parties have not varied in their attitude since Mr. Gladstone first presented his Bill. The Nation- 198 alists are where they stood, and the Ulstermen are where they stood. The people who have changed are the people of Great Britain, who started with a great deal less knowledge of Ireland and the Irish problem than the Irish Members possessed. They have grown to understand the question and to approve of the Home Rule Bill, or some such Bill, being extended to the people of Ireland. The people of England, Wales and Scotland have gradually changed upon this question, and it is because of that change of opinion that we stand where we are today.
§ Mr. LEIF JONES
I have been actively engaged in politics through all these years in fighting at General Elections and at one by-election since 1892, and I have watched a gradual change of opinion upon the Home Rule question among Englishmen, Welshmen, and Scotchmen; therefore, for what it is worth, I express the opinion—it can be no more, and even the hon. Member himself can give nothing but his own view—that the English people have grown accustomed to the idea of Home Rule, and are prepared at present for its extension to Ireland. A General Election would not affect Irish opinion, but might bring about a change of Government. It would not help a solution of the Irish problem. Supposing hon. Gentlemen opposite were to win the election, that would not change the Nationalist attitude. Would it enable this House to let the Irish question alone? I do not think so. I do not see how any hon. Member can suggest if the Conservative party were installed in office the Irish question would cease to exist, and that they need do nothing in Ireland beyond what the Conservative Government did when they were formerly in power. Now, I say to Members from Ulster, and to those who have made themselves the mouthpieces of this resistance of Ulster, to the declared will of the majority of the people of the United Kingdom, that you have yourselves made Home Rule an absolute necessity for Ireland, for if there is any justification whatever for the attitude of Ulster at present in regard to the Bill proposed by the Liberal Government dealing with the government of Ireland, would not there be fourfold justification for the Home Rulers and Nationalists of Ireland 199 if they resisted in the way you have taught them to resist the Government of this country in maintaining the old system?
§ Mr. LEIF JONES
I leave the hon. and gallant Gentleman to deal with his own countrymen. I do not believe that all the pluck of Ireland is confined to the Ulster Members. The Ulster Members have done their cause no good in this House by the fact that they have been careful always to explain to the House of Commons and to the people of this country what poor creatures their fellow countrymen who did not agree with them were. It has been a very unlovely spectacle to see this small lot of Members from Ulster perpetually decrying and denouncing the rest of Ireland. We, at any rate, know the Nationalists of Ireland, and we claim that they possess their full share of the virtue which we ascribe to Irishmen. The attitude assumed by the Ulstermen makes it exceedingly difficult for supporters of the Government to make concessions to meet a grievance which is presented in such a way as Ulster presents its grievance to this House. It does not make it easier to solve the problem that Ulster should threaten rebellion in the event of her not being satisfied. There is a danger, and we had it to-day in the speech which came from the right hon. Gentleman (Sir E. Carson), that when the Prime Minister makes a conciliatory speech and offers certain alterations which may more or less meet the views of Members from Ulster, instantly we are told that it is a confession that our Home Rule Bill is an imperfect measure, and one which ought not to be pressed through. The Prime Minister dealt with the argument before it was advanced, and I hope it will not be repeated, because I can honestly say that the great difficulty of dealing with this matter, and of making concessions, is the fact that, instead of being welcome, instead of coming to meet the Prime Minister in his endeavour to overcome the objections which have been put forward from that side, it is said instantly that it is weakness and a proof that we dare not proceed with our measure.
Let me say a word, too, on a point which was raised by the right hon. Gentleman (Sir E. Carson), and the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Austen Chamberlain), that we on this side have jeered at the sincerest 200 feelings of Ulster and the opposition which they display to any Home Rule proposals. I do not know to what speeches they refer. I have not seen them; I have not heard of them; I have not made them. I have spoken a good deal upon this Irish question in my own Constituency, and I have never said one word disrespectful to the sincere feeling which exists in a section of the Ulster people against this Home Rule Bill; and if there have been occasions on which a smile has been provoked by some language from hon. Members opposite, it is not directed at the sincere feeling of Ulster people, but it was directed at the claim which is put forward that hon. Gentlemen in their action have endeavoured to restrain this feeling of resistance in Ulster and the claim which was made yesterday, for instance, that the right hon. Gentleman (Sir E. Carson) had used all his power to keep matters quiet in Ulster, and that quiet in Ulster had been due to the calm, strong, fearless action, to the resolute, brave leadership, and the continual self-sacrifice of the right hon. Gentleman. I have been a very diligent student of the right hon. Gentleman's speeches, and I do not so read them. I think he has not allayed racial animosity. I think he has provoked it. I think he has not striven to prevent the people talking about armed rebellion, and that he has helped them to talk about armed rebellion. He has not discouraged them from threatening rebellion and enrolling themselves and enlisting in a troop which in certain eventualities is to fight. He has encouraged them to enlist and to enrol, and having done that, I do not see upon what ground it can be claimed for him that he has used all his endeavours to keep matters quiet and to prevent them from reaching a pitch at which there should be civil strife. He has placed himself at the head of the Ulster movement, and he must bear on his own shoulders full responsibility for whatever action may be taken by the men of Ulster who are following him. What we are entitled to ask is that they should cease to threaten us with armed rebellion to laws which have constitutionally passed through Parliament.
§ Mr. LEIF JONES
Hon. Members are in a minority, and they should recognise that they are in a minority. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr.. Austen Chamberlain) asked us yesterday what did we want? We 201 want two things. We want a recognition of the fact that Home Rule is going to become law in Ireland. The majority of Parliament has so determined. The Bill has passed twice through the House of Commons; it will go through a third time this Session, and we ask that hon. Members opposite should recognise that fact and accept the principle of Home Rule. The second thing I think we have a right to ask is that, having accepted that, they should bring good will to bear upon the future condition of things under the Home Rule Bill in Ireland. It is not asking too much, surely! I do not know how they view their duty. I do not know whether to persist in resistance, after it is clear that resistance is hopeless, is the course of wisdom. It seems to me that the true wisdom, which is dictated by the facts of the situation, is acceptance of the Home Rule principle, and then setting themselves with good will to modify now, if they can, and it can be modified. I was very much surprised to hear the right hon. Gentleman (Sir E. Carson) say the Bill could not be altered. It cannot be altered by us. The Parliament Act gives the majority no power to modify the decisions of the House, but it gives the House power by agreement to modify it, and that is the advantage which hon. Members opposite at present possess, that they can put forward suggestions, and that modifications can be made, but only by the common consent and good will of all parties in the House. That, at any rate, it is open for them to do, and the time has come when hon. Members should recognise that, and set themselves now to make such modifications in the Bill as may make it less harmful and more tolerable in their eyes, but to recognise that the Bill is going through, and the matter has to be settled this Session in this House.
I have been assuming, talking of the General Election, that the Opposition might win, but suppose we won, the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Austen Chamberlain) said that would make all the difference. He did not tell us what difference. It would make a good deal of difference to us. The election would have robbed us of the whole of the work of the last two years. At present we are in the. position that the Home Rule Bill and the Welsh Church Bill will pass this Session—we have power to pass them this Session—and the Plural Voting Bill will pass next Session. This is only the position which they have occupied for so many years in this House. 202 It is the case to-day that the majority of this House, after a certain lapse of time, have power to give effect to their will. That is a power which Conservative Governments have always had at their disposal. It seems intolerable to hon. Members opposite that Liberals should to-day be in the position they have so long been in. It is a right position, and the elected majority of the people of the country should have the power, after a certain lapse of time, of giving effect to the measures which they were elected to pass, at any rate, which they were given the power to pass, by the electors. We should have lost by the General Election, and I think that is partly the object of the Amendment, all the advantage of the Parliament Act. I do not see how any candidate possibly can really deny that we should have forfeited the advantageous position which we at present possess. Now I claim, and I speak with full knowledge on this question, that so far as my Constituents are concerned, the Parliament Act was passed for the set purpose of terminating long-standing disputes between this House and the other House. It was not passed for mere show. I did not ask the electors of the Rushcliffe Division to give me the right to vote for the Parliament Bill merely for the sake of placing it on the Statute Book. I appealed to them, and I think every Member on this side of the House will say the same thing, to give us power to pass the Parliament Act in order that we might carry Home Rule; in order that we might pass a Welsh Church Bill; in order that we might carry a Plural Voting Bill; in order that we might terminate the dispute between the two Houses on temperance reform and on education. Those five great issues which have divided us from the other House during the whole of my political existence were to be brought to a termination as the result of the appeal to the people on the Parliament Bill. It was the whole object of the Parliament Bill, and I ask hon. Members opposite in fairness to consider the position of Liberal constituencies such as that which I represent. That constituency has never returned a Conservative Member, and it has usually had a majority of between 2,000 and 3,000 behind the Liberal Member. Yet during all that time this constituency, voting, as it has done, steadily for Home Rule, Welsh Disestablishment, education reform, temperance reform, and the abolition of Plural Voting, has seen itself 203 thwarted in one of two ways: either a Conservative Government was returned by the rest of the country, or a Liberal Government was returned which was powerless to give effect to the very measures for which they had been voting. I appeal to the sense of fair play of hon. Members. My Constituency wants these controversies terminated. They want these long-standing disputes brought to an end, and the Parliament Act was passed for the set purpose of ending the long-drawn-out disputes on these different subjects between us and the other House. The Prime Minister gave expression to that in a simple phrase which he used in a speech during the recess, and I venture to quote it. Referring to the Parliament Act, he said:—It was passed for use, and used it will be.I think that is literally true of the Parliament Act so far as my experience goes. I was given a mandate to vote for the Parliament Bill in order to pass other measures, and it really does appear to me mere idle talk for Members to get up and say that we have no right to use the Parliament Act for the very purposes for which we received instructions from our constituents. Hon. Members have complained in this Debate that the constituencies are not sufficiently alive on the question of Ireland. I believe that is true in one sense. I believe the constituencies are tired of the Irish question. It has been before the country for many years, and there are no new facts. There are no new parties. The question was really thrashed out thirty years ago, and it is time that this House brought the matter to a final settlement. I do say to the Opposition that in asking for a General Election now they are not expressing the opinion of the country.
§ Mr. LEIF JONES
I speak for my constituents. The Noble Lord can reply. They are tired of the Irish question. They have heard all the arguments upon it, and they want this House to settle it during the present Session. Every word I have said on the Irish question is true in regard to the Disestablishment of the Church in Wales. We have fought the question out, and the people look to this House to decide it. A General Election would only prolong these old disputes. What the country has a right to expect is that the Government shall settle these long-standing disputes. That is what the 204 Parliament Act was passed for, and the country looks to the Government not to go to another General Election until they have settled them one way or the other. They are determined that this Session shall see a settlement of the Irish question and the Welsh question, so that the time of this House shall be set free, and that the country shall no longer be deprived of social reforms, because the time and opportunity of this House do not permit of their being dealt with.
§ Lord HUGH CECIL
This Debate has had many very interesting features, and I do not think that in the memory of any Member of the House it is easy to point to a Debate relating to greater concerns or conducted with more ability and in a more impressive manner. I do not want to enter into detail as to the application of the Parliament Act to the present situation. We on this side want to settle these questions quite as much as the hon. Member does, but we want them settled by the people. We affirm that it is a violation of the foundations of democratic Government that questions of such stupendous magnitude should be settled by any party majority in any Parliament. They should be settled by the people at large. The hon. Member opposite (Mr. Leif Jones) said, and the Attorney-General and the Prime Minister yesterday said, that at a General Election many issues are raised, and that, therefore, you cannot settle a particular question in that way. It is very gratifying to see so many promising converts to the principle of the Referendum. We vehemently maintained in the Debates on the Parliament Act that there is a solution of the difficulty, fair to both sides, and satisfactory to the country, when there is a great question on which the two Houses disagree, namely, to refer it to the judgment of the people.
§ Lord HUGH CECIL
Yes, the Amendment is, that the question should be submitted to the judgment of the people. The language of the Amendment covers both an election and a Referendum. I have no doubt that if the Chief Secretary got up and said it was the intention of the Government to have a Referendum on the Home Rule Bill, this Amendment would be immediately withdrawn. But the hon. Member opposite made a mistake in saying, that what we are asking for is against the theory of the Parliament Act itself. 205 He spoke of that Act as if it were a rough and ready way of passing Bills into law. That is a worse account of it than has been given by those who are opposed to it. The safeguards which the Act contains are attended by all sorts of evils, some of which are being realised even by hon. Members on the Ministerial side. If the safeguard which provides for delay has any meaning at all, and is a rational thing in any respect whatever, it means that if there arises during the course of the proposed legislation new considerations of great and immediate importance which make it desirable not to press a Bill further, it should not be pressed further. What consideration of greater importance does any supporter of the Parliament Act think will ever arise than civil war? Are they waiting for an earthquake? What greater mischief could arise in connection with any Bill than the threat of civil war? Therefore, by the plain interpretation of the Parliament Act, the Government are bound to modify the Bill so as to meet this evil, or else drop it altogether, or submit it to the people, as we are asking them to do to-day. The Attorney-General launched out an extraordinary theory, similar to what I have seen in the less informed journals of his party, that we were actuated largely by a desire to wreck the Parliament Act and go back to the Constitution as it was in 1910. No misconception of the action of the Unionist party could be greater than that. It is the very last thing Unionists desire or contemplate. Whatever else the events of 1911 prove, they prove that those who ask a reform of the Second Chamber are right. We are most thoroughly sincere in that. We are not out for the destruction of the Parliament Act and for going back to the old Constitution. We say that the Parliament Act should be modified, and that it will be modified whenever there is a Unionist Government in power.
Our position really is a simple one. The Opposition have always taken up the position that we oppose Home Rule altogether, but it is not our opposition to Home Rule that has placed the Government in their present position. It is not my right hon. Friend or hon. Members behind me. The Government have their majority here, and they can do what they please. What we ask the Government supporters to do is to face the electors. The hon. and learned Member for Waterford (Mr. J. Redmond) said one very true thing in his speech. He said that since the 206 striking speech of the Prime Minister we are in a new situation. The situation is a new one. The right hon. Gentleman was very careful to safeguard himself against giving the impression that he admitted that the Home Rule Bill needed amendment. No one supposes that one in the right hon. Gentleman's position would ever admit that he had been in the wrong. That is asking too much of human nature. But the right hon. Gentleman did an act from which there is no going back. I venture to say that it is quite impossible now to pass the Home Rule Bill without substantial modification. There is no retreat from such a declaration as he made yesterday. That is a new situation. What have we got to do now? We have got to deal with the opposition, admittedly conscientious and honest opposition, to Home Rule being imposed on Ulster. We think that opposition is entirely justified. Some people say that the opposition is animated only by sectarian religious feeling and bigotry. I shall not be suspected of sympathising unduly with the Protestantism of the Ulster Presbyterians, but I am bound to say that where you see two factions originating in religious differences of opinion, where you see two factions with the history that lies behind them of the Protestants and the Nationalists in Ireland, it is very real oppression to put one of them under the authority of the other.
I am quite sure that there is no great party in England or Scotland which would consent to be put under a Roman Catholic Parliament. If you went to Liverpool or Manchester, or any town you please, and say, "Will you submit to a Parliament in Dublin?" they would answer very much as the people of Belfast have done. That is one reason why I think that Ulster is justified at present in objecting to Home Rule. They object to Ireland being a distinct nation in such a sense as to regard Great Britain as a foreign country. It would be quite easy, probably not very interesting, to read the extreme things which Nationalists have said in past times. I will deal much more with their action than their language. Take, for example, the action of the hon. Member for Galway. He fought against the British arms in South Africa. He could not possibly have done that if he had regarded Great Britain as anything but a foreign country. If he was elected by the people of Galway to 207 represent them, it means that all those people acquiesce in, or at all events assent to, what he did, and that they agree with him in thinking that Great Britain is to them a foreign country. [An HON. MEMBER: "You mean the Member for West Clare."] I beg pardon, I think the hon. Member (Mr. Lynch) was elected for Galway, and that the seat was declared vacant. He was afterwards elected for West Clare. That shows plainly that Nationalists in Ireland regard Great Britain as a foreign country. I know it will be said that Home Rule will change that. It cannot change that. I quite understand that it might make the Nationalists think Great Britain a friendly and allied country, instead of a hostile and oppressive country, but it cannot change a foreign country into a fellow-nation. Therefore, what Ulstermen really are asked to consent to is to come into a national system which will separate them from Great Britain into a country in which they will be forced to regard Great Britain as a foreign country. I think that they are perfectly entitled to refuse such a demand as that, and to resist it even by force of arms. They are perfectly entitled to insist that they shall be in the future, as in the past, members of the same national political nation as we are ourselves, common fellow-countrymen with us. Those two considerations alone justify Ulster abundantly.
But it is more important to recognise now that these Ulstermen are in earnest, and that they will do as they say. What is the new situation? There are three possible courses. The first course is what might be called the Unionist treatment of the difficulty. The Attorney-General appeared to think that nobody knew what the Unionist policy was in respect to Ireland. It is a very strange opinion to express. The Unionist party administered the government of Ireland for more than ten years with triumphant success. They carried through two great measures of constructive policy, a reform of the local government and a great measure of land purchase, besides subordinate measures. If a Unionist Government is returned to power they will go on the same principles in the future as those which they have adopted in the past. Of course, it is quite true that the present Government have so abandoned Ireland that they have reduced both 208 parties in Ireland to such a state of unrest and animosity that there must be a clearing up of the mess which the Government have made. What particular measures may be necessary in consequence of the Government blundering remains to be seen when the Unionist Government is in power, and has access to all the information which is possessed alone by a Government and its official advisers. But as to the main principles of Unionist policy, there is not any doubt at all. They are to treat Great Britain and Ireland as a single political nation. On that principle they are agreed, and no Unionist Member has the slightest doubt that they will be able to govern Ireland without substantial difficulty, and deal with the problems of Irish government. It is obvious that that means a General Election. You cannot carry on a Unionist Government of Ireland with the present House of Commons.
Suppose we take one of the other courses, the Home Rule courses, you must coerce Ulster or conciliate Ulster. If you are going to coerce Ulster, I am sure that even the hon. Member who has just spoken; even a man of such slight democratic sympathies as he has shown himself to be, must admit that the people are entitled to be consulted before you send the British Army to shoot down British subjects for adhering to the British Constitution. That was not, at any rate, an issue before the country before the last General Election. So for two of three possible courses you do want a General Election. There remains the course of conciliating Ulster. We cannot tell whether that is a possible course or not, because we have not yet seen the proposals by which the Government may attempt to achieve it, but we have a right to claim, from our point of view, that the Government should not postpone coming to an issue and allowing the country to determine the matter, or putting on paper their detailed proposals. If we have a General Election, we might come into office and deal with that subject. If that General Election is refused, the situation will go on in Ireland getting steadily worse, and the difficulties of any policy, Unionist or Home Rule, will go on getting steadily greater, and some unguarded accident, some stray word or some foolish act, may precipitate an actual riot of the most serious character. There is grave danger of serious evils any day, and yet the Government are content to put off this matter and we are to wait until we have 209 heard all about Navy Estimates, and heard the speeches of hon. Members below the Gangway who are poked up by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to attack the First Lord of the Admiralty, and seen all the washing of dirty Radical linen in public, before the feelings of the people in the North-East of Ireland are to be relieved.
Surely that is not treating the matter in a proper way. The Government have studied this question for three or four months. There is nothing in it that is complicated, though there is much in it that is very difficult. They must know whether they are going to exclude Ulster altogether, or what other proposal they are going to make. Why do not they lay it on the Table of the House and let us know? We shall then be able to judge of it. I do not now understand what they expect us to do, whether, when it is laid on the Table, they will explain the details of the proposal. At any rate, the House of Commons and the country have the right to be taken into counsel, and should be taken into counsel at once. What reason can there be that we should not be told? There are evidently great risks and great danger in maintaining this atmosphere of uncertainty and doubt. What is the advantage? Is it that they are afraid of the indignation of the hon. Member for Waterford, or that they want to hang on for six weeks longer before their moral bankruptcy is declared? Is it that they know that no proposal which they can make is workable, and that they are now confronted with this tremendous difficulty, that to go on with the Bill would mean civil war in Ulster, and that to amend the Bill, so as to make it work, is hopelessly impossible? We do not know. We cannot judge. When we know what they do mean we shall be able to judge; but there can be no honest political or statesmanlike reason for further concealment. There may be reasons which appeal to ingenious wire-pullers. Wire-pullers have always been strong on the Treasury Bench. There cannot be a statesmanlike reason, or a reason which any honest patriot would not be afraid to avow in the presence of the House of Commons.
I suggest that the Government should take us frankly into their confidence. I hope that, when they do, their proposal will be found to be one which does really achieve what they have in view, that is to say, which really avoids civil war. It is manifest that nothing else is worth doing. We do not pretend to agree with 210 Home Rule, but we are all anxious to avoid civil war. When they present their proposal, it must therefore satisfy that essential condition. The speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Dublin University made it quite clear that there is only one proposal at any rate that has been hinted at which would avoid civil war, the exclusion of those parts of Ulster which are prepared to raise civil war. A great deal has been said about agreement. I have never been able to understand what agreement has to do with the matter. Obviously there are many defects in excluding Ulster, but its merit is that it does not depend for its efficacy on the agreement of anybody. It rules out civil war by the nature of the case. Why should they want agreement? They are responsible for the Government. Let them bring forward their proposal. They can carry it through the House of Commons. What restrains them? We shall hear, I suppose, later on, the Chief Secretary for Ireland. I confess, I hope, that he will not impose upon himself the self-denying ordinance that the Attorney-General laid down. The Prime Minister said enough to raise all sorts of doubts and anxieties. Nobody knows exactly what he means or what he does not mean. It is really intolerable that we should be left for six weeks to come in the state of uncertainty in which he loft us last night.
But there is yet a better way of meeting the situation than by frankly dealing with the House of Commons, and that is to accept this Amendment and dissolve Parliament. If I am not mistaken, the result of that election will be to place another Government m power. That Government would undertake all the anxieties and responsibilities of the situation, and would have behind them the satisfactory record of having dealt with a situation, even more difficult and anxious with great skill and success. There is nothing finer in the modern political history of England than the government of Ireland by the Unionist party from 1895 to 1905. It is one of the most successful achievements of statesmanship which have been seen for a very long time. Give us the chance of repeating the success. You shrink from the tribunal of the people, because you know that the people will stand by the people of Ulster. You have the modesty to recognise that you have bungled the problem of Irish government as this problem has never been bungled in the history of the world. You 211 found it tranquil, and you have brought it to the brink of civil war. You found it prosperous, and you have destroyed all the confidence and the atmosphere on which prosperity depends; you found it peaceful, and you are leaving it divided and torn by animosities and differences; in short, drop from your hands the skein which you cannot unravel, and leave to us to make straight these difficulties, so that there may be again as there was under the Unionist Government before, an Ireland sharing in the common inheritance with the rest of the United Kingdom, a common inheritance of welfare and peace.
§ The CHIEF SECRETARY for IRELAND (Mr. Birrell)
There are many points in the speech of the Noble Lord to which I have just listened which have given me great pleasure. I was especially glad to hear him declare on the subject of the Parliament Act that he has banished from his mind, and I hope it has been banished from the minds of the leaders of his party, any notion that that measure of legislative freedom to this House will ever be more than modified. The modification of an Act of Parliament does not present any great horrors to my mind, but it is satisfactory to know that the hopes of the Noble Lord and those for whom he speaks are fixed upon such an alteration in the constitution of the Second Chamber as will render any real modification of the Parliament Act a matter of comparative unimportance. But I aver openly that I am dominated to-night, completely dominated, by three facts. One is the language employed about Ireland by the Gracious Speech from the Throne; the other is the speech made last night by the Prime Minister; and the third is the most remarkable speech made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dublin University. This is not the time, I quite agree, to pay compliments of any sort, kind or description, but certainly that speech, marvellous in its force, and remarkable also on the whole for its great repression, affected me considerably as a proof—though I do not think, indeed, that it required to be proved—that however much the right hon. Gentleman hates Home Rule, he loves his country more.
On that basis alone can we hope, in the stormy atmosphere of this House, to approximate to peace and look forward to a very near day indeed when a solution of this Irish problem by agreement, not 212 necessarily an agreement giving satisfaction, complete satisfaction, to either side, but nevertheless an agreement to which those who come after may look forward with some degree of hope and expectation, which I am afraid they will never find by contemplating the chance of the restoration to power of the Noble Lord and his Friends. That really is not the way by which you can secure the chance of seeing a really United Ireland, part and parcel of the great united Empire. The Noble Lord, I know, thinks so. He here has stated, in language of almost touching faith, that during the Unionist sway in Ireland things were going forward to the ultimate solution which he had in mind, when Irishmen will forget that they are Irishmen and when Ireland will be, as it were, another great county of England and Scotland. The Noble Lord has not had the opportunity of following the feeling of Ireland at the present day. I do not want to go into that; I have gone into it before. I say there is a new Ireland of late years. I do not say that it is a Home Rule Ireland; I do not say that it is under the domination of the Nationalist party; I say nothing of the sort. I say it is the renaissance of a nation—if the Noble Lord will allow me to use that word, because I know no other word by which to describe the people—who are animated by different considerations, are subject to different influences, and are producing different kinds of things, different kinds of work in this world, from any other portion of the United Kingdom. The Noble Lord must allow me to say that, and I pass away from it.
I rejoiced to note in the speech, the remarkable speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, that it was the speech of an Irishman speaking to Irishmen, although, unfortunately, he disfigured it with a reference to taxes in a manner which necessarily called for some remarks from the other side; but I say, as a whole, the speech was one which did not by any means fill me with despair in the great ambition of all our lives, at any rate, connected with Ireland, to see some solution of this question. The prime Minister last night took upon himself the responsibility of initiation, and said that in a time, which must of necessity be an exceedingly short time, he would place before the country and the House his proposals for dealing with this difficulty. In doing that it cannot be denied that he was acting in the spirit of the Gracious Speech. It cannot be denied that he was taking upon himself, 213 rightly taking upon himself, an obligation which, in the circumstances of the case, belonged to him—the obligation of admitting the desirability of at once, or very early, stating what the proposals of the Government are. Now the beatitude of the peacemaker is perhaps the hardest of all the beatitudes to win. My right hon. Friend was quite aware, and knew very well that by making that statement in the House, which it is no offence to say is a partisan House, he was not only taking upon himself an obligation, and putting forward a course as one he was bound to take, but he was exposing himself at once to the taunt, "You are yielding to the tramp of armed men and to the hum of war; you are yielding to force, while hitherto you have not yielded to argument." He is also exposed—we are all exposed—to the statement: "The Bill of which you are all so proud requires modification, and substantial modification." We must put up with that. There are worse things than being called cowards and fools, though neither one charge nor the other is particularly agreeable to the ordinary man. We must put up with it.
We have to seem to admit that the opposition which has arisen among the dissentients in Ulster is a justifiable opposition, and that the statements they make, honestly I am perfectly certain, as to the effect of this Bill if it be passed, are true statements of fact. Of course, the right hon Gentleman the Member for East Worcestershire (Mr. Austen Chamberlain) said that did not matter at all; it was not a question whether these anticipated fears of Ulstermen were likely or not. It is enough that the Ulstermen hold them. That is rather a dangerous doctrine, at all events, and it is a little hard on us to be, as it were, treated as if we were bound to believe that there is truth in the statement that under the operation of this Bill the Protestant dissentients in Ulster would be driven out of the Constitution and placed under the heel of a Papist Parliament in Dublin. [An HON. MEMBER: "SO they would."] There is no doubt the accent of conviction, but it is not the accent of truth, although the hon. Member firmly believes it is. We are surely entitled to say that no such consequences as those anticipated can follow from the provisions of this Bill were it to become law, verbatim ad literatem, as has been suggested it must. We do not and we ought not to be expected to admit that; but, at the same time, here we 214 are pleading for peace, and, therefore, pleading for peace as we do, we are going to make these proposals, proposals from which there really cannot be any escape. Hon. Gentlemen opposite, from the speeches I have heard this afternoon, seem to think that the Government can find a way out of this difficulty and avoid making any such proposals, and that we are just the men to find the way out. But there is no way out. You have only to see the statements that have been made by the hon. Member for Waterford, and the right hon. and learned Member for Dublin University to see that they have made, in a certain sense, a really new situation, a new situation which exposes us, I frankly admit, to imputations alike of cowardice and stupidity, to which I am prepared myself to submit in the greater interests of this question. We are face to face with the problem. We are told that the Prime Minister ought yesterday, once and for all, to have said what his proposals were. The speech which we heard from the right hon. and learned Member for Dublin University to my mind gives a certain measure of encouragement which otherwise we might not have had. We should surely approach the matter in a way which is of some assistance to us in presenting something which has to be accepted by Ireland. Nobody in this House can pretend to represent the feelings of all the people of Ireland. The hon. Gentlemen who sit below the Gangway, you constantly assert, do not represent the real feeling of their Irish constituents, but it may be quite possible that even the Protestant Members for Ulster do not represent all the feelings of even the persons who, in many respects, are disposed to agree with them. Therefore, I think, it is not unreasonable that hon. Members should have to wait a little longer before they know the nature of these proposals. We have been addressed to-day on business points of interest. Though my days in this House are naturally closing, I confess that, in regard to this Debate, that it is one of the not too numerous occasions on which we have approached the point. It has been on the subject of the inclusion or exclusion of Ulster. As to the exclusion of Ulster, let us remember that the terms and provisions of this Bill involve the inclusion of all the rest of Ireland. That is something you have done, something you have got. [An HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Well, yes. Have you settled on those terms? [An HON. MEMBER: "NO."] I say, 215 addressing myself to what I conceive, and still conceive to be the proposition put forward by the right hon. and learned Gentleman, that the exclusion of Ulster would at all events be a way which would get rid of civil war, and I presume would involve Home Rule for the rest of Ireland. Otherwise there would be no sense in the word "exclusion." Exclusion from what? That is why I say we are addressing ourselves to matters, difficult in the atmosphere of this House. We have been told by the right hon. and learned Gentleman that very bad language and jeers have been employed by Members of this party and Members of this Front Bench with reference to Ulster. I do not know whether he had me at all in his mind in those observations. I am only too conscious, although on my honour I do not believe I have ever intentionally said anything which ought to wound or could wound. [An HON. MEMBERS: "Billiard balls."] Let me take that point. I am here honestly in the sheet of repentance. What I said was that collisions between Catholic and Protestant mobs were not religious services, and that there was no more religion in these matters than between the collision of billiard balls on a billiard table. That is what I said, and I apologise for it.
I am aware that I am not qualified or the sort of man at all to occupy the position which I do. I do not think that I can make a speech in this House without exposing myself to misquotation and false criticism which, although not meant in any personal spirit to myself, does very greatly mar and impair any usefulness that I can display in public affairs. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO, no."] I have been called on to explain things which, honestly I think, required no explanation, but which, nevertheless, I am conscious do the cause that I have at heart a great deal of harm. As I certainly derive no pleasure whatever from addressing this House I am perfectly willing to immolate myself, and am always ready to do so in the interests of peace. If I have said, therefore, during my eight years of office anything wounding to the feelings of Ulster Members, I desire most heartily to apologise for it, and to withdraw it. Why should I have any feeling against the Protestants of Ulster? I know I received this morning a statement, bearing an Ulster postmark, to the effect that I had got two daughters in 216 Roman Catholic Convents. I am sorry to say I have no daughters, and if I had I would far sooner see them happy married women than the inmates of any convent. I am, and always have been, exposed, for reasons which I am at a loss to understand, to allegations of that kind, and therefore I desire to take this opportunity of referring to them. Do we, or do we not, in this House desire to come to a peaceful solution of this question, and ought we to be put to the torture to admit the full case that Ulster makes against our Bill and to agree that civil war is necessarily imminent were it to become law? When we come here and say it is not a question of civil war or civil commotion, but that we fully recognise the importance and, if you will, the necessity, if the Home Rule is to work, that the great Protestant population of Belfast and the adjoining neighbourhoods, full of industry and full of activity, and of skill and of business instinct, should have their animosities, and their fierce opposition withdrawn; when we admit that, you ought not to press it harder against us if you wish peace. If you do not really wish peace, then nothing is easier than to have war.
If you do really wish peace—and the right hon. and learned Gentleman wishes it, and everybody must wish it consistent with certain terms—then I quite agree that we are approaching now a point when that question will really arise. You say that ought to have arisen a long time ago. It would always have arisen had hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite put it before us—[An HON. MEMBER: "How many times?"]—consistently with provisions for the maintenance of our Bill. You accuse us of lack of imagination with regard to Ulster. That is a charge which each man of us must take home to his own breast. Some of us may be deficient in imagination, and some of us may have been deficient in knowledge. I do not deny it, but surely some of the Gentlemen who speak here for Ulster and on platforms in the country are singularly deficient in imagination with regard to the rest of Ireland. It is so easy to know your own little circle, and so easy not to know what other people say, and what other people mean to do. I myself have not been to a Conservative meeting for the last forty years. I do not know the atmosphere of Conservative meetings or what is said at them, except so far as I read, and as they are reported in the newspapers. All 217 of us do too much lack that quality of imagination, and I am quite willing to admit that this side is as much subject to that criticism as the opposite side.
But, really, it almost makes me despair when I find people treating the Ulster case as one of real gravity, as it is, and refusing to consider the whole of the rest of Ireland as being a matter of any importance at all. They understand their own Ulster case, and their own Ulster feeling. But the moment you invite them to understand the other case and the other state of feelings, they have got a thousand good reasons for attributing no importance to that other side at all. They say this, that, and the other thing. The Duke of Portland was very much impressed, quite rightly and properly, at a great meeting of Protestants in the North of Ireland, but I am sure he would have been equally impressed had he been at a great meeting in, say, Limerick, or in Waterford, or had he seen the reception accorded the Prime Minister through the streets of Dublin.
Do let us recognise that this is not a question to be settled in that easy way by saying all the Ulster people have right on their side, that they are a powerful, intelligent race, as they are, and that the rest of Ireland, four-fifths, or whatever the proportion may be, are a set of insignificant Papists whom nobody need recognise. That surely cannot be the right attitude. Some people say that now that the fanners have got their farms they no longer care about Home Rule. Well, that way delusion lies. As you are always inviting us, wisely, to open our eyes, and look at the fact for ourselves and see things as they are, so I advise you not to come too hastily to a conclusion of that kind. The Noble Lord (Lord H. Cecil) attributed the great improvement and great reforms which have taken place with regard to local government and to the land as beneficent acts of Conservative statesmen. He spoke as if land purchase had entered into the brain of Lord Salisbury. I do not want to quote what Lord Salisbury said about land purchase. Those things were not sprouts of the Tory brain, but they were all the work of the Nationalist party. I am not speaking of the clauses or the verbiage, but really does the right hon. Gentleman opposite mean to assert that his party would have introduced a land purchase Bill for Ireland if there had been no agitation in that country before it? There is no greater delusion than that the 218 result of that huge revolution, as that was, which has had the result of turning the landlords practically out of Ireland and substituting peasant proprietorship, that that was introduced as the sprout from the brain of some beneficent Tory statesman. Nothing of the kind. It was the result of long years of agitation in this House and in the country. The people of Ireland and the peasants who are now in possession of their estates will never commit the mistake of imagining that they owe those things to the blessed influence of their Tory rulers, and that they do not owe them to their own representatives and the clergy of their own faith.
All I am pointing out is that in this matter you should look at both sides and not confine your attention to Ulster, with which no doubt you are in sympathy, naturally, although I thought the sympathy of the Noble Lord was a little forced. Certainly, if they would only allow me, I, too, claim to be sympathetic with them, and I hope that they may be for long a strong Protestant force in the adjacent island. But you have got to look at both sides of the matter, and I do think in this Debate some indications have arisen, honest indications, in some of the speeches, though by no means in all, of a willingness to approach this question with a view to a solution upon national lines, and conferring for the first time on Ireland a strong administration. I know you will think opposite that you are a strong administration, but those things have to be judged by results. I heard an hon. and gallant Member opposite say that when they came into office they would go on just as they did before. I doubt very much, whatever may be the colour of the Parliamentary majority in this House, that you will ever get again in these democratic days a Parliament which would allow you to do the things to secure as you thought, and perhaps for a short time did, law and order in Ireland. Therefore you have a problem when you come in, as you hope to do, just as much as we have. I am sometimes called an optimist and a Mark Tapley, and all that sort of thing by people who do not know the secrets of my soul, but I am not without hope even now despite the harsh things that are said, and must always be said in a House constituted like this. To hear some Ulster Members talk, you might think that they never called their Nationalist fellow countrymen any hard names. I hope the time may come when 219 neither side will think it necessary or desirable to call each other by any such terms. I do honestly rejoice at the speeches that have been made, or some of them, in the course of this Debate. I single out two speeches that will always live in my memory, namely, that of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and that of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dublin University, and although the ground between them may seem very slender, and although the ice may seem to be very thin, I still do most earnestly hope and pray that a solution may come on terms satisfactory, not indeed to the pride of either of them, but in such a way as will secure that a great experiment, and everything is an experiment in the State, may be tried under favourable auspices. I only hope that no word of mine, and as I have said I am not conscious of any, in this hour at all events can possibly do anything against that result.
§ Mr. RONALD M'NEILL
I paid great attention to the speech to which we have just listened, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not consider me lacking in respect to him personally if I say that my efforts throughout were directed to discovering what he was driving at, and also to discovering, if possible, what relation the speech bore to the Amendment which is supposed to be before the House. We have now heard three or four Members of the Government upon this Amendment. Many of us have been waiting and anxiously expecting to hear from some one of them some clear, precise and intelligible reason why they are resisting the demand of the Amendment to deal with the situation, which they all admit to be grave, by the method of a General Election. It has now been generally admitted that the situation is grave and even critical; but the Prime Minister and apparently the Chief Secretary, and certainly some other speakers on that side of the House, have taken up the attitude that the people of the country are not interested in this particular dispute, and that therefore, if an election were held, there would be no security whatever that the electors would give their votes with any special relation to this business. That position was taken up quite clearly by the Prime Minister himself. My difficulty is to understand how the Prime Minister reconciled such a contention with the words which he himself has advised His Majesty to include in the Gracious 220 Speech from the Throne. Let me recall the words, upon which the Attorney-General also laid some stress. His Majesty, speaking, of course, with the advice of the Prime Minister, uses the words:—In a matter in which the hopes and the fears of so many of My subjects are keenly concerned.If it is true that so many of His Majesty's subjects are keenly concerned, how can it with any truth be said by the Prime Minister that there is practical apathy and indifference on this subject throughout the country? If it is true that numbers of His Majesty's subjects are keenly interested and concerned in this matter, we say that those subjects of His Majesty ought to be given some opportunity of pronouncing their own opinion upon the business in which they are thus strikingly concerned. A great deal has been said on the question whether public opinion is or is not behind the Government. That is a matter upon which we may all have our private opinion, but it is incapable of absolute determination except by a General Election. The Prime Minister and the Government allege, I have no doubt perfectly sincerely, that they have a majority in the country; but can the Prime Minister or any of his followers say conscientiously that they have practically no doubt whatever that they have a majority in the country behind them, not merely for the policy of Home Rule for Ireland, not merely for this actual Bill which is going to pass this Session if the Government have their way, but still more for the situation which has been brought about in the country by the Debates which have taken place during the last two years? It appears to me that the arguments used on the other side of the House as to the mandate of the last election, the evidences of change of opinion, and so forth, are all beside the mark, unless hon. Members opposite are prepared to assert that in the new situation which has been created in the country and the prospect which lies before the Government if they force this legislation through, they have behind them the sanction of the people.
The Prime Minister asked, with the air of one putting a question to which there was only one answer possible, "Can you produce the evidence of a single elector who says that, when voting at the last election, he did not know that he was voting for Home Rule?" My right hon. Friend gave an example which sprung to my recollection also when I was listening to the Prime 221 Minister's speech, namely, that at the Central Caucus of the Liberal party itself a duly accredited delegate of a Liberal constituency got up and said that he and many others had no idea that they were voting for this policy. I know quite well that the champions of liberty and free speech very quickly gagged him and kicked him out of the room, but, nevertheless, he was allowed to get out enough in that one short speech to refute by anticipation the point which the Prime Minister yesterday thought so important. The right hon. Gentleman further asked whether there was any evidence of change of opinion. I am not going into the question of by-elections, although if I did a very good case might be made out in answer to the Prime Minister; but I should like to quote the opinion of a follower of the right hon. Gentleman. I do not know whether the Prime Minister ever deigns to read the "Times." If he does, he may have seen in October last a letter from no less distinguished a Member of the Liberal party than Sir West Ridgeway, and this is what that Liberal gentleman said:—It would be with poignant regret that I, a supporter of the Government, would find myself at a General Election enrolled in the ranks of their opponents; but that must be the case if they go to the country with the coercion of Ulster as an item in their programme.He goes on to say:—Mine is merely a typical case—there is the rub—as I know from communications which have reached me, not only from moderate Liberals, but from Radicals.Naturally, the Prime Minister would not pay any attention to anything that, was said on this side of the House, but when he gets evidence of that sort from a distinguished Liberal, I do not think he ought to come down, and, with a rhetorical question brush aside the possibility of there having been a change of opinion upon this matter. I said that I would not go in detail into the question of by-elections, but I will make one general observation. I notice that the supporters of the Government in the House of Lords have been at great trouble to sneer at the results secured in the constituencies by the Unionist party during the Recess. They say that there have been seven elections, and that we have won only two of them. As a rule, though not without exception, those by-elections have been in Radical strongholds. At all events, the majority of them have not been such as the Unionist party would deliberately select as a test in this matter. But, without laying undue stress upon that, the fact is that during 222 the Recess we have established a change of political opinion from one side to the other to the extent of two-sevenths of the representation where the test has occurred. If you could work out the same proportion at a General Election, leaving Ireland out of account, it would mean a change from one side to the other of eighty-six Members. I ask any candid supporter of the Government, if to-morrow eighty-six Members of the party opposite were to join us on these benches, what would be the length of life of the Government's Irish policy? By all the tests that you can apply, it appears to me that the indications go to show that the opinion of the country is not behind the Government. I do not want to put the point too high; all I lay stress upon is that, in a matter of this sort, where the crisis is so grave and the issues are fraught with so much significance, the Government ought not to be content with a possible support in the country; they ought to put it beyond the possibility of any substantial or bonâ fide doubt.
I want to recall a few words, used by the Prime Minister on a former occasion, which have a very close bearing on this subject. Everyone remembers how, when the Parliament Act was being debated, the Prime Minister laid it down that there was ample security against the passage of legislation contrary to the popular will, in the fact that such legislation would require, during the three years necessary for its passage, consistent and stable support in the country. The Prime Minister and his followers are telling us, in answer to our complaint in this matter, that it is difficult to get the constituencies to concentrate their attention upon this Home Rule policy. The Prime Minister, in what my right hon. Friend called the unworthy portion of his speech, told us very light-heartedly that on a certain occasion when he happened to be motoring through a constituency where a by-election was in progress, he saw on the walls a few Unionist posters which were not exclusively devoted to the Irish question, and on the strength of that passing vision he comes to the conclusion that the country is apathetic on the question of Home Rule. Even supposing that be so, I maintain that, the Prime Minister having postulated as the natural corollary of the Parliament Act, "stable and consistent support," it is the duty of the Government themselves to keep this 223 matter constantly before the electors. They have no right to take advantage of other matters intruding themselves upon the attention of the electorate. Still less right have they, and still more dishonest it is of them to go about as they are doing now, sending their most popular platform speakers and most prominent Ministers to deliberately try to delude public opinion, and take away its attention from Ireland, in order that when an election does come it may be upon other issues than those under the Parliament Act. If there was any real honesty in the promise of the Prime Minister some years ago the Government ought now to recognise it, instead of doing, as they are now doing, all they can to suppress it. The Government having in this way begun by tricking the electors, are now trying to delude the House of Commons. I cannot myself in any other way read the speech of the Prime Minister which his obedient colleagues have received with such fulsome praise. What was yesterday the speech of the Prime Minister which we have been told is producing, or has produced, a new situation? I can only say, speaking for myself, that I have not one spark of belief in the honesty or the bonâ fide intention of the Prime Minister to make any suggestion whatever for the settlement of this question, none whatever. I notice that Lord Morley was speaking yesterday in the House of Lords. He said:—We have no motive for procrastination.I am not at all so sure that that is true. What the Government want to do is to give an impression to the country that they have got something very reasonable to propose. The Prime Minister wants to say to the country, "I have got an excellent hand, full of trumps, but I will not say to you what they arc." He is wanting to do that to gain time. As, I think, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dublin University very truly said earlier to-day, the object of the Government, if they can possibly do it, is to manœuvre us into some false dialectical or Parliamentary position. That is really all they want. When the Government set out to do this, to delude the House of Commons, and to try and manœuvre us into that position, they ought, I think, in their own interest, to have got together and agreed when they were concocting their story upon the tale they were going to tell. The Prime Minister, speaking yes- 224 terday in his most conciliatory mood, anxious to appear before us and the country in a kind, beneficent, fatherly attitude, as a person coming forward with gifts which were going to conciliate us all and produce peace and contentment, told us that if we accepted, or if our leaders accepted, the exclusion of Ulster as a possible solution that that would not in the least mean that we were committed to the principle of Home Rule, that we were just as unprejudiced as ever before in our opposition to the principle of the measure. That was the Prime Minister. Lord Morley in the House of Lords, probably just about the same moment, was saying exactly the reverse. This is what he said—and the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, if I may say so, appeared to me in his speech just now rather to take the same line as Lord Morley. Lord Morley said:—A great advance has been made.That is very much what the right hon. Gentleman opposite says—a great advance from the Government point of view, I suppose, and from the standpoint of hon. Gentlemen opposite:—A great advance has been made, because the conditions and terms of peace are the exclusion of Ulster.First of all, before going any further, may I point out that Lord Morley, if we are to take him as the exponent of Government policy, goes a great deal further, and is a great deal more explicit than the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister, if I recollect rightly what he said yesterday, said that "in some weeks time it is quite possible that I may make some suggestion, and I am not going to close any door, even the door of the exclusion of Ulster." Lord Morley goes further, and says:—The conditions and terms of peace are the exclusion of Ulster.He claims to have made a great advance because it is an admission that an Irish Parliament should exist. The right hon. Gentleman opposite spoke in something like the same fashion. Of course, we all admit—as the right hon. Gentleman appeared to labour the point—one must admit—that the exclusion of Ulster means exclusion from an Irish Parliament. But I think we were to take the speech of the Prime Minister as a concession on this point, at all events; that if we were driven to accept the exclusion of Ulster, it ought not to be taken as prejudicing our hostility to Home Rule as a principle. Therefore, when Lord Morley and the right hon. Gentleman opposite claim that an advance 225 has been made—if we accept that—it is entirely inconsistent with what the Prime Minister said, and is extremely unfair to us. I agree in the main with what the Prime Minister himself said upon that subject yesterday, that the exclusion of Ulster, if it is to be accepted as a way out of this tangle, is really in the nature of a pis aller. I do not think it is fair, because we may be willing to save a certain small proportion of passengers by putting them off in a lifeboat, that therefore we are to be told that we are anxious to scuttle the ship. We are not. It is the Government that is scuttling the ship. What we do say is: "If you are determined to do that, if you are going to send this vessel in the middle of a prosperous voyage to the bottom, we will accept a boat, if you will allow some of the passengers to get away." I have said I do not myself in the least believe that any real suggestions are going to be made. The Prime Minister's speech yesterday was what musicians call a "Fantasia, with variations in the key of 'Wait and see.'" It is practically putting us off until some future date when he is going to come forward with what suggestions he is going to make. For my own part, I would be very much surprised if there is not at this very moment in existence, whether in writing or otherwise, a definite undertaking from the Prime Minister to the Leader of the Irish party that the exclusion of Ulster will not be considered or allowed. The Chief Secretary for Ireland treats that observation with ridicule.
§ Mr. R. M'NEILL
Observations of the sort are very often treated with ridicule in proportion to their truth. At all events what we do know is, unless the newspapers have been given more than usually false information, that within the last few days the right hon. Gentleman enjoyed an interview of an hour or more with the hon. and learned Member for Waterford. I wonder if the Chief Secretary, who treats my remarks with ridicule—I am not asking him to reply—I wonder whether in his own mind he asks us to believe that the speech which the Prime Minister made yesterday, creating, as he says himself, a new situation, and taking upon himself the responsibility for the first time of initiation, and of making suggestions—are we, I say, to be told to believe that none of that was as much as hinted at on the occasion when the hon. and learned 226 Gentleman the Member for Waterford spent and hour and a half with the Prime Minister? I must say it would require a great draft upon one's credulity to believe that these two prominent statesmen were closeted together within a few days of the speech which we heard yesterday from the Prime Minister and that nothing passed between them with regard to it. Therefore, if it be the natural inference that the Prime Minister was upon this subject in possession of the views of the hon. and learned Member for Waterford when he made his speech yesterday, I will ask the right hon Gentleman opposite—when he smiles with that incredulity and contempt—for the right hon. Gentleman is a great dialectician, and I have great admiration for the way in which he can skate over thin ice—if even he can draw real distinction between a mutual knowledge of what was going to take place yesterday, with the obvious consent of the hon. and learned Member for Waterford. and an agreement or an understanding in the possession of the Prime Minister in regard to his attitude? We know quite well from the speech of the right hon. Member for Waterford to-day, and we knew it well before from the recent speeches of even a more powerful Member, the Member for West Belfast, that if this suggestion should be put forward about Easter time, if then the Prime Minister should bring it forward, that some excuse will be found, a condition will be put in, which will make the thing impossible of acceptance on this side of the House, and so the undertaking will be fulfilled which has been given to the Irish party. The real reason, as has already been explained, I think, by my right hon. Friend, of this manoeuvring is that what the Government really want to do, besides attempting to manœuvre us in a Parliamentary sense into a false position, is that they may goad Ulster into some action which will be regrettable, but which will be taken advantage of for political purposes by the Government. We have been told recently in the country by a Member of the Government, for whom I have the greatest possible respect, the Foreign Secretary, that there was plenty of time for this question of negotiation and conversations. There was plenty of time, he said, before a decision need to be arrived at. The Chief Secretary was talking just now about imagination. I do not know that the Foreign Secretary is more lacking in imagination than the average 227 man. I am perfectly certain that he is not naturally a cruel, or callous, or even a cynical man. Therefore it must have been lack of imagination on his part, because it is impossible that a more cruel, callous, and cynical speech, in the face of what the position in Ulster is, could have been made than to say that there was plenty of time for considering all these matters. I noticed just now, when I ventured to say that the Government would want to goad Ulster, that there was a motion of the right hon. Gentleman's head. The meaning of that, I take it, was that he thinks that I am past praying for when I say such a thing.
§ Mr. R. M'NEILL
I have correctly interpreted the meaning of the right hon. Gentleman; but have we nothing to go upon? I agree it is a disagreeable thought that the Government are anxious to do such a thing, but we have the statement of one of the right hon. Gentleman's colleagues. We have been told by the First Lord of the Admiralty that a number of the followers of the right hon. Gentleman are anxious to see the red blood flow.
§ Mr. R. M'NEILL
Well, I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman can put any other interpretation upon his colleague's speech than the ordinary and natural one. Most of us have put a plain and natural interpretation upon perfectly plain language. [HON. MEMBERS: "Quote?"] We believe—I do not know whether it is true or not—I have no idea—I am taking it entirely upon the faith of a Member of the Front Bench opposite, and I suppose he knows the feelings of his followers, that they are anxious, for whatever reason it may be, that this imbroglio in which we find ourselves now should lead to an issue in bloodletting.
§ Mr. R. M'NEILL
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman opposite will explain what the right hon. Gentleman meant? [HON. MEMBERS: "Quote, quote!"] I have quoted.
§ Mr. RADFORD
I had the advantage of listening to the speech to which the right hon. Member refers. I know what he means, 228 but the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty said nothing of the kind.
§ Mr. R. M'NEILL
Of course I accept what the hon. Member has said. I have not got the quotation with me, but I thought I was giving words so well known and notorious that they did not require to be again quoted.
§ Sir E. CARSON
May I say what the actual words were, because I have quoted them very often, and they have never been denied. What the right hon. Gentleman said was that "there were amongst his own party many followers of theirs who were anxious to see whether the red blood really would flow."
§ Mr. R. M'NEILL
I thought that was what was said by the right hon. Gentleman, so that I have not very much to withdraw. If there was anything which I could be legitimately asked to withdraw, especially in the absence of the right hon. Gentleman, I should do so without hesitation. At all events, whether hon. Gentlemen opposite or their followers in the country—I do not suppose the right hon. Gentleman was referring to his followers of this House—whether there is anyone in this country who really do want to see whether the red blood would flow or not, I think it is generally admitted, and at all events it is admitted on the Front Bench opposite, that unless some way out is found bloodshed will be the result of the Government's policy. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] It is not admitted then. May I quote the opinion of a gentleman not in this House, but a gentleman outside, who is well known, a man with whom I certainly am not in agreement, and with whom the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland is not in agreement, but with whom a great many hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway are in agreement. I mean Mr. Hyndman. He said that he goes about the country a great deal, and that he has a great opportunity of coming across and registering opinion in the country, and he says:—I have no more doubt that Ulster will fight if subjected to Home Rule than that the Mahomedans would resist the occupation of Mecca by Christians. Moreover, I go about the Island a good deal, and whether I approve proof of what I see and hear or not, I am quite convinced that the first shot fired by the British army upon the citizen soldiers in Ulster will be the signal for such an outburst of anti-Irish and anti-Catholic feeling in this country as has not been witnessed here for 200 years.The right hon. Gentleman opposite, and most of the speakers who touch upon this point, are always talking about the feel- 229 ing in Ireland, and about the animosity between Catholic and Protestants in Ireland; that is very natural, but here is a gentleman, I do not know whether he is right or wrong, who is an Englishman, though he says he is of Irish extraction, very familiar, on his own statements, with opinion in this country, who says that this anti-Irish and anti-Catholic feeling will arise in a way that has not been seen for over 200 years, not in Ireland but in this country, and surely if there can be any ground for that it is even more deplorable than the result that may be brought about in Ireland, where, unfortunately, for centuries wo have been accustomed to hate each other for the love of God in the way hon. Gentlemen refer to. Therefore I think that is a very clear indication of one of the worst evils to be entertained of driving this policy through without giving the country an opportunity of pronouncing that however bad and deplorable and disastrous the result may be in Ireland, it will not be confined to Ireland but will be found upon this side of the water also.
I must say one word in regard to the attitude of the hon. Member for Waterford. The hon. Member for Waterford when he speaks in this House—at all events since I had the pleasure of being in it—always adopts an extraordinarily conciliatory tone, and I am not surprised that he appeals to hon. Members who have not made it their business to study the oratory of the same hon. Member, either in America or elsewhre. The hon. Member for Waterford said to-day, by no means for the first time, that he also will not close the door upon any possible method of arriving at a settlement. He shows anxiety, or at all events readiness, to give safeguard. Those of us who are familiar with his speeches in Ireland are about sick of all this talk about safeguards. The hon. Member for Waterford said in his speech the other day that he was ready to make any sacrifice consistent, of course, of an Irish Parliament in Ireland and an Irish Executive to arrive at a settlement with his Protestant fellow countrymen. What sacrifice is the hon. Member to make? I wish the hon. Member would take some opportunity on some occasion to explain what sacrifice he is ready to make. He appears to me to say, "I am quite willing to be conciliatory provided that you accept my policy." What he says in effect is, "If you will walk into my goal I will make you a first-class misdemeanant," or he says to Ulster, "If you will be good 230 enough to lie down and accept my chastisement I shall be graciously pleased to apply it by whips, and not by scorpions." That is the concession and the sacrifice which the hon. Member is ready to make. That is not a sort of sacrifice which we value very highly, and the concession is r>ne which does not at all incline us to walk into his goal or accept his chastisement. Unless some of these suggestions are accepted when they are brought forward by the Prime Minister when the Estimates are over, when there is nothing else particular to do in this House, when some day we shall be told, probably on a Friday afternoon, that the Prime Minister is going to tell us what concession or suggestion he is going to make for the settlement of this great crisis; but if there is some suggestion which cannot be accepted by the hon. Member for Waterford or cannot be accepted by my right hon. Friend the Member for Dublin University, then we are told that this Bill is to go through, as the Prime Minister said yesterday, automatically, and by an automatic process. That is not a thing which I would venture to say, in the circumstances, as a very humble Member of this House.
I do not know whether the Prime Minister as the first adviser of the Crown thinks it is quite becoming to speak in that way, obviously implying that His Majesty is part of the automatic machinery through which this legislation is to be ground out. There is one thing I wish to say in conclusion, that although the Government and their supporters are apparently determined as things stand, and if no suggestions are made that can be accepted to carry this legislation through Parliament they may do so, but it is doomed to failure before it passes, and not only do I say it is doomed to failure, but the Government themselves know it. They have admitted it in advance. I am very glad to see that the learned Attorney-General is in his place, because I think the learned Attorney-General is one of those who predicted the failure of this legislation. May I say there is no Member of the Government for whom I have a higher respect than for the learned Attorney-General. Some of my friends do not agree with me when I say that, but I am not afraid to repeat it. I do believe, at all events, in the sincerity of the right hon and learned Gentleman. This is the language he used:—I talked the language of sincerity when I say that the object we Home Rulers had in view is not the defeat 231 of a party, is Dot the humiliation of a minority, but the conciliation of a nation.And he goes on to say:—However successful we might, be in putting down resistance it would still be true that even then we should not have accomplished the purpose which the friends of Ireland had in view.Therefore, the right hon. Gentleman admits that although they may pass this legislation, unless they can win, I will not say the consent, but unless they can win the co-operation of the minority in the North of Ireland, that even then they will not have accomplished the things which, as friends of Ireland, they have in view. Why, then, should they go on with it? Did anyone ever hear of men in any enterprise persisting in a task which they have admitted themselves is doomed to failure? Of course, there may be other purposes accomplished. They may accomplish some other, but I do think it ought to be remembered in this great crisis when right hon. Gentlemen opposite are talking with such solemnity from the public point of view that they themselves admit that without co-operation which they have not got and will not get they cannot make their policy a success. The First Lord of the Admiralty used language perhaps more strong when speaking at Dundee, he said:—One party can carry Home Rule into being, but it will take more than one party to make it a lasting success.There we have it as clearly as possible admitted by those two eminent Members of the Government that they are persisting in a course which they know from the outset is foredoomed to failure. My right hon. Friend said, on a very solemn occasion in Belfast, that undoubtedly the Government, if they choose to use force, might coerce and constrain and crush the opposition of Ulster, but if they do that, they will have, as my right hon. Friend said, to govern Ulster in the future as a conquered province. Does anyone really imagine, does the Attorney - General imagine when he says that the object is not the humiliation of a minority but the conciliation of a nation, that there would be no change if they took the opinion of the country at a General Election? I will not go into that further than to say this, that at all events if they went to the country and got authority from the country, which they have not got now, for the policy they are pursuing, and which they are going to drive automatically through Parliament, they would at all 232 events relieve themselves from some measure of personal responsibility, but without that authority the responsibility for bloodshed will rest upon them, and upon them alone.
§ Mr. CLYNES
The speeches of hon. Gentlemen opposite convince me of the utter futility of carrying the Amendment before the House. As I interpret what has been said by those speaking on behalf of that part of Ireland which they term Ulster, they ask that any appeal to the country should leave them in the position in which they are at present—in fact, they ask that it should bo "Heads I win, and tails you lose." The result of an appeal to the country would not alter the resistance they offer to this Bill either in form or degree. In every way they must win, and whatever be your answer as a Parliament or as a people their position is to remain unchanged. There is one thing which this Debate has proved, and it is that the whole complexion is altered, and most of those who have addressed the House from either side have spoken in tones and terms which indicate that this question must be settled, and Parliament has reached the point of considering how and on what terms and upon what basis the settlement is to be reached. Here and there there have been exceptions to that general recognition. The Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University asked how could we expect the people of Ulster to consent to be put under Catholic domination.
I have tried to imagine what conceivable question an Irish Parliament could deal with in which the question of religion could enter. I have got safeguards in mind, but they are set aside with scorn as being utterly worthless, and no matter how they are improved or extended, or in what form they are strengthened, they are still declared to be worthless. Imagine an Irish Parliament, consisting to a considerable extent of Protestants, dealing with any question and daring to show any religious bias, or daring to exhibit any spirit of religious intolerance! The common sense of every man in this House tells me that the days of religious bigotry are ended, and that we dare not, even if we desired to do so, exhibit, particularly in the form of any legislative or administrative act, an atom of religious bigotry. This House is made up of a mixture of Catholics and Protestants, and can anyone recall in the time of living man an instance where any proposal or amendment of any kind 233 has carried with it the flavour of religious preference, or where there has been the slightest desire on the part of a Catholic to take advantage of a Protestant, or where on the part of the Protestant there has been any wish to place his Catholic brother in a position of prejudice or disadvantage. From the smallest to the greatest thing which an Irish Parliament can deal with, there is not any subject in which it would be possible for the Irish Parliament to show any kind of persecution with regard to the religion of the Protestant minority in Ireland. This Debate has proved that the struggle cannot go on, and it has reached a point at which it must be settled. The history of the legislative union between Ireland and this country proves, that the further you have got in point of time from that union the more you have been driven to recognise the necessity of restoring self-government to Ireland, which is now more closer to us than she was at the time of the legislative union. Circumstances have so altered the case as to bring Ireland within a few hours of our own shores, and yet Ireland has not in the slightest degree lessened her insistence upon the right of self-government.
A most extraordinary feature of this Irish problem is that it is, as far as I know, the first instance in history in any part of the world where there has been a fight against self-government. There have been fights for liberty, and struggles for freedom in its many forms have been waged by peoples the world over; but this is the first instance where any considerable section of a nation or of a community have fought against the right to govern themselves at home. In that sense this is a very singular and bewildering exception to the universal rule in the civilised world. The march of events has made a settlement of this subject imperative, and we on these benches who are practising the spirit of democracy we preach in the country, when we support this Bill, are anxious to place in the hands of Protestant and Catholic and working men alike the joint responsibility of dealing with their own home questions, thereby relieving this House by giving us a larger amount of time to deal with those questions which more intimately concern us industrially, and which affect the economic and social condition of the people. We believe that when the main issue of this question is settled, both Protestant and Catholic working men in Ireland will insist upon 234 their representatives setting aside this ancient remains of bigotry and religious dissension, and insist upon dealing only with the questions that concern them in their work and major purpose.
We have reached, in the progress of Parliamentary advancement, a point where a Government representing Liberal views can have its legislation effected only with the consent of the Leaders of the Opposition. All manner of hostility has been shown in the case of the other House. That we have grown accustomed to, but now we have reached the point where, at the point of the bayonet or the mouth of the rifle, opposition is to be exhibited, and it is now claimed that the wishes of the minority must not merely carry weight, but must overbear the decision of the majority in the House of Commons. Liberal legislation is possible only when a Tory minority in the House of Commons assents to it and will profess its satisfaction. The problem is reduced to that. Hon. Gentlemen opposite declare that, they stand by Ulster. The answer that this Parliament should give to that, and the answer which the Government must give, is that we stand by the Irish nation, and by that larger section of the Irish people who, for the past forty years, have, without the slightest deviation, and with ever-growing emphasis and determination, brought before this House this question for settlement.
One cannot speak of Ulster without having regard to the electoral facts of that province of Ireland. The hon. and learned Member for Waterford rightly reminded the House this afternoon of the fact that the majority of the Members for Ulster will support this Bill in its further progress through this House. You have seventeen Home Rulers representing Ulster, as against sixteen opponents of Home Rule. How can it be said that when the word "Ulster" is used it is to be taken as expressing the feelings of the majority of the people of that province? We have always been asked to count representative capacity and size according to the number of Members returned at elections. The custom is to set aside the figures and you say, "See, we have won so many seats." On this question the general fortunes of electoral warfare are to be left out of account, and you are reduced to having a minority of Members from Ulster in the position of resisting this Home Rule Bull. Proposals to exclude Ulster have really not been discussed by hon. Gentlemen 235 opposite; their position is not to exclude Ulster, but to exclude Ireland from the Bill. No safeguard, no change in the character or constitution of the Bill in any form will change in the slightest degree the opposition of those who claim to speak for Ulster. From the beginning of their campaign to this moment their cry has been "No Home Rule." They insist, not upon the rights of the minority, but upon the minority overbearing the majority, and the other three-fourths of Ireland are asked to surrender their convictions, their wishes, and their needs because one-fourth of the people of Ireland persist in offering the most unconstitutional and lawless form of hostility to every Parliamentary proposal affecting Ireland which has been made in modern times.
We are asked to believe that this form of hostility is spontaneous, and that it has grown out of the natural conscience and dread of the people as to what will happen under Home Rule. I think we have seen sufficient evidence of how this opposition has been engineered, and the money which has been spent upon it for a considerable time past, in fixing the idea of Catholic hostility in the minds of the Protestants and playing upon what is, unhappily, still a traditional fear of a section of the Protestant inhabitants in Ireland. Instead of hon. Gentlemen continuing to pursue that course, which in some respects might almost be called a trade, instead of trying to keep alive those dying embers of religious bigotry, instead of keeping religious animosity alive for any purpose, whether political or religious, it would be far better if they would try to harmonise their conduct with modern views and seek to reconcile men of all creeds and classes to live together for the common advancement and welfare of the nation to which they commonly belong. Imagine what the position of hon. Gentlemen would be if the working men in this country, suffering from the greatest sense of wrong, injured and damaged in the conditions of their daily life because of the industrial and economic pressure under which they live, believing that capital was growing so powerful that labour would be still further enslaved, and becoming possessed of such fear of their lives and their rights as to think and to talk and to act in the spirit of rifles and bayonets! One well knows from all their experience that the first men ready to call upon the British soldiers to put that class of working men down would 236 be those hon. Gentlemen who themselves now openly boast of the manner in which they have originated, organised, and completed such military resistance as may now exist in any part of Ulster against Home Rule. If labour talked of drilling itself, and if labour leaders took one step in that direction, the gaol would be their place, and the hon. Gentlemen opposite would be the first to insist that this Radical Government should do its duty in putting those men into prison.
A cause that has ceased to rest its case upon moral appeal and argument is doomed, and when you have reached the point of appealing only to the people's sense of fear you have put yourselves in the position of supporting a lost cause. Many people, as a matter of fact, seriously believe that these threats will be carried out. It was the last resort, the last step, that a despairing and beaten party could take. Appeals to the electorate, the use of literature, scattered quotations in millons of copies of what this man said in America twenty years ago or what another man said in a hidden Irish village thirty years ago, have ceased to be effective. They have no force of appeal whatever, and the people of this country are sick and tired of the subject, wishful to see such a measure as this passed through and become law. It was only because of the failure of such arguments that they resorted to these threats, and will fail them just as completely as ever argument has done in times gone by.
Speaking for the whole of my colleagues, from the beginning of any discussion in this House or in the country of this question of Home Rule, we have been as united a party in its support as the Nationalist party itself, and, whilst in some respects others may claim to represent labour as well as we do, our special claim is that we go, through labour organisations, to our constituents and the masses of the electorate, and in each of our programmes and in each of our election addresses, and in all our speeches we have emphasised the necessity of a settlement of this question on the basis of giving over to Irishmen the settlement of questions which they understand far better than the men of any other nation can. I am firmly convinced that when the Irish Parliament is set up, as it will be in Dublin, you will have a change in the disposition of parties. Your Catholic will be indistinguishable from your Protestant, and there will be more or less a joint interest. You will not find 237 the Catholic employer differing from the Protestant employer on a purely industrial or economic question. Their religious differences will cease, and they will join hands for their natural protection. The same will occur with the working-men. Then it will be these appeals to religious animosity and to all history and tradition on which religious animosity is founded will fail, and the working-men in Belfast will in the days of an Irish Home Rule Parliament be looking to Dublin for legislation which will improve their housing conditions, their wages, and their hours of labour, and for improvements in all the other matters that either this or that Parliament can far better handle than by longer continuing this tiresome discussion of the Home Rule question.
§ Mr. AMERY
I fancy, judging by some of the facts which became public recently, that the people of Ulster would prefer to wait a considerable time before they look to Dublin for improvements in their housing conditions. The hon. Member has made one charge against the party to which I belong, which I think is utterly unmerited. It is that of deliberately fanning religious animosity. I think, considering the circumstances of the case, that the Unionist party have shown great self restraint in the way in which they have deliberately kept all appeals to religious feeling out of this question. We have not been able to conceal the fact that religious differences do exist. They are not of our creation, and as far as that is concerned, we have been proud to think that the work of Unionism in the last twenty years had, till a year or two ago, done a great deal to mitigate religious division and bitterness in Ireland. Does the hon. Gentleman really think that it makes no difference whether people live in surroundings where certain religious influences are paramount and predominating? Members on the other side have considered it an intolerable injustice that their children should be taught secular subjects in schools where a certain religious influence was supposed to be dominant. The schools of the Catholic religion have always laid tremendous stress on the preservation of the Catholic atmosphere, not only for the teaching of religion, but also for the teaching of history, of science, and every other subject. The demand for a Catholic University is only typical. Surely the same feelings naturally show themselves in all the organisations of a State, just as they do in a province like 238 Quebec. If anybody went to Canada and suggested that the people of New Brunswick should be forcibly included in the province of Quebec, you would find just as strong a resistance as you find in Ulster to-day.
There is another statement of the hon. Member which seems to me extraordinarily curious and symptomatic of his point of view. He suggests that this is the first instance in history in which men have fought against self-government. Because the people of Ulster do not wish to be under the rule of Dublin, they are supposed to be fighting against self-government. Has he forgotten the case of the United States of America? Did not they fight and successfully fight against the attempt of a portion of those States to assert a right to separate themselves? Has he forgotten the even earlier instance of the American revolution? Were there no loyalists in the American colonies who fought on behalf of the unity of the British Empire, and who, when the cause was lost in those colonies, sooner than live under a foreign flag, left their property and their homes and founded new colonies and settlements in what is the Dominion of Canada to-day? Then there is the argument the hon. Member used at the beginning of his speech. It is more or less the argument which has been used by hon. Members from the Prime Minister downwards in all their speeches: that in this demand we are making in this Amendment for an election we are asking that it should be heads we win, and tails our opponents lose. That is not the demand. If we won, then undoubtedly we should be able to carry on the policy in Irish affairs that we have carried on with some success in the past. If we lost, and if the policy of the right hon. Gentleman commended itself to the country, it is absurd to say that they would not be able to carry it out. Has the House of Lords in the past ever rejected a question which has been before Parliament several times, placed before the country, and then passed again by the House of Commons? If they did do so, surely that power of creating Peers which was to have been exercised three years ago might be exercised, and the hundreds who may have been disappointed would find at last their hope bearing fruition.
It seems to me that an election is the obvious, and natural, and constitutional way of arriving at a settlement of this question. I admit it is not the only possible settlement. There is the alternative suggested in the Gracious Speech from the 239 Throne, that we should arrive at a settlement founded on the good will and cooperation of all parties and all creeds. To arrive at such a settlement may be a matter of immense difficulty, but it is certainly something well worth striving for and well worth attaining. It is difficult, but I for my part am not prepared to say that it is impossible to arrive at a settlement of this question by co-operation and consent. I feel that, if settlement by co-operation is not impossible, there are certain conditions which must be regarded if there is to be any hope of our arriving by co-operation at a true and lasting settlement, in which we could all agree, and which we could all with good will attempt to carry into effect. One of those conditions is, as the Gracious Speech itself indicates, that the settlement must be national. It cannot be a settlement merely as the result of a bargain between the Government and the Leaders of the Opposition. It must be a settlement, based on some body, some convention, representing every shade of national opinion, not only in this House, where opinion is so strictly organised in parties, but outside as well. There is another condition, to my mind an even more important one. The terms on which the settlement is to be approached must be terms of equality. If we are to co-operate for a settlement there must be no talk of the Government making some concessions on a policy upon which it has already determined. We must approach this question on the same footing of equality as the majority and minority in South Africa approached the question of the Union. Again, we must approach it in the same spirit of freedom. There must be no Bill in existence to limit us by its provisions. We must look at the whole question of local government in the United Kingdom afresh. Only a fresh start on the whole question gives us the slightest chance of effective co-operation. The Prime Minister, in his speech, alluded to that British statesmanship which has already solved so many problems of formidable dimensions elsewhere. I know it has done so. The problem of the Union of Canada was certainly more formidable. British statesmanship solved that problem, and it also solved the problem of the Union of South Africa and that of Australia. But in each case the task was only approached under the conditions I have indicated—a condition of absolute freedom to deal with the whole subject 240 from all points of view—a condition of equality between all parties and all sections. I venture to say that any attempt at a settlement which begins with a claim by one party to dictate conditions, and, possibly, to make some slight concession on those conditions, is foredoomed to failure Further, I would say, if we have any hope of arriving at an agreement, we must begin at the right end. We must not begin bargaining about details; we must first try and see if the principles which are dear to each section can, by any manner of means, be reconciled or harmonised. If we bargain on details before we really understand the principles which each side consider vital, we shall never come to agreement, and least of all, in my opinion, can we come to an agreement by beginning to bargain on the most inflamed and most delicate point of all—the position of Ulster.
Let us first see what are our principles. The principle which we on this side of the House consider vital is the principle of the Union. It is essential, from our point of view, that the United Kingdom shall be recognised as a nation, the only sovereign nation in these islands—a sovereign nation in the same sense that the Dominion of Canada is sovereign over all the provinces in that Dominion, in the same sense that South Africa is sovereign within its own borders. That is a condition that has to be observed, and any measure which we can support must clearly show not only in its wording, but in the certain sequence of its results, that it will preserve that essential principle. That is our objection to the present Bill. We say that the Bill as it stands is not compatible with the unity of the United Kingdom. But is our principle really denied by hon. Members opposite? The principle asserted by hon. Members opposite is the principle of local government. That is a principle which on this side of the House has never been denied. Indeed, we have done a great deal for local government, both in England and in Ireland in the past, and I am not prepared to say that, under certain conditions, we could not do more. For my part, I am not an advocate of what is called the federal system. I do not see that in these small and closely connected islands there is room for anything in the nature of local Governments, with powers such as are possessed by the American States, the Australian States, or even the Canadian Provincial Governments. At the same time, 241 the opposition I feel to any proposal of that sort is on an entirely different plane to the opposition I feel to this Bill. Any suggestion for entering into a conference to discuss such a proposal, rather than to carry this struggle to its ultimate issue, is one I do not think any Member on this side of the House would lightly reject. I am so convinced of the merits of the case for an intimate union of these islands, that I do not believe, if the question were discussed frankly and practically, you would ever get any convention to advocate a federal solution, giving powers to the provinces at all analogous to those possessed in the other federations.
Then there is, of course, the principle which is asserted by hon. Members behind me, that Ireland should be a nation. In certain aspects that principle is one which is utterly incompatible with the United Kingdom being a nation, and it cannot therefore be accepted. Let us be quite sure whether hon. Members do mean it in a sense which is utterly incompatible with our principle. We do not object to the idea that Ireland should, like Scotland, be a nation, linked together by common sympathies, common interests, and a common patriotism. We are proud that one result of our work in the last twenty years has been to bring Irishmen of different religions and different traditions closer together than ever before. We do not wish to stand in the way of a common Irish patriotism, with common sympathies and common interests. We regard the action of this Government as reopening old sores and recreating divisions. Even if hon. Members behind demand that that unity should, in the case of some measure of local self-government, be reflected in a unity of government, even that is not a proposition which we need abject to. We do not desire to divide Ireland permanently, either in her institutions or in sentiment. But we do insist that no part of Ireland, and least of all a coherent self-conscious community such as Ulster is, should be dragged into a union such as is here proposed. Hon. Members have quoted the instance of South Africa. Does anyone think that the South Africa Act would have been passed by this House, or that it would have come to fruition in South Africa, if the resistance of Natal had been overborne by the strong hand? There was some slight doubt about the attitude of Natal. And so, even after the Natal Ministers had given their adhesion to the principle and details of the scheme for the Union of South Africa, they had 242 a special referendum in Natal to make assurance doubly sure, so that South Africa should start on its career as a Union with the clear and fully understood assent of all.
There is one difficulty more, and that is, that any settlement arrived at must be lasting and not the beginning of further controversy. It must be a measure that does not open up in itself opportunities fur further friction. In that respect it must be thoroughly unlike the present Bill. And further, after the experience we have had, its stability must also be protected from without. No scheme of settlement can be possible which leaves the Parliament Act standing as it is, or which makes it possible for any stray majority in a Coalition Government next year, or five years hence, to alter the settlement, or to modify it in any direction, to meet the wishes of hon. Members behind me, or of any other section. If we are to have a settlement we must arrive at some agreement upon the drastic modifications which the Parliament Act requires, and in regard to the future position of that Second Chamber, whose protection will be essential to the permanence of it. None of these conditions, it seems to me, were made clear in the speech delivered by the Prime Minister yesterday, a speech to which no one of his colleagues has added anything and from which his colleagues could have subtracted nothing. I say nothing as to the unwisdom of the further delay implied in that speech. In the present condition of Ulster it would be the height of folly and cynicism to keep these people waiting, and to confirm in their minds the conviction that they are being played with, and that at the end, when their patience is exhausted, the threat of forcing them into submission under the Parliament Act will be carried out.
I come next to the method. The Prime Minister, with the Parliament Act in his hand and his majority behind him, is going to force the Bill through, although he vaguely indicated some concessions which he might be inclined to offer. It seems to me that that procedure alone makes any concession unacceptable as a solution of the problem. It may conceivably, if he does it of his own accord, and without asking for any consent from us—it may conceivably avert the danger of civil war. But the right hon. Gentleman cannot expect us to co-operate with him and join in a settlement advanced in that spirit. The only proposal that has been discussed at 243 all seriously is that of the exclusion of Ulster. That proposal teems with difficulties. The hon. and learned Member for Waterford has mentioned a few. One difficulty is as to what is actually meant by exclusion. To Ulster if it means anything, it means being absolutely and clearly incorporated with England, and absolutely separate in every department from Dublin, and not under the authority of any department of state in Dublin, whether exercised directly under the Irish Executive or nominally by the Lord Lieutenant with an Irish Executive, whispering what he is to do into his ear every day. That, I am sure, is the meaning which the people of Ulster attach to exclusion.
The suggestion of exclusion itself has many other defects. I see no stability in it. The Prime Minister suggested there would be parts of Ulster which might be continually agitating for a change. There will be people outside Ulster continually helping that agitation, and there will be people in this House also helping it, and continually using the influence of their votes to try and get the settlement altered. Meanwhile exclusion, by itself, still leaves an utterly unacceptable Home Rule Bill in force for the rest of Ireland. A Bill based on no principle, containing no stability in itself, is bound in the future to lead either to further separation or else to the forcible reconquest of Ireland. On this matter I am speaking my own opinion, and not that, as far as I know, of my leaders or colleagues, when I say we cannot accept the mere exclusion of Ulster as a settlement. We cannot be parties to facilitating or helping the passage of the Bill with that exclusion. Under the Parliament Act the Government can do nothing except pass the Bill as it is or come to us for our assistance. I do not see why we should give that assistance. The Attorney-General said we were asking them to tear up the Parliament Act and to forgo the advantages of that Act. Of course, they are asked to do that. If they want a settlement by co-operation, they must abandon the use of arbitrary power. The Parliament Act has great advantages from the point of view of hon. Members opposite. It gives them absolute autocratic power to legislate as they will. But that autocratic power at any time has its corresponding drawbacks. It loses all moral force, and in this case it has resulted in one important part of the United King- 244 dom already preparing to resist its application by force of arms, and at least one half of the rest of the United Kingdom being prepared, if they do so, and if the occasion should arise, to support them by every means in their power.
Charles I. realised the advantages of arbitrary power and did not appreciate the suggestion that he should forego them. Can anyone say that the result of the attempt to exercise then exactly the same kind of power as hon. Members wish to exercise now, was good, either for the Constitution of that time or for the peace of the country? It seems to be the idea of right hon. Gentlemen opposite and their supporters that at one and the same time they can secure the advantages of the Parliament Act—maintain the Parliament Act and carry it out in its entirety—and yet, by small concessions here and there, avert the danger that is threatening. Might it not be well sometimes to look back upon our own history. Is not that the temper of mind in which Grenville and North approached a similar difficulty in the case of the American Colonies? They asserted a claim to tax those Colonies, which was repudiated in a spirit not unlike that in which the Ulster people are now repudiating the claim that a Dublin Parliament should legislate for them. Then their difficulties arose. There arose agitation, and they began to make concessions. As Burke reminded this House in his great speech on the American Colonies, they took off the tax on glass, the tax on demifine and other paper, red lead, white lead, and other colouring matters, but with every concession they took away all the virtue of the concession by reiterating the odious claim that this Parliament had the unqualified right to tax the American people. Last of all, they took the Tea Duty, not a new duty, but the existing duty, and lowered it, but in order once more to assert their claim, levied it on the other side of the water, instead of here. I hope we are not going to repeat the folly of 140 years ago in this House again and to irritate men beyond human endurance by the assertion of principles which, as free men, they are not prepared to tolerate, and then to add to their irritation by gradually dribbling out petty concessions in response to their growing irritation, and the growing sense of their resolution to act for themselves.
Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite have got to make up their minds whether they are going to come down from the high position they have taken, and 245 attempt to find, in co-operation with us, a peaceul solution of common good will for this great problem, or else they must see the thing through with the Parliament Act as it stands; and in that case they had better begin on the work of coercion today, instead of delaying it. For every week makes the task more difficult for them, and every week is adding to the fact that we in this country are becoming the laughing-stock of Europe. What should we say to-day if in France 100,000 men were arming to resist the will of the French Government, and the French Government did nothing? We should think the French Government worth very little indeed, and that fact might add greatly to the dangers with which Europe is threatened at this or any time. By playing with this matter and refusing to come to a decision, this Government is gravely prejudicing the position of the United Kingdom and the Empire in Europe, gravely injuring the reputation of the United Kingdom and the Mother Country in the whole circle of our self-governing Dominions, and not least in India, which has more than once been dragged in by hon. Gentlemen as an argument for non-resistance to the tyranny which they propose to exercise over us. If hon. Members go on as they have begun, at any moment you may see Ulster forced into action. Then you will find no lethargy in this country. I know there has been indifference in this country, not confined to one side in politics, but it has been the indifference of people towards a question which they had hoped was settled nearly a generation ago, the indifference with which people meet the dragging up of an issue which is nearly dead and which is dragged athwart the demand of the people that great social and Imperial problems should be dealt with.
If events in Ulster do force this question upon the attention of people here, you will find no indifference and no lethargy. It will be within the recollection of hon. Members that some years ago, when the Russo-Japanese war was in progress, the Russian ships exercised the right of search and took by capture British ships at sea in a manner which was considered very high-handed. There was a continually accumulating list of genuine grievances, but the people of this country, as a whole, wisely and rightly remained unmoved. But one night, by what everyone now knows, and knew then to be, a pure accident or mistake—how it occurred no one can really say—but by a mistake a Russian 246 battleship fired on some British fishing vessels. At once England was ablaze, and it required all the efforts and coolness of the Government, and, I admit, the reasonable attitude shown by the Russian Government, to prevent an armed collision between the two great Empires. It is in the same way that once an overt act has happened, all that has passed before, all the mistakes of the Government, all its irritation, all its provocation will kindle this country into a sudden blaze. I do not hold the view held by many of my Friends, that the whole of the country would blaze up in anger in favour of Ulster and against the Government. There will always be in this matter, if it comes to trouble, two versions of the story—the Nationalist and the Government's version and the Ulster version. Undoubtedly the bitterness that will spring up in England will be bitterness on two sides. It is that which makes the situation far more serious than it would otherwise be, for if the anger and indignation were all on one side only, the matter could be speedily ended, but the possibility that the whole of the United Kingdom may find itself in two passionately hostile and irreconcilable camps is to me so distressing that it makes it worth while to make almost any effort to keep out of that position. There are two ways only of getting out. One is that the Government should really face the situation as it is, and, acting upon the words of the Gracious Speech, attempt a real national solution, in a national spirit, and on conditions of free and equal discussion. The other is that they should meet the electorate and ask for a clear expression of their views on the matter. The first solution is one which it depends on their wisdom to grant, even at this late moment. The second solution is the one which we as an Opposition have every right to ask, and which we ask in this Amendment.
§ Sir CLIFFORD CORY
I have not taken part in the Debates on the Home Rule question hitherto from a desire of not unnecessarily emphasising my opposition on this question to the party which, on their main policy, I have been returned to support, but I feel that this is a time when one must not allow party considerations to deter one from expressing an opinion because, so far as my humble expressions of opinion may have any weight, I think one's duty, when one is on the brink of a great crisis, is to do what one can to avoid 247 that crisis. It has been general amongst hon. Members on the other side to accuse hon. Members on this side of not making any mention in their election addresses of the Home Rule question. Anyway, I claim to be free from any accusation of that kind, because at the last three elections on each occasion I have put prominently in my election address the question of Home Rule, and it may be of some interest for the House to know that I have been returned on each of these three occasions as a declared opponent of Home Rule, and I believe, indeed, in that respect, I am in a unique position in the House of Commons. The hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. John Redmond) apparently would have the considerable fear of referring this question to the British electorate that he does not think the result of that reference would be that the Government would be returned to power again, because I see that in a speech he made in Water-ford on 24th January this year he said:—Our opponents seem to think that by screaming civil war they will frighten the Government into committing suicide to save themselves from slaughter.As I have said, the hon. and learned Gentleman evidently does not think that the Government's policy, so far as Home Rule is concerned, would meet with the approval of the electors if they went to the country on it. I cannot help feeling that if I was living in Ulster I should feel very much as Ulstermen do with regard to this question, and that I should feel induced to offer the same resistance to Home Rule, if it was imposed on Ulster, as they are prepared to do, and I am led to that conclusion by my experience of what I have seen of Nationalists in this country. I remember some twelve or fourteen years ago the question of the right of free speech in Cardiff, where there are a number of Nationalists, was for a time entirely suspended because certain people had spoken at meetings in a way which they did not approve. There were three Roman Catholic town councillors on the corporation, and they apparently intimidated the chief constable and the whole corporation so much that they did not dare to assert the right of free speech until a meeting of the townspeople was held, and there was such feeling aroused that they sent a deputation to the corporation, which the corporation were unable to resist, and therefore reasserted the right of free speech. While the Roman Catholic community at Cardiff objected to something which had been said about their religion, at the same 248 time lectures were being given in the Roman Catholic Cathedral attacking the Protestant religion in abusive terms, and the Protestant reformers were reported verbatim in the local Press. So whilst they apparently disapproved of attacks on the one side, they did not refrain from making attacks on the other. We hear much about the intolerance of Protestants, but my experience has been that we find much more intolerance on the part of the Roman Catholics. We, of course, might desire to remove this discussion, so far as possible, from the religious aspect, which we all dislike touching, but you are bound to face facts and to recognise the fact that the Ulster Protestants do object to being put under the rule of the Roman Catholics in Ireland or the Roman Catholic religion.
§ Sir CLIFFORD CORY
I fail to see how my hon. Friend's statements can be borne out by the facts, inasmuch as the majority of people in Ireland are Roman Catholics, and therefore the Protestant minority would certainly be subject to their rule. With regard to the question of toleration, I would refer again to what I think the right hon. Gentleman (Sir E. Carson) referred to this afternoon as a sample of the toleration which you find in Ireland, and I have no doubt the Nationalists are holding themselves in restraint as much as they can when it is their policy to show how tolerant they will be, and if you find a lesson of this sort given now, what may you expect when they have Home Rule, and they have no longer that incentive to control themselves? I refer to the protest which was made by a number of Sligo Protestant merchants on financial grounds against the Home Rule Bill, and how the National Hibernians sent notice to their lodges in that district to note the names of the signatories to that protest. We know very well what noting their names mean. Then there is another instance of their intolerance. Lord Roden, who practically built the village of Bryansford, had a house in which a post office and shop was established for the last fifty years, and on it becoming vacant he naturally wished to put one of his own tenants in it, who happened to be a Protestant and a Unionist. I believe the Nationalist authorities sent forth their mandate that a Roman Catholic was to be put there, and therefore the postal office was removed to the outside limit of the parish, in a position not nearly so convenient as it was, notwith- 249 standing the protests of Roman Catholics and Protestants, almost without exception. If you see these things going on now when they have every reason to try and control themselves, how much more may you expect them to be carried on when they get Home Rule? We hear that if you grant Home Rule you will bring about a union of hearts in the Irish people and the English people. We know that the United Irish League is the official Home Rule organisation in Ireland, and presumably it will control the Irish Parliament, inasmuch as, I presume, it will nominate the candidates who will be returned to that Parliament. I find that at a meeting held at Dundalk in 1900 the Rev. Mr. Donnellan, who presided, used the following words:—In this country they had, as in every other country, a class of men who hail broken down in their own private family matters, and who had by idleness or incompetence reduced themselves from a very good state to a state bordering on poverty. There was another class of people who had no very great policy or public principles, and who, not being of any great importance in their own country, would sell themselves for the sake of getting publicity in the public papers. These two classes of persons seemed to man the League, and there were also broken-down farmers and petty squireens who were looking for notoriety in this League—they never would have got in there if there were a healthy state of politics.If the body who would control and influence the Irish Parliament are of such an unrepresentative kind as that, how can you expect Ireland to prosper under a Parliament of that sort? I could give numerous other quotations in regard to the intolerance and disloyalty of the people, but it would be really repetition to give them again. I would ask the Prime Minister, whose speech yesterday lead us to hope that he was intending to bring forward some proposals which would avert the terrible disaster of civil war, not to leave these proposals to be made at a distant date, but to bring them forward as soon as possible so as to relieve the tension and anxiety of the grave situation now existing in Ulster. The hon. and learned Member for Waterford stated this afternoon that 10 per cent, of the Protestants of four Ulster counties were, in favour of Home Rule. These figures have been questioned by Protestants and Ulstermen. I say that, supposing they were correct, I understand there are more than 10 per cent, of the Roman Catholics opposed to Home Rule. I hear from different sources in different parts of Ireland, and from people mixing with Nationalists and Roman Catholics, that a great number of people there, since the Land Purchase Act has been in opera- 250 tion, are strongly opposed to Home Rule. Some have the temerity to declare it and others are afraid to do so, but if you could get their real mind on the subject I believe you would find that the number of Roman Catholics opposed to Home Rule was far greater than 10 per cent. I feel that I have not in any sense improved my political position by the stand I am taking on this question, and that I am not getting any credit or gratitude from my opponents on the other side. Notwithstanding my declaration with regard to Home Rule, they have brought out a candidate against me, so that in taking the stand I have taken I do it from conscientious views, and because I honestly believe that Home Rule would be detrimental to Ireland in the first place, and disastrous to the United Kingdom and the Empire as a whole.
§ Mr. WALTER GUINNESS
We have heard in the last two days an extremely interesting Debate on the general question of Home Rule, but I think we have heard very little about the particular question we are discussing, namely, whether or not there should be a General Election to decide this matter before it is finally put through. The Prime Minister spoke in the conciliatory passages of his speech about the question of Ulster, and seemed to think that the case for a Dissolution would be entirely disposed of if Ulster were in some way squared or satisfied. Ulster has every right to get out of the Homo Rule Bill if she can. I am sure those who live in the rest of Ireland would be only too glad if she were able to do so, and no one would grudge her the freedom. But the demand for a General Election rests not merely on Ulster and the North. It rests far more on the rest of Ireland, which cannot look after itself in any other way. The Chief Secretary has told us this afternoon that the exclusion of Ulster means the inclusion of the rest of Ireland. In the rest of Ireland there are a quarter of a million Unionists who believe that the passage of the Home Rule Bill in its present form would be absolutely disastrous to their dearest interests, and also to the interests of the United Kingdom as a whole. They claim that their appeal should be heard, not merely by the British Cabinet, but by the British people, after it has been seized with the details of the Bill and the whole facts of the case. The Prime Minister told us yesterday that the country knew quite well at the last General Election that Home Rule was going to be passed as the result of the Parliament Act. He quoted a speech 251 of Lord Lansdowne, and I do not wish to thrash out the question as to whether you can learn the Government's intentions by the utterances of its own friends or those of its opponents. My case is that if the country had suspected that Home Rule would be passed they would have asked for the details. The details were not known to the country, or presumably to the Prime Minister himself. This Home Rule Bill is in most important respects different from the two previous Home Rule Bills, which might possibly be in the mind of the country. In his oft-quoted speech at the Albert Hall the Prime Minister said that the Government policy would be one which would explicitly safeguard the supremacy and indefeasible authority of the Imperial Parliament. The Unionists of Ireland say that this Bill does not secure that supremacy. They believe that no Bill which sets up a separate Parliament can secure it, and they claim the right to put this matter before the electorate. Recent history in South Africa has shown, I think, to everybody in this House that an Executive responsible to a local Parliament cannot possibly be interfered with from Imperial headquarters, and it has also shown that the loyalists of Ireland are right to fear not merely legislation, but also administration, and that you can have far more tyranny by Executive acts than by legislative enactment of the local Parliament. The southern Unionists assert that they are entitled to the fulfilment of this pledge about the indefeasible supremacy of the Imperial Parliament, and they claim the right that their liberty shall be destroyed, not by the temporary log-rolling convenience of a coalition majority in this House, but by the people from whom alone the authority can spring. If they are allowed the right to appeal to the British electorate, they believe that they can show that the Home Rule Bill is disastrous to both parties in Ireland.
The right hon. Member for Islington (Mr. Lough) admitted yesterday that the real fear of the Unionists was that they would be put under the heel of a Catholic domination. There is some degree of truth in what the right hon. Gentleman says. The Unionists do fear religious ascendancy in Ireland. They believe that in the past a Protestant ascendancy has worked appalling injury to Irish interests, and they believe also that now that this Protestant ascendancy has at last been 252 swept away for ever it would be disastrous to set up in its place a Roman Catholic ascendancy. But that is felt more acutely outside than inside Ulster. It affects the South of Ireland much more than it affects those coherent communities in the North, where the Protestant is really in no danger, at least in matters of local administration. Apart from this religious difficulty, and more important is the difficulty about finance. I know that it is held, probably quite genuinely, on the opposite side, that we who are fighting this Bill are fighting it merely for party ends. It was said yesterday that the Unionist party were using the question of Ulster simply to destroy the Government. We can judge what Ireland really thinks by the evidence of Stock Exchange transactions. I looked today at the only Irish loans and industries which are quoted on the Stock Exchange, and the quotations of which I can compare with the quotations before the Home Rule Bill was introduced. I took concerns, the only ones I could find, the capital value of which on the 28th December, 1911, was £11,400,000, and taking the capital value to-day, I find that it has decreased by £2,800,000. Has the investor in these Irish securities been content, when he realised with a drop of 24½ per cent, in the capital value of his holding as compared with a little more than two years ago, simply for the purpose of making party capital?
§ Mr. W. GUINNESS
Bank of Ireland and large industries and municipal stocks in the North of Ireland. I think that the depreciation of these securities shows how the investors do fear the effect, of Home Rule upon business interests.
§ Mr. W. GUINNESS
I do not see how temperance affects the Bank of Ireland or the municipal stock of Belfast.
§ Mr. W. GUINNESS
Belfast corporation stock has dropped from 95 to 88, and Bank of Ireland stock from 270 to 230.
§ Mr. W. GUINNESS
These have also dropped. Every industry in Ireland, so far as I know, has dropped; every industry that is quoted on the Stock Exchange. It shows that Irish Home Rule is feared by business interests in Ireland. The last 253 speaker talked about the United Irish League. He did not mention the fact that its former treasurer admits that the roll of membership includes few merchants and fewer manufacturers, and that few men managing the business of Ireland in city and country are connected with that organisation. I think that these facts show clearly that those who really are interested in the prosperity of Ireland have got no political motive. They distrust very gravely the financial provisions of this Bill. Of course, this Bill would be much more disastrous for the South of Ireland if Ulster is left out, because more than ever will Irish Home Rule be bankrupt. Besides that, the voice of the Unionist minority will be quite unheard. It will have practically no representation. We can judge of the position by the present position of parties in local affairs in Ireland. There are 703 members of county councils outside Ulster. There are only fifteen Unionists, in spite of the fact that one-tenth of the population are Protestant and probably at least one-tenth Unionists. That is to say, whereas you have got one-tenth of the population Unionists, you have only got just rather more than one-fiftieth of the representative Unionists. The scattered Unionists in the South of Ireland have co opportunity of making their voices ever heard if Ulster is left out, and if their allies from the North are not vocal in the Irish Parliament. Certainly civil war would be disastrous in Ireland, but only less disastrous to the real interests of the country, and its future prosperity will be a division of Ireland. In years past the relation between all classes of the community in Ireland, all creeds, all political convictions, have been improving. The bitterness of generations has gradually been forgotten. When the first shot is fired, or when even the division of Ireland into two hostile camps, delimited by different Legislatures, takes place, the exasperation of feeling will enormously increase. It will put back the cause of conciliation in Ireland for centuries. For these reasons, as an Irishman who, whatever happens about Home Rule, must live in one of the three southern provinces, I to trust, even now, that the question will not be decided by force, that it will not be decided merely by compromise between parties in this House, but that it will be decided by the ballot box alone, which alone can bring all controversy to an end, and enable all Irishmen to work together for the common interest of their country.
§ 9.0 P.M
§ Mr. PRINGLE
It is extremely difficult to speak on this side of the. House when one considers the tone and temper which has been shown, and the fact that the conciliatory spirit in which the Prime Minister spoke yesterday for the Government has not met with a spirit of reciprocity from bon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House, with perhaps the single exception of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin. I am glad that he at least, on this occasion, has made a speech which, from the Unionist point of view, indicates some real desire of a settlement of this much vexed question. It is only necessary to contrast the speech which the right hon. and learned Gentleman made this afternoon with the speech which the right hon. Member for East Worcestershire delivered last night, to see how little, apparently, other speakers of the Opposition side are really desirous of treating this question in that spirit which is described in the speech from the Throne. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Worcestershire spoke of a settlement, proposing the exclusion of Ulster as a statutory division of Ireland into two countries. This afternoon we had the best answer to that statement by the right hon. Member for Trinity College when he saluted the hon. and learned Member for Waterford as his fellow countryman, and when he expressed the hope, shared not only by all Irishmen in this House but by men who sit on all sides of the House, that whatever is done now, or at least within a short distance of time, all Irishmen may work together for the good of their country. We have had from the Opposition speakers in the course of this Debate constant taunts hurled at us, and accusations made as to our motives. No effort has been made by any speaker on this side of the House to retaliate. But we resent these insulting suggestions, as hon. Members representing Ulster have done when they considered that insulting suggestions were made regarding themselves. And if this question is to be approached in the spirit which really seeks peace, I think hon. Gentlemen on both sides should cease to attribute motives, especially such motives as those of which we have heard most in the course of this Debate.
My right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland and the Member for St. Austell spoke a good deal about the absence of imagination in both countries in regard to this question. The complaint I have to make is that we have had 255 imagination of the wrong kind. We have not had the sympathetic imagination which enables men to put themselves in each others shoes, but rather a kind of suspicious imagination which attributes the most unworthy motives to those who are working on the opposite side. It seems to me that it is important that hon. Members on both sides of the House should endeavour to appreciate the standpoint of others, and in the few words I propose to address to the House it will be my endeavour to express what I conceive to be the attitude of Members sitting in this quarter of the House both in regard to the actual Amendment before us and to the speeches which have occupied the Debate. Our objection to the Amendment which has been proposed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Strand Division (Mr. Long) is that it means, in the words of the Attorney-General, the tearing up of the Parliament Act, and that it means really the sacrifice of all the work which we carried through in the two elections of 1910. If an election were attempted at the present time, it would really mean the negation and frustration of all that has been gained from the point of view of democratic progress, after the passage of the Parliament Act. But we are also accused on this side of the House of not having attempted to enter into the feelings and to understand the standpoint of the people of Ulster.
I think that is a charge which cannot fairly be made. I know, speaking on my own behalf, that I have sat through the greater part of the Debates which have taken place on the Home Rule Bill, and I have listened to the greater number of speeches made by the hon. Gentlemen representing Ulster. I have always endeavoured to discover two things—first of all, what they really feared; and, secondly, what they are really demanding. We have heard in the course of these Debates constant grave talk about the danger to civil and religious liberty. We have heard talk about the minority in Ulster being put under the hon. and learned Member for Waterford, and we have heard talk of the irreconcilable difference between the two races which inhabit Ireland. I do not think that any of these vague contentions offer a sufficient ground for justifying the measures of armed resistance which have been threatened on the part of the people of Ulster. It is a common thing for representatives of Protestant Ulster, when they 256 are speaking in my native country, to compare the present Ulster Covenant with the Covenant which holds such a glorious place in Scottish history, and to suggest that the men of Ulster are animated by the spirit of the Scottish Covenanters. There is not, to my mind, nor I think to the mind of any impartial reader of history, any analogy between the position of the Scottish Covenanters and the man who now calls himself a Covenanter in Ulster. The Scottish Covenanter was actually oppressed, and was actually persecuted. He was driven to the hills in order to worship God in accordance with his conscience. He suffered all that oppression before he took up arms against constituted authority; but these men in the North-East of Ireland, without being injured, without any oppression, without any persecution, under a Bill under which we say there is no risk whatever of an oppression to them, are now taking up arms and are taking the same name as our Scottish forefathers.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
Yes, I am quite willing to allow the hon. Gentleman to share in that ancestry, but all I desire is that you should share also in the spirit of that ancestry.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
Under those circumstances, we hold that there is no real analogy, and we are willing even to test the threatened resistance of the people of Ulster by the great founder of our common Presbyterian Protestantism, John Calvin John Calvin, in the days of the religious feuds of France, always endeavoured to dissuade his Protestant fellow countrymen from armed resistance. He advised them to remain at Church and not to become a political party, and he said no man was justified in taking up arms against constituted authority unless he was oppressed in his conscience. If the situation in Ulster is judged by the test laid down be John Calvin, there is at the present moment no justification for the extreme measures which they so recklessly, if may use the term, have been advocating in the North-East of Ireland, and which I think are so injudiciously encouraged by the right hon. Gentlemen who sit on the Front Opposition Bench. But there is more serious aspect of the matter that simply from the point of view of Ulster men.
257 Before I deal with that I should like to say what is the average attitude among Liberal Members of Parliament in relation to the suggested exclusion of Ulster. We believe that any solution based upon the exclusion of Ulster will be an absolutely unsatisfactory settlement—that it will not be a settlement, that it will leave open that breach between Irishmen which it was hoped by all sincere Home Rulers this measure of self-government would heal. With every man on this side of the House and our supporters in the country who have been sincere supporters of Home Rule, as I hope hon. Gentlemen opposite will allow that many of us have been, the one dominating motive in our minds has been that the existing system in Ireland has stereotyped and perpetuated those unfortunate racial and religious difficulties—to create all old, unhappy, far-off things and battles long ago, and we believed that under a free system of self-government in which both parties were alike represented, and in which they would in common consider the interests of their common country, that those old divisions would be obliterated, and that new political and economic party divisions would take I he place of race and religion as the distinguishing features of parties in Ireland. That is the main reason why we regret the suggestion of exclusion, and why, unless some very substantial advantage is offered or can be obtained as a result of such an offer, unless that can be done we, or at least many of us, will feel ourselves bound to resist it.
I now pass on to what I regard as a more serious aspect of this measure. During the course of the present Debate hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side of the House have constantly described the new attitude of the Government as a concession to their threats of violence. We have been told again and again that had there not been 100,000 drilled men in North-East Ulster, and had they not had 10,000 or 15,000 rifles, as the case may be, that had it not been for those things, the Government would not have come forward now and proposed to initiate proposals of conciliation. Personally, I do not regard that as the motive of the Government attitude. I should regret to regard it so, and I think, it is most unfortunate that hon. Gentlemen opposite should suggest that that is the motive. That is a precedent, a new thing in our representative democratic system in this country, and it is the fashion to use the language of democracy on both 258 sides of the House. We had the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University (Lord H. Cecil) appealing to us in the name of democracy. That was because he represents a democratic constituency. We have had other Gentlemen also on the other side speaking the democratic language, but surely, when we set a precedent which suggests that when any law is being passed by the Imperial Parliament, you only need to drill a sufficient number of men and to get a sufficient number of rifles and then the Government of the day will be intimidated into surrender, I say that that cuts at the root of the democratic representative system. I say, again, the men who preached that doctrine, and the men who have made this precedent, are guilty of high treason to democracy.
That is why we on this side of the House feel strongly in regard to this matter. We are, indeed, prepared, and would with the utmost willingness make the greatest sacrifices for a peaceful settlement. We are all alike anxious—[An HON MEMBER: "What will you give up?"]—I think that the hon. Gentleman can understand perfectly well that it is not for me to make any proposals. I certainly think I can make the claim that in the course of these Debates I have endeavoured not to say anything which would in any way be a barrier. I hope hon. Gentlemen opposite will give us credit for sincerity when we do profess that we are anxious for a settlement, because we believe that a settlement is not only essential and vital in the best interests of Ireland, but we think it is equally important from other points of view. Many of us here advocate Home Rule for Ireland as a part of a wider system of Home Rule, to which I am glad many right hon. and hon. Members opposite have professed their adherence. I remember a speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Worcestershire (Mr. Austen Chamberlain) made in the autumn of last year, to every word of which I think I could have subscribed. Many of us here—and we know the view is shared by many on the other side—think that the only solution for the present Parliamentary difficulty, and for the evils that afflict the House of Commons, both as a Legislative Assembly and in respect of its control of administration, is the delegation of local business, local legislation, and local administration to local legislatures with local executives dependent upon them in every part of the Kingdom. 259 [An HON. MEMBER: "You do not claim to be a nation."] We do claim to be a nation; we have always been a nation.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. Whitley)
I would point out that this is getting rather far from the Amendment before the House.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I have always understood that my accent made it perfectly clear that I belonged to a nation. I have endeavoured to state the grounds on which we desire a settlement, not only in the interests of Ireland, but also in the wider interests of Parliamentary government in this House, and also, as we believe, in the essential interests of the Empire as a whole.
Mr. JOHN GORDON (Londonderry)
It is lectures like that to which we have just listened that make it extremely hard for Irish Unionists to put up with the way in which this question has been dealt with by some Members of the House. The hon. Member opposite (Mr. Pringle) does not know sufficient of the history of the North of Ireland even to know that most of the people there have as good a right as he has to claim descent from those who signed the Solemn League and Covenant in Scotland. It is because they can claim that descent that Ulstermen, and men in the North of Ireland generally, taking an example from their forefathers, have signed a Solemn League and Covenant for mutual support and protection. Why does the hon. Gentleman repudiate the act of his ancestors, if any of them were connected with the signing of that Covenant. That is our position. We, with that knowledge of our descent and of our connections with the country, with our interest in the country, with the knowledge that the people whom we represent are those who have created the industry and wealth of the North of Ireland, have to come here night after night and listen to lectures from hon. Gentlemen who know nothing about our country and its history. The hon. Gentleman went on to lecture us about the threats of armed opposition, and to suggest that a similar state of things would apply to every Bill. Does he think that every Bill which comes before this House is at all comparable to the Bill which the Government are attempting to deal with for the last time in this Session—a Bill which changes the position of all the people in Ireland from that which they have been proud to occupy as co-ordinate 260 members with yourselves of the United Kingdom and subject to a united Parliament; a Bill which drives them out against their will, against their dearest wish, and in opposition, as they believe, to their most vital interests; a Bill which drives them out from the position which, they now hold into the position of being, subjected and subservient to the men who have always been hostile to your interests and theirs? We know the character off the men who are asking for Home Rule. We know their position in the country and how little they have ever done tot improve-its conditions, and we know that not one of our interests would have any intelligent conception applied to its advancement or protection. Yet we are told that we are very wrong, and that we ought not to say-that we will do everything we can to prevent this thing being done.
We have been told that we ought to discuss the matter properly before the House of Commons. Every argument that would appeal to any decent man has been used, but it is no use as long as there are eighty-four votes to be secured to keep the party opposite in power. If there had not been those eighty-four votes, I am perfectly satisfied that there is sufficient sense of fair-play and honest English sentiment amongst Members on the opposite side of the House to have prevented any attempt to perpetrate this injustice upon their fellow subjects in Ireland. But eighty-four votes is a big offer: It is a big bid for the support of a party which cannot remain in power without such help. That is the true position of affairs. Our arguments are useless because the Government are not free agents. They have-absolutely sold themselves for place and power, and they have to pay the price. There is another thing that many Members opposite do not understand, and that is that there are still men living under His Majesty's rule who have sufficient belief in their convictions and sufficient courage to say that they will risk their lives in defence of what they believe to be their rights and liberties. Hon. Members opposite have never realised that. Therefore they sneer and jeer at the attempts of Ulstermen to protect themselves in the only way left to them. There are still men living under the rule of His Majesty who put principle before mere self-advancement. Will those hon. Members who have been sneering and jeering at us and saying that there is no reality in the drilling and the preparations which are being 261 made form themselves into a corps and come over to enforce Home Rule upon Ulster? I should like to see them try it. But they will do what the Irish Nationalist does. They will shelter themselves behind the British Army and send over British bayonets to force upon us—what? A measure of conciliation for the peace and good government of Ireland!
The Prime Minister has been taken to task by the last speaker (Mr. Pringle) for even suggesting that it might be possible to consider the exclusion of Ulster from the Home Rule Bill. Why is it not all honour to the Prime Minister for taking that line even at the eleventh hour? I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Dublin University (Sir E. Carson) in admitting that the Prime Minister himself has never used the language of insult to Ulster. However much we may resent what he is doing, we cannot lay it to his charge that he has ever insulted or openly flouted the feelings of Ulster. He has always admitted that those feelings were real. I listened very carefully to his speech, and the opinion I formed was that the Prime Minister, even at the eleventh hour, had come to the conclusion—from whatever cause I care not—whether you attribute it to the drilling and arming of men to defend what they believe to be their rights, or whether you attribute it to the firm conviction which has seized upon the mind of the Prime Minister, and forced him to the conclusion—that he cannot, in honesty, justice and fairness, force upon an unwilling population, like the men of Ulster, this Home Rule Bill. At least, I think, I am not doing an injustice when I say that I think he would have been glad to be able to say: "I will offer to exclude you men of Ulster from this Bill." The impression I formed was that he was not yet a free agent. The determination of the men of Ulster will not weaken. They are as resolute to-day as they ever were before. They are going on with their preparations, and whether you believe me or not they are real, and they exist. The Chief Secretary for Ireland will not contradict me when I say that, because he knows better. Let any lion. Members on the other side go over and test this question by an inspection of what is going on in Ulster. They will see that the position stated by my right hon. Friend who moved the Amendment to the Address was not exaggerated. One of the things that struck me very much indeed was that the right hon. 262 Gentleman the Prime Minister did not controvert one single statement made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Strand Division. He did not minimise it. He did not suggest that the opinion of Ulster could be changed or could be weakened, or that it could be in any way brought round except by the withdrawal of this measure of Home Rule which it is sought to thrust upon them. He accepted the situation as stated. The Prime Minister also accepted the statement of the situation made by Sir Horace Plunkett. Will any honest man then lay his hand on his heart and say that he believes that he is doing right when he forces this Bill upon the people of Ulster against their will, and in defiance of the utmost opposition they can give it.
What is the Government going to do? They cannot leave this matter over until the last minute. I listened to-day to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Attorney-General. I was amazed at it, because we all in this House recognise the ability of the right hon. Gentleman. We know that a man of his training in legal matters, if he had had anything of importance to state, would have known well how to state it. What does he say? Two things He says, "If we agree to this Amendment to the Address, it will mean that our Parliament Bill is wrecked." Why did he not think of that before this Session of Parliament? They might have had the election over a fortnight ago, and if they had come back to power everything would have gone on as before. They knew all this. They had their "conversations." Everything they know now was disclosed to them. Why did they not take the opportunity before Parliament was summoned, and before this fourth Session of Parliament began, to go to the country? If they believed they had the support of the nation that is what they would have done. They would have come back to their task without losing one single day or hour. Why did they not do it? Because they knew they would have been defeated. They did not do it because they had not the support of the country in these measures, otherwise I cannot conceive of men who call themselves patriots, who are in a position which above all others requires the exercise of patriotism, the disregard to all selfish matters, and so on. I cannot, I say, understand them not going to the country and taking its opinion. See the position to which they have come. They cannot do anything to remedy any 263 defects of this Bill. The only thing they can do is to ask another place to substitute Amendments for them. If this is not done in the House of Lords, and the Bill comes back, it is impossible even for the Prime Minister to effect alterations, and a gross injustice will ensue.
One statement made by the Attorney-General was that what we propose would mean the destruction of the Parliament Act, and the other that if the Government gave way it would be a concession to force. But if the Government bring themselves into the position in which they have brought themselves, why should they not go to the country and ask them about it? I listened to-day to the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland. In many ways I have a great deal of sympathy for him. He came to Ireland when, as he said, it was more peaceful than it had been for hundreds of years. He is now at that point where, whether he likes it or not, he must leave it soon. It is now, and in that position, that he comes forward with a scheme that he has assisted to promote for the better government of Ireland, but, according to his own view, he will have civil war in one end of Ireland if the Bill goes through; and if it does not, there will be great disturbances at the other end. That is a nice state of affairs to bring about after about seven or eight years of office. I hope he is proud of his work. He spoke for three-quarters of an hour to-night and said nothing. I have great admiration for his powers of speaking, but I am not surprised at what he said, and how he said it. These are the two speeches which we have had in addition to the speech of the Prime Minister, and from them one would believe that everything has been arranged for the best in this best regulated of worlds. What are the Government going to do? [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Yes, of course, I know those jeers. I am used to them.
What is the Government going to do? I put that question seriously. Hon. Gentlemen at the back may jeer, but the right hon. Gentleman has to deal with the situation. If you go on with your Bill are you prepared to send over the British Army to Ulster to shoot down men who are perfectly loyal? Are the Government prepared to back up their Bill by shooting down the men of Ulster? If they are, if they do, then I think they know as well as I do that not merely the life of the present ministry, but the chances of a future 264 Liberal ministry for many a long year to come disappears! You may jeer at Ulster; you may sneer at her—[HON. MEMBERS: "No, no."]—but we believe that the British people will not with impunity allow their fellow subjects to be shot down because they insist upon remaining in that position in the Empire which they have always held. If you cannot do that you must offer something substantial; something real. Do not delay it too long. Let us have it at once. Why the Prime Minister did not put it on the Table of the House or state it yesterday I do not know. I can only attribute it to the fact that he did not, get the consent of his colleague who sits here on this side below the Gangway. We do say this—that he ought to take his courage in both hands, and ought to let us know what he intends to do. If there is any chance of getting out of the difficult and dire position into which the Government has plunged the affairs of the country, it is by quickly, actively, and courageously stating what the Government proposes to do.
§ The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Mr. Lloyd George)
It is with extreme reluctance that I intervene in this Debate, because I think that nothing can be usefully added at this stage to what fell from the Prime Minister yesterday. As I have only a very short time in which to make the few observations I have to address to the House—as I promised the right hon. Gentleman, the Leader of the Opposition, to give him ample opportunity to wind up the Debate—I shall only make two or three observations upon the position as it resolves itself at the present moment. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Dublin University (Sir Edward Carson) in that very powerful speech with which he entranced the House this afternoon when he said there is not much to be gained by entering into a wrangle upon the question of mandate. I have no objection to do so. I recollect perfectly well when I sat on the other side of the House challenging the right of the then Unionist Ministry to pass a great revolutionary measure in reference to education, not merely without a mandate—it was admitted there was no mandate—but in defiance of the expressed declaration that legislation of that kind would not be introduced. There was a statement made by the most powerful Member of that ministry during the course of the election that thousands of Radicals, 265 and I think Nonconformists, had voted for ministerial candidates on the assumption that the settlement of South Africa was the only issue in that election. In spite of that this measure, which was offensive to the religious convictions of millions of people in this country, was carried by that administration. What is still more they never hesitated for a moment to imprison respected Nonconformist ministers.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
For what the Noble Lord calls breaking the law. That was the position in reference to that Act, and I think it ill-becomes those who accepted that responsibility to take the line they are taking at the present moment, when undoubtedly it was made at any rate clear, in the speeches of the Prime Minister, that once, the Parliament Bill became an Act of Parliament, it would be used for the purpose of carrying Home Rule. That is all I propose to say upon the question of the mandate, because I want to sit down at the time I promised. I have never underrated the difficulties of the Ulster question. I have never underestimated what might happen, never at any time, and I cannot say that I am surprised at any developments that have taken place. I think, and so do hon. and right hon. Members on this side of the House, that there are safeguards provided in the Bill which make it impossible for Ulster to suffer from any of the evils which are apprehended, but Ulster does not think so, and our position is this: We would be prepared to go to any limit, consistent with the principle of the Bill and its main purpose, to assuage any fears, to allay any fears, any legitimate fears, as I think, in the minds of Ulster men with regard to the operation of this Bill. But I have to say one, word in regard to that.
I decline altogether to recognise that our readiness to do that involves any admission on our part of any injustice in the present Bill, and, if I may say so, it is a very dangerous position for hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite to take up. Take any dispute! The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition and I have been at the Board of Trade. We have had to settle many disputes. There the parties have to make concessions in order to arrive at a settlement of troublesome disputes. Is it to be said that every time an employer concedes a particular point that that is an admission that he was wrong in 266 the position he originally took up? It is a very serious attitude, I think, to take up to say that every time you go out of your way to make a concession—I do not en re what the matter is—that the moment you make any proposal which, departs not from the principle, but the structure of the Bill, which you are prepared to defend upon its merits, in order to conciliate the Opposition, that is an admission that the original Bill was a wrong one. May I also say this, that taunts of that kind addressed in advance have only one effect—I will not say they have only one purpose—I am perfectly certain that would not be the case with the right, hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin—to make it more and more difficult for the Government to go as far as they possibly can in submitting proposals to the House. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman and those associated with him are exceedingly anxious that everything should be done to enable them at any rate not to embark upon the course, the very perilous and risky course, which they sketched out for themselves, which would be consistent with their honour, which would be consistent with the security and safety and honour of the people whom they represent; and they must realise that taunts of that kind hurled at the beginning, before any proposals are submitted, are in themselves difficulties and are artificial difficulties which they are creating. Therefore this is rather an appeal which I make to hon. Gentlemen, and those who are anxious that there should be a settlement, not, at any rate, to go out of their way to make it difficult, for those who are on this side of the House are equally anxious that a conciliatory and satisfactory position should be established.
Last night a speech was delivered by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Worcestershire which, I must say as one anxious for peace, I sincerely deplore. There was a statement made in that speech that if certain concessions were granted it would be a repudiation of the nationality of Irishmen. With what possible object can a statement of that kind be made except to make it more difficult for the Irish Members to respond to any appeal the Government would make to lead to peace and conciliation'? I cannot think of any other purpose. Merely a small dialetical advantage at such a risk as that is unworthy, I think, of the position of the right hon. Gentleman. I do not agree with him 267 that it would be repudiation. I express no opinion on the merit, and the right hon. Gentleman (Sir E. Carson), who is a great authority on that subject, did not repudiate the nationality of Ireland. I was also very glad to hear the hon. and learned Gentleman who has just sat down talk about "us Irishmen." He did not claim that Ulstermen were not Irishmen; they are as proud of being Irishmen as hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway opposite; there are differences of class and creed which have separated them and created the great difficulty in the situation; they are not differences which even at the very worst moment ever drove them to repudiate their nationality as Irishmen. [An HON. MEMBER: "They are not a nation."] I am quite satisfied to accept the authority of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Dublin University on that subject. The question has been put to the Government: "If you propose to submit something to Parliament definitely, why do you not do it now?" [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I agree that is a perfectly fair question to put, and I think it is a question which demands an answer from the Government. It is because we are convinced that to place cut-and-dried proposals at this stage on the Table of the House would not promote peace, but hinder it, [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] I am going to give my reasons. It would not promote peace, but would hinder it.
We shall produce our proposals in time, and we shall give the Opposition such opportunities as they can reasonably ask for considering them; but I think if we did it now, if you put these cut-and-dried proposals down now, I do not think it would help matters. It is because we are sincerely anxious to seek an enduring peace that we think it inadvisable to put them forward now. Even this Debate has been useful. I do not think there is anyone who has listened to this great Debate and to some of the speeches which have been delivered who would not be ready to admit that in themselves they have created almost a new situation. Some of the most eloquent and thoughtful passages of the right hon. Gentleman's great speech were in themselves of a character which I think create an absolutely new situation. I will not attempt to quote some of his sentences because I might be liable to misquote him, not having the actual words before me; but when he appealed to hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway to win 268 Ulster, when he placed before the country and before them and before Ulster the prospects of co-operation in the government of Ireland, I thought it was one of the most significant passages I have ever heard in the House of Commons. Does anyone mean to say that in itself a speech of that kind is not an element that a Government must take into account when formulating their proposals and submitting them?
I will say more than that. It is in itself a new fact which hon. Gentlemen sitting below the Gangway must, I think, consider when they come to reflect upon the proposals which are to be submitted to the House. During the Recess we have been more or less firing at long ranges. [HON. MEMBERS: "You have." "Pheasants," and "mangold wurzels."] What I mean is this. Here we are face to face, and we are discussing these things together. We shall be meeting together, and in the course of the next six weeks you will have a complete change in the situation—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"]—due very largely to appeals like that made by the right hon. and learned Gentleman, and due to the fact that when Parliament is sitting, and when men can face each other, something may issue which may in itself promote a settlement of the situation. Until the time comes when we approach the discussion of the Bill in Parliament, we do not think it would be desirable or in the interests of peace, or the prospects of a settlement, that we should put down Amendments of the character which we propose to suggest.
I have only a few more words to say. When the proposals come to be formulated we shall place them down upon our own responsibility; we shall submit them to the House upon our own responsibility; we shall press them upon men of all parties upon our own responsibility. We will accept that responsibility whatever it may involve, but the responsibility for accepting or rejecting them will belong to the Opposition—the responsibility, with all that it involves. (Laughter.) I do not think it is a laughing matter. I agree with the right hon. and learned Gentleman that this is not a matter to be treated on this side or the other side in a spirit of levity. I regard the responsibility of the Government as one of the deepest that has ever been cast upon the shoulders of any Government, but may I also say I think the responsibility which is cast upon the Opposition is about the heaviest that has been 269 cast upon the shoulders of any Opposition. [An HON. MEMBER: "An appeal to the people."] The Noble Lord opposite interrupted me just now and talked about breaches of the law. That is not a responsibility which any Opposition can assume in a state of levity. I will come to the particular case which the Noble Lord referred to by and by, but I give just one incident in order to illustrate what the present position may involve.
Last year when I attended the annual dinner of the bankers I looked up speeches delivered by some of my predecessors, and I looked up the speech of Lord Goschen in 1887. I was very interested in one thing. Every speech delivered at that banquet was a speech asserting the importance of maintaining law and order. There was not a single speech that did not contain that sentence. Every speaker was a Unionist, the vast majority of those present were Unionists, and it was received with resounding cheers. If I had made a similar speech last year it would have been regarded as a sort of covert party attack. Ts that not a very serious responsibility for an Opposition to undertake in its general attitude towards law and order. The Noble Lord referred to the passive resistance movement. I took part in that movement. I regarded it as the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite does now, as a matter which involved the faith of millions, and when you have a question of that kind, I do not think we have a right to consider any questions even like law and order. That is the view I took at that time, although it was not the view taken by my colleagues. But let no man forget it was a great responsibility for loyal and law-abiding citizens in this country to take. It was a great responsibility, and the responsibility of the Opposition is even greater when countenancing not passive resistance, but active resistance to the law. That is why I wish to say that the responsibility is not the responsibility of the Government merely. You cannot in this country, or in any other country, pick and choose your laws, and say the laws we object to, the laws we dislike, the laws which axe passed by Parliament when we do not predominate we will not obey, although all the other laws must be obeyed by everybody else.
What was the result? There has not been an outrage committed recently by any section who protest against the law where the present attitude of the Opposition has not been quoted in support of it. The only point I put about the Passive 270 Resistance Movement is this: Supposing the Prime Minister of that day had come down to the House of Commons, as the present Prime Minister does, and had said, "Well, we recognise there is a very intense feeling on religious grounds amongst millions of loyal, law-abiding citizens against this Act. There are certain things we cannot do. We cannot do anything that is inconsistent with the general principle of that Act, but we will go to the very limit to meet the grievances of those who protest." Do you think the whole attitude of those who were in that movement would not have changed? More than that: If in the face of that we had still persisted I think our action would have been most culpable. That is the present position. We still say that we shall go to the very extreme which is compatible with the main purpose of this Bill, but we cannot and we will not betray the majority of Irishmen who put their trust in us. We shall submit our proposals to Parliament, and we shall accept the responsibility for them. They will then pass to a Chamber over which we have no command. The responsibility there will be the responsibility of the Opposition, and all I can say is that then it will be for them to accept the liability for whatever happens. If, after doing all in our power to meet the legitimate wishes and to allay the legitimate fears of men for whose convictions we have the deepest respect and whose sincerity and whose courage we admire, we quailed afterwards before threats of violence, I think we should be unworthy of our responsibilities as a Government.
§ 10.0 P.M.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
I think that I have less exception to take to the speech which the right hon. Gentleman has just delivered than has often been the case with me when I have had the honour of speaking after him. He has said a good deal about the resistance of those who in any circumstances undertake to resist or countenance those who do resist. I admit the responsibility, and I can assure the right hon. Gentleman and the House, that it has not been undertaken, either by my right hon. Friend (Sir E. Carson), who is chiefly responsible for it, or by us who have undertaken to assist him without a full sense of everything which is involved. I must say also that the best defence was given by the right hon. Gentleman himself. He thought that he was justified in what is in effect the same thing. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] In principle what is 271 the difference? Suppose now the whole of the Unionist party were to say that they would pay no taxes, what would be the difference in comparison with the act of the right hon. Gentleman? More than that! Can anyone pretend that there is any comparison as to the seriousness of the issues involved. I admit the responsibility. I admit, too, that one of the great evils that has resulted from this controversy is precisely that to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, that what is being done in Ulster is cited as a precedent for violence at any time in resisting the law. I quite admit that, but whose is the responsibility? The Government have their responsibility and the limitations to their power just as much as the subjects over whom they exercise their power, and the same sort of thing has been said in every case where resistance has taken place, and with equal truth. The justice of such a charge depends upon the justice of what you propose to do. That is how we judge it, and it is a responsibility from which we have not shrunk and from which we never shall shrink.
I intend to-night to deal entirely with the speech of the Prime Minister, or at least with the ideas which were suggested to me by that speech. He is in a peculiar position. He has, as the right hon. Gentleman just said, on his own shoulders now a responsibility as great as has ever been borne by any statesman, and I think that he feels it. It is a responsibility which he cannot shirk and which he cannot share neither with his Cabinet nor with anyone else, for, if the calamities with which we are really threatened should happen, lie. and he alone, will be held responsible by his contemporaries and by history hereafter. In view of these facts I confess that I was a little surprised by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman yesterday afternoon. It consisted of two entirely separate compartments. The first part of it dealt with the old controversy about mandate, to which the right hon. Gentleman also referred. It has been discussed often, and I do not think it is worth while discussing it again. This only I will say in regard to it—whatever difference of opinion there may be about the mandate which was given to the Government for Home Rule at the last election, this at least is certain, that no mandate was given for the armed coercion of Ulster. That is certain, as the right lion. Gentleman himself was asked at the 272 time of the election whether he was prepared to use British troops to coerce Ulster, and his reply was, "That is a contingency which is not likely to occur." He cannot say that now. Does not that single fact entirely alter the whole situation—does it not make it certain in the-eyes of any honesty man, that even if it be right to coerce Ulster, the order should be given, not by a body of gentlemen who are here to-day, and may be gone tomorrow, but should be given by the people themselves.
As regards the second part of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, and the most important part, it was, as his speeches always are, grave, temperate, and very, plausible. It seemed to me, however, that he has failed even yet to recognise, or at least to acknowledge—for I think he does recognise—that at last he is face to face with realities. If soft words could dissolve hard facts, the country would not be in the position of grave danger in which it stands to-day. The time has gone when it matters very much what the right hon. Gentleman may say and it matters not at all how he says it. What does matter, and what alone matters, is what he is prepared to do. Under these circumstances, I should have thought that the time for, I will not say finesse, but for hesitation has gone, and that, he would have regarded it as his clear duty to let the House and the country know now exactly what he proposes to do. I have heard nothing from-him, and certainly we heard nothing from the right hon. Gentleman (the Chancellor of Exchequer) in explanation of why he has delayed. The right hon. Gentleman tells us that new facts may arise in the next six weeks. Yes, they may. Consider the position of Ulster. Consider the dangers that are run there. Let the right hon. Gentleman remember that exactly the same excuses can be made six weeks hence as he has made to-day. Time is running on, passion is rising, and there is absolutely no justification for not taking the country into his confidence here and now.
The really important thing is whether or not what the right hon. Gentleman has said has altered the facts of the situation. In one respect it has. I certainly agree with the right hon. Gentleman who spoke last, that nothing is to be gained by saying that every approach to concession is to be treated by taunts. But you must do something. You must draw the inevitable conclusion from what the right hon. Gentle- 273 man said—that the position of the Government has entirely changed. However the right hon. Gentleman may modify it, and he did modify it, whatever qualifications he made, this fact remains, that he has said he is prepared to give to Ulster protection which it has not under the present Bill. In these circumstances, whatever he may think now, this at least is certain—he can never seriously propose to impose upon Ulster by force a Bill which, by his own admission, does not contain provisions for that protection. The hon. and learned Member for Waterford, whose speeches used to appear to us as important as those of the Prime Minister, dealt with this dilemma at, I think, the National Liberal Club, and he dealt with it in a very simple manner. He said, in effect, "We have you people of Ulster in the hollow of our hands; you must take it or leave it—if you do not take it you will get nothing." That is a simple method. It is, perhaps, satisfactory to those whom the hon. and learned Member represents, but I am sure it will not be satisfactory to those on whom the right hon. Gentleman depends in England and in Scotland.
There is another conclusion to be drawn from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. He has destroyed utterly, and nobody knows it better than himself, the whole foundation on which for the last two years the treatment extended to Ulster in this Bill has been justified. We have always maintained, they have always denied, that Ulster was in any special position. They invariably have said that the people of Ulster were part of the minority in Ireland, that as a minority they were entitled to fair treatment, but that they were not in any different position from the minority in Belfast or the minority in Dublin. He tells us now that he is going to offer special terms to Ulster. By doing that he admits our claim. He admits that they have a special identity, a special importance, and special conditions which entitle them to better treatment. Does not the right hon. Gentleman see that that admission carries him very much further? If they are a special community, then, whatever you may think of them, to impose by force on such a community a system of government to which they are opposed, and which they are prepared to resist, is not to treat them as free men, but is to treat them as slaves—not to govern them, but to tyrannise over them. It inevitably follows from the speech of 274 the right hon. Gentleman that this is the only legitimate conclusion to which he can come. He has a right to try to convince the people of Ulster that what he proposes should be accepted by them, but, if he fails, then there is no alternative except to leave them out of the proposals which he has brought before the House.
I should like to say a word about the position of Ulster. Over and over again it has been made plain, and by no one more frequently than by the right hon. Gentleman, that the claim of Ulster was a right to veto Home Rule for Ireland. She has never made that claim, and, if she had, we should never have supported her in it. The position of Ulster from the first has been clear and is perfectly justified. They have said, as we say, that they are opposed to Home Rule, and that they will do their best, by every constitutional means, to defeat it. Bui they have never said that they will resist by force the right of Nationalist Ireland to govern itself. What they have said and what they mean is that they will resist by all means, if necessary by the sacrifice of life itself, the attempt to make Nationalist Ireland govern them.
I would like, if I may, to point out to the Nationalist Members themselves that under existing conditions, if any kind of Home Rule is possible, the exclusion of Ulster is the only solution. Suppose that hon. Members succeed to the utmost limit to which success is possible, suppose they succeed in compelling the right hon. Gentleman to employ the British Array, and suppose he succeeds—which is not quite the same thing—in using that Army to put down relentlessly and ruthlessly the resistance of Ulster, what then? What will be the position of Ireland? You will simply have added another and a terrible page to the long list of bitter memories which are the curse of Ireland, and which are the reason for the situation in which we stand to-day. You will, by that means, have made even the possibility of a united and contented Ireland utterly inconceivable. Why, Sir, if I were as firm a believer in Home Rule as the hon. and learned Member for Waterford himself—unless, indeed, I believed it was all bluff and would all disappear—I would say I would never accept Home Rule under conditions which would leave memories like that behind them throughout the whole of Ireland. If hon. Members are sincere in the professions that we hear so frequently in this House, if their one desire is to 275 treat their Protestant fellow countrymen with all fairness, how can they best prove the sincerity of those professions? If they get Home Rule in the part of Ireland which they themselves control, let them show there that forbearance and that moderation which they promise, and, when they have shown it, let them try, not to coerce Ulster but to convince Ulster, and to show her by their action that it is no disadvantage to her to come into a united Ireland. I think I am looking at this not from our point of view, but from the point of view of others. That is the only solution from the point of view of the Government themselves. They have told us that this Bill is meant as an instalment of a general system of devolution or federation, or whatever they call it. If they are sincere, of which, I confess, up to now there has been no evidence, surely the natural course is to leave Ulster out now until their whole scheme is complete, and then ask her to come in when they are not treating her invidiously, but treating her in precisely the same manner in which they treat the people of England, Scotland and Wales. If there is to be any form of Home Rule, that seems to me to be the only form that is possible. I do not wish to be unnecessarily controversial, but our difficulty is that we really do not know where we stand in regard to this whole matter. If we are to judge by the speeches of hon. Gentlemen who sit on that bench, we can come to no other conclusion than that they are going to offer exclusion to Ulster. The Prime Minister has admitted to my light hon. Friend to-day that it is not inconsistent with the fundamental principles of his Bill. The Chief Secretary, as usual, made a very interesting speech, which sounded a little like a swan song, but I sincerely hope it was not intended to be taken in that sense, for whatever view we may hold of him as a politician, as a Member of this House we should be sorry to lose him. He told us that he had great hopes of peace as the result of the speech of my right hon. Friend, and that speech said in so many words, "You can only get peace by excluding Ulster." The natural inference therefore is that that is the intention of the Government. But, unfortunately, we have found in the past that their intentions are somewhat contingent on the intentions of other people, and hon. Members who represent the Nationalist party have told us in the most plain and unmistakable terms that they will not accept any such solution.
276 Let me point out to the right hon. Gentleman why there should not be more delay, and why a great deal has been lost by the delay which has already taken place. There was nothing to hinder his making the same suggestion which he is to make six weeks hence three months ago. There is no change in the position of Ulster. Her case remains exactly where it was. But in the last few weeks these Gentlemen have committed themselves against this proposal, and by so doing have made it much more difficult for them to agree to such a suggestion, and for that reason we cannot assume that that proposal is going to be made, and I feel it right, therefore, to say that so far as I can judge of the feelings of Ulster, and so far as I am entitled to speak for the Unionists of Great Britain, it will not only do no good, it will do the greatest harm to make any offer such as Home Rule within Home Rule, of which we have heard so much in the past. Such offers would not be a step in the direction of settlement. They would be made not to be accepted. They would be made to be rejected, with the single object of improving your strategical position in the constituencies. You might succeed—I do not know; I doubt it—but in that way you would not succeed, and you ought not to succeed in weakening in the least the determination of Ulster to resist. The people of Ulster have not taken up arms against this or that Clause of the Home Rule Bill. They have determined to fight for a great principle, a principle which they believe to be vital to them, and that principle is that they are to be governed not by a Parliament in Dublin, but by the British Parliament; that they are not to be deprived—and, most of all, that they are not to be deprived without the express sanction of their fellow countrymen—of the rights which they have inherited, of the full protection of British law and the full privilege of British citizenship. If you put them under a Dublin Parliament, however wide the measure of autonomy you give them may be, you will not touch that principle for which they are prepared to fight. One of two things. Either the Dublin Parliament will have power over the Province or not. If it has not, then it will be a farce, and you would not propose it. If it has, then it is precisely against that power that they have taken up arms, and which they are determined to resist to the very utmost.
The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary found fault with my right hon. 277 Friend the Member for East Worcestershire (Mr. Chamberlain) because he said, as I have often said, that it is not a question of whether they are going to be oppressed or not. It is a question of whether you have the right to do to them something which they are determined you ought not to do. My right hon. Friend pointed out to-day very clearly—at least it struck me so—that when the Speech from the Throne spoke of the fears of these people that was not all that was in their minds. As someone has said, they have a history behind them and they have an ideal in front of them. Their history is bound up with the connection with this House and this country, and their ideal for the future is bound up with the same connection. And do not think—I am not going to argue it—that these fears are groundless. No measure of protection you can give them can be greater than that you have promised—an appeal to this House. But what is the value of it? You will have a sample of it in the Debate which will take place tomorrow on what has happened in South Africa. It will be precisely the same there, and always will be, and for this simple reason, that one democratic Parliament never has controlled and never can control another democratic Parliament. Do hon. Gentlemen really think that it is only oppression against which people rise?
Look at the history of our own Colonies. Look at the history of American Independence. There was no oppression there. It was never claimed that there was. A great American statesman boasted, as one of the glories of his countrymen, that while oppression was yet far off, they took up arms against the greatest Power in the world for the sake of a principle. It has always been so, and can anyone pretend that the case for which these American Colonies fought was comparable with that for which the people of Ulster are contending? Why, Sir, the war of American Independence arose about the Tea Duties. The total amount that Lord North expected to get from them was £12,000 a year. Compare that with what you are proposing to do to these people of Ulster! You are proposing to do for them—that is on the assumption that they are a community with a distinctive position—you are proposing to do for them what has never been done or attempted in the whole history of the world. You are proposing to drive them by force out of a Government with which 278 they are satisfied, and not only that—a country might have the right to turn people out of their dominion—but you are proposing something more. You are proposing to hand them over in chains—(Laughter). They think so. You are proposing to hand them over bound to this Home Rule Parliament, which, rightly or wrongly, they regard as their enemy.
Well, I say—and I never believed in anything more firmly than this—that I believe if ever any people in the whole history of the world had a right to resist by force, the men of Ulster have that right. Whatever view we may take as to the rights of the position, this at least is certain. The situation with which we are faced was moderately described in the words of the Speech from the Throne. There is a great change which everyone must have noticed in the attitude in this Debate to-day, compared with any previous Debate which has taken place. There are no longer any jaunty jeers or taunts at the reality of the Ulster position. The right hon Gentleman the Prime Minister seemed to be surprised that such things have been done. I need not go to the lower Members of the Government. I shall take only those who are high enough to be of Cabinet rank. One of them only two years ago spoke of the "braggadocio of Sir Edward Carson." Another Member of the Cabinet spoke of "bluster in Belfast." Another said, "I do not deal to-day with the bombastic threats of Ulster." Another spoke of "the fire-eaters of Ulster."—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—I am glad that there are still some hon. Members on the other side who have the courage to cheer the views which the men who uttered them have no longer the courage to repeat. There is no longer any talk about bluff save on the part of the hon. Member for West Belfast, who, unless he has the soldiers behind him, may run grave danger of finding out what the bluff really is.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
There is no longer any talk of bluff among serious people. The Prime Minister knows as well as I know that the moment this Bill becomes law it will be the signal for an outbreak of civil strife, the end of which no man can foresee. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister acknowledged the responsibility which rests upon him. I acknowledge that it is not his alone. There is a 279 great, responsibility upon us all. I am quite sure of this, that the right hon. Gentleman will never deliberately attempt the coercion of Ulster. What I am afraid of is that he may drift into it. I was reading, only the other day, an account of the American War of Independence. The historian said then, as we would say to-day, that there were all the elements for a peaceful settlement, but he added that in an unhappy hour blood was shed, and from that moment conciliation fell on deaf ears in England as in America. I am sure of this, that once blood is shed in Ulster, precisely the same thing will happen, and we shall be face to face with the greatest calamity which can befall a nation. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman wishes to avoid that, and I am sure that we do. He has the power to avoid it. We have not. There are two ways in which he can avoid it. One is by the exclusion of Ulster. I do not say he has the right to do that. I do not think he has. I do not think that he has the right to pass any form of Home Rule without a mandate from the people of this country, which he has never received. We could not, and we shall not in any case, accept any responsibility for such a settlement, but it does not depend upon us. It is independent of us. The people of Ulster have shown quite clearly that they will only fight if you attempt to impose it upon them.
Leave them out, and automatically the danger of civil war ceases. That is one way. There is another, but it is more contentious. The Government can avoid it also by submitting their proposals to the judgment of the people of this country. That is my contention, and I shall endeavour to make it good. I do not suggest that an appeal to the people would get rid of all difficulties. It would not. One of the sad facts of the present situation is, owing to that policy of masterly inactivity—of "wait and see," which is the glory of the right hon. Gentleman—they have allowed themselves to drift into such a position that they cannot go back without discredit, and they cannot go forward without disaster. I do not pretend that it will get rid of all difficulties. There is one respect in which, in an inverted way, our Constitution as it now exists resembles the constitution of Home. In Rome, under certain conditions, they appointed a dictator. Under the Parliament Act, as you understand it, once you have won an 280 election for five years, you are to be dictators, and to do precisely what you want without any regard to the will of the-people. [AN HON. MEMBER: "What do you do?"] I am surprised that that is denied. Look at what the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer said. He told us that he passed the Insurance Act when he knew that the people of this country were against it. There is a great difference between the systems in the two States. In Rome a dictator was appointed when the country was in great danger, to extricate it from that danger. You have used your dictatorship not to extricate the country from danger but to plunge it into disaster, from which there is no obvious way of escape. But though I do not say it will get over all difficulties, I do say that an appeal to the people would inevitably so change the situation that the danger with which we are threatened now would be removed, and so far as anyone can judge there would be no danger of its recurring in anything like the same form.
The right hon. Gentleman yesterday—and it was the burden of the speech of the Attorney-General—told us that our opposition to the Home Rule Bill was in order to defeat the Parliament Act. Judge of the sincerity of the Government with regard to the whole controversy by that statement. This is not the first time it has been made. The same thing has been repeated on platform after platform throughout the whole Recess. What are the facts? Until Parliament met yesterday you could have submitted your proposals to the people, and if they were behind you your Parliament Act would not have been interfered with. The rights of the Lords would not have been revived, and there would not have been a day's delay in the passage of your Bill. You have won the election by the cry that the will of the people must prevail. By using that argument you show now clearly that what you mean by the Parliament Act is that your will is to prevail, even if it is against the will of the people. But we were told by the Prime Minister that it will be no settlement, because Ulster does not promise to abide by the decision. Have you the right to ask her? Do these Gentlemen (Nationalist Members) abide by the decision of the electors? We are not in doubt about that. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Waterford made a speech the other day in an atmosphere which he must have 281 found strangely different from that even of the Liberal Members in the House of Commons. What did he say? He said that unless they got Home Rule they would make the government of Ireland impossible. Now think what that means. The contingencies with which ho referred could only arise after the will of the people of this country had been declared, and he tells you that after it is declared he will, even by force, make the carrying out of that will impossible. The hon. Gentleman, and I have followed his speeches with great interest since I became a Member of this House, has great Parliamentary gifts, but for an Irishman he is singularly destitute of humour.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
If that were the only proof of what I have said, I should not think my statement justified, but we have another proof. He actually, with that speech fresh in his mind, lectured my right hon. Friend on insulting the House of Commons by threatening resistance. He seems to think it is a monstrous thing to resist the House of Commons, but that it is constitutional to resist the people who are the masters. But would not the decision of the people make all the difference. The Unionist party have declared, and the whole party has endorsed it, that if under present conditions you attempt to coerce Ulster, we will take part with Ulster by any means in our power. We have also said, and I should be glad if when the election comes hon. Gentlemen on the Governmnt Bench would make the same pledge with regard to assisting the Nationalist party, we have also said that if you get the decision of the people we shall obey it. Will it make no difference to you whether or not you have to deal with Ulster alone or with more than half the population of Great Britain as well? I think it will. But will it make no differ-once to Ulster also? What is it, apart from the determination of the people themselves, that gives vitality to this movement in Ulster? It is two things. It is the belief which they hold, and which I share, that they are being jockeyed, that this intolerable injustice is being inflicted upon them, not by their countrymen, but by men who are abusing the powers with which their countrymen have entrusted them. Its vitality consists in this also, that they know that the Unionists here are behind them. Does anyone doubt 282 that if these conditions changed the real situation in Ulster would be changed too? Of course it would. I am not going to profess to speak for Ulster, but there are some things which anyone can see. Even my right hon. Friend to-day said that the whole position would be changed and would have to be reconsidered. But there is more than that. Any man who leads people in a course of action which endangers life must be convinced, I think, of two things. He must be satisfied of the justice of their cause. There is no doubt in our minds about that. But he must also be satisfied, or I think he would be entirely wrong, that they have some reasonable chance of success. Their chance of success depends upon the sympathy of the British people, and an election would undoubtedly make a great difference in that respect. Would it make no difference to you yourselves? It would give you at once that moral force, the absence of which is your weakness to-day. The right hon. Gentleman talks about contempt of the law. What is it that brings the law into contempt? It is not that the law is broken. It is broken in all countries. What brings it into contempt is that it is broken with impunity. Why have you allowed the organisation of Ulster to go on? For this reason only, that you knew you had no moral right to go on with the course you are proposing. You knew that if you interfered, and blood were shed in Ulster, there would be a revolution against you which would bring the card-castle tumbling about your ears Have the decision of the people, and you will have the moral strength which is lacking to you now, and whatever you do the responsibility will not be yours alone—it will be shared by the whole of the people of this country.
We all know what is the real reason. We are all party men. Every speech which has been made and every cheer which has been given shows what your real motive is. You have satisfied yourselves that your party interests are bound up with carrying through this measure under the Parliament Act. That is it. You know that if you were defeated the last two years would be futile. You would be humiliated. That is true. I noticed in the speech of General Smuts—he will be abused to-morrow, I suppose—that men sometimes in the higher interests of society have to submit to many things. I should say that the right hon. Gentleman showed greater courage if he were more ready to face that contingency than 283 to face civil war. But even if that is the ground on which you act, there is an alternative. Put your proposals—and this is all the easier now that you are going to modify them—before the country by means of a Referendum. Why not? It does not raise the question whether that is a good thing under all circumstances. I am expressing no opinion about that. But you are in a great difficulty. Why not try it? Lord Lansdowne has already said, and I say now, that if you take that course and the people decide in your favour, so far as we can represent the Unionist party we shall accept their decision. If they are with you your course is plain. But oven if they are against you, you can still go on with your Parliament Act and carry your other measures—if you can. If your coalition refuses to hang together that is another matter. Will not that prove what we have said from the beginning, that the legislation under this Act has not represented even the opinion of the majority who passed it, that it has been a case of buying and selling—of selling my conviction in order to buy yours. That is how it has been done. Well, there is a way out, and a quite possible and reasonable way. I put a consideration to hon. Gentlemen opposite, which, if they agree with me, will weigh with every one of them, and should weigh most of all with the Front Bench opposite. I am at all events stating my honest opinion when I say that if I were thinking only of party interest—I do not pretend that I do not think of party interest—if I were thinking of party interest—there is nothing I should like better than to see you go straight on full steam ahead on the course on which
§ you have embarked. I put it to hon. Gentlemen opposite to try and use a little of the imagination of which the Chief Secretary spoke, and to consider what the facts would be under those conditions—not as they would like them to be, but as they actually would be. If you go on there will inevitably be bloodshed in Ulster. Then whatever you may think now there must be an appeal to the people. How will they regard you—you who have brought about that bloodshed—because you were afraid to face the people? You will have brought it about—[HON. MEMBERS: "Carson"—"No, you"—and Interruption.]—because you preferred to face civil war rather than face the people. In my belief—and I do not believe that there is a man on that bench that differs from me—if that happens, your party will not be defeated; it will be annihilated. The Government have before them only two courses, and they know it. From the speeches to which we have listened for the last two days—I do not want to taunt the right hon. Gentleman—but the conditions are quite evident—they know that the game, which was referred to by the Prime Minister at Leeds, is up. They know that to go on with their present proposals is impossible. They have two alternatives, one of which they must adopt. They must either make proposals which will remove the resistance of Ulster or they must, however much they dread it, and however certain they are as to what the result will be, submit themselves to the judgment of the people.
§ Question put. "That those words be there added."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 255; Noes, 333.289
|Division No. 1.]||AYES.||[10.55 p.m.|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Bennett-Goldney, Francis||Cassel, Felix|
|Aitken, Sir William Max||Bentinck, Lord H. Cavendish-||Castlereagh, Viscount|
|Amery, L. C. M. S.||Beresford, Lord Charles||Cator, John|
|Anson, Rt. Hon. Sir William R.||Bigland, Alfred||Cautley, Henry Strother|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major William||Bird, Alfred||Cave, George|
|Archer-Shee, Major M.||Blair, Reginald||Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)|
|Astor, Waldorf||Boles, Lieut.-Colonel Dennis Fortescue||Cecil, Lord Hugh (Oxford University)|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Boscawen, Sir Arthur S. T. Griffith-||Cecil, Lord R. (Herts, Hitchin)|
|Baker, Sir Randolf L. (Dorset, N.)||Boyle, William (Norfolk, Mid)||Chaloner, Colonel R. G. W.|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (City, London)||Boyton, James||Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. A. (Worc'r.,E.)|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Brassey, H. Leonard Campbell||Chambers, James|
|Banner, Sir John S. Harmood-||Bridgeman, William Clive||Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry|
|Baring, Major Hon. Guy V. (Winchester)||Bull, Sir William James||Clay, Captain H. H. Spender|
|Barlow, Montague (Salford, South)||Burn, Colonel C. R.||Clive, Captain Percy Archer|
|Barnston, Harry||Butcher, John George||Clyde, J. Avon|
|Barrie, H. T.||Campbell, Captain Duncan F. (Ayr, N.)||Coates, Major Sir Edward Feetham|
|Bathurst, Hon. A. B. (Glouc., E.)||Campbell, Rt. Hon. J. (Dublin Univ.)||Collings, Rt. Hon. J. (Birmingham)|
|Bathurst, Charles (Wilts, Wilton)||Campion, W. R.||Cooper, Sir Richard Ashmole|
|Beach, Hon. Michael Hugh Hicks||Carlile, Sir Edward Hildred||Courthope, George Loyd|
|Benn, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth)||Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward H.||Craig, Charles Curtis (Antrim, S.)|
|Craig, Ernest (Cheshire, Crewe)||Hunt, Rowland||Rawson, Colonel Richard H.|
|Craig, Captain James (Down, E.)||Hunter, Sir Charles Rodk.||Rees, Sir J. D.|
|Craig, Norman (Kent, Thanet)||Ingleby, Holcombe||Remnant, James Farquharson|
|Craik, Sir Henry||Jardine, Ernest (Somerset, E.)||Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)|
|Crichton-Stuart, Lord Ninian||Jessel, Captain H. M.||Rolleston, Sir John|
|Croft, Henry Page||Joynson-Hicks, William||Rothschild, Lionel de|
|Dalrymple, Viscount||Kerr-Smiley, Peter Kerr||Royds, Edmund|
|Dalziel, Davison (Brixton)||Kerry, Earl of||Rutherford, John (Lanes., Darwen)|
|Denison-Pender, J. C.||Keswick, Henry||Rutherford, Watson (L'pool, W. Derby).|
|Denniss, E. R. B.||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Salter, Arthur Clavell|
|Dickson, Rt. Hon. C. Scott||Kyffin-Taylor, G.||Samuel, Sir Harry (Norwood)|
|Dixon, C. H.||Lane-Fox, G. R.||Samuel, Samuel (Wandsworth)|
|Doughty, Sir George||Larmor, Sir J.||Sanders, Robert Arthur|
|Duke, Henry Edward||Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Bootle)||Sanderson, Lancelot|
|Duncannon, Viscount||Lawson, Hon. H. (T. Hamlets, Mile End)||Sandys, G. J.|
|Eyres-Monsell, Bolton M.||Lee, Arthur Hamilton||Sassoon, Sir Philip|
|Faber, George Denison (Clapham)||Lewisham, Viscount||Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.)|
|Faber, Captain W. V. (Hants, W.)||Lloyd, George Ambrose (Stafford, W.)||Smith, Rt. Hon. F. E. (L'pool, Walton)|
|Fade, Bertram Godtray||Lloyd, George Butler (Shrewsbury)||Smith, Harold (Warrington)|
|Fell, Arthur||Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury)||Spear, Sir John Ward|
|Fetherstonhaugh, Godfrey||Locker-Lampson, O. (Ramsey)||Stanler, Beville|
|Finlay, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert||Lockwood, Rt. Hon. Lt.-Colonel A. R.||Stanley, Hon. Arthur (Ormskirk)|
|Fisher, Rt. Hon. W. Hayes||Long, Rt. Hon. Walter||Stanley, Hon. G. F. (Preston)|
|Fitzroy, Hon. Edward A.||Lonsdale, Sir John Brownlee||Starkey, John Raiph|
|Flannery, Sir J. Fortescue||Lowe, Sir F. W. (Birm., Edgbaston)||Staveley-Hill, Henry|
|Fleming, Valentine||MacCaw, Wm. J. MacGeagh||Steel-Maitland, A. D.|
|Forster, Henry William||Mackinder, Halford J.||Stewart, Gershom|
|Gardner, Ernest||Macmaster, Donald||Strauss, Arthur (Paddington, North)|
|Gastrell, Major W. Houghton||M'Calmont, Major Robert C. A.||Swift, Rigby|
|Gibbs, George Abraham||M'Mordie, Robert James||Sykes, Alan John (Ches., Knutsford)|
|Gilmour, Captain John||M'Neill, Ronald (Kent, St. Augustine's)||Sykes, Sir Mark (Hull, Central)|
|Glazebrook, Captain Philip K.||Magnus, Sir Philip||Terrell, George (Wilts, N.W.)|
|Goldman, C. S.||Malcolm, Ian||Terrell, Henry (Gloucester)|
|Goldsmith, Frank||Mallaby-Deeley, Harry||Thompson, Robert (Belfast, North)|
|Gordon, John (Londonderry, South)||Mason, James F. (Windsor)||Thomson, W. Mitchell- (Down, North)|
|Gordon, Hon, John Edward (Brighton)||Heysey Thompson, E. C.||Thynne, Lord A.|
|Goulding, Edward Alfred||Middlemore, John Throgmorton||Tobin, Alfred Aspinall|
|Grant, J. A.||Mildmay, Francis Bingham||Touche, George Alexander|
|Guinness, Hon. Rupert (Essex, S.E.)||Mills, Hon. Charles Thomas||Tryon, Captain George Clement|
|Guinness, Hon. W. E. (Bury S. Edmunds)||Moore, William||Tullibardine, Marquess of|
|Gwynne, R. S. (Sussex, Eastbourne)||Morrison-Bell, Capt. E. F. (Ashburton)||Valentia, Viscount|
|Haddock, George Bahr||Morrison-Bell, Major A. C. (Honiton)||Walker, Colonel William Hall|
|Hall, D. B. (Isle of Wight)||Mount, William Arthur||Ward, A. S. (Herts, Watford)|
|Hall, Frederick (Dulwich)||Neville, Reginald J. N.||Warde, Colonel C. E. (Kent, Mid)|
|Hall, Marshall (E. Toxteth)||Newdegate, F. A.||Watson, Hon. W.|
|Hamersley, Alfred St. George||Newman, John R. P.||Weigall, Captain A. G.|
|Hamilton, C. G. C. (Ches., Altrincham)||Newton, Harry Kottingham||Weston, Colonel J. W.|
|Hamilton, Lord C. J. (Kensington, S.)||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)||Wheler, Granville C. H.|
|Hardy, Rt. Hon. Laurence||Nield, Herbert||White, Major G. D. (Lanes, Southport)|
|Harris, Henry Percy||O'Neill, Hon. A. E. B. (Antrim, Mid)||Williams, Colonel R. (Dorset, W.)|
|Harrison-Broadley, H. B.||Orde-Powlett, Hon. W. G. A.||Willoughby, Major Hon. Claud|
|Helmsley, Viscount||Ormsby-Gore, Hon, William||Wills, Sir Gilbert|
|Henderson, Major H. (Berks, Abingdon)||Paget, Almeric Hugh||Wilson, A. Stanley (Yorks, E.R.)|
|Henderson, Sir A. (St. Geo., Han. Sq.)||Parker, Sir Gilbert (Gravesend)||Wilson, Captain Leslie O. (Reading)|
|Herbert, Hon. A. (Somerset, S.)||Parkes, Ebenezer||Winterton, Earl|
|Hewins, William Albert Samuel||Peel, Lieut.-Colonel R. F.||Wood, Hon. E. F. L. (Yorks, Ripon)|
|Hills, John Waller||Perkins, Walter F.||Wood, John (Stalybridge)|
|Hoare, S. J. G.||Peto, Basil Edward||Worthington-Evans, L.|
|Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Pole-Carew, Sir R.||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-|
|Hope, Harry (Bute)||Pollock, Ernest Murray||Wright, Henry Fitzherbert|
|Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||Pretyman, Ernest George||Yate, Colonel C. E.|
|Hope, Major J. A. (Midlothian)||Pryce-Jones, Colonel E.||Yerburgh, Robert A.|
|Home, Edgar (Surrey, Guildford)||Quilter, Sir William Eley C.||Younger, Sir George|
|Horner, Andrew Long||Randles, Sir John S.|
|Houston, Robert Paterson||Ratcliff, R. F.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Lord|
|Hume-Williams, W. E.||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel||Edmund Talbot and Mr. Pike Pease.|
|Abraham, William (Dublin, Harbour)||Baring, Sir Godfrey (Barnstaple)||Boyle, Daniel (Mayo, North)|
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Barlow, Sir John Emmott (Somerset)||Brace, William|
|Adamson, William||Barnes, George N.||Brady, Patrick Joseph|
|Addison, Dr. Christopher||Barran, Sir John N. (Hawick Burghs)||Brocklehurst, William B.|
|Agar-Robartes, Hon. T. C. R.||Beale, Sir William Phipson||Brunner, John F. L.|
|Agnew, Sir George William||Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Bryce, J. Annan|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Beck, Arthur Cecil||Buckmaster, Sir Stanley O.|
|Alden, Percy||Benn, W. W. (T. Hamlets, St. George)||Burke, E. Haviland-|
|Allen, Arthur A. (Dumbartonshire)||Bentham, George Jackson||Burns, Rt. Hon. John|
|Allen. Rt. Hon. Charles P. (Stroud)||Bethell, Sir J. H.||Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, North)|
|Armitage, Robert||Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine||Buxton, Rt. Hon. Sydney C. (Poplar)|
|Arnold, Sydney||Black, Arthur W.||Byles, Sir William Pollard|
|Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry||Boland, John Pius||Carr-Gomm, H. W.|
|Baker, Harold T. (Accrington)||Booth, Frederick Handel||Cawley, Sir Frederick (Prestwich)|
|Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.)||Bowerman, Charles W.||Cawley, Harold T. (Lanes., Heywood)|
|Chancellor, Henry George||Herbert, General Sir Ivor (Mon., S.)||Nugent, Sir Walter Richard|
|Chapple, Dr. William Allen||Higham, John Sharp||Nuttall, Harry|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||Hinds, John||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)|
|Clancy, John Joseph||Hobhouse, Rt. Hon. Charles E. H.||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)|
|Clough, William||Hodge, John||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)|
|Clynes, John R.||Hogge, James Myles||O'Doherty, Philip|
|Collins, Godfrey P. (Greenock)||Holmes, Daniel Turner||O'Donnell, Thomas|
|Collins, Sir Stephen (Lambeth)||Holt, Richard Dunning||O'Dowd, John|
|Compton-Rickett, Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Hope, John Deans (Haddington)||O'Kelly, Edward P. (Wicklow, W.)|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||Horne, Charles Silvester (Ipswich)||O'Kelly, James (Roscommon, N.)|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Hudson, Walter||O'Malley, William|
|Cotton, William Francis||Hughes, Spencer Leigh||O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.)|
|Cowan, W. H.||Jardine, Sir J. (Roxburgh)||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.|
|Crooks, William||John, Edward Thomas||O'Shae, James John|
|Crumley, Patrick||Johnson, W.||O'Sullivan, Timothy|
|Cullinan, John||Jones, Rt.Hon. Sir D.Brynmor (Swansea)||Outhwaite, R. L.|
|Dalziel, Rt. Hon. Sir J. H. (Kirkcaldy)||Jones, Edgar (Merthyr Tydvil)||Palmer, Godfrey Mark|
|Davies, Ellis William (Eifion)||Jenes, H. Haydn (Merioneth)||Parker, James (Halifax)|
|Davies, David (Montgomery Co.)||Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)||Parry, Thomas H.|
|Davies, Timothy (Lines., Louth)||Jones, Leif Stratten (Notts, Rushcliffe)||Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)|
|Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)||Pearce, William (Limehouse)|
|Davies, M. Vaughan (Cardiganshire)||Jones, William S. Glyn (Stepney)||Pearson, Hon. Weetman H. M.|
|Dawes, J. A.||Jowett, Frederick William||Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A. (Rotherham)|
|Deiany, William||Joyce, Michael||Philipps, Colonel Ivor (Southampton)|
|Denman, Hon. Richard Douglas||Keating, Matthew||Phillips, John (Longford, S.)|
|Devlin, Joseph||Kellaway, Frederick George||Pirie, Duncan V.|
|Dickinson, Rt. Hon. Willoughby H.||Kelly, Edward||Pointer, Joseph|
|Dillon, John||Kennedy, Vincent Paul||Pollard, Sir George H.|
|Donelan, Captain A.||Kenyon, Barnet||Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.|
|Doris, William||Kilbride. Denis||Pratt, J. W.|
|Duffy, William J.||Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)|
|Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||Lardner, James C. R.||Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.)|
|Duncan, J. Hastings (Yorks, Otley)||Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, W.)||Primrose, Hon. Neil James|
|Edwards, Clement (Glamorgan, E.)||Levy, Sir Maurice||Pringle, William M. R.|
|Edwards, John Hugh (Glamorgan, Mid)||Lewis, Rt. Hon. John Herbert||Radford, George Heynes|
|Elverston, Sir Harold||Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Raffan, Peter Wilson|
|Esmonde, Dr. John (Tipperary, N.)||Low, Sir Frederick (Norwich)||Raphael, Sir Herbert H.|
|Esmonde, Sir Thomas (Wexlord, N.)||Lundon, Thomas||Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (South Shields)|
|Essex, Sir Richard Walter||Lyell, Charles Henry||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)|
|Esslemont, George Birnie||Lynch, Arthur Alfred||Reddy, Michael|
|Falconer, James||Macdonald, J. Ramsay (Leicester)||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)|
|Farrell, James Patrick||Macdonald. J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)||Redmond, William Archer (Tyrone. E.)|
|Fenwick, Rt. Hon. Charles||McGhee, Richard||Rendall, Athelstan|
|Ferens, Rt. Hon. Thomas Robinson||Maclean, Donald||Richards, Thomas|
|Field, William||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||Richardson, Albion (Peckham)|
|Fiennes, Hon. Eustace Edward||MacNeill, J. G. Swift (Donegal, South)||Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)|
|Fitzgibbon, John||Macpherson, James Ian||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Roberts, George H. (Norwich)|
|Furness, Sir Stephen Wilson||M'Callum, Sir John M.||Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs)|
|Gelder, Sir W. A.||M'Curdy, C. A.||Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradford)|
|George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd||M'Kean, John||Robertson. John M. (Tyneside)|
|Gill, A. H.||WcKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Robinson, Sidney|
|Ginnell, Laurence||M'Laren, Hon. H. D. (Leics.)||Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)|
|Gladstone, W. G. C.||W'Laren, Hon. F.W.S. (Lincs., Spalding)||Roche, Augustine (Louth)|
|Glanville, H. J.||M'Micking, Major Gilbert||Roe, Sir Thomas|
|Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford||Markham, Sir Arthur Basil||Rowlands, James|
|Goldstone, Frank||Marks, Sir George Croydon||Rowntree, Arnold|
|Greenwood, Hamar (Sunderland)||Marshall, Arthur Harold||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter|
|Greig, Colonel J. W.||Mason, David M. (Coventry)||Russell, Rt. Hon. Thomas W.|
|Grey, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward||Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.)||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)|
|Griffith, Ellis Jones||Meehan, Patrick J. (Queen's Co., Leix)||Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Guest, Majer Hon C. H. C. (Pembroke)||Middlearook, William||Samuel, Sir Stuart M. (Whitechapel)|
|Guest. Hon. Frederick E. (Dorset. E.)||Millar, James Duncan||Scanlan, Thomas|
|Gulland, John William||Molloy, Michael||Scott, A. MacCalium (Glas., Bridgeton)|
|Gwynn, Stephen Lucius (Galway)||Molteno, Percy Alport||Seely, Rt. Hon. Colonel J. E. B.|
|Hackett, John||Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred||Sheehy, David|
|Hall, Frederick (Yorks, Normanton)||Money, L. G. Chiozza||Shortt, Edward|
|Hancock, J. G.||Montagu, Hon. E. S.||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John Allsebrook|
|Harcourt. Rt. Hon. Lewis (Rossendale)||Mooney, John J.||Smith, Albert (Lanes., Clitheroe)|
|Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)||Morgan, George Hay||Smith, H. B. Lees (Northampton)|
|Hardie, J. Keir||Morrell, Philip||Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.)|
|Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds)||Morison, Hector||Snowden, Philip|
|Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithness-shire)||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas||Soames, Arthur Wellesley|
|Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)||Muldoon, John||Spicer, Rt. Hon. Sir Albert|
|Harvey, W. E. (Derbyshire, N.E.)||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert||Stanley, Albert (Staffs, N.W.)|
|Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry||Murphy, Martin J.||Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)|
|Hayden, John Patrick||Murray, Captain Hon. Arthur C.||Sutton, John E.|
|Hayward, Evan||Nannetti, Joseph P.||Swann, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles E.|
|Hazleton, Richard||Needham, Christopher T.||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|Helme, Sir Norval Watson||Neilson, Francis||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)|
|Hemmerde, Edward George||Nicholson, Sir Charles N. (Doncaster)||Tennant, Harold John|
|Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||Nolan, Joseph||Thomas, J. H.|
|Henderson, John M. (Aberdeen, W.)||Norman, Sir Henry||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Henry, Sir Charles||Norton, Captain Cecil W.||Thorne, William (West Ham)|
|Toulmin, Sir George||Webb, H.||Williamson, Sir Archibald|
|Trevelyan, Charles Philips||Wedgwood, Josiah C.||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid)|
|Verney, Sir Harry||White, J. Duhdas (Glasgow, Tradeston)||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Worcs., N.)|
|Wadsworth, J.||White, Sir Luke (Yorks, E.R.)||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Walsh, Stephen (Lancs., Ince)||White, Patrick (Meath, North)||Winfrey, Sir Richard|
|Walters, Sir John Tudor||Whitehouse, John Howard||Wing, Thomas Edward|
|Walton, Sir Joseph||Whittaker, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas P.||Wood, Rt. Hon. T. McKinnon (Glasgow)|
|Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)||Whyte, Alexander F. (Perth)||Young, William (Perthshire, East)|
|Wardle, George J.||Wiles, Thomas||Yoxall, Sir James Henry|
|Waring, Walter||Wilkie, Alexander|
|Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay T.||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, N. W.)|
|Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)||Williams, John (Glamorgan)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr.|
|Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)||Williams, Llewelyn (Carmarthen)||Illingworth and Mr. Geoffrey Howard.|
|Watt, Henry Anderson||Williams, Penry (Middlesbrough)|
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ And, it being after Eleven of the clock, and objection being taken to further Proceeding, the Debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed to-morrow (Thursday).