§ Order for Third Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the third time."—[Mr. McKenna.]
§ Mr. F. E. SMITH
Hon. Gentlemen in all parts of the House will not dispute the seriousness of the statement which the Prime Minister made to the House a few moments ago. He has announced the disappearance, at least for the moment, from the Army of two officers of the highest distinction, and officers who, by reason of their rank and ability, it will be extremely difficult to replace. He has announced also the resignation of the Secretary of State for War. I have sat in the House with the Secretary of State for War for 867 some eight years, and I had some acquaintance with him before, and I can say, with great sincerity, that I regret the fact of an interference, which I hope may only be temporary, in his career. However much we may disagree, as many of us disagree, with his policy, we have always at least found in him a direct and sincere opponent, and I can assure him that many of us on this side of the House at this moment extend our sympathy to him. I hope it may be possible in all parts of the House to discuss the subject arising for our consideration to-day with the minimum of party feeling. I certainly will try to do so, not that I pretend, or ever have pretended, that at proper times and seasons I may be more lacking than other Members of this House in the ordinary weapons which are employed in party contests, but I think everybody in the House realises that, however badly we may think of the steps that the other side have taken, all of us must realise this, that we stand almost at the parting of the ways in our national affairs, and I ask the indulgence of the House—and I think I will get it—while I attempt to trace, in the spirit I have indicated, the various steps by which we have arrived at the grave position we are here to discuss to-day. The date to which I ask the attention of the House is that of the 14th March. On that date it would be wrong to say that all hopes of settling the Home Rule controversy had been abandoned in any part of the House.
What was the position on that date? A debate had taken place in this House on the Thursday, and a speech was made by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition which was described only three days ago by Lord Morley in the House of Lords as an "olive branch." It was a debate, it is very important to notice, in which very few Members on the Back Benches had an opportunity of addressing the House at all. It was, from the very nature of the emergency, almost entirely confined to the Front Benches, and by universal admission the Back Benches did not enjoy that opportunity which, in moments of great crises, they would be ill-advised indeed if they surrendered to those who sit on the Front Benches. Let this also be observed, that in the House of Commons, at that very time, there were Members sitting on that side of the House, as undoubtedly there are Members sitting on this side of the 868 House, who sincerely believed that the two parties were not so far removed from one another in that stage of the controversy as to cause them to despair of accommodation. I take the case of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Aberdeen (Mr. Pirie), one of the more avowed and active supporters of the Government in this House, who has, nevertheless, with great sincerity and pertinacity, adhered to a very intelligent method of dealing with this controversy. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that there are many of us on this side—at least, I know of some on this side—who in a large measure share his view. I remember that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kingston (Mr. Cave) made a speech in that Debate which might have been made equally well by the Member for Aberdeen. And I may point out that only a day or two later the hon. Member for Shetland (Mr. Eugene Wason) wrote a letter to the "Times" in which he stated that what appeared to be the crucial question between the party leaders was the question of the time limit, and that that was a subject which, it appeared to him, still admitted of discussion in the hope of a settlement. That being the case—I speak with some knowledge of what many of my hon. Friends behind me think—I say that, whatever other view was taken of the position as it existed on the 14th of this month, nobody, certainly no statesman, was entitled to assume that for the moment a settlement had hopelessly and irrevocably passed.
What took place? The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty made a speech at Bradford. I am not entering for the moment into the question whether, in a great controversy between the parties, the right hon. Gentleman could not justify the speech which he made there, if you are going to put it on an acute controversial basis; but I say the moment chosen was the moment of all others in this great controversy when it was the duty of one in high position, whose speech would be widely read and discussed, to do something rather to assuage rather than to arouse violent discussion. What was the tone the right hon. Gentleman took? He said there may be evils worse than the shedding of blood, but I submit that while there are few evils worse than the shedding of blood, there is no evil worse than the shedding of blood in civil war. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say that we are 869 going to put these grave matters to the proof. I take the starting point of my brief historical examination. On the 14th March, when these grave matters were to be put to the proof, a letter, which was printed in the White Paper, was sent to General Paget. That letter has been read to the House, and I need not reread it, but I assume, unless told to the contrary, that the contents of that letter were known to the First Lord of the Admiralty at the time he spoke at Bradford of putting these grave matters to the proof. He knew that the letter had been sent to General Paget giving General Paget certain instructions, and we all heard the description—and I assent to it—which the Prime Minister gave of the instructions sent to General Paget, that modest and unobjectionable precautions were alone indicated, and to that extent the military operations considered in the letter of the 14th were of the most trivial character, only requiring the movements of about four companies of troops. The first problem which I find of great difficulty is, that at this date, the 14th March, when General Paget, who is an extremely capable officer, received the modest instructions, to use the Prime Minister's expression, they thought it necessary that he should come over to London in regard to those instructions. We have been informed by the Secretary of State for War that he summoned General Paget to come over to London.
The first question I ask is this: If, on the 14th, the letter to General Paget contained the tenor of his instructions, and if it contained the whole tenor of his instructions, why did the Secretary of State for War send to General Paget on the same day to come over to London to discuss the operations, which, we are told, were so modest and so unobjectionable? The inference is, I am bound to state it, that it was desired to give General Paget instructions which it was not convenient to put in writing. The letter of the 14th contained all that was necessary to indicate dispositions so modest that any competent captain in the British Army would have been able to carry them out. Under those circumstances General Paget comes to this country, and if I may may illustrate how unnecessary his coming was on the present view of the instructions which were given to him, I need only quote what was said in the House the other day by the late Secretary of State for War:—It was not anticipated that any attempt was contemplated by responsible Ulster leaders, but by evilly disposed persons other than they?870 Thus at that time the only enemy, or possible enemy, if I can dignify a movement of that kind in that way, was not the Ulster Volunteers, and not any movement for which the responsible Ulster leaders were responsible, but a movement by evilly-disposed persons other than they. Let us observe that at that time there was no disorder, and there were no reports of disorder. I invite the right hon. Gentleman specifically to say whether the Government at that time had one expression of apprehension from a single magistrate in Ireland, or from any authority in Ireland, that movements of this kind were anticipated. As the part played by my right hon. Friend the Member for Dublin University (Sir E. Carson) in these matters has been called in question by the House, I may point out that the Attorney-General in his speech made only a few days ago paid a tribute as just as it was belated to the sincerity of my right hon. Friend's desire, and to the extent of his influence in order to carry out that desire, that there should be no outbreak or disorder or lawlessness of the kind we are now discussing. I am not dealing with larger objects which are not immediate and relevant. That being the case, General Paget came over on Wednesday, the 18th March, and he had an interview with the late Secretary of State for War. I can only found myself in this matter upon the newspaper reports, which in such a case are extremely unreliable. I find from the Press it is stated that the First Lord of the Admiralty with the late Secretary of State for War met General Paget, and I have no reason to assume, unless he tells me it is so, that that report is inaccurate. I believe, and at least so it is said in one of the newspapers, that the right hon. Gentleman was present at a luncheon at which General Paget and the late Secretary of State for War were present.
§ Mr. F. E. SMITH
I accept that at once, of course. When General Paget was over in this country the right hon. Gentleman also saw him, and had a discussion with him. The question that arises now is what took place either between General Paget and the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty, or at the official interview between General Paget and the late Secretary of State for War, at which I understand the right hon. Gentleman was not present. That is the first question on 871 which, I say plainly, no light whatever has been thrown in the whole course of our Debates, and observe how important it is that the House should be told with the most complete frankness what took place on that occasion. It is important for these reasons, that I am certain there is nobody in this House, wherever they may sit, who, in the spirit of the last observations which fell from the late Secretary of State for War, is not anxious to do justice to those officers, and who is not anxious that they should not be blamed or criticised unless you can point to some definite act which they have committed and say "in this respect they were guilty." Before the House can arrive at any conclusion they must know what took place at the intereview between the late Secretary of State for War and General Paget. Observe the information which we have on that point, and the inference which the possession of that information makes it necessary for us to draw. It is admitted that General Paget is an intelligent and distinguished officer; it is admitted that he is accustomed to give orders and that he is accustomed to receive orders, and it is admitted, above all else, that he can understand the plain meaning of plain words, and I make this statement, that if he could not understand what the late Secretary of State for War said to him on matters of such gravity he is unfit for high office. He continues to hold high office. The Prime Minister has told us in one of the earlier Debates on this subject:—General Paget was instructed to do absolutely nothing, except carry out the modest operations described in the letter of 14th March.That was the first account that was given to the House of the interview between General Paget and the late Secretary of State for War, that he was instructed, and was only instructed, to carry out the modest operations referred to in the letter of 14th March. I ask, is anybody in the House under the belief that that was a true and exhaustive statement of what took place? It is a circumstance which is perhaps significant that on the very day that this interview took place between General Paget and the First Lord of the Admiralty orders were given to the Fleet by the First Lord of the Admiralty, those orders which have already been communicated in discussion in this House. What was ordered on that date? A Battle Squadron with ten destroyers received orders from the First Lord of the 872 Admiralty. It is true, we are informed, and, of course, accept the statement, that those orders were given pursuantly to a decision arrived at by the Cabinet a fortnight earlier, but the coincidence of dates is noticeable. On the very same day that instructions were given to General Paget, of which we do not know the tenour, and of which a full account has been denied to us, on that same date, orders were given to the Fleet, and it is at least plain, and I desire not to exaggerate, that the Prime Minister had not those orders in his mind when he made the statement to the House. I understand that some sixteen ships, including the destroyer, and I follow the exact language of the First Lord of the Admiralty, were to be movedin proximity to the coasts of Ireland in case of serious disorders.Or in other words, sixteen ships were to be moved in order to support four companies. That is the balance of maritime power. In the statement which the Prime Minister published to the Press on the Sunday, he made this statement:—As for the so-called naval movement they simply consisted of the use of two small cruisers.I make no other accusation against the Prime Minister than this: That whoever it was who was responsible for giving this very important order to the Fleet on the same day that the important conversation took place with General Paget the responsible person was not the Prime Minister, and the Prime Minister had not that order in his mind when he made that statement. This I suppose, was another stage in the process, inopportune as I have suggested it. was, of "putting these grave matters to the proof." A further stage was reached on the following day, when General Paget went to Ireland and summoned his officers, as he did on the 20th March. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition has produced a detailed account of what took place at the meeting between General Paget and the officers. It is known that four other accounts are in existence. It would be very surprising if there were not more, as it was a very serious occasion. Those four other accounts which are in existence substantially confirm on every material point the report which my right hon. Friend produced. My right hon. Friend has given the most complete proof of his good faith in this matter by offering to place this Report with the name of the officer at the disposal of the Prime Minister, if he cares to have it. When 873 first my right hon. Friend made that statement in the House there was a great disposition in many parts of the House to call it in question, and there was a great disposition to suggest that it might not be an authentic and reliable account. Am I not entitled a week later to point this out that during the whole of that week, when this Report has been printed with every circumstance of publicity in the public Press, and when during the whole of that week the Government have had the opportunity of putting it to General Paget or eliciting from him his alternative statement, or of inviting front him a specific contradiction of any allegation grave enough in this matter to require specific contradiction, that after that week has passed not a single contradiction of any material point has been put before the House of Commons, and I put it to all fair-minded men in any part of the House, are we not entitled at the conclusion of that week, and are we not bound to take the view that this statement read out by the Leader of the Opposition in substance fairly represents what was stated by General Paget to the officers on that occasion.
What then, is the position at that moment? We have an accomplished and intelligent general, who has received orders from the late Secretary of State for War, and who has seen the First Lord of the Admiralty only the day before, and he calls together his officers, and he places before them the result of the instructions that he has received. What did he say? He said that active military operations were to be begun in Ulster. I pause to ask this question: Whatever other point a soldier may make a mistake about, whatever subtleties or sophistries might deceive him, is any soldier on earth likely to make a mistake where the Secretary of State for War had told him that active military operations were contemplated? Any one of us hearing the head of the Army talk to and being bound to him by ties of subordination—any layman might misunderstand the sequence of events and confuse a casual reference to active military operations, but it is inconceivable that an intelligent general, fresh front his conversation with the First Lord of the Admiralty and with the late Secretary of State for War, the conversation taking place on the very day when orders are given that sixteen ships are to be moved, could be in the slightest doubt as to whether he had been told that active military operations were contemplated. Let the House 874 observe one small phrase occurring in each report, which is very illustrative of the general effect of the conversation. It was that "the whole country would be in a blaze by Saturday." That phrase has been represented, I think in not a very happy explanation, as meaning that "the Press would be in a blaze on Saturday." Surely a less ingenious explanation was never suggested. Fancy a general calling together the senior officers of a brigade in order that he might make to them the important and earth-shaking announcement that "the. Press would be in a blaze!" And the next statement, and this it is agreed was a Cabinet instruction, was that officers domiciled in Ulster were to be allowed to disappear if they gave their word of honour that they would not fight for Ulster. Fight for Ulster?
This means fight for the few "evilly disposed persons other than" the Ulster Volunteers, who, and who alone, were at the time the instructions were given, supposed by the Government to be likely to cause disorder. And you are to invite your officers and your generals that they will give their word of honour that in process of carrying out their word they will not take up arms on behalf, not of a volunteer army, but of evilly disposed persons. It is trifling to pretend—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] This is quite a different point from arguing the question whether the Government were justified in making a serious military movement. If they had come to the House and said, "It is true that in the exercise of our responsibility as the custodians of public order we have decided upon a belligerent move," they could have supported their conduct by grave and powerful arguments. They might have been right or wrong, but it would have been a tenable and intelligent position which a strong and even a patriotic Government might conceivably have taken up. But to take these steps as far as the land and maritime forces are concerned, and then to say that they were moving four companies against a few casual depredators, and that no other instructions were given, is to trifle not merely with political opponents, but with the whole House of Commons. The Prime Minister says that this movement did not possess the slightest strategic importance. I am as ignorant of strategy as most people in this House are, but I am informed on very high military authority that on this point the Prime Minister is entirely 875 wrong, and, if I use the information which has been given me as I understand it, I think the House also will see that he was entirely misinformed. Assume that these movements were in the nature of insignificant police precautions, what is the first thing that would have been done? It is clear that the military force in Belfast would have been retained in Belfast. If you were going to take police precautions, you would keep the soldiers in Belfast. That is obvious. You could only evacuate Belfast as part of a strategical scheme because the position on a strategical military basis had become untenable. On the police basis not a soldier would be moved from Belfast, but on the military basis they would be moved at once. Take the other move. Think how convenient the presence of the soldiers in Belfast would have been from the point of view of dealing with a few evilly disposed persons; hut, if you were moving them for strategical reasons, it is quite obvious that the force would have been "mopped up," to use a homely expression, if there was any belligerent movement at all, and the first thing a general would have done would have been to move the troops from Belfast.
Then take the movement to Holywood and Carrickfergus. Holywood is on the south side of Belfast Lough, and Carrickfergus is on the north side. The joint occupation of both places controls the entrance to and the exit from Belfast. From the strategical point of view it controls the two railway lines from Belfast to the north-cast, and would give to any force the complete stragetical command of Belfast. Take then the other movement—the advance, if an advance was to be made in force, from the south of Ireland to the north. I am informed that Ulster is a very difficult country to invade from the south. There are only three main lines of advance. The principal line from Dublin is through Dundalk and Newry. Both places were the first and the most conspicuous objectives of the movements that were made. The Prime Minister has attempted an explanation of this. He says that there were some guns at Dundalk, but Dundalk is in Leinster, and not in Ulster at all. It was as safe from evilly-disposed persons as if the guns had been in the Tower of London, and if protection was required there was at the very moment when these movements were made a complete brigade of Field Artillery in 876 Dundalk. Troops were also pushed on to Newry. But there were no arms at all there. The Prime Minister says that Newry is an outpost of Dundalk. That is not so. It is ten miles away from Dundalk. But it is an important railway junction, and one that any general making a strategical scheme for the advance of troops in large numbers from the south to the north would at once seize. The second main line of advance is through Monaghan and Cavan. That advance is through a district which is predominantly Nationalist in its sympathies, and would, therefore, be friendly and require no particular attention. The third main line is across Lough Erne. This is the western advance. The key of this advance is Enniskillen, and Enniskillen was seized. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why seized?"]
§ Mr. F. E. SMITH
Those are fair questions. Why seized? The answer is that a force went there, as I am informed, with ball cartridge, and, beyond all controversy, arrangements were made that other men in much larger numbers should immediately follow if there was the slightest trouble. The First Lord asks how many men went there. I answer that by saying that unless General Paget invented instructions, or was so unintelligent that he was capable of misunderstanding the lucid explanation of the First Lord of the Admiralty, and, when he addressed his officers and told them that they were going to move north, why did he add, "I fear, the men will not move?" Move where, if they were not going to move north? Did it mean that the proposal that they should move had been made in that direction? If that is true, and if the Cavalry were sounded in order to know whether they would move, what is the use of asking me how many men were sent in the first place in a preparatory step? I speak upon this point, as any layman must, with hesitation, but I put it to the House that if these first posts had been reinforced, as no doubt they would have been, the whole of Ulster would have been strategically commanded. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] I quite agree. If the Prime Minister had come to the House last Monday and said, "We, representing the Sovereign Government in a civilised State, have come to the conclusion that we are prepared, because we are strong enough and justified, to assert the undoubted right—quite undoubted by my right hon. 877 Friend the Member for Trinity College (Sir E. Carson)—which every civilised Government has to assert order at all costs; we have made strategical movements, and we are not going to apologise to the House of Commons for them," there would have been no question between us at this moment. [Laughter.] But he did not do so. I do not say that we should have thought that the Prime Minister was right in so doing, but it would have been a straightforward and intelligent position. I do not put it higher than this: If an attempt was made in force to seize the decisive stragetical positions in Ulster, I say, though I know it will be received with extreme disfavour on the other side, that my right hon. Friend would have justified everything which has been said on the other side of the House to the disparagement of himself and of the Ulster Volunteers if he had allowed that movement to be carried through. He would have been bluffing, and the men under him would have been bluffing.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
Does the right hon. Gentleman mean that if strategical movements had been made in force His Majesty's troops would have been attacked?
§ Mr. F. E. SMITH
Surely the right hon. Gentleman has supplied a very opportune illustration of the statement attributed to General Ferguson and not up to the present contradicted! I should have thought the right hon. Gentleman would have been better occupied than in finessing for the firing of the first shot. I do not mean any more than the right hon. Gentleman himself to consider or to contemplate the case of firing the first shot or of taking the initiative in an attack; but I do say you would have been bringing together bodies of men at these strategical positions, and that it was almost certain that a collision would have occurred. Even if it may be your duty ultimately to do that, the movement at that time was premature and provocative. The scheme, I am prepared to admit, was Napoleonic, but there was no Napoleon. We cannot reproduce the success of General Botha, which the Labour party appear to admire more in this part of the world than in South Africa, unless you have at your disposal General Botha and his burghers; and in the particular case they were not forthcoming. So much for the plan which the Government had formed. I put it to the House that this, at least, is clear. A movement was in 878 contemplation at that time. I do not think that the Prime Minister did know about it. I have not the slightest difficulty in accepting his statement that he thought modest operations upon a small scale were in contemplation with the object of safeguarding stores. But that was not the real nature of the movement. After all we have heard, we know that that was not the real nature of the movement. I listened with great interest to see whether the right hon. Gentleman would tell us today that that was the object with which he sent the troops, and that that was the object with which General Paget was instructed to find out whether the officers would march to the North of Ireland.
I come now to the new issue which we are told is to be the great issue of politics in the near future—the Army against the people. I make this preliminary observation about that new cry, which was stated in those terms for the first time by the First Lord of the Admiralty. The right hon. Gentleman is the head of the sister Service, which is bound to the Army by close ties of blood, association, tradition, history and sympathy. It comes ill from the head of one great belligerent Service that he should be the first to start a political campaign which is to set the people against the other belligerent Service. I would suggest a few difficulties in the course of this new campaign. Those who are behind—or, as it is a military subject, to use a military metaphor—the non-commissioned officers and private soldiers on that side of the House are apparently enthusiastic in this new campaign. But is it not a campaign which, from the nature of the facts and the history of occurrences, is going to maroon the Front Bench? Let me test that. The late Secretary of State for War has told us that he still places his services, as I am sure he will, at the disposal of the Government. Is the late Secretary of State going to take part in this new campaign of the Army against the people, or the people against the Army? Will he not find his platform style a little cramped? "The people against the Army"—and the Army not taking one step in which they were not aided and abetted by the right hon. Gentleman when he was Secretary for War! Another question requires an answer—Is Lord Morley going to take part in this new campaign? Is the Cabinet at large? I distinguish the Cabinet from the general Members of the party, because I 879 believe that the Members of the party are entitled on this matter to observe their own independent view—and I have not the slightest doubt they will. If we take the case of the Cabinet, I will undertake to show to the House that on Monday, before the significance of this matter had been appreciated by the Government, before the outbreak behind and the comments on the military had illustrated to the Government, the temper and disposition of their followers, that the whole Cabinet was as deeply committed to this policy as was the Secretary of State for War. I will also undertake to show that they were well advised when they tried to keep the Secretary of State for War. It was not a particularly generous act. It was the act of men who ought to have been in the dock, and therefore they wanted to keep him out of the dock. I will prove this incontestably when I come to dates and documents.
Let me ask, first of all, in order to clear the ground as to who are going to take part in this new campaign, ask the question—for had we not better, all of us, make up our minds upon the elementary point?—were these officers wrong at all? That is the first point. No one, I suppose, would think it right, or anything but abominably wicked, otherwise to try and inflame the country against the Army and to declaim against the officers as an aristocratic class, wholly apart from the rest of the nation, deserving of scorn, public contempt, and castigation, and deserving that their places should be taken by other officers—because if you are going to democratise the Army, I presume it means that you are going to get rid of the present Army in order to have a more democratic one! Is it not fair therefore—indeed, is it not a matter of common prudence and justice?—to decide before you expel these men—because if you are going to democratise the Army substantially, others are involved—whether they have done wrong? If so, what is that wrong? Let us have it defined. Let the right hon. Gentleman tell us plainly to-day, if he can, wherein have these officers done wrong. Let us have it specifically stated in terms. [An HON. MEMBER: "They cannot do it."] The lowest criminal is entitled to that. Surely an officer who has fought for his country is at least entitled that he should be informed before he is broken, and—before what he cares much more for—before he is held up as a target for contempt before his fellow 880 countrymen, that he should be told what he has done wrong? I will inquire into this by stages.
Let us have the first possible case in which it may be suggested that the officers did wrong. They were asked a hypothetical question by General Paget. The very Army Order which was issued and published in this House on Friday shows that the mere asking of that question was grossly improper, and was a breach of discipline. I do not believe that, apart from that Front Bench opposite, there is a single Member of this House, wherever he sits, who believes that General Paget invented that question. Fancy a general officer going to his brigadier-general and asking him a question which he must have known to have been of a speculative and dangerous character? Who will believe that he would invent a question of that kind? If General Paget had invented that question he ought to have been dismissed his command the next day. [An HON. MEMBER: "He knows too much."] General Paget has not been dismissed. He cannot be dismissed. The Government are not in a position to dismiss him because General Paget did what he was told. He was told to ask a question grossly improper, unprecedented, and subversive of discipline in the Service, and publicly recanted by the Government last Friday. What is the result of this question when you analyse it? These officers received an order. They were ordered to exercise an option. It was the only order that was given to them. It was put in terms more wounding to the feelings of any [...]oldier than any offer of this kind or any order of this kind could be put. In what terms was it couched? Either you obey this order—a contingent order—or you accept dismissal—with loss of pension, with loss of pay, with loss of prospects, and with loss of all that for which these men had sacrificed their lives. Some men give their lives to politics, some to business, some to high philanthropic causes; these men had given them to the Army. It was their career. The Government go to them and ask them a hypothetical question, saying, "We will take your money away from you if you do not say you will obey this, which is a hypothetical order, in the future." That is the result of it!
Let there be no misunderstanding—their pensions were to be forfeited, they were to be dismissed the Service, and if they were dismissed the Service they lose their pensions. The position in which these officers 881 were to be placed was this: they were either to say that in the future—before the occasion had arisen—you shall do certain things or you shall lose your prospects, pay, and pension. They exercised their option. Were they wrong? Was it a wrong thing to do? There is no one in this House can say it was wrong. Why, the First Lord of the Admiralty himself, when he spoke last in the Debate on Wednesday, plainly contended that if that order, or that option, had been given to him and to his colleagues on the Front Bench opposite, that they would, if necessary, have done precisely as these officers did.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL nodded assent.
§ Mr. F. E. SMITH
The right hon. Gentleman is candid enough to agree with that, and indeed there is no one who has ever taken His Majesty's commission and served His Majesty who would answer the question differently. I leave that with the assurance that the non-commissioned officers of the Army would not have given a different answer to this question. Therefore I notice there is one serious gap in what I may call the primary strategical deployment of the new campaign of "The Army against the British People." Up to the present—by universal assent, by the admission given to me most candidly by the right hon. Gentleman across the floor of the House—before you can develop your indictment, you must have a criminal—up till now there is no criminal. [An HON. MEMBER: "Oh!"] If the hon. Member opposite disagrees with me, he also disagrees—which is not uncommon in these days—with his own Front Bench. Perhaps hon. Members opposite are coming to the conclusion that the time when the Secretary of State for War has gone is an opportune moment for others to follow? If, then, my argument has been followed, it will allow me to say, I think with substantial justice and fairness, that in the general view of the House, up to the present at least, these men had done no wrong.
Let me test that further by taking the case of General Gough. I, like my right hon. Friend who spoke the other night, have never spoken to General Gough in my life. I know nothing of him, except by reputation, but I will make bold to say this: From first to last in this matter General Gough has been most vilely ill-used. The Leader of the Labour party—whom I am sorry not to see in his place— 882 made a specific statement about General Gough in the course of these Debates. He said that he was informed on respectable authority that General Gough had gone straight from these Debates to a Tory club and exhibited as a trophy—
§ Mr. F. E. SMITH
It is reported in the OFFICIAL REPORT. He said he had exhibited a trophy which he had obtained from the War Office.
§ Mr. F. E. SMITH
The hon. Member for Stoke is, I think, in error. No Member of this House, even if I assume that the statement appeared in the "Times," or any other paper, would think it right to repeat it in the absence of a gentleman who cannot defend himself in this House. The statement reflected upon General Gough. The Leader of the Labour party stated in this House that he was informed on respectable authority that General Gough had gone round to a Tory club and had flouted this trophy! General Gough has stated himself since that he never belonged to a Conservative club, and had never been inside a Conservative club in his life. So far from going from the War Office to a Tory club to exhibit this trophy, as the Leader of the Labour party stated, he drove straight home to his mother's flat, and had just time to catch his train back to Ireland, and caught it. It is not surprising to discover that two days after this contradiction had publicly appeared, the "Daily News" published the statement in its leading article as if it were a fact and without the slightest doubt! Let us take the next step: take General Gough's case. I take him as a test case. Was he or was he not right in the letter which he wrote, and which has been published in the White Paper? I am not going to read that letter. I will only call the attention of the House to the clause in which General Gough says:—They were invited to take duty involving the 'initiation' of 'active military operations' against Ulster.Following that is a number of officers by regiments who respectfully, under protest, preferred to be dismissed. That is the letter he wrote. The Prime Minister has said of that letter that it was a very fair 883 and reasonable letter. It is useful to know that, inasmuch as by the letter declining the initiation of active military operations, the doctrine of absolute obedience under all circumstances, at any rate, has at least undergone very considerable modification. That is a fair and reasonable letter. The next step is that General Gough is ordered to the War Office. In the telegram which conveys this information, there is a passage—and I commend it to the attention of these protagonists in this new campaign of the people against the Army, as follows:—I fear the men will not move either.Are they co-conspirators? Are they part of this aristocratic movement?
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Mr. F. E. SMITH
I follow the hon. Members. The omission was: not only ought the officers to have been asked, but the men, too, ought to have been asked the question. Sir, the discipline of the democratised Army will add a few fresh pages to the records of military history! I suppose it will not be disputed that a competent general should know something of the temper of the men, and no one will pretend—the Government will not—that the general was not making a fair statement when he stated the facts at the War Office. He said the men would not move. Under these circumstances General Gough is summoned to London, and an important interview takes place between him and the ex-Secretary of State for War. It is reported in column 398 of the OFFICIAL REPORT. The importance of this interview may be very shortly explained, because I claim that what the Secretary of State for War said before the whole seriousness of this had been realised shows in the plainest possible way that at that important meeting of the Cabinet the Cabinet were plainly informed upon and understood these two conditions, and that every Member of the Cabinet knew of them. Now what took place? We got from the 884 late Secretary for War what took place. He has not given any memorandum of the conversation, but I take his own account, and I accept it verbatim. He says:—I said to him 'it must be made clear that His Majesty's Government must retain their right to use all the forces of the Crown in Ireland or elsewhere to maintain law and order, and to support the civil power in the ordinary execution of its duty.' But I said to him, 'with regard to your second question"—That is General Gough's second question, which was this:—Does that mean that we should have to take the initiative in Ulster?Mark what the Secretary of State for War said:—It is quite clear it is your duty to go anywhere in Ireland or elsewhere in support of the civil power whenever it is attacked. I can tell you clearly—since the situation already has been made irregular, I think it proper to tell you clearly—that His Majesty's Government has no intention whatever to take advantage of the right to protect the civil power whenever attacked, or however attacked, in order to crush political oppositions.That is the objection to the paragraph. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] The hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs shakes his head, but it is the whole case. What took place here is: General Gough said to the ex-Secretary of State for War, "If you had ordered me to go to Ulster I would have gone; if you had ordered me to support the civil powers in the ordinary execution of duty I would have supported it; but I want to know does that cover the initiating of active military operations in Ulster?" and in answer to that the ex-Secretary of State for War did repeat to him verbatim the very condition which has been the one point on which they have split in the negotiations that took place. What happened? Someone may say that involved the ex-Secretary of State for War, but how does it involve the Cabinet? The ex-Secretary of State for War himself made that perfectly clear, because he went on: "General Gough asked for it in writing, and I said, 'It is not only desirable but necessary we should have it in writing.'" There was no offence for asking for it in writing. Nothing fresh is added to the written guarantees, and nothing is added by the facts that it is in writing except merely as a mere matter of record. What happened next? The right hon. Gentleman says:—After seeing General Gough I went to the Cabinet.The Cabinet were sitting waiting to hear, and what was the one subject which must have been engaging the attention of the Cabinet. What was the one question upon which they were waiting information 885 from the Secretary of State for War? They were waiting there to know how they were going to deal with these resignations, and what did the ex-Secretary of State for War tell them. He said:—I went to the Cabinet. I told them what I have now told the House.And does anyone suppose that the ex-Secretary of State for War would give them a perfunctory or inaccurate version? He has remembered sufficiently clearly to tell us what I have read out to the House. He was going to his colleagues, and he was deeply concerned to know how they would deal with the crisis. Does anybody suppose that he would not tell them everything, especially in view of the statement of his—I told them what took place.He told them the terms of the bargain, and he told them the promise and assurance which he, as representing the Cabinet and the Government, had given to these officers of the Army. He told it all then, and the Cabinet had it before them. What is the next step? General Evart brings round a Memorandum. The ex-Secretary of State for War, being pressed for time, could not wait, and General Ewart brings round a Memorandum to the Cabinet which contains the record of this conversation, and we hear from the Prime Minister himself that General Ewart's recollection of the conversation was that the ex-Secretary of State for War had gone even further than the ultimate Memorandum, and that is the Memorandum which is laid before the Cabinet when the ex-Secretary of State for War left the Cabinet to go to Buckingham Palace. Does anyone think that when the ex-Secretary of State for War explained what these conditions were before he went to Buckingham Palace that anyone of his colleagues told him that these conditions were inadmissible, or had warned him that the conditions he had given, and had admitted to General Gough, were not binding on the Cabinet? What is the next step? When he was away there was of course discussion on these points at the Cabinet. We are told, for reasons I am perfectly prepared to admit may be a binding course, and supported by precedent, that documents laid before the Cabinet cannot be produced. It is much to be deplored that considerations of etiquette and precedent should deprive us of the instruction and use of that document, but we know this, that when the Secretary of State for War 886 came back from Buckingham Palace to the Cabinet meeting he had a moment or two of conversation with the Prime Minister.
Both the Prime Minister and the ex-Secretary of State for War told us what took place at that interview. I will tell the House what must have taken place if the present views of the colleagues of the ex-Secretary of State are right. The Prime Minister must have said to the ex-Secretary of State, "Here is this Memorandum; we cannot agree and will not agree to the conditions, and whatever you pledge us in your conversation with General Gough, you must not pledge us to here." Does anyone think the Prime Minister did that? The Prime Minister knew that General Gough had verbally insisted upon assurances. He knew that his colleague at the head of the Army had pledged what soldiers must think was the honour of the Government, and had verbally told him that his condition was admissible and necessary, and that it must be given in writing. The Prime Minister knew all that, and it is suggested that, having come to the conclusion at that Cabinet meeting that this, which was the consideration on which General Gough had gone back, could not be given, he never informed the Secretary of State for War that that was the decision of the Cabinet! No one in the world will ever believe it, but this, which is clear enough in itself, is made infinitely clearer by what happened immediately afterwards. I think the position of the ex-Secretary of State for War was a serious one. I have chosen my words carefully when I now say I think the position of Lord Morley is incomparably graver Lord Morley never left that Cabinet meeting. He took part in all the discussion. If the decision was taken at that meeting that the Cabinet would not agree to this condition of which they were informed, Lord Morley knew it. He knew the conclusion the Cabinet had arrived at. What happened?
The First Lord of the Admiralty gave us his account of what took place, and Lord Morley had given his. The First Lord of the Admiralty says when Lord Morley came into the room when the ex-Secretary of State for War was opening a box, and as he was in the room when the box was opened, he thought it was his duty chivalrously to accept the responsibilities for what the ex-Secretary of State for War did. I am myself unacquainted with what I may call the telepathetic standards of principles, 887 and I should be very interested to understand whether any person in the world is going to believe, or would believe, that Lord Morley, because he was in a room when a box was opened, but not consulted, is responsible for every ill-advised and unwarranted act which his colleague does. A few hours before the true version of the facts was being placed before the House of Lords, I am willing to recognise this, that Debates in both Houses were taking place very close upon one another, and I do not want to put it any higher than this, that an hour or two before the First Lord's statement Lord Morley had stated what was evidently the truth, that he had assisted to draft this very paragraph. What is the position? The Cabinet are not bound we are told, but on the contrary, they expressly refused to assent to the only conditions on which General Gough would return, and to the only condition on which he did return. We are told the ex-Secretary of State for War was unaware of the views of his colleague, because he was called to Buckingham Palace, and he went to a draftsman, that master of scholarly and precise English, who knew the views of his colleagues, and this draftsman helped him to draft this record of his disobedience to his own colleague. But that does not conclude the matter.
The Prime Minister, who from first to last appears to know nothing of these matters, was specifically asked a question by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London(Mr. Balfour) on this very point. My right hon. Friend asked, "Does the Government agree to these last two paragraphs? Did the Prime Minister see these two paragraphs before they were put in? I suppose that no colleague of the right hon. Gentleman saw them," and the answer was "No." But, Sir, I observe this, and it would be the only possible defence of Lord Morley, and I myself confess frankly, while Lord Morley is an ornament to any Government I cannot conceive how, if he helped, having been at the Cabinet at which the late Secretary for War was not present, to draft these paragraphs, how he can sit in a Cabinet which has thrown the ex-Secretary of State for War over. Nor as far as Lord Morley was concerned, was this a mechanical performance. I think I can satisfy the House of that by reference to a fact which probably may have escaped notice. On behalf of the Government 888 Lord Morley went to the House of Lords in order to declare the policy of the Government in the novel and difficult position which had arisen. What does he do? He actually copies these two paragraphs and reads them in the House of Lords as the policy of the Government—paragraphs which have split the Cabinet, paragraphs on the strength of which the ex-Secretary of State for War has temporarily, at least, lost his political career. The spokesman of this same Government goes down to the House of Lords, and, when invited to give the policy of the Government, he does so in the very words of these two paragraphs. Let me read them: This is an extract from the speech of Lord Morley conveying the message the Government had to give:—The Government must always retain the right to use all the forces of the Crown to uphold law and order and to support the civil power and authorities though we have no intention as things now stand of taking advantage of that right against any opposition to the principles and policy of the Government of Ireland Bill,So that the Cabinet, which could never have agreed as a point of principle to these two conditions being given to General Gough—whether verbal or in writing is obviously immaterial—had the extreme misfortune to be represented in the House of Lords by a colleague who had agreed to them, who had helped to draft them, and who thought they were so important that he took a copy of them, and was so pleased with the copy he had taken that he read it out to the House of Lords; and Lord Morley continues to be an ornament of a Government which has jettisoned the ex-Secretary for War. Observe, Lord Morley had drafted these paragraphs as conditions, and he sat silent in the House of Lords when twice the Lord Chancellor, being pointedly asked, was invited to state whether or not these officers had gone back unconditionally. He knew they had gone back conditionally, and yet Lord Morley sat silent when the Lord Chancellor said they had gone back unconditionally. What happened two days later? Lord Haldane felt it necessary, in order to put himself right with the House of Lords, to say:—I have always been scrupulous that I should not mislead your Lordships on a question of fact, and I wish to apologise, because on Monday I stated that these officers went back unconditionally, but I have learned since that they went back conditionally.Lord Morley sat there, knowing they had gone back conditionally, and he allowed that statement to be made. Lord Morley did not, in fact, contradict that. If the right hon. Gentleman opposite says that Lord Morley did not hear what took 889 place, and if Lord Morley tells me he did not hear it, I would unreservedly accept it; but that is somewhat unusual, and I have no reason to suppose that Lord Morley is incapable of hearing what took place. I have only one observation to make in conclusion. The House has listened with the greatest possible indulgence to what I am quite sensible has been a long demand on the patience of hon. Members. I would like to ask, Does the statement made by Lord Haldane in the House of Lords last Monday, or does it not, represent the policy of the Government?—No orders were issued, no orders are likely to be issued, and no orders will be issued for the coercion of Ulster.Or is Lord Haldane to be thrown over too? Is not the truth of this whole matter that on Monday the Cabinet were prepared on any terms to prevent the resignation of these officers; that on Tuesday there came the speech made by the new Leader of hon. Gentlemen opposite the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. John Ward) raising the issue of the King and the Army against this House? Well, if the hon. Gentleman declares that that is the battle-ground on which he is prepared to fight, I do not know how many hon. Members of this House are prepared to follow him in that quarrel. In the meantime we know that the Prime Minister has most expressly dissociated himself from an attack which I will take leave to say—because I do not wish to speak of this provocatively—that one should think and think again before attacking in this House one who cannot answer for himself or defend himself. [HON. MEMBERS: "Lord Morley!"] Do hon. Gentlemen suggest that that is a parallel case? What is the Treasury Bench here for if it is not to defend their colleagues? Is that not an analogous Case—
What is the Opposition Front Bench for except to defend the King? [HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw!"]
§ Mr. F. E. SMITH
I am sorry that the hon. Member has made that observation, but I am sincerely anxious on this point. It is a subject of heated party controversy, and I do not think, in all the circumstances, I have been unduly provocative. I should be glad if the Debate concluded, as far as I am concerned, without passing beyond that. I venture to add, with the greatest sincerity, that while I have given this recital of the last few weeks, while I have put forward the events to which we on this 890 side of the House attach grave significance, I do believe that a time has come when men of all parties in this House would be well advised to consider, not where one party is drifting, but where we are all drifting. We shall not arrive at a conclusion upon this point by long historical arguments and recriminations. Nobody will ever persuade us on this side of the House that we have not been justified in the things we have done. I admit they were very difficult to justify. No one will ever persuade hon. Gentlemen opposite that they, equally on their part, and carrying the historical question back to a remoter date, were not justified in what they have done.
These events will be decided by the historian, and he will care little to hear us proclaiming with a loud and obsolete voice that the beginning and end of all the difficulties in which we are involved has been merely your subjugation to the Irish Nationalist party; he will care less to hear you say that the principal responsibility rests upon the shoulders of those who have inculcated and preached the doctrine of insurrection. What he will say is that the whole House of Commons, all of you who ought to have been the trustees, not for any part, but for the nation as a whole, "You inherited from the past a great and splendid possession, and where is it now?" As far as I am concerned, I can only say—and I believe, as far as many who sit on this side of the House are concerned—late as is the period at which this controversy has now arrived—I believe many of us are willing that it should be conducted in those later stages, even though the mischief be irreparable, with a deep sense of responsibility and an anxious desire to see, even while the water runs under the bridges, whether nothing can be done by the House of Commons to retain some memory of the patriotism and traditions of the past.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
The right hon. Gen-man has delivered a speech which is a fine specimen of his argumentative powers, and I confess that while I was listening to the latter part of it—I do not mean the last passage, in which he struck a different note, but I mean the latter part of his argumentative attack upon the Government—I could not help feeling impressed with how easy it must be for a very distinguished lawyer to procure the conviction of an innocent man. I daresay my experience during that portion of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, in which 891 he tried to prove that the Government assented to the full terms of the letter given to General Gough, was shared by any colleagues on this Bench, who, of course, know all the circumstances, and who cannot fail to have followed with deep interest the way in which the most disconnected and most irrelevant topics were woven together with the utmost skill to point to a conclusion which our minds reject as false, and even as monstrous. What is it that the right hon. Gentleman sets himself to prove? That the Cabinet as a Cabinet was responsible for the last two paragraphs of the letter given to General Gough, and he said that they knew all along that General Gough was insisting upon those two conditions. There is not a word of truth in that. I am not at liberty to go into any discussion of what takes place in the Cabinet. Every-one knows that that would be entirely improper. No record is kept, and inviolable secrecy, necessary in the interests of the State, surrounds those proceedings. It would be a great mistake to suppose that the Cabinet was occupied to any extent either of its time or its attention with General Gough and his affairs.
We received the statement on the general situation from the Secretary for War, who then was summoned away. We sent for the document which he said the Adjutant-General had prepared. The document did not arrive in time to be read to the Cabinet. The Prime Minister, who knew the mind of the Cabinet, took the document, and with his own hands cut it down to the limits of the first three paragraphs printed in the White Paper. I was present at the time and saw the Prime Minister striking out all the other paragraphs—and there were a great many—except these three, and then he handed them to the Secretary of State. How can the right hon. Gentleman think it worth while to charge against us, a body of men whose characters are not unknown to the House, that we would deliberately throw over a colleague to whose action we were thus pledged? Nothing but the fact that my right hon. Friend the Member for the Ilkeston Division (Colonel Seely), on his own responsibility, and after the document had left the hands of the Prime Minister, added the two last paragraphs himself, nothing but that fact has caused a separation from him which we all regret to-day. As to Lord Morley, the 892 right hon. Gentleman's statement certainly amounted to a very serious charge. He charged him, not with speaking obscurely, but with not speaking the truth. He said that, although he knew these conditions had been exacted by General Gough and had been put into the document by the Secretary of State, and although he approved of them being put in, yet he sat still during the debate on the first day and listened to his colleague, the Lord Chancellor, innocently and ignorantly stating that General Gough had gone back unconditionally. There is no truth or justification for that.
I shall not undertake the defence of Lord Morley in this House, because it is unnecessary, and because he has already this afternoon dealt with his position in another place where it is appropriate that he should be attacked, and where he has every opportunity and facility of defending his position. The case is substantially as I stated to the House the other night. Lord Morley remained in the Cabinet room with the Secretary of State for War, not for the purpose of approving any War Office action, or any decision of the Secretary of State for War, or of aiding in that decision, but for the purpose of learning what he had to say in the House of Lords when that body assembled very shortly afterwards. The right hon. and learned Gentleman states, as the lynch-pin of his argument, that Lord Morley actually copied out the two appended paragraphs, and restated them to the House of Lords. That is cited by the right hon. and learned Gentleman to prove that Lord Morley was an effective and responsible assenting party to the addition of those two paragraphs as a War Office document, but it proves with much greater clearness the fact that he was obtaining these paragraphs for the purpose of the statement which he was to make in the House of Lords, and he was not interfering in any way with the decision at which my right hon. Friend the Member for the Ilkeston Division had arrived. I think it is a great pity that the fine speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman should have been so much occupied with endeavouring to prove trivial matters of apparent inconsistency or discord between Ministers, the offensive part of which I do not think he believes himself, and which, in fact, and on the merits and in substance, have no foundation and no justice and no reality whatever. 893 I pass to the more serious part of the right hon. and learned Gentleman's speech, that connected with the military operations. Here again I must make an observation. The House must be impressed with the great contrast between the kind of statement that people have the face to make here, and the presentation of the Opposition case as found in the London newspapers. One of the great hindrances which the party opposite suffers from, and which retards their progress towards political convalescence, is the fact that they are swayed and influenced, and, if I may use the word in no offensive sense, intoxicated by the powerful newspapers on which they feed. When a respectable Conservative wakes up in the morning and goes through all that long series of newspapers, beginning with the "Times" and ending with the "Daily Express" and "Pall Mall Gazette," it is not to be wondered at that his judgment is distorted and that he arrives at the House of Commons inspired with the highest indignation and a sense of approaching triumph. It is not until he has listened to the speeches of his leaders that some measure of moderation and sobriety is instilled into his mind. The right hon. and learned Gentleman, in his reference to the military movements and to the Irish situation, had the very greatest need to prove two things, neither of which were true. First, he had to prove that we were almost on the verge of making peace about the Irish question, when these unfortunate movements took place. Secondly, he had to prove that these movements were themselves the first step in an insidious but deeply laid strategic scheme for grasping the vital key positions for a general advance on Ulster. The House can judge pretty well of the first of those two tasks, and, from its scanty relation to the facts, they can judge to some extent of the relation in which the second of those two charges stands to the actual truth.
I should state the position somewhat differently from the right hon. and learned Gentleman. To have heard him speak one would have supposed that our difficulties about Ireland were nearly settled on or before 14th March. What was the case? I must go back upon this subject, in order that our position may be fairly placed before the country. On the 9th March the Prime Minister made his offer to the Opposition of the exclusion of the Ulster counties by majorities for a six 894 year period. That offer made it perfectly clear that there must be two General Elections before any Ulster county could be compelled to come within the ambit of a Home Rule Parliament. After that statement was made, if it were accepted by the Opposition as the basis for discussion, there could no longer be any question about Ulster being coerced by this Government into submission to a Home Rule Parliament, or having to accept until two General Elections had taken place any position or any arrangement different from that they now occupy, and under which they now prosper. That is the basic fact, and from which all argument should start this afternoon. After that offer had been made, it is quite clear that it was not the Ulster question which lay between us, but much wider and much larger and much graver issues, to which I will refer before I sit down. It was clear that it was no longer in the cause of Ulster's liberties, civil and religious, that these dangers were to be incurred by the Opposition, and that these tests were to be placed before the country. It was because Ulster, no longer concerned with her own affairs, was seeking to bar the way to the whole of the rest of Ireland, and was seeking to influence the destinies of British politics. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] How was that offer received? The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition gave—I am not quoting him, but the gist and tenour of his speech was to give—his right hon. Friend, who sits beside him (Sir E. Carson), a blank cheque. Ulster had to be satisfied by the Government. Unless Ulster was satisfied, any resistance she might offer, whether justified or not, he would support with the whole strength of the Unionist organisation.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I really do not want at all to misrepresent the right hon. Gentleman. [An HON. MEMBER: "You cannot help it."] I do not wish to misrepresent him, but that was the impression which his speech created on this side of the House. I am quite content, however, to base myself—the House knows his attitude—upon the action of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Dublin University. He got up at once and said that he would not even put this great offer before an Ulster Convention. He spoke no word of appreciation or of kindly consideration of an offer which had cost much 895 to many who sit on this side of the House, at any rate. He said that he would not even put it to a Convention, and in a speech the tone of which I greatly regretted—[Laughter.] I regretted it not for the right hon. Gentleman's sake, but because I was wounded and grieved deeply to find that this offer, on which so many of us had pinned our hopes, was so unceremoniously repulsed and rejected. But the right hon. and learned Gentleman proceeded the next day to write a letter to some division of his army in Ulster, the very next day after the Prime Minister's speech, when all great issues as we know depended on that speech, and all the hopes on both sides of the House were attached to the proposal that had been made, and this is what the right hon. and learned Gentleman wrote:—It is clear to my mind that so far as our preparations are concerned, the pronouncement of the Government, if anything, necessitates a still more forward movement. This year will be exceptional, and will really be the climax of all that we have been aiming at. We are going to make good in action all we have been saying and preparing for during the past two years.Then the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. F. E. Smith) rises this afternoon and tries to make out that we were on the verge of a settlement. I regretted that letter of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Dublin University as one of the most cruel and violent blows struck against the peaceful settlement of this controversy, and the fact that it should have been written the very day after the Prime Minister's speech was taken struck in my heart a note of despair, and made me realise more than anything how hopelessly difficult it is to attempt to arrive at a good solution of these difficulties as long as the right hon. and learned Gentleman and his Friends have in their minds that they have only to bully to prevail. It was on that basis, and not on the basis of happy and hopeful progress towards agreement, to which the right hon. and learned Gentleman has referred; it was on the basis of the attitude of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Dublin University and of the repulse of our efforts at conciliation that the measures of the Government have been considered. In the first place, the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has referred to a speech which I made at Bradford. I will come to that later, but for the moment I am going to deal with the military measures which were decided on. There surely never could be any stronger case than was presented to the Govern- 896 ment for safeguarding the various depots scattered about in Ulster! As early as January of this year my right hon. Friend the Member for the Ilkeston Division asked me to supply a ship for the protection of Carrickfergus Castle. Carrickfergus Castle contains over 85 tons of small arm ammunition. I do not know whether I am revealing military secrets to another force, but it contains 85 tons of ammunition, and rumours had been rife that an attack might be made—
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
The right hon. and learned Gentleman will destroy his prestige if he makes silly interruptions. The rumour was that these places, very weakly defended, or hardly held at all—probably by only a dozen men—might be attacked. I answered my right hon. Friend the late Secretary for War by saying that I knew a fair offer was going to be made to the Opposition which I had every reason to believe would remove the question outstanding from the military arena, and in the interval I would not send a ship unless I was directed to by the Cabinet. After the repulse of that offer, we were forced to consider the position at these small depots. The Ulster preparations are, of course, notorious, and the right hon. Gentleman when he rose just now was only concerned to repudiate the idea that they were not effective preparations.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
The Ulster preparations are notorious. We have been told repeatedly in the columns of newspapers and by Conservative speakers what a great army has been created there, with all the courage of the old Covenanting Ironsides, the organisation of Germany, the heroic self-sacrifice of Japan, and so forth. We had received police reports from many parts of the disturbed districts, and we had also received military opinions and military advice as to the insecurity of these depots. What was the position? Carrickfergus Castle, with 85 tons of ammunition, held by 15 or 20 men only; a weak battalion in the Victoria Barracks, Belfast, of 500 or 600 men, with about 30 tons of ammunition in their possession, in the narrow streets of that city; at Omagh, a small garrison of 80 or 100 men—I am giving the figures from memory; I have not verified their exactitude—and there, again, 897 we had about 30 tons of ammunition. At Armagh the position was practically the same. At Enniskillen we had another store of ammunition of about the same size, while at Dundalk there were 18 guns of Royal Artillery. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of this as a great defence, but these guns were quite unprotected by any military escort, and the military authorities impressed upon us the temptation they would offer—supposing there was any truth or substance in the statements which are made and which had been made so often from that quarter of the House—they impressed upon us that this was a place which it would be wrong to leave unprotected. It was a different case to the small depots, where the temptation, if not to the headquarters staff of the Ulster Army, was a temptation to various bands or portions of this force which might get too excited and break out of all reasonable control. We decided it was our duty to remove that temptation. There were two methods by which we could have removed it. We could have evacuated Omagh, Armagh, and Dundalk, and have brought the ammunition and guns back to Dublin or the Curragh. That was the course recommended by our military advisers. Viewed as a purely military measure, if we had intended to make a general advance upon the province of Ulster, the withdrawal of troops and ammunition from these isolated detached points of no straegic value, would have been the right and proper course to adopt. Although we have done our best to treat seriously the movement of the Ulster Volunteers, we felt, unhappy as are the times, that the situation in which we stand is not yet such that His Majesty's Artillery and munitions cannot be left at those regular places, or that we were forced to adopt a measure of military concentration. Therefore, we decided to reinforce those places and to reinforce them to this extent, that they would be beyond the reach of mischievous enterprise, and that they could not be reduced or captured unless they were the object of serious operations.
The next question which we considered was whether or not our measures would cause an outbreak, and on that we had to take into consideration the opinion of Sir Arthur Paget. On receiving the letter of the 14th, Sir Arthur wished to come over to London and discuss with us, among other things, what he considered would be the effect of these movements. Sir Arthur took a very serious view of them. He thought they would create intense excite- 898 ment and so might bring on a great crisis. Of course, the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition would have agreed with Sir Arthur Paget if he had been told that there was grave danger of creating a serious situation, because he informed us at the beginning of the Session how explosive was the Ulster situation that a word, an accident, or a mere inquiry by a policeman might precipitate the crisis. The right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken told us this afternoon how serious the danger really was, because he said if the Ulster headquarters staff had come to the conclusion that these movements were really of a strategic character, they would have immediately attacked the British troops marching on to those points. We did not take so serious a view of the situation as Sir Arthur Paget. In fact we did not know then what the right hon. Gentleman has told us this afternoon, or that it had gone so far as that. But we inquired of the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant what was his opinion of the effect of these movements of troops in Ulster, and the right hon. Gentleman, after full consideration, said he did not consider that they would be viewed as provocative. He said that any interference with the drilling of the volunteers, or any attempt to arrest the leaders, or to deprive the volunteers of their arms, would, he thought, precipitate a crisis, but he did not consider that the movements of troops, who, we have always been assured, would be welcome in Ulster—always at any rate until this afternoon—he did not consider that the movements of troops to these depots, where troops have in almost every case been quartered for a long time, would be viewed as provocative. We acted on his advice, and, in the event, he has proved to be right. We felt there was a risk, and we considered, as the Foreign Secretary said, that in the circumstances the risk had to be run.
I wish to make three points quite clear in regard to what followed and to the instructions which were given by the Government. Sir Arthur Paget received no orders or instructions for any movements of troops other than the precautionary movements which I have explained to the House. The movements were assented to in principle by the Cabinet, and their details were approved at a conference presided over by the Prime Minister between Members of the Cabinet, the principal members of the Army Council and Sir Arthur Paget. No one in the Government believed that these precautionary 899 movements would lead to bloodshed, but, as I have said, Sir Arthur Paget took a very serious view, and, at any rate, thought it was necessary to take into full consideration all possibilities. As Commander-in-Chief in Ireland, Sir Arthur had full discretionary power. If new circumstances arose, if the depots were attacked, or if the columns marching to reinforce them were resisted, he had full discretionary power to make such dispositions of the forces under his command as the emergency might require, and he was told that, if necessary, large reinforcements would be sent to him from England. Six contingencies, separate or in combination, had to be borne in mind by the General. A military Commander may be excused if he makes preparations which afterwards are found to be unnecessary, but he is not to be excused if he does not take all measures of reasonable prudence to guard against, not only what is dangerous, but what may possibly become dangerous as a consequence of the action he is going to take.
Sir Arthur Paget had to consider, firstly, the possibility of armed opposition to the small bodies of troops that were moving to reinforce the depots, secondly, attacks on those depots themselves or on the Artillery at Dundalk; thirdly, the blowing up or destruction of railway lines; fourthly, the outbreak of serious conflict in Belfast between the Protestant and Catholic elements, following upon the proclamation of a provisional Government or else arising out of the general excitement; fifthly, he had to provide against widespread sporadic disorder in the South and West of Ireland, requiring the use of large numbers of troops to protect the scattered Protestants against the reprisals which might be made upon them by the Catholic population. That was a consideration he had to take into account; sixthly, he also had to bear in mind the possibility of an organised warlike movement of Ulster volunteers, under their responsible leaders, and to provide for the concentration of military forces. Until the right hon. Gentleman spoke this afternoon I am bound to say that that was not a consideration which had entered into my mind or into the minds of my colleagues in the Government. But it was present to Sir Arthur Paget's mind, and the right hon. Gentleman has shown that it was a real contingency against which provision had to be made by the military 900 commander. So much for the precautionary movements which Sir Arthur Paget was authorised to make, and the contingent preparations against the results and consequences of those movements. When Sir Arthur Paget discussed these precautionary moves with the Secretary of State and also earlier in the year, he naturally raised the question of the possible disaffection of officers, and the Secretary of State gave him orally, for his guidance in individual cases, should they occur, the following two principles: First, that officers ordered to act in support of the civil power should not be permitted to resign their commission, but must, if they refused to obey orders, be dismissed from the Army; and, secondly, that indulgence might be shown, in cases where it was asked for, to officers who were domiciled in Ulster. There was no intention on the part of the Government or of the Secretary of State, or of any other Member of the Government, or of the Army Council, that those two rules, which were given to Sir Arthur Paget for his guidance in case of great emergency arising, should be put as a hypothetical question to the whole body of officers in the Irish command, nor did Sir Arthur Paget intend to do so, nor, as he states, did he do so. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"]
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I say that Sir Arthur Paget did not intend to put a hypothetical question of this character as a test and as a trial to the whole body of officers in the Irish command.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW rose—
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
It will save time if you allow me to continue. Nor, as he states, did he do so. He denies altogether that he put a pistol at their heads.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
May I put a question to the right hon. Gentleman? I have on three separate occasions urged upon the Prime Minister that he should give to the House Sir Arthur Paget's statement of what took place. Why do the Government not do so?
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
The statement which I have just made I make after having had an opportunity of communicating with Sir Arthur Paget. It is admitted that a misunderstanding on the point arose.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I now propose to deal with the point about which a great deal has been made out of doors and something in this House on the last occasion when we discussed this subject, but which the right hon. Gentleman who spoke last has not seen fit even to repeat this afternoon. It has been repeatedly stated that Sir Arthur Paget said that provocation would come from Ulster, and on this has been founded the charge that steps have been taken to arrange for or foment—[An HON. MEMBER: "What about Fergusson?"]—such provocative action on their part. This imputation is a deliberate untruth. The Members of the Government who attended the conference in London were deeply impressed with Sir Arthur Paget's evident sense of humanity and forbearance. He repeatedly assured us that he would, in no circumstances which could arise, allow his troops to fire upon the Orangemen until the troops had been fired at for some time and had themselves suffered effective loss. He impressed this point on the generals, who met him in conference on the Friday morning, in order to make clear to them the gulf which existed between the precautionary moves and the grave consequences which might follow from them. It is an extraordinary instance of the perversity which can be effected of truth by malice and rumour that this statement of Sir Arthur Paget's that the troops would themselves submit to be fired on for some time by the Orangemen before they made any reply, should have actually been perverted into the diabolic falsehood that some method was to be adopted to provoke the Ulstermen. To sum up on these three points: while Sir Arthur Paget had discretionary power to take any action which sudden and grave emergency might require, he had no directions from any quarter to take any action outside the precautionary moves for guarding the depots, and no orders were ever issued by him, except stand-by orders, for any purpose or plan outside those movements. That is the first statement I make.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
Secondly, Sir Arthur Paget was never directed to subject the officers under his command to the test whether they would be prepared to declare themselves willing to undertake active operations against Ulster, nor did he intend at any time to force that alternative upon them.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
The Noble Lord is very insistent. He must not suppose that I am in the witness box, and that he is cross-examining me.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
May I remind the right hon. Gentleman that the Prime Minister told us at Question Time that these questions, which were on the Paper, would be answered in the course of the Debate. I venture to ask the right hon. Gentleman what are the questions alluded to in the third paragraph of the Memorandum of 23rd March, which runs as follows:This is the only point it was intended to put to the officers in the question of the General Officer CommandingI think the House has a right to know what those questions were.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I have stated to the House what we ascertained to be the intention of Sir Arthur Paget. It is admitted that a misunderstanding arose. The third point which I make is this: So far from his lending himself to any scheme to provoke wantonly a collision with the Ulster volunteers, Sir Arthur Paget resolved to observe every conceivable precaution which courage and humanity could suggest to prevent a collision, and in this he has acted in the fullest harmony with what he knew were the wishes of the Government. I have explained Sir Arthur Paget's deep anxiety, both before the movements were made and while they were being effected, and I have explained that the Government did not take so serious a view. We felt that between these small movements we were ordering and all further military movements there was a great gulf fixed. Past that gulf events would have to occur of a character totally different from anything which we have now to consider. Nothing could span the gulf between the precautionary movements and the contingent preparations which were made except a deliberate, aggressive and unprovoked attack upon British soldiers marching in His Majesty's Dominions. If 903 that had happened, I say without hesitation that all the other measures which we had prepared to take would have been absolutely appropriate and necessary. I confess to the House that I slept tranquilly through these proceedings, because, in the first place, it does not seem to me probable that when men can vote themselves out of the operation of a Bill they dislike they will run the awful risk of making an unprovoked attack upon British troops; secondly, it is clear that the Ulster leaders would put themselves hopelessly in the wrong by such an action; and, thirdly, we believed that they had among them some competent military men who could point out to them that none of these moves were of a strategic character, with a single exception of the battalion which was moved out of Belfast to Holywood, in order that it should not be entangled in those narrow streets.
Therefore, the Government felt no grave anxiety similar to that felt by Sir Arthur Paget while those moves were taking place. But we were bound to be prepared. We were absolutely bound to be prepared, and, still more, were the generals who were charged with the direct responsibility. I do not quite understand the line which is taken by the speakers and by the party opposite in regard to the measures which the Government take to maintain law and order. So extraordinary is the position we have reached that the doctrine is seriously put forward that the only force which it is legitimate to use is rebellious force. To organise an army of 100,000 men, to equip it with all the ancillary services, to divide it into its brigades and divisions, to have its aeroplanes and its telegraphs, and its despatch riders all supplied—[An HON. MEMBER: "And gallopers"]—its headquarters staff, and all its aides-de-camp and appurtenances—to raise that army and keep it on foot, and to proclaim that you intend, in the words of the right hon. Gentleman, which I read to the House,to make good in action all that we have been saying and preparing during the last two years.—to take steps like that is regarded as patriotic, virtuous, innocent, noble, loyal! But for a Government to move a few hundred Infantry to protect their ammunition places—[An HON. MEMBER: "And battleships"]—and to take precautions to support and protect those troops if they are attacked by this great army—that is a 904 fiendish, treacherous, vile conspiracy directed against the life and religion of a free people. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition is not entitled to use the argument that no force could be used in any circumstances against Ulster, because he told us if a Referendum were to take place—he did not even make any restriction as to the number of persons who might vote—but if, by a bare majority on a Referendum Home Rule were affirmed, he said we should be justified in coercing Ulster, not merely to avoid attacking us, not merely to keep the law, but, indeed, to accept the Home Rule Bill.
That is the right hon. Gentleman's doctrine. It is a harder doctrine than we have maintained on this side of the House with regard to the Army and Navy. But against armed rebellion, if it occurs, force is certainly justified, and it is a duty, and a sacred duty of Ministers while they assume the responsibility of Government—it is their absolute duty—to take all necessary measures in their power and at their disposal to cope with armed rebellion. I think it is a great mistake to try to deal with this subject only by analogy with strikes and labour disputes, although there is a very valuable branch of the argument which may be opened up there. A much truer analogy is to be found if we keep our eye still steadily fixed on Ireland. Apply the doctrines of the Conservative party to a new case. Let us assume that the hon. and learned Member for Waterford (Mr. John Redmond) were to raise an army. [A laugh.] The Noble Lord (Earl Winterton) has not seen the Irish troops in the field or he would not raise an unworthy laugh. Suppose the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. John Redmond) were to raise an army, as I dare say he could do, by holding up his hand, of 100,000 men. Suppose he were to be supported by large subscriptions from this country, and suppose there were lying about, as there are, over the South of Ireland, large depots filled with ammunition in the midst of a population under the influence and control of the hon. and learned Gentleman. Suppose it was believed that he was likely to make a forward move, in the words of the right hon. Gentleman, against these depots, would it not be thought right and proper that we should reinforce them? If it were thought, on military authority, that the troops marching to reinforce them might attack, would it not be right and proper to 905 consider what other bodies of troops were available to go to their aid? If that issue had arisen with the Cavalry brigade at the Curragh, there would have been a good deal less difficulty than has actually occurred. I have seen a great number of cartoons in the newspapers which took this form. A British soldier is represented speaking to an Irish Nationalist, and saying, "Do you think I am going to fight for you?" It is a favourite point with the right hon. Gentleman, but what is the answer which the Nationalist is entitled to make? It is a very simple one. "Will you let me fight for myself?" What is the comment which the Imperial Government is bound to make on that? We are bound to say, "No, you shall not fight for yourselves; you shall be obliged to confine yourselves to constitutional action," and we are bound to make sure that constitutional action is not frustrated by lawless violence.
I leave the question of military movements and come to the political issues between the great parties. I withdraw no word which I spoke at Bradford. I was convinced by the behaviour of the Leader of the Opposition and the right hon. Gentleman (Sir E. Carson) that there is no settlement possible while one side believes that it can go to any extreme with impunity and that the other side will certainly give way if sufficient violence and offence is used. I desire, like most other Members in this House, a settlement of this question. But I am sure one will never be reached as long as the opinion is rooted in the breasts of the Opposition, and particularly of the Opposition from North-East Ulster, that we fear them or fear any consequences which may come to us while we pursue our legitimate constitutional path. I am told that the Bradford speech was provocative. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir E. Carson) is a good judge of provocation. What is the provocation that we have borne? I am not speaking of speeches. Speeches are a very mild form of provocation compared with the offence which has been offered to us during the last two years. We have been confronted with an avowed conspiracy to defy Parliament and the law, leaving a great army practising preparations for rebellion and for the setting up of a provisional Government, which would be an outrage against the realm and the Empire. What of the seduction of the Army? What of the double manœuvre by which Parliamentary government is to be 906 subverted? I mean that the hon. Gentleman (Sir E. Carson) is to raise a rebellion in Ulster greater than the police could cope with, and the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Bonar Law) and his associates are to create a state of opinion in the British Army which will prevent it being used. These are the political methods with which we are confronted. And then they talked to us of provocative speeches. I am going to make—it is my right to do so—a definite charge against the leaders of the Opposition in both Houses of attempting, and as far as is in their power effecting, the seduction of the Army. I am not going to deal with newspaper incitements. They are numerous, they are innumerable, patent, open, repeated, and flagrant. But neither is it in my power to deal with that immense process of private and social subordination. I am going to confine myself to the public utterances of men who, if parties changed, would be called upon to occupy positions of the greatest responsibility. I take the latest utterance of the Leader of the Opposition. Speaking on the 23rd of this month he said:—The Home knows that we on this side have from the very first held the view that to coerce Ulster is an operation which no Government under existing conditions has a right to ask the Army to undertake. And in our view of course it is not necessary to say that any officer who refuses is only fulfilling his duty.There was a young subaltern officer whose letter was published by his father in the "Pall Mall Gazette" last week, who took a different view of what the duty of a soldier should be. He wrote:—I have decided to stay on for the following reasons. Although as you know my sympathies are absolutely with Ulster, I think that at a time like this the Army most stick together. If we once start to disintegrate the service, then goodbye to the Empire and anything else that happens. Moreover, in case of strike duty, the men whose sympathies are fairly obviously with the strikers, have to carry on and do their duty so that now it is up to us to do the same.That is the kind of officer who, according to the Leader of the Conservative Party, is failing to fulfil his duties—the kind of officer who is, to use the language of the newspapers, "demeaning himself by doing the dirty work of the Liberal party." That is the kind of officer who the Leader of the Opposition suggested could not be a gentleman, for no gentleman would do such work. But the question is more serious, and we must go back to an earlier period. This process of seducing the Army from its allegiance to lawful authorities has been going on for a long time, and it first took, as far as I am aware, the public form of statements by responsible Unionist leaders in 907 the autumn of last year. On 18th November Lord Lansdowne, who, as an ex-Secretary of State for War, should of all other men have been particularly careful, because he would have special influence in the Army, said:—But what about seducing the Army. The fault, if fault there be, lies not with us, for I know of no Unionist who has ever used language which could be interpreted as inciting the Army to do anything but their duty.The right hon. Gentleman's colleague, working very closely with him, told us only yesterday what was his duty. He would be only fulfilling his duty if he refused to obey the orders of his superiors. Lord Lansdowne continues:—The fault lies with those who have announced, not ambiguously, that they intend to use force in Ulster. It has been prompted not by us, but the question is one of the effect which will be produced upon the Army of this country if they are called upon to use violence against their fellow subjects in Ulster. That is a question which, with or without Mr. Churchill's permission, is being asked at this moment wherever thoughtful men are discussing the problem of Ulster.The right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken used this langauge the day before:When the Attorney-General said he would meet force with force, what he meant was that he and his Friends would place at the disposal of the Nationalist party, which kept him in office, as the result of a corrupt bargain, the forces of the English Crown. He said to the Government: 'Try it if they dare!' He said the instrument would break in their hands, and he said it would not be their fault if the Government succeeded.Even earlier than that the right hon. Gentleman (Sir E. Carson), on 12th July, said:—The Government know perfectly well that they could not to-morrow rely upon the Army to shoot down the people of Ulster. The Army are with us, and for this reason, that the British Army have never been guilty of treachery.[Cheers.] Every cheer on these sentiments is an admission of the charge I am making. The Prime Minister had to deal with the statement of Lord Lansdowne, and he did so at Leeds in language with which the House is familiar. I will only read the operative sentences:—In many of the recent utterances, even of responsible statesmen like Lord Lansdowne, there is, expressed or implied, what I described some time ago as the whole gospel of anarchy.' If you once lay down that the individual Citizen has in his own bosom a dispensing authority which entitles him to offer armed resistance to the law of the land, and, further, that the servants of the State, be they soldiers or police, be they officers or men, may discriminate at will between the binding force of the various orders which from time to time they receive from those above them—I say it, and I say it with all scleamnity—once accept such a doctrine as that, do not he blind enough to suppose that its application will be confined to a particular case.After a serious warning of that kind, the Leader of the Conservative party spoke at 908 Dublin—not far from the Curragh. This is what he said:—I ask him [the Prime Minister] to turn his mind to the history of the great Revolution. Then the country arose against a tyranny. It was the tyranny of a king, but other people besides kings can exercise tyranny, and other people besides kings can be treated in the same way.I am not in the least quarrelling with the sentiments. I am pointing out that this is part of an organised campaign to seduce the Army. He said:—In order to carry out his despotic intention the King had the largest paid Army which had ever been seen in England. What happened? There was no civil war. There was a Revolution and the King disappeared. Why? Because his own Army refused to fight for him.I am not going to base my interpretation of these statements upon any Liberal opinion or upon my own opinion. It is quite clear what they mean, and what they were understood to mean. I will take Conservative opinion. Lord Derby, speaking at Blackburn a few days later, said:—There is one matter on which to a certain extent I am in agreement with Mr. Asquith, and that is as to what would be the duties of His Majesty's troops if there was armed resistance. I myself have served, as probably have many of you in this room, for some time in the Army. You may have served in the Auxiliary Forces, but we were both bound by the same law that binds those who are serving at present. That law was that we have no politics in the Army. and, right or wrong, we have got to do what we are told.Lord Selborne, speaking two days later, said:—He would never hear, at the time of this crisis or any other crisis, the suggestion that it could be the duty of the Army to refuse to obey orders. The duty of a soldier, be he efficer or private, was obedience to lawful commands.It is quite clear that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Conservative party, in his campaign for the seduction of the Army, was rebuked even by friendly critics of his own party. The last of these quotations with which I shall burden the House was Lord Roberts' letter written to a correspondent, and published in the newspapers on 9th March. In that letter he said:—In answer to your inquiry, I am advised on high authority that the British Covenant cannot possibly be held to conflict with the military duty of any officer or man of the Territorial Force…What are the terms of the Covenant?I of shall hold myself justified in taking or supporting any action that may be effective to prevent it [the Home Rule Bill] being put into operation, and more particularly to prevent the armed forces of the Crown being used to deprive the people of Ulster of their rights as citizens of the United Kingdom.Here you get this Field-Marshal, who has commanded the largest British Army in the field, signing the Covenant and asking 909 others to do so, and urging that any means which may be effective should be taken to prevent the Army from obeying its orders? If this has been done by the leaders, what have the followers been doing. I do not know whether the hon. Member for the Ludlow Division of Shropshire is in his place. I have here a document furnished to me from the War Office, of which I will read the last paragraphs. I am quite ready to lay the document on the Table if it is desired. This document was sent out with "Mr. Rowland Hunt's compliments." It is addressed to the sergeant-major of a battalion of Grenadier Guards quartered in London, and is one of similar documents sent steadily during the last two or three months to officers and non-commissioned officers of regiments in different parts of the country. The hon. Member for the Ludlow Division writes on House of Commons notepaper. After a long recital in very violent terms of the ordinary party points in this controversy, the hon. Member concludes by saying thatBritish officers will certainly refuse to lead their men against the loyalists of Ulster, so that if there is any bluff it comes not from Ulster, but from Mr. Redmond and his obedient Servant the Prime Minister of England. It is to be hoped that British officers will find means of letting Mr. Asquith know that they will resign if the Home Rule Bill is sent to the King for signature before it is submitted to the people. Every loyal Territorial officer will have no difficulties about resigning, and surely should do so to prevent civil war in Ireland, and to prevent the King from being placed in an impossible position.The document also states that the Nationalist papers described the "soldiers of the Yorkshire and Berkshire regiments as 'little wretches,' and compares them with the pigs of the same breeds in Tipperary. Yet these are the little wretches whom Mr. Redmond is going to compel the Prime Minister to use to make war on Ulster—to coerce and shoot down most loyal subjects of the King." I am well aware that the sentiment is highly approved of by hon. Members opposite. I am not dealing with the sentiment with which we are familiar. The point I am making is that that is not the kind of document which should be sent by a Member of this House on House of Commons notepaper to a sergeant-major of a battalion of Grenadiers. I have been reproached for saying that the issue which is now being raised is the issue of the Army versus Parliament. The right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken said with great force, "What wrong has the Army done?" If fault there be, it is not the fault of the Army. The fault lies there [pointing to the Opposition Benches] with the Unionist party.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
My charge is not directed against the Army officers. [An HON. MEMBER: "Yes, it is."] My charge is directed against the Leaders of the Conservative party, and I say that the fault, if fault there be, of raising this issue of the Army against Parliament lies with them, because they have been trying to force an election a few months earlier by creating a state of rebellion in one part of His Majesty's dominions, and trying to paralyse the use of the Army against that rebellion. This is what I call bringing the Army into politics. What did the right hon. Gentleman say only on Saturday night? He said:—The Unionist Party under the circumstances came to the conclusion that one of those supreme crises had arisen in the history of the nation which justified men, grave as the responsibility was, in appealing from the despotism of a corrupt Parliament to the arbitrament of the sword.I pause to admire the martial spirit of the right hon. Gentleman in appealing to the arbitrament of the sword after he has assured himself and made quite certain, as he tells us, that the sword of the Army will not be available for use against him. No doubt it was a very exhilirating picture to raise in the minds of the Junior Imperial League he was addressing—the picture of the gallant Covenanting Orangemen hunting the Nationalists into their quarters in Belfast, and the picture of the British Army, with its Lancers and Artillery chasing and hunting Radicals and Labour men in this country. I am taking the right hon. and learned Gentleman severely at his word. I am saying that when he says lie will appeal from a corrupt Parliament to the arbitrament of the sword, he is saying in almost the same identical words what we have said: That the Conservative party are now raising the issue of the Army versus Parliament. More than that, not only is the Army being used as a political weapon, but we are told that its use has already been effective. Sir Edward Clarke, in a letter to the "Times," said:—"What is the good of troubling about the concessions now? The Home Rule Bill is dead. The events of the last few days have killed it." The "Morning Post" says in so many words:—The Army has killed the Home Rule Bill, and the sooner the Government recognise the fact the better for the country.What about raising the issue of the Army versus Parliament? It is not speeches 911 which make the issues at General Elections, but events—the strong drift of circumstances. The Conservative party have raised this issue, and nothing can lay the issue now except a general settlement of the vexed question outstanding between parties with regard to Ireland. If that issue is not laid, if it proceeds, as it must proceed, to be one of the great controversies of our public life, then it is quite certain that the Army will itself be shattered just as the veto of the House of Lords was exploited and then shattered. We have tried to the best of our ability during our tenure of office sedulously to exclude politics from the Army. We have never made political opinions or inclinations any test or witness for high command during all these eight and a half years. We have continued to appoint to the greatest positions of trust and confidence in the armed forces both by land and sea men who, it was known, held opinions totally different from those whom we represent. But I say that is should be a point of honour with naval and military officers, in consideration of these broad principles of British public life, to keep themselves sedulously excluded from any connection with politics, and to resist altogether attempts to tamper with the impartial discharge of their duties. It is their duty to obey the orders which they receive—[HON. MEMBERS: "So they do"]—and in doing so they may also have the confidence that no order will be given which it is not right and fair to ask them to obey.
The right hon. Gentleman in the last few words of his speech made some remarks of a more friendly and conciliatory nature. He spoke to the House solemn words of warning. We are well aware of the grave dangers towards which we are now moving, but we have made a great effort towards conciliation. Our effort has been scorned and spurned. If the party opposite desire to move forward to meet the great advance which has been made the step rests with them; it does not rest with us. And any step which may be made by them, or may be made by the Ulstermen, to meet their fellow-subjects in the rest of Ireland, will not be received in any spirit wanting in generosity or wanting in a reasonable desire to effect a settlement. If that spirit supervenes in our Debates a happier prospect may be in store for us than that which we now see. But while we are confronted with a refusal even to 912 consider fairly the great efforts which we have made towards a settlement, while every proposal which we make for a settlement is simply twisted into a weapon for frustrating the whole policy of Home Rule and breaking down the whole working of the Parliament Act, we are bound to move forward. In spite of every threat that may be urged against us, and in spite of the dangers which those threats, if they are carried out, must necessarily entail, whatever the consequences and whatever the risk may be to ourselves, while we are resisted in the spirit which has been shown, we have no other choice and no other intention but to go steadily on.
§ Captain TRYON
In considering the closing sentences of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, we had better not inquire too closely into what was the name of that distinguished man who deserted in an historic instance from one side to the other. But I would say this to our opponents on the other side: I have served myself in the Army, and I do not think that anybody who has not done so knows what it means to a man who has served in the Army to hear these grave questions of discipline treated with laughter by Members on the other side of the House. The discipline of the Army is a matter of vital importance to this country. We have heard a great deal about the effect of the Army upon Parliament. I would ask hon. Members opposite to consider for a minute the effect of the action of this Parliament upon the Army. We all know the origin of these speeches that were made the other day against the British Army. We know that, thanks to the "Westminster Gazette":—We hear that the Labour Members have all received correspondence from the country that leaves them in no doubt that they can increase their representation in the House of Commons with such a battle-cry.I cannot help thinking that in a grave time for our nation like this the Labour party might think of something more important than a battle-cry at the General Election. Several years ago most of us present took part in a General Election. In 1906 the Liberal party were returned. They were about to bring in a period of universal peace. So happy was the world to become because a Liberal Government had been returned to Westminster that armaments were to be reduced, expenditure cut down, and the world was to live very happily together. If those who carry their mind back to that day were to come back 913 to this House from abroad and listen to the Debates, they would realise into what a state the country has got under the guidance of the present Government. May I say that we are all agreed with the new Army Order which was solemnly read out to the House. The first statement is that these officers never ought to have been asked the question which they were asked. The second is that they ought not to have asked for assurances. But I would point out that they would never have asked for assurances if they had not previously been asked questions; and may I say that I do not think any officers of the Army are likely to ask for assurances from the present Government again, because when they get them initialled by a Cabinet Minister, for all they know, the Cabinet may be at luncheon and the assurances may be of no use!
What is it that those who are proposing to fight the next election on the Army against the people are asking for? What was the paragraph which was so objectionable to hon. Members on the other side? It was this: They claim the right too Crush political opposition to the policy and principle of the Home Rule Bill by the Army. We should prefer to find a more peaceful solution. If the Labour party are really going to go to the country and to demand the use of the Army to force the Bill upon any section of this country, are the party that used to ask for the right to work going to ask for the right to shoot? What we want is not a General Election which would be fought in a way that would do infinite harm to the Army and, as I believe, no good to the Liberal Government in the end, even if they did win a General Election. We think that the Government ought to find a way out of the great difficulty in which they have placed our nation. We see no reason why the Labour party should make this bitter attack upon the officers of the Army. What is the charge against the officers in the Army? That they have refused to be the instrument of the Labour party in shooting down the working classes of Belfast. Is that what is complained of? Do the Labour party suggest that if the present class of officers were withdrawn from the Army and men were substituted who had risen from the working classes, those men would be any more willing to be their subservient instruments in this great national civil war which may come upon us?
914 We believe that another course ought to be adopted. I will not go now at any length into the varied military combinations which we have had in this country. There are times when the operation of war is rendered particularly difficult by the combination for effective action between the Army and the Navy. I would suggest that when these operations are being made Cabinet Ministers should not involve themselves in the military operations concerned by making provocative speeches at the time that these military operations are in progress. We are told that the power of the Army may be used to settle the Home Rule question. I have heard various cases where similar difficulties have arisen, and where these difficulties have been solved without the use of arms, and I offer them with respect to hon. Members opposite for their consideration. After the great war in the United States, the war which is generally called the War of Independence, it was proposed to start a new Parliament, but the people of New York State objected to come into that Parliament. They did not, do what the party of progress would do. They did not threaten them with troops. They did not try to force the union upon them with the people of the other States; but they said that the fate of New York State must be decided by the people of that State. They did not send armies against New York State: they sent one of the greatest men who ever lived, they sent Alexander Hamilton. He went to persuade the people of New York State that it was their interest to join in this new Parliament. After prolonged interviews, they accepted that position, and they went into that Parliament.
I say to hon. Members opposite that if their policy is a good one it would be better to try to persuade the people of Ulster to go into this new Parliament and not to send troops against them. Those who are familiar with the history of our Colonies will know that the history of British Columbia was a somewhat parallel one. They came, when they wished to come, into the Dominion. There is the case of Newfoundland now. They stay out, and will be left out, until they wish to come in. There was the case of the Western Australian State. Is there anybody on the other side of the House, however much he shouts against the Army now, who will suggest that the Western State of Australia should have been compelled by force of arms to come into the 915 Commonwealth Parliament when she did not want to come in? Was it not better to wait until Western Australia wanted to come in and then let her come in? There was the case within the last two or three days of Rhodesia. The great mass of white people in South Africa wish to have a Union Parliament, as they have, but they are not going to compel Rhodesia to come under their Parliament. Rhodesia is to remain out until it wishes to come in. Why cannot you do the same by Ulster? There is a much better case in Natal, which I commend to the attention of hon. Members opposite. The new Union Parliament in South Africa was to be set up. The people of South Africa abandoned the principle of Home Rule. They gave up their little local parliaments. They desired to have a Union Parliament, and they called it the Union Parliament to mark their idea that its principle was the principle of union, the policy which we advocate. But the people of Natal were allowed to vote whether they would come in or not. Nobody suggests, and hon. Members opposite would not suggest that Natal ought to have been compelled by force of arms to come into the Union Parliament.
Think what a strain hon. Members opposite would have placed upon the British Army in South Africa if they had told the British Army that they had got to compel the British people of Natal to go under the Union Parliament, which was mainly Dutch in its majority, and that they would be forced to do so by the Army. Is if not better to let the people of Natal, as was done, settle for themselves whether they would go in or not? There was another case which afforded a similar instance to this case, in which there was a suggestion of using force. I need hardly say that that was a case in which the present Liberal Government were concerned. That was the case of Scutari. When the people of Montenegro were extending their national boundaries as a result of the war, the question arose as to whether Scutari was to go under their Government, just as Belfast does not want to go under this Dublin Parliament; and His Majesty's Government, with the Powers of Europe, intervened to oppose the placing of this one single town under the Government under which they did not wish to go, and as I do not suppose that the Government was bluffing, it is only fair to assume that if they had not been able 916 to obtain what they wanted they would have used the Navy—I suppose that very few troops were available—in cooperation with other Powers, to prevent Scutari from passing into the hands of Montenegro.
But the Liberal Government might have been in rather a difficult position, because they might have wanted to use battleships, and the question might have arisen whether those ships should be sent South to enforce one principle and save the people of Scutari, or whether they should not be sent North to enforce exactly the opposite principle on the people of Belfast. That is one case where there has been a possibility of the use of force; and when the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs tells us with regard to this question that force may have to be used, I ask him and hon. Members on the other side whether it would not be better to let the people of Ulster decide the fate of Ulster rather than to endeavour to compel them by force of arms to go under a Parliament which they detest? We have now been in this Parliament for, I suppose, four Sessions, and it depends on what happens in the next few weeks whether this Parliament will be known in history as the Parliament which brought about civil war in this country. I am, of course, completely opposed to Home Rule, but I do say that if civil war arises, it will be because the Government have refused to allow the people of Ulster the right to decide their own fate. I cannot help thinking that in this great crisis, and with these great issues at stake, the Government would be well advised not to fight a General Election on the cry of the Army against the people, but to see whether the people, for whom they profess to speak, might not be allowed to settle this question by their votes.
§ Mr. BRACE
No one who has listened to the debates upon this very serious matter can fail to realise that the House of Commons and the nation and the Government are faced with questions of great responsibility. For us to attempt to leave the Army out of our discussions in connection with Ulster and Home Rule has been made quite impossible by the action and conduct of the Leaders of the Conservative party in the House of Commons, and their Press outside. Speaking from the Labour standpoint, we are sick and tired of Parliament giving up its valuable time day after day and week 917 after week, to discussions of this character, when great measures of social reform are failing to get recognition in this House for want of time and opportunity for their consideration. I know that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has given an undertaking to introduce an amending Bill for our great mining industry, yet here we are, well into half the Session, without the Bill being introduced, the House of Commons having to give up all its time to the consideration of Ulster and the question of the Army. We have heard some talk about an arrangement. The Labour party desire to see a settlement by arrangement if possible, but that arrangement must be in conformity with the principles not only of the Home Rule Bill but the principle of the Parliament Act as well. When we fought the election upon the Parliament Act, we fought it to determine, as we thought, once and for all, the right of the people to govern in their own way through their own House of Representatives. I am sorry to say, and it is much to be regretted, that the issue of the Army has now been raised. We cannot help ourselves. Whether we like it or not, the country will raise it. In meetings we have been addressing quite recently we have found not only that there is great feeling amongst the masses, but there is fierce feeling amongst the masses, at this attempt to bring the Army in to overawe Parliament, which is the House of the people.
As a Labour party leader, I have been much distressed in mind as to the future. We have to conduct great campaigns where many more people are interested than the Army which has been created for Ulster. My own organisation has a membership of 700,000. If it is to be the Army versus the people, the first thing we shall have to do is to go and organise to protect ourselves, and when we go and organise we shall be put into prison because of a violation of the law. Yet the masses of the people will ask: "By what right are Labour leaders to be imprisoned for attempting to deal, as they have done, with the Army, getting their sympathy and support on behalf of the working classes, if other leaders in this country are to be allowed to do just what they like." In 1915 this country will be faced by very serious Labour questions. It cannot help itself. In 1915 the Miners' Conciliation Board's agreement will terminate; in 1915 the Minimum Age Act will terminate, and will 918 have to be renewed with substantial amendments; in 1915 there will be a great forward movement to improve the condition of the great army of labour; side by side with this, the whole programme of the railway workers will be reaching its culminating point; and, in addition to that, the transport workers are preparing to make a great step forward. That is the kind of conditions in which the precedents that are being established in these days will come home with enormous and destructive power. Suppose I have to address a great demonstration, as I probably shall if I am alive, and the workmen are being moved to great passion, not only because of the feelings created in connection with their programmes, but because of the want of food after a stoppage of some months. Their passions will develop into the channel of wanting to wreck vengeance on somebody or something, the police force will not be sufficient to deal with them, and the military will be brought out.
Are we to be at liberty to go to the rank and file of the Army, the privates, the corporals, and the sergeants, who are of our class, and say to them, "It is now a part of the British Constitution that you men may please yourselves and act according to your conscience. We are going to have a bit of a row here, therefore we ask you not to interfere;" and then the common soldiers say, "Very well, you can do just what you like, and we will not interfere with you." That would be the beginning of the end of this country. It is because we prefer to move along the lines of constitutional and evolutionary reform rather than risk revolution that we are aghast at this doctrine that is being preached and is being practised in these days. It is impossible for anybody to say that the question of the Army has not been raised. It has been raised, and it has been raised by the very people who, one would have thought, would have been more than careful not to raise it. Now that they have raised it it is bound to be a great issue at the next election, whether we like it or not. The Army as at present constituted is officered from among members of the aristocracy. They are men of great courage, men who have always been prepared to risk their lives in defence of their country. We are ready to recognise that. But when the officers of the Army think that they are a class and a caste, and not members of the nation and officers and servants of Parliament, to carry out Parliament's orders, then we must be sure, 919 when labour wants a reconstituted standard of living, that the Army is a democratic Army and an Army which is approved. Consequently, the issue raised in this Debate has made it compulsory on our part that, in future Debates in connection with the Army, the Labour party must take an active part in an endeavour to mould the Army and establish it upon more democratic lines.
We shall want in future to have an Army constituted—practically as well as theoretically—so that the right of way shall be clear for the private soldier to work his way up to the very highest position that is offered in connection with the Service. If we are to do that, we shall have to create conditions in which they will feel that they can make a career in the Army. Therefore, salary will have to be considered, and a lot of nonsense connected with Army work will have to be abolished—all the nonsense, for instance, about expensive uniforms for purposes of the Service. If we open the way in the Army for men of the rank and file, I verily believe that there is plenty of brain knowledge available. I believe that if all the officers resigned to-morrow, there would be no difficulty in equipping the Army with officers from among the sergeants and sergeant-majors, men of high standard and intellectual capacity. But it is the cost of running the Army with its officers that makes it almost impossible, or practically impossible, for the private soldier to work his way right up to the top. The masses of the people are asking very serious and very disturbing questions. When we come down to this House and hear these Debates we do get to understand something of what lies behind the questions discussed, but the masses of the people do not understand, and to my great regret I have to say that there is a profound conviction prevailing that the laws of this country, while theoretically the same for rich and poor, are not administered in that spirit. No State can live with that belief prevailing among the masses of the people. I have never made myself responsible for any such doctrine. I know the danger of the doctrine. I know what it is to have to lead men in unpopular movements; I know what it means to rouse the passions of men; I know how fierce bodies of men can become, how easily passion can be aroused. Consequently I leave that temperament and spirit at rest as long as possible.
920 But the action of hon. Gentlemen and right hon. Gentlemen opposite has aroused that spirit, and there is a belief prevailing in this country to-day that there is a different application of the law to the rich as compared with the poor. There is another feeling prevailing, and it is that an attempt is being made to overawe and to influence Parliament through sources that ought not to be possible. I was pleased to hear the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister make the statement that His Majesty did not intervene. If His Majesty had interfered, we could not have helped making it a—[HON. MEMBERS: "Order, order!"] Surely I am entitled to say that. I said nothing disrespectful of the King. I wish to state very clearly the issue that has to be discussed, and I am expressing my thankfulness that that is not an issue for the next General Election. I have always held that the symbols of our nationality—the Throne, the Flag, and the military and naval forces, ought to be outside party political controversy altogether. The people are saying, and I am saying, that we can neither allow Court, nor Army, or anybody else to interfere with Parliament in the exercise of its rights to make its own legislation, in its own way. I would prefer to wait for many years to see the programme and policies that I support being brought into operation rather than I would take any risk such as we have heard being talked about. The Home Rule Bill was a subject before the electors, and, so far as the electors of Great Britain are concerned, they have settled it. They will not make it another issue. This question of the Army is a serious issue. The Labour party knows what lies before them in dealing with great bodies of the people, and they are afraid. The Conservative Opposition of this House have raised issues that cannot be put down without the labouring people coming to the conclusion that there is going to be an appeal to the forces which the Army represents. I know that is not so; but how are you going to get great masses of the people to know that in face of the quotations that have been made this afternoon? They are startling and staggering in their newness, and they are a cancellation of all law and order, so much so, that I am very nearly coming to the conclusion that the Labour party is the only party here which can claim to be representative of law and order. 921 The hon. Gentleman who spoke last said something about the conditions in the Memorandum from the War Office, and he thought that the Army officers had a right to be aggrieved because the War Minister attached his signature to two clauses which had to be withdrawn. I am bound to say that I am sorry for this misconception. There has been some very bad muddling, there is no doubt about that, and muddling that would not be tolerated in a trade union. I was amazed to know that any such thing could happen in a Government Department in this country, as to have two clauses added to a Cabinet Memorandum. It is no wonder some people talk about a business Government. May I say, and with all seriousness, that if that Memorandum with the two clauses signed by the War Minister and by the two representatives of the Army Council was part of a Cabinet document, the Government would not have lived twenty-four hours. We could not, as a Labour party, have allowed any such conditions to be laid down. The Noble Lord opposite, who is always interesting, I daresay is of opinion that the Labour party have no principles. Hon. Members opposite in their moods of gayness are disposed to say that about us. The Labour party have very fixed principles, and not the least of them is the establishment and carrying into active operation the Parliament Act. We are looking forward to the time when we shall have a Labour Government in power, and we do not want obstacles at the other end of the corridor to prevent us carrying out the advanced legislation which we shall propose, and endeavour to put on the Statute Book. To no section of the British people is the successful carrying into operation of the Parliament Act more necessary than to the Labour people. When hon. Members think that we are not prepared to take risks in voting for certain Motions that they put forward because of a fear of interfering with the actual realisation of what the Parliament Act means, they are very apt to conclude that the Labour party are not very consistent in their principles.
The Labour party, as well as the party opposite, know where they are off to, and they know that they are not going to attempt to defeat the Government upon non-essentials, but let the Government make itself responsible for something of a fundamental character affecting the rights and liberties of the democracy of Great Britain such as was embodied in that 922 Army Order, and Government, or no Government, the Labour party would have gone unanimously into the Lobby for the defeat of the Government that would allow anything of that kind to be put into operation. I say, and with all emphasis, that the Army must be the instrument of the people. The action of the Army officers has frightened the labouring people. We have come to the conclusion that the Army officers are not to be trusted in a crisis when principles and the welfare of the democracy would be at stake, and, consequently, we shall learn this lesson from this controversy, that we must democratise the Army, and in future we must concentrate upon that fact. When we go to the country at the next General Election hon. Members, say what they may, will find that the issue, one of the issues, if not the real issue, will be as to whether the Army or Parliament is to prevail in enacting laws for the Government of this great and free people.
§ Mr. SANDYS
The hon. Member who has just addressed the House, speaking on behalf of the Labour party, let us into some of the secrets, I think, of the party, and the influence, no doubt, which they were able to bring to bear upon the Cabinet in its latest consideration of this question, as I think he said that if the Labour party came to the conclusion that the Cabinet as a Cabinet had been interfering in this matter, they would not tolerate the Cabinet or support them for another twenty-four hours. I do not think I should be wrong in saying they will have an opportunity later on in this Debate of showing whether they are determined to give effect to the statement of the hon. Gentleman. I do not want to anticipate anything, but we generally understand that a statement has been made which will afford us another opportunity of seeing how much sincerity there is in any of the statements which come from hon. Members below the Gangway opposite. I quite agree with the hon. Member that the position is extremely serious. I am almost inclined to agree with his statement that it is the beginning of the end. He objects strongly to the policy of placing before any of the military forces of the Crown any suggestion that an alternative can be presented to them at any time when they are called upon to execute an order. But that doctrine is not one which is brought forward from these benches. It is a doctrine which was brought forward for the first 923 time in the history of the Army by the late Secretary of State for War.
Therefore, if the hon. Member objects to that principle, let him show his resentment not against us, but against the Government. He desires an Army on a more democratic basis than that which we possess to-day. I am strongly in support of any proposals of that kind, and so far as I am concerned, I think I gave personal evidence of my own views last year, when I introduced into this House a Bill for national service in the Territorial Force, in which I made special provision that all commissions should be granted to the ranks. But if the hon. Member really desires a democratic Army of this kind, I would like to remind him that it would be practically impossible to put any proposals of that kind into effect until he and his Friends will support the principle of national service, of universal service, for every able-bodied man in the country. I have seen some remarkable changes which have taken place in the views of the Labour party during the last few days, and it seems to me they are coming round to this extraordinary position, that they are supporting the principles of a scheme of national service, and that now, by this ironical turn which events have taken, they are coming to be upholders of a proposal which only a short time ago they regarded as one of the most dangerous that could be suggested.
As one who has served in the Army I do desire from the bottom of my heart that this dangerous situation should be brought to a close at the earliest possible moment. I am not merely thinking of the position in this country, with which I shall deal later on, but I am thinking a great deal about our position abroad, about our reputation in the eyes of foreign countries, which I cannot help thinking must be grievously suffering by these disastrous events of the last few weeks. I am thinking of our position as the Mother Country of this great Empire holding out an example, as we ought to do, in all these Imperial matters, to the Dominions beyond the seas, and I cannot help thinking, above all, of the serious blow which the events of the last few days must have dealt to our position in India. In this country we are chiefly concerned with the events which are taking place in these islands. The 924 situation is impossible when any GOVernment—I do not care to what party it belongs—that is in power has lost its undisputed authority over the armed Forces of the Crown. That constitutes, in my view, a most serious and dangerous situation. Although for the moment we are not feeling the actual effects of it, we are really existing in a state of anarchy, for that is what it amounts to when any Government has lost its full authority over its armed forces. And unless some decisive step is taken by the Government to recover its prestige and to restore that which it has lost by its own blunders and mismanagement, then this country, I fear, must drift eventually to that which we all hope may be avoided—a state of civil war.
The Government and the Cabinet, by a series of unpardonable blunders, have brought us to this situation, and I say the Cabinet with deliberation, because I do not think it is part of our duty to examine into the exact position which was occupied with regard to these matters by one member of the Cabinet or another member. I do not think we are concerned with those domestic relations between the various Members of the Government. I still hold with the theory of the collective responsibility of the whole Cabinet; I believe in their joint responsibility; and I am convinced that once we diverge from that wholesome constitutional doctrine, we shall enter into very grave difficulties. I do not know how far the Prime Minister was aware of these events. In the speech which was made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Walton (Mr. F. E. Smith) he brought forward, as it seemed to me, incontrovertible evidence that the whole of the Cabinet were really privy to these matters. I do not care whether the Prime Minister knew or not. If he did not know, it obviously was his duty to know, and consequently he must accept the full responsibility for what has occurred. I do not attach any importance to those new Orders which were issued last Friday. They are a mere repetition of what we who have served in the Army knew perfectly well without any new Orders being issued with all this solemnity by the right hon. Gentleman last Friday, as if this was a complete solution of the crisis. We have known all this ever since we joined as second lieutenants. The novelty is the first Order, in which the State lays down the very salutary principle that 925 questions are not to be put to soldiers—and, of course, it applies to all ranks—as to how in certain contingencies they would or would not act. Such an Order ought never to, and would never have been necessary until it was made necessary by the action, not of the Army, but of the Government. These new Orders will not restore the authority or prestige of the Government. If the Government really wish to place themselves in a proper position in their relationship with the armed forces of the Crown, it is their duty to clear up this situation from the first. The events of the last week really turn on the orders issued by the Secretary of State to General Paget and the orders transmitted by him to the officers under his command. Until we know exactly what occurred—and it is absurd for the Government to pretend that they cannot place this information at our disposal—the situation of difficulty, crisis, and uncertainty will continue. It is absurd to think that they can conceal what actually happened when Sir Arthur Paget interviewed his officers. What was said on that occasion was known to some fifty or sixty men who were present. By this time it is known throughout the whole Army. Do you think there has been any other topic of conversation in officers' mess, barrack room or canteen, since this discussion originated? Everybody throughout the whole of the Army knows what occurred on that occasion. It would be to everybody's advantage, whatever mistakes were made, that the Government should now make a clean breast of the whole matter.
It is most unfortunate that these orders, upon which so much depended, and upon which the whole difficulty has turned, were verbal orders at the start. The Secretary of State for War, in his original speech, said that they were verbal orders, "as they always should be on these occasions." Why? I cannot see why, unless it was that this matter had been very carefully considered for weeks and months beforehand, and the Government were leading these officers, and especially General Paget, into a trap from which there was no escape whatever. What is the position of officers in regard to the execution of orders given by their superiors? During this controversy my mind has gone back to an episode which is one of the worst stains upon British history, and which has come down to us under the name of the Massacre of Glencoe. Here orders 926 were issued by the Royal authority, signed, it is said, though there is some dispute, by the King's own hand—orders of fire and sword against the chieftain of the Clan of Macdonald and his men. Those orders were transmitted from the civil authorities to the high military officers who were in command of the troops in Scotland at the time. Those high military officers transmitted the orders to their subordinates, who were charged with their execution. The orders were carried into effect by those subordinate military officers, and thirty-eight Highlanders of the Clan of Macdonald perished at the hands of the troops. For a long time this terrible event was unknown, but gradually the news penetrated into England, and to the Continent. There was an outburst of indignation, not only in Scotland, but throughout the whole of England, which shook the King upon his Throne. A Parliamentary Commission was appointed to inquire into the whole question. The responsibility, so far as the Sovereign and the high officials of the State were concerned, was glossed over. There was "an honest misunderstanding." Where did the retribution fall? It fell upon the subordinate officers who carried out the deed. No excuse was accepted from them that they were carrying out the orders which their superior officers had given them. To Captain Campbell, of Glenlyon, who was the man particularly concerned, it was made perfectly clear that he should have resigned his commission and subjected himself to a court-martial rather than obey orders which were contrary to his conscience and his honour. The Commission reported that these officers should be tried for murder, and they escaped the charge and certain condemnation only by flying the country. The names of these men, whom the Labour party would hold up to us as ideals in their military conduct, have come down to posterity not as models of military discipline, but as men who brought dishonour and disgrace upon the profession to which they belonged.
I want to put before the House what would have happened supposing events had turned out differently in Ireland. Supposing that General Gough had been willing to play the part of Captain Campbell of Glenlyon, that an outbreak had been provoked, and that not thirty-eight Highlanders, but a large number of persons had perished as a result of this movement of troops. On the Monday after those events had taken place the Press 927 would, indeed, have been in a blaze; there would have been against the Government an outcry which would have resounded from one end of Great Britain to the other. We know perfectly well what would have happened. I know what would have occurred in this House. The Members of the Government would have made very similar speeches to those which they actually made on Monday. They would have said that there was an honest misunderstanding, that General Paget and the officers under him had grossly exceeded their orders, that that was no responsibility upon the Government, that the responsibility rested upon the officers in Ireland, who had entirely misunderstood the orders which had been transmitted by the Secretary of State for War. The Prime Minister, in those weighty phrases of which he is a master, would have assured us that the examination of those events should be made before the proper military tribunal, and that punishment should be awarded to the guilty. That is the reason why these were verbal orders, "as they always should be," as the Secretary of State added. I can imagine the satisfaction with which the Prime Minister would have acquitted himself of this public duty.
I am sorry to detain the House, but I wish to deal for one moment with the attitude taken up by the Labour party. From some of their speeches we might imagine that if there was one thing which the British officer and British soldier enjoyed it was being employed upon strike duty. Let me assure them that every officer and man in the British Army, from the General to the latest joined recruit, regards anything in the shape of strike duty as the most loathsome task he can possibly be asked to perform. I agree with Labour Members that on these occasions the military should be employed only as a last resort, and that these matters are far better settled by the civil forces at the disposal of the authorities. There are other points of view which must occur to everyone, but I object to such employment of the military from a military point of view, because it creates between the Army and the industrial population ill-feeling which it should be the duty of every patriotic citizen to avoid if possible. I object to it because it places officers and men in a position of responsibility and difficulty which can hardly be overestimated or exaggerated. I object 928 to it, also, unless it is absolutely unavoidable, because it is a sign, not of strength, but of weakness. This has been especially the case in regard to the present Government, who have on a great many occasions—I do not know how many, but on far more occasions than has ever happened before—called in the military for this work.
What is the attitude of the Labour party on the question? I have heard many speeches made by Labour Members. and this is in effect what they have always said: "We believe that it is wrong to employ the troops to shoot down strikers who have been goaded to desperation by injustice." The hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald) wrote a letter to the "Times" a day or two ago, in which he said that the Ulster movement was analogous to a strike. Taking these two statements together, that it is wrong to shoot down strikers and that the Ulster movement is a strike, the Labour party have arrived at the extraordinary conclusion that therefore the Government should employ troops to shoot down people in Ulster. That is obviously false reasoning. Either the premises are wrong or the conclusion is wrong. If in their premises the Labour party are right, obviously they are wrong in their conclusion that it is the duty of the Government to employ troops to coerce Ulster. Their position appears to be so fundamentally unsound that it is really not capable of argument at all. It is the duty of the Government to restore its prestige and authority with the armed forces of the Crown. The disgraceful speeches which have been made in this House and on the platform against the Army will destroy such authority as the Government still possess. The position is becoming intolerable. Speeches such as the right hon. Gentleman made this afternoon will goad the Army and the Navy to desperation. We are told that the armed forces of the Crown are the servants of the Government. Supposing any ordinary employer of labour made these outrageous attacks upon the men who are in his employment—attacks upon their character and reputation, do you think—
§ Mr. SANDYS
It is perfectly obvious that the speech of the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon was an attack upon the Army. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!" and "No, no!"] It was an attack, first of 929 all, upon the statements which have been made upon the speeches which have been delivered, and upon the letters which have been written by prominent Members on this side. [An HON. MEMBER: "Quite right, too!"] I would like to point out to the hon. Member opposite these statements which were made in regard to the Army. We point out—and everybody knows—that if this country is involved in civil war the armed forces of the Crown will inevitably be rent in twain. That always occurs in the case of civil war. The particular attack which the right hon. Gentleman delivered upon the Army this afternoon was to the effect that it had been seduced from its loyalty by a political party. [An HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear!"] If what he said was not a reflection upon the Army I do not know what is.
§ Mr. SANDYS
That is my answer to the hon. Member. It is absolutely essential that this position should be brought to an end at the earliest possible moment. It is doing, as it has done, damage to our reputation upon the Continent, and it is seriously injuring our prestige throughout the British Empire, especially in India. I fear unless this tension is brought to a close at the earliest possible moment we shall drift into a disastrous civil war.
Mr. MacCALLUM SCOTT
We have passed through a memorable and exciting week. During that week a larger number of illuminating speeches have been delivered in this House than I have heard delivered during the whole time I have been here. I think it a notable circumstance that of the speeches the most significant and the most epoch-making of them—if I may so describe it—came almost entirely from the benches opposite, and from the two benches in front of me. I think one of the consequences of these debates will be a change in the political nomenclature of this country. It is becoming clear that the constitutional party no longer sits upon these benches opposite. Indeed, it is clear that the constitutional party, the party which has made the greatest sacrifices for the Constitution, and which has maintained the Constitution against great temptations, is the party which hon. Members opposite have been accustomed to denounce as the revolutionary or anarchistic party—the 930 Labour party. I have watched for some years the manner in which the leaders of the Labour party have resisted the syndicalists and the revolutionary movement which has acquired considerable strength in the lower rank of the party. They have fought gallantly, and with much at stake.
Members opposite often sneer about what Members of the Labour party and others will do for £400 a year. The Members who resisted that movement in their own ranks were risking not merely their £400 a year, not merely their position as Members of this House—they were risking their position as leaders of their class. They had all at stake; they resisted this movement, which it would have been easy to foment; they resisted it because they believed that our civilisation, that our government, that our democracy, can only be maintained by respecting and maintaining the Constitution against violence from whatever quarter. The hon. Member who has just sat down has referred to attacks upon the Army. I am not. here to attack the Army. What I propose to say tonight, if I may venture to say so in all sincerity, will be in defence of the Army and of the officers who have been attacked. The hon. Member, however, is mistaken when he attributes the attacks on the Army to this quarter of the House. I heard the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord Robert Cecil) the other day say that Members in this quarter of the House believe that there was a conspiracy against representative government on the part of the Army. We do not believe so.
Mr. MacCALLUM SCOTT
So far as I can judge, I see, as yet, no evidence of such a belief, but there is a conspiracy, and hon. Members sitting on the benches opposite are the conspirators! The hon. Member for Dundee himself said that they are engaged in a deliberate attempt to suborn the Army—I do not say all, many of them are not—but speeches have been delivered, incitements have been made, practically attempting to seduce the Army and to endeavour to induce the Army to disobey constituted authority and lawful orders. But, as I said, my object to-night is, in the first place, to say that I think the officers have been placed in a cruel position during these Debates. They have been liable to fire from two sides. They have been liable to fire from the newspapers, and from certain hon. Members opposite who 931 have addressed incitements to them—[HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"]—to be disloyal to the Constitution—[HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"]—and to endeavour to overthrow representative government. They have also been liable to attacks from Members on this side and from the Liberal Press—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—who have believed accusations made against the Army by hon. Members opposite, and who believed that hon. Members opposite had succeeded in the object which they set out to accomplish, namely, to foment rebellion in the Army. I say I think these officers have been cruelly ill-used and misused, and in two ways.
I do not absolve even the Members of the Government, which I follow, in this matter. I say the officers have been misused and scandalously misused by these incitements which have been addressed to them, and they have also been placed in a cruelly false position by the blunders of the Government. The initial blunder was addressing to the officers a question which was grossly improper, and the accompaniment to that question was in its nature an ultimatum. I think it is unfortunate that we do not know the official version of the question which was put to these officers. Some effort ought to be made to give us the words of General Paget's recollection of the question which was in an oral manner—probably conversationally—addressed to these officers. The Leader of the Opposition has asked for that information, and I think it is a request which he is entitled to make. Not only he, but the House, is entitled to make it. It is the only way of completely clearing up the difficulty. A blunder has been made. It has been, as I believe, retrieved; but in order to retrieve it absolutely, in order to make a clean cut, the only sure and certain way is that the blunder must be clearly delimited in the first place, then its full nature will be understood. In the absence of an official version, the only version which we have before us is that which was submitted in an anonymous letter from some officer to whom the question was presumably addressed. I think four lines from that officer's letter give the exact nature of the question and the ultimatum:—Officers who are not prepared to undertake active operations against Ulster for conscientious or other scruples were to send in their resignations and would be dismissed the Army.8.0 P.M.
I do not cavil at the words "active operations." If the Army, in the observance of 932 its legal duty, is called upon to resist violence, to resist attacks upon constituted authority, and to protect property and life from rebellious attack, that is "active operations." That is clearly within the bounden duty of the Army if legally called upon. But, in the first place, the inquisition as to the private views of the officers and the threat with which it was accompanied, the threat of dismissal in the event of preferring to disobey orders when the option was given to them—these two things are subversive of discipline and incompatible with it. They are more than that. They are incompatible with the dignity which ought to attach to the position of an officer. I do not see how a man in such a position—that is in the position of an officer—can consent to take his orders in the form of an ultimatum. He expects to receive his orders, and if it is within the scope of his duty, to perform them. I make no scruple to say that if I, Home Ruler as I am personally, and prepared to enforce Home Rule by all legal means, if I had been in the position of these officers, in a situation like that, faced with an inquisition such as we must believe to be the case, I would have tendered my resignation, with the others, and accepted my dismissal, and I think it is by no means impossible that a number of those officers who did so were, in their private opinions, Home Rulers and political followers of the Government. I do not say so; I have no knowledge; I do not speak on behalf of the officers. There is no one entitled in this House to speak on behalf of the officers, except the Secretary of State for War, unless elected for the purpose. I speak not on behalf of them, but as a politician who is anxious not only to secure the enforcement of the policy he believes to be right, but is anxious to see justice and right done to all classes of the community, and to all classes of public servants, and especially to a class of public servants such as soldiers of all ranks who may be called upon to render such dangerous service. Leaving the inquisition for one moment, we come to the letter which was written by Brigadier General Gough. As the Prime Minister has already said, it is a perfectly fair and reasonable letter in the circumstances. There is no dispute about that. Why was that letter written? I think hon. Members opposite are largely responsible for that 933 letter being written, and largely responsible for the misapprehension and for the uneasiness and unrest existing in the mind of General Gough when he wrote that letter. An inquisition had been made, first as to his private views, and as to whether he was willing to obey certain orders, and in the circumstances he was naturally desirous of finding out what the nature of the orders were, and what their possible consequences would be.
A monstrous myth has been created and fostered for their own purposes by some Members of this House that the Government intended to use the Army for illegal purposes, not for the purpose of maintaining order and defending civil authority, and protecting life and property, but for the purpose of initiating warlike proceedings and military operations against a quiet and peaceable people—a new massacre of Glencoe, I think the hon. Member who has just sat down suggested. That myth has been created. It has undoubtedly caused unrest among many people, and undoubtedly among many officers, and in these circumstances it cannot be denied that the inquisition having been made, Brigadier-General Gough was justified in the letter he wrote endeavouring to ascertain whether the orders which he was to carry out were for the protection of the civil authority, and the resistance of violence, or were orders for the Army to perform some illegal operations in the initiation of active military operations against a peaceable portion of the United Kingdom. And now we come to the second blunder which is made; the first blunder is one that is still wrapped in mystery, the exact dimensions of which have not been delimited, and about which we do not know the exact nature of the responsibility. The second blunder has been thoroughly cleared up and explained. It was the blunder in the documents sent to General Gough. The ex-Secretary of State for War has made a very frank and very manly statement of what I believe to be all the material circumstances connected with that blunder. I am convinced that there is not the slightest foundation for the attacks which have been made by several speakers, who cast doubt upon the honesty and sincerity of that statement by suggesting that it was merely offered to cover up some iniquitous criminal plot. The two paragraphs at the end of this letter contained, so far as I could read them, nothing that is false in substance. That was not the blunder. The blunder 934 did not consist in the fact that the paragraphs were an inaccurate statement of the law or the intentions of the Government.
The blunder was not a blunder of substance but of form, in putting in a statement of that kind in a letter addressed to officers who were negotiating with the Government. It gave the appearance as if a treaty was being made by superior military authorities with subordinate military authorities. That also was subversive of discipline and largely destructive of discipline. It was a grave and serious blunder which has brought grave and serious consequences to all those connected with it, but I do not know there is anyone on this side of the House who disputes in the abstract these two paragraphs as a statement of what is true. Hon. Members opposite agree with that and that the new Army Order of Friday is simply a repetition with some additions of the matter contained in the peccant paragraphs. The whole point is that it was proper to make a statement of that kind in an Army Order addressed to the whole Army at large as a statement of its duties and responsibilities, but it was not proper to make it in a document addressed to individual officers as a result of negotiations in which it might have the appearance of being a treaty or a bargain. These blunders were grave and serious. They gave the Opposition an unexampled opportunity, which I venture to say will never occur again, of which they might have taken advantage if they had amongst them a man on their Front Bench able to take a statesmanlike view of the situation and permitted to do so. It was a gross blunder, but after all it was only a blunder, and it has been completely thrust into the background by the new issue which has been raised by hon. Members opposite—not by all of them, but by some of the most influential and able of them. It is hardly necessary to give further quotations after the many quotations that have been given by my right hon. Friend. I will only give one, and that is from the language used by the Leader of the Opposition. He claimed to speak for the officers, and he claimed to speak on behalf of the Army and to express their views with regard to the present Government. He said:—Put yourselves in the position of an officer. He believes in his heart and conscience, as I do, that the Government are doing this thing without the consent of the country; that in pressing it forward without the approval of the country they are as much a revolutionary committee as President Huerta who is governing Mexico. That is really my position, and unless I 935 believed it I would not feel justified in the course I have taken. This is the position in which the soldier is placed."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th March, 1914, col. 433.]What right has the Leader of the Opposition to make that statement on behalf of the Army? That is an accusation against the Army—that is a foul and vicious charge against the Army. That statement will be memorable in the history of this country. I think it will stand on record against the right hon. Gentleman. I think it is a fatal sentence for his future career. It will hang round his neck like a millstone. It will make it impossible for the man who uttered that sentence, who gave that direct incitement to the great military forces of this country to rebel and overthrow the Government, simply because those on the Opposition benches described it as a revolutionary Government, to occupy the highest position in this country, and to be responsible for the control and maintenance, and for the discipline of the forces of this country. I have referred to the myth which hon. Members opposite have created, as to the intentions of this Government to make an illegal use of the Army, not for the purpose of defending the civil government and suppressing violence, and protecting lives and property, but for the purpose of active operations to compel people to give their consent to a measure which they hate. There is a great deal of misconception—popular misconception—I do not say it prevails here in this House, or that it prevails in the minds of those hon. Members who seem by their own words to entertain it—as to what is the use which the Government could make of the Army. To my mind the importance of this White Paper lies not so much in the narrative of the blunder as in the preliminary memorandum on the legal position of the Army, and the use that might be made of it in civil affairs. I find it laid down that a soldier is entitled to obey an order if that order is reasonable in the circumstances, and I find it laid down that in certain circumstances a soldier, in fact and in law, is justified in contemplating refusal to obey. It is denied that a soldier is justified in refusing to obey any lawful order, and it is not denied that a soldier is justified in refusing to obey any unlawful orders. The soldier is in a cruel position, and as Lord Haldane once said, he walks between two precipices. There is the precipice of martial law, and if he refuses to obey an order he may be tried by martial law. If 936 he obeys an order which is illegal, he is liable to be prosecuted in the ordinary Courts of law, and no orders will save him from the consequences of his act. The soldier in civil affairs is in the same position as the ordinary citizen. Any Member of this House or the general public in the event Of civil disturbance, riot or disorder or rebellion may be called upon to assist the civil authorities, and can be punished if he refuses to do so. The soldier is in no different position, save in this, that he happens to have a uniform and lethal weapons in his possession.
It is obvious, in these circumstances, that the Army is not a weapon which may be used indiscriminately at the choice of any Government for the purpose of positively enforcing the law or taking the place of the ordinary civil authorities. There are two very good examples in the case of the passive resistance movement and the attempt to organise some resistance to the Insurance Act on the part of some employers. No doubt those two movements considerably embarrassed the Government, but it would have been quite illegal and impossible for the Government to have called out the military and used it to enforce the payment of the education rate, or to march into an employer's office and take the money out of his till to pay his insurance contribution. You have to rely on the ordinary civil authorities for the enforcement of the law, and on such protection as is afforded to those authorities against any violence which may be directed against them from any quarter. As I read over that Memorandum and reflected upon all that it involved, and as I considered the tactics of those who are leading this movement in Ulster, I came to the conclusion that we are faced in this matter of Home Rule, not by soldiers' weapons, but by lawyers' weapons. The law is obscure and difficult, and no effort will be spared by the able lawyer who leads this movement to entangle us and trip us in legal difficulties and pitfalls. I have never concealed my opinion from the beginning that the whole of these martial operations in Ulster and all this talk of provisional government and drilling is a piece of gigantic bluff. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame!" and "Why send the Fleet there?"] I think it was clearly admitted in the House the other day by the hon. Member for the City of London that it was all bluff. He referred to the movement of a few troops to strengthen certain depôts in Ulster, and he asked why 937 all this enormous preparation in reserve, why call out the Cavalry, why call out the Navy, if your only object was to protect those depôts? Who would resist them? Why anticipate any opposition to the troops amongst a peaceful population, who had never shown any tendency to resist them or offer them any violence?
You talk as if the drilling of 100,000 men was a mere irrelevancy and of no consequence, and could not have any of the consequences which appear to have been anticipated. I am inclined to take that view. I do not believe that when the Protestants of Ulster are finally faced with the consequences of the threats that they have made they will take it upon themselves to fire upon and shoot down British soldiers. I cannot believe that they will take it upon themselves to make violent assaults upon the civil authorities or make attacks upon life and property. If they do, I see no reason to doubt that the Army would perform its duty and resist those attacks in spite of all the inducements and seductions that have been held out to them. Ever since the Veto of the House of Lords was limited hon. Members opposite have been casting about for some other power independent of the people and the representative authority, to put in the place of the House of Lords. In the first place they sought as a substitute for the House of Lords His Majesty. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Why, direct appeals were addressed to His Majesty that he should abandon his high constitutional position and place his veto at the disposal of the Conservative party, even as the House of Lords had done in the past. I have here a little book entitled "Conservatism," said to be written by Lord Hugh Cecil, and I find in it this passage:—It may be a dangerous doctrine, but it is perhaps true, that Conservatism ought to take up the task of preparing public opinion for the idea that the Monarchy should openly take an active part in politics.I am glad to think that these traitorous and disloyal attempts have been unsuccessful. I see no reason whatever, and not the faintest shadow of a reason, for doubting that throughout the whole Of his reign up to the present time His Majesty has been guided by the soundest of constitutional principles. Having failed in that attempt, the party opposite make a desperate bid to substitute for the Veto of the House of Lords and for the constitutional veto of which they have been deprived, the unconstitutional veto of armed force. I believe they will fail in that as they failed 938 in the other, and as they have failed in all their attempts. The Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord Robert Cecil) the other day said that hon. Members were raising such old cries and old issues that he almost imagined that he was listening to debates in the time of Stafford and the Stuarts. The hon. Member himself appears like some apparition from the past, some henchman of the Stuarts, who has strayed into a modern representative assembly. But in the past, when that battle was fought out, it was the Parliamentary forces which won, and I have no doubt whatever that at this time of day it will be the Parliamentary forces and the people. It is a crisis, it is a dangerous crisis, but we at any rate on this side of the House and the people of this country may look forward to it with equanimity knowing that we have at the helm one on whose calm judgment and on whose resolute will we can rely with absolute and implicit confidence.
Mr. STANLEY WILSON
The only remark that I will make with regard to the speech of the hon. Member who has just sat down is that he seems discontented with both parties. He has severely criticised his own Government; he has severely criticised the Leader of the Opposition; and the only thing that I can recommend him to do is to form a party of his own which will suit himself and one or two upon those Benches. We find ourselves to-day in the most extraordinary position in which this House of Commons has ever been placed. It is without precedent I believe. We have seen the Government shedding itself of various Members very rapidly. The Cabinet is now short of three of its Members. Mr. Masterman and the Prime Minister, who has gone to-day, are outside the House when they ought to be in it, and the Secretary of State for War has to-day resigned his office. I am sure I speak for every Member of this House when I say that we all felt sincerely sorry for the Secretary of State for War. He has accepted what was inevitable. He has stood by the two Generals who signed the now famous letter with him, and it was the only course that was left to him as an honorable man. I have listened to the speech that was given us to-day by the First Lord of the Admiralty. He told us to-day what happened with regard to the paragraphs that were inserted in the letter that was given to General Gough. Since he has spoken, I understand Lord Morley in another place 939 has given a very different description of what happened with regard to those famous paragraphs. I cannot help saying that to my mind it was a sad spectacle to see a Minister, who is responsible for one of the armed forces of the Crown, standing there at the Table aiming a serious blow at the Army, of which he once was a member.
It is not we who have dragged the Army into the political arena. It has been dragged in by hon. Members opposite. It has been dragged in by the Government. They have tried to make the Army do their dirty work, and they have failed, and it is because they have failed in their desires that we are now to have an election cry, so hon. Members below the Gangway say, "The Army against the people." That has been re-echoed from the Front Bench by the First Lord of the Admiralty. The whole reason of the Army being dragged into the political arena is the fault of the Government. It is they who asked the officers in Ireland a hypothetical question, which they had no right to ask. No officers have disobeyed any orders that have been given. They were offered on behalf of the Government two alternatives: either marching into Ulster and doing what was expected to bring about a civil war there, or of resigning their commissions, and being dismissed from His Majesty's Service. It will redown to the credit of those officers that they accepted the second alternative offered by His Majesty's Government. Because they accepted that alternative that was offered to them they are accused in this House and on the platforms outside of taking part in politics, of standing in the way of His Majesty's Government and of refusing to obey orders, orders which were never given to them. For this, according to what we have been told to-day by the First Lord of the Admiralty, the Army is to be smashed. Everybody knows that the Government were warned in the fullest possible manner what the feelings, not only of the officers, but of the men themselves were. They were warned nearly two months ago now in the House of Lords by Lord Roberts, and they were warned years ago by Lord Wolseley. Both of them told Members of the Government that it would place a serious strain upon the loyalty of our Army if they were used to coerce Ulster.
Speeches have been made outside which I think are a disgrace to the Members of 940 this House who made them. I will refer only to the speech which was delivered on Friday last by the Patronage Secretary (Mr. Illingworth) at Blackburn. He used words, which have been reiterated again in this House by the hon. Member who has just sat down, accusing us of dragging in His Majesty's name, and accusing us of trying to overawe Parliament by inciting the Army to sedition and mutiny. That charge was made on Friday by the Patronage Secretary, and it has been made again to-day at that desk by the First Lord of the Admiralty. I say that there is not a single word of truth in it, and that such statements are nothing but a tissue of lies. Everybody knows that nobody can prevent officers of the Army and soldiers having their own views, and nobody can say that they are doing any harm or any wrong as long as they obey the orders that are given to them, and the officers and men would have obeyed if the orders had been given. [An HON. MEMBER: "How do you know?"] I have the common sense to know what soldiers of His Majesty the King will do if they are ordered. All they did was to accept the alternative that the Government offered to them, and it was the Secretary of State for War himself, by offering these officers this alternative, who has dragged the Army into the political arena.
The speech of the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. John Ward) a few days ago was an attack both upon His Majesty and upon the Army. It was a speech which was cheered by hon. Members below the Gangway to the echo, and in consequence of it the hon. Member for Stoke was made an honorary member of the National Liberal Club. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] At any rate, there was a suggestion that he was to be made an honorary member of that club for having had the pluck to say what every one of them thought. On Thursday afternoon I went out of the House after Question Time, and an hon. Member who sits on those benches came up to me in the Lobby when I was speaking to a Press correspondent there. I happened to say to him, "We seem to be nearing the end. It looks like a General Election in the very near future." He replied to me, "I do not care how soon it comes. We have got a splendid cry now, 'The Army against the People.'" I turned to him and said, "You are a clever man. Do you think that would be a particularly fair cry?" He said to me, and I took down at once the words that he 941 used—[Laughter]—you will not laugh and cheer when I have finished:—What is fairness to me? I have no principles with regard to politics.What I want is a winning cry, and the cry of 'The Army against the People' is a good enough one for me.If I am challenged with regard to that, I am prepared to give the name of the hon. Member who made that statement. I have no wish to hide myself behind the privileges of this House. If necessary, and if I am further challenged, I am prepared to make the statement outside, and to take the responsibility of any action. But I should strongly recommend hon. Members opposite not to challenge the statement I have made. It is a true statement. I thank goodness that the hon. Member who made it speaks English with a strong foreign accent. The Prime Minister asked us to believe that neither the Government nor any Member of the Government, ever contemplated any aggressive operations against Ulster. They really must think the House of Commons is extremely credulous. We are bound to believe the evidence of our own eyes, and nobody can possibly believe that a whole division of troops, and a brigade of cavalry, with artillery, as well as a battle squadron sent to Lamlash—nobody could possibly believe that the Cavalry and Infantry were to be moved into Ulster for anything but aggressive operations. The very movement of these troops into Ulster was an aggressive operation in itself. Who could possibly say that a division of troops was necessary for the guarding of the stores? Cavalary are not used to guard stores, nor are field guns wanted. The battle squadron was sent to Lamlash, the First Lord of the Admiralty has told us, not because there was an outbreak in Ulster, but in case of an outbreak in consequence of the movement of troops there. But nobody who looks at the facts that face them can possibly doubt it was the intention of certain Members of the Government at any rate, if it were not the intention of the Cabinet as a whole, to force the situation, to force an outbreak in Ulster, and to coerce Ulster before the Home Rule Bill had been passed into law. I venture to say that an outbreak was only prevented—that the movement of these troops (for they were on the verge of being moved) was only prevented by the officers at the Curragh accepting the alternative which the Government offered them of sacrificing their careers, and being dismissed from the service. Had it not 942 been for this there is no question that at the present moment our country would be engaged in civil war. The First Lord of the Admiralty said, at Bradford, that there were worse things than bloodshed. Yes, there are worse things than bloodshed in the eyes of the Government, and one of the worst things is to face the electors at the poll at a General Election.
Mr. LLEWELYN WILLIAMS
It is always refreshing to hear a speech from the hon. Member who has just addressed the House. By the conventions of public life in this country, one is not able to attend—as one used to before one became a Member of this House—public meetings addressed by hon. Gentlemen opposite, and, therefore, one does not know the character of the oratory which is used in order to induce the electors to send Members who sit on those benches back to this House. But whenever I hear the hon. Gentleman—and I wish we could hear him oftener, not by way of interjection, but by way of debate—I feel at once that I hear the authentic views of the Tory party as expressed by the ordinary common or garden individual sitting on those benches. That is the spirit of the speeches with which the country will be ringing during the next four or five, or it may be twelve, months, until the General Election comes upon it. The speech was full of the most confused, and therefore most successful, political thinking. It was full of discrepancies. One argument was used at one moment and another argument at the very next moment. At one time the speaker quoted Lord Roberts in the House of Lords, with approval; he quoted what he said about two months ago, that an order to the English Army to march upon Ulster would mean the ruin of the English Army. He also quoted, with approval, that infamous letter written by another field-marshal in 1892 to the Duke of Cambridge, in which he said that the Army would revolt against any attempt to coerce Ulster. The speech quoted these things with approval in one breath and in the next breath turned round to hon. Gentlemen on this side, and accused them of being the people who had dragged the Army into politics. I should like to draw attention to a speech very much more moderate in tone, and therefore more powerful, a speech which was addressed to us earlier in the day by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the Walton Division (Mr. F. E. Smith). As far as I could gather the right hon. Gentleman had three charges 943 to bring against the Government, and I will take them in their historical sequence, rather than in the order in which they were made.
The first charge was that the very movement of troops into Ulster, from the 14th to the 21st of this month, was provocative and was meant to be provocative to the loyalists of Ulster to oppose this force by violence, and to bring about civil commotion and civil war. An hon. Member sitting on the back benches opposite emphasised that and said that, in his view, what the Government wished to do by sending troops into Ulster was to have a repetition on a larger scale of the massacre of Glencoe. That is the charge that lies at the back of the mind, I will not say of all hon. Gentlemen who have spoken from those benches, but of a great many people who have been writing in the Press, and of some people who have been speaking in this House. I confess I felt great sympathy with the First Lord of the Admiralty the other day, when the hon. Member for South Birmingham (Mr. Amery) threw a certain remark across the floor of the House to him, suggesting that that was the diabolical motive the Government had in their mind when they sent those troops into Ulster. Although my right hon. Friend used what was termed unparliamentary language, it was not a whit too strong to describe the sinister and diabolical suggestion made by the hon. Member. I have no doubt we shall hear it again, not only here but in the Press. But if such a charge were true, then the Government are not fit to occupy the position that they do to-day. What was the massacre of Glencoe to which it has been compared? It was the assassination of innocent and unarmed people at dead of night in their beds. That is the sort of thing that the Government are said to have been planning after the 14th March. I see that the hon. Member for South Birmingham assents to that proposition. Therefore we have it on the high authority of the hon. Member that what the Government meant to do after the 14th March was not merely to safeguard and protect ammunition and stores belonging to the Government in the province of Ulster, but to use that as a mask for a second Sicilian Vespers, a second St. Bartholomew, or a second massacre of Glencoe. That is seriously suggested as being the plan, or rather the plot, of a Government in a civilised 944 country, and we find hon. Gentlemen of education and position who have the audacity and hardihood in the House of Commons to lend their authority to such a suggestion as that.
Let me ask the House for a moment to consider the position with which the Government was confronted on 14th March. I am not going over the ground which the First Lord of the Admiralty traversed earlier this afternoon, nor to repeat the extracts he read from the letter written by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Dublin University (Sir E. Carson). What happened on 14th March was this: After their efforts to make a reconciliation or effect a settlement had been repulsed in this House and in the letter written by the right hon. and learned Member for Dublin University, the Government came to the conclusion that the only thing that could have affected the mind of the right hon. Gentleman in acting as he did was that the time had come at last for actions to take the place of words. What had been going on for the last eighteen months or two years? We have been told that 100,000 men were enrolled as volunteers in this Ulster army. We know that eighteen months ago certain gentlemen and noble men of high standing and influential positions in this country had been nominated to form a provisional government if and when Home Rule passed into law. We know now that in all probability, at all events in the ordinary course of things, unless some accident or cataclysm happens, that Home Rule will become the law of the land in June or July of this year. We know, too, that it has been the policy of the Tory party for the last six months to bring about a dissolution in May. Therefore, when the right hon. and learned Gentleman rejected the offers of settlement and refused to discuss them as a basis of settlement, it was only to be expected, indeed, it was only natural, that the Government must come to the conclusion that he was opinion that the time had come for him to take a forward move as he suggested in his letter.
Not only that, but we also know that for eighteen months, under a great retired Indian General, these 100,000 men have been drilled day and night, and that ammunition and stores have been poured into Ulster. Everything is ready. Even the ambulance corps, under the direction of great ladies, is ready in Ulster. Under these circumstances is it to be wondered 945 at that the Government came to the conclusion that it was time for them to safeguard and protect the ammunition, stores and property of the Government in the various depots in Ulster. That was all that the Minute of 14th March purported to do. It is said it was only a cloak for a bigger undertaking, that it was meant to enable the Government to have an excuse to send Cavalry brigades to Ulster and the Fleet to the coast of Ulster, that it was only a pretence, the real object of it being to provoke Ulster into taking some rash step, and that that rash step would be used as an excuse to massacre the innocent and loyal people of that province. Where is the evidence of that? I have listened to all the Debates last week and this week, and I have listened in vain for the slightest bit of evidence that would be sufficient to convince anybody in a court of law that such a fell and sinister design animated the Government. It was only natural, indeed the First Lord of the Admiralty to-day and last week admitted that it was right, that the Government should take into consideration a possible eventuality. It was only proper that they should believe that the right hon. and learned Member for Dublin University was not altogether bluffing during the last two years. We on this side of the House have been denounced by hon. Gentlemen opposite—for what? For not taking the Ulster case seriously. We have been told that we have accused them of bluffing, and they have told us that they were not bluffing, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman has told us that they are in serious earnest. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Worcestershire (Mr. Austen Chamberlain) said to his Constituents last autumn, with that originality of phrase which always distinguishes him, that,The sands were running outAll through last autumn the "Times" newspaper, and all the other Tory organs, told us that we were "on the brink of civil war." The Prime Minister was denounced on platforms and in the Press because he was postponing the day when he was going to make his suggestions for settlement. We were told that he was "playing with fire," and that it would be almost impossible, even with the devoted services of the right hon. and learned Member for Dublin University, to keep Ulster in restraint until Parliament met. Indeed, we have been told this afternoon by the First Lord of the Admiralty that so serious a 946 view was taken even among the military authorities in Ireland as long ago as January last, that the Secretary for War asked the First Lord of the Admiralty to send a cruiser to Carrickfergus. Only a few weeks ago the right hon. and learned Member for Dublin University, and the senior Member for the City of London (Mr. Balfour) went down to the City of London, the heart of this great Empire, and held a meeting, and there he said that it was not days, but perhaps hours, that would remain before a great conflagration would be ignited in Ulster. That was the real condition of affairs, as we were told by the Leader of the Opposition on the first day of this Session. It is not worth while going over all the evidence, but the evidence is ample to show that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, and their great and powerful Press behind them, spent all the months of last autumn and the early months of this year in trying to impress upon the Government and upon their supporters in this House and the country that we were on the brink of civil war, and that unless something were done, and that at once, some unhappy accident might occur in Ulster to set the whole thing ablaze.
That was the condition of affairs which the Government had to take into account when they were sending these troops, as a precautionary measure merely in the first instance, and to safeguard the Government stores and ammunition in the Ulster depots. Therefore, they had to take into account all this inflammatory language. and to say to themselves "there may be something of truth in all this, and we as a Government, responsible for the protection of life and property in Ireland, responsible for the maintenance of law and order in Ireland, must also see to it that not only shall enough troops be sent to Ulster to safeguard the stores, but there shall be ready at hand, ready for any emergency, a sufficient number of troops to do the work of the Government there.' That is why a certain portion of the Fleet was sent to Lamlash, in case the movement of troops in Ulster might, by an unhappy accident, lead to the greater conflagration which has been prophesied for so many months. Can any hon. Member really, looking at the thing with an impartial mind, deny the absolute right and the bounden duty of the Government to do what they did? They never sent an unnecessary force to Ulster. Immediately they found that this movement of the 947 troops to secure the stores was not attended by any difficulty, the whole of the rest of the forces kept in reserve were allowed to remain quiescent.
We are now told that something terrible happened at the Curragh on 20th March, when General Paget put certain questions to the officers. Let me remind the House what happened here the night before. The 20th of March was a Friday. The night before there was a great Debate in this House, and the Leader of the Opposition made one of the few conciliatory speeches which he has ever made. I was delighted to hear it, because I thought an end might be put to these unhappy controversies. The Prime Minister answered the right hon. Gentleman in an equally conciliatory spirit, and then the right hon. Gentleman (Sir E. Carson), the prospective leader of the hypothetical rebellion in Ulster, commenced by saying:—I had intended to intervene at a later stage of this debate, but in consequence of many things which have happened, and not least of all in consequence of what I might call the trifling with the subject by the Prime Minister"—who had only the week before offered the exclusion of Ulster—and the provocation which was endorsed by the First Lord of the Admiralty last Saturday, I feel that I ought not to be here but in Belfast.What did the right hon. Gentleman mean when he said that his place was in Belfast and not in this House? He meant to imply, as I thought, and as I think everyone who heard him thought, that the time for action had come, and the time for wordy warfare was at an end. The trifling of the Prime Minister put a termination to the situation. He must go now to Ulster; there to be surrounded by his bodyguard and his covenanters and his wooden guns and whatnot. His place was at the seat of war. Do hon. Members think that such a declaration as that, made by the leader of 100,000 armed men, with a provisional government behind them, a declaration by so powerful a man as that, did not have its effect on the Government? I should have thought it was a matter which must have affected any Government and must have affected the mind of General Paget in Dublin the next day. I do not know what General Paget said to his officers at the Curragh. We have no correspondents among brigadier-generals. We are never made the 948 recipients of their confidences. I do not know, but on the very face of it, the version given of that declaration or speech or address, whichever it was, of General Paget, at the Curragh, on 20th March, given by the Leader of the Opposition, is not complete, and I question whether it is correct. I think the right. hon. Gentleman (Mr. F. E. Smith) said that the matter had been discussed by this time in every officers' mess and in every canteen in the country, and that everyone knows what General Paget said. All I can say is that I have heard versions of what the gallant officer said to his men, and not even the most truculent Member of the Opposition would say that the actual words which General Paget is reported to have used could have been placed in his mouth by any Cabinet Minister. Therefore, whatever were the words which were used by General Paget on that occasion, it did not pretend to be a verbatim version of orders and instructions which he had received from the Government. It was simply a gloss which the gallant officer quite honestly put on his instructions.
I have now to part company with some of my hon. Friends on this side. It is suggested that the Government did something wrong when they asked, if they did ask, General Paget to find out what the sentiments of his officers on this matter were, and it was supposed to be a high crime and misdemeanour to ask an officer to answer a question as to what he would do under certain hypothetical conditions. I think, in fairness, the House ought to try and remember again what the condition of things was on Friday, 20th March, when this incident occurred at the Curragh. For months we had been told that we could not rely on the Army. Lord Roberts told us in the House of Lords that it would ruin the Army if it was asked to move against Ulster. He quoted also the words used by Lord Wolseley in 1892. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. F. F. Smith) quoted with approval the words which were used by Lord Roberts in the House of Lords. Lord Roberts is the most distinguished English soldier alive. He has led the greatest Army that England has ever put into the field. He is a man with enormous and well-deserved influence with every officer in the Army. He has been thanked time and again by Parliament for his services to his King and to his country, and he was pensioned by this House on account of his service. When he in his place in the House of 949 Lords uses language of this sort, is it not perfectly patent that it must have enormous influence on the feelings of the Army?
§ Mr. HAROLD SMITH
Will the hon. and learned Member allow me to remind him that Lord Roberts only echoed what Lord Wolseley said many years ago.
Mr. L. WILLIAMS
If the hon. Member had listened, he would have found that I said so. That only makes the position much worse. Lord Wolseley in a letter to the Duke of Cambridge—I am 10th to say anything about him because he is dead. Lord Roberts lent his great influence and name and distinction in this matter, and they must have enormous effect upon opinions in the Army, especially among officers. Not only that, but the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Dublin University (Sir E. Carson) went further, and told us last autumn that he had received pledges and promises from many of the most distinguished officers in His Majesty's forces that they would not act against Ulster. [An HON. MEMBER: "Some of the chief officers."] I have not the exact words, but the speech will be in the recollection of hon. Members. That, therefore, was the position with which the Government was faced in issuing the order of 14th March. They knew that gentlemen high in the confidence of officers of the Army, noblemen like Lord Roberts, and great newspapers which have also enormous influence—though they do not seem to me always to realise how great it is—all those great persons and institutions were preaching, I will not say sedition—but saying as the exponents of the views of the Army that the Army were not prepared to carry out the instructions of His Majesty's Government in case of the Home Rule Bill becoming law. Under those circumstances, I ask any impartial and unbiassed man here to consider what is the elementary and fundamental duty of any civilised Government? I do not say that they ought to put the officers under an inquisition, but it is perfectly right—I do not care who disputes it—when a General Officer of the great rank of Sir Arthur Paget, Commander-in-Chief of His Majesty's Forces in Ireland, comes over to see the Secretary for War that that Minister should ask him whether those sentiments which have been ascribed to officers in the Army are really the sentiments entertained by them. I do 950 not defend for a moment the actual way in which the questions were put. I do not know what questions were put, and I do not want to know. All I am concerned with is that the Government has a right, under those circumstances, when great personages have been saying that the Army could not be relied upon, when the Leader of the Opposition in Dublin at the end of last year said that the same fate—I will not say that—insinuated that the same fate would befall this Government if they tried to use the Army against Ulster as befell James II. when he used the Army against the people—I say that in these circumstances any Government would be lacking in its elementary duty if it did not find out in time what the sentiment of the Army was, in order to ascertain whether the Army was disaffected and riddled with sedition, and whether it would be disloyal, as the champions of the Army had said it would be.
I wish to say a few words about the blunder, the inexcusable blunder, and the only blunder, of which, not the Government, but a Member of the Government, was guilty of last Monday. On 23rd March what happened, as I understand, was this: Brigadier-General Gough and two fellow officers came over from Ireland. They had a conference with Sir John French, the Minister for War, and the Adjutant-General, at the War Office, if you are to believe what the Press next day said. I think I saw it stated in the London "Times," and in some other papers as well, that General Gough brought over the letter which has been described by the Prime Minister as a proper letter, in which the officers inquired whether they were to be asked to initiate military operations in Ulster. The newspapers at the time said Sir John French absolutely refused to give any assurance of any sort or kind, and I venture to say—and I think all hon. Gentlemen will agree—that that was a perfectly proper attitude to take up. Then, for some reason or other, we are told that Lord Roberts, whose views had been made known on this subject two months ago, and who has signed the Covenant, came on the scene.
Whether it was the influence of Lord Roberts or not, I cannot say, but the then Minister for War did a thing which he ought to have refused to do. He gave certain verbal assurances. These verbal assurances were sufficient for the purpose of Brigadier-General Gough. He left 951 apparently satisfied. But then, on thinking over the points raised by the Secretary for War, General Gough determined to have these assurances put in writing. He wrote the letter to the Adjutant-General which is now printed in the White Paper. The Adjutant-General sent the letter to the Minister for War at the Cabinet meeting, and we have been told that that letter reached the then Secretary for War at about half-past one. But before he got the letter the Adjutant-General had put his version of the verbal assurances which were given by the right hon. Gentleman at the morning conference in the form of a draft memorandum. That was discussed by the whole Cabinet, but, unfortunately, before the discussion was finished, the Secretary for War left to attend upon His Majesty. When he came back the Cabinet was in the act of dispersing, and, therefore, this letter of General Gough was only seen by the Secretary for War, and by him alone. It was never seen by anybody else. Then we have been told a story which would be almost incredible were it not vouched for by the Secretary for War himself and by his colleagues. In spite of the fact that the Prime Minister handed over this document to the Secretary for War, as being the considered judgment of the Cabinet, that Minister sits down and adds these two offending paragraphs. To my mind, there is nothing very objectionable in these two paragraphs but for two things. Because when a declaration was made by Lord Morley in the other House in almost identical terms there was none who saw any offence in them—that is to say, most of its would be perfectly willing to agree to those concluding paragraphs as a statement of the Government's policy. But the venom lies not in the words themselves, but in the context. It is a letter addressed by the Army Council to a subordinate officer, a brigadier-general, not even afield-marshal, or anything like that, in which the brigadier-general is allowed to make terms as to the conditions of his loyalty to his King. I say it is a blunder, and that is why my right hon. Friend has had to resign his office. After the right hon. Gentleman had added these two paragraphs, he sent the document across to the War Office, to Sir John French and the Adjutant-General without telling them, as far as I can ascertain, that the whole thing was not a considered Cabinet document. There was no mention made 952 of these concluding paragraphs which were added to a Cabinet document by the right hon. Gentleman without the authorisation of the Cabinet itself. But there is even worse than that. The Prime Minister said on Wednesday that he only saw the two concluding paragraphs of this document late that afternoon, after the Debate was over, and after he had gone to his room. Then he got a typewritten copy of this document as printed in the White Paper. He sent for the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War, and asked what it meant. Even then the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War did not remember until the last moment that he ought to show this letter that he had received from General Gough at half-past one, before he drafted the concluding paragraphs. This is the letter, and it is the most serious thing of all:—Dear General,—On thinking over the points raised by the Secretary of State this morning the question has arisen in my mind, and it will undoubtedly be one of the first questions asked by my officers when I see them, viz., in the event of the present Home Rule Bill becoming law, can we be called upon to enforce it on Ulster under the expression of maintaining law and order?And the greatest offence of my right hon. Friend must be not having shown that letter to the Prime Minister or to any of his colleagues, and, having added those two concluding paragraphs addressed to General Gough, it must have looked to Sir John French and to the Adjutant-General, as it must have occurred to General Gough himself, that the only and inevitable conclusion which could be drawn from it was that those concluding paragraphs were written in answer to the question contained in Brigadier-General Gough's letter. That seems to me to be the worst part of the blunder. It was a perfectly honest blunder, and, I have no doubt, inadvertent. Still, it is an inadvertence that we cannot tolerate in an officer high in the service of the State, especially at this most critical time.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Walton told us this afternoon that officers know nothing of politics and that the Army has no politics; and we have heard repudiated with scorn the suggestion which was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, as a vague rumour, in this House last week, that this letter to General Gough was flaunted about in the Carlton or some other Tory club. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Walton got virtuously indignant over the very suggestion that General Gough had anything 953 to do with any Tory club, and said that he had never been a member of any Tory club and had never been inside the portals of one. The hon. Member for South Birmingham, it may be remembered, explained the matter on Tuesday last. The Prime Minister on Wednesday stated that neither he nor any one of his colleagues, except the Secretary for War, knew of the existence of this letter from General Gough which I have just read, until Tuesday afternoon. On Tuesday afternoon, the hon. Gentleman who is not, as far as I know, an officer in the Army, who has no post in the War Office, and is not even the Leader of the Opposition, told us the whole story. He told us first of the Conference in the War Office. He told us then of a letter being written that General Gough was not satisfied with the verbal assurance that had been given to him, and that thereupon General Gough wrote this very letter, whose very existence was unknown to the Prime Minister until a few minutes before the hon. Gentleman was speaking; that he wrote this letter to the Adjutant-General, and received a reply to it, that that reply was not satisfactory, and it was sent back, and then Sir John French—I do not think he mentioned Sir John French's name—but there was an alteration or addition made to it, and that satisfied General Gough, who went back triumphantly to the Curragh, having killed Home Rule and smashed the Government.
The hon. Gentleman did not say that, those are my words, but the hon. Gentleman did say all that I have stated that General Gough was not satisfied with verbal assurances, that he wrote a letter and got a reply to it, that he was not satisfied with that, and got an answer which satisfied him, and went back to Dublin on that Monday night with the written assurance in his pocket; and the hon. Gentleman became virtuously indignant against this terrible Government. I would like to ask the hon. Gentleman if General Gough be the mere soldier that he is held out to be, if he is innocent of all participation in politics, and in party politics especially, how did the hon. Gentleman get posession of all these facts almost before the Prime Minister knew the whole of them if General Gough did not talk with either him or any other Tory Member in this House? It is idle to pretend that these gentlemen are not keen politicians. The very facts that I have enumerated show that General Gough—it may not be to his discredit, but it is to the discredit of his 954 friends in this House, who hold him out to be absolutely innocent of party politics—when he is in actual communication and conversation with hon. Gentlemen opposite in order to defeat the Government. I have tried to examine as well as I can the real facts of the situation. With regard to the two charges against the Government, the movement of troops and what happened at the Curragh Camp, I say that they cannot be held responsible. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"] As regards what happened last Monday, lamentable though it is, it was a blunder made not by the Cabinet, but by a member of the Cabinet, who is no longer a member of the Cabinet, and therefore has purged his offence. The Cabinet itself cannot be held responsible, because they have deliberately given a united judgment on the matter. I am quite sure all who know him will agree that it was by inadvertency and in all honesty that the late Secretary for War acted as he did, and he purged his offence by resigning his office. I have only to say, in those circumstances, that the Government have done two things: They took the very first possible opportunity to repudiate what had been done by making those Army Regulations last Friday, which swept the slate clean. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"] So far as their relations with General Gough and the other officers are concerned, they are now exactly as they stood a fortnight ago. I have already stated that Lord Morley, according to the First Lord of the Admiralty, did read, I will not say the ipsissima verba, but very nearly the exact words used in the House of Lords. There can be no doubt in these circumstances that the explanation given by the First Lord of the Admiralty is the true explanation.
Mr. L. WILLIAMS
I do not dispute it. If the hon. and learned Gentleman had listened to me, he would have seen that my suggestion is that what really happened was that Lord Morley drafted a paragraph which he thought represented the mind or policy of the Government. As I said before, there is nothing, in my humble opinion, that was against the proper policy that was to be pursued by this Government in connection with Home Rule; but the real offence in those two paragraphs is, first of all, that it was not 955 an Army Regulation addressed to the whole Army, but it was in the shape of a letter addressed to a single officer, General Gough, and therefore it looked as if it were a sort of treaty between the Government on the one hand and General Gough on the other.
Mr. L. WILLIAMS
If Lord Morley said so I did not hear him, but if the right hon. Gentleman vouches for it—
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. Whitley)
Hon. Members cannot embark upon the discussion of a speech made in another place.
Mr. L. WILLIAMS
We will all be able to see to-morrow morning what was said, but I quite understand that not only would it be irregular, but it would make it almost impossible to conduct Debates in this House if we referred to what happened in another place, and then only upon hearsay evidence. There is one phase of this unhappy controversy that arises, namely, that, whatever there may have been in the past, we may hope that hon. Gentlemen opposite who have equal responsibility for the good government of this country with any of us sitting on this side, will help to see to it that the Army henceforth shall be above and beyond politics. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] A very serious position has been raised, whether inadvertently or whether by design I am not going to stop to inquire, but it is one of the most serious issues that has ever been raised in this House. We live under a dynasty which has held its great office for over two hundred years by Parliamentary title. The Army is in a peculiar degree the creature and the weapon of the King; he is the personal head of the Army, and it will be a monstrous thing that a Parliamentary King should fail to have an Army that would obey his own Parliament.
§ Mr. CAVE
The hon. and learned Gentleman opposite began his speech by making a wholly unprovoked attack, and, I think, a very undeserved attack, upon my hon. Friend the Member for the Holderness Division (Mr. Stanley Wilson). After this onslaught, I listened with pleased anticipation, expecting that the hon. Gentleman would give us a very much more instructive speech than that 956 which he had criticised. I listened to him, and with all respect, I do not think he has added to the information of the House or the defence of the Government. He criticised the Minister who tendered his resignation, a resignation which, I think, does him credit, but that is a matter that can be left to be settled by the hon. Gentleman with the ex-Minister concerned. But I must refer to the attack which he made on my right hon. Friend the Member for Dublin University, in which he wholly misrepresented the facts. The hon. and learned Gentleman did not scruple to say that the Member for Dublin University went to Ireland last week for the purpose of commencing what the hon. Member called warlike operations, or something of that sort. Nothing could be more untrue, and I call as a witness for the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dublin University the Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon), who said last week that he knew and admitted that the Member for Dublin University was going to Ireland for the purpose of preserving the peace. I set that statement against the charge against the hon. and learned Gentleman. Let me go back to the speech of the First Lord of the Admiralty. Surely it is almost impossible for those who heard that speech to say that it was an answer to the very grave indictment of my right hon. Friend, because the First Lord of the Admiralty absolutely left out a great number of points, and to those to which he did refer he furnished no answer whatever. Let me take the points in order. The first point in the indictment was that the Government last week had initiated active military operations in Ulster. Is that denied or not? [An HON. MEMBER: "Of course it is!"] The hon. and learned Gentleman opposite devoted a great deal of his speech to proving that the operations were both reasonable and necessary, and I think the First Lord spent a great part of his speech in the same process. They do not see the point. The point is this. These things were done, these preparations were made, as we prove to-day by particular facts which cannot be contradicted, and yet the Government in the person of the Prime Minister came down to the House and told us that no such preparations were intended or commenced, and that there was nothing but the moving, I think, of four companies to certain parts of Ulster for the purpose of protecting the ammunition and stores. That, I venture to say, was not the fact. 957 I have no doubt the Prime Minister was misled, and was not told those facts, but that explanation cannot possibly be true. The facts speak for themselves. There was a provocative speech by the First Lord of the Admiralty at Bradford, of which he can only say it was made in a moment of despair. I should rather have thought it was made in a moment of bad temper, because the proposals which he claims to have inspired in the Cabinet, and which were made by the Prime Minister on Monday, were not at once accepted. That was followed by the meeting of what may be called a Junta of the Cabinet, of which we were told last week. Then came the orders at the War Office to General Paget who was, you will remember, brought over here for the purpose of those conferences at the War Office. It was shown to-day by my right hon. and learned Friend, that if the only intention was to protect the stores and ammunition, no such visit to this country would have been needed for a moment. No one can, I think, help believing that at the conferences at the War Office specific instructions were given to General Paget to do the very thing which he did immediately he went back to Ireland. We have not been told what happened at those conferences or what were the orders actually given to General Paget.
The Government have been challenged more than once by the Leader of the Opposition to tell us what General Paget says he said and what questions he says he asked, and that question has always been evaded and has never been answered. I am persuaded that what he said appears in the letter read at that Table, and in other letters which entirely confirmed that. The fact that the inquiries were addressed to officers of Cavalry and Artillery, and the movements of sixteen vessels of war, of which the First Lord of the Admiralty furnished not a word of explanation to-day, those facts show that active operations were intended, and were, in fact, actually begun. This was done while negotiations were pending for a settlement of that question, which we all desire to see settled if possible, this terrible question of Ireland. The First Lord seemed to deny that negotiations were still pending. He is wrong. An offer was made by the Prime Minister, and a counter offer was made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dublin University (Sir E. Carson). No reply has been given to the counter offer. We on 958 the back benches, as my right hon. Friends pointed out to-day, have never been heard on either side of the House on this question, and the Foreign Minister himself said last week that the matter was still open and the offer was not closed. Therefore, I think the case is clear that these operations were undertaken in the midst of these negotiations, and I believe—I speak for myself—the intention of those who took those steps was this, to get a grip, a military grip, of the whole province of Ulster, so that then negotiations might take place, but no longer free negotiations so far as Ulster was concerned, but negotiations under the shadow of the sword.
I believe that is the real meaning of the operations which were taking place. If that is right, I cannot imagine anything more unfair or anything less likely to inspire confidence in the other parties to those negotiations. There is more than one parallel in the history of these matters with certain parts of the history of the United States. Someone sent me only the other day an incident in the history of 1861, at the commencement of the American Civil War, in which something very similar occurred. When the differences had begun the State of South Carolina, which was one of the earliest to secede, claimed Fort Sumter, which that State had built and maintained, and sent to Washington a deputation to negotiate with the Federal Secretary for the surrender to South Carolina of Fort Sumter. The Federal Secretary kept them for some time in negotiation, but while he was negotiating he was fitting out an expedition to go to Fort Sumter and reinforce it for the benefit of his Government. At the last moment, the day before he sent the expedition to Fort Sumter, he wrote to the intermediary:—Faith as to Fort Sumter fully kept. Wait and see.That was at the very time when a squadron had received instructions to sail. It is in that sense I believe that faith was kept last week with the province of Ulster.
The second point my right hon. and learned Friend made, and which has never been clearly answered to-day, was this: Were the soldiers wrong—did the soldiers, did the officers, whose conduct has been attacked, do anything wrong at all, and, if so, what wrong did they commit? The First Lord never said "Yes" or "No" to that, and, so far as I know, no Member has given a plain answer to it. Just let me consider 959 that point, because I think it is of great importance that we should be agreed on it, if we possibly can. There has been some confusion in the Debates as to what the duty of a soldier in this country is. As against the King's enemies he has practically but one duty, that is to obey the orders of his superior officers.
§ Mr. CAVE
The King's enemies, we all know, are anybody who may invade us, or anybody against whom we may be fighting. [HON. MEMBERS: "Rebels!"] But it is no duty of the British soldier to make war upon the King's subjects. [HON. MEMBERS: "What about rebels?"] As regards the King's subjects, the question always arises in this way. When a chief constable or magistrate finding himself unable to keep order and to prevent breaches of the peace, requisitions military aid, then that aid is sent to the spot, but the officer commanding the troops has an absolute discretion, as provided by the King's Regulations, whether he will permit the troops to fire or not, and even the junior officers and men have a personal responsibility in the matter. The position of the soldier in that case is extremely difficult. He is in this peril, that if he refuses to fire he is subject to military penalties, whereas if he fires and is found to be unjustified in firing, he is subject to serious civil penalties. The law puts him in that very difficult position. The rule is put, in the letter of last December, by the late Secretary of State for War, somewhat too strongly and too widely, I think. That communication said:—The law clearly lays down that a soldier is entitled to obey an order to shoot only if that order is reasonable under the circumstances.I agree with some of my hon. Friends that that was not a correct statement. The soldier who declines to shoot when ordered takes a serious responsibility, and he ought to be satisfied that there was absolutely no lawful and proper reason for giving the order.
Mr. C. EDWARDS
May be lawfully refuse to go to the district where disturbance is anticipated, apart from shooting?
§ Mr. CAVE
Certainly not. There is of course the grave exception of civil war, which creates itself; because, it being the duty of the soldier to obey the proper authority, if that authority is 960 divided, a difficulty may arise as to the power to which allegiance is due. That only happens when there is actually existing civil war, and I need not refer to that further. If that is the rule, consider in what position these officers were placed. The Commander-in-Chief in Ireland told them that military operations against Ulster were contemplated. and he asked them whether in that event they would take part in those operations. He told them that if they preferred not to do so they could send in their papers the next morning, and they would be dismissed the Army. There is no doubt about the substance of that communication. It appears in writing in several letters. In the very letter quoted from the Treasury Bench today, from a young officer in Kildare, it is stated that the commands in question were sent to the regiment in writing. The officer copied down the writing, and mentioned the words which were underlined. So that there must exist somewhere a written document containing these very orders. I do not. think that that document ought to be refused to the House. By the way the same young officer of whom the First Lord spoke, I thought, very fairly, referring to this very question, said:—This we are all agreed, is the greatest outrage that has ever been perpetrated on the British Army.The First Lord accidentally omitted to quote those words. See what the meaning of that question was. It called upon these officers to say whether they would take part in what were called "military operations" against Ulster, and incidentally to say that, if they were called upon to obey the civil authority, and to use their lethal weapons against the people, they would not refuse to do so. It called upon them to surrender the very responsible discretion which the law imposes upon every officer in their position. A more improper demand to make upon a British officer I cannot conceive. I think that General Gough gave a proper reply. In saying that I am not reflecting upon those officers who preferred to carry on and not to resign. They had a difficult choice, and no doubt it required moral courage to take that particular line. I am not reflecting in the least upon them. But I submit that the letter of General Gough was a perfectly proper letter, and one to which no possible objection could be taken. This part of the letter has not been read yet:—If such duty consists of the maintenance of order and the preservation of property, all the officers in 961 this brigade, including myself, would be prepared to carry out that duty. But if the duty involves the initiation—a word which he underlined—of active operations against Ulster, the following numbers of officers by regiments would respectfully, and under protest, prefer to be dismissed.No objection can be taken, I believe, to that answer. The Prime Minister took none; the late Secretary of State for War took none. I believe it was a wholly proper answer for an officer to make. No order was ever disobeyed. There was no threat to disobey any order, either to go to Ulster, or to do anything else—absolutely no threat at all. All that the officers did was to say: "You ask us to make this difficult choice. You give us the option of surrendering our discretion or of throwing up our career and our income, and being dismissed from the Service. We have felt it our duty to choose the latter alternative." It is monstrous that an answer like that should be made the subject of attacks upon the Army. That was blunder Number One. I will say no more about it. Most of us are agreed that the inquiries had better not have been made. I will refer now to the later blunders which were made by the Cabinet, or by several Members of it. The letter to which I have just referred was reported to the Cabinet. They must have had it before them. They have said that there was a misunderstanding by the officers of the effect of the inquiries addressed to them. The proper course would have been to say, "Very well; those inquiries were wrong. We withdraw them altogether, and we wipe out the whole matter from the record." What was done? It was discussed in the Cabinet, and the Cabinet itself, every member who was present, agreed to give some assurances to the officers. The whole Cabinet took that line. The two paragraphs to which afterwards exception was taken were added, we are told, by the late Secretary of State for War. It is clear that the responsibility was not his alone, even so far as the Cabinet are concerned. Lord Morley stated in another place the substance of those paragraphs as representing the policy of the Cabinet as a whole. Lord Morley, I understand, says, not that he was present in the room when some box was opened, and that he thought he must make himself responsible for what was in the box, but that he himself settled those two paragraphs and altered some of the words in them. He says, as I understand, that he thought then that the paragraphs represented the mind of the Cabinet, by whom 962 the matter had been discussed, and he intimates, as I understand, that he thinks so still. If that is so, I venture to think that a great injustice was done to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite in attempting to throw the whole responsibility upon him. The responsibility rightly attaches not to him alone, but to the Cabinet as a whole.
What happened next? There was a storm in the House, a storm which meant a loss of votes in this House and possible disaster to the Ministry. That, of course, was a very serious matter. There was another long confabulation on the part of those concerned, and they came to the conclusion, which most people had reached earlier, that they had better not have given any assurance to officers in the Army. What was done then? What might have been done was this: the Government might have said, "A promise ought not to have been given to officers in the Army, but the promise was given by our colleague, who was responsible for the conduct of the Army; that promise binds us as a Government; we will not repudiate it as regards the particular individuals to whom that promise was given, but no such assurance will be given in future." The Government preferred another course. They repudiated their own colleague, and declared that these two paragraphs were not to be binding upon the Cabinet. Resignations were handed in. I want to call the attention of the House to what happened after the resignation of the War Minister and the two generals, and especially to what happened on Friday last, because it has not been referred to. It seemed to me to be another change of front on the part of the Government, because if the House will look carefully at the new Army Order, and read what the Prime Minister said when he gave it out to the House, they will find that the very assurances that were in the two paragraphs in question, and which were repudiated by the Cabinet, were relived on Friday last.
The new Army Order consisted of three paragraphs. The first was a censure upon the late Secretary of State for War. The second paragraph was a further censure upon him and on Lord Morley, and, I think, upon the Cabinet as a whole. The third paragraph laid down the duty ofevery officer and soldier to obey all lawful commands given to them … either for the safeguarding of public property or the support of the civil power in the ordinary execution of its duty.963 That phrase, "in the ordinary execution of its duty," struck me on Friday. I knew I had heard it before. I found it in the first of the two repudiated paragraphs, and I find the second of the two repudiated paragraphs involved in the speech afterwards made by the Prime Minister, because what the Prime Minister said was this:—It is altogether untrue that the Government, or any Member of the Government, have contemplated active operations of an aggressive character in Ulster' or any operations which now or in the future would impose upon the Army any duty or any service which is not amply covered by the terms of this Order."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th March, 1914, col. 785.]In other words. "We give the House the assurance, the very assurance which we withdrew from the officers." I thought, I think still, that the expression was used for the purpose of inducing certain officers to withdraw their resignations. It had not that effect, but I think it is rather too much for the Government, having now reasserted these very principles, to endeavour to throw dust in the eyes of the House, and to endeavour to induce the House to believe that it was we, and not they, who are responsible for those principles.
There is only one other point to make. After this series of blunders—propositions made and withdrawn and made again,—I should have thought that there was hardly another blunder which the Government could commit. There was one, and they have committed it. They have raised a cry that the issue before the country now is "The Army against the People." It is a dishonest cry. It is an unpatriotic cry. It is one which the First Lord told us today may lead to the destruction of the Army. He threatens us that unless we come to his terms he will, at any cost, continue to press that issue. As regards the First Lord himself, it does not surprise me so very much. When he was Home Secretary, and it was his duty to defend the judges in this House, he raised the cry of "the judges against the people." Now he is Minister of Defence, he raises the cry of "The Army against the people." I think he is quite ready to raise to-morrow the cry of "The Navy against the people." In all his zigzag career which we have watched with so much interest there is no great institution in this country which he has not at some time attacked.
He initiated the cry, so far as any responsible person is concerned. The 964 Chancellor of the Exchequer adopts it with delight, and talks about the risk of a "military despotism" in this country. That is absolute nonsense. I regret to say that the learned Attorney-General opposite has given the cry the sanction of his approval. It is a very unfair cry. It is one the Army has not deserved of the party opposite—that they should attempt to set the people against that force. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord attempts to ride away upon this reply: He says that we raised it. [An HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear."] Is that what the right hon. Gentleman said the other night? He did not say: "You Tories are trying to set the Army against the people." He said that recent events, the resignation of General Gough. and the request of the officers for assurances had raised that issue. He simply to-day ran away from the allegations he made the other night. He makes the charge against the leaders of my party that they are engaged in attempting to seduce the Army. He not only made the charge, but he tried to support it by evidence. What was the evidence with which he tried to support this charge? He quoted speeches in which some of my right hon. Friends said that the Army should not be used for the purpose of coercing Ulster. Nor should it. He also quoted speeches in which other of my right hon. Friends said that although that was so, soldiers must obey all lawful commands, and that none of us would say anything for the purpose of seducing a soldier from his duty. Instead of proving, he disproved his charge, and I say a more unfounded charge was never made in this House.
Mr. C. EDWARDS
I ask the hon. and learned Gentleman, what about the quotation from the Leader of the Opposition, in which he said that if in certain circumstances officers resigned, they would only be doing their duty?
§ Mr. CAVE
I need not reply to that. My right hon. Friend is going to speak, and I leave him to deal with it. The First Lord of the Admiralty went further, and pointed to the Covenant as supporting his charges. The charge is made against Lord Roberts—the greatest soldier of our time—that he had attempted to seduce soldiers from their duty. Sir, the Covenant is a signed declaration of the intention to take any steps—which I read to mean any steps consistent with 965 honour—to prevent this crime being committed in Ulster, and I think that when honourable men sign an undertaking of that kind you are bound to read into it the words which I have put. I say quite plainly—and there is nobody here who would not say the same—that it would be a dishonourable thing to attempt to seduce soldiers from their duty. I, myself, have been asked by more than one, especially by retired officers, my advice upon the point, and I always told them that their duty to the King and the Service is paramount. They must do and say and sign nothing that would interfere with that duty. The Attorney-General asked us the other night to take his word of honour that he and his colleagues had no thought of what he called unprovoked butchery in Ulster. I ask him to take my word for what it is worth, that neither I nor any of my Friends have ever had the least intention or thought of persuading or endeavouring to persuade one soldier in this country to recede from any part whatever of his duty as a soldier. I want to know this. Is this cry of the First Lord—which I call a dishonest cry—this cry of the Army versus the people—going to be sanctioned by the whole of the party opposite? Does the learned Attorney-General endorse that cry? Does the Foreign Minister? Does the Prime Minister? I do not think any one of them would; and, Sir, I say this, if they do not endorse this false cry, they ought to say so in plain words and repudiate it. But if they do, and thereby, as the First Lord prophesied, bring about the possible ruin of our Army, they are guilty this time not of a blunder but of an infamous crime against the country.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
I must apologise to the House for rising immediately after the speech of my hon. and learned Friend, and I think I might fairly say that if it had been possible I should have been quite ready to leave our case as it is left by the speech to which we have just listened. But, Sir, as the House knows, I, on behalf of the party to which I belong, gave a pledge that if the Government would introduce into this House their proposals in regard to the Home Rule Bill, we should facilitate them in getting their financial business. It is possible to continue this Debate under our rules to any length, but that pledge is binding upon us, and I am sure my hon. Friends behind me will respect it and allow the Debate to end tonight at a reasonable hour. Now I wish at 966 the outset to associate myself with what was said by the Prime Minister about the resignation of Field-marshals Sir John French and Sir Spencer Ewart. I am sure that everyone in the House regrets the loss to the nation and to the Army caused by the resignation of these officers. I am sure, also, that it must have been a difficult decision for them, and no one can have thought that they were acting wrongly in taking so long a time to make up their minds. They must have felt that their resignations now at a critical time like this might be damaging to the Army, but finally they have decided to resign, and I have no doubt that what influenced them was the feeling that in the long run what is best for the Army is that the heads of the Army should not do anything contrary to the personal honour, and that if there was any doubt the scale ought to weigh against the interests of these distinguished officers.
We listened this afternoon to a speech which covered a good deal of ground by the First Lord of the Admiralty, and I shall endeavour to reply, as well as I can, to some of the points which he raised. My right hon. Friend near me, in commenting upon the speech, made by the First Lord at Bradford dwelt upon the fact that it was made at the time when, as the House knows, the Prime Minister himself declared that he would be no party to closing the door to any prospect of settlement. The First Lord told us this afternoon that the offer which they had made to Ulster was that they should have the right to vote themselves out of the Home Rule Bill. No such offer has ever been made by the Government. On the contrary, my right hon. Friend the Member for Trinity College said at once to the House and to the Prime Minister that if such on offer were made he would at once submit it to those whom he represented in Ulster. The right hon. Gentleman opposite went further and stated that I had taken up the position that whatever Ulster did, be it right or wrong, we would back them in their resistance. I have never taken up such a position, and, what is more, the First Lord immediately afterwards made a statement which showed that at the very moment he was imputing that position to me he knew I had never taken it up.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
I say that he knew that I had never taken up that position, because he said immediately afterwards in another place, and in order to found another charge against me, that I had stated that if the opinion of this country were declared in favour of the policy of the Government, I should consider that they were justified in enforcing their Bill. That shows, therefore, perfectly clearly that I never have taken up the position that we would support Ulster, right or wrong. The position now taken up not only by me, but by my hon. Friends, is that we believe that Ulster is right, and that believing she is right until the people of this country have given a definite decision on the point, we shall support her in maintaining her right. The right hon. Gentleman gave a quotation from my speech which does put me in a difficulty. He said that I had said that the Government would be justified in coercing Ulster to enforce the Bill. As a matter of fact, the Prime Minister cross-examined me on the subject, and I believe he put the question to me, "Would we be justified?" and I said "Yes." That, Mr. Speaker, is on record. I am not ashamed of it, and I am going to qualify it.
I had made on many occasions a declaration of what my view on that subject was, and these declarations had reference, not to the rights or duties of the Government, but solely to our position. What I intended by that interruption was to say that if the Government secured the support of the people of this country, then I and we would not be justified in supporting or encouraging the resistance of Ulster. That is a different thing. Whether or not the Government are justified is a, matter for their own conscience, but I do say this, that if they get the support of the country, then the responsibility is shared between them and the people of this country, and they would be in an entirely different position from that in which they stand to-day, when they are trying to force it through, and when, as I believe, they know that the majority of the people of this country are against it. Now whether or not Ulster should resist, even though the people in this country gave a decision, is not a question for me at all. It is a question for Ulster, and I am not going to enter to-night into any discussion as to whether revolution would be justified under such circumstances. I shall not enter into it to-night for this 968 reason, that, so far as I am concerned, I believe in representative government, and speaking as a British Member of the House of Commons, believing in representative government, if the decision of the people is given in favour of the Home Rule Bill, then I shall not be responsible for encouraging resistance against it.
The next charge which the right hon. Gentleman made against us, and partly against me, was that the leaders of the Unionist party, and the men who, if there is a change of Government, would assume office, had engaged in a conspiracy to seduce the Army from doing their duty. That is the charge, and the House heard the evidence on which it is supported. I shall examine that evidence. In the first place, he quoted something which was done by my hon. Friend the Member for the Ludlow Division of Shropshire (Mr. Rowland Hunt). My hon. Friend occupies an interesting and almost unique position in this House. He has displayed always a straightforward honesty which has won my respect at least, and I think the respect really of every Member of the House; but I would remind the House that my hon. Friend repudiated the leadership of my right hon. Friend who preceded me, and, much to my regret, he has taken the same course in regard to my leadership. And not only has he done that, but I am informed that he has actually recommended the farmers in Shropshire to vote against the policy for which I stand. Is it not, therefore, a little hard to seek as a proof of the conspiracy of the Unionist party the action of an hon. Member of this House who has stated that he is going to vote against that party? Leaving my hon. Friend, the right hon. Gentleman gave the evidence of five individuals, and this was in proof of a conspiracy by the leaders of the Unionist party. He quoted in support of his view the speeches of three Members of that party, two of whom have never been in the Cabinet, though possibly they might be in a Cabinet in the future; and in proof of the conspiracy he quoted two Members of the Unionist party who are amongst our leaders and who were Members of the last Unionist Cabinet. His proof, therefore, is that three said something which bears out what he said, and two said exactly the opposite. The three whom he accused were Lord Lansdowne, my right hon. Friend who opened the Debate this afternoon (Mr. F. E. Smith), and myself. I shall 969 only deal with myself. The others are well able to take care of themselves.
What is the ground on which he based that charge so far as I am concerned? He quoted words which I used in the House the other day to the effect that in my opinion the officers who had resigned had done their duty. That was the charge. But remember these words were used after the event more than that. What was it that I said? Did I say that these officers would be doing their duty in refusing to obey any command? On the contrary, I had read out to this House a document which showed that these officers were presented with an option; they had to do certain things which were against their conscience or to be dismissed the Service. They decided to be dismissed the Service, and I said that in taking that decision they were fulfilling their duty. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say that I implied that any officer taking another course would not be doing his duty. I neither said nor implied anything of the kind. If any officer thought that the Government were entitled to do what they were proposing to do that officer would be fulfilling his duty in obeying the order, and not taking the alternative presented to him by the Commanding Officer.
What was the other question the right hon. Gentleman gave of mine? He quoted quite correctly, so far as I could follow him, a statement I had made that tyranny is sometimes exercised by other people than kings. I had added as an historical fact that King James II. tried to exercise his tyranny by means of the Army, but failed because the Army refused to be made an instrument in carrying out that tyranny. Where is there a word of seduction of the Army in quoting that? It is really as if one were to take up the view that history, on a subject which is controversial, ought never to be mentioned. In calling attention to that analogy there was no intention of influencing the Army; it was intended to warn the Government. The right hon. Gentleman said it was made near and for the Curragh—a suggestion that it was intended to influence the officers. I will give him a better reason for influence on the officers, if they were influenced by any political speech. In my belief—although I have no evidence of it—the suspicion of the officers was raised by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman at Bradford, and it was that, if any political speech, that influenced them in the course they have taken. Then the right hon.
970 Gentleman went on to allude to Lord Roberts as one of the leaders of the Unionist party as proof of this conspiracy—and he did it in a characteristic way—he said Lord Roberts had joined this conspiracy because he signed the Covenant. He then read the words of the Covenant quite correctly:—And more particularly to prevent the armed forces of the Crown being used to deprive the people of Ulster of their rights.And in giving his interpretation of that, he characteristically said Lord Roberts had urged the soldiers to disobey orders. Why, these words just express what has been the motive of the main body of the speeches of all of us on this question—not that officers or soldiers should not obey orders, but that the people of this country should be so influenced as to prevent the Army being used. My hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Cave) spoke of the cry which they are going to raise, and described it as a dishonest cry. That does not prove either that it will not be raised by hon. Gentlemen opposite or that it may not be effective. But I will draw my own moral from the great display of spirits which was seen in this House last Tuesday. It was not that they believed in their cry, but they thought they had got something, and were ready to welcome anything which would prevent them fighting the next election on the Home Rule issue. I am not afraid of that cry. The real question which, when they get the opportunity, the people of this country will decide is whether or not the Army ought to be used to coerce Ulster. That is the question, and no amount of sophistry will prevent the people of this country from seeing it in that light and giving their decision according to whether or not they agree with it. In this connection I should like, although it has already been put as well as it can be put, to say a word or two about the position of these officers. We have, at all events, gained something. The First Lord of the Admiralty was challenged by my right hon. Friend to say if these officers had done anything inconsistent with their duty. He refused to say that they had, and I understood him to say that they had not.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
What about the "Daily News"? [HON. MEMBERS: "What about John Ward?" and "What about the "Morning Post"?]
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
That is interesting, and if it only concerned the right hon. Gentleman I should leave it there. I wish now to put to the House, so that we may try to really get to the bottom of the matter, what is it they think these officers have done wrong? They were given two alternatives, one to do something which they thought they ought not to do, and the other to be dismissed the Service, which meant for all of them the loss of their careers, and for many of them the loss of their livelihood. [An HON. MEMBER: "Ancient history."] They had the alternatives put before them. What breach of discipline, what insubordination was there in accepting an alternative which was put before them by their superior officers? So far I do not think there is a man in the House who believes that the officers were guilty of any insubordination of any kind. But there has been a suggestion that they were guilty inasmuch as they made conditions with the War Office. Now examine that. What is their position? Take General Gough and his brother officers who came to London. They had accepted an alternative which was given to them. They had accepted dismissal from the Service. They came to the War Office. They did not ask to be sent back. They were free agents, as free agents as any Member of this House at that time, because they had accepted dismissal. It was the War Office themselves that wanted them to go back. Being free agents, had they not the right and was it not their duty to make sure that they would never again be put in the same position of difficulty? Remember, they might in the future have been put in that position without the option of an alternative which had now been given to them. They ran that risk. All that they said to the War Office was this: If we go back—if you want us to go back—it must be on the clear understanding that we shall never again be asked to do that, rather than agree to do which we prefer to be dismissed the Service. Is there any man in the House who will say that that was not the position which the officers—every one of them—were perfectly entitled to take, and which all of us would have taken in their place? That is all that I am going to say on that subject.
But the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Churchill), though he spoke after my right hon. Friend, had very little to say about his speech. He dismissed the main part of it as triviality, which is a very easy way 972 of meeting a speech which you are unable to answer. Let me examine two of those trivialities. The first of them was the contention by my right hon. Friend that the whole of the Cabinet and not the poor unfortunate Gentleman who has been sacrificed to save the others were up to the neck in the crime for which the right hon. Gentleman has suffered. He made the charge and he proved it. I am not going in any detail into his evidence, but I will remind the House of this: The late Secretary for War, as he himself told us, had an interview with General Gough, and discussed with him the conditions on which he would go back, that he agreed with General Gough that in order to prevent future misunderstandings those conditions not only might be in writing, but ought to be in writing. After this interview with General Gough he comes up to the Cabinet, as he himself told us, and said that he told the Cabinet all that had happened between him and General Gough. So far, therefore, as the whole point at issue is concerned every Member of the Cabinet who heard the right hon. Gentleman was as much committed to the policy he had adopted as the right hon. Gentleman. But there is something more. Lord Haldane, in the House of Lords, gave as the policy of the Government precisely the conditions for which the right hon. Gentleman has had to resign. These are the words of Lord Haldane. We all knew him in this House. No one, I think, had a greater respect for his abilities than I had, but conciseness of language is not generally one of his qualities. For once in his life he says, what apparently he means, and says it in a way that no one can misunderstand, which suggests to me that the words had been selected after conference with someone else, perhaps the Prime Minister. These are the words:—No orders were issued, no orders are likely to be issued, and no orders will be issued for the coercion of Ulster.Precisely the condition for which the right hon. Gentleman has left his post. And what about Lord Morley? We heard what he said in the House of Lords the other day. But I have here what professes to be a verbatim report of what he said today, and I ask the House to listen to it:—I have no difficulty in making a plain and unvarnished statement"—We have heard words like that before, but Lord Morley fulfils his promise:—After the Cabinet dispersed on Monday, 23rd March. I stayed behind to ascertain from Colonel Seely particulars for my answer to questions to be put to me that 973 afternoon in your Lordship's House. Colonel Seely was occupied on the draft Army Council Memorandum, and he showed me the proposed paragraphs the 'guilty' and peccant paragraphs,' as they have been called. I did not perceive then, and I do nut perceive now, that they differ in spirit and substance either from the previous paragraphs already sanctioned by the Cabinet, or from the words I had myself used in this House in reply to the Noble Marquess. My answer to that question was sanctioned by the Cabinet Colonel Seely told me on this occasion that he regarded the two paragraphs as representing accurately what the officers from the Curragh had been given to understand, and were a necessary addition to make the Memorandum complete. I made one or two very slight verbal alterations, not in the least affecting the general tenour, and Colonel Seely initialled them".We have one of two things. Lord Morley was present at the Cabinet. He is a man everyone, I think, will feel of very unusual intelligence, even for a Cabinet Minister—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!".]—or for a Member of the Opposition Bench. I do not mean any reflection. He is a man of very unusual ability, and he is less likely than most to misunderstand what he hears. We have one of two things—either Lord Morley's statement is false, or every Member of the Cabinet is in precisely in the same position. The second triviality to which the right hon. Gentleman refused to give his attention was the discrepancy between the utterances of Ministers and the facts as we know them. That seems to hint perhaps unimportant. It does not seem unimportant to me. For if we are really in this position, that no statement of fact on this subject made by a Member of the Government carries conviction unless it is corroborated by independent evidence, then that is a new situation for a Government and for the House of Commons. Since the right hon. Gentleman the late Secretary of State for War has resigned, I am not going to refer to his discrepancies. But I shall take one or two others. First take the White Paper. I am afraid that what I am now going to say is not only dull but it is difficult to follow, and I ask the House to give me their indulgence. In one of these telegrams the War Office relieved the Colonel of the 16th Lancers from his command. Yet there is nothing whatever in any one of the telegrams presented to this House to show that that officer had resigned. The only reference to the 16th Lancers is contained in the following words:—Officer commanding 5th Lancers states that all officers, except two and one doubtful, are resigning their commissions to-day, and much fear same conditions in the 16th Lancers. Fear men will refuse to move.And later:—Regret to report brigadier and fifty-seven officers Third Cavalry Brigade prefer to accept dismissal if ordered North.974 How could they dismiss that colonel until they knew he had resigned, and how did they know he had resigned? It may be that it was only an accidental omission, but some telegram is missing. It may have been left out by accident, but it may have been left out because there was something compromising in it. I ask the First Lord of the Admiralty, who represents everybody, will he, in answer to a question or by some other means, read out to the House to-morrow or circulate as a White Paper that telegram through which the War Office knew that this colonel had resigned? Will he do so? [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer!" and "Read it out!"] Hon. Members do not follow. There is nothing in the dispatches presented to this House to show that the colonel of the 16th Lancers had resigned; yet they dismiss him. Something must be omitted. I ask the right hon. Gentleman if he will present to the House the telegram which is missing?
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I saw the telegrams. They appear to be quite insignificant. I cannot give documents on the spur of the moment, but if the right hon. Gentleman would put down a question the Prime Minister will be consulted on the subject, and I have no doubt that he will endeavour, as far as possible, to meet the wishes of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
The question will be put to-morrow. Let us take the discrepancies of the First Lord of the Admiralty himself. In regard to Lord Morley, he said:—Lord Morley never revised or examined these paragraphs, or took any decision upon them.I have read what Lord Morley said. He added:—I made one or two very slight alterations not in the least affecting the general tenour.The House will remember that the First Lord of the Admiralty in his speech on Wednesday night pointed to the difficulty of getting statements made in this House to correspond with statements made in the other House. He said—I am going to do him full justice—They might not agree in minute detail.Who cares about minute detail? That is a difficulty which will inevitably arise if you are concocting a story; but it is a difficulty which will never arise if you are always telling the exact truth as you know it. There is a proverb which says—it would not be Parliamentary were I to quote it exactly—that those 975 who start to concoct stories must have good memories. The First Lord of the Admiralty found that out on Wednesday. In the course of his speech he told us in regard to the sending of the Battle Squadron to Lamlash that it had no connection whatever with precautionary measures in Ireland. He forgot that almost a few sentences after he told us that the sending of that fleet was countermanded because the precautionary measures had been successful. And now I come to a much more important person—the Prime Minister of this country. I am quite sure that whatever vices they attribute to me, hon. Gentlemen opposite know that I should prefer to make this charge in the presence of the Prime Minister. It is not my fault that he is not here. He is a very old Parliamentary hand, and I quite admit that, so far as I can judge, he is the only Member of the Cabinet who could be trusted in the War Office at present. It would have been perfectly easy for the right hon. Gentleman to announce the resignation of his right hon. Friend and yet to make arrangements which would have made it possible for him to be here not only to-day—and, indeed, since he was here at the beginning, I do not see why he is not here now—but till the Home Rule Second Reading Debate had concluded, and in my belief his not doing so is really contrary to the interests of the country at present, and is, in my opinion, disrespectful to the House of Commons. The House will remember that the right hon. Gentleman has been challenged in regard to those statements. Only on Friday I said to him that we would expect an explanation to-day. We have not got it, and he could have given it quite easily before he went away this afternoon. These arc the two statements made by him which, as we now know, are entirely contrary to the facts. He said this first:—The third misapprehension is to some extent the result of the second. It concerns the recent action of officers of the Army at the Curragh and elsewhere. There is a widespread impression abroad that the Government contemplates instituting a general inquisition into the intentions of officers in the event of their being asked to take up arms against Ulster. No such action is intended.A defence of this has been made in the Press. I hope, for the honour of the Prime Minister, he will not make the same defence. The defence is that he was speaking only of the future, but if the House will look at his words, he says there is a misapprehension as the result of what happened at the Curragh.
976 The misapprehension was not due to the future. It was due to the present, and if that is the defence of the Prime Minister, then I have only this to say, that though it may be literally true, it can have no other effect, and can have been intended to have no other effect, than to deceive the people. The second statement, which is not in accordance with the facts, was this:—As for the so-called naval movements, they simply consisted in the use of two small cruisers to convey a detachment of troops to Carrickfergus.11.0 P.M.
They "simply consisted in the sending of those two small cruisers." One day last week the First Lord of the Admiralty told us that a whole Battle Squadron, with its attendant flotilla, had been ordered to Lamlash for the express purpose of being ready to deal with trouble if it arose in Ireland. It was the knowledge gradually circulating that this had been done which had created the impression. I did believe that the Prime Minister knew nothing about it, but the First Lord of the Admiralty, in the presence of the Prime Minister, told us not only that he knew about it, but that on the Saturday he gave the First Lord instructions to countermand the movement. This, then, is the position. The Prime Minister of this country says that there were no Naval movements except those two cruises on the Sunday, when he had himself on Saturday countermanded the moving of a whole battle fleet, and that was a movement, remember, which had already begun. I do hope that the Prime Minister has some explanation to give of this discrepancy. He has had an opportunity of explaining it. I hope he will not fail to do it. If he does not explain it, this, at least, must be evident to every Member of the House—that he must indeed have been in a terrible strait when he took action so inconsistent, as I believe, with not only his position, but of his character. Now, if the House will indulge me for a moment. I should like to examine the central position of the trouble in the Army. We cannot judge of these occurrences until we have the statement of General Paget as to the communication which he addressed to his officers, and as to the instructions which he received from the War Office, which justified him in giving that address to his officers. Over and over again we have asked for this statement, which has invariably been declined. The Government refuse to give it. I ask the House to consider what the position is. The Prime 977 Minister told us in plain words that General Paget had no verbal instructions of any kind in addition to those contained in the letter of the 14th March. On the strength of instructions to send reinforcements to make secure munitions of war—a purely police duty—on the strength of those instructions, and nothing else. General Paget, first, tells his officers that what he is going to do will set Ulster in a blaze by Saturday—[HON. MEMBERS: "The Press."] That was the late Secretary of State for War. When General Paget says that, I should be very glad to see his letter.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
We are justified in asking that, in an important matter like this, the actual statement of General Paget should be communicated to the House. On the strength, remember, of these instructions for police duty, General Paget says to any officers domiciled in Ulster, "You may disappear." In the third place, he makes an inquisition into the views of all the officers under his command as to what they will do in eventualities which have not arisen. In addition to this, although there is no conclusive proof of it, it is evident from the White Paper, I think—and we cannot get conclusive proof until we have General Paget's statement—that the Cavalry Brigade expected to be ordered North at once, because, in reporting the resignations of these officers, General Paget does not say that they have resigned, but that they'prefer to accept dismissal if ordered North.He speaks also of the men refusing to move. On the strength of these police instructions General Paget took action which almost destroyed the Army. Is it not evident to every Member of this House that, if he was capable of doing that, he ought not to have been left in his command for a single hour after the War Office knew what he had done? Is not that evident? If the Government had taken the obvious course of repudiating the action of General Paget, none of this trouble would have happened. That is admitted. My Noble Friend behind me the Member for Portsmouth asked why when General Gough sent in his letter saying that they were ready to do everything they were now asked to do, General Paget did not at once send in his resignation? The Foreign 978 Secretary, whom I am sorry not to see present, said that he could not understand why that course had not been taken. Of course, the explanation is that General Paget did not understand his instructions. The moment General Gough came to London and explained the situation—at that moment all that was necessary to set the whole matter right was to say that "General Paget has never received such instruction; you go back," and the whole incident is at an end! That was all that was necessary. Why did not they take that course? There is one possible explanation, and it is the explanation which I heard hinted at just now in an interruption: These gentlemen were so interested in General Paget's career that for the sake of it they were willing to make every sacrifice. For the sake of General Paget's career—the general who, on their statement, ought not to be in a position of command—for the sake of General Paget they have lost the services of General French and General Ewart, and for the sake of General Paget they ran the risk of destroying the Army, and for the sake of General Paget have made themselves ridiculous. None of these cross-statements about what happened would have occurred, nothing of it would have arisen, but for the unselfish desire to save this officer. In addition, they have lost one colleague, and one would think must lose two others, whatever else happens. On that supposition was there ever such a display of self-sacrifice? It would be difficult enough to believe if it were the action of one man. But here we find twenty Gentlemen all willing to sacrifice the Army, the Commander-in-Chief of the Forces, their colleagues, and themselves, for the sake of General Paget! Such self-sacrifice was never known in history before. We have here a score of St. Sebastians who are willing to be the target of undeserved arrows—all for the sake of the career of General Paget! Here is one explanation.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
I for one do not accept it. There is another possible explanation. They have all from the beginning insinuated—and it was never done so completely as by the First Lord of the Admiralty this afternoon—that the whole thing rests upon General Paget—that it is all his fault. They have insinuated it, but they have not dared to say it. 979 They dare not say so, because they knew if they did General Paget will be compelled in self-defence to tell the truth.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
I am glad the hon. Member interrupts. He asks has General Paget told anything but the truth. No; he has told nothing. But he may perhaps tell something. I do not believe there is any Member of this House—not one—who doubts that we are having now a repetition by the whole Government of the action of some of their colleagues in another connection last year. What we complained of chiefly at that time was not what their colleagues had done,—it was quite pardonable, in my opinion, and I said so at the time; it was not proper, but I said it was quite easily understood, and I said it was quite pardonable—but what was not pardonable, or so easily pardonable, was the action they took in concealing from the House what they had done. It is the same now. The Government are concealing something. What it is we do not know. How can we know? What they are concealing we do not know, but we do know they are ashamed of it.
§ Colonel SEELY
I do not wish to Interrupt the course of this Debate, except to say two things. The first is with regard to Lord Morley. I think I might be permitted to make a personal statement to the House of my knowledge of the subject, since there is no other Member of the House who can possibly know the facts, for we were alone together; and the second is, although I did not intend to take any part in the general Debate, I want to say one word or two in respect to the execution of the agreement. With regard to Lord Morley, the suggestion is that he was a party to the agreement made between myself as Secretary of State, Sir John French as Chief of the Imperial Staff, Sir John Ewart as Adjutant-General, and a certain group of officers—[HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"]—that is the suggestion—[HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"]—and that Lord Morley was involved. The House will bear with me, because this affects Lord Morley, for whom everybody in all quarters of the House has so great a respect, and he cannot very well speak for himself in this matter. I know very well what Lord Morley has stated, but I wish to make this further statement. It is suggested that Lord 980 Morley in some way knew that he was to be a party to this agreement. There is not the shade of a shadow of foundation for that statement.
§ Colonel SEELY
I am in the recollection of the House. The hon. and learned Member for the Kingston Division (Mr. Cave), as well as the right hon. Gentleman, implied that Lord Morley had definitely stated, as he will see when he reads the OFFICIAL REPORT to-morrow, that Lord Morley was equally concerned in this matter with me, and he went further and said that for that matter the whole Cabinet. I do wish to make it clear that Lord Morley is not involved in this matter. I have said that as a matter of policy there is no difference between myself and my colleagues, but that the House in all quarters did resent what appeared to be a bargain between one set of officers and the Executive which put them upon a qualified engagement of service—a limited loyalty. That was not intended, as I stated earlier to-day, by either Sir John French, Sir Spencer Ewart, or myself, but it did so appear. The governing point I rise to make is: Did Lord Morley know that General Gough had written that letter in which he said that he wanted to be able to tell his officers something definite which has given the impression of the bargain? Sir, Lord Morley knew nothing whatever about it, and I hope that definite statement of mine will now close this incident so far as the question of arrangements with the officers are concerned as to any share of responsibility of Lord Morley. With regard to the second point as to concealment. If anyone in this House knows what has been going on about the movements in Ulster that is myself. I urged long before these movements were taken that it would be wise to take steps to protect those particular places where large stores of arms and Government property were collected. I know all about what was proposed, and I myself was responsible for having proposed those movements. There is nothing whatever to conceal. There was no plot whatever. We thought it necessary, in view of the information conveyed to us, to remove so great a temptation, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dublin University (Sir E. Carson) will not deny it—I defy him to get up and deny that it was a temptation to his people—
§ Colonel SEELY
Very wisely the right hon. Gentleman does not permit me to finish my sentence—I defy him to deny that these large stores of arms were not a great temptation to many of the men under his command.
§ Colonel SEELY
That is a very qualified denial. We know full well that here was a force organised, drilled, and wanting more arms, and there were arms in large numbers. I had urged before that they should be better protected, and I had been I told that to protect them would precipitate a crisis. [HON. MEMBERS: "Who by?"] On all sides—by all men I can assure the House that everything is now known of what we intended. Our object was, and, so far as I know the minds of those who only four hours ago were my colleagues, still is to avoid bloodshed in Ulster or elsewhere, and that we acted as the Executive is bound to act in order to protect Government property and to secure law and order.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL (Sir J. Simon)
The hour is late, and I only propose to occupy a very short time, but the speech which the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition has made is one which requires to be dealt with. It divided itself into two parts, and each of those parts illustrated the general course of the Debate. In one part of the speech he was concerned in trying to fit together a great number of odds and ends in order to support, if he could, two propositions neither of which happen to be true. There are, I quite admit, matters in the events of the last week which are very fair subject for criticism, and, it may very well be, adverse criticism from the point of view of hon. Gentlemen who take the other side, but the two things which the right hon. Gentleman and his Friends set out to establish, by fitting together these odds and ends and by filling up any gaps there may be by saying the Government are concealing something though they do not know what it is they are concealing, are these: First, that there was some plot which was engineered, if not by the Cabinet, by some Members of it to take action in Ulster which was designed and which was calculated to promote an outbreak. Second, 982 that the explanation of what are called the peccant paragraphs is an afterthought, and a mendacious afterthought. With reference to the first, I have to say tonight that anybody who will really rid his mind of party prejudice and will consider that what has happened here was a discussion with generals of great position in the Army as to what should be done. should on that fact alone see the extreme improbability, and I should have thought the utter impossibility for such suggestions being put forward and being ever accepted. How it is consistent with the high compliments which right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite pay to General Paget, Sir John French, and General Ewart, with that attitude, to say, "Oh, yes; but there are certain Members of the Cabinet, we do not exactly know who or how many, who were engaged in careful discussion with these military persons in order to set on foot a plot which was calculated to provoke an outbreak,"—how on earth right hon. Gentlemen who speak in this language of high praise and deserved praise of the patriotism and good faith of our great soldiers can say that passes my comprehension. Let me point this out further. The powers of the First Lord of the Admiralty may be very great, the powers of my right hon. and gallant Friend the late Secretary of State for War may be very large, but does anyone suppose that the First Lord of the Admiralty and the Secretary of State for War between them could carry through a plot designed and calculated to provoke an outbreak—[HON. MEMBERS: "They failed."]—without that design being open and discovered to General French, General Ewart and General Paget? Is it, going to be suggested that the two Ministers were acting alone? In point of fact, they were not acting by themselves, because, as I said on a previous occasion, I was associated with them, and I say now that Lord Crewe also was associated with them. How it could be suggested that two or three Ministers of the Crown are going to perpetrate such an infamy without the soldiers, with whom they were consulting, knowing what they were about I cannot imagine.
I do not profess to have any sort of military judgment or skill in this matter. But speaking for myself, it did appear to me—and I should have thought it would appeal to many persons in this House with no more skill on military 983 matters than I have—that it was a very difficult matter to decide with any confidence—if you are going to try and protect certain exposed quantities of ammunition at scattered places—which of two or three possible alternative courses would be the least provocative. But there was one thing obviously wrong, and that was to leave the ammunition where it was, unguarded, offering from day to day, if there were persons who were disposed to take a violent course, a temptation which it might be difficult for them to resist. The great offence which we did commit was apparently that we came to the clear conclusion that that ammunition should not be left as it was, but having to choose between a method by which such ammunition might have been packed and moved from the place where it was to somewhere else, or sending a reasonable body of persons to protect it we chose the latter instead of the former course. Allow me to point out what would have been the attack which would have been made upon us if it could have been said: Here the Government are moving quantities of ammunition, it may be by rail, it may be by road, inside the province of Ulster. It would have been demanded of us, "What is the meaning of moving the ammunition? It must be a preparation for some violent course?"
§ Colonel YATE rose—
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member is not entitled to interrupt. The right hon. Gentleman is not bound to give way.
§ Sir J. SIMON
The right hon. Gentleman Opposite quite courteously asked about the further arrangements, naval and military, which were suggested. We have explained to the House again and again, and if it has not been believed, it will not be believed now, because I repeat it—we have explained again and again that our advisers—the Chief Secretary for Ireland and others assured us that these steps could be taken without any serious disturbance. We thought it right,—I think everybody thought it right to recognise that there must be risk—be it small or great—and to be ready to deal with that risk when it arose.
I now come to the second proposition which the right hon. Gentleman was so very anxious to establish. There again, of course, if hon. Gentlemen opposite take the course of saying, "We do not believe anything that anybody says," there is nothing 984 more to be said. I am content for the moment, if the House will allow me, to remind them of what on this matter has been said by the Prime Minister. I have to say that, if they do not accept what he says, and if they say that the argument is not proved by what he says on the matter of fact, then we have nothing more to say. The Prime Minister has stated in the clearest terms that everything that he did and everything that the Cabinet did with relation to this draft Memorandum was done in the belief and with the full assurance that it was not the answer to any request that was made or to any demand that was made, but that it was believed by him and by us to be the drawing up of a document which, as we gathered from my right hon. Friend (Colonel Seely), it was thought right that General Gough should have. Does the House really think it proper to obscure that vital distinction? Everybody who read that White Paper and who saw General Gough's letter, followed, as it was immediately, by this Memorandum, must have supposed from the connection of those two documents that the one was a demand and that the other was an answer to that demand. If that were the truth it would be intolerable, and it is precisely because that was never intended and never designed by the Prime Minister or by the Cabinet, that the Prime Minister made the statement in the clear terms in which he did.
I say again that, without going through the details of what he said about it, right hon. Gentlemen opposite can take their course. They may choose between two things, but let them, before they choose, observe this: the Prime Minister, in the statement he made on this matter, was speaking of something within his own personal knowledge, and with which he had been dealing a short time before, in which he himself, with his own hand, made the corrections on the face of the draft. They may say which they please. If they are prepared to take the Prime Minister as the witness of truth, I say their accusation on that head is unarguable; and if they refuse to accept the Prime Minister as the witness of truth, then I say we on this side will not argue with them. I come now to deal with the other half of the right hon. Gentleman's speech. Why, Sir, this Debate began as an attack to be delivered on the Government, and has ended with an apology offered by the Opposition. [HON. MEMBERS: "What about Lord Morley?] It began with a 985 speech for the prosecution—a very able and well-constructed speech, everybody will agree—delivered by the right hon. and learned Gentleman from that side, and a thing has happened which I have never known in any tribunal before. When the other main advocate of that side comes to wind up the matter, though speaking from the same side of the House, he delivers a speech for the defence. Observe the difficulty in which the right hon. Gentleman finds himself placed. He has offered some explanations to-night of some of the things he has been saying. I am not quite clear whether he withdraws what he said or whether he affirms what he said—at any rate, he told us that in some respects he wanted to explain or qualify what he said. That was fair enough. But the explanation suggested that what he has been saying is really due to the fact that unfortunate questions have been put, or suggested to have been put, to officers, and that they have been put in a position of embarrassment, will not do, and for this simple reason that, whether it is a wise course or a foolish course—for my own part I say frankly I think it deplorable that any questions should have been put of a hypothetical character—[HON. MEMBERS: "They were. Is it denied?"]. I say, however that may be, the Leader of the Opposition really cannot give that as the explanation of what he has been saying about the Army, for what he has been saying on this. subject goes back to a meeting at Blenheim, which took place in July, 1912, and on that occasion the right hon. Gentleman said that in their opposition to our proposals the Unionist partyshall not be guided by the considerations: we shall not be restrained by the bonds which would influence us in an ordinary political struggle.The right hon. Gentleman says so now, but does he not see now that what he has been saying from that time forward does bear the construction that he has assured those whose business it is to act without distinction of party for the causes of law and order—he has, in fact, been saying to them, "This is no ordinary political issue. This is not a matter which divides parties in the ordinary sense. This is something which goes quite outside any controversy of that sort, and we of the Unionist party are not going to be restrained by any influences such as would restrain us in an ordinary political struggle." Let him just see how that has been developed. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir E. Carson), 986 so recently as 22nd September last, has worked it down to this. He said publicly to these very Covenanters who gathered there in Antrim, "We have pledges and promises from some of the greatest generals in the Army." We are entitled to point out, and the country is entitled to know, does he approve of that? The right hon. Gentleman was actually driven to this resort. He said "it is true that among those whom the First Lord of the Admiralty had quoted were some who had never been Members of a British Cabinet, and he said he had quoted two people who had been Members of a Unionist Cabinet, and those are the two people who said they disapproved of this kind of appeal to the Army." I should think they did. How does it come about that Lord Derby, devoted as he is to the right hon. Gentleman's opinions—all of them—need to go out of his way and say: "In this respect I agree with the Prime Minister?" The Prime Minister had just put his view. How did it come about that Lord Derby was moved to say that if it was not that Lord Derby perfectly well knew, both from his past responsibility as a statesman and his past experience in connection with the Army, that what in fact was being said, and being said in the name of the Opposition, what a thing which was disintegrating the impartial loyalty of the forces of the Crown? Who was the other ex-Cabinet Minister whom the right hon. Gentleman grasps so warmly as coming to his aid in this matter? It was Lord Selborne, who has been at the head of the Navy. Does anybody mean to say that Lord Selborne, a distinguished Unionist leader, anxious as every Unionist leader is entitled to be, anxious to make the best of such opportunities as he has, and to use them in order to advance his cause, would have spoken in terms of reprobation of the use that was being made of the Army if he did not feel that there were some people in the Unionist party who are going too far? What is the next element in the explanation—in the apology? There was a reference to James II. Now, the right hon. Gentleman asks us to believe that he was merely overwhelmed by historical erudition, and that this was merely a piece of interesting recollection of what happened in the time of James II., and had no reference at all—
§ Sir JOHN SIMON
Do I understand from the right hon. Gentleman that when he called attention to the fact that in the time of James II. the Army changed its allegiance it had no moral for the Army in its present position.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
If the hon. and learned Gentleman turns to the speech, he will see that when I called the attention of the Prime Minister to it, I intended to warn the Government.
§ Sir JOHN SIMON
You warned the Government. I would remind the right hon. Gentleman and the public of what happened in the time of James II., and under circumstances of great political stress. The Army deserted the allegiance to which it was thought it might adhere. In order that there may be no doubt of the real use that is made of these ancient historical parallels, let me remind the right hon. Gentleman of another thing. He said, I think, on the 24th February, on the Vote of Censure in this House:—For the first time for more than 250 years one of the great political parties in this country has solemnly declared that it will assist Ulster in resisting by force what the Government mean to do."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th February, 1914, cols. 1706–7.]
§ Mr. BONAR LAW indicated assent.
§ Sir J. SIMON
Let us just see how far that is going. I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman approves of that which has been suggested both inside this House by one of his followers, and outside, namely, that a fund should be started to compensate officers and men who refuse to discharge their duty in Ulster. When the right hon. Gentleman finds himself faced, as he was in the course of this Debate today, with those extracts, he finally explains that the hon. Member for the Ludlow Division (Mr. Hunt) is a person he might safely repudiate because of his simple honesty.
§ Sir J. SIMON
I should have thought that, even if regard was had to nothing but the obvious interests of those who are trying to carry the Home Rule Bill, that would have been sufficient to show that we are not likely to engage in conduct which, to our knowledge, is likely to cause an
§ outbreak. Accuse us, if you like, of being politically wrong, accuse us if you like of being administratively foolish, but surely you cannot suggest that our folly goes that length, when you are always telling us that the first shot that was fired by our forces would fall upon our heads and destroy us. Surely you cannot at the same time assume that we are engaged in a plot to bring it about. There is no length to which we would not go in order to avoid such a terrible calamity, and I think that we have shown it—[HON. MEMBERS: "The Bradford speech."]—but any idea that covenanters are to be entitled to prepare on a large scale for operations of a forcible character, and that if we move a limited number of troops to protect ammunition we are guilty of provocative action—[HON. MEMBERS: "Battleships!"]—that idea cannot possibly commend itself to those who look at this matter without political prepossessions, and I do not think that it commends itself to the body of people in this House. I say, in conclusion, that if no other justification was necessary it would be enough to say that, while we are prepared to take any and every step to reduce the possibilities of outbreak to a minimum, we think that it is quite right and necessary to let these Ulster volunteers know that it is, and was, our fixed intention to use the forces of the Crown, if need be, to prevent the usurpation of law by force. I trust that no such terrible consummation may arise. But meantime let the House observe what were the circumstances in which this Debate started, and let the House now observe whether there be any answer from those who actually add to the injury which they are doing to the British Army by the patronising airs with which they claim that they are the only patriots.
§ Mr. McKENNA rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."
§ Question put accordingly, "That the Bill be now read the third time."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 329; Noes, 251993
|Division No. 57.]||AYES.||[11.50 p m.|
|Abraham, William (Dublin, Harbour)||Agnew, Sir George William||Armitage, Robert|
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Ainsworth, John Stirling||Arnold, Sydney|
|Adamson, William||Alden, Percy||Baker, Harold T. (Accrington)|
|Addison, Dr. Christopher||Allen, Arthur A. (Dumbartonshire)||Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.)|
|Adkins, Sir W. Ryland D.||Allen, Rt. Hon. Charles P. (Stroud)||Baring, Sir Godfrey (Barnstaple)|
|Barlow, Sir John Emmott (Somerset)||Goldstone, Frank||Manfield, Harry|
|Barnes, George N.||Greenwood, Hamar (Sunderland)||Markham, Sir Arthur Basil|
|Barran, Sir John N. (Hawick)||Greig, Colonel J. W.||Marks, Sir George Croydon|
|Barran, Rowland Hurst (Leeds, N.)||Grey, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward||Marshall, Arthur Harold|
|Beale, Sir William Phipson||Griffith, Ellis Jones||Mason, David M. (Coventry)|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Guest, Hon. Major C. H. C. (Pembroke)||Meagher, Michael|
|Beck, Arthur Cecil||Guest, Hon. Frederick E. (Dorset, E.)||Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.)|
|Benn, W. W. (T. Hamlets, St. George)||Gwynn, Stephen Lucius (Galway)||Meehan, Patrick J. (Queen's Co., Leix)|
|Bentham, George Jackson||Hackett, John||Middlebrook, William|
|Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine||Hall, Frederick (Normanton)||Millar, James Duncan|
|Black, Arthur W.||Hancock, John George||Molloy, Michael|
|Boland, John Plus||Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Lewis (Rossendale)||Molteno, Percy Alport|
|Booth, Frederick Handel||Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)||Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred|
|Bowerman, Charles W.||Hardie, J. Keir||Money, L. G. Chiozza|
|Boyle, Daniel (Mayo, North)||Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds)||Montagu, Hon. E. S.|
|Brace, William||Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale)||Mooney, John J.|
|Brady, Patrick Joseph||Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)||Morrell, Philip|
|Brunner, John F. L.||Harvey, W. E. (Derbyshire, N.E.)||Morison, Hector|
|Bryce, J. Annan||Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas|
|Buckmaster, Sir Stanley O.||Hayden, John Patrick||Muldoon, John|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Hayward, Evan||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert|
|Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Hazleton, Richard||Murphy, Martin J.|
|Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, North)||Helme, Sir Norval Watson||Murray, Captain Hon. Arthur C.|
|Byles, Sir William Pollard||Hemmerde, Edward George||Nannetti, Joseph P.|
|Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||Needham, Christopher Thomas|
|Cawley, Sir Frederick (Prestwich)||Henderson, J. M. (Aberdeen, W.)||Neilson, Francis|
|Cawley, Harold T. (Lancs., Heywood)||Henry, Sir Charles||Nicholson, Sir Charles N. (Doncaster)|
|Chancellor, Henry George||Herbert, General Sir Ivor (Mon., S.)||Nolan, Joseph|
|Chapple, Dr. William Allen||Hewart, Gordon||Norman, Sir Henry|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||Higham, John Sharp||Norton, Captain Cecil W.|
|Clancy, John Joseph||Hinds, John||Nugent, Sir Walter Richard|
|Clough, William||Hobhouse, Rt. Hon. Charles E. H.||Nuttall, Harry|
|Collins, Godfrey P. (Greenock)||Hodge, John||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)|
|Collins, Sir Stephen (Lambeth)||Holmes, Daniel Turner||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)|
|Compton-Rickett, Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Holt, Richard Durning||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||Hope, John Deans (Haddington)||O'Doherty, Philip|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Horne, C. Silvester (Ipswich)||O'Donnell, Thomas|
|Cotton, William Francis||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Ogden, Fred|
|Cowan, W. H.||Hudson, Walter||O'Kelly, Edward P. (Wicklow, W.)|
|Craig, Herbert J. (Tynemouth)||Hughes, Spencer Leigh||O'Kelly, James (Roscommon, N.)|
|Crooks, William||Jardine, Sir J. (Roxburgh)||O'Malley, William|
|Crumley, Patrick||John, Edward Thomas||O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.)|
|Cullinan, John||Johnson, W.||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.|
|Dalziel, Rt. Hon. Sir J. H. (Kirkcaldy)||Jones, Rt. Hon. Sir D. Brynmor (Swansea)||O'Shee, James John|
|Davies, David (Montgomery Co.)||Jones, Edgar (Merthyr Tydvil)||O'Sullivan, Timothy|
|Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth)||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Outhwaite, R. L.|
|Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)||Palmer, Godfrey Mark|
|Davies, M. Vaughan- (Cardiganhire)||Jones, Leif (Notts, Rushcliffe)||Parker, James (Halifax)|
|Dawes, James Arthur||Jones, William S. Glyn- (Stepney)||Parry, Thomas H.|
|Delany, William||Jowett, Frederick William||Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)|
|Denman, Hon. Richard Douglas||Joyce, Michael||Pearce, William (Limehouse)|
|Devlin, Joseph||Kellaway, Frederick George||Pearson, Hon. Weetman H. M.|
|Dewar, Sir J. A.||Kelly, Edward||Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A. (Rotherham)|
|Dickinson, Rt. Hon. Willoughby H.||Kennedy, Vincent Paul||Phillpps, Col. Ivor (Southampton)|
|Dillon, John||Kenyon, Barnet||Phillips, John (Longford, S.)|
|Donelan, Captain A.||Kilbride, Denis||Pirie, Duncan V.|
|Doris, William||Lamb, Sir Ernest Henry||Pointer, Joseph|
|Duffy, William J.||Lambert, Rt. Hon. G. (Devon, S. Molton)||Pollard, Sir George H.|
|Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.|
|Edwards, Clement (Glamorgan, E.)||Lardner, James C. R.||Pratt, J. W.|
|Edwards, Sir Francis (Radnor)||Law, Hugfi A. (Donegal, West)||Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)|
|Edwards, John Hugh (Glamorgan, Mid)||Lawson, Sir W. (Cumb'rld, Cockerm'th)||Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.)|
|Elverston, Sir Harold||Leach, Charles||Priestley, Sir W. E. B. (Bradford, E.)|
|Esmonde, Dr. John (Tipperary, N.)||Levy, Sir Maurice||Primrose, Hon. Neil James|
|Esmonde, Sir Thomas (Wexford, N.)||Lewis, Rt. Hon. John Herbert||Pringle, William M. R.|
|Essex, Sir Richard Walter||Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Radford, G. H.|
|Esslemont, George Birnie||Low, Sir F. (Norwich)||Raffan, Peter Wilson|
|Falconer, James||Lundon, Thomas||Raphael, Sir Herbert H.|
|Farrell, James Patrick||Lyell, Charles Henry||Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (South Shields)|
|Fenwick, Rt. Hon. Charles||Lynch, Arthur Alfred||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)|
|Ferens, Rt. Hon. Thomas Robinson||Macdonald, J. Ramsay (Leicester)||Reddy, Michael|
|Ffrench, Peter||Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)|
|Field, William||McGhee, Richard||Redmond, William (Clare, E.)|
|Fiennes, Hon. Eustace Edward||Maclean, Donald||Redmond, William Archer (Tyrone, E.)|
|Fitzgibbon, John||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||Rendall, Atheistan|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||MacNeill, J. G. Swift (Donegal, South)||Richardson, Albion (Peckham)|
|France, Gerald Ashburner||Macpherson, James Ian||Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)|
|Furness, Sir Stephen Wilson||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)|
|Gelder, Sir William Alfred||M'Callum, Sir John M.||Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs)|
|Gill, A. H.||M'Kean, John||Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradford)|
|Ginnell, L.||McKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Robertson, John M. (Tyneside)|
|Gladstone, W. G. C.||M'Laren, Hon. H. D. (Leics.)||Robinson, Sidney|
|Glanville, H. J.||M'Laren, Hon. F.W.S. (Lincs., Spalding)||Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)|
|Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford||M'Micking, Major Gilbert||Roche, Augustine (Louth)|
|Roe, Sir Thomas||Swann, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles E.||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Rowlands, James||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)||Whitehouse, John Howard|
|Rowntree, Arnold||Tennant, Harold John||Whittaker, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas P.|
|Runciman, Rt. Hon. Waiter||Thomas, James Henry||Whyte, Alexander F. (Perth)|
|Russell, Rt. Hon. Thomas W.||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)||Wiles, Thomas|
|Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)||Thorne, William (West Ham)||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, N.W.)|
|Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)||Toulmin, Sir George||Williams, John (Glamorgan)|
|Samuel, Sir Stuart M. (Whitechapel)||Trevelyan, Charles Philips||Williams, Llewelyn (Carmarthen)|
|Scanlan, Thomas||Verney, Sir Harry||Williams, Penry (Middlesbrough)|
|Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)||Walsh, Stephen (Lancs., Ince)||Williamson, Sir Archibald|
|Seely, Rt. Hon. Colonel J. E. B.||Walton, Sir Joseph||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid)|
|Sheehy, David||Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent)||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Worcs., N.)|
|Sherwell, Arthur James||Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Shortt, Edward||Wardle, George J.||Wing, Thomas Edward|
|Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John Allsebrook||Waring, Walter||Wood, Rt. Hon. T. McKinnon (Glasgow)|
|Smith, Albert (Lancs., Clitheroe)||Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay T.||Yeo, Alfred William|
|Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.)||Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)||Young, William (Perthshire, East)|
|Soames, Arthur Wellesley||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)||Yoxall, Sir James Henry|
|Spicer, Rt. Hon. Sir Albert||Webb, H.|
|Stanley, Albert (Staffs, N.W.)||White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr.|
|Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)||White, Sir Luke (Yorks, E.R.)||Illingworth and Mr. W. Jones.|
|Sutton, John E.|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Coates, Major Sir Edward Feetham||Herbert, Hon. A. (Somerset, S.)|
|Aitken, Sir William Max||Cooper, Sir Richard Ashmole||Hewins, William Albert Samuel|
|Amery, L. C. M. S.||Courthope, George Loyd||Hibbert, Sir Henry F.|
|Anson, Rt, Hon. Sir William R.||Craig, Ernest (Cheshire, Crewe)||Hickman, Colonel Thomas E.|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major William||Craig, Norman (Kent, Thanet)||Hills, John Waller|
|Archer-Shee, Major Martin||Craik, Sir Henry||Hill-Wood, Samuel|
|Astor, Waldorf||Crichton-Stuart, Lord Ninian||Hoare, S. J. G.|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Croft, H. P.||Hohler, G. F.|
|Baker, Sir R. L. (Dorset, N.)||Currie, George W.||Hope, Harry (Bute)|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Dairymple, Viscount||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (City, Lond.)||Dalziel, Davison (Brixton)||Hope, Major J. A. (Midlothian)|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Denison-Pender, J. C.||Horne, E. (Surrey, Guildford)|
|Banner, Sir John S. Harmood-||Dickson, Rt. Hon. C. Scott||Horner, Andrew Long|
|Baring, Major Hon. Guy V. (Winchester)||Dixon, C. H.||Hume-Williams, Wm. Ellis|
|Barlow, Montague (Salford, South)||Doughty, Sir George||Hunt, Rowland|
|Barnston, Harry||Du Cros, Arthur Philip||Hunter, Sir C. R.|
|Barrie, H. T.||Duke, Henry Edward||Ingleby, Holcombe|
|Bathurst, Hon. A. B. (Glouc., E.)||Duncannon, Viscount||Jackson, Sir John|
|Bathurst, C. (Wilts, Wilton)||Du Pre, W. Baring||Jardine, Ernest (Somerset, East)|
|Beach, Hon. Michael Hugh Hicks||Eyres-Monsell, Bolton M.||Jessel, Captain H. M.|
|Beckett, Hon. Gervase||Faber, George Denison (Clapham)||Joynson-Hicks, William|
|Benn, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth)||Faber, Capt. W. V. (Hants, W.)||Kerry, Earl of|
|Benn, Ion Hamilton (Greenwich)||Falle, B. G.||Keswick, Henry|
|Bennett-Goldney, Francis||Fell, Arthur||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement|
|Bentinck, Lord H. Cavendish-||Fetherstonhaugh, Godfrey||Knight, Captain Eric Ayshford|
|Beresford, Lord C.||Finlay, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert||Kyffin-Taylor, G.|
|Bigland, Alfred||Fisher, Rt. Hon. W. Hayes||Lane-Fox, G. R.|
|Bird, Alfred||Fitzroy, Hon. Edward A.||Larmor, Sir J.|
|Blair, Reginald||Flannery, Sir J. Fortescue||Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Bootle)|
|Boles, Lieut.-Colonel Dennis Fortescue||Fleming, Valentine||Lawson, Hon. H. (T. H'mts, Mlle End)|
|Boscawen, Sir Arthur S. T. Griffith-||Forster, Henry William||Lee, Arthur Hamilton|
|Boyle, William (Norfolk, Mid)||Gastrell, Major W. Houghton||Lewisham, Viscount|
|Boyton, James||Gibbs, G. A.||Lloyd, George Ambrose (Stafford, W.)|
|Brassey, H. Leonard Campbell||Gilmour, Captain John||Lloyd, George Butler (Shrewsbury)|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Glazebrook, Captain Philip K.||Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury)|
|Bull, Sir William James||Goldman, C. S.||Locker-Lampson, O. (Ramsey)|
|Burdett-Coutts, W.||Goldsmith, Frank||Lockwood, Rt. Hon. Lt.-Colonel A. R.|
|Burgoyne, A. H.||Gordon, Hon. John Edward (Brighton)||Long, Rt. Hon. Walter|
|Burn, Colonel C. R.||Goulding, Edward Alfred||Lyttelton, Hon J. C. (Droitwich)|
|Butcher, John George||Grant, J. A.||MacCaw, Wm. J. MacGeagh|
|Campbell, Captain Duncan F. (Ayr, N.)||Greene, Walter Raymond||Mackinder, Halford J.|
|Campbell, Rt. Hon. J. (Dublin Univ.)||Gretton, John||Macmaster, Donald|
|Campion, W. R.||Guinness, Hon. Rupert (Essex, S.E.)||M'Neill, Ronald (Kent. St. Augustine's)|
|Carlile, Sir Edward Hildred||Guinness, Hon. W. E. (Bury S. Edmunds)||Magnus, Sir Philip|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward H.||Gwynne, R. S. (Sussex, Eastbourne)||Malcolm, Ian|
|Cassel, Felix||Haddock, George Bahr||Mallaby-Deeley, Harry|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Hall, D. B. (Isle of Wight)||Mason, James F. (Windsor)|
|Cator, John||Hall, Frederick (Dulwich)||Meysey-Thompson, E. C.|
|Cautley, H. S.||Hall, Marshall (L'pool, E. Toxteth)||Middlemore John Throgmorton|
|Cave, George||Hambro, Angus Valdemar||Mills, Hon. Charles Thomas|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Hamersley, Alfred St. George||Morrison-Bell, Capt. E. F. (Ashburton)|
|Cecil, Lord Hugh (Oxford University)||Hamilton, C. G. C. (Ches., Altrincham)||Morrison-Bell, Major A. C. (Honiton)|
|Cecil, Lord R. (Herts, Hitchin)||Hamilton, Lord C. J. (Kensington, S.)||Mount, William Arthur|
|Chaloner, Colonel R. G. W.||Hardy, Rt. Hon. Laurence||Neville, Reginald J. N.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. A. (Worc'r.)||Harris, Henry Percy||Newdegate, F. A.|
|Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry||Harrison-Broadley, H. B.||Newman, John R. P.|
|Clay, Captain H. H. Spender||Helmsley, Viscount||Newton, Harry Kottingham|
|Clive, Captain Percy Archer||Henderson, Major H. (Berks, Abingdon)||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)|
|Clyde, J. Avon||Henderson, Sir A. (St. Geo., Han. Sq.)||Nield, Herbert|
|Norton-Griffiths, J.||Samuel, Sir Harry (Norwood)||Valentia, Viscount|
|O'Neill, Hon. A. E. B. (Antrim, Mid)||Samuel, Samuel (Wandsworth)||Walker, Col. William Hall|
|Orde-Powlett, Hon. W. G. A.||Sanders, Robert Arthur||Warde, Col. C. E. (Kent, Mid)|
|Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William||Sanderson, Lancelot||Watson, Hon. W.|
|Paget, Almeric Hugh||Sandys, G. J.||Weigall, Captain A. G.|
|Parker, Sir Gilbert (Gravesend)||Sassoon, Sir Philip||Weston, Colonel J. W.|
|Parkes, Ebenezer||Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.)||Wheler, Granville C. H.|
|Peel, Lieut.-Colonel R. F.||Smith, Rt. Hon. F. E. (L'p'l., Walton)||White, Major G. D. (Lancs., Southport)|
|Perkins, Walter F.||Smith, Harold (Warrington)||Williams, Colonel R. (Dorset, W.)|
|Peto, Basil Edward||Spear, Sir John Ward||Willoughby, Major Hon. Claud|
|Pole-Carew, Sir R.||Stanier, Beville||Wilson, A. Stanley (Yorks, E.R.)|
|Pollock, Ernest Murray||Stanley, Hon. Arthur (Ormskirk)||Wilson, Captain Leslie O. (Reading)|
|Pretyman, Ernest George||Stanley, Hon. G. F. (Preston)||Wilson, Maj. Sir M. (Bethnal Green,S.W.)|
|Pryce-Jones, Colonel E.||Starkey, John Ralph||Winterton, Earl|
|Quilter, Sir William Eley C.||Staveley-Hill, Henry||Wormer, Viscount|
|Randles, Sir John S.||Stewart, Gershom||Wood, Hon. E. F. L. (Yorks, Ripon)|
|Ratcliff, R. F.||Swift, Rigby||Wood, John (Stalybridge)|
|Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel||Sykes, Alan John (Ches., Knutstord)||Worthington-Evans, L.|
|Rawson, Col. Richard H.||Sykes, Sir Mark (Hull, Central)||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-|
|Remnant, James Farquharson||Terrell, Henry (Gloucester)||Wright, Henry Fitzherbert|
|Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)||Thompson, Robert (Belfast, North)||Yate, Colonel C. E.|
|Rolleston, Sir John||Thomson, W. Mitchell- (Down, North)||Yerburgh, Robert A.|
|Royds, Edmund||Tobin, Alfred Aspinall||Younger, Sir George|
|Rutherford, John (Lancs., Darwen)||Touche, George Alexander|
|Rutherford, Watson (L'pool, W. Derby)||Tryon, Captain George Clement||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Lord|
|Salter, Arthur Clavell||Tullibardine, Marquess of||Edmund Talbot and Mr. Pike Pease.|
Bill read a second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.
§ Bill accordingly read the third time, and passed.