§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Mr. Bonar Law)
As the House knows, if this Bill, which I now ask the House to read a second time, is not carried, this House comes to a termination at the end of the present month. This is the third time a Bill of this kind has been moved by each successive Government. The Bill is identical with that which was carried last for the same purpose.
§ Mr. GINNELL
On a point of Order. May I ask whether it has escaped your notice that this Bill is more obviously and crudely out of order than any Bill which has been presented to this House in modern times. Mr. Speaker has frequently ruled, in accordance with precedent, that a Bill to be in order must aim at doing what it expressly proposes and cannot be used to accomplish anything essentially beyond the ambit of its own proposal. Mr. Speaker has frequently ruled Amendments out of order on this ground alone. A case of this kind that attracted much attention was his ruling out of order on the Franchise Bill an Amendment proposing to give votes to women. Subsequently, when a Bill was introduced by the Government proposing to amend a specified Section of an Act, Mr. Speaker ruled out of order Amendments proposing to extend its operation to other Sections of the same Act. Here we have a Bill proposing to amend and extend the Parliament and Local Elections Act, 1916. That is a distinctly limited proposition. Yet the very first Clause of this Bill concerns itself with an entirely different Act, namely, the Parliament and Registration Act of 1916. In view of these facts, I submit that this Bill, as presented, is out of order, that it must be withdrawn, and that the purpose at which it seems to aim cannot be accomplished except by a new Bill properly drafted.
I do not think that there is anything in the hon. Member's point. It seems to me to follow the usual course.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
I was on the point of saying that probably there is no subject on which every Member of this House understands the arguments for and against more completely than this one, and I am sure that the House would neither desire nor expect that I should occupy many minutes in asking for the Second Reading of the Bill. The objections to this course have been indicated on previous occasions, and they are obvious. It must be highly objectionable for a House of Commons by its own act to prolong its life beyond the time fixed for it by Statute. These considerations, of course, increase in force as time goes on and the period becomes more extended over which the statutory time has been exceeded. On the other hand, the considerations which have induced each successive Government to introduce such a Bill to the House of Commons and the House of Commons to adopt it are, I venture to say, as strong as they have been at any time during the War. We are now in as critical a phase of the War as at any time since it began. Our troops are engaged in the greatest operations which they have undertaken since the commencement of the War. They are engaged in them, we are all thankful to say, with a success, which so far has exceeded, at all events, my expectations and a success which shows that not only in the character and quality of the men but in their equipment and their training as soldiers they are now more than a match for those who are opposed to them. In these circumstances, I cannot help thinking, just as previous Governments, and just as this House on previous occasions believed, that it would be highly disadvantageous, not to put it more strongly, that we should be plunged into the turmoil of an election with all the disadvantages of division which such an election inevitably brings, and, in addition, the certainty that the energy of the nation for a time would be diverted from the one object on which it ought to be concentrated. For these reasons I am of opinion that it would be a misfortune if an election were forced at this time, and the Government therefore have introduced this Bill. They hope that the House of Commons will pass it; and, as I have already indicated, the time is so limited that it is proposed to ask the House to take all the subsequent stages 1525 to-morrow, and for this purpose I intend to move the suspension of the Eleven o'Clock Rule.
§ Mr. POLLOCK
Before this Bill is read a second time I desire to call attention to the position which is now occupied by the Welsh Church Disestablishment Act and to the changes which have been brought about in the situation by the relentless march of time. We have had this Act before us on several occasions, and we have had the Suspensory Act, brought into this House in September, 1914. Perhaps the House will allow me in as few words as I can to recall the position of this subject to-day. After the Disestablishment Bill had been before us in three successive Sessions it left this House in 1914 on its way to another place, and in the ordinary course, if nothing had intervened, it might have found its way on to the Statute Book under the operation of what is known as the Parliament Act.
Leaving questions which are controversial aside, may I remind the House that after it had left this House and gone to another place, at the end of June, 1914, the measure was considered. At that time there had been a considerable movement and some disquiet as to whether or not the Bill as it left this House still held the position it was supposed to hold and which had caused its original introduction. When the matter was discussed in the House of Lords, they took into account the very remarkable fact that there had been presented then a protest on behalf of a large body of Nonconformists in Wales, whose numbers reached over 100,000, including between 700 and 800 office-bearers in Nonconformist churches, against the Disendowment Clauses of the Bill. Upon that a Committee was set up by the House of Lords, a Committee which was accepted by the Government, to inquire whether or not these were new factors which justified the reconsideration of the measure as it then stood. The Committee was set up with the support of both sides of the House of Lords. Upon it there sat men who are entitled to respect, such as Lord Courtney of Penwith and Lord Sheffield. The Motion was accepted by the House, and this Committee set to work, it being presided over by Lord St. Aldwyn. Before it had concluded its labours and had reported, the War broke out.
The question then arose what should be done, and whether or not the Bill as it then stood should be placed upon the 1526 Statute Book. There was another measure in the same position—the Home Rule Bill. On 18th September, 1914, both the Welsh Church Bill and the Home Rule Bill received the Royal Assent. At the same time a Suspensory Act was passed, which dealt with both those Bills, and provided for an interval of time before they should come into complete operation. I say "complete operation" for this reason: Whereas there was a postponement of the operation of the Home Rule Act, there was no such suspension of the operation of the Welsh Church Act, and in that case all that was done was that the date of Disestablishment was postponed for a period which was not to exceed a period of twelve months or the end of the War. The effect of that has brought about the very serious difficulties under which the Church in Wales is suffering to-day. The differentiation between the treatment of these two Bills was not allowed to pass unmarked by those who were considering the fate of the Welsh Church in the House of Lords, and an Amendment was proposed by Lord St. Aldwyn which would have had the effect of postponing the date of Disestablishment until six months after the end of the War. With that Amendment attached to it, the Suspensory Bill was sent down to this House. For reasons to which I shall refer in a moment the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Monmouthshire (Mr. McKenna) begged the House to disagree with the Lords Amendment. For the reasons which he gave, the House assented to disagreeing with it, and the Lords Amendment was not pressed or insisted upon. The Welsh Church Act then came into operation. The Commissioners were appointed and various steps had to be taken for the purpose of carrying out the object of the Act. It is quite true that the date of Disestablishment did not, at that time, immediately come into force, but the operation of the Act as a whole did take place. The Commissioners were appointed. I have nothing to say against them as to the work they have done during that time, because I am content to pass that part of the subject by simply saying that they did their duty. Hon. Members will be able to find from a Return recently presented to the House that there has been a certain expenditure of money—not a large sum in two years; it is something like £10,000. I only make that observation as indicative of the fact, 1527 if proof were needed, that the Welsh Church Commissioners were alive, active and fulfilling their duties. When 1915 came, it was quite obvious that by reason of the Act being in operation, difficulties were increasing day by day which made the necessity for a real suspension of the operation of the Act more urgent. A Bill was introduced when would have had the effect of suspending the date of Disestablishment. That Bill was passed in the House of Lords, came down to this House, and was pressed very eloquently upon this House by the present Prime Minister in a few words, which are of importance. He seized, as he so often does, the true meaning of the position, and he pressed the House on these grounds:Disestablishment is a great change for the Church; it is a great change for the nation; it is a gigantic change for the people. They have to make preparation for it. They have to consider the constitution of the Church. It is a matter in which, not merely Churchmen, but the nation as a whole take a deep interest."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th March, 1915, col. 1816, Vol. LXX.]For reasons upon which I will not dwell, that Bill did not commend itself to a certain section in this House, and hostility was promised to it on its various stages. The result was that instead of passing as what I might call an agreed measure, it was postponed and postponed until almost the end of the Session. On 26th July, 1915, the fate of that measure was in suspense, and the late Prime Minister (Mr. Asquith) said in regard to it:I fully recognise, without reserve or qualification the admirable spirit exhibited by those who represent the interests of the Welsh Church in this matter, who were entitled to insist upon the prosecution of this Bill, whilst we were bound to give it all the support in our power to enable it to pass into law…The proposal now made—that was to drop the Bill—and accepted, in the best spirit, both by hon. Members who have fought so long and so hard for Disestablishment and by the representatives of the Church, was dictated, not by any sacrifice or surrender of principle, but solely by a common desire to subordinate domestic controversy in the face of great emergencies with which the country is faced, and in the facing of which we are all absolutely united."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th July, 1915, cols. 1998–9, Vol. LXXIII.]With these words the Suspensory Bill was allowed, in spite of that bargain, to drop, although, as the Prime Minister pointed out, there was very good ground for expecting that it would pass into law. That was the end of the legislative efforts to procure further time for the further consideration of the situation of the Welsh Church.
I come now to the question of what has happened under the Welsh Church Act 1528 in consequence of its having been placed in partial operation in September, 1914. Here I need only quite fairly state the facts, I feel sure, to command the attention, and possibly sympathy, of all almost all Members in this House. First let it be remembered that you are dealing with matters of very great change. No man who has not taken the trouble to look into it can appreciate the serious difficulties which arise in severing an integral portion of a Church and making it a completely separate body. Under that Act you are not only Disestablishing and Disendowing the Church, but you are also dismembering it. I have never been able to understand why the Welsh Church should thereafter have no part or lot with the common body of Church life in England—that body which is represented by Convocation. You are thus putting upon the new body which will have to be created not merely the difficulty of conserving their energies and looking to the future with regard to their funds, but you are putting upon them the duty of creating a complete organisation for the purpose of the maintenance of their religious work. In consequence of the Bill having passed certain things had to be done at once, and the Commissioners arranged that an immediate plebiscite should be taken in the border parishes as to whether or not they should remain under the English Establishment or pass over to the new body of the Disestablished Church. I make no comment upon it, but it is fair to observe that so far as enthusiasm for the new Act goes it does not appear from the result of that ballot that any great desire for it was shown among persons who had an opportunity of electing under which body they would remain. Out of nineteen parishes, eighteen decided to remain within the Establishment of the Church of England.
I have listened to the recital of the hon. and learned Member, endeavouring to see how what he had to say could be connected with the present Bill. It appears to me to be entirely a question of criticising the Welsh Church Act and the Suspensory Act. I intimated to him that in my view the Motion he had on the Paper was hardly relevant to the present Bill, and what he has hitherto been able to say has confirmed me in that view. Clearly it is not permissible under cover of this Bill to discuss a series of previous 1529 Acts. The hon. and learned Member has referred to these two only, but there are half a dozen others which might be discussed in the same way. We must confine ourselves strictly to the question whether or not this Parliament is to have its life extended for the period proposed in this Bill, and the reasons why that should or should not be done.
§ 4.0 P.M.
§ Mr. POLLOCK
I am sorry you thought I had wandered too far. I intended to keep to a very narrow path. I am perfectly ready to obey your ruling in the closest possible manner, but it is almost impossible, even in a summary of matters which have taken place over a period of more than two years, to do it all within the compass of a few minutes. If you think I have digressed at all, I should be prepared to indicate the grounds on which I put forward my observations as germane to this Bill, I hope you will trust me to keep within the limits of your ruling. In speaking now I am associated with others who will be able to say that the consequence of the lapse of time would be to allow this Parliament to come to an end on April 30th, in order that further reconsideration might be given to what has been the accumulation of the last few years. At present the Church suffers from statutory disabilities which were never intended to last for any long time, and which were intended really to cover an intervening space of short time during which the new constitution could be put forward. I do not wish for any better grounds for what I am saying to-day than to recite the grounds on which the right hon. Gentleman then in charge of the Bill asked this House to refuse the Amendments which had been introduced into the Suspensory Act. When the matter was discussed in another place Lord Haldane, who was then Lord Chancellor, doubted whether the Amendment could be accepted, appreciating the fact that circumstances might arise in the lapse of time which could not be foreseen, and said the Government would reserve their judgment as to whether further consideration of the matters which had been raised in Debate might be desirable. The grounds on which we decided to prevent our reconsideration of this subject, which could and would be reconsidered if we did not pass the Motion you have just put from the Chair, and which we could secure by rejecting the present Bill, were put in 1530 this simple manner by the right hon. Gentleman then in charge of the Bill. It was said that the Church might have a difficulty in raising funds, and that it might have a difficulty in securing meetings in order to constitute the proper bodies to deal with the Church funds. That is true to-day, because it is not only the men who are fighting who are affected, but it is also those who are engaged in the ancillary duties of the War. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. McKenna) put it in this way:It is said that there might, owing to the continuance, of the War, be a financial cataclysm. But let us take this hypothesis, that the War, through the valour of the Allied forces, comes to a close at the end of three months.We were then asked not to give more time, not to allow any further opportunity, but we were to leave the cold phrases of the Act of Parliament as they stood because we were to assume, upon the hypothesis that the War would come to an end at the close of three months, that there would be no financial cataclysm.
§ Mr. McKENNA
I said no such thing. If the hon. and learned Member reads the passage further, he will see that the construction which he has placed upon it is quite unreal.
This only shows the more that what the hon. and learned Member is opening up involves a discussion, in the first place, of the Suspensory Act, and, in the second place, of the original Act, the Welsh Church Act. If he opens up these questions, clearly the other hon. Members who a few years ago took the other side of the question, will wish to put their view of the question now, and I, from the Chair, am bound to look upon the question in that sense. It would be unfair for me to allow one side of a case to be laid before the House if I was not prepared to permit an answer. Therefore, I must state clearly to the House that I think these matters are not relevant, and cannot be made relevant to the consideration of the present Bill.
§ Mr. POLLOCK
There is one thing I hope you will allow me to do, whatever your views may be. I should be sorry to think that the right hon. Member (Mr. McKenna) holds the view that I have mis- 1531 construed any passage of his speech. When I said I was going to read more I had no intention of saying that provocatively, because I wished to put the whole matter as he put it before the House. I should be very sorry if I am not allowed to read the passage which the right hon. Gentleman thought was germane to the matter.
I have to consider not one individual, but Members as a whole. We might spend not only this day but many days in criticising previous Acts of Parliament.
§ Lord HUGH CECIL
Every hon. Member is most anxious not to transgress your ruling, and it is, therefore, desirable that we should clearly understand it. I understand you to rule that any discussion of the merits of the Welsh Disestablishment Act or of the Suspensory Act will be quite out of order. I apprehend it is not out of order to point out that churchmen might be disposed to oppose this present Bill on its Second Reading for such reasons as are relevant to their principle and action, and if my hon. and learned Friend or any other hon. Member thinks that this Bill injures the Church of England by depriving it of an opportunity of submitting its case to the constituencies at the end of this month, it is relevant to point out that that is a ground for criticising this Bill, and, unless the Government can meet us in some way, perhaps of opposing it. That would be, I apprehend, in order.
That seems to be purely hypothetical. If the Noble Lord is prepared to argue that this Bill must not be passed, and there must be an election after 30th April, he is entitled to do so, but he is not entitled under cover of that, to raise general discussions on previous Acts of Parliament.
§ Mr. POLLOCK
I am placed in a difficulty, but I feel sure, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that you will appreciate that I am not going to dispute your ruling. I am, however, most anxious, and I think I am fairly anxious, to disabuse the mind of the right hon. Gentleman that I have misquoted or misused any phrase of his. I should apologise to the right hon. Gentleman at once if I had done so. If it is not right that I should read more of what he said, I can only say this to him. that I had intended to read what he said per- 1532 fectly fairly and perfectly justifiably, and I am sure he will not suggest that in using one sentence I endeavoured to misconstrue the general point of the passage. I thank the right hon. Gentleman for what he has said. It is fair to say this: that it was suggested that the War might be a short one, and that therefore no measure was necessary such as was indicated at that time. If I am not to raise the general question I am at least entitled to say that there are a large body of questions, the Welsh Church question among them, which apparently were presumed to require, and would require, consideration at the end of a lapse of time. In the right hon. Gentleman's speech he said the fact that we have granted this Suspensory Act makes it plain that it is a case for reconsideration. If there is to be reconsideration, when? Surely I am not antedating it too much if I say that now, after a lapse of two years, we have arrived at a time when this question ought to be reconsidered, like so many questions. May I remind the House that at the present time many subjects have come up for review? We have been endeavouring to deal, without party bias and without party feelings, with a number of old questions which have vexed and troubled this House, and some of which have, I hope, found a solution. The question of Electoral Reform is one on which party feelings have run to an extreme height in the past, and that is one of the questions we are endeavouring to settle from a wholly different point of view now. We are endeavouring to deal with the Home Rule controversy similarly, and is it to be said that this question of the Welsh Church alone is one that we cannot endeavour to solve in the present state of unanimity which we are enjoying in this House?
Am I not right in saying that this question, which concerns not only a large body of persons in Wales but a large body of people in England, ought to be taken into consideration when we are dealing with the Second Reading of this Bill for the prolongation of the life of the present Parliament? I sometimes wonder whether, in the conservation of the energies of this nation and the unity we have got on a great number of subjects— a unity which we do not desire to break— we are leaving in cold storage this particular subject which we are afraid to touch. I maintain that it is a subject on which we might ask for the assistance 1533 of all parties in bringing about a solution. If the question is to be left aside and is not to be considered, am I not right in saying that we are losing, and we are going to lose, an opportunity which has been found useful in regard to other subjects of great controversy, and that if this Bill were not passed the people, as a whole, who are most eminently practical and eminently just, might prevent something being done which was never contemplated, and that we might at the same time preserve in the unity of religious bodies something which, if allowed to have its full energies got into play, might elevate the lives of the people and lead them to higher ideals. Under your rulings which have embarassed me very much but which I obey, I am not going to dwell more upon the subject, but I think it is fair to say that I and a number of others do feel that a very serious position has been created, and one that has not been intended, and which, if properly looked into, deserves reconsideration, not only on the part of this House, but on the part of the people generally.
§ Mr. ASQUITH
It was once said that there was no sight more worthy of the admiration of the gods than a good man struggling with adversity. It is a still more pathetic spectacle in our modern times to see a Member of Parliament struggling with the Rules of Order, and endeavouring, as my hon. and learned Friend has done with great skill, not to contravene, but yet to circumvent them. I know, and no one knows better than I do, the amount of feeling which was excited both on the one side and on the other by this much vexed question of Welsh Disestablishment. I am not, as my hon. and learned Friend well knows, speaking with any want of sympathy, still less with any disrespect, when I say that I regret that he should have raised the question at this particular time, and in this particular form. Either my hon. and learned Friend is in favour of the Second Reading of this Bill or he is opposed to it. I do not know from his speech whether he is one or the other. If he is opposed to the Second Beading of this Bill, then it must be because he thinks it right and proper that the question of Welsh Disestablishment in the form to which it has been developed at the present time should be submitted to the electorate at the end of the present month. To what electorate? Would anyone, be he a friend 1534 or be he a foe of Welsh Disestablishment, regard an election taking place under the conditions which now prevail in the course of the next three or four weeks, as giving any trustworthy or even any respectable indication of the opinion of the country one way or the other? I cannot imagine an issue being presented under more unfavourable or more misleading conditions, nor can I imagine any verdict given by the country that could be less trustworthy than a verdict given at such a time and under such circumstances, be it for one side or the other—I do not care which.
The practical question which the House has got to consider is: Is an election at the present time, whatever may be the issues submitted to the electorate, to anyone who regards the best interests of the country, and above all, the successful prosecution of the War, a thing which it is tolerable to contemplate? Let us see what are the conditions. The register on which that election would have to take place was made up upon facts and qualifications as they existed in the month of July, 1913—that is to say, nearly four years ago. No one who has, who would have been, under the normal operation of the law, qualified for a vote since that time is entitled to take any part in the election. Even of those who are qualified at that date, and whose names appear on the register, a large number, as we know, are fighting in the various theatres of war abroad. They are not able to return home, and are not able to give their votes. Then of those who are at home a very considerable number, having changed their occupations and residence from patriotic motives to engage in munition works and other work of National Service, could not record their votes without the greatest inconvenience, and, indeed, in many cases would not record them at all. I am told that the two or three by-elections which have been held recently show that not more than between 50 per cent. and 65 per cent.—I believe that the latter figure is the highest—of the electors whose names appear on the register are available for voting purposes. Can anyone say that an election in which only half the registered electors could really vote is an election which by any stretch of imagination could be said to represent the considered feeling of the country?
But that does not by any means exhaust the difficulties of the case. Look at it for a moment from the point of view of the 1535 candidates. A large number of the Members of this House, many of whom, at any rate, would desire to continue to represent their existing constituencies, are at the front in the various theatres of war, and they would be prevented from taking an active part in the prosecution of their candidature. The same is equally true of a considerable number of candidates who are not at present Members of the House, and who desire or aspire to become so. It is true also, I am glad to say, not perhaps as regards fighting at the front, but as regards absorption in various forms of National Service, of the agents of the various political parties. They are organising recruiting, and they are engaged in other forms of National Service, and they could not be working at an election without a great dislocation of the public interest. Then I come to a very small, but not unimportant point. In our system of electioneering paper plays a very large part. I am speaking of the actual material of the paper posters. I believe that they are now prohibited by law, and I do not believe that, in our present dearth of paper, a more uneconomical use of paper, from the public point of view, could possibly be conceived than to devote it to the circulation of election addresses, whether as placards on the wall or sent round as circulars.
Then in regard to another mechanical side of elections—the postal arrangements. I have been told by those who know that in a recent by-election—the very last which took place—the local postal authorities said that they could not deliver the candidates' addresses except they had six days' notice. One may imagine what the result of that [would be. The electors would be obliged to vote without the illumination, without the solicitations, to which they have been accustomed from the circulation of all this election literature in the past. The matter does not admit of serious argument. An election conducted in those conditions is not an election at all. It is a farce and a sham. No one would regard a House of Commons so chosen as possessing in any real sense the moral authority of the country, either for legislation or for the criticism of administration. To take a course which would necessitate the holding of such an election would be flying in the face of common law, common fairness, and common sense. I trust that the House will agree with the proposal of the (Government, 1536 which is manifestly founded on the broadest and plainest considerations of public interest and public duty. Disagreeable as it is for us to prolong our career, yet in the special circumstances and exigencies in which the country is now placed we have no alternative. We must look forward—and I hope we shall be content to do so—to the time—it may be in some months or it may be later —when, with a register which will really represent the electorate of the country, a new Parliament can be brought into existence to deal with the great problems of reconstruction which await us in the future, and which can claim to speak in the name and with the authority of the British public.
§ Mr. DILLON
I rise for the purpose of moving to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."
Recent events in Ireland have created unquestionably a situation in which it has been stated widely that the Nationalist Members, who for thirty-five years have occupied these benches, can no longer speak for the Nationalists of Ireland. That statement has been widely made and widely believed, and it has been made by men of considerable authority. I shall quote only one or two to prove the seriousness of the situation. Lord Dunraven, in an article the other day, stated that if an election were to take place to-morrow more than half of the present Nationalist Members would disappear and their places would be taken by the leaders of Sinn Fein. Lord Middleton, who is an Irishman and has property in Ireland, stated about three months ago that, if an election were to take place at that time, all the Nationalist Members in the provinces of Munster and Connaught would disappear, and very few would be left in the province of Leinster, and that the whole South of Ireland would be represented by Sinn Feiners. Nothing is to be gained by adding to that list of authorities. These are responsible public men, and that statement has been made also by newspapers. That point has been pressed more than once, and it is constantly made by the leaders of the Sinn Fein movement in Ireland. The Sinn Fein movement in Ireland, which has now become formidable, is in plain words the old Irish Republican Brotherhood, the old revolutionary party which at the opening of this War was so much reduced in 1537 numbers as to be almost negligible. It did not certainly include one in thirty of the entire population of Ireland—and on that point I could quote a number of hostile authorities, but it is absolutely beyond all controversy.
But that remnant which remained, after forty years of work by our party, irreconcilable to all connection with this country, and demanding an independent, separate Republic in Ireland, while it had been reduced to such extremely limited numbers, was active, irreconcilable, earnest, and ready for sacrifice, as is the case in every country in the world with the remnants of revolutionary movements. The present Sinn Fein movement in Ireland is the creation of the British War Office and of the Coalition Government, and they have undoubtedly done the work of Germany in Ireland just as effectually and just as disastrously as Stuermer and company have done it in Petrograd, until the country rose up and swept them away. Unhappily we were not in the position to sweep away the British War Office and the Coalition Government in Ireland, and to neutralise their power of mischief, as the people of Russia have done in the case of Stuermer and company, and so that has gone on until this formidable increase in the power of the irreconcilable republican movement has come to pass in Ireland. So long as this power obtained no electoral success we were in a position to treat with contempt, or at all events to ignore, the threats of men like Lord Dunraven and Lord Middleton, and all the others who took the opportunity, apparently rejoicing, of being able to proclaim to the world that the constitutional party, who had laboured for forty years to bring these two countries together, and to undo the fell work of all the hundreds of years during which you have mismanaged and misgoverned Ireland, that that party and the work of that party had been destroyed by the Coalition Government, and that now the Republican party had the upper band. But recent events in Ireland have made it impossible for us to ignore these statements any longer.
It is now in the mouth of any man or any Minister in this House to say that we cannot speak for Ireland or bind the Nationalist party in Ireland, and what is the use of the British Government appealing to us in this House, or outside this House, to meet and negotiate and make terms when these charges are made, and 1538 when recent events in Ireland have lent a certain amount of plausibility to these charges? We are then in this difficult position, that we are open to this taunt and we can make no reply. We may have our own opinion as. to what would be the result of a general appeal to the people of Ireland by the Nationalist party on behalf of the policy for which we have fought through all these years, but the answer that comes back to us by those who desire to taunt us is "North Roscommon!" It is said, "If you cannot carry an ordinary rural constituency in the province of Connaught, where can the Nationalist party be sure of its position?" It is difficult for us to reply to that. The only-effective reply we can make is a General Election. It would be base and cowardly on our part if, in view of these taunts, and if, in view of the events which have occurred in Ireland, we shrank from that step. Therefore it is that I have been commissioned by the party to which I belong to move the rejection of this Bill, and to declare that we shall vote against it in all its stages.
There can be no doubt whatever that our position in Ireland is one of difficulty, and that the difficulty has been steadily increasing from month to month, ever since the Coalition Government was formed. Recent events in this House have greatly aggravated the gravity of that position. I may remind hon. Members of what took place last Christmas. There was a change of Government, and we had reason to believe that in the change of Government, and on the appointment of the right hon. Gentleman who is now Prime Minister to his present position, a serious attempt would be made to settle the Irish question on lines which, although not entirely acceptable to the Irish people, would be tolerable, and might be the cause of appeasement of the passions which were rising in that country. We had some grounds for that belief. I could hardly undertake to state all the grounds, but we had serious grounds for that belief. Then came the Debate on the Motion of the hon. and learned Member for Waterford (Mr. John Redmond), and in the course of that Debate it will be remembered that the Prime Minister, in a somewhat heated and angry fashion, interrupting the hon. Member for Water-ford, said that he had been ill at Christmas, that his mind was occupied to an intolerable extent by problems of the most 1539 terrible gravity, and that it was impossible, in the few hours at his disposal, to address himself to the Irish question. But undoubtedly the impression upon us then left—though certainly he gave no encouragement in his speech, quite the reverse—was that it was a question of time. But, then, what happened? After that, the Leader of the House made a remarkable declaration in the Debate which took place on the 23rd March, a Debate inaugurated by the right hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir H. Dalziel). That Debate was the most remarkable that ever took place on the Irish question, because it was a Debate introduced by the Member for a Scottish constituency, and, in the whole course of it, not a single Nationalist Member intervened—certainly a thing that has never taken place in the history of Parliament, in a Debate so very remarkable, and initiated by an hon. Member opposite. It was a kind of revolt of the Back Benches, and of the independent Members on both sides, who took this question into their own hands, and out of the hands of Nationalist party, and out of the hands of the two Front Benches. I must say that it was one of the most hopeful Debates on the Irish question for many a long day.
In the course of that Debate the Leader of the House (Mr. Bonar Law) made a very momentous statement He said that although, in his judgment, the difficulties were great, and that although, in his judgment, if the Government undertook to make a fresh attempt to settle the Irish question and failed in carrying it to a successful issue, the situation in Ireland would be worse than if the Government had not intervened at all, yet still the Government, regarding this as a war measure, setting free the best energies for carrying on the War, were prepared to run all the risks. That attempt has been going on for some considerable time, and we had some reason to hope that an announcement would be made before Easter. We put no pressure on the Government. We do not intend now to put pressure on the Government, but the Government after that solemn declaration, have now faced Parliament after the Recess, and we have not been given a single hint from the Leader of the House or from any quarter, as to the course the Government are prepared to take, or whether they have made any progress in the direction of making a statement. All this delay is producing 1540 precisely the result that the Leader of the House anticipated, and which I took occasion, a night or two afterwards, to emphasise as my opinion also, that if this resulted in no serious attempt to settle the question, in no proposal which the Irish people could accept, the last state of things would be worse than if the Government had made no attempt at all.
What is the root of the terrible situation in Ireland? The root of it is this: For thirty-five years we have carried on this movement, and the principle on which we have worked and endeavoured to instil into the minds of our people was that, that while undoubtedly the British people and successive British Governments have all treated Ireland in a most cruel way, and made the name of England hated by that country, yet there was amongst the masses of the British people a sense of justice and fair play, if only we could reach them. After thirty-five years of hard effort, during which we ourselves were subjected both in Ireland and in America to the bitterest reproaches, to the greatest abuse and vilification by our own people, for daring ever to talk of trusting the British people in any respect, we carried our policy to a successful issue, and we had succeeded, before the War broke out, in converting, I should say, at least twenty-nine out of every thirty persons in Ireland to our view. You are now converting them back by the tens of thousands, and the repeated disappointments, the breaches of faith over and over again in this House, the contempt with which our advice has been treated as regards the conduct of this War and the conduct of recruiting in Ireland, and the whole campaign in favour of the War—all have had the result of undoing to a very large extent the work and labour of our lives, and have greatly increased the power of the Republican party in Ireland. I say the action of the Government now—and it is the reason I am opposing this Bill—is continuing that evil work, and that we were beaten in North Roscommon—and if we are beaten in South Longford—is your work; and I really do think, therefore, that hon. Members sitting above the Gangway may well come to see that, in carrying on this effort to destroy our party and destroy our work, they are not doing the best either for the Empire or this nation or for Ireland. That is the situation in which we are placed, and we are faced with this fact, that the Government have again come before 1541 Parliament without a word as regards dealing with the Irish question. I pass away from that aspect of the subject.
I do not know what the Government will do; I do not know what steps they have taken, or whether they have taken any steps, in pursuance of the undertaking given by the Leader of the House. I do not complain of that; we did not press them too closely; on the contrary, we said we would not, and the Government, I presume, are pursuing their own course according to their own judgment. I know nothing about that. All I say is, and I say it in all seriousness to the Government, do not again approach the Irish people with a mutilated measure. If you really have made up your minds—a very slow process—if you do intend to deal with this grave question, take it from me that, after all that has happened, you must produce some solution that will strike the imagination of the Irish people, and it will be more difficult and you will have to go further than you would have had to go a year ago, or even last July. Every time these efforts break down, one of the great evils that result from the delay and disappointment is the increased bitterness of Ireland, and there will have to be a more radical proposal than might have been possible, or at least temporarily necessary, on a previous occasion.
§ Mr. DILLON
I thought I heard somebody say, "So much the better." [An HON. MEMBER: "It was Ginnell!"] No matter, he is entitled to his opinion as well as anybody else; he speaks for the Republican party in Ireland, and of course they regard it as so much the better. Every hour, every month of delay in the settlement of this question is increasing their power, because their argument is that you can never settle this question with any British Government, that no British Government really intends to settle the question, and that the only chance for Ireland is an Independent Republic. We do not believe that policy is a possible policy. We have denied it in all our work and in all our political life, and I challenge contradiction of the statement that, in the whole of the thirty-five years, or nearly forty years, since I have been in politics, we have worked as a party for the purpose of getting the two nations together and to understand each other on the only possible ground, namely, 1542 the frank recognition that we are a free people, a free nation entitled to all our liberties.
There is one other point connected with this question. On 19th March the Leader of the House, who is generally very kindly in his capacity of Leader, departed from his habitual manner and warned us that if we, in the exercise of our rights, went into opposition to the Government, the probable result would be a General Election, and not only a General Election, but one with an anti-Irish point in it, and in which an appeal would be made that the Government were practically driven to a General Election by the obstruction of the Irish, who made it impossible for them to carry on the War. I took occasion on that night to tell him that that threat had no effect upon us; that we were not afraid of any General Election; that, so far from being afraid of it, most of the members of our party—I may say, the whole of our party—unanimously welcomed it, because it would relieve us from an awkward position. What I want to draw attention to now is the extraordinary inconsistency of the right hon. Gentleman. He threatened, on that occasion, or he warned us, that our action would probably lead to a General Election, fought as I understood him to say, on the issue that the Irish were obstructing the War—which is wholly false, of course—and that the result of that would be an anti-Irish Parliament. Now he comes to that policy, and not a single reason is given except the declaration that the War was critical. The War is always critical. I think and I hope it is perhaps less critical at the moment than at any time within the last two and a half years, but it has always been terribly critical. I listened with great interest to hear what arguments the Leader of the House was going to use, and without one single argument he declared that this Bill was necessary and that it was unthinkable that we should be plunged into the horrors of a General Election. Unthinkable, and yet only a fortnight or three weeks ago he lightly threatened the Irish party not only with a General Election, but with a General Election which would have aroused the most furious passions in Ireland, in this country, and in America—for I can tell you that at the present moment, and more especially then, when America was trembling on the verge, to have a General Election in this country or threaten to have a General Election for 1543 the purpose of crushing Ireland was one of the most insane, reckless, and most absurd propositions any English Minister ever indulged in. Now he comes and tells us, without any reason, that a General Election, even without bringing in the element of it being an anti-Irish election, is absolutely unthinkable.
My record in this whole business is a clean one. I opposed and argued against the first Bill. I believe that this Parliament has done a very great injury to itself from which it will never be able, at least, not for generations, to free itself absolutely, by embarking on this policy of prolonging its own life When I opposed and argued against the first Bill I pointed out that since the days of the Long Parliament and the Rump the House of Commons had never prolonged its life ad hoc in this way. I pointed out that during the whole of the Napoleonic Wars, when this country was in greater danger, Pitt, who was supposed to be the most tyrannical and certainly an autocratic Minister, never dreamt of such a proposal, and he fought for twenty years those great wars without ever interfering with the Constitution of this country. As sure as tomorrow's sun will rise, an occasion will occur after this War is over when some great question is distracting the nation, not the War, but some of the questions that will arise after the War, when some Government, and particularly a Tory Government or a Capitalistic Government, whatever shape the new parties take, sitting on that bench and thinking they see, or professing to see, dangers from some terrible convulsion of Socialism or some desperate movement which they dread, coming if a General Election is to be allowed, will prolong the life of this Parliament again and again. What they will say is that the particular question is a greater danger than the War ever was, such as the disruption of society or the plunder of the Church. We have already had talk about Welsh Disestablishment. Are there not men sitting in this House to-day who in their eon-sciences would stand up and say that the destruction of the Church of England was a far greater issue than even this War?
What will happen is this: You are setting up a precedent, a number of precedents. You are passing these Bills quite lightly, and they have come to be treated on the same basis as the suspension of 1544 the Eleven o'Clock Rule. You come down to prolong the life of Parliament by six months or a year as if it was quite a customary thing, and the Bill is introduced and presented at the Table like an insignificant Bill that is not worth ten minutes' discussion, and is treated as a matter of course, as we saw the other day. We old Members of this House have seen many innovations and precedents set up. I would ask hon. Members who are Radicals to remember this, whatever form of Second Chamber may survive after this War, it will be in some respects sure to be a Capitalistic and a Conservative body in some shape or form. The party who control that Second Chamber are safe because no Bill can pass to prolong the life of Parliament if a Radical Government is in power, and the party who do not control the Second Chamber are at the mercy of the party who do control the Second Chamber. The result is that if in consequence of some great crisis—and we will live in very hot times after this War—the Conservative party get into power and control the Second Chamber, they can prolong the life of Parliament as long as they like by passing Bills of this kind. I would ask the House to recall what happened when this system was introduced. The late Prime Minister saw, I assume, the risk which I have just pointed out, and what he proposed to do was this, a thing which I think was very much preferable: He proposed to introduce a Bill in the autumn of 1915 providing that for the purposes of the Parliament Act the period of the War should not count, and that Parliament should therefore last under the Parliament Act as if the period while the War was raging was nonexistent. That was, in my opinion, a much less dangerous procedure than that which has been adopted, because that could not pass into a precedent. Please God it will be fifty or a hundred years before we enter on another war of this kind, although I am not so sanguine as some people of Leagues of Peace and all those glorious Utopias—but, at any rate, it will be many a long year before Europe, unless sanity departs from its statesmen, plunges into another great war. Therefore, by that procedure, you would not be setting up a precedent and breaking the Constitution, but you would only be setting up a precedent confined to a terrible crisis and to wars. That is where we draw the distinction, because, 1545 as sure as we sit here to-day, after what you have done, this procedure will be applied to domestic crises, and there is no earthly reason why it should not— none whatever.
The Prime Minister at that time yielded to pressure and criticism, departed from that scheme, and introduced a Bill to extend the life of Parliament for six months. He did that because at that time there were a party of men here who were determined to break him and his Government. That was the real secret; they did not conceal it. They were determined to keep this Bill a short Bill in order that they might go for a General Election if they did not succeed in breaking up the Government. They kept that pressure up when the next Bill was introduced in the month of November last. I have just been reading the speech of the present First Lord of the Admiralty, and, dear me, what a change takes place in a man when he gets into office! We had the First Lord of the Admiralty then, leaning across this box, with his striking countenance glowing with zeal and fury for fear the Government should escape from the power of the people. He was determined to cut down the months and was horrified because the Prime Minister then proposed that Parliament should be extended for eight months. He would not hear of it, to prevent the power of the people to deal with the abominable Government which he had helped to create and then came out and helped to destroy—the late Coalition Government. He was afraid they might escape from the power of the people. Dear me, what a change has come over the scene since he joined the Government. He is not here, and it does not matter whether this Bill extends Parliament for six months or eight months or a year, because now there is a safe Government in office; there is a Government the people can trust, and I think that, so far as the First Lord of the Admiralty is concerned, you might extend this Government's power for the next two or three years, and he would not seriously be upset.
Finally, I do desire most solemnly to draw the attention of Members of this House to the effect of these proceedings, largely the effect, by the continuous extension of the life of Parliament and the withdrawal of the power of the people from the proceedings of this House. What 1546 has been the effect of it? In the first place, it has undoubtedly lowered this House, and made it a subject of continuous taunt that the House is of no consequence at all in the government of the country. In the next place, it has encouraged and led to a condition of things entirely without parallel in the constitutional history of England—that is to say, to the shuffling and recreation of Governments in the formation of which the House of Commons has no voice whatever. We have seen Governments created in the dark behind the scenes and recreated and composed without any vote from this House, and without any opportunity of this House being called upon to say whether they had confidence in the Government or not. That is entirely unknown to constitutional history, it is a new departure, and it has now, quite naturally culminated in this extraordinary state of things that the Prime Minister and the Cabinet practically are divorced from the House of Commons altogether. We have one member of the Cabinet here who acts as Leader, but he does not possess full authority. A condition of things has arisen which is dangerous and the result of which no man can foretell. It is unquestionably calculated to still further lower the prestige and power of this House as regards the whole conduct of the Government of this country, because it strikes at the very root of the doctrine on which the whole liberties of England rest, namely, the direct and continual responsibility of the Executive to the House of Commons. That is, undoubtedly, in the gravest possible danger.
Some men may hold it is essential and inevitable and in some senses that may be so, but it is to me a very melancholy fact that, while we see as a consequence of this War liberty for the first time in Russia and great waves of liberty passing over mankind, the liberties of England undoubtedly have been lowered and lessened and are being lessened every day under the pressure of this War. That may be said to be a necessity. I do not agree that it is a necessity. France has shown us a different example. I have had the opportunity of studying and becoming intimately acquainted with the system that has prevailed in France, and so far from the liberties of France having been lowered and lessened by this War, they have been broadened, intensified and extended. In the cruellest 1547 crisis of the War, what did the French people do? They practically took hold through the Committees of their House of the conduct of the War, and those remarkable men, the Chairman of the Committees of the French Assembly, have told me that in their judgment but for the action of the Committees, the War would have been lost, and I dare say that that is quite right. So that when this War has taken now within the last few months a far wider and nobler position than it occupied in its earlier days and while its character as a struggle for human liberty and and a fight against the most hateful form of military bureaucracy has been splendidly vindicated by the Russian Revolution, and by the conduct of the French Assembly, and, above all, by the coining in of that great Republic which represents liberty more completely than any other organisation in the world, in face of all those things I think it is lamentable that the liberties of this Nation should be lessened, and that we should be told by this Government that this is all necessary in order to lead to the efficient conduct of the War.
I disbelieve, I refuse to believe, and it is hard to ask us to believe that in face of the fact that the Prime Minister himself, forgetful apparently of the fact that he was a leading member of the late Coalition Government and the Government that went before it, is never tired of asserting in the face of the world that our conduct of the War has been one succession of blunders from month to month. True, he leads us to suppose that under the present system all that will be reversed. I have seen no sign of it, although many months have elapsed; and really I think it would be better for him not to be continually talking about the blunders of his predecessors. He was his own predecessor. But be that as it may, I assert that the onus of proof lies upon that Ministry, and if they go on minimising, and encroaching upon, and cutting down the liberties of England in order to increase efficiency in the conduct of the War, they should at least be bound to prove that we are obtaining that for which we are asked to sacrifice our liberty. On those grounds, as well as on the ground of Ireland, I oppose the passing of this Bill. Let the people speak and vote. No doubt, it is quite true, as the late Prime Minister has 1548 just said, that the position of the register is such that an election would be little better than a farce; and there is one consideration which would go a long way to defeat my hostility to this Bill if the Government would really give it to us. If they would stand up and give us, I will not say a pledge—that is no use at ail-but some form of new security which would carry with it some satisfaction that they really mean to pass the great reform based upon Mr. Speaker's Conference, then I should be somewhat inclined to hesitate. I do not believe they mean to pass it at all. I am told it has seventy Clauses, and there is a party of sixty Members led by the hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury). In a contest between those seventy Clauses and sixty Members led by the hon. Baronet, I would put my money on the hon. Baronet. Therefore, on all these grounds, because of the situation in Ireland, because of the encroachment on the liberties of this House, and on the liberties of England, which I believe to be absolutely unnecessary and vicious, and because I do not believe the Government seriously intend to carry the great reform based on Mr. Speaker's Conference, I beg to move the rejection of the measure.
§ Mr. SWIFT MacNEILL
I protest against this legislation because it is illegal. I am going to protest against an illegal law, and what I say in reference to this Bill is what I can say in reference to a dozen Government measures passed by this Parliament: that they are law-making passed in the spirit of law-breaking. The Government are gradually destroying every fragment of constitutional liberty. My right hon. Friend the late Prime Minister (Mr. Asquith). who said that this Act was an Act of necessity, declared that a General Election could not at the present moment receive the sanction of or be endorsed by the will of the people. That may be, but on what sanction or on what authority do two successive Governments rely? On what authority, first of all, did the first Coalition Government rely; and on what authority does the present Coalition Government rely? On the authority of the House of Commons-, which the late Prime Minister says no longer possesses the authority of the people. My hon. Friend who moved that this Bill be read a second time upon this day three months (Mr. Dillon) said that the crisis that has 1549 arisen has been unheard of in constitutional history except on one occasion. It has been unheard of in constitutional history on every occasion, because there is no precedent for any Parliament prolonging its life twice, and even three times. This Parliament has committed all the sins of all its unconstitutional predecessors, and has likewise committed the almost unpardonable sin of self-stultification. Before 1911 we were Septennial Parliaments. Since 1913 we have become quinquennial, and the same Parliament which in 1911 passed the Bill shortening its existence to five years is the Parliament which has twice prolonged its existence, and is now going to prolong its existence a third time. Such an instance of self-stultification has never arisen since the time of the Long Parliament. At that time a Bill was passed with a flourish of trumpets for shortening the life of the Long Parliament to three years, and not permitting the King to dissolve it. That Bill was passed in January. In the very May, three or four months after that Bill was passed, the same Parliament passed a law prolonging its own existence for exactly as long as it liked. This Parliament is doing the same thing, in possibly a gentler way. All these proceedings may tend to make a Colossus of the Prime Minister, but certainly they most surely tend to make pigmies of the House of Commons and of popular rights and liberties. The Prime Minister and his associates in the War Cabinet do not attend the meetings of this House, with one exception, the Leader of the House (Mr. Bonar Law) who, I suppose, as their whipping boy, comes down to speak for the Prime Minister.
A few days ago the late Prime Minister drew a rather far-fetched comparison with reference to his change of opinion on the subject of women's suffrage, between himself and some Greek poet whose name I forget. But there is a very clear and well-known episode in history about a statesman of the Prime Minister type. He was a gentleman who got in possession of the liberties and control of a Greek colony. He kept himself in a tower. He did not allow himself to appear. No one knew anything about him. News used to go forth now and then about the great man, and at length the Greek people, who were an ignorant people, threw down the tower. He had not the resources of civilisation we have now, or the power of prolonging Parliament by a party of eighty-nine Gentlemen who are sitting in this House, 1550 despite the Place Act—a larger party than the Labour party, or the Irish party, or the party of voluntary service men who keep in this Government, and prolong its life indefinitely for another seven months. A seven months child, even a Parliamentary child, is a very rickety, unpleasant, crawling, and sprawling baby. Let me come to the proprieties of it. Of all things, certainly since the Reform Bill, that nave been carefully guarded against, the chief is any imputation that the House of Commons is sitting without authority or power. The Prime Minister, in a speech which might have been more appropriately delivered by the late Prime Minister of Russia, M. Stuermer, in the Russian Parliament, said that this should be done as a mere matter of convenience. M. Stuermer has gone, and despite the war in Russia there has been a magnificent outburst of liberal principles and a chorus of liberal sentiments. Here in this country the War has been made use of, first of all, to pack Parliament with place-men, to put in Ministers who have never been elected by the people, to establish Cabinets which have never been heard of since Cabinets began, and then to ask the House of Commons to degrade itself by prolonging its own existence in order to keep this kind of thing in power. Such a thing has never been heard of since the beginning of Parliaments. I cannot express my sorrow at seeing every constitutional landmark deliberately swept away. All these things have been regarded as so precious. The prolongation of this Parliament twice by this Bill will produce the curious result which Sir William Harcourt once prophesied. He said, in objecting to the abolition of the Place Bill, that the time would come when a coterie of gentlemen would arrange among themselves to have a Cabinet and to sit in that Cabinet in defiance of popular opinion, and possibly trading on the weakness of the House of Commons in fear of a General Election. I see the Noble Lord sitting opposite (Lord Hugh Cecil), and I think that if he will take "Hansard" and look at it he will find that in the Parliamentary Reports of February, 1869. If that speech were repeated to the House of Commons to-day, every word of it would be as true and accurate if applied to the present situation.
I must refer for a moment to what my hon. Friend, who moved this Motion, dealt with so ably, and that is the effect 1551 of the prolongation of this Parliament on the Irish situation. The Leader of the House entirely discounted the situation when on the 19th March he threatened us with a Dissolution of Parliament. If we do not represent our Constituents, we have no right to be here; no right whatever. He threatened us then with a Dissolution of Parliament, but now he does not care to adopt that course. Why? Owing to the conduct of this Government and their constant procrastination in reference to the Home Rule Bill, the feeling grew in the minds of the Irish people that they were gradually being deceived by statesmen who were, from their past history, proficients in deceit. That kind of thing arose before. It arose before in order to carry the Union. The party who wanted popular rights in Ireland were an absolutely constitutional party. The English Government immediately treated with them and promised them the popular rights which they wished. Having promised them these rights, the promise was broken, and the United Irishmen became a non-constitutional and revolutionary party. That suited the English Government perfectly well, because it produced a rebellion that could be extinguished, and they destroyed Irish liberties. The public at large do not know the Government as I know them, or as they know themselves, but a mere outsider might imagine this, that, a great popular movement being on the eve of success, several Gentlemen came into power and thwarted it, and by so doing raised a revolutionary spirit, having crushed which they could produce and keep still an Irish difficulty by setting Irishmen against Englishmen and Englishmen against Irishmen, and by keeping up the foul system of corruption which is known as Dublin Castle. The parallel between 1798 and 1916 is remarkable. One produced the Union; the other, if it is not checked, as please God it will be, will produce bad feeling between Englishmen and Irishmen, which we have expended the best years of our lives in trying to appease. That is how I feel, and I feel seriously upon it. I feel the enormous pity of it.
The War was used from the Treasury Bench to-day in a three-and-a-half minutes' speech in support of the Bill before the House. The War does good for all kinds of things. Owing to the 1552 War you are not to disestablish German princes; because of the War you are not able to go to your constituents; because of the War you are able to stuff the House of Commons with place men who have never gone back to their constituents. You now refer to the War and say that because of it you must prolong the life of this Parliament, and your supporters are Gentlemen who do not care to go back to their constituents, like the good men after the harvest with their sheaves of office in their hands. That is the position. It is intolerable, and the worst of it is its inevitable truth. Many of the Members of this House—I should say all of them if it were not an intolerable presumption— are acquainted with the ordinary facts of history, and they know that War did not prevent what has happened in Russia, nor did even Lord Milner, who possibly went there for that purpose, prevent the Russians from getting their popular rights and liberties; and War did not prevent the English Government in 1800, when England was at the lowest pitch, from destroying an Irish Parliament; but War is to be used for the purpose of denying to Ireland her rights, and fomenting a preventable revolution in the midst of War by exasperating the people into arms. In reference to the further prolongation of the life of Parliament, I would ask to whom is it an advantage? The next Parliament, even if it were elected to-morrow, could only last two years. It may be that the electorate is all that the Prime Minister said, but is it not better to go and seek their suffrages, such as they are, than to be here with the consciousness that we represent nobody at all, and that we are here simply as pawns for the Government—Members of Parliament in such a position that in this Mother of Parliaments we have not the power to introduce the smallest and pettiest Bill without asking their Lordships' permission? It must be with the Government's sanction that any Bill is introduced. Is that much of an ambition even to a private Member? But what about the country?
That the War, with all its horrors, should be utilised by such gentlemen, no doubt for public interests, which in some way redound possibly to their personal interests, that every principle and every ordinary practice of constitutional liberty should be broken, and that then we should have a Gentleman whose whole 1553 originality consists in, at a crisis, as he calls it, tossing everything upside down, producing the most curious, amorphous parody of anything that is like executive or constitutional power in the world— that is what the House of Common has come to. It is absolutely without the respect of the people. It has allowed itself to be stultified. It has placed Gentlemen in power through party combinations. I saw a very strong article to-day showing that even in the present Government of eighty-nine—though a Cabinet of twenty-three was objected to a little while ago— that even in that happy household there are dissensions. I saw in the "Express," which I believe is the organ of one of the great men of that Government a very curious story of conspiracy of the tad-polo Under-Secretaries against the great men in power. They are like a house divided against itself. They have destroyed Parliament, and now they are quarrelling amongst themselves; but the worst of all is this, that all these things are done through the War. Never in England has the question of war been considered as an absolute barrier to popular rights or to the advocacy of popular rights. The Union in 1800 was carried in the midst of war, the Emancipation Bill of 1829, and the Reform Bill of 1832, were not carried during a war, but they were carried when England was on the eve of civil war. As to the doctrine that peace is essential to carry great measures, the thing is intolerable. You have seen how it has been done in Russia during the War. The Russians have progressed, but with us the War has been used as a reactionary engine. I wish to have the honour of seconding the Amendment of my hon. Friend.
§ Sir CHARLES HENRY
On two previous occasions I have supported Bills for the extension of the life of Parliament on the understanding that it was necessary in order that the prosecution of the War should be carried on with all vigour. On this occasion I shall unhesitatingly vote in favour of the Amendment of the hon. Member for East Mayo, but for different reasons from those which he put before us. It must be recognised in all quarters of the House that durng the extension of the life of this Parliament, Parliament will not devote itself entirely to the prosecution of the War. The Prime Minister has announced that it is the intention of the Government to bring in a Franchise Bill, 1554 and in that Bill one of the provisions would be the extension of the franchise to women. I venture the opinion that there is no subject which has created greater political controversy and on which there have been more acute differences than the extension of the franchise to women, and let it be remembered that this very Parliament whose life it is proposed to extend has given an adverse vote to women's suffrage. Is Parliament justified under these conditions in extending its life on the plea that it is necessary for the prosecution of the War when it is going to deal with questions primarily of political importance? I maintain under these conditions that the Government is taking advantage of its position to commit a political outrage, and I have no hesitation in opposing a measure which has this object. I should consider it preferable that there should be a General Election. I recognise the arguments brought forward by the late Prime Minister, but I must confess that they did not appeal to me to any extent. If it is a question of a General Election not being practicable on account of shortage of paper, the Government might take steps to remedy the great waste of paper that is now taking place in the issue of innumerable circulars. I am certain that a General Election could be fought under existing conditions and on the existing register which would reflect the minds of the people of this country in a far better way than they are at present reflected in Parliament.
The Leader of the House dwelt on the critical state of the War. We all admit that it is critical, but it is not likely to be any the less critical during the time which it is proposed to extend the life of this Parliament, and during that critical period the Government propose to bring in a Franchise Bill with the question of women's suffrage as one of its component parts. Recognising that the mentality of the occupants of both Front Benches cannot be predicted, and that we do not know what political somersault they may commit—the late Prime Minister announced to the House a few weeks back that he was intending to support women's suffrage, as he believes that during this War women have found their salvation, and for that reason he thought he could no longer oppose the giving of the vote to women—who is to say that the 1555 present Prime Minister might not consider that on account of the magnificent courage of the Ulstermen, far in excess of what he had ever anticipated, during the extension of the life of Parliament the Home Rule Bill should be scrapped and torn up? Who is to say that the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, recognising the splendid courage of the Welsh Churchmen, will not consider that they will not be justified in taking money from the Welsh Church and that therefore the Welsh Church Act should be torn up?
Under present conditions I maintain we are not justified in extending the life of a Parliament when political issues of the greatest importance and magnitude are likely to be thrust upon it. The position of the rank and file of the Members of this Parliament is anomalous. On the adjournment of the Debate before Easter I brought forward the question of Parliamentary Commissions on the French model. I then stated the views of the present Prime Minister in the first speech he made as Prime Minister to this House. On that occasion he expressed himself strongly in favour of these Commissions. The great dangers from which France had been saved and perilous positions had been largely due, said the right hon. Gentleman, to the work of the Commissions. He has changed his mind now, and will have nothing to do with them. Parliament is to remain as impotent as this Government can possibly make it. Under these circumstances, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, recognising as we must recognise, that the extension of this Parliament means an introduction to subjects of great political controversy, recognising that it is the intention of the Government to make Members as impotent as possible, I shall unhesitatingly vote against this proposal.
Mr. T. M.HEALY
I confess that the speech of the hon. Baronet who has just sat down has aroused the greatest apprehension in my mind. I am reminded of the words of Mr. Gladstone in this connection as to politicians being too suspicious, and it occurs to me that there may be being laid a trap for simple Members of the House like myself, and that in reality it is intended that the Motion of the hon. Member for East Mayo should be carried. It is a very easy thing. There are in the Tory party those who are anxious for a Dissolution, and we know 1556 that the strongest pressure every day and every hour is being put on the Prime Minister to "get on top," and that now he has a chance to do so! Here we find one of his strongest supporters telling the House that for the first time in his life he is going to vote against this Government proposal; I suppose also that for the first time in his life he is in favour of a Motion by the hon. Member for East Mayo. I confess it all capsizes my intellect. I should like to make a few inquiries before I make up my mind as to what course I should take. Because, of course, if I thought the Motion of the hon. Member for East Mayo was going to be carried I should not be likely to vote for it. It may be that the hon. Member is quite satisfied that he is going to be beaten and he is therefore showing great cheerfulness. I confess if I had the assurance he seems to feel that his Motion will be defeated I would gladly vote with him in the Lobby.
The Tory party know that if there is a Dissolution at the present moment they can have an absolute revenge on the Liberal party. They know that they can reverse the decision about the House of Lords. They know they can reverse the decision about the Welsh Church, and about the Home Rule Bill— or Act, I beg pardon—I had forgotten it was on the Statute Book. Therefore, to-night, there is a chance for the Tory party. If at the Carlton Club or the Constitutional Club they are told to remain and Members do not come down, what will be the position of the hon. Member for East Mayo? He will not be asked as a victor to form a Government. I am afraid that is not likely. What will happen will be this: The country will be told that the Irish have defeated the Government in the midst of the War. The women will be told that it is the Irish who have defeated their chance of getting the suffrage. The labourers will be told that it is the Irish who have prevented the extension of the franchise. The publicans will be told that it is the Irish who have prevented them from getting compensation. The brewers will be told that they have been prevented from getting a monopoly, and the teetotalers will be told that it is the Irish who have prevented them from abolishing that accursed thing, the drink traffic! Here, then, you will have the whole political situation absolutely in the melting pot. Therefore it occurs to me we are now in a very perilous situation, and I should like, 1557 before I give my decision, to have a little private cross-examination of the Government Whips. I should like to see their lists. I should like to see the number of men they have scourged to come down— the number of men who have got what is called stiff pairs. If I found, and was quite sure, that the Government were going to make a vigorous effort to carry this Bill, then I should cheerfully go into the Lobby with the hon. Member for East Mayo. One must not forget the temptations in the way of Governments, but, for myself, I must say that I have the very strongest doubts as to how this Division will go. Anybody who follows the Press and the circulation of opinion knows very well that the Prime Minister or the Leader of the House has only to hold up his finger to be beaten in the Lobby.
There is great precedent for it, the precedent of '85. Mr. Gladstone wanted to be beaten in the Lobby. He did not want to renew the Irish Coercion Act of 85. The Crimes Act of '82 was out, having only been passed for three years. The new franchise was coming in. I suppose there is no harm now in saying now that that night both Mr. Gladstone and Sir Charles Dilke were wishful to be defeated. Sir Charles Dilke told me in his own room that they were going to ride for a fall. There was a letter the next day in the "Daily News," I think for 30th June, 1885, written by Mr. Maclaren as he then was, now a peer in the Upper House. Anyone can turn up the file of the paper and see the letter, in which Mr. Maclaren showed that he and a dozen other Liberal members were told that they were not wanted on that occasion. I very strongly suspect that we are now in a similar situation. For the first time in his life the hon. Member for East Mayo will be the leader of a victorious party. In regard to the reasons given for the desire for a Dissolution, I should like to allay some of the fears entertained by the hon. Member. He says they are told they will not get back again to this House. We have the authority of Holy Writ for it that the number of fools is infinite. I strongly suspect that there is just as large a proportion of them to the acre or the square mile in Ireland as in any other part of the world, and. accordingly I do not at all take the pessimistic view of the hon. Member for East Mayo. I think they will probably lose a dozen or twenty seats. That is my estimate, but the notion that they will not come back in substantial 1558 strength is, to my mind, a greatly mistaken view, if that is any encouragement to the hon. Member for East Mayo to withdraw his Amendment.
There is another remark I should like to make. The hon. Member seems to be greatly afraid of the Sinn Feiners. I do not know any particular reason for the expression of this terror of the Sir. Fein party except this: that it is a remarkable fact—of course, I would never suspect my right hon. and learned Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland of being in collusion with the party that is sitting near me— but it is a remarkable fact that the party sitting near me had no sooner lost the Roscommon election than every member of the Sinn Fein party who took part in it was deported to Oxford. If a General Election is to be held in the absence of important men who are abroad and fighting, then the authorities should either bring these deported men to trial or allow them to go home and attend to their elections at home. The hon. Member really gave them a great lift in this House to-night. He has spoken of their extraordinary power and so forth. If that be true, I wonder he does not make the strongest effort to get them back to their homes. There has not been a word of protest against these deportations either from the hon. Member or his friends. I myself have gone to see men of influence in the Government to protest against the harshness with which those concerned have been treated. I believe they have had no more to do with anything incendiary or revolutionary than the hon. Member for East Mayo. Because however, they were inconvenient elector-ally they are spending their time at the present moment in very poor circumstances in various villages and towns all over this country. I hope they are not as formidable, and I think they are not, as the hon. Member for East Mayo considers them. If they are—well, take my own seat! Any Sinn Feiner that wants it is welcome to it. If there is any man more extreme who wants my seat he can have it without a fight. I have fought these gentlemen here because I regard them as humbugs. If there is any man who wants my seat, if he is such an extreme man, if he will do better. in the House of Commons than I have done, or if he will support any new policy, so far as I am concerned he can have my seat without fighting. I say that here and now. I am getting old. The young men are coming up. It is time they had a chance. I 1559 strongly feel that a little infusion of this element will do this House, and perhaps this party, a great deal of good.
Lastly, I should like to say that the hon. Member for East Mayo spoke, and spoke with a great deal of truth, of the folly of the War Office in bringing about an un-pleaant state of feeling in Ireland. That is quite true. I have already protested against this matter, and I have said that in my opinion, if the hon. Member for Waterford had had his way, this country would have been under a deeper sense of obligation to him than it is at the present time. I have said that candidly. I think it only right to say it, and to bear my testimony to the fact that the blunders of the War Office have been an important factor. One of the reasons, one of the ingredients of the disesteem into which in many quarters the Irish Parliamentary party appears to have fallen has been brought about by its acceptance of a salary from this House. Irish Members are all in the same boat—though I did not protest and urge the passing of Resolutions, and say I was not going to take it, and then run into the Lobby and vote for it! I am free of that; but amongst the Irish people the fact that the Irish party has accepted a salary in this House has undoubtedly led to a loss of esteem. It is well known that the Labour party wanted provision made for the Sheriffs' fees at elections, and that the hon. Member for Waterford prevented candidates' electoral expenses from being defrayed out of the public purse, and preferred payment of Members. Therefore you have this fact, that in Ireland at the present moment this disesteem exists because the Irish Members engineered with the then Chancellor of the Exchequer a salary for themselves, having declared they were not going to take it, and they prevented the same Government from paying the expenses of the candidate. I will say this for the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, that I much prefer him as Prime Minister to Chancellor of the Exchequer. As long as he was Chancellor of the Exchequer he was laying burdens upon Ireland, and he was cordially supported by the Irish party. Now that he is Prime Minister ho cannot do us at all the barm that he did as Chancellor of the Exchequer, but I hope the Chancellor of the Exchequer will not mind my 1560 saying that I have much more confidence in his fiscal principles than I have in those of the Prime Minister.
What were the other causes that led to this unfortunate rebellion'! Undoubtedly the attempt to break up the volunteer movement, and of the hon. and learned Member for Waterford to boss and tyrannise over that movement. But, on the whole, I think it is better for Irish Members to suffer this disesteem for a few months more in the hope of this franchise measure, which, as I understand, will contain a provision throwing the expenses of Members on the rates, or on the Imperial Exchequer, will largely bring about a democratic suffrage, will also largely abolish that atrocious system of registration of voters, which is such a curse in every constituency, and will also further, as I hope, give the women a fair measure of representation in this House. Lastly, I think the Government are engaged to-night in passing a sort of self-denying ordinance. Not one of the nations engaged in this War has flung Parliament into the cauldron of a General Election, and now, especially when America has come into this War, giving us a sense of hope, of strength and stability, I think if the Government had any plot of Dissolution in their heads, it would land them not only into political discredit, but in national disaster; it would be a sign of national senility. As one who has for a long time spent his days and some of his nights in this Assembly, I can only say that, looking back upon the great changes and vicissitudes that have taken place, it would be a sorry day for British statesmanship if by any electoral manoeuvre in the middle of this great struggle Parliament-such as we now have it is put an end to.
§ Lord HUGH CECIL
If the hon. and learned Member is right, every Member of this House finds himself in a position of great anxiety and great responsibility. The hon. and learned Gentleman suggested that perhaps, after all, this Amendment of the hon. Member for Mayo might be carried and the Bill rejected. Let us then consider what are the arguments that have been put forward in the course of this Debate to incline any Member of this House to vote either for or against the Amendment of the hon. Member for Mayo. I do not myself doubt that it is a revolutionary Bill. For the House of Commons, by a simple measure passed in the ordinary way as an ordinary Act 1561 of Parliament, to prolong its existence for months, and to do that, not once but two or three times, is certainly of a very unusual character. I am not surprised that the hon. Member for Donegal (Mr. S. MacNeill) should feel seriously distressed about that which violates what is said, I think, in every manual of constitutional law, that such a proceeding as this is unconstitutional and revolutionary. But I am not quite convinced of the danger to which the hon. Member for Mayo draws attention, that it is likely to be used in some domestic controversy of the future. I am much more inclined to expect that anything that is done during this War will always be regarded as an awful example to be avoided in the future than as likely to be quoted as something to be followed, and, indeed, if anyone wanted to adopt it for domestic reasons, the precedent of George the First's reign, when the Whig Parliament extended the life of Parliament from three years to seven years, is very much more relevant. Nor am I quite convinced of the desirability of an election peculiarly in Ireland. The hon. Member for Mayo spoke, as he always does, in a very interesting way, but he did not convince me that it was desirable there should be a General Election in Ireland. I confess, when he propounded as the two objects he had in view, a General Election in Ireland and an immediate settlement of the Home Rule controversy, I was unable to agree with either of his arguments. It seems to me, on the contrary, that you will not get tranquillity in Irish politics either by a General Election or a settlement.
§ Lord H. CECIL
I am not an admirer of the present system, but what I desire is to postpone controversies until after the War, and I do not think the Nationalist party, or any other party, will lose at all by postponing it until after the War. The rational thing is to decide all those questions in a Parliament in time of peace, with all the freedom of public opinion, the freedom of the Press, and, most important of all, the attention of the public. All our discussions now are unreal, not through any dark conspiracy of any Members on the Treasury Bench, but because the public is not interested in Parliament. All the interest is in the Army, and it is for that reason, and not because of any subtle or Machiavellian 1562 plot on the part of Ministers, that Parliament has to some extent fallen into neglect. I am not sure that while that tiling goes on the more we keep clear of such controversies as the Home Rule controversy, the better for us. Personally, the only way I would deal with the Disestablishment question is to gain time to deal with it after the War is over, if that would satisfy hon. Members for Ireland in dealing with Home Rule. I was going on to consider how I was to vote. I was trying to review the arguments which were to determine which way to vote if a Division were taken. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Fife very eloquently and very cogently spoke upon the immense evils of an election under present circumstances. Part of that argument I thought very convincing, but part of it perhaps was not so strong. It is quite true that a Parliament elected under such a register would not be very representative, but it is also true that a Parliament in its seventh year of existence is not very representative, so that we should not lose under that head, but rather gain.
Finally, there is this consideration which weighs with me rather in favour of the hon. Member for Mayo, that if we do not have an election now, if we carry on— which is, I presume, the purpose of this Bill, which, I imagine, will be renewed again and again until that purpose is fulfilled—if we carry on till the War is over, then there is this great difficulty, that at the conclusion of the War there is the Disestablishment of the Welsh Church. There is no opportunity of dealing with the Welsh Church, but the crisis comes upon you all unawares, with no time for organising the new government of the Church or bringing the matter before the country and obtaining any change or modification of the Act—in short, there is all the great inconvenience of being launched into a controversy on the Welsh Church by Disestablishment coinciding with the date on which the War is over. Therefore, that inclines my oscillating judgment to vibrate in favour of the Amendment. I am in doubt, and I confess I hope the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be able to say something to lay that doubt at rest. I confess I hope he will be able to say something which will reassure me as a churchman before he asks me to assent to the very revolutionary step he is taking, and to deprive churchmen of the opportunity they would have of arguing their case at the end of this month at a 1563 General Election. [An HON. MEMBER: "In war-time?"] I quite agree I could wish a more favourable opportunity. I would much rather argue it in time of peace, but at least it would be before Disestablishment had taken place. [An HON. MEMBER: "It is a question of money!"] It is largely a question of money; it is a question of endowments. But I should like to be assured, at any rate, that it has the consideration of the Government, and that they do not view with an evil eye the suggestion that more time ought to be allowed to us, so that we are not plunged at one moment at the conclusion of the War into Disestablishment, a General Election, and the whole scheme of reconstruction which must follow the War. I venture to make that appeal to the right hon. Gentleman, because on that matter my vote in this Division depends.
§ 6.0 P.M.
I desire to refer to the speech which has been made by the hon. and learned Member for Cork (Mr. T. M. Healy). That speech was made up, as nearly as all his speeches are, of bad jokes and false charges against his opponents. I only wish that the charge he made against the Government of intending to ride for a fall this evening had more foundation than the other charges which he made against the members of the party to which I belong, because we have moved this Amendment not only from the Irish point of view, but from other points of view surrounding the future of liberty and democracy in this country, we believing it to be desirable that the life of this Parliament should not be prolonged. Although the hon. and learned Member for Cork accuses the Government of going to ride for a fall, evidently he has no intention himself of risking a fall, because he told us that anybody who liked to have his seat in Ireland could have it.
I think the hon. and learned Member recognises that as we took his other seat from him we can take this one as well. But I will pass over his sneers about the £400 a year, which, by the way, he is, careful to put in his own pocket, and I will only say that the hon. and learned Gentleman knows perfectly well that the statement he made 1564 that we did not from these benches protest against the deportation of Sinn Feiners from Ireland to Oxford is absolutely incorrect, because while the hon. and learned Member was in the Police Courts and the Four Courts in Dublin, raking in the shekels, the Irish Members were over here pressing the Government, and we moved the Adjournment of the House on this very question. Whatever may have been the circumstances on former occasions when the House of Commons prolonged its own life, they are of a totally different nature now, and the considerations which applied then apply no longer. We must remember that on the two previous occasions the life of Parliament was prolonged by the general consent of the House, but that general consent no longer exists. A considerable body of those who are entitled to speak for the overwhelming mass of the people of Ireland no longer agree to that course, and in view of the solid mass of opinion which is resisting this proposal, we should be depriving ourselves of the last shred of moral authority or force in this country if we agreed to prolong the life of this Parliament. We are not to be consulted about the government of our own country, and, if this Government can help it, apparently we are not to count here in the House of Commons. The Government must know perfectly well that they will be embarking on a difficult and almost impossible task if in view of the refusal of general assent to a measure of this kind it attempts to continue for another six or seven months the life of this Parliament.
We must bear in mind the fact that since the life of Parliament was last prolonged a new Government has been formed in this country. The old principle was that new Governments rested upon the support of the people as a result of an election appeal. I am not suggesting that before a Government could be formed it would be necessary to have a General Election, but I emphatically say that the whole policy of the new Government since its formation has been to turn attention away from the House of Commons, to make little of it and to thrust on one side the Parliamentary system. In view of these circumstances it is desirable from many points of view that there should be a fresh appeal to the people to renew the life and the vigour of this Assembly. Practically no leading member of the Government, or even of the late Government, thinks it worth while to come down 1565 here to listen to what the House of Commons has got to say on this question. We know it is the policy of the Prime Minister to come here on as few occasions as possible, and, if rumour speaks truly, although the right hon. Gentleman cannot come down to the House of Commons on an important occasion when the House is considering the whole future of the life of Parliament, he can find time to go to Scotland to consider the result of an individual election in that country.
What are the grounds on which we have been asked to pass this Bill? We are told that a General Election would interfere with the prosecution of the War. We make no concealment of the fact that we are anxious to avoid anything that would interfere with the prosecution of the War, but there are other things allowed to go on by this Government which are far more seriously interfering with the due prosecution of the War than a General Election could be. There is the persistent refusal of the Government to face and to deal with the Irish question. The policy of this Government has bred at every step of its career in Ireland distrust, suspicion, hostility and animosity, and the belief that the Home Rule Act which is on the Statute Book is to be regarded by the Irish people merely as a scrap of paper. I would ask the Government if they are blind to what is being said in Ireland, even about their latest promise to attempt a settlement of the Irish question? There are many people in whom they have bred this suspicion, and they are now saying that the Government made this proposal to attempt a settlement at a time when the crisis was on as to whether or not America was to come into this War. An election in Ireland would undoubtedly clear the air, and we are not afraid of it. On the contrary, we are anxious for the position to be laid before the world, and, in my opinion, even an election in England would clear the air and remove that atmosphere of apathy and indifference which surrounds the present House of Commons, and it would not necessarily be a hindrance in the prosecution of the War. It cannot be said that there is not a precedent for an election even during the course of the present War. What about the case of Australia? There they are having an election in the middle of their plans for the prosecution of this War, and is it suggested that that is a hindrance to the further prosecution of the War?
1566 The arguments which have been brought forward from these benches and the illustration in the case of Russia is more forcible and powerful, because in Russia they did not have an election, but a revolution, which this House has placed on record by the congratulations it sent to the Russian people and the Duma as an event of great importance in furthering and not in hindering the prosecution of the War. The hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) has already referred to the threat made by the Leader of the House some time ago of forcing a General Election on us if we continued opposition in any form to the present Government. It seems to be thought that whenever the Government wish to threaten us with an election they are. furthering the interests of the War, and that it is not to be open to us to use the same argument when we claim that we are entitled to press for an election. Another reason why this Bill is recommended to the House at the present time is that there is in force an old register which would not be a true reflex of the opinion of the country. It is perfectly true that the register is an old and stale one, but what is the remedy for that position of affairs? The natural remedy which was attempted last year by the late Government was a new register. That attempt was made in the month of August, and since then we have had the Conference presided over by Mr. Speaker. We have also had a day's discussion on the subject in this House since the present Session began, and with regard to the recommendations made by that Conference we have a promise that the Government is going to introduce at an early date a great Reform Bill founded upon the recommendations of that Conference. We have also seen the spectacle of between sixty and seventy Members of this House opposing those proposals, even before they are embodied in the form of a Bill.
Does the House of Commons think that an assembly which found it impossible last year to bring the old register up to date without interfering with the franchise, is likely to adopt any large measure of reform? Do hon. Members think that in spite of that opposition you will be able to pass a great measure of franchise and redistribution, and deal with other kindred matters. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for East Mayo that it is idle and absurd to pretend that the Government really proposes to press that measure 1567 through Parliament in the present Session. The result is that you have got the old register in force still, and are likely to have it in force, for many months to come Whenever it is suggested that the life of this Parliament should be no longer prolonged, the Government is always able to come down and say, "The register is a stale one, the register is an old one, and an election would not be representative of the voice of the country." As long as they are in a position to do that, they can continue the life of this Parliament indefinitely beyond the duration of the present War. Old as is the register, unrepresentative as it may be admitted to be at the present time, an election would be better than continuing Parliament without any moral sanction or authority in this present way. At least you would have this safeguard, that the new Parliament elected upon the old register would not be able to go on in existence beyond two years, because last year, fortunately, when the last Bill of this kind was being passed through the House of Commons, a Clause was inserted providing that any Parliament elected upon the old register should not have a longer life than two years. For these reasons, I hope that the House of Commons will agree to inspire new life, new strength, and new vigour into the democratic institutions of this country by having a renewed mandate from the people, and that we will have an opportunity of going to Ireland and showing the country there and our friends here that Ireland is still true to those principles which she has maintained during the length of this great struggle for constitutional freedom.
§ Mr. GINNELL
Without observing that a decision on the question now before the House will affect the country in many administrative ways, apart altogether from the question of the Dissolution of Parliament, you have allowed the Debate, in some instances, at all events, to wander pretty widely beyond the immediate question. The immediate question before the House is the Resolution to extend the life of this Parliament. This Parliament has extended its own life, once, twice, and thrice, and, if allowed to do so this time, there is no reason why it should not extend its life nine times, like the life of a cat. It proposes, on the present occasion, to do more and to extend the lives of the local ad- 1568 ministrative bodies for which there is no reason whatsoever. These local bodies have necessarily to go on from day to day and from week to week administering the affairs of the country. Fortunately, women have votes for electing representatives on those bodies, and whatever reason there may be for prolonging the life of Parliament, there is none whatever for depriving the people locally of their undoubted right of electing men to conduct their own local affairs. Whether the War goes on or ceases those affairs must continue to be conducted, and the War itself in many respects increases the difficulties of conducting them, and creates new and difficult questions which should be dealt with by new men.
The very same policy which is being carried on by the present Government in this House is also being carried on by them locally. I hold in my hand evidence that the local councils are to be prevented from renewing themselves in accordance with the law largely, if not wholly, because the Government have captured some of the most active members of those councils for their own purposes. I do not know whether that be true in this country or not, and it does not concern me, but it is true in Ireland. Members of local bodies are at the present time employed by the Government in Ireland in various ways. Sometimes they are employed for recruiting, and when the blunders of the Government render that policy impracticable they are employed for purchasing provisions, for purchasing wool, and for one purpose or another, and are paid salaries by the Government. These particular members of local councils in Ireland are at the present time most active in opposing every popular purpose in Ireland, and in supporting the Government in the suppression of public opinion, in the deportation of the most trusted and respected men in Ireland, and in every step taken by this autocratic Government against the will of the people in Ireland. For these reasons, being known as they are, those particular members are well aware that if an election to the local councils were held next month, as it is due to be held, they would walk the plank and they would no more get elected. I hold in my hand proof that a member of a county council in Ireland has earned and has received an appointment carrying with it a salary for his activity on the County Council of Mayo in opposition to the adoption of what is known there as "Count Plunkett's mani- 1569 festo." The Government may, as far as I care, appoint ninety-eight salaried placed men to assist them in this country in averting a General Election—it does not concern me much—but I object altogether to their practising that policy on a shabbier scale in Ireland.
None of us in this House to-day can claim constitutionally to represent anybody but himself. Neither you nor any Gentleman here can claim to have a constitutional mandate to do anything but go to the country and get elected. This House has itself, on a deliberate Motion, decided that it should not exist beyond a certain time. That time has elapsed, and its mandate is gone. There is this further peculiarity in the condition of this House, that, besides outliving its mandate and besides being a time-expired Parliament, it is a self-paid Parliament. It will even give the hon. Member for South Donegal (Mr. Swift MacNeill), with his historical knowledge, something to do to find a precedent for a self-paid Parliament whose time has expired re-electing itself. That surely has not been done in any country. I wonder if this so-called Mother of Parliaments has so far got into its dotage that it is going to set such a ridiculous example to all its progeny and to all the Parliaments of the world. Theoretically, we on these benches are inconsistent in taking any part in legislating here for Ireland or in recognising at all laws made here. If we were true to the mandate for which we were sent here, our sole duty would be to right any Government sitting upon that Treasury Bench and to deny their right to legislate for or to rule our country at all. But it has come to pass in our time that a Parliamentary party elected to represent Ireland in this House and supported by Ireland for that purpose is now the only body of men representing this House and the English Government in Ireland and supported by the British Government for that purpose. That is the topsy-turvy condition at which we have arrived.
While denying any right in this Parliament to make laws for Ireland or to tax Ireland, and whilst submitting to those things as done by force and not by law of justice, since you have that power and are engaged in that work our further duty arises of thwarting you in that purpose and of striving here, whether inconsistent or not, if not to get what we want, then to prevent what we do not want. Ireland stands as much outside the British system, and has as little share in the progress and 1570 wealth to which she is compelled to contribute as countries which contributes nothing and which the British Parliament has no power to tax or to rule. A nation threatened with extinction in its own country is surely entitled to resist here complete extinction. That, as I conceive it, is our sole purpose here, and in view of that purpose the oftener our people are given an opportunity of electing representatives both to Parliament and to their local councils the more likely will those representatives be true and effective representatives One of the special functions of tins House is the provision and expenditure of revenue. That will be recognised in this country, at all events, as one of the most important duties of Parliament. The War has intensified instead of reducing that important duty of Parliament. If it has intensified it in this country, surely it has done so to a greater extent in Ireland. Taxes, when excessive, affect every material interest, and some of our nation's interests are greater even than material interests. Ireland is not gaining at present by the manufacture of ships and other requisites for the War, nor is any considerable amount of War expenditure being spent there. As Ireland is not gaining now, so in the future, after the War, she is certain not to gain. The one purpose for which you entered the War, according to your own cries at the time, was to practise business as usual and to capture German trade, while subordinate nations and Colonies, Celtic fringes and Hottentots, were doing your fighting. The Celtic fringes, I regret to say, did much of your fighting, and yet you are not yet satisfied. You want to sacrifice the Celtic fringes altogether, and you want to prevent Ireland having any opportunity, when these things are fresh in its memory, of deciding whether it approves of your conduct or not. As I have just said, there are greater interests in a nation even than money. Its people are ultimately a country's greatest wealth. During the last eighty years the population of England and Wales has increased from 15,000,000 to 36,000,000, while in the same period the population of Ireland has decreased from 3,250,000 to 4,250,000. That is how uniformity of taxation works out in practice.
There have been some endeavours to raise rather 1571 general questions on the present Motion, but nothing going quite so far as this. It is not permissible to) review the whole history of the taxation of Ireland any more than it is to review it in this country.
§ Mr. GINNELL
I must submit, of course, to your ruling, Sir, but with the observation that I have devoted only a few sentences to the question of taxation and only one sentence to the question which I described as more serious, namely, that of the diminution in the population. I had passed away from taxation to the diminution of population, which is a much more serious matter. Both these questions are involved in prolonging the life of this House, which deals with the economic subjects determining those questions. However, it is not my intention to pursue that subject. We want a General Election not only to renew our representatives in this House, but to change the Minister responsible for the administration of Ireland. A General Election usually results in a shuffling of Ministers, and any change would be better than a continuation of the present men in office. We want the present Chief Secretary removed as one of the minor results of a General Election. We want him removed for the practical reason that he has been sent to Ireland to hold firmly the reins of government there, having been selected apparently for no other reason or qualification but his absolute ignorance of Ireland and of the sentiments of the Irish people. He spent a week in Dublin last February and went from Department to Department urging a certain improvement in them.
The hon. Member for the first twenty minutes of his speech kept very well within the subject before the House, but he is now, for the second time, going very wide of it. We cannot have a general criticism of administration upon a Motion to read a Bill a second time this day three months.
§ Mr. GINNELL
It is very hard, Sir, to reconcile your own ruling this afternoon in the case of other Members with your present ruling in my case. [HON. MEMBERS: "Order, order!"] I desire to he orderly. I do not desire to be disrespectful, but the House must remember the very wide range you, Sir, allowed the hon. Member for East Mayo to travel over in Irish administration as well as in regard to the immediate subject before the House.
1572 It comes to this, that I am allowed only to speak on the Bill and on the proposal to postpone its consideration for three months. Not only would I postpone it for that time, but if I were a cynic and wished to bring this House into ridicule I would postpone it for the next seven years, because the longer this House persists in legislating for my country, at all events after its legal qualifications for doing so has gone, the longer it persists in doing that before the world at a time when Russia has sprung to freedom and when this House has been hypocritical enough to congratulate the Russian people on their successful revolution, and when that successful revolution has declared that the country of Poland subject to it shall be free, the longer this House persists in ruling a country and in making laws after its constitutional and moral authority for doing so has gone, the longer it persists in bleeding that country white by taxation after its constitutional authority has gone, the longer it persists in deporting the most respectable men out of Ireland after its authority has gone, the longer it persist in keeping in prison men sentenced by secret court-martial to penal servitude for political offences after its authority has gone—the longer it persists in that course the better for me and the worse for this House, because whatever shred of credit it had in the past it has sacrificed in the War. Some Ministers are still in office. One of them especially is still in office as Prime Minister. He climbed to that position by election, but he is afraid to-day to face the people and afraid he would not get elected. He has got this House to sanction the creation of countless new offices. They have been counted this afternoon at ninety-eight. He has filled them with his own satellites, who will help him in ruling not only the country but this House. The longer that continues, the worse for this House and the worse for this Parliament, and the more easy it will be for people who are not content with that sort of rule and who ought not to be content with that sort of rule to burst that sort of rule, to bring it to an end and to expose to the world for what it is, a House of Huns and hyprocrites.
§ Sir FREDERICK BANBURY
The Chancellor of the Exchequer recommended us to accept this Bill on the ground advanced by previous Leaders of the House in introducing similar Bills, namely, that the whole of our attention 1573 should be given to the War. The late Leader of the House stated that in his opinion it would be absolutely impossible to hold a General Election now and he gave various reasons for that opinion. For myself, I agree with my Noble Friend the Member for Oxford University (Lord Hugh Cecil) in thinking that the lack of paper which would prevent posters being published would be a good thing. I do not agree with the late Prime Minister in thinking that posters are good things either for the electors or for the candidates. I am not sure that that is not the case with election addresses. They could appear in the newspapers, and I think that is all that is necessary. We were assured, when the first and second Bills for prolonging the life of Parliament were brought in, that controversial matters would not be introduced, and although I do not think the assurance has been given in so many words this time it is understood that that is the intention of the Government. It is four months since the present Government came to office. Nearly all its members had been in previous Governments, and the previous Government was undoubtedly committed to the principle that controversial measures should not be introduced in the period for which this House prolonged its own life.
I have here a list of Bills and pledges of legislation which have been given by the Government. They are nine altogether. The first is electoral reform. That has not got very much to do with the War. Then come Home Rule and Education. Education, as far as we understand it, is going to include the abolition of half-timers, and the raising of the age at which children have to attend school, which have always been controversial subjects, especially the former. Then we have had a Criminal Law Amendment Bill, which although it might on its introduction, by a stretch of the imagination, have been said to have some remote relation to the War, certainly in the form in which it has left the Committee, is merely an amendment of the ordinary criminal law and has nothing whatever to do with the War. Then we have a Bill for fixing agricultural labourers' wages, for allowing the Board of Agriculture, if it wishes, to farm the whole of the United Kingdom, and to limit the rent of agricultural landlords. That certainly has not very much to do with the War. Then we have a Bill for purchasing the brewers' interest and public houses, at an expenditure of 1574 £300,000,000 or £400,000,000, which may be needed for the War. That is a very formidable list for an ordinary Parliament when no War is going on at all. Now I come to the one Bill which has anything whatever to do with the War, which has been introduced since the present Government came into office—the Military Service (Remission of Exemption) Bill. I should be most anxious not to have a General Election at present if I were assured that the Government would do what they took office to do, and devote their whole attention to the War. If they would do that, I am sure everyone, with the exception of hon. Members below the Gangway, who do not count for a moment against the whole House, would support the Government. But if this Parliament is to be prolonged, if it is to do what my Noble Friend (Lord Hugh Cecil) said was not only a revolution, but unconstitutional— if it is to do that, and then to take advantage of prolonging its own life in order to introduce controversial measures, I think the House ought to oppose the Bill. I hope and trust my right hon. Friend (Mr. Bonar Law) will give me credit for speaking with the utmost sincerity. I am most anxious to support the Government as long as they will give their whole attention to the War, but if they will not do so, I certainly think the House ought to say their life should not be prolonged. The country ought to be made aware of the fact that during these four months very little of the time of the House has been given to the War, and a very great deal has been given to other matters and a very great deal more has been promised to matters which do not concern the War.
Sir HERBERT ROBERTS
I do not agree with the right hon. Baronet. From the beginning I have held the view that it would have been much better to pass an Act prolonging the life of Parliament until the end of the war, and the fact that that was not done seems to me to argue at all events a certain want of confidence in ourselves or a consciousness that we are not devoting ourselves, or have not yet fully realised the colossal task we have to achieve to carry this great War to a victorious issue. It seems to me most unfortunate that at periods of six or nine months we should have debates of this kind, half-hearted, with very little spirit in them at any time, and not in any way displaying the mind of the House of Commons as it ought to be. I 1575 feel in a position of some difficulty to-day with regard to what has been said upon a question of vital interest to the Nonconformists of Wales. Of course, I absolutely accept the ruling of the Chair upon this point. I am glad it has been given, because I should greatly have deplored a debate under present conditions, which would have had the effect of relighting the fires of this ancient controversy upon the Welsh Church question. But, inasmuch as the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Pollock) and the Noble Lord (Lord Hugh Cecil) have based their opposition to this Bill upon the claim of securing to the country an opportunity at an early date, before the War ends, of reconsidering the question, it is only frank, as representing those in my Constituency and associating myself with the views of those with whom I am associated in the Welsh representation, that I should say that, however deep and strong are the opinions of those who are favouring this recommendation for a reconsideration by General Election, the feelings and convictions of Welsh Nonconformists are equally strong and decisive on the other side. I desire to say that in order, if I can, to dispel any misapprehension upon the point, and not because for a moment I feel hopeless that it will not yet be possible in the near future to bring about, by the new spirit which is now running in the life of our country during the War, a new movement in favour of closer union in all our religious life. I should be false to my knowledge of the situation in Wales if I were to say that the reopening of this question at present would in any way lead to that effect. It would have the exactly opposite effect in my judgment, and for these reasons I hope that no further attempt will be made to raise a question which in the minds of Welsh Nonconformists is finally settled.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
I do not think it will be necessary, and I hope the House will not consider it necessary, that I should address it at any length in connection with the Debate to which we have listened. I greatly admire the skill of my Noble Friend (Lord Hugh Cecil) in the way in which, without circumventing your ruling, he managed after a long preamble, dealing very directly with the subject before the House, to bring in what he wanted to say about the subject on which the hon. Member has just spoken. I am very doubtful whether it is possible for me to escape 1576 the dilemma pointed out by the late Prime Minister of struggling unsuccessfully with your ruling, but since the subject has been raised I think it right to say this: I am sure no one in the House will expect the Government at such a time as this to be considering at all a question of that kind but I must say also that the fact that there is a case for a reconsideration of that subject at some time is shown by the fact that the Liberal Government which itself passed that Bill did introduce and intended to carry a measure giving a period of suspension at the end of the War. That shows that there is some case for time being given in such a situation as this. I am sure my Noble Friend was not in earnest when he said his vote depended upon a pledge to be given by me, and. I do not intend to give any pledge for the Government on this subject; but I should like to express what is my own firm conviction and what I believe will commend itself to the majority of the Members of the House, that, after all, we as a nation have gone and are going through, it is to me inconceivable and it would be in the highest degree deplorable that we should return, precisely where we left off, to the old controversies which were going on before the War. I will not believe that that can happen, and at a time like this, when we know that Nonconformists and Churchmen in Wales are fighting side by side and have been giving their lives together for the cause of the whole nation, I cannot believe that some method will not be found of dealing with this question which will not lead to the complete bitterness which an absolute victory on one side or the other will inevitably bring.
I listened with the respect which it deserved to the speech of my right hon. Friend (Mr. Asquith), and I sympathise entirely with what he said about the necessity of this or any Government devoting itself entirely to the prosecution of the War. But how is that possible? Take, for instance, two of the measures mentioned by my right hon. Friend (Sir F. Banbury). As regards the Franchise Bill, can anyone say it is not a necessity, when we do not know what the duration of the War will be, that there should be some register on which we can appeal to the country in order to return a proper House of Commons? That seems to me to be a necessity of the case, war or no war. When the War began there were few of us, and I was not wise enough to be one of them, 1577 who dreamt that it could continue for the length of time it has already gone on. Here is a great nation which is living its life in spite of the War and which is carrying on to a certain extent business necessitated by the War. In such a nation questions arise that must be dealt with and cannot be left over indefinitely until the War is settled; but I say this, that any Government which went out of its way to bring in any question which was not directly connected with the War would not deserve the confidence either of the House of Commons or of this country. Take the other subject mentioned by my right hon. Friend—Home Rule—about which I shall say a word or two, because it is in connection with that that an Amendment has been moved. We may be right or wrong—I know that many of my Friends do not agree with me—but as a Government we do believe that if it were possible to settle this question it would be a distinct advantage in the prosecution of the War. We believe also —I am not going to raise any false hopes in the House by what I am saying—that it is possible that the spirit which the War has produced in all of us may in itself create an atmosphere which will make it easier to get this secular quarrel settled than might be the case if we waited till the War was over. That is our opinion. Take the agricultural question. I have come back to the House after our very short Recess with feelings very much the reverse of elation over the prospect of the business which lies before us. It is business which in ordinary times could not possibly be got through in a single Session of Parliament. This agricultural question is directly dealing with the War, and I know nothing that deals with it more. We have got to increase our supplies at home, and for good or evil the measure which we have introduced is intended to enable us to do that.
The hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. Dillon) has moved an Amendment to postpone this Bill for three months, I think it was. His arguments, I must confess, did not carry the same conviction to my mind which they seemed to carry to the mind of my Noble Friend the Member for Oxford University (Lord Hugh Cecil). He began by criticism of an action of mine which I should have thought that the House of Commons would always be ready not only to forgive but to approve, and that was that I had 1578 made an exceedingly short speech in introducing this Bill. This is the third time a measure of this kind has been before the House, and to my mind it would have been a real insult to the intelligence of the House of Commons to suggest to them that every argument I could put before them was not already present to their minds, and that they do not realise the situation as well as I do. I would like to say one or two words about the disrespect to which the House of Commons is said to be subjected. My Noble Friend gave the real explanation, and that explanation is that the heart of the people of this country is centred not in our doings here, but in the doings of our sons and our brothers who are righting a battle on which the existence of this House of Commons depends. It is only as an instrument for carrying on the War that the House of Commons is of interest to the people of this country, and I do not believe that what has happened since the War began has in reality lessened the hold that the House of Commons has on the people of this country. The hon. Member for Mayo seemed to take the view that if we had carried the proposal originally introduced, the time during which the War lasted was not to count. That seems to me a strange argument. It comes to this: that the smaller thing is going to establish a precedent which will ruin our Parliamentary institutions, and the larger thing, which includes the smaller, is going to leave them precisely where they were. I do not want to talk on subjects of that kind. The hon. Member complains that I made no statement on the first day that the House mot in regard to the promise I made on behalf of the Government that we would make an attempt to deal with the Irish question. The House will recollect that at the time I gave that promise I pointed out, as I fully realised, how difficult—and nobody knows it better than the Gentlemen who sit on those benches—the problem was, and I asked the House of Commons not to press us unduly in coming to a decision.
We have done our best. The whole Government have done their best. We have done our best to devote ourselves to this question so far as the daily exigencies of the War would enable us to do. I am not complaining—hon. Members below the Gangway have good reasons for their action -but I may point out that in trying to come to a decision as to the best course for us to adopt, it is not easy to 1579 come to that decision when we have no means of consultation with a large section of those whom our decision will inevitably affect. In spite of that the Prime Minister had hoped to make a definite statement on the subject this week. As it happens—I know that it has been held unwise to give information as to the movements of Ministers, but the Prime Minister is not afraid of the risk involved, and he has authorised me to make this statement—he is unexpectedly called to a conference on the Continent to-morrow, which will occupy him two or three days, and that will of necessity delay the statement, but I still hope that early next week it will be possible for us to say what we intend to do in regard to this matter. The hon. Member for Mayo said to us, "Present the thing in a broad-minded way." We will never move a yard in this matter, or in any matter of the same kind, unless all of us realise what the difficulties are. If any section in Ireland or in this House begins with the idea that you are to do something which the majority of the Irish Members here want and it is all plain sailing—if they start on that assumption, to my mind it is utterly impossible to arrive at any solution of this problem which can by any possibility be carried out. All I can say about that is that we are earnestly trying. I do not wish the House to go away with any wrong idea, and I do not wish the action of hon. Members below the Gangway to be influenced at all by any hope I am holding out to them now, but I do say this that we are earnestly trying to find some method of solving this question, that the whole Government is most anxious to do it, and in their case, as I believe in the case of the House of Commons as a whole, there never was a time when there was so much good will in regard to this matter, and I think we need not absolutely despair, under circumstances of that kind, of arriving at some solution which will help us in dealing with this secular subject.
That is all I wish to say except in regard to the Bill which is now before the House. It is quite true that we do think an election would be very undesirable. I did not say, as I was quoted as saying, that I regarded it as unthinkable, but I do consider that it would be a misfortune, and I assure the House that it is the last thing that the Government wish. Though I agree in the main with the speech of my right hon. Friend the late Prime Minister, 1580 I think he carried it further than I would have been prepared to go. He pointed out the difficulties, and in some sense the absurdity of an election under the present* conditions. We all recognise that. It would be an immense departure from anything we have been accustomed to. My right hon. Friend rather weakened the strength of his own argument by saying at the end that if we had carried a Franchise Bill it would not be so bad. But all the other objections—and they are very strong—would remain just the same, franchise or no franchise. In my judgment that is the position. I said long ago, before this Government was formed, and before there was any idea that I was counting on the position which one Government or the other might occupy in the country—I said in December, 1915:I think it may be quite possible that circumstances may arise which may make an election inevitable, whatever the register, and so for as I am concerned I should not have any distrust of the verdict of my countrymen whatever register was used on an issue such as this, in which the whole country from the top to the bottom is united in its aims.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
In regard to the War. That is what I meant. We are carrying on this War with our usual constitutional machinery. Do not let the House of Commons imagine that it is an easy thing to carry on a war with machinery designed for peace and adapted for peace. I remember quoting from memory words used by Lincoln, in a struggle which I think was not unlike that in which we are engaged. I wish I could remember the exact words, but I cannot, but this is the substance. He said that a civil war was meant to prove whether institutions not too strong for liberty were strong enough to preserve that liberty. That is the problem that every democratic country has got to face. This situation might arise—I am certainly the last to desire it, and I can say something more: this Government is not trying to arrive at a situation such as I am depicting, and will not try to arrive at it—in which, since our own Government and the conduct of the War depends upon the House of Commons, no Government would command the support of a stable and consistent majority in this House. Or circumstances might arise when this House was not ready to support a Government which believed that it had behind it the support of the country. In such circumstances, deplorable as it 1581 would be—and I for one hope the House of Commons which saw the beginning of this War will see the end of it—there would be no alternative except an appeal to the country to get a stable Government which would carry on the War. That is all I wish to say. An Amendment has been moved. The House understands the issues. They understand also that
§ the time is short before the period when this Parliament would naturally come to an end. I hope, therefore, the House will let us get the Second Reading before the dinner hour to night.
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 286; Noes, 52.1583
|Division No. 28.]||AYES.||[7.15 p.m.|
|Adkins, Sir W. Ryland D.||Denman, Hon. Richard Douglas||Jones, Edgar (Merthyr Tydvil)|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Denniss, E. R. B.||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)|
|Agnew, Sir George William||Dickinson, Rt. Hen. Willoughby H.||Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)|
|Ainsworth, Sir John Stirling||Dixon, C. H.||Jones, Rt. Hon. Leif (Notts, Rushcliffe)|
|Alden, Percy||Duke, Rt. Hon. Henry Edward||Jones, William S. Glyn- (Stepney)|
|Allen, Arthur A. (Dumbartonshire)||Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||Joynson-Hicks, William|
|Astor, Hon. Waldorf||Edwards, Clement (Glamorgan, E.)||Kellaway, Frederick George|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Essex, Sir Richard Walter||King, Joseph|
|Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.)||Fell, Arthur||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Finney, Samuel||Lambert, Rt. Hen. G. (Devon, S. Molton)|
|Balfour, Sir Robert (Lanark)||Fisher, Rt. Hon. W. Hayes||Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)|
|Banner, Sir John S. Harmood-||Fletcher, John Samuel||Larmor, Sir J.|
|Baring, Sir Godfrey (Barnstaple)||France, Gerald Ashburner||Law, Rt. Hen. A. Bonar (Bootle)|
|Barlow, Sir John Emmott (Somerset)||Galbraith, Samuel||Layland-Barrett, Sir F.|
|Barlow, Montague (Salferd, South)||Gardner, Ernest||Levy, Sir Maurice|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. George N.||Gastrell, Lieut.-Col, W. Houghton||Lewis, Rt. Hon. John Herbert|
|Barnett, Capt. R. W.||Geldor, Sir W. A.||Lloyd, George Butler (Shrewsbury)|
|Barrie, H. T.||Gibbs, Col. George Abraham||Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury)|
|Barton, William||Gilbert, J. D.||Lockwood, Rt. Hon. Lt.-Colonel A. R.|
|Bathurst, Capt. C. (Wilts, Wilton)||Glanville, Harold James||Long, Rt. Hon. Walter|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Goddard, Rt. Hon. Sir Daniel Ford||Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas|
|Beck, Arthur Cecil||Goldstone, Frank||Lowe, Sir F. W. (Birm., Edgbaston)|
|Beckett, Hon. Gervase||Goulding, Sir Edward Alfred||Loyd, Archie Kirkman|
|Bellairs, Commander C. W.||Greenwood, Sir G. G. (Peterborough)||MacCaw, William J. MacGeagh|
|Benn, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth)||Greenwood, Sir Hamar (Sunderland)||Macdonald. Rt. Hon. J. M. (Falk. B'ghs)|
|Bentham, George Jackson||Gretton, John||McKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald|
|Bentinck, Lord H. Cavendish-||Guest, Hon. Frederick E. (Dorset, E.)||M'Laren, Hon. F.W.S. (Lincs. Spalding)|
|Bird, Alfred||Gulland, Rt. Hon. John William||Maclean, Rt. Hon. Donald|
|Black, Sir Arthur W.||Haddock, George Bahr||Macleod, John Mackintosh|
|Blair, Reginald||Hall, D. B. (Isle of Wight)||Macmaster, Donald|
|Bliss, Joseph||Hall, Frederick (Yorks, Normanton)||M'Micking, Major Gilbert|
|Boscawen, Sir Arthur S. T. Griffith-||Hamersley, Alfred St, George||McNeill, Ronald (Kent, St. Augustine's)|
|Bowden, Major G, R. Harland||Hancock, John Georgo||Maden, Sir John Henry|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Hanson, Charles Augustin||Magnus, Sir Philip|
|Boyton, James||Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds)||Mallalieu, Frederick William|
|Brace, Rt. Hon. William||Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithness-shire)||Martin, Joseph|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Harris, Henry Percy (Paddington, S.)||Maux, Hon. Sir Hedworth|
|Broughton, Urban Hanlon||Harris, Percy A. (Leicester, S.)||Middlebrook, Sir William|
|Brunner, John F. L.||Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)||Middlemore, John Throgmorton|
|Bryce, J. Annan||Haelam, Lewis||Millar, James Duncan|
|Bull, Sir William James||Healy, Timothy Michael (Cork, N.E.)||Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred|
|Burdett-Coutts, William||Hemmerde, Edward George||Money, Sir L. G. Chiozza|
|Burn, Colonel C. R.||Henderson, Rt. Hen. Arthur (Durham)||Morgan, George Hay|
|Butcher, John George||Hendry, Denis S.||Morison, Hector|
|Carew, Charles R. S. (Tiverton)||Hewart, Sir Gordon||Morison, Thomas B. (Inverness)|
|Carnegie, Lieut.-Col. D. G.||Hewins, William Albert Samuel||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas|
|Cator, John||Higham, John Sharp||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert|
|Cautley, H. S.||Hills, John Waller||Needham, Christopher T.|
|Cawley, Sir Frederick (Prestwich)||Hinds, John||Neville, Reginald J. N.|
|Cecil, Lord Hugh (Oxford University)||Hodge, Rt. Hon. John||Newman, John R. P.|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord Robert (Herts,Hitchin)||Holmes, Daniel Turner||Nicholson, Sir Charles N. (Doncaster)|
|Chaloner, Colonel R. G. W.||Holt, Richard Durning||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)|
|Chancellor, Henry George||Hope, Harry (Bute)||Nuttall, Harry|
|Cleugh, William||Hope, John Deans (Haddington)||Orde-Powlett, Hon. W. G. A.|
|Clynes, John R.||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William|
|Coats, Sir Stuart A.-(Wimbledon)||Hope, Lieut.-Col. J. A. (Midlothian)||Parker, James (Halifax)|
|Cochrane, Cecil Algernon||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Parkes, Ebenezer|
|Collins, Sir Stephen (Lambeth)||Hughes, Spencer Leigh||Pearce, Sir Robert (Staffs, Leek)|
|Collins, Sir W. (Derby)||Hume-Williams, William Ellis||Pearce, Sir William (Limehouse)|
|Coote, William||Hunt, Major Rowland||Pennefather, De Fenblanque|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Hunter, Sir Charles Rodk.||Perkins, Walter F.|
|Craig, Colonel James (Down, E.)||Illingworth, Albert H.||Peto, Basil Edward|
|Cralk, Sir Henry||Ingleby, Holcombe||Philipps, Maj.-Gen. Ivor.(Southampton)|
|Croft, Lieut.-Col. Henry Page||Jacobsen, Thomas Owen||Philipps, Sir Owen (Chester)|
|Currie, George W.||Jardine, Ernest (Somerset, East)||Pratt, J. W.|
|Dalrymple, Hon. H. H.||Jardine, Sir J. (Roxburgh)||Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.)|
|Dalziel, Davison (Brixton)||John, Edward Thomas||Priestley, Sir W. E. B. (Bradford, E.)|
|Davies, Ellis William (Eifion)||Johnson, W.||Pryce-Jones, Colonel E.|
|Radford, Sir George Heynes||Starkey, John Ralph||Weston, J. W.|
|Raffan, Peter Wilson||Steel-Maitland, A. D.||White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston)|
|Randles, Sir John S.||Stewart, Gershom||Whiteley, Herbert J.|
|Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)||Stirling, Lieut-Col. Archibald||Whittaker, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas P.|
|Reid, Rt. Hon. Sir George H.||Strauss, Arthur (Paddington, North)||Wiles, Rt. Hon. Thomas|
|Rendall, Athelstan||Sutton, John E.||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, N.W.)|
|Richardson, Albion (Peckham)||Swift, Rigby||Williams, John (Glamorgan)|
|Richardson, Arthur (Rotherham)||Sykes, Col. Alan John (Ches., Knutsf'd)||Williams, Llewelyn (Carmarthen)|
|Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)||Taylor, John W. (Durham)||Williams, Penry (Middlesbrough)|
|Roberts, George H. (Norwich)||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radclifle)||Williams, Col. Sir Robert (Dorset, W.)|
|Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs)||Terrell, Henry (Gloucester)||Williams, Thomas J. (Swansea)|
|Robinson, Sidney||Thomas-Stanford, Charles||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Worcs., N.)|
|Roch, Walter F.||Thompson, Rt. Hon. R. (Belfast, N.)||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Rowlands, James||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)||Wilson-Fox, Henry|
|Rowntree, Arnold||Tickler, T. G.||Winfrey, Sir Richard|
|Rutherford, Sir John (Darwen)||Touche, Sir George Alexander||Wing, Thomas Edward|
|Rutherford, Watson (L'pool, W. Derby)||Toulmin, Sir George||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Salter, Arthur Clavell||Tryon, Captain George Clement||Wood, Rt. Hon. T. McKinnon (Glasgow)|
|Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)||Turton, Edmund Russborough||Wright, Henry Fitzherbert|
|Samuel, Samuel (Wandsworth)||Walsh, Stephen (Lancs., Ince)||Yate, Colonel C. E.|
|Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)||Walters, Sir John Tudor||Yeo, Alfred William|
|Sharman-Crawford, Colonel R. G.||Walton, Sir Joseph||Young, William (Perthshire, East)|
|Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John Allsebrook||Ward, A. S. (Herts, Watford)||Younger, Sir George|
|Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir F. E. (Walton)||Wardle, Goorge J.||Yoxall, Sir James Henry|
|Smith, H. B. Lees (Northampton)||Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)|
|Smith, Sir Swire (Keighley, Yorks)||Watson, Hon. W.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Snowden, Philip||Watson, John B. (Stockton)||Lord Edmund Talbot and Mr.|
|Spicer, Rt. Hon. Sir Albert||Wedgwood, Commander Josiah C.||Primrose|
|Stanton, Charles Butt|
|Boland, John Plus||Hackett, John||Molloy, Michael|
|Boyle, Daniel (Mayo, North)||Hayden, John Patrick||Mooney, John J.|
|Brady, Patrick Joseph||Hazleton, Richard||Muldoon, John|
|Clancy, John Joseph||Henry, Sir Charles||Nolan, Joseph|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||Joyce, Michael||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)|
|Cosgrave, James||Keating, Matthew||O'Donnell, Thomas|
|Cullinan, John||Keliy, Edward||O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.)|
|Devlin, Joseph||Kennedy, Vincent Paul||O'Shee, James John|
|Dillon, John||Kilbride, Denis||Reddy, Michael|
|Donovan, John Thomas||Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, West)||Redmond, William Archer (Tyrone, E.)|
|Duffy, William J.||Lundon, Thomas||Scanlan, Thomas|
|Esmonds. Sir Thomas (Wexford, N.)||Lynch, Arthur Alfred||Sheehy, David|
|Farrell, James Patrick||McGhee, Richard||Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.)|
|Ftrench, Peter||MacNeill, J. G. Swift (Donegal, South)||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Field, William||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Whitty, Patrick Joseph|
|Fitzpatrick, John Lalor||Meagher, Michael||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.)||Captain Donelan and Mr. Patrick|
|Ginnell, Laurence||Meahan, Patrick J. (Queen's Co., Leix)||O'Brien.|
Question put, and agreed to.