§ Provided also that should a Dissolution of Parliament take place, whether before or after any such register has been brought into force, but before the end of the present War, the Parliament so elected shall exist for a period not exceeding one year after the end of the present War.—[Mr. Hazleton.]
§ Clause brought up, and read the first time.
I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a second time.
This proposal is one of considerable importance, and if the Government persist in their policy of refusing to have any Report and to accept any Amendment, no matter how reasonable, I hope at least they will give the same assurance with regard to this proposal as that which they have given with regard to the previous Amendment, and that before the Bill is passed into law a provision of this kind will be inserted. When a Bill of this kind was last before the House the then Leader of the Opposition, the 1742 Member for Trinity College (Sir E. Carson) had given notice of an Amendment that any Parliament elected on the existing old register should not have a longer life than two years. I had an Amendment limiting the period to twelve months after the end of the War. Both of those Amendments were ruled out of order in Committee, on the ground that they were outside the scope of the Bill. The Bill went to another place, and the right hon. Gentleman's Amendment word for word was inserted. The Bill came back here, and that was held to be in. order, as the same rules did not apply in another place as here. As that Amendment was accepted by the Government I want to extend the provision by my present proposal. Let me point out the importance of this Motion. The purpose is to limit the life of any Parliament, whether elected on the old register or the new register, if elected during the War, to a period not longer than twelve months after the end of the War. We all know the dangers of what is called a khaki election, when the Administration of the day may, as they always do, seize what they regard as a favourable moment for a General Election, and come back and remain in office for a period of five years, as the Government did in 1900 which was elected during the Boer War.
This Clause is designed to take that power and weapon out of the hands of the Administration, so as to prevent such a thing happening again. I think it is a reasonable proposition. The Government recognised that it was reasonable that any Parliament elected on the old register should only be elected for a very short period. It seems to me imperative that any Parliament elected during the course of the War should have to deal mainly with War issues, and not with the problems which may arise in these countries after the War. A great many problems of peace which there is not time now to consider will have to be dealt with soon after the War. Everybody knows if you had a Dissolution now, these are not problems that would be before the electorate of this country. Therefore, I say that the Government would be adopting a wise course if they met the cases presented by this Clause, and agreed that a Parliament elected on definite war issues shall be confined to dealing with those war issues. If the Government were to say now that the period I propose is not long enough, and that eighteen months would be more 1743 reasonable, I shall be quite ready to listen to their point of view in that respect. Another very serious consideration arises in connection with this Amendment. My hon. Friend the Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) has told the House that he does not believe that the Government has any serious intention of passing the Reform Bill into law this Session. We supported the Resolution in favour of the proposal of Mr. Speaker's Conference, but I warn the Government there is most serious danger of jeopardising the future of the Reform Bill if a provision of this kind is not inserted in this Bill, and I will tell the House why. So long as you have the old register, any new Parliament that may be elected following this is only to be elected for two years, but if you pass the Reform Bill, any Parliament may have a life of five years. Thus those who are opposed to having a Parliament elected for five years during the War will find it necessary to oppose the carrying into effect of the Reform Bill during the War. An opposition of that kind combined with the opposition of the sixty Members who voted against the Resolution might well be of so formidable and difficult a character that the Government would find itself unable to force it through the House of Commons in the present Session.
Therefore I say that by taking a reasonable attitude upon a proposal of this kind they would make it unnecessary to involve the fate and future of the Reform Bill, and they would be taking an enormous step towards smoothing the future progress of legislation at a later stage in this Session. I think that these considerations will present themselves to the mind of the Parliamentary Secretary as being reasonable and practical, and even if the Government stick to the determination to avoid a Report stage this afternoon I hope, as in the case of the other Amendment, they will promise to consider this and make an alteration before the Bill becomes law. I would make an appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary not to persist in the course which the Government has so far held with regard to the procedure of this measure. After all, neither he nor the Leader of the House nor any Member can accuse me of being obstructive or delaying the passage of this Bill unreasonably. They got their Second Reading of the Bill at an early hour yesterday. There has not been a single 1744 Amendment moved from these benches to-day until I have stood up to move this. I do not think we have unreasonably or unduly occupied the time of the House. When we approach a serious matter of this kind in a reasonable and practical spirit I think it is the duty of the Government to meet us also in a reasonable and practical spirit. Even if we were to have a Report stage there is no earthly reason why it should take more than a few minutes, and it would be quite possible to have that stage and Third Reading to-morrow and send the Bill in the evening to another place. By meeting the wishes and views of the House in this respect they would not be delaying the passage of the Bill into law for a single hour. I hope that the Parliamentary-Secretary will see his way to adopt the suggestion I have made.
§ Mr. R. McNEILL
I should be inclined to support the hon. Member if it were merely a question of having a Report stage, and I agree that he has not taken any undue time. But I hope my right hon. Friend will not accept this Amendment for a very different reason, and that is because I think the new Clause proposed is an extremely objectionable one and therefore should be resisted, not in order to avoid a Report stage, but in order to avoid an objectionable Clause in the Bill. The proposal of the hon. Member is that even in the event of a new register having been brought into force that a Parliament elected on that register should be limited in a way which is not in accordance with the ordinary law.
§ Mr. McNEILL
I can see no object in that at all. It appears to me that once you have got the new register and Parliament elected on that register, whether during or after the War, that Parliament is truly representative of the feeling of the country. The only reason for the limitation which was put in the last Bill was because it was recognised that there might be the necessity for a General Election which would return a House of Commons utterly unrepresentative of the feeling of the country. This Amendment goes far beyond that, and if it were carried it might be possible that the House of Commons, properly elected upon a new register, and therefore in every sense of the word up to date and fresh from the constituencies, might be unduly and in the true sense of the word unconstitu- 1745 tionally limited in the period of its operations. I can see no reason for any such provision, and I hope my right hon. Friend will refuse to accept this new Clause.
§ Mr. HEMMERDE
I cannot say that I agree with the last speaker. He seems to imagine that we could have an election during the War which would be truly representative of all the electors. I do not know how. I cannot imagine, even if the present Franchise Bill is carried, that we can really get a really representative House of Commons elected during the War with all the men at the front and the great difficulties which there would be in getting everything into order. There seems to be a great deal to be said for the Amendment. It is most undesirable that any Parliament elected during the War should have anything but almost a nominal lease of life. If we are to have the possibility of a Franchise Bill being passed through this House and then, merely upon the excuse that there is a new register, which as a matter of fact must be owing to the War largely inoperative, we are to have an election and a Parliament to last for five years, it would be a totally objectionable state of things, and I suggest that there is a great deal to be said for the Amendment, and that it would be a very excellent thing if it were understood that any Parliament elected during the War—that is to say, until the country has really settled down to a state of things in which they can really consider the position, should be limited in its life.
§ Mr. DILLON
I hope the Government will listen to this Amendment in a fair spirit. Just see what will be the condition of things, assuming—and it is a large assumption—that the Government succeed in passing the Franchise Reform Bill and get their register and the War goes on. There will then be in the way of the Government a very strong temptation, the reality of which we have had full warning of, because I heard myself yesterday a most remarkable sentence from the lips of the Leader of the House, when he was dealing with the question of the* threat or warning which he had addressed to us some time ago about the possibility of a General Election being forced on the Government in the event of the Irish party going into opposition. He said again yesterday that circumstances might arise which would compel the Government to appeal to the country, and he specified the circumstances, which were 1746 that the Government might take it into their heads or be convinced that they had the country behind them, and that the House of Commons was not giving them a sufficient amount of support. Any Government can get into that temper. It is very common with Governments, and if the Government, having got through the Reform Bill, found that the War was still continuing, the temptation would be one that ought not to be put into the path of any Front Bench in the world, and that is the temptation to declare that the House of Commons was too critical, and to appeal to the country on the issue, "Will you support us in carrying on the War?" The result would be a khaki election and a khaki Parliament, because everybody knows that a Government in the position of this Government could put the issue in-a most unfair way before the country. The late Government was subjected to a most cruel storm of criticism while they were struggling through a critical period of the War. Would it not have been legitimate for them to say, if they had been unpatriotic enough to do so, that they would appeal to the country to support them in the conduct of the War?
This Government has enjoyed an amount of peace from criticism in this House and of smoothness in the working of this House which the late Government never enjoyed, and this Government, assuming that they got the Reform Bill through, might say, "Now we have got a proper register and have emancipated large masses of the people, and it is only right that we should take the earliest opportunity of appealing to them. The War is going on still, but we are criticised in this House, and we are interfered with." This was said the other day in a leading journal in London urging the Government to appeal now to the country. If they appealed on the issue, "Are you going-to support the Government in carrying on the War?" and indicated that certain sections of the House of Commons were not giving them loyal support, can any man stand up here and say it would be fair to entrust the Government of this country and the settlement of all the vast complicated problems of labour which will arise after the War to a Parliament elected simply on that issue? That is what we are threatened with. If this Amendment had raised a fresh principle I could understand the Government saying something against it, but it raises no fresh principle, because the right hon. 1747 Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty (Sir E. Carson) pressed this matter on the Government in the last Bill, and succeeded by his influence in the House of Lords, although it had been ruled out in this House, in circumventing the Chairman's ruling and in getting his Amendment passed through the House of Lords and brought back here, when the Speaker ruled that the House of Lords had not got the same Rules as we had, and that, although the Amendment was out of order here, it was possible to be introduced into the Bill through that channel. Therefore the principle has been established, and that is that a Parliament elected under certain conditions, namely, under a defective register, cannot have a life of more than two years. The principle contended for in this Amendment is precisely on all fours, the only difference being that my hon. Friend says that a Parliament elected under certain abnormal conditions, namely, that a simple war issue is put, shall be limited in the period of its operation.
The Government might be so ill-advised as to take advantage of such an occasion, and to raise the cry that everybody who did not exactly agree with them were proGermans. I remember an election when every single man who criticised the Boer War or the conduct of that war in any single respect was denounced to the country as a pro-Boer, and dozens of men lost their seats on that issue alone. That same state of things might arise if an election is precipitated during the War on the new register, and the old prayer which we are all taught to recite, "Lead us not into temptation," has as good an application to Governments as to any private individuals. You should remove from the path of Governments these temptations. Such a condition as this Amendment imposes would save the Government from themselves, and they might live to be thankful for it. The gentlemen who engineered the historical election of 1900 lived to regret it. It brought disaster to their party. It was thought to be a tremendously clever thing at the time, and it gave them eight years of power, but it landed them in the greatest disaster that any political party has ever experienced in this country. I think it would be a disaster to this country, after the unity which this nation has exhibited—I say nothing of our nation—in face of 1748 the enemy, if in an evil hour the Government in power when the War was coming to a conclusion were to fall a victim to a temptation which other Governments composed of high-minded individuals have fallen a victim to in the past, and if this great contest were to be disgraced in its closing period by an electoral trick. It would be impossible to imagine the extent of that disaster. It would make it impossible for the people of this country to face in anything like a true spirit the solution of the terrible problems which will arise after the War is over. I hope the Government will meet my hon. Friend and promise to introduce his Amendment in another place.
§ Mr. HAYES FISHER
I should like the Committee thoroughly to understand what the Amendment is. It would bring about a state of things that if the Electoral Reform Bill were passed, and if some eight or ten millions of electors were added to the register, and if under those circumstances the Government should bring about an election, the Parliament so elected should only sit for one year.
My intention is that, supposing the War lasted for five years, there would be nothing in this Amendment to prevent a Parliament so elected from lasting for five years, but it must not last for longer than one year after the end of the War.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Mr. HAYES FISHER
Certainly; this Parliament, elected under those circumstances, could not last for more than one year after the War was over. The argument adduced for this Amendment is that on a previous occasion and in another Bill, which has now become an Act of Parliament, the House almost unanimously, I think, agreed that a Parliament elected on the old register of 1913 and 1914 would so little represent the country that it ought not to last more than two years. I think that is a matter of general agreement. The hon. Member for East Mayo said that exactly the same principle would apply in this Amendment. It is the same principle, but it would have a very different complexion and a very different result, because what was com- 1749 plained of then was that Parliament might not be returned by more than 40 per cent. of the electorate. I do not believe that if you had an election now on the old register of 1913–14 you would get a 30 per cent. or 40 per cent. vote throughout the country. The removals have been very great from one cause and another, and therefore while it is perfectly fair and just that it should be thought, and nearly everybody thought it was so, that a Parliament elected by 40 per cent. of the electors with hardly any soldiers or sailors on the register could not be regarded as representative of the country, and therefore ought not to last more than two years, is it fair to argue that a Parliament elected by something like 70 per cent. of the new electorate, to which eight or ten millions are added, would not be representative? The hon. Member for the St. Augustine's Division (Mr. R. McNeill) put it quite clearly. You might pass this Electoral Reform Bill—I hope we shall—and have your register made up, and for the first time for a long time you might have an electorate composed of all sections and thoroughly representative of the country. An election might take place, full preparation might have been made for that election, all the circumstances set out, even a reconstruction programme well thought out and discussed, with 70 or 80 per cent. of the electorate voting and yet only able to return a Parliament lasting for one year, or one year after the War.
§ Mr. HAYES FISHER
I am asked how about the soldiers and sailors. If the proposals of Mr. Speaker's Conference are put into a Bill and that Bill becomes law, one of those proposals provides for an absentee voters' list. The hon. Member is perfectly familiar with those Resolutions, and under that absentee voters' list hundreds of thousands of soldiers or sailors on the very short qualification now which will be necessary for them to get a vote will get on the register.
§ Mr. HAYES FISHER
I am not so certain. The War might be coming to an end. There might be at least two months' notice of this election, and it might be perfectly possible to collect a very great number of these votes. I am not quite certain yet whether the House has fully considered and rejected a system by which they could vote by proxy. That might be considered. I have given a very great deal of thought to it, and have not yet turned my back on it. I think that when the House comes thoroughly to consider the position of our soldiers and sailors they may desire to see some means by which these men can vote by proxy. If we accept this Amendment, you then rule out all possibility of the election, in which 70 per cent. or 80 per cent. of the new electorate take part, of any Parliament except under the almost ridiculous circumstances that that Parliament would have to come to an end within one year of the end of the War. This is an Amendment I cannot possibly accept. The whole position is not, to my mind, at all on the same lines as that where an election takes place on an old register and certainly not more than 40 per cent. of the electorate votes. I maintain that where an election takes place, where a large number of the electors may very well represent the people and may have all the questions placed before them, where they might vote on these questions, there is no reason whatever why that Parliament should come to an end within one year of its existence and be unable to carry out an adequate programme. The hon. Member for East Mayo said it was quite possible, unless something of this kind was put in the Bill, for a Government to dissolve Parliament and take advantage of the war cry or the war fever and place the issues before the electors most unfairly, and so secure a tenure of office for four or possibly five years. I know the possibility of that. Although my experience is not quite so long as that of the hon. Gentleman it is quite considerable, and I have not observed yet that the Government have an entire monoply of placing issues unfairly before the country. 1751 There are sometimes complaints that Oppositions who want to become Governments place issues unfairly before the country. The hon. Member himself has said—I do not say whether I agree with him or not, because that is not necessary to my argument—that it was once done, that unfair advantage was taken by the Government of the country at the time, that they were paid out for it, that it led to disaster, and that they were out of office for a great number of years. If that punishment was so effective in one case, may not it be effective in another case?
§ Mr. HAYES FISHER
I might have something to say about the Government of 1906–1910. Hon. Members have their views and I have mine as to the respective merits of the Governments from the time I was in Parliament in 1885. I am only taking up the hon. Gentleman's own argument. After all, I do not think we can provide against that. I believe that Governments will choose the time which to a certain extent tells in favour of the great issues—not of themselves only—they are putting before the country, and it seems to me that the Opposition are just as likely to put these issues favourably to themselves as the Government are likely to put them favourably to themselves. I do not think the Amendment is practicable, and it is not one the Government can accept.
§ Mr. ANDERSON
I am bound to say I do not think the answer we have just had is a very convincing one. The right hon. Member will admit at once that after the War there is going to be a great deal of rebuilding and reconstruction with regard to all our economic and social problems. I do not believe anyone will contend that if an election were taken during the War these grave issues of reconstruction could be properly put before the country, and therefore a Parliament elected during that time would be elected for definite and specific purposes, but not in the least the purposes that would arise after the War is over. I think we have very clearly before us the example of the Parliament of 1900, where the election issues were wholly war issues, but where the Government, after exhausting that particular mandate, went on to deal 1752 with question after question—education, that had never been placed before the pe6ple of the country in regard to that particular issue, and which, indeed, they had pledged themselves not to raise. I think all that does arouse very important and fundamental questions, and it would certainly be very advisable indeed that, following the War, whether taking one year or a period approximating to one year, the people who are going to have a hand in all this reconstruetion—the land question, housing, employment, and all the social issues that will come before us—ought to have this clearly before their minds, should have a chance to vote upon them, and not be deflected by the terrible issues we now see. Unless there is some limit put to it, we shall have something like the position of 1900. We can have a Parliament elected during the War, when perhaps the War is coming to an end, elected not on these issues, but yet going on to deal with reconstruction on lines not acceptable to large numbers of people in the country. The people might have to wait for five or six years before they could deal with the Government, or try to get their point of view driven home. It is quite true that in 1906 the people did very strongly express their view on what had been going on between 1900 and 1906. It is true that the people of the country passed the strongest censure on what had been taking place—but it was six years before they had that opportunity. They may have to wait another six years. That is not carrying out the principles of democracy, but is flaunting the principles of democracy, and there ought to be some safeguard.
§ Mr. SCANLAN
I rise to support my hon. Friend's Amendment, and to join in the complaint against the very unsatisfactory answer the right hon. Gentleman has given. I trust my hon. Friend will divide the Committee on this Amendment, and I sincerely trust the Committee will support him in it, because I cannot imagine anything which is more calculated to strengthen this Bill and make it acceptable to the country than the proposal it embodies. The right hon. Gentleman opposite has not made a fair representation to the Committee of the meaning and effect of this Amendment. I am sure he did not wish intentionally to misrepresent my hon. Friend, but he is very far from showing, even in the speech he has made, a proper appreciation of the mean- 1753 ing and effect of this Amendment. What it proposes is this:
"Provided also that should a Dissolution of Parliament take place, whether before or after any such register has been brought into force, but before the end of the War, the Parliament so elected shall exist for a period not exceeding one year after the end of the present War."
The right hon. Gentleman treats this Amendment as if it only dealt with the possibility that a new register would come into operation, and that it was to have effect then. But it is quite possible that this Government might last to the end of the War, and it is quite possible that this Government might do nothing to provide a now register. It is quite possible that this Government may shirk the duty of giving effect to Mr. Speaker's Conferance, and in that case, if a Parliament is elected, say, just on the end of the con-elusion Of peace, does any reasonable man in the House either on the Treasury Bench or in any other part of the House maintain that such a Parliament will not have a sufficient opportunity for winding up all the business of bringing about the conditions of peace, if it has a period of existence not exceeding one year after the end of the present War? Even though there is a new register it is quite impossible that the soldiers at the front and the sailors will have voted. The right hon. Gentleman said something about soldiers voting by proxy. That is not a proposal emanating from Mr. Speaker's Conference. Even though you had a system of voting by proxy, can anyone reasonably maintain that the votes from soldiers at the front, taken by proxy, would represent the feelings of the soldiers and the sailors who have taken part in this War? We have had it repeatedly stated from the Government Benches that the general officers of the Army and the heads of the War Office have said that it is utterly impossible to take a record of the votes of soldiers during the continuance of the War. In view of the fact that it has been pointed out by every speaker in this discussion that the conditions under which a Parliament is elected before the conclusion of the War will cease to have effect even a year after the War, I think it is most unfair for the Government to refuse to accept this Amendment. I say that the Parliament which is charged with the winding up of the affairs of the War and of bringing about the settlement of peace 1754 will be qualified to deal with the many complex and vital questions, vital to every interest of the nation, which will arise, and which will have to be dealt with immediately on the conclusion of peace. I, therefore, submit that this Amendment is most important. Instead of weakening the Bill it would strengthen it. I again appeal to the Government and the Leader of the House to accept the Amendment. I hope, if it is not accepted, it will be supported by members of the Committee in the Division Lobby.
§ Mr. S. MacNEILL
I beg to support the Amendment. It is one which will prevent a recurrence of happenings of 1900. I recollect it as if it were yesterday. If this Amendment be not accepted, what occurred in 1900 may occur again. There will be no difficulty, as there was no difficulty in 1900, through War Office malignancy—the expression is that of the present Prime Minister—in publishing a notification that the War was ended when the War was not ended It so happened that the notification was made in 1900, and the war that was ended in 1900 went on with vigour, though it was called by one politician "a sort of war," until 1902. The war was ended for the purposes of an election. A cry went throughout the country, "We who have ended the war can surely settle it." We had the Khaki Election. The Government which got in in 1900 remained in until December, 1905, without the least possibility of having a mandate from the country. If this Amendment be not carried a series of transactions similar to what happened before may go on, and the Treasury Bench may be made into a Noah's Ark of relatives. The business of legislation may be so utterly impaired that it will become like the children of persons too closely connected; they will be complete family transactions. If this be not ended, a whole series of legislative enactments make take place in favour, not of the aristocratic classes, but of the metallic and materialistic classes of the country, and popular liberties may be affected.
Above all, if this Amendment be not accepted, we may have this most scandalous thing in the history of Parliament: we may have a Parliament defeated in the House of Commons and still clinging, after defeat in July, to their places, proroguing in August, and never again meeting the country, staying in office and providing for themselves and their relatives— 1755 for the ninety-eight. It may be that they might not meet the House of Commons again, but might dissolve, not having asked for a vote of confidence. They might be like fraudulent tenants who at the close of the year quit the house. They would dissolve because they would be afraid to face the people. Such a thing would never have occurred before in the history of Parliament that a Ministry had dissolved without any notification to the House of Commons, without any programme before the country, without having dared to take the opinion of the country upon their action. They dissolved in 1900, as I know, in the hope, and largely they were successful, that a Cabinet would be formed much altered and much more anti-popular than a Cabinet constituted after Dissolution. However, this is a
§ protest against the recurrence of a great public scandal like that. I trust that my hon. Friend will persevere, and, if need be, go into the Division Lobby. At all events, if defeated in the Division Lobbies, we shall have an approving conscience. I think it is very delightful that it is not the House generally who are in competition. with each other for office. There are some people who have come to this Parment who do not belong to the British nation, who have been long years in this Parliament and have observed its procedure, who have an affection for it, and who do not like it to be degraded and defiled as it is at present.
§ Question put, "That the Clause be read a second time."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 50; Noes, 184.1757
|Division No. 30.]||AYES.||[8.23 p.m.|
|Adamson, William||Fitzpatrick, John Lalor||Molloy, Michael|
|Anderson, W. C.||Flavin, Michael Joseph||Muldoon, John|
|Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.)||Hackett, John||Nolan, Joseph|
|Boland, John Pius||Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)||O'Donnell, Thomas|
|Boyle, Daniel (Mayo, North)||Hazleton, Richard||O'Shee, James John|
|Brady, Patrick Joseph||Hemmerde, Edward George||Pringle, William M. R.|
|Chancellor, Henry George||Hoggs, James Myles||Reddy, Michael|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||Joyce, Michael||Redmond, William Archer (Tyrone, E.)|
|Cosgrave, James||Keating, Matthew||Rowntree, Arnold|
|Cullinan, John||Kilbride, Denis||Scanlan, Thomas|
|Davies, Ellis William (Eifion)||King, Joseph||Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.)|
|Devlin, Joseph||Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, West)||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|Dillon, John||Lundon, Thomas||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Donovan, John Thomas||McGhee, Richard||Whitty, Patrick Joseph|
|Duffy, William J.||MacNeill, J. G. Swift (Donegal, South)|
|Esmonde, Sir Thomas (Wexford, N.)||Meagher, Michael||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Farrell, James Patrick||Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.)||Captain Donclan and Mr. Patrick O'Brien.|
|Ffrench, Peter||Meehan, Patrick J. (Queen's Co., Leix)|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher||Chambers. James||Hamilton, C. G. C. (Ches., Altrincham)|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Clough, William||Hancock, John George|
|Agnew, Sir George William||Clynes, John R.||Hardy, Rt. Hon. Laurence|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Collins, Sir Stephen (Lambeth)||Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds)|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Collins, Sir W. (Derby)||Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithness-shire)|
|Balfour, Sir Robert (Lanark)||Compton-Rickett, Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Harris, Henry Percy (Paddington, S.)|
|Banner, Sir John S. Harmood-||Coote, William||Harris, Percy A. (Leicester, S.)|
|Barlow, Montague (Salford, South)||Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Haslam, Lewis|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. George N.||Cory, James H. (Cardiff)||Helme, Sir Norval Watson|
|Barnett, Capt. R. W.||Craig, Colonel James (Down, E.)||Henderson, Rt. Hon. Arthur (Durham).|
|Barrio, H. T.||Craik, Sir Henry||Henry, Denis S.|
|Beale, Sir William Phipson||Currie, George W.||Hewart, Sir Gordon|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Dalrymple, Hon. H. H.||Hewins, William Albert Samuel|
|Benn, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth)||Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Hibbert, Sir Henry F.|
|Bentham, George Jackson||Denniss, E. R. B.||Higham, John Sharp|
|Bigland, Alfred||Duke, Rt. Hon. Henry Edward||Hills, John Waller|
|Bluck, Sir Arthur W.||Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||Hinds, John|
|Blair, Reginald||Essex, Sir Richard Walter||Hodge, Rt. Hon. John|
|Booth, Frederick Handel||Fell, Arthur||Holmes, Daniel Turner|
|Boscawen, Sir Arthur S. T. Griffith-||Finney, Samuel||Hope, Harry (Bute)|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Fisher, Rt. Hon. W. Hayes||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)|
|Boyton, James||Flannery, Sir J. Fortescue||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey|
|Brace, Rt. Hon. William||Fletcher, John Samuel||Hunt, Major Rowland|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Galbraith, Samuel||Ingleby, Holcombe|
|Broughton, Urban Hanlon||Gardner, Ernest||Jackson, Lt.-Col. Hon. F. S. (York)|
|Brunner, John F. L.||Gibbs, Col. George Abraham||Jardine, Ernest (Somerset, East)|
|Bryce, J. Annan||Goddard, Rt. Hon. Sir Daniel Ford||Johnson, W.|
|Bull, Sir William James||Goulding, Sir Edward Alfred||Johnston, Sir Christopher|
|Carew, Charles R. S. (Tiverton)||Greig, Colonel James William||Jones, Edqar (Merthyr Tvdvil)|
|Cawley, Rt. Hon. Sir F. (Prestwich)||Gretton, John||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)|
|Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)||Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)||Sykes, Col. Alan John (Knutsford)|
|Jones, William S. Glyn- (Stepney)||Pennefather, De Fonblanque||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)|
|Kellaway, Frederick George||Perkins, Walter Frank||Thompson, Rt. Hon. R. (Belfast, N.)|
|Larmor, Sir J.||Pollock, Ernest Murray||Thomson, W. Mitchell- (Down, North).|
|Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Beetle)||Pratt, J. W.||Tickler, T. G.|
|Layland-Barrett, Sir F.||Primrose, Hon. Neil James||Tootill, Robert|
|Levy, Sir Maurice||Pryce-Jones, Colonel E.||Touche, Sir George Alexander|
|Lewis, Rt. Hon. John Herbert||Quilter, Sir Cuthbert||Toulmin, Sir George|
|Lloyd, George Butler (Shrewsbury)||Radford, Sir George Heynes||Tryon, Captain George Clement|
|Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury)||Raffan, Peter Wilson||Walters, Sir John Tudor|
|Lockwood, Rt. Hon. Lt.-Colonel A. R.||Randles, Sir John S.||Whiteley, Herbert J.|
|Loyd, Archie Kirkman||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, N.W.)|
|McNeill, Ronald (Kent, St. Augustine's)||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)||Williams, John (Glamorgan)|
|Maden, Sir John Henry||Randall, Athelstan||Williams, Penry (Middlesbrough)|
|Mallalieu, Frederick William||Richardson, Arthur (Rotherham)||Williams, Colonel Sir R. (Dorset, W.J|
|Middlebrook, Sir William||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Worcs., N.)|
|Middlemore, John Throgmorton||Roberts, George H. (Norwich)||Wilson, Captain Leslie O. (Reading).|
|Millar, James Duncan||Robertson, Rt. Hon. J. M. (Tyneside)||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred||Robinson, Sidney||Wilson-Fox, Henry|
|Money, Sir L. G. Chiozza||Rowlands, James||Winfrey, Sir Richard|
|Moore, William||Rutherford, Sir John (Lancs., Darwen)||Wood, John (Stalybridge)|
|Morgan, George Hay||Rutherford, Watson (L'pool, W. Derby)||Worthington Evans, Major Sir L.|
|Morison, Hector (Hackney, S.)||Salter, Arthur Clavell||Wright, Henry Fitzherbert|
|Morton, Alpheus Cleophae||Samuels, Arthur W.||Yate, Colonel C. E.|
|Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert||Samuel, Samuel (Wandsworth)||Yeo, Alfred William|
|Needham, Christopher T.||Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)||Young, William (Perthshire, East)|
|Newman, John R. P.||Smith, Harold (Warrington)||Younger, Sir George|
|Nicholson, Sir Charles R. (Don-caster)||Smith, Sir Swire (Keighley, Yorks)|
|Nuttall, Harry||Stewart, Gershem||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Ormsby-Gore. Hon. William||Stirling, Lieut.-Col. Archibald||Lord Edmund Talbot and Mr. Beck.|
|Parker, James (Halifax)||Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)|
|Pearce, Sir William (Limehouse)||Sutton, John E.|
§ Bill reported, without Amendment.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the third time."
§ Mr. HUGH LAW
In the very few words I shall address to the House I desire to explain why it is we on these benches have found it necessary to continue throughout these sittings to oppose the Rill now under discussion. I hope the House will not imagine that this is merely a Parliamentary manoeuvre. There is, as the basis of our opposition to this Bill, a very real, a very profound and, as I think, a very true appreciation of the situation which now presents itself to us. It may strike hon. Members as a strange thing that just at this moment the Irish party, of all parties in this House, should desire a General Election. It may seem strange, because they have been told that we of the Irish party have been losing the confidence of Ireland. They know we have been challenged at certain by-elections in Ireland. They know that in one case the contest has gone against us, and they know at this moment we are threatened in another constituency. They are told that we can no longer speak for Ireland. That is false, but they know what is undoubtedly true, namely, that events which have occurred during the last twelve months have undoubtedly diminished very sadly the hold which the constitutional movement had attained in Ireland, and they may well wonder why 1758 any politician should in those circumstances be anxious about an election. If it were a mere partymanceuvre our proceedings to-day would be meaningless, but we are anxious for a General Election, and we do not desire this Bill to pass because, as far as Ireland is concerned, we are ready and anxious at the earliest possible moment to meet our critics in Ireland face to face and defeat them. We have been subject for years past to every kind of innuendo and base insinuations from all parts of the country, and I believe the sooner we meet these gentlemen the sooner we shall be able to strengthen and once more fortify the position of this party. It may be said that we are simply following this course to gain a party advantage, and that we are doing this in the middle of a great war when the whole of the liberties of Europe are at stake. It may also be said that we are choosing this moment because it may be a favourable one for us to snatch a party advantage at the poll. Not at all. I want to stop the dry rot in Ireland before it goes any further, and I want to meet these people quite plainly upon the issue of revolutionary republicanism or the constitutional movement.
It is because I regard the movement in Ireland, of which I speak as dangerous both to Ireland and the Empire, that I desire that we should have a clear issue between those who desire constitutional reform and those who do not. We want 1759 this opportunity of an election in order to resist the insane policy which these men are putting forward. I contend that in doing this we are doing a great service to that cause for which the Allies are fighting, namely, the cause of liberty and self-government throughout the world. I do not want the House to think upon this matter in mere terms of expediency. If one adopted that attitude one might be altogether mistaken about the true situation. One of the reasons why our party has lost hold in Ireland, as it to some extent may have done, is this: Bitterly as I have opposed the policy of the Sinn Feiners I think it would be folly not to recognise that amongst them are men of the highest and noblest personal character. If we want to view the Irish question in its true proportion we must remember these facts. I am told that amongst the young men who were the leaders of the insurrection in Dublin last year there were men not only of the highest personal character, but men who sought no personal advantage, and who went into the revolution knowing that they must be defeated, knowing perfectly well that they were challenging forces which were bound in the end to conquer. They had no illusions on that subject, and I am told that many of them for months before the rebellion were conscious that they were going to defeat and to their death, and they prepared themselves for what was coming by almost daily communion. That does not indicate a criminal type of men, and I think it is important that we should realise what kind of men they were. They were men of high character who believed that in doing what they did they were lighting a purer flame of patriotism in Ireland. A great man once said that it is better to be on the side of bad men fighting for a good cause than on the side of good men fighting for a bad cause. Just because I realise that in this matter we are up against real patriotism, all the more I am determined to resist an insane policy which is bound to bring disaster on my country. I welcome the chance which an election would bring to us. I welcome the opportunity of a General Election of meeting these men and placing plainly before the people of Ireland the issue, and of convincing the people that these men are embarking upon a foolish and insane policy of revolution, and of giving the people an opportunity of choos- 1760 ing between them and the constitutional procedure and agitation which has brought such benefits to Ireland in the past.
§ Mr. SCANLAN
I rise to oppose the Third Reading of this Bill. I think it is due to this party which has opposed this Bill at all its stages that we should show our determination and purpose in the course of conduct we have taken by resisting the Bill at this stage and dividing against the Third Beading. I oppose the Third Reading on account of the object of this Bill. Its object is to give the present Coalition Government a further lease of power. Further, I oppose this measure because I do not think the present Government deserve any further lease of power from this House. I am directing my mind in considering this Bill to the manner in which this measure if it becomes an Act of Parliament will affect Ireland. What is the position with regard to Ireland? We heard in one if the short speeches which the Leader of the House condescended to address to the House in the course of the Second Reading what he said about Ireland and about an Irish settlement. His speech was a rather strange admixture of hope and despair. So far as I am concerned, I am expressing my views freely as an Irish National representative. I say that this Government have, up to the present, done nothing to redeem their pledges to Ireland, and they have not put themselves in the position of being trusted by the representatives of Ireland as a Government which is determined to give effect not only to the views of Ireland, but to the views, I believe, of all parties in this country and to the unanimous and oft-expressed opinion of the Colonies and Dominions of the Empire. We know that there is a demand for a settlement, but nothing that the Prime Minister has said on the subject can meet with the approval of any Member who sits on those benches, and personally I entertain very little hope that when the Prime Minister returns from his visit to France he will have anything to say which will give more hope, more comfort, and more satisfaction to the people of Ireland than they have been able to derive from any of his utterances in the past.
Looking at the position of the Government as Englishmen and Scotsmen may look at it, can anyone say that this Coalition Government deserves, or the Coalition Government which preceded it 1761 deserved, the confidence of the country or an extension of their tenure of office and control of the State? I remember the speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Trinity College, the present First Lord of the Admiralty (Sir E. Carson), when he was opposing the length of extension of life which it was proposed to give to the former Government in 1916. He said that the Jess time we gave to the Government and the shorter periods by which we continued their existence the better it was for the country. Can anyone maintain that this Coalition Government are anything better or more acceptable to the people of this country or to the people of Ireland than their predecessors in office? Are they more acceptable to the people of this country or to the people of Ireland because the former First Lord of the Admiralty has been deposed, and because the present First Lord of the Admiralty is the right hon. and learned Gentleman who sits for Trinity College, Dublin? Let us not forget that it has been stated by the present Prime Minister and by the late Prime Minister that unless there is a settlement of the question of Irish Home Rule English statesmanship will have to confess its bankruptcy. In the same way we have heard from members of this Government and from members of the former Government that the settlement of the Irish problem is not merely an Irish question and not merely a question deeply affecting the interests of the Empire, but is a war necessity. How has this Government treated that war necessity? The present Government, with their experience of the negotiations of June and July of last year and with their knowledge they possess of Nationalist Ireland and of what will be acceptable to the people of Nationalist Ireland know very well that the only line on which a settlement can be acceptable to the people of Ireland will be by setting up Home Rule for the whole of Ireland, preserving the essential unity of the country, and, if they are not going to do that, the position they will occupy will be that as described by the late Prime Minister of confessed political bankruptcy. I oppose the Third Reading of this Bill because the Government have failed to convince Ireland, and I am sure they have failed to convince this country, that they are firm and sincere in their purpose dealing with Ireland. I do not think this measure is necessary. If the Government had been prepared to make a settlement 1762 of the Irish question, they should have declared the terms they propose to incorporate in that settlement before this Bill was introduced. I regret exceedingly that the Prime Minister, although he was able to come to this House and deal with another matter of infinitely less importance to Ireland or this country, or to any single individual in this country—
§ Mr. SCANLAN
He found it possible to come down to this House and to devote a certain amount of his time to giving a personal explanation, and I fail to see what prevented him on the same day giving the House a statement and a declaration of his Irish policy. I fail to see that the Leader of the House or any of his colleagues in the Government have given any cogent reason why at the present time this House should give an extension of time to this Government to continue in office, and on that account I find it necessary to adopt the course of supporting my hon. Friend in opposing the Third Reading of this Bill, and I hope that we shall be supported in the Division Lobby.
§ Mr. DONOVAN
I rise to support my hon. Friend the Member for North Sligo (Mr. Scanlan), in resisting the Third Reading of this Bill. I recognise that if logic and argument and reason and fair play obtained in this House it would not be necessary for the Members on these benches to oppose this Bill, because if you gave to us the right to return to our own country and to legislate for ourselves in the capital of our country we should not be troubling you in connection with a Bill of this character. I remember well that my entering this House synchronised with the outbreak of hostilities in August, 1914, and we then heard the magic whisper of a truce among all parties. Here we are to-day, and we see where the truce is. You have no truce, simply because successive Governments have broken faith with Ireland. At the beginning we promised you the assistance of the Jrish people in carrying this War to a successful termination. You have blundered stupidly in your dealings with the Irish people, and now, after the blunders of your War Office, and after your maladministration during two and a half years of war, having done everything practically to undermine our position in the country, you have the temerity to suggest that we do not 1763 retain the confidence of our people. We are here for the purpose of getting this Bill rejected in order that we may return to Ireland and test the feeling of the people as to whether or not we have their confidence. We on these benches are supporters of constitutionalism. The elder representatives on these benches have fought the fight for Irish legislative independence for the last forty years in a constitutional way, but through your sinister efforts in Ireland you have caused the re-existence of the physical force party in that country, with the result that to-day we are threatened as a constitutional party. All I can say is that if the constitutional party ceases to exist you in this House—I am not making any threat—will have entering this House a Sinn Fein party, which would have no regard whatever for your symbols of authority or your talk about law and order so long as they were suffering under the injustices from which they are suffering.
The Irish representatives felt, when you entered into this War for the vindication of the rights of small nationalities, that you ought to give them that measure of freedom which they had won by constitutional efforts. You have denied them that right. So long as you deny the Irish people the right to rule themselves, so long will they come here and oppose your Bills. It is for that reason that I. as a young member of the party, oppose this Bill. I reflect a good deal of the sentiments of the young men in Ireland when I say that if you do not settle this question quickly and in a manner satisfactory to the Irish people you will have a state of feeling in Ireland that will bode no good for the future relations between the English and Irish people. The Irish Members on these benches have made every effort to reconcile the English and the Irish democracies. They have fought their battle through the English constituencies and have converted the majority of the English people to their way of thinking in connection with the right of Ireland to enjoy national autonomy. It is rather late in the day for us to have to come here and beg for what we have won fairly and squarely as a constitutional point. For that reason, so far as we are concerned, we do not fear a General Election. We are prepared to go over and stand by our principles as against the principles of the extreme party in Ireland. If the result should go against us it is 1764 not Ireland that will suffer, but the British Empire. Our people have been so often disappointed in connection with the broken promises of English Ministers that they naturally no longer put any faith in what is said from the Treasury Bench. It is all very well to make promises and suggest makeshifts as being likely to settle the Irish question. The only settlement of the Irish question which will be acceptable to us is a settlement upon the line of the present Home Rule Act—that is, a National Assembly for the entire country. We have reason for feeling that we are not being properly treated by the Government in regard to the taxation of Ireland. At the present time we are paying something like £24,000,000 a year. ID should be remembered that by the findings of the Financial Relations Commission we are mulcted in more than £2,750,000 of overtaxation. We are not only paying our own way, but we are paying more than £12,000,000 a year. Ireland is not like the Colonies. As a result of the War Loans, the Colonies have received something like £890,000,000 to assist them in participating in this War. You do not give Ireland anything in the shape of loans, but you tax them for the upkeep of all the Departments of the Empire. You tax them in a way that works out unjustly as compared with the taxation levied on the English or the Welsh. We believe the time has come when we ought to have an opportunity of getting a mandate from our people to say that they will no longer put up with this system of overtaxation in Ireland. Ireland stands in a different position from that of the great industrial countries included in Great Britain. You are spending millions of pounds in Great Britain; you are spending a paltry few thousands, speaking comparatively, in Ireland in wages in connection with munitions work. We have a grievance on that point. For these and other reasons we are anxious to go before our constituents to see whether we retain their confidence. We believe we do, and for that reason I support the hon. Member for Sligo in saying that this Bill ought to be rejected, and that so far as the Irish people are concerned they should have the right of declaring their will at this juncture.
§ Mr. P. MEEHAN
I rise to oppose the Third Reading of this Bill on account of the inaction of the Government in reference to the Irish question. The present attitude of the Government has 1765 strained to the utmost the friendly relations that existed between Ireland and this country, at the beginning of the War. There has not been a battlefield in France or elsewhere during the present War that has not been sanctified by Irish blood; there has not been a battlefield on which Irish heroism has not confirmed its proudest traditions. For what have our men been fighting? For the freedom and liberty of the small nations, particularly for the freedom and liberty of that small nation in which our hopes and our hearts always have been and will be eternally centred—Ireland. How have the present Government treated Ireland? They have refused to concede our demand for selfgovernment. They have pandered to a minority, and they have sacrificed the hopes of a majority on the altar of prejudice and bigotry. Is it any wonder, in these circumstances, that many of our people should have lost the little faith they had in the promises of British statesmen, and, in despair, have reverted to a policy of physical force? In dealing with this question I have to ask myself, Are British statesmen hypocritical poseurs or are they genuine in their propaganda and protestations in regard to the liberty and freedom of small nations? We demand the application to Ireland of that principle for which the Allies are fighting, and we are told that our demand is impeding the progress of the War. I say that the refusal of that demand is impeding the progress of the War and is imperilling the future of the small nationalities of the world. The Government's continued refusal to confer on Ireland the full measure of self-government to which we are entitled tends to create dissension and disunion amongst the Allies, because they cannot close their eyes to the spectacle of Ireland demanding the application of that principle to herself. Yesterday the Leader of the House said: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.Who stands in the way? We do not stand in the way, and if we were convinced that in the near future the Government would evolve any satisfactory solution, instead of opposing the Third Reading of the Bill we should be prepared to give Parliament a still longer lease of life. But there is no reasonable hope as long as you have in the Govern- 1766 ment the First Lord of the Admiralty, a potential rebel, pledged by his covenant to resist the application to Ireland of the measure of self-government which this House has granted to it. As long as he is in the Government there is very little hope.
Then when you consider the question further, and consider that in a constitutionally-governed country this dictum is laid down, that a minority cannot be coerced into accepting the enactments of a free and independent Parliament, the little hope we had vanishes in the atmosphere that the suggestion of such a dictum creates. This dictum, in my opinion, has shaken the foundation of constitutional Government. It is a complete surrender to lawlessness and anarchy, and it has given strength to the position of the enemies of this party in our demands for a full legislative government for Ireland. It may be said that we are not genuine in our desire for an election. I say we are. We want to go back to our people to put our position clearly before them. We want to show that if their hopes have been deferred it is not our fault, but the blame is on the Government of the day and the Government which it replaced. We want to go back to them and make our position clear, a position which we shall always maintain, a position of absolute belief in constitutional legislation. On the Second Beading yesterday the hon. Member (Mr. Ginnell) reflected on public men in Ireland. He stated that the great bulk of the men on the public boards were getting Government money and did not represent their constituents, and that was his argument for an immediate election. I repudiate that statement. I deprecate that uncalled for attack on the men who sit on the public boards of Ireland, whose character and honour are safe in the hands of their constituents, and for that reason I should like to have an election soon. It would be the best answer that the people of Ireland could give to those who say that in rejecting the policy that has been put before the country they do not represent the voice and feelings of the country. The reason of the hon. Member's attack is this. A certain programme was put before the country and* practically unanimously, the public boards of Ireland have rejected that and have reaffirmed their belief in constitutional agitation for Ireland and the party which represents her in this House. I am sorry to have referred to 1767 the matter but I could not allow the opportunity to pass without endeavouring to vindicate the men who have devoted all their time to the public boards of Ireland without fee, favour, or reward. The hon. Member is flirting with that policy which is put before the country because he has not the courage to carry it out in its entirety. I hope the House will reject the Bill.
§ Mr. LUNDON
I should like to join with my colleagues from Ireland in opposition to the Bill. The sooner we get back to Ireland, attacking not alone our political opponents in the Sinn Fein party but our political opponents in other parties allied with them, the better it will be for ourselves, for the constitutional movement and for this House, because after all, we have to face more than Sinn Fein in Ireland. We have to face the men who are out for an Irish Republic, associated with men of the Pretyman-Newman type and of the type of Robert Saunders, and with the old inveterate enemies of the Irish Nationalist movement and of Irish Nationalist sentiment. You have every crank, every sorehead, every man who has applied for a Government position and been disappointed, out to attack the Irish Parliamentary party, and, taking all the circumstances into account, the sooner we get back the better it will be for ourselves even though we have to come back to the House in far smaller numbers than to-day. I am not very much surprised at the hostility which there is in Ireland against any authority from this side of the Channel, because the leaders of the Sinn Fein movement, the men who are forming a new party and a new policy, are young men. They have not seen the work of the agitation of the last thirty-five years, but they have seen that for the last three years promises have been made by members of this Government and of the two previous ones, pledging themselves to confer upon Ireland the right of national self-government. They have seen every one of those promises tumbling to the ground, withdrawn, or many of them absolutely denied, because the First Lord of the Admiralty says, "I shall not have it." Let me ask the House, Was there ever a better opportunity for a settlement of the Irish question on a broad, generous basis than there is to-day? Take the Press of this country. Is there a single newspaper in Great Britain, except the "Morning Post," that is not out for a settlement 1768 of this great crisis? Is there a Member of Parliament belonging cither to the Liberal or the Tory ranks, outside a few diehards, who is not anxious to see a-friendly settlement and a better feeling existing in Ireland? The honest and consistent Unionists of Ireland, who are anxious to see this old feud abandoned, are as anxious for a generous settlement as we are. But the way is blocked, and it is blocked by one man and by one party, and that man sits on that Front Bench directing the policy of the Navy, while the men who are at his back are a few thousand fanatics in the North of Ireland. Our position in Ireland will be made all the more difficult next week because the Chief Secretary knows that for the last three or four weeks the hopes of the Irish people have been in the ascendant. The Chancellor of the Exchequer made an announcement that for the bettor prosecution of the War—
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. Maclean)
The hon. Member must not seize the opportunity on the Third Heading of this Bill of going into the whole Irish question.
§ Mr. S. MacNEILL
Would not my hon. Friend be justified in showing, as he has tried to do, the grievances of Irish Government as a proper argument for an appeal to the country and that the Gentlemen who propagate those grievances should go to the country and give an account of themselves? That is rather a wide latitude that should be given on the Third Reading of such a Rill as this.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
If the hon. and learned Member had listened as I have listened to this Debate, I think he would agree with me that a very wide latitude has been allowed, and it was because I was afraid that he was going beyond the reach of even a wide latitude that I asked the hon. Member to speak more directly to the question before the House.
§ Mr. LUNDON
The reason we are opposed to this Bill is in order that we can go back to Ireland, and at the same time to give a chance to the electors of this country of saying whether or not they approve the policy which the present Government has adopted towards Ireland. As regards the condition of Ireland, I would like to say, as I was saying 1769 before you hauled me up, that the hopes of the people of Ireland were in the ascendant on account of the attitude of British Ministers, but that next week things will be different, because of the possibility, and it is almost a probability, that the Prime Minister will come down and say, "I will give you certain terms"—terms, I have no doubt, drawn up by the First Lord of the Admiralty.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
That is the same point again. The hon. Member is going into detail on matters which are really not relevant to this Debate.
§ Mr. LUNDON
I will not mention the name of the First Lord of the Admiralty again. Perhaps he is better left alone. The fact of mentioning his name incurs displeasure, and he is such a mighty man that I had better leave him out. But I must say this, that our position in Ireland is made more difficult—
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
The reference to the name of any Member, however distinguished, was not the reason why I called the hon. Member to order. I asked him not to go into great detail in regard to the Irish question. I again ask him not to do so, and I remind him that it is the third time I have directed his attention to the fact that he is irrelevant.
§ Mr. LUNDON
The Chief Secretary and his administration in Ireland has largely helped the policy of Sinn Fein. Just imagine men and boys being brought up and court-martialled before removable magistrates for whistling "The Wearing of the Green"! Others are being sentenced to months of imprisonment for singing "The Felons of our Land. "I sang" The Felons of our Land "and "Who fears to speak of '98" for the late Prime Minister. I sang them at the invitation of the late Prime Minister. If a man is going to get a month or six weeks' imprisonment for singing "The Felons of our Land," I think the right hon. Gentleman who asks a person to sing it ought to get the same penalty. The right hon. Gentleman was Prime Minister when he asked me to sing it. Of course, we are living in different times now. These petty things are taken up by the police and by the Crown, and they are helping to make our position more difficult and to make our enemies more numerous So far as we are concerned, we are anxious and willing that an election 1770 should take place, and it is because we are anxious and willing that it should take place that we are opposing the Third Reading of this Bill, and that we intend to register our protest in the Division Lobby. I trust that the Chief Secretary, whether we have an election or not, will change his policy so far as petty prosecutions in Ireland are concerned. I know of an instance only the other night of nine or ten men who were returning from a graveyard, after placing a wreath upon the grave of one of the men who died during the recent rebellion. They were going along peacably, not whistling "The Wearing of the Green," not singing "The Felons of our Land," but nine were taken from the procession and put into prison. Is that the way to get peace in Ireland? Is that the way to make our path smoother than it has been during the last few years? The Chief Secretary's understrappers are playing the part of Sinn Fein, because they want to wreck this movement, and they want to wreck our party, because, with the wreckage of our party, you will have the promotion of men of the stamp of Major Price. Therefore, our opposition to this Bill is based upon genuine grounds, and because it is based upon those grounds we are going to enter our protest, not only by speaking against it, but by voting against it in the Division Lobby.
§ Mr. P. WHITE
I rise to oppose the Third Reading of this Bill, because in my opinion the condition of Ireland as a small nationality in Europe is one of urgent and pressing importance. The Government who perpetuate the present maladministration of that country ought not to be allowed twenty-four hours' lease of life. They ought to be compelled to go to their constituents in order that they might answer before them for the permanent disgrace which they are bringing upon this country by the misgovern-ment of Ireland. They are flaunting in the face of Europe that they are out for small nationalities, while at their own door there is misgoverned and tyrannised over by them an older nationality perhaps than any in Europe. If there is a stranger in the Gallery who asks why this handful of men on these benches oppose the rest of the House in this matter, I will tell him that the reason is that the present government of Ireland is no better than, but analogous to, the government of Russia before the late Czar was deposed. The Chief Secre- 1771 tary for Ireland a few weeks ago asked what he could do in Ireland, except be guided by the advice of his experts and by the heads of his permannent departments; what could he do, except do what he was told by those Castle officials, who have long been the curse of Ireland and brought discredit upon this country, and act upon their advice and flout the representatives of the people. Is there any other country in Europe, Russia, Finland, or Poland where such a state of affairs exists? Not one. No country in Europe has suffered half as much, or has bled half so freely.
My hon. Friend deprecated rebellion. I do not always join in that cry. I believe that rebellion, if it had a chance of success, is always justifiable in Ireland. Rebellion is always justifiable where the elected representatives of the people have no voice in the government of the country. How are you to upset an autocracy, how was the Russian autocracy upset, except by rebellion? It is just as justifiable in Ireland to-day as it was in Russia two weeks ago. Until, to use the language of the American President, you have in Ireland government of the people, for the people, and by the people, you can have no real settlement in any country. If the right hon. Gentleman opposite, instead of sympathising with the people of Ireland, instead or saying a few soft words and making a few vague promises, go to the root of this question, make peace with the people of Ireland and bring about not a union of force, but a voluntary union, a union of equals on equal terms, he will make the sister country the heartfelt upholder of the laws of this country. You can do that it you will. But in order to do that you must give full free self-government to Ireland. Ireland must have control over its future destinies, fiscal and commercial. It is entitled to full commercial control. It is entitled to develop its own land, its own trade, its own commerce, its own interests as it thinks best. It is entitled to collect its own taxes and spend and apportion them as it thinks best. Unless you are prepared to do that no halting half measures will ever bring peace between the two countries. It is idle to give to Ireland measures controlled by high officialdom. It will only perpetuate the struggle, of which it is the interest of this country to effect a permanent settlement.
1772 If the right hon. Gentleman only knew half the iniquities which are perpetrated in Ireland in his name, I believe that he would blush to sit on the Treasury Bench and defend them. I believe, at all events, he went to Ireland with the best intentions. I believe that he has the best intentions still, but I know that he is overpowered by the mass of officialdom which weighs down every Chief Secretary who goes to Dublin Castle. The first duty of the Chief Secretary when he goes to Ireland is to go round the country in a perambulator pushed by Sir Henry Robinson, President of the Local Government Board. He takes from him all his advice and his first lessons on that country. In the delightful tour through the West of Ireland he thinks that he imbibes more about the hearts and spirit of the people than by listening to their representatives in this House. I recollect a predecessor of the right hon. Gentleman who was appointed Chief Secretary for Ireland. I believe that he now sits on the Treasury Bench. He went on a short visit to Ireland. He came back. He was accused when he came back to this House of having taken the advice and guidance of the permanent officials. He said, "No; I was on the boat and I met a gentleman who told me all about Ireland." That is the case still. They select everybody to guide them except those who represent the people, who can enter into the minds and hearts and souls and sympathies of the people, and can speak for them according to their wishes. In those circumstances, how can we for a moment, consistently with our duty, continue the existence of such a Government for another day? It is their clear duty to go to the country to reconcile the government of Ireland with their declarations before Europe and the world. It is their clear duty, unless they are to appear before Europe as the arch-hypocrites of civilisation, to make peace at home, to make peace with a generous people who have always treated this country well in spite of the bad fiscal treatment and the bad treatment in other respects to which they have been subjected by an alien Government. While it is not yet too late I hope that the Chief Secretary will stand up and say that they will take the opinions of the people of this country upon the action of the Government in Ireland.
§ Mr. KILBRIDE
I oppose the Third Reading of this Bill on grounds somewhat different from those that have been enun- 1773 ciated by previous speakers. For many years I have had a great deal of confidence in the desire of the British democraey to do justice to Ireland and to give her the right to manage her own affairs, and I remember on several occasions, and especially on a recent occasion, when the Labour party in this House, the direct representatives of organised labour in Great Britain, passed a Resolution calling upon the Prime Minister and the Government of the day to proceed without delay to put the Home Rule Act into force to give to Ireland the right to manage her own affairs, and, by doing so, do more for the successful prosecution of the War than by any other course which it was possible for them to adopt. My faith in the democracy of this country is not shattered. My faith even in some hon. or right hon. Gentlemen who sit on the Treasury Bench is not shattered. I as a clansman, still believing in clanship, have hopes for certain clansmen who now occupy seats on the Treasury Bench, and I have great hopes for the Chief Secretary for Ireland. I recognise the anomalous and difficult position which he occupies. I believe the Chief Secretary for Ireland to be a good man struggling with adversity. I have no doubt that if he had autocratic power in this matter, Ireland would not be long without being in the enjoyment of Home Rule. The Chief Secretary for Ireland is not an autocrat, and he now finds himself in a difficult situation, the difficulty, to my mind, being that certain hon. and right hon. Gentlemen in this country, members of His Majesty's present Administration, have in an evil moment committed themselves by speech to a certain line of policy, which resolves itself into this, namely, that the minority has the right permanently to coerce the majority. I do not believe for a moment that the democracy of England or of Scotland or of Wales would for an instant put up with the dictum that the minority has the right to coerce the majority. If that were so, what becomes of democracy, what becomes of constitutional Government? It is because of that I want the English people to have the opportunity of declaring their opinion of these points, and that I want a General Election.
Further, I want a General Election to make my own position perfectly clear to my own people. I remember the time, not so many years ago, when I was convinced that I should never see the day when I would cheer a British 1774 victory at home or abroad. What has changed my mind? The belief I have that the British democracy will put an end, once and for all, to all this ancient strife. As I said, I want to put myself light with my own people. They say to me, "It is rather late in the day for you to cheer British victories in France or in any part of the world." I admit freely that I once thought that I would never live to see the day that I would not cheer a British defeat. During the whole of the Boer War I did not miss cheering onthusiasti-cally any reverse to British arms, and it was because I believed this country was absolutely wrong and that the Boers were fighting in the cause of freedom and justice, fighting for the right of small nationalities to manage their own affairs. It is exactly the same doctrine which was enunciated the other day by General Smuts. That is why I cheered the defeats of the British in South Africa. But the British democracy has brought me to a better state of mind. It has induced me and several of my colleagues who sit on these benches to believe in it. Being above military age themselves, they gave their sons to fight in the cause of liberty, both in Flanders and in France. Three of my colleagues have had their sons killed. The other day my hon. Friend the Member for Connemara heard that his son was killed while fighting in France for the cause of human rights and human liberty, and the interests of civilisation. The British democracy has converted me from what I was to become a supporter of this country in its cause. It is because I believe that England at the present day is fighting in the interest of civilisation and of common humanity that my views are very much changed from what they were some few years ago.
I do not believe that the British democracy wants a continuance of the present disagreement that exists between England and Ireland. I believe that at the earliest opportunity the world will see that the British democracy is earnest and is honest in its declaration that, while it supports the Government, it is fighting: for the freedom of small nationalities abroad. The British democracy thinks that charity ought to begin at home, and that it is a reflection upon it if Ireland is not the first country to receive its national rights. What is the difficulty? It is that a small section of religious bigots in the North-East part of Ireland are, some of them, so extreme, so un- 1775 reasonable, and so fanatical that they would sooner see the Germans win to-morrow than that Ireland should get Home Rule. That may seem a very extreme statement to make, but how long ago is it that in a Debate; in this House the extraordinary spectacle was witnessed of the hon. Member for Enfield telling the House of Commons that if he had been in North Roscommon he would have voted for Lord Plunkett, and yet he gets up in this House of Commons and proclaims that he and the members of the minority are the only loyal people in Ireland. I want to give the British democracy some understanding of gentlemen of that kind in Ireland, whether they come from county Cork or the city of Belfast. The Chief Secretary is probably not aware that the head schoolmaster or his descendant still exists in Ireland, and that the local country poet still exists in Ireland. I noticed the other day that a peasant who was singing the doggerel rhyme of one of the country poets was arrested by the police, to be brought before, I think, the High Court of Justice. They regarded his crime as of such a heinous character that they did not think he could be brought before two removables and that he should be brought before the High Court of Justice—I think before the Lord Chief Justice, whose record we all know as a Crown Prosecutor. May I bring under the notice of the Chief Secretary that this humble peasant was going to be given two years' penal servitude—
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
The hon. Member's observations are not relevant to the Third Reading of the Bill.
§ Mr. KILBRIDE
I think I can show you in a moment that they are extremely relevant, and it is because of this outrage perpetrated upon a humble Irish peasant that I want to see a General Election, and to see an end of this system.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
The whole Irish question is not open to debate. The hon. Member has exceeded the wide limits of debate which I permitted, but he must not continue to do so.
§ Mr. KILBRIDE
I will try to observe your ruling, Sir, so far as my limited capacity will allow me, and if I transgress your ruling, I am quite sure that it will not be done out of any disrespect to the Chair, but will be entirely due to my want of knowledge of the procedure of this 1776 House. One reason among many why I want a General Election, and why I am opposed to the continuance of the life of Parliament, is that I am against the continuance of the life of the present Government. Why I am opposed to the continuance of the life of the present Government is due to their action against some of the humbler peasantry of Ireland. I do not know whether that is logical or not?
§ Mr. KILBRIDE
I will have to abandon that line of argument in deference to your ruling. I much regret to have to do so, and I shall have to take some other method of giving this doggerel to the world. It would be unfair on my part to deprive the British democracy of this doggerel. I do not want to come into collision with the Chair, though it is quite possible I might have got it in before your attention was so intimately drawn to the fact that I was bordering on the rules of order. I do not want to give a further lease of life to the propagation of physical force in Ireland, and it is because I do not want to give them any further time for an increase of their power that I desire a General Election at the earliest moment. I know the misfortunes well and intimately that revolutionary methods and physical force have brought upon many of my race and of my country, and I do not desire to see them either re-enacted or perpetuated. It is for that reason that I desire that the opportunity should be given to me and to all my colleagues sitting on these, benches to put our position clearly before our own people and to give the Irish people at home the opportunity of declaring whether they are in favour of revolutionary or constitutional methods. If a majority of the Irish people at home declare in the ballot boxes that they are in favour of revolutionary methods I shall retire to my native obscurity for the rest of my life and let revolutionary methods have a fair chance.
I remember a long time ago I happened to be one of a small dinner-party of fourteen or fifteen in another country, where everyone present was a man directly and intimately associated with revolutionary methods. I was the only one amongst them who had not taken an oath which if I had taken and if the Chief Secretary was aware of it it would probably succeed in getting me five or seven years' penal 1777 servitude. A proposition was made to me, "if you constitutionalists are given a fair chance of success by us and if we give you our moral support, and if you fail will you agree to stand aside as soon as it is made clear to the world by the British Government that constitutionalism cannot succeed and give us a fair chance." I thought that proposition extremely fair. If the constitutional movement fails to-morrow I shall remember the statement I made on that occasion, and retire, as I have said, into my native obscurity and give the revolutionaries a chance. There is another reason why I want to see a General Election immediately. I. want to see the Germans beaten in this War. I do not want to see another European War for another fifty or a hundred years. An hon. Gentleman seems rather surprised that I gave myself such a lease of life, but why should I be anxious to deprive myself of my own existence even if it does not please him. In the near future the race to which I am proud to belong will have more trained soldiers than it ever had before. I see plainly that one of the results will be that when the Germans are beaten the Irish-American will say to himself, "I have fought for freedom for every small country in Europe, but my own country has not got it." I do not want to see future collisions between the two races, and I believe that one of the ways of averting such a collision, in my opinion an inevitable collision, if you refuse to give Ireland Home Rule, is to give the British democracy a chance at the present time against this Government, and to give them a chance of doing not alone a good day's work for England, but also for Ireland, and for civilisation and common humanity. Those are the reasons why I oppose the Third Reading of this Bill. My last reason is out of pure respect and friendship for the Chief Secretary. It outrages my better feelings to see a good man day after day struggling hopelessly with adversity, such as the Chief Secretary for Ireland does.
§ Colonel SHARMAN-CRAWFORD
I rise to say a word on behalf of those who have the honour to wear the same uniform as that which I have the honour to wear and they include Nationalists and Unionists who, if an election took place, as the Nationalist party desires, would be debarred from the franchise. I support the Bill as a Unionist Member. Whatever attack has been made on the First Lord of the Admiralty by hon. Members below the 1778 Gangway I only wish to say, on behalf of the Unionist Members, that we heartily sympathise and co-operate in everything the First Lord of the Admiralty has done, and we are to blame as well as he is. I am not going to speak on the Irish question as it would not be in order, and I support the Bill chiefly on account of the position of those wearing the uniform.
§ Mr. KEATING
The Third Reading of this Bill, I suppose, is practically decided upon, but it is just as well that the House of Commons and the British people should realise the feeling that we Irish Members have about the present situation. I do not want to go into any matters which are not germane to the subject before the House, but questions have been raised both in this House and in the Press which make it necessary for any man who is a friend of Ireland and a friend of Great Britain and a friend of the Empire, as I am, to put the position quite clearly before the Members of this House, and, as far as I am able to do so, before the people of the United Kingdom. I have noticed during the Debate this evening a smile of amusement on the face of many Members of this House at the passionate expressions of feeling which have emanated from these benches. I advise these Members to pay more attention to the feelings expressed than to the amusement aroused in their breasts. The Irish people, I think, have demonstrated in their past and present history a title to be respected on all grounds upon which human respect rests, and if our present attitude has in the slightest degree aroused anything but respect and dignity in the minds of the Members of this House, I warn them that the power of the Irish race in America and the Dominions and in Ireland is sufficiently strong to put up with the consequences of all they can do to us. I repudiate with contempt and defiance that superior attitude which some of the Members of this House assume towards Ireland and the Irish race and the cause for which they are fighting. I am as free a man as any man in this House, and I belong to a race which you in your wisdom and your majesty and your power regard as a brilliant race; but, as Bernard Shaw says in one of his plays, "Their talk is all tommy rot, you know."
It is not a superficial expression of opinion that you have to deal with, but a deep-rooted determination to demand all that liberty and all that freedom which 1779 any race is entitled to demand, and which you are fighting for and which we are fighting for. When war broke out my Constituency sent as many men proportionately to fight against the scientific barbarians of Europe as any constituency in this country. How was it received? We came to you with generous hearts, with a common determination to fight for liberty. The War Office and the members of the British Government in Ireland said, "It is all very well for you to render service to this cause in the Army, but surely you are not entitled to liberty or to be regarded as being competent to demand the principles for which we are fighting." If it was the Gentleman who is now First Lord of the Admiralty, that would be a different matter. He is the superman, the super-patriot; he is to be entitled to all the credit of a great super-patriot and all the luxury of a great rebel. He was allowed special privileges in recognition both of himself and of those who are associated with him, but we were denied anything like a similar standard at the time that we were willing and anxious to use all our influence with our own people to promote the common cause which every one of us is anxious to see successful. I do not think it is entirely out of order to refer to the root causes which animate our attitude to-night. The Irish representatives are as anxious as anybody in this House can be to see justice done and to further the successful prosecution of the War, but what is our position? I ask Members of this House, if they possibly can do so, to put themselves in our position. In the first place, we used all our influence and all our force for the purpose of persuading our people that this was Ireland's war as much as England's war.
§ Mr. KEATING
I am sorry, Sir. I am sure you will exonerate me from any desire to trespass upon the latitude which you allow, and I will not pursue that line any more. But I was endeavouring to explain to the House the root causes which animate our attitude to-night. So far as this Bill is concerned we are in a dilemma. We do not want to do anything to stop the successful prosecution of the War. God forbid. Many of us have 1780 our relatives fighting in France to-night, and they may probably die to-morrow. Therefore, none of us want to do anything that will stop the successful organisation of all the forces at our command to enable our brave lads to win the victory which we are all anxious to achieve. But the dilemma that I am in—I speak for myself, and I suppose I typify what my party stands for—is this: that we are engaged in a fight for liberty, and we are denied liberty. Why are we denied liberty? Because the Government, which is the Government because they simply would not wait and see, are not applying that principle to this question of Ireland. They are going to wait and see what happens. In everything else they want to do it now. I am quite convinced of this, that there is a passionate conviction in the minds and in the hearts of nine-tenths of the British people that the time for an Irish settlement is now, and that there is no need to wait and see what will happen in the future. The only reason why the settlement is not effected is because a successful remnant has terrified the powers of government in this country. What are we to do when we go to Ireland? Here is the position. We proclaim with loud voices the success of the Russian democracy. We glorify the victory, the power, and liberty, which has fortunately come to successful birth in Russia. We are called upon to rejoice in that fact. The inherent justice of the cause of the War has induced America to come in and join with all of us in putting down a military autocracy and an administrative bureaucracy. Everywhere in the world except in Ireland, and I think that this Bill, although in practical effect it may help in promoting the War even more successfully than it is being promoted at present, leaves Ireland and the Irish representatives in a very ignominious position. We have helped you and fought for you in this War. We have the Home Rule Bill on the Statute Book; your own folly and your own stupidity have driven a small portion of our race into carrying into effect what the First Lord of the Admiralty threatened to do, and because of that—a small handful of our people carried away by their ideals, for which they have had the courage to die—and in defiance of all the precedents of your history, you shot the leading men for doing it.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
Really it is not open to hon. Members on this Motion 1781 to discuss the general government of Ireland. It is quite outside the scope of the question now before the House.
§ Mr. KEATING
I must say in all sincerity that I had no intention of trespassing at all on your ruling. [Laughter.] I may be unfortunate enough not to convey to the superior intelligence of certain Members of this House the motives that inspire me, but I shall put up with that misfortune. I think myself that I was perfectly consistent in the argument I was pursuing in pointing out to the House the dilemma in which I found myself to be. We are denied that liberty for which you are fighting, and we are asked to go on being denied it. Why do you do that? I think that is a perfectly reasonable question to ask the House upon this Bill, and if unfortunately, in the progagation of that argument, I stepped outside, I can assure you I did so quite unwittingly. I submit I am perfectly entitled to pursue the argument I am pursuing, namely, to show the dilemma and injustice which is being inflicted upon us by this Bill. If I am fallacious in my reasoning, there are many well-qualified reasoners in this House who can demonstrate where that fallacy is. I defy them to do it. The practical issue which we have to face, both in this House and in this country, is this: By the folly and stupidity of the Administration—
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
I must ask the hon. Member not to pursue that. I have twice warned him that that is not within the scope of the present Motion, and he must not pursue it.
§ Mr. KEATING
I think I am entitled to defend myself against the inference that I am wilfully opposing your ruling—
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
I have endeavoured to guide the hon. Member. I do not suppose that he is wilfully defying my ruling, but if he goes further I shall have to change my mind after the third warning. There are not usually more than two.
§ Mr. KEATING
I am only unfortunate in the understanding of the intention that you had in your mind, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. We oppose this Bill because we want the Government to go to the country and we want to go to the country. We want to go to the country in order to get a renewed mandate from our own people to continue the work of constitutional effort for reform, and the longer you delay 1782 that the more you will strengthen the hands of those who are imitating another party in the action of something very different to constitutional agitation. I want, so long as I am able to do so, and so far as my limited powers will allow me, to convince the House of the necessity of this course. If I had the power and the eloquence, nothing would give me greater satisfaction than to persuade Members of the House to defeat this Bill, because I am quite convinced that the British House of Commons does not represent the feelings of the British people upon the Irish question. I would not be a bit afraid of taking the opinion of the British people upon the justice and expediency of giving to Ireland the fruits of her constitutional efforts. One of those is enshrined in the pages of the Statute Book. Another is something that will benefit the people of England very much more than the people of Ireland—that is the destruction of the autocratic power of the Prussians of another House to defeat British legislation. The point I wish to make I have made. We are not a bit afraid of a General Election. If anybody in this House challenges us and sneers at the tone of Bombastes Furioso, we reply that we do not shrink from the result of an election. We will come back again with more power, strength, vigour, and determination to promote the Irish cause in the House of Commons.
§ Mr. FIELD
I will not delay the House for more than a moment. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I hope, however, the House will listen to what I have to say, because it is not from the Irish point of view that I wish to address the House, it is as an old Member of twenty-five years standing, as a Member of Parliament, of the British House of Commons, which I do not want to remain, I want to put a point of view to the Front Bench. My reason for opposing the prolongation of the life of Parliament is because I am a Member of Parliament, and because Members of Parliament now have really no power whatever in this House. We are simply cyphers, behind the leading figures on the Front Bench. We have at the present time what is called a British Government, but which really consists of an oligarchical constitution of gentlemen who force their will on the House of Commons. We have a Council of War. We have a select coterie carrying on the War. I am not opposed to the War. I want to defeat the Prussians and I 1783 want that as sincerely as any member of the Front Bench. If we go on as we are going on Parliament is really a fraud. Members of Parliament are supposed to have some power. We are only here as voting machines! The order is given by whoever happens to be in command of the House, and we have an extraordinary condition of affairs at the present time. The Prime Minister who, during my time, has always been here to lead the House we never see except on extraordinary occasions, when we get the benefit of his eloquence to pass the particular Bills. We bad him last night because it was a particular occasion last night. I should be out of order in discussing that question further than to say this, that amongst the other extraordinary edicts from the Front Bench, apparently not only the liberty of the subject but the liberty of the Pres3 is to be attacked in this what is called "the Mother of Parliaments."
I think this point that I have brought before the House is worthy of consideration. There is an old Latin proverb, "Major lex major injuria" ("The greater the law the greater the injury"), and here we have a great law promulgated by the collection of all the talents on the Front Bench, and we ordinary Members of the House of Commons are not supposed to have sufficient intelligence even to criticise their action. It appears to me that that is a very extraordinary condition of things, and the reason I oppose the prolongation of Parliament is that this is really not a Parliament at all at the present time. I would like to hear a reply from the right hon. Gentleman on the Front Bench to what I have said. It may be regarded as a matter for laughter, but in my view it is a very serious matter, because the whole scheme of Parliamentary functions has been changed recently, and we are getting so accustomed to it that very little attention has been paid to this view of the subject. I do not think we can go on for ever in the style carried on at the present time; otherwise you might just as well put up a placard saying that you are expected to vote in a particular way, with the result that whatever the Government wishes has to be done. I will support the Government in the prosecution of the War, but while we are fighting for the liberty of small nations, we also want to fight for the liberty of private Members of the House of Commons, and I trust that some atten- 1784 tion will be paid to these remarks of mine, because I regard the position of the House of Commons now as a very dangerous one, and the longer we go on the worse the position gets. There is an old proverb which says, "Time, which weakens everything else, adds new strength to bad habits," and when all mankind, more or less, are creatures of habit, we get into habits of thought and habits of action—
§ Mr. FIELD
Yes; I am coming to that. The official mind gets into that groove of thought that they come to consider themselves as infallible. What is to become of the democracy of this country in the immediate future? Parliament is not now a democratic institution at all because the voice of the people is smothered here and the men who take up an independent position are considered to be cranks or faddists who ought to be removed as soon as possible from the sphere of active, practical politics. I trust that these considerations will have some attention, because I am perfectly serious in stating that in my view private Members of Parliament are deprived, I do not say of their privileges, but of their rights. Are we sent here to be dummies? What have we to rely upon but our institutions? The whole power of Parliament is now concentrated on the Treasury Bench and their supporters in this House, and I ask the Leader of the House to seriously to consider this matter, because we are all democrats now. I have seen the most marvellous changes since I came here twenty-five years ago, and the most blue-blooded Conservative you meet now is an absolute democrat. Whether it is that the Russian revolution has civilised him and current events in other countries have completed his political education, it is not for me to say. We as Irishmen have been sent here for the purpose of obtaining Home Rule, and until it is granted its denial will constitute a danger, not alone to the British here, but to the British connection all over the world. That is one of the reasons why I oppose the prolongation of the life of this Parliament, and I could not allow this opportunity to pass without entering my protest against the present system which prevents a private Member of this House from exercising the ordinary duties and rights of citizenship.
§ Question put, "That the Bill be now read the third time."1786
§ The House divided: Ayes, 203; Noes, 42.1787
|Division No. 31.]||AYES.||[10.28 p.m.|
|Adamson, William||Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds)||Quilter, Sir Cuthbert|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher||Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithness-shire)||Radford, Sir George Heynes|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Harris, Henry Percy, Paddington, S.)||Raffan, Peter Wilson|
|Agnew, Sir George William||Harris, Percy A. (Leicester, S.)||Randles, Sir John S.|
|Ainsworth, Sir John Stirling||Haslam, Lewis||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Helme, Sir Norval Watson||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)|
|Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.)||Henry, Denis S.||Rees, G. C. (Carnarvonshire, Arfon)|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Hewart, Sir Gordon||Rendall, Athelstan|
|Balfour, Sir Robert (Lanark)||Hibbert, Sir Henry F.||Richardson, Arthur (Rotherhars)|
|Banner, Sir John S. Harmood-||Higham, John Sharp||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)|
|Barlow, Montague (Salford, South)||Hills, John Waller||Roberts, George H. (Norwich)|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. George N.||Hinds, John||Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbigh)|
|Barrie, H. T.||Hodge, Rt. Hon. John||Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)|
|Beale, Sir William Phipson||Holmes, Daniel Turner||Robinson, Sidney|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Rowlands, James|
|Benn, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth)||Hunt, Major Rowland||Rowntree, Arnold|
|Bentham, George Jackson||Ingleby, Holcombe||Rutherford, Sir John (Darwen)|
|Bigland, Alfred||Jackson, Lieut.-Col. Hon. F. S. (York)||Rutherford, Watson (L'pool, W. Derby)|
|Black, Sir Arthur W.||Jacobsen, Thomas Owen||Salter, Arthur Clavell|
|Blair, Reginald||Jardine, Ernest (Somerset, East)||Samuels, Arthur W.|
|Bliss, Joseph||Johnston, Sir Christopher||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)|
|Boscawen, Sir A. S. T. Griffith-||Jones, Edgar (Merthyr Tydvil)||Samuel, Samuel (Wandsworth)|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)|
|Boyton, James||Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)||Seely, Lt.-Col. Sir C. H. (Mansfield)|
|Brace, Rt. Hon. William||Jones, W. Kennedy (Hornsey)||Sharman-Crawford, Colonel R. G.|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Jones, William S. Glyn- (Stepney)||Smith, Harold (Warrington)|
|Brookes, Warwick||Kellaway, Frederick George||Smith, Sir Swire (Keighley, Yorks)|
|Broughton, Urban Hanlon||King, Joseph||Stewart, Gershom|
|Brunner, John F. L.||Larmor, Sir J.||Stirling, Lieut.-Col. Archibald|
|Burn, Colonel C. R.||Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Bootle)||Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)|
|Carew, C. R. S.||Layland-Barrett, Sir F.||Talbot, Lord E.|
|Chambers, James||Levy, Sir Maurice||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|Chancellor, Henry George||Lewis, Rt. Hon. John Herbert||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)|
|Clough, William||Lloyd, George Butler (Shrewsbury)||Terrell, Henry (Gloucester)|
|Clynes, John R.||Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury)||Thomas-Stanford, Charles|
|Cochrane, Cecil Algernon||Lockwood, Rt. Hon. Lt.-Colonel A. R.||Thomson, W. Mitchell- (Down, North)|
|Collins, Sir Stephen (Lambeth)||Macleod, John Mackintosh||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Collins, Sir W. (Derby)||McMicking, Major Gilbert||Tickler, T. G.|
|Coote, William||McNeill, Ronald (Kent., St. Augustine's)||Tootill, Robert|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Maden, Sir John Henry||Touche, Sir George Alexander|
|Cory, James H. (Cardiff)||Mallalieu, Frederick William||Toulmin, sir George|
|Craig, Colonel James (Down, E.)||Marriott, John Arthur Ransome||Tryon, Captain George Clement|
|Craik, Sir Henry||Middlebrook, Sir William||Turton, Edmund Russborough|
|Currie, George W.||Middlemore, John Throgmorton||Walters, Sir John Tudor|
|Dalrymple, Hon. H. H.||Millar, James Duncan||Warde, Colonel C. E. (Kent, Mid)|
|Dalziel, Davison (Brixton)||Mend, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred M.||Weston, J. W.|
|Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Money, Sir L. G. Chiozza||Whiteley, Herbert James|
|Denniss, E. R. B.||Moore, William||Wiles, Rt. Hon. Thomas|
|Duke, Rt. Hon, Henry Edward||Morgan, George Hay||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, N.W.)|
|Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||Morison, Hector (Hackney, S.)||Williams, P. (Middlesbrough)|
|Edge, Captain William||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert||Williams, Col. Sir Robert (Dorset, W.)|
|Essex, Sir Richard Walter||Needham, Christopher T.||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Worcs., N.)|
|Fell, Arthur||Neville, Reginald J. N.||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Finney, Samuel||Newman, John R. P.||Wilson, Lt.-Cl. Sir M.(Beth'l Green, S.W.)|
|Fisher, Rt. Hen. W. Hayes||Nicholson, Sir Charles N. (Doncaster)||Wilson-Fox, Henry|
|Flannery, Sir J, Fortescue||Norman, Sir Henry||Winfrey, Sir Richard|
|Fletcher, John Samuel||Nuttall, Harry||Wing, Thomas Edward|
|Galbraith, Samuel||Orde-Powlett, Hon. W. G. A.||Wood, John (Stalybridge)|
|Gardner, Ernest||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William||Worthington Evans, Major Sir L.|
|Gibbs, Col. George Abraham||Parker, James (Halifax)||Wright, Henry Fitzherbert|
|Goldstone, Frank||Pearce, Sir Robert (Staffs, Leek)||Yate, Colonel C. E.|
|Goulding. Sir Edward Alfred||Pearce, Sir William (Limehouse)||Yeo, Alfred William|
|Greenwood, Sir G. G. (Peterborough)||Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)||Young, William (Perthshire, East)|
|Greig, Colonel J. W.||Pennefather, De Fonblanque||Younger, Sir George|
|Gretton, John||Perkins, Walter Frank||Yoxall, Sir James Henry|
|Haddock, George Bahr||Philippe, Sir Owen (Chester)|
|Hamilton, C. G. C. (Ches., Altrincham)||Pollock, Ernest Murray||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr. Beck and Mr. James Hope.|
|Hancock, John George||Pratt, J. W.|
|Hardy, Rt. Hon. Laurence||Pryce-Jones, Colonel E.|
|Boland, John Plus||Cosgrave, James||Duffy, William J.|
|Boyle, Daniel (Mayo, North)||Cullinan, John||Esmonds, Sir Thomas (Wexford, N.)|
|Brady, Patrick Joseph||Devlin, Joseph||Farrell, James Patrick|
|Clancy, John Joseph||Dillon, John||Ffrench, Peter|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||Donovan, John Thomas||Field, William|
|Fitzpatrick, John Laler||MacNeill, J. G. Swift (Donegal, South)||Redmond, William Archer (Tyrone, E.)|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||Meagher, Michael||Scanlan, Thomas|
|Hackett, John||Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.)||Sheehy, David|
|Hayden, John Patrick||Meehan, Patrick J. (Queen's Co., Leix)||Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.)|
|Hazleton, Richard||Molloy, Michael||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Joyce, Michael||Muldoon, John||Whitty, Patrick Joseph|
|Keating, Matthew||Nolan, Joseph|
|Kilbride, Denis||O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, West)||O'Shee, James John||Captain Donelan and Mr. Patrick O'Brien.|
|Lundon, Thomas||Reddy, Michael|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read the third time, and passed.