HC Deb 27 February 1917 vol 90 cc1963-81

This Act shall not extend to Ireland.—[Mr. Dillon.]

Clause brought up, and read the first time.


I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a second time."

My object is to exempt Ireland from the operation of this Act. Everybody has been told that it is but a preliminary to a compulsory Act, and Ireland, I venture to warn the Government, will not submit to a compulsory Act of this kind. Apart altogether from the fact that this Act is admittedly a prelude to a compulsory system, and that after very short interval, as we have been warned, I object to this Act being applied to Ireland, because the circumstances between Ireland and this country as regards labour are such that, in my opinion, it would be in the highest degree injudicious to apply the Act to Ireland. Since the beginning of the War, what has happened with regard to Irish labour? It has been the custom, as is well known to the Chief Secretary, for a very large number of Irishmen to come over to this country to work for periods without deserting their own homes. They have come over to the number, roughly, in recent years, of about 15,000 yearly, and their labour is of a most convenient and valuable character, chiefly to the agricultural interest of this country. I myself represent in this House the great bulk of the agricultural migratory labour in Ireland. That class of labour, as I know from personal experience, is very highly valued by the farmers of this country, and I was applied to in regard to that long before the War broke out, when labour began to get scarce in this country under a system condemned the other day in a great speech by the Prime Minister, a system which has depopulated the countryside of Great Britain and left it with inadequate labour for the tilling of the land.

Irish labour became more and more valuable, and long after the War broke out Members of this House, who represent agricultural constituencies in different parts of Great Britain, came to me personally and asked me if I could influence my Constituents to come to their particular districts, inasmuch as labour was so scant and Irish labour was of an extremely valuable character. It was valuable to the farmers of this country for this reason: it was a peculiar character of labour unknown to, and impossible in, this island. It was labour most efficient, available during the pressure of harvest time, and it departed from the farmer when the pressure passed away. It suited small Irish, holders, who are willing to come over and work in this country for certain weeks of the harvest at high wages, and then return to their homes. That was a class of labour of peculiar value to the farmers of this country. Not only was that the case, but the Irish labourers were men of excellent physique and large skill, and were willing to work under rather hard conditions. They saved a great deal of money, and in my own Constituency I had a man who took two sons with him and brought home as much as £30. That is a most important part of their living.

The relations between the English farmers and the Irish labourers were to their mutual advantage. What happened? All went on with the greatest possible good will, and I might, if I were so disposed, tell many tales of mutual benefit which have resulted from it. The Irish labourer attained great agricultural skill, and some of them would remain for two or three years with their English employers. Most of them went only for the season, however. But some remained two or three years to enable them to carry out a custom which prevails amongst Celtic peasants, a most estimable and laudable custom. I have known hundreds of my people come over here and work for an English farmer two or three years, or work in the cement works or in the mines, in order to apportion their own sisters. Such are the habits of our peasant people. A young man looks forward to get his father's farm, but he feels it his duty first to save a part of his earnings in order to-give to his sisters a portion, and to marry them, before he comes into the inheritance of his father at all. These are customs which have grown up among peasant people, and are known to us, and in France as well, but are quite unknown in this country.

This system went on harmoniously, and with mutual advantage, until the Compulsory Military Service Bill was brought ill in this country. The Irish people refused to accept that Bill, for reasons which I cannot go into now. I immediately saw the risk that would result from the difference between the two countries to these Labourers. I made an appeal across the floor of the House, and subsequently privately to the Ministers in charge, including the President of the Local Government Board, now the Secretary of State for the Colonies, as to their attitude with regard to Irish labourers. I said, "If you desire not to have Irish labour, I shall go home to my people and tell them to stay at home. Thank goodness, owing to the agitation of the last twenty-five or thirty years, they are no longer starving—no longer dependent on the English farmer, but they are willing and anxious to come over here and earn good wages, but they can live without them. If you propose to harass them and seize upon them for military service, I shall advise them to remain at home." The President of the Local Government Board and the Ministers to whom I spoke assured me that the Irish labourers would not be interfered with if they came across harvesting. That pledge was broken. Not alone were they interfered with, but some of my own Constituents, who came across under the protection of that pledge, were pursued to their Father's homes in Ireland and were arrested and dragged into the Army. One man for whom I went to the War Office and proved quite clearly that he had been illegally arrested in his home in my own Constituency is now in Salonika. That has contributed to making numerous Sinn Feiners in Ireland and, of course, it has created very bitter feelings. The result of it is that no pledge given by a British Minister has the slightest value now in Ireland. They do not believe in it. They believe it will be broken. That is one reason why I move to exempt Ireland from this Bill.

There is another reason which, perhaps, will make a stronger appeal to some hon. Members in the Committee than the reasons I have already given. When in the early days of this War the Irish people and the Irish leaders were strongly endeavouring to do their best to obtain recruits for the Army, and when recruiting meetings were held—this may surprise the present Chief Secretary, because he came to Ireland in far different times—when recruiting meetings were held in every quarter in Ireland, including even the county of Kerry—enthusiastic meetings—when members of the Irish police who recruited for the Army were played to the stations in different parts of the country by Nationalist bands, when in the first six months of the War, in the county of Fermanagh, when recruits were marched into the station, the Orange bands and the Nationalist bands, for the first time in history, turned out together and played them to the station, when that spirit prevailed in Ireland, what was going on? Agents of the Government in the West of Ireland, in the county of Donegal and in many other counties of Ireland, were holding meetings and offering the Irish labourer £2 a week to work in England, while the recruiting agents were offering them a shilling a day to go and get killed in the trenches. The head of the recruiting in Ireland came to my house in Dublin frequently and complained to me saying, "How in the name of God do you expect us to get Irish recruits when we have agents of the British Government, when I hold a recruiting meeting, holding labour meetings and offering them £2 a week, while I am only authorised to offer them a shilling a day to go and get shot out in France?"

That is how the British Government does its business. That was going on when the Irish party were struggling to encourage the people to go into the Army. There is very little recruiting going on in Ireland to-day, but there is a great appeal for the increase of food production. I noticed that Scotland and other parts of the United Kingdom are now appealing to Ireland to supply them with potatoes. I shall be very glad to respond to that appeal, always provided that our own people are not threatened with starvation. We shall be glad to supply all that we can spare. In order to cultivate land, as the English people are beginning to learn, you must have labour. The Minister for Agriculture the other day made a pathetic appeal in the North of England, and indicated that the hopes of English farmers largely depended upon Irish labour. How did you treat Irish labourers when they came over? Some were arrested illegally, others pursued back to their homes; and in Lincolnshire, when our people went there last year, as they have done for the last thirty years, to dig potatoes on the great farms in Lincolnshire, they were hounded off the farms, insulted, and not allowed to do their work. If you apply this Bill to Ireland you treat the whole of the United Kingdom and Ireland as one country. That is impossible.

What security have our people that the Director-General of National Service will not invite our people to come over to this country, and, if they come, what security have we that they will not be insulted, hunted, and, boycotted just as they were before? You have to make peace between the two countries before you can treat them as one. In Ireland there will be an extremely jealous feeling against any attempt to extend this National Service scheme to our country, at all events until there is an assurance that if Irish labourers are invited to volunteer for National Service—when, mark you, they may be sent to any part of the country—they will not be boycotted and hunted as they have been. The other day one of the greatest manufacturers in this country—one of the men in Sheffield on whom the War Office chiefly depends for the supply of the largest-sized shells and other great steel works of the country—driven to desperation by the inroads of the War Office, appealed to some of us to procure him three hundred Irish labourers. We did it. What was the result? That when our men went to Sheffield they were told they must clear out if they valued their lives. In the face of that kind of thing you cannot apply the same rules to the two peoples. You have to recognise that Ireland is a wholly separate country and that it must be dealt with upon its own merits. There is this further consideration. We had an epoch-making speech delivered by the Prime Minister last week in which several revolutions were announced—not one, but several—in a single speech. He laid down the principle of a minimum wage for English labourers. I do not know what the Irish Government are going to do with regard to that minimum wage.


What Irish Government?


The Castle Government—your Government. We have no more power over the Government of our own country than we have over the Government of China, and we do not in the least know what the Government of Ireland is going to do in this matter of the minimum wage. Another reason why I object to this Bill being applied to Ireland is that, although hon. Members may perhaps not realise it, labour is very scarce in Ireland at the present moment. There is not labour enough to increase the cultivation of Ireland. The British Government has already taken to the great works on the Firth of Forth—at Gretna, and other places, where the Irish are so numerous that they can afford to defy anybody who dares to insult them—Gretna is chiefly manned by Irish—they have taken vast numbers of our workmen, and they are taking at this moment, when they are appealing to our people to till the land, hundreds and thousands of labourers from the land of Ireland every week to Gretna and other great works in England at enormous wages. This Bill might and I think would be used for the purpose of stripping the land of Ireland and making it absolutely impossible not only to increase the tillage but to maintain the tillage of last year, just as the War Office has stripped the lands of England of necessary labour. Therefore I feel bound to move this Clause, both because I believe the Bill, even in its present state, will do injury to Ireland and be received with great suspicion in that country, and because I know that it is only the prelude to a compulsory Bill to which undoubtedly the Irish people would never consent.


I beg to second the proposed new Clause.


I do not know what authority the hon. Member has behind him in moving this new Clause, or how far he is expressing the views of the Nationalist Members of the House. The Unionists of Ireland are opposed to this new Clause, and I believe the hon. Member is completely out of sympathy with the great body of moderate Nationalist opinion. There is no question whatever here of applying industrial compulsion either to Ireland or to any other part of the United Kingdom. The hon. Member appears to be alarmed at the spectre of conscription looming up in the background, and his fears do not appear to be allayed by the very clear and definite assurances which were given by the Home Secretary both to-night and on the Second Reading. He should curb his suspicions of the Government. The course he has taken in regard to this measure and other matters connected with the War is calculated to place Ireland in a very unfavourable light with the people of this country. Ireland has been exempted from compulsory military service because of the threat from the hon. Member and others that resistance would be offered if a measure were applied. Now we have the hon. Member proposing that the Irish people should not be asked even to volunteer civilian service for winning what the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Redmond) once described as "Ireland's war." In another Motion which the Nationalists have put on the Paper they profess to desire to strengthen the hands of the Allies. The hon. Member's ideas on the subject of how Ireland can best strengthen the hands of the Allies are, to say the least, peculiarly impracticable. He stated himself, not long ago, that he had never stood on a recruiting platform and he never would; and if this Amendment is not intended to discourage Irishmen from helping the Allied cause by civilian labour I am unable to understand what purpose he can have in view. I have intervened in this discussion simply for the purpose of saying, on behalf of the people of Ulster and Unionists in Ireland generally, that we strongly protest against this proposal to exclude Ireland from the operation of the Bill. We are ready to accept all the obligations which have to be borne by the people of Great Britain, and so far as we have been permitted to do so "we have given practical proof of our willingness to bear our share of the burden. Ulster has given more recruits to the Army than all the rest of Ireland put together, and I think it will be found, whilst we are on the subject of Ireland's contribution to the War, that the great bulk of the money which has been subscribed to the new War Loan has come from that section of the Irish whose loyalty has never been called in question. We should strongly object to being left out of this measure simply to satisfy the desires and demands of the hon. Member, and I hope the Government will take this opportunity of telling the people of Ireland plainly that the duty lies with them as well as with the people of Great Britain of doing all they can to help to win the War.

Captain O'NEILL

The speech of the hon. Member (Mr. Dillon) has compelled me to intervene, as I happen to find myself for a day or two in this country at a time when an Irish matter is before the Committee. It seems to me somewhat illogical of the hon. Member to suggest that those people in Ireland who wish to take part in National Service should be prevented from doing so when he himself is taking part, perhaps more fully than most other Irishmen to-day, in at any rate a service which, whether it is helpful or not, is at any fate in a sense national. I see day by day in the Press reports of speeches by the hon. Member, not by any means confined to the question of Ireland, but speeches upon matters of high importance and general questions of policy—speeches about the attitude of Greece, the advis- ability or inadvisability of the continuation of the Salonika Expedition, and about the interview of the Commander-in-Chief in France with French journalists. Why should the hon. Member be permitted day by day to take his part, and it may be a good part, in the conduct of our national affairs while he wishes to withdraw from those in Ireland who desire to do so their right to take their part in joining with their compatriots in England in bearing their share of the gigantic task which is before every man now, be he Englishman, Scotsman, or Irishman. I must protest against the desire of some members of the Nationalist party to prevent those Irishmen—I dare say they are not few, both in the North and in the South—who wish to bear their full shave of the burden imposed by this War from doing so.

I will not go into the larger question which I believe we are going to debate next week, and as to which I hope, as one of the representatives of Ulster, I may have the opportunity of speaking a few words. It does seem to me a very hard thing that those of us who are Irishmen, and who can be proud of the fact that they belong to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, should constantly have the feeling that Ireland in all matters which come before the House in relation to the War is being treated with a sort of advantage and being put, to a certain extent, in a favoured position. We simply ask—those Irishmen from the part of the country to which I belong—that we may be included in all the sacrifices which will be demanded of us by this Bill and by every other Bill which is brought forward at this time of crisis, the object of which is the better waging of the War. We ask that we may not be in any way treated separately with regard to these matters. The policy of the last Government appeared to be the policy always of a desire to drop Ireland out of every Bill that came before the House of Commons. I do ask the present Government to have more courage in regard to Ireland than the last Government. There are questions pending, as we all know, which concern Ireland, such as National Service, not national service in this sense, but in the military sense. Those are questions which, so long as the War lasts, must still be pending. There is the question of the inclusion of Ireland in any measure of compulsory military service. I do ask the Government in these matters relating to Ireland; in the question of compulsory military service, in the present question of National Service, and in the many questions which were foreshadowed the other day in the speech of the Prime Minister to remember that no matter what Members of the Nationalist party may say in this House, there exists in Ireland a large body of opinion, certainly in the North, and I believe also in other parts of the country, who are terribly downhearted and disgusted at the way in which in every matter of national importance their country has been left out in the cold. I ask the present Government to realise that, and to adopt on this question, and in all the questions concerning Ireland, a policy of greater courage than was adopted by their predecessors.


I want to associate myself with the two last speakers. I come from a county which, I suppose, has sent more men into the Army than any county in Ireland. I mean the county to which the hon. Member for Mayo referred when he spoke of an Orange band and a Nationalist band escorting troops to the station. I am proud to say that our Nationalists in the county of Fermanagh have enlisted well. They are imbued with military spirit, and it is the deeds of our gallant soldiers at the front that make me sometimes not afraid of saying that I am an Irishman. When I come over to this country and people say, "Why are your men not under military service, the same as the rest of our fellow subjects," I can only point to the deeds of the brave Fermanagh soldiers, and of the rest of our brave Irish soldiers at the front, and say, "I am proud to be an Irishman, and it is only the cowardice of the late Government which prevented the Military Service Act being applied to Ireland, and men from all over the country going to the front."

10.0 P.M.

When I was recruiting I remember reading a speech of the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liver pool, in which he said that recruiting was stopped in Ireland by ultra-Orange recruiters being sent to Roman Catholic counties. My county is half-and-half. The recruiting people who came there from the Central Recruiting Office in Dublin were Professor Kettle, who was certainly not an Orangeman, Mr. Lloyd, a Limerick man, who was a National League organiser, and two other men who were what I might call rabid Home Rulers. Those were the men whom the hon. Member for the Scotland Division called strong Unionists and Orangemen. We went round the county, and had a good response all over the county, and I never wish to go with a better man or a better comrade than Professor Kettle. He was beloved in the county, and we all appreciated his most loyal, patriotic speeches. I only wish there had been more men like him who went to the other counties. As regards the security against insults for migratory labourers coming over to England, there would be no security against insults required if those men had done their duty to their country and enlisted. I can well understand English labourers being annoyed when men came over from Ireland——


I am afraid of the Committee digressing into a discussion on military service. We are not engaged on that at the present time. We must confine ourselves to the question as to the powers of this Bill being applied to Ireland.


I beg pardon for going a little wide on the subject. I may add that I am perfectly sure the men of my county, both Nationalists and Unionists, would be very annoyed if this Bill was not applied to Ireland. They know they are under the same Government, and I hope they will remain under the same Government, and they know that the best protection for our men at the front is to have this National Service Bill applied to every man in the British Dominions, both Ireland, England, and everywhere else.


I am not desirous of entering into the controversy between the North and South of Ireland, and I do not think it is quite germane to the discussion; but the hon. Member for Mayo raised a very serious issue in the charge against labour on this side. I am responsible for two of the disputes which he mentioned, and I do not in the least want to shirk my personal responsibility. It is true that in two places at least there was a stoppage of work by men who positively refused to work in consequence of Irish labourers being sent over, but the circumstances put an entirely different light upon the matter from that which was put by the hon. Member. The circumstances were these, that there was a large number of Irish labourers sent over here, men of military age, to take the place of men who were being released for military service, and the question of these men who were being released put to me, because they were members of my own union, was, "We do not object to be released for military service, but we do object to be released and to find our places taken by others of military age."


I referred only to the Sheffield case and to the potato farmers in Lincolnshire; I did not refer to any railway case.


I was referring to the Birkenhead and Bristol cases, for both of which I was responsible. As the hon. Member knows, I very largely agree with him in most questions, but the definite question was put to me on this issue, and I agreed with the men that they should have refused to allow themselves to be superseded by men of military age. But, on the other hand, knowing the difficulty of the country and the necessity for men, I advised, and it was agreed to, that, wherever the men were over military age or unfit, not only were they to be allowed to work, but every assistance and encouragement was to be given to them. That was done in both cases, and the only men who were sent back to Ireland were the men of military age. Whatever one's views of Conscription may be, I submit to the Committee that it would be far too big a strain on workmen to ask them to agree that other men of military age, as fit to fight as they were, should be brought over to release men for the Army.


That is why I object to this Bill being applied to Ireland.


I want to make this perfectly clear, because I am sure that my hon. Friend does not want to do any injustice to labour on this side.


Not at all.


Both these cases were within my own knowledge. I gave the instructions myself, and in the same circumstances would do precisely the same again.


I shall not attempt to enter into the matters which have been referred to by my hon. Friend. I shall deal with this matter on material grounds, but even dealing with the Amendment upon narrow and material grounds, I hope to satisfy the Committee that it would inflict harm upon Ireland. The hon. Member referred to two topics, apart from the usage of Irish labour to which the hon. Member for Derby has referred. He referred to the depletion of labour in Ireland and the necessity of preserving the labour supply in Ireland for the tillage scheme. With regard to the depletion of labour from Ireland, even at the present time, when there is no great organised system under a Minister of the Crown, there are grounds for the observation which the hon. Member made to this extent—namely, that where by advertisements and public addresses, and procedure of that kind——


And by labour agents.


And by labour agents, very attractive offers have been made to labour in the countryside of Ireland, labour which was indispensable for local industry has been taken away from particular areas and has produced a temporary dearth, at least in those areas, whereas if there had been a proper system there was plenty of labour in Ireland which could have supplied the demand, which was met in the somewhat clumsy way to which I have referred. At the present time, without the existence of a Ministry, that state of things exists, and is frequently brought to my notice in various parts of Ireland. The labour agent comes, or there are advertisements, or means of one kind or another are used, and from a limited area a body of a hundred or two hundred men disappear, and great shortage of labour is found afterwards to exist. The reason is that the high wages offered—wages as high, I think, as 50s.—are an, irresistible temptation to these men in the countryside. The hon. Member does not propose to refuse to any British subject the right to better his conditions by getting more wages?


Certainly not.


You cannot put a veto upon the Irish labourer and say that he shall not come to England and earn 50s. a week or gain any other advantages which are offered. When this Ministry is in existence, and when the demand is more intense the means which will be taken, unless there is some regulation of men, will be more serious in their effects in certain areas than anything to which I have referred. Therefore, on narrow and material grounds, in the interests of Ire- land, as I consider, you ought to have your machine for dealing with the whole of the United Kingdom. It is essential in my view, that the control of labour which is to be set up in this country should extend to Ireland where there will be no other means of control. Merely as a protection for labour in Ireland, as a protection for industry in Ireland, I think that it is essential, if you are to have this system in Great Britain, that there should be the advantage of the same system in Ireland. As to the men who are offered these wages it is very desirable if an Irishman is free to labour elsewhere that he should come to this country and render his services where his services will be most valuable for an object which, after all, is the common object of every loyal subject of the Crown.

What can be done for maintaining National Service is to see that the demand for labour is so regulated with regard to Ireland as to obtain the men who are free to come, while seeing that the countryside is not denuded of labour. That will protect individuals and will protect industry and will prevent that interference with tillage and that withdrawal of labour from the increased tillage which is now required, which I understood was one of the objects which the hon. Member had particularly in view when he moved this Amendment. I did not gather from the hon. Member's speech that if explanations were given with regard to the scope and extent of this measure which were reasonably satisfactory to him, he had any invincible determination to exclude Ireland or seek to exclude Ireland from this Bill for the mere purpose of maintaing a particular political theory. There are those practical advantages which cannot be obtained for Ireland unless the control of the Ministry of Public Service extends to the United Kingdom. What are the objections? The first objection was that Irish labourers might be insulted if they came here. I can tell the hon. Member that of the 160,000 men who were reported to be within the age of military service in Ireland and to be a surplus from labour which could be used, one, if not two, score of thousand are said to be already employed in this country, to be suffering no insult and no injury and to be doing substantial good to Ireland by the larger wages which are earned. I am not concerned to see that advantage withdrawn. I am not content to see it artificially limited.

It is said that we have no security that the Ministry of Labour will not exercise some arbitrary and aggressive authority. The question of the operation of this Bill in Ireland has been the subject of conferences between the Director-General and myself on several occasions since the scheme of National Service was published, and I am satisfied from the assurances I have from the Director-General of National Service that there will not be the least difficulty in organising National Service in Ireland, so that it will be voluntary, so that it will be advantageous to the individual willing to give his service, so that it will be advantageous to the country to which he renders the service, and which secures to him payment for it, and so that it will be advantageous to the common cause. Those are the conclusions at which I have arrived after most dispassionate consideration of the case, and I hope that the hon. Member will not think it necessary to press the Amendment to a Division.


I desire to support the Amendment, and to take the opportunity of resenting the attack made by the hon. Baronet the Member for Mid-Armagh (Sir J. Lonsdale), and to refer to the references of the hon. and gallant Member for Antrim. I may say before coming to the attacks by the Member for Mid-Armagh, that we rejoice to see the hon. and gallant Member for Antrim back in his place, for we fully recognise that the brigade to which he belongs to is as Irish as the Munster or Royal Dublin Fusiliers. Whilst we differ on this question affecting national and military service, we hope that his men will come through the War with flying colours, and that the kindly relations which exist between men of the North and South will continue to exist between him and Members on these benches. The hon. Baronet the Member for Mid-Armagh maintained that the Government ought to tell the people of Ireland that they should do their duty in this War. Does he mean by saying that to imply that the Government at all costs, must put industrial and military service into force in Ireland? I can assure him that we on these benches will tell the Government, as we tell him to-night, that any attempt to enforce military conscription and industrial conscription in Ireland will meet the same fate as those who went over to mow down the rebels did in Easter week last year. Ireland has not changed one iota in this respect. As the hon. Members for Antrim, Mid-Armagh, and Fermanagh are so eager for military service to be enforced in Ireland, and so anxious to see that country do her duty in this War, the ire is nothing to prevent every young man in Ulster not less than eighteen and up to forty-five to join the ranks of the Army, and do their duty in the trenches of Flanders. The hon. Member for Mid-Armagh wants to know whether the representative for East Mayo spoke for the Irish party. The hon. Member for Mayo speaks not only for the Irish party, but speaks for every Nationalist in the four provinces as regards the question of compulsory military service and industrial compulsion. The hon. Member for Armagh said the hon. Member for Mayo does not speak for moderate Nationalists in Ireland. I can tell the hon. Member for Mid-Armagh that there are no moderate Nationalists at this particular moment in Ireland now.

As far as assurances from the Treasury Bench are concerned, whether they come from the Chief Secretary or from the Director of National Service, I just treat them as if I got an assurance from a train conductor driving down the Strand. We have got assurances on many things in the last twelve months, and what has happened to every one of them? What has happened to the late Prime Minister's pledge that Home Rule would be settled, and the assurance of the present Prime Minister that he would carry out the settlement in the North? The same thing which happened those assurances in those days will happen the assurances which are unfolded to-night. This is putting in the thin end of the wedge. If the Chief Secretary imagines that his rameis, or, as he does not know Irish, I will say that his soft soap is going to tell with the Irish people, he is making a big mistake. He made a statement to-night about labour in Ireland, and we have got a Scotsman, who is the President of the Department of Agriculture in Ireland, who says there is not enough labour to do the farm work there. Which of the two statements are we to believe? One man tells us there is a surplus of labour in Ireland which ought to be brought over to this country, and another says you have not got enough labourers in Ireland, and that they ought to be kept at home and are necessary to produce food for the Irish people. We have made up our minds on one thing, and on one thing alone, and that is that compulsory Conscription in the shape of industrial conscription, or in the shape of military service, will never be accepted by the people of Ireland. The Chief Secretary may carry this proposal, but if in the future any attempt should be made to enforce industrial conscription upon Ireland, or any attempt should be made by our Friends from the North to induce the present Tory Government which is in office to enforce military rule, we are prepared, some of us, and I would say 95 per cent. of us who do not owe allegiance to the physical force party in Ireland, to follow where they led last Easter week and risk our lives against, that system of Prussianism which our kith and kin went out to France to fight against. Ireland will never have military Conscription in any shape or form, except enforced by the will of an Irish Parliament according to the will of the great bulk of the majority of the Irish people.


I should like to join in the appeal to the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) not to press this Amendment. He seems to have taken a totally wrong view of the Bill before the House. During this Committee we had ample assurances from the-Home Secretary that this Bill does not involve anything in the nature of industrial compulsion or Conscription. It is-purely a voluntary measure, and, in my judgment, it would be a mistake of a most grievous kind to make this Bill so that it does not apply to Ireland. If I may venture to say so to my Friends below the Gangway, it is a dangerous thing when an attempt is made to contract Ireland out of her Imperial obligations. This House has agreed not to apply military compulsion to Ireland. This. House, I think, in that respect yielded^ to the advice of hon. Members below the Gangway. We do not want to go over that ground again. I myself regard Ireland as being at the present moment in a state of suspended self-government, and we are bound to pay the greatest deference and respect to the opinions of those who represent the majority of the people of Ireland, but it cannot fail to produce a very unfortunate impression on the people of Ireland if the Irish leaders ask this House to remit what, after all, is a purely voluntary obligation in the case of Ireland. We had a speech from the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas), who pointed to disputes arising from the employment of Irishmen in England. That is a very dangerous tendency. For the first time in my life and in that of the oldest Member of this House, there has grown up in some parts of England a feeling of resentment against the Irish people. I think this House should do everything, and I put it to my hon. Friends below the Gangway with great submission that they should do everything, to remove and obviate any feeling of that kind. I am only a humble Member of this House, but I share the views of my hon. Friends below the Gangway in regard to their larger aspirations, and I venture very humbly to beg them not to press this to a Division, which I venture to think, whatever its result, would have a very bad effect on the people of Great Britain.


I regret very much to say that I am unable, while I recognise in the fullest and heartiest manner the intention and the spirit in which that appeal has been made by one whom I recognise as a sincere and valued friend of the Irish party to accede to his appeal. The hon. Member said that for the first time in his life a spirit of hostility has grown up towards the Irish people in this country. He is much younger than I am. I remember very well the time when this country was solid in its ferocious hatred of Ireland and when I walked the lobbies here and no single Englishman, except the late Mr. Henry Labouchere, would speak to any Irish Member. The hon. Member referred to disputes arising from the employment of Irishmen here, but we are not to be frightened by symptoms of that kind. We know on whose head the responsibility lies for the bitter feeling that is arising. I know it to be the case, and I deeply deplore it. I have seen it coming for a long time, and if I have spoken strongly in this House it is because I know from long and bitter experience the terrible potency for evil caused by the arising of that spirit, but we are not to be intimidated by such considerations. We must speak at whatever cost in this House what is the sentiment and the mandate of our people, and I know that I am speaking the sentiment of three-fourths of the Irish nation when I say that we object to this Bill being applied to Ireland, because by the confession of the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas), who is one of the warmest friends that Ireland has in this House, our men are liable to insult in this country if they are transferred to work here by the Director-General. How can you pretend for a moment that we stand on the same footing, or can by any pretext be placed en the same footing, as the people of this country? You have admitted that we are not to be subjected to military compulsion, and if our labourers come across to this country they are liable to insult. I refuse to submit to such offence, and I say that by your own actions you are compelled, from the way you have treated our country, to treat it as a separate country from this country, and I object to this Bill on that ground, and because we are fixed with full notice by the Ministers of the Crown who are responsible for this Bill that in a very few weeks it will be turned into a compulsory Bill.


I beg to support the Amendment. If the hon. Member for Mid-Armagh is so keen in the expression of the views of the people of Ulster upon this question of Conscription, it is a strange thing he has not attempted to hold a meeting in his own constituency for the purpose of saying so. No, Sir; I happen to know the situation probably as well as the hon. Baronet. Whenever we hear it urged, as it was by the right hon. Gentleman, that Ireland is in a state of suspended self-government, it recalls to my mind that state of suspension that was meted out to the men of No King Street, to the Skeffingtons, and the other people in the City of Dublin. That is what has made the people of Ireland to a large extent change their view in reference to this Government. When we are given a promise that the Director will consider the case of Ireland one has brought back to their memory the fact that similar guarantees have been previously given in this House. What have we seen carried out? At this moment you have the entire labour population in Ireland up in arms against National Service being applied to the country. They feel it is the thin end of the wedge. In experience they have found that to be the case. I can inform the Chief Secretary, and others, that if they press this Bill upon Ireland they have got more in their noggin this time than they will be able to sup for the next three months. I trust sincerely that in the interests of the Government of the country, pending a settlement of the Home Rule question, that they will leave Ireland alone, and not proceed to further irritation.

Question put, "That the Clause be read a second time."

Bill reported, with an Amendment; as amended, to be considered upon Monday next.

Forward to