§ The Military Service (Conventions with Allied States) Act, 1917, shall have effect as if for references to the Military Service Ant, 1916, and to the Military Service Acts, 1916 and 1917, there were substituted references to the Military Service Acts, 1916 to 1918, and this Act, and, in the event of this Act being extended to Ireland, as if for the reference to Great Britain there were substituted a reference to the United Kingdom, and the Military Service (Conventions with Allied States) Act, 1917, shall apply accordingly, subject, as regards any country and the subjects of any country to which that Act has been applied before the passing of this Act, to such modifications as may be prescribed.
§ Mr. T. M. HEALY
I beg to move, to leave out the words "and, in the event of 154 this Act being extended to Ireland, as if for the reference to Great Britain there were substituted a reference to the United Kingdom,"
This Clause deals with Conventions with Allied States, and it raises the whole question of the concurrence of America in this War, and America, I take it, will come under that as one of the Allied States covered by the Act of 1917. In dealing with America the Government, so late as 7 and 8 George V., Chap. 26, did not consider it necessary to bring in Ireland, which is a very remarkable and extra- 155 ordinary fact. That is not all. In addition to this fact, the contingent manner in which the words are used showed that the Government had not made up their minds. Surely these are not very apt words for a Statute. Why do they say in this Clause, if they had made up their minds as to including Ireland, "In the event of this Act being extended to Ireland"? There is a very important reason for referring to this matter. Take the case of the Irish priests in Rome. We had a proposal before the Government that these Irish priests in Rome should not be interfered with by the Italian Government, and we obtained from the Italian Government an undertaking that Irish priests in the College of Rome were not to be conscripted. That is one of the Conventions we had with Italy. But, as I understand now, the Government has proposed an extension of this Bill to Ireland, and you are expecting the Italian Government to seize upon Irish ecclesiastics who are at this moment in the Irish College in Rome. I do not say for a moment that this matter is entirely clear, but surely in a question of this kind we are entitled to know where the Government stand. They have the whole of to-night, from half-past nine, for the discussion of this matter. We have been unable to extract any information from the Government. Even the Member for Trinity College, with all his power and with the magic spell which he can throw over every Member of this House, was unable to extract any information from the Government. This reference in the Clause to Ireland is doubtful, and we find that the Act is being extended to Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman made the extraordinary statement to-night that they did not intend to have the Registration Act applied to Ireland, because we did not do it in 1915. I find that the National Registration Act does apply to Ireland. It not only applies to Ireland, but compels the County Councils to strike a rate in the event of the provision made by the Treasury not being sufficient, and the Irish ratepayers have to pay a blood tax to carry out the registration. We expect some statement from the Government as to the exact position in which we stand with regard to Ireland. Is the Act to be used to enable the Italian Government to conscript Irish priests in the Irish College at Rome, although the Italian Government have given a pledge not to 156 do so. I can only say, having regard to the relations between the Vatican and Ireland, that it is very unfortunate by reason of the fact that these Irish priests have gone out to Rome under the pledge of the Government that they were perfectly safe, and that the Italian Government would not conscript them. Are those priests to be suddenly drawn into the ranks of the Italian Government by reason of the passing of this Clause. I do think we are entitled to a statement upon the subject. If the right hon. Gentleman gets up and says that I have entirely misunderstood the application of the Clause, then I must refer to the fact that we cannot extract from the Government any kind of information with regard to what concerns Ireland. It is no fault of mine, and I only point out that we have now plenty of time to discuss—as there are no more Amendments—the relations of the Italian Government to Irish ecclesiastics.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
In the earlier part of our proceedings this afternoon there was a rather unseemly incident in the House caused by the Chief Secretary for Ire land coming here to answer questions with regard to matters affecting Ireland, and the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary complained that some discourtesy was shown to him. That I am sure was not intended so far as he was concerned. He gave us no assurance, and I understand he was about to give us an assurance on all these questions which so deeply affected Ireland, including the question of the hon. and learned Gentle man who has just sat down, that we would have information conveyed to us by the only person who, in our judgment, is competent to give an answer to these questions, and that is the Chief Secretary for Ireland. Nothing would rejoice me more than to have the view of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Blackfriars Division of Glasgow (Mr. Barnes), who is the Labour Member of the War Cabinet. It seems to me a most extraordinary position of affairs that the only man who represents democracy in the Cabinet has been muzzled on this question. Everybody knows —
§ Mr. DEVLIN
It may not have anything to do with the Amendment, but it has a great deal to do with our attitude 157 on the Amendment, and I certainly must press for some declaration from the Chief Secretary for Ireland on this question so far as it affects Ireland. The Chief Secretary could have risen after the Home Secretary had spoken, but he did not do so because, in my judgment, he feels just as we feel profoundly, that this is a criminal blunder on the part of the Government.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The remarks of the hon. Member have nothing whatever to do with the Amendment before the Committee.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
I would like to ask you, Sir, with your characteristic courtesy, whether you can suggest to me some plan by which we can get the Chief Secretary for Ireland and the Labour representative in the War Cabinet—one representing Ireland and the other democracy—to come here and tell us what their views are?
§ Sir G. CAVE
Hon. Members from Ireland rarely speak without any purpose in their mind, but I am not quite sure with what purpose they are now speaking. I am sure, however, that their intention was not to enlighten the Committee on the subject of this Clause. We are discussing a Clause which applies the Statute to the Military Service (Conventions with Allied States) Act, 1917.
§ 10.0 P.M.
§ Sir G. CAVE
It relates to Conventions with Allied States. The hon. and learned Member for Cork has made a number of statements with which I cannot agree. The effect of these words is that, whereas the Act of 1916 provides certain protection for the subjects of those countries resident in Great Britain, this Clause extends the same protection to subjects resident in Ireland. It is those words which the right hon. Gentleman wishes to strike out, and he does it without explaining what the effect of the Amendment would be. In what he said with regard to the priests in Rome he is entirely mistaken. The present Convention with Italy makes special provision for the protection of Irish priests in Rome, and you cannot by any Statute today modify that agreement. The only effect of this Bill if passed will be to extend the agreement to Ireland, and the same protection will be given to the 158 priests there. I really think the other points raised by the hon. and learned Gentlemen are not worth a long discussion, and that we had better get on with something better worth discussion.
§ Mr. HEALY
This is common knowledge, that because Ireland was not under Conscription, and because clergymen were not conscripted in England or Scotland, His Majesty's Foreign Office prevailed on the Italian Government not to take the Levites—to use an inclusive term—in the colleges in Rome from both Scotland and. Ireland. That was the subject of a Convention, as to which the argument was "We in England are not seizing the priests, and Ireland is not under the Act at all." I see now the astuteness of the right hon. Gentleman in getting up on Clause 4, which had nothing to do with the priests, and announcing, before he came to this Convention, the fact that he had entirely changed his mind since last Friday.
§ Sir G. CAVE
The point as to the ministers of religion was raised by one of the hon. Gentleman below the Gangway, and my answer was to the speech of his.
§ Mr. HEALY
I recognise the great courtesy of the right hon. Gentleman. He was answering a Welsh Member. Twenty Irish Members got up, and one Welsh Member was able to persuade him. I now come to this point. Can any man deny that the Italian Government, because of the fact that Conscription did not apply to Ireland, allowed the Irish priests and Levites in the colleges in Rome to remain unseized for the Italian Army? Very well. We now, therefore, want to see that there is nothing of a boomerang effect in the passage of this Bill on the minds of the Italian Government. Many, many, Irish priests have left Ireland for Rome since that provision was made by the Italians, and they have gone there with a complete sense of protection by the Italian Government, and that the Italian Government would keep its word. You are now extending to Ireland this provision. "But," the right hon. Gentleman might say, "we now get up and state that we will not extend it to priests," Yes. but the Italian Government has respected the case of ecclesiastical students, and the right hon. Gentleman in his statement did not say a word on the question of monks or ecclesiastical students, but confined himself to clergymen in Holy Orders, 159 if I rightly apprehended him. Surely, in regard to this Bill, which has been drafted by those determined to keep the facts from the House of Commons—that has been their whole intention—is it too much to ask for that? I have only put down this Amendment for that purpose, not saying for a moment that it is of the most perfect character. Let us agree that it is not of the most perfect kind; but am I not entitled to this statement from the 'Government, that His Majesty's Government will, notwithstanding the passage of Conscription for Ireland, maintain, as regards the kingdom of Italy and as regards Scottish and Irish Catholic ecclesiastical students, the same rights that they had as if this Act had not come into operation. I want to acknowledge the fairness oh the Government in the passing of this Act, and I want to acknowledge the fairness of the Italian Government. Do not have it for a moment supposed that I desire to criticise either the Italian Government, which has acted most honourably and fairly in this respect, or the Foreign Office which gave us the protection we sought. That is all right. All I ask from the Government, in spite of the strong hold the Orange Party has over them, is that they will not allow the passage of this Act for Ireland to affect these few Irish ecclesiastics. Let us suppose they amount to three or four thouand men.
§ Mr. HEALY
Who is stopping them? I have no intention of stopping any gentlemen who want to fight. I am not dealing with some of them, but with all of them, and all I ask is that this provision, which is the law respected by the Italian Government, should be continued. I have put down this Amendment with that object. I know the Orange Party is dragging at the right hon. Gentleman's tail, but I cannot help it. I ask him to make a statement that the passage of this Act will not affect those gentlemen in these foreign colleges.
§ Sir G. CAVE
We will certainly do our best to secure that. The hon. and learned Gentleman will remember the exception to which he refers applies to the Scottish priests in Rome—
§ Sir G. CAVE
To the Scottish, although Scotland is already under Conscription. In the same way I am sure it will apply to Ireland when Ireland is under Conscription. I will certainly do my best to secure that.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.