§ Lord EDMUND TALBOT (Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury)
I beg to move "That this House do now adjourn."
§ The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Lloyd George)
I feel that I have a task which is about as difficult a task as any Minister has ever been confronted with. It is to attempt to compose an old family quarrel, a quarrel which has degenerated many a time into a blood feud—a difficult task under any circumstances, but difficult indeed immediately after such a discreditable outrage as that which was perpetrated in Dublin on Friday last.. An atmosphere charged with the reek of attempted assassination is not a favourable one in which to promote a measure of reconciliation. The dastardly attack on a brave Irish soldier, who by his gallantry had added lustre to the renown of his race, was not merely most cowardly, but one of the most foolish incidents in the history of political crime. Unfortunately, such incidents have happened before at inopportune moments.
When—in 1882 I think it was—Lord Frederick Cavendish had been sent over with a message of peace and reconciliation, there came that terrible crime at the memory of which we still shudder, and for the moment the path of reconciliation became difficult. The history of Ireland is full of these untoward incidents. I am glad that the chiefs of the Catholic Church in Ireland have lost no time, not merely in denouncing, but in denouncing in unmeasured laguage, this outrage. The experience of the past has shown us that these murder societies that thrive now and again are small and disreputable. They choose opportunities like these because they do not seek reconciliation.
1169 They want to make reconciliation impossible. To turn back when we started on that path would be to play into their hands. It makes the task of statesmanship more difficult, but it also makes the test of statesmanship more real. On similar occasions in the past the British Parliament has declined to allow its judgment to be swept away even by honest indignation. It would be playing the game of those miscreants to take any other course now. They, fortunately, missed the object of their crime. They inflicted a serious injury alone upon the interests of the country they were pretending to serve.
I should like to review shortly the present position in reference to self-government for Ireland. The first fact of which the House will take note is that there is a Home Rule Act on the Statute Book. Unless it be either postponed, repealed, or altered, it comes automatically into operation the moment the War ceases. That is the first fact of which the House will take cognisance. Legislation, therefore, is indispensable. It may be asked, "Why not allow it to come into operation?" I am afraid it is no answer to that question to say, "Because no one wants it. There is no section in Ireland that wants the Act of 1914."That is not a sufficient answer, because I am sorry to say that I cannot think of any proposals that you could put forward from this box which would be in the least degree possible or practicable or acceptable to British opinion at the present moment, which have any chance of acceptance now, in the present position of Irish affairs. We must get that fact right into our minds. Therefore, we must take our responsibility, and propose what we think is right and fair and Just. Settlement will be found, not in the enactment, but in the working. There are two reasons why the Act of 1914 is inapplicable. The first is that it is not workable without fundamental alteration. Its finance would not work, and there are some other provisions that would not work without considerable amendment. That, I think, is acknowledged on all hands. The second reason is this. When it was placed on the Statute Book, its promoter gave an undertaking that it should not be brought into operation until an Act of Parliament had been carried dealing with the peculiar position of -Ulster. That was a definite undertaking, given with the assent of the Irish 1170 Nationalist representatives. It was given by Mr. Asquith. Therefore we cannot contemplate the allowing of the Act of 1914 to come into operation without changes adapted to the altered condition since 1914, and changes that would deal with the position of Ulster, which has been recognised by the Leaders of all parties in this House.
Now what is the problem we have to deal with? There are two basic facts that lie at the foundation of any structure which you have to build up in Ireland. They are not pleasant ones, but they are still facts. The first is that three-quarters of the population of Ireland are not merely governed without their consent, but manifest bitter hostility to the Government. It is no use seeking the reason; that is the fact, It is the one country in Europe—one must state these facts, however unpleasant they are—it is the one country in Europe, except Russia, where the classes who, elsewhere, are on the side of law and order, are out of sympathy with the machinery of law and order. What makes this more serious is the fact that it is not due to material grievances. I remember when it used to be argued that, if you could improve the social and economic conditions in Ireland, if you could get rid of agrarian troubles, if you improved the housing, if you created a peasant proprietary, if you built railways, if you constructed harbours—if you did everything that was possible in order to make Ireland as prosperous as the conditions would allow, all this objection to British rule would vanish. What has happened? Ireland has never been so prosperous—
§ The PRIME MINISTER
—as she is to-day. Scores of millions—I am not sure I could not say hundreds of millions—have been expended lavishly by the British taxpayer upon making Ireland contented and happy. The vast majority of the cultivators of Ireland are the possessors of their own soil. You have houses built — comfortable cottages for workmen—at the expense of the British taxpayer. A man who travelled through Ireland a generation ago, and revisited that country, would not know it to-day. It is completely transformed and transfigured. But the fact remains that Ireland has never been so alienated from British rule as she is to-day. Therefore, 1171 the grievance, such as it is, is not a material one. Irishmen claim the right to control their own domestic concerns, without interference from Englishmen, Scotsmen, or Welshmen. That is a fundamental fact. They fought for it for hundreds of years, and they never held that view more tenaciously than they do to-day.
What is the second fact? It is also a fundamental fact that you have a considerable section of the people of Ireland who are just as opposed to Irish rule as the majority of Irishmen are to British rule. Both those facts must be taken into account. The first is, perhaps, disagreeable to one body of Members of this House, and the second disagreeable, perhaps, to another body of Members of the House. It is not our business to seek for facts agreeable to anybody, but to seek for the facts, whether they be agreeable or not. In the North-East of Ireland we have a population —a fairly solid population, a homogeneous population—alien in race, alien in sympathy, alien in religion, alien in tradition, alien in outlook from the rest of the population of Ireland, and it would be an outrage on the principle of self-government to place them under the rule of the remainder of the population. In the North-East of Ireland, if that were done, you would inevitably alienate the best elements from the machinery of law and order. I do not say you would produce the same result, but it would recreate exactly the same position which we have tried to eliminate in the South. This is an important point. It has been challenged on such a scale, the case for it has been so little stated outside the United Kingdom, that. I think it vital I should dwell for a short time upon it this evening. It is riot because I attach more importance to it than I do to the first proposition. It is because the first proposition is accepted outside—in the Dominions, in the United States of America, in European countries. The second has not been stated, and it is not known. I shall state it, not in my own words, but in two quotations, from witnesses who certainly are not biassed in favour of the North-Eastern part of Ireland. The first is a quotation from a very remarkable letter written in June, 1916—quite recently—by Father O'Flannigan, a very able Irish Catholic priest, who, I believe, afterwards became Vice-President of Simi Fein. I do not know whether he 1172 holds that position still. No one can, doubt, at any rate, that he is in sympathy with the Nationalist claim in Ireland. This is what he said upon this particular subject:If we reject Home Rule rather than agree to the exclusion of the -Unionist part of Ulster, what case have we to put before the world? We can point out that Ireland is an island with a definite geographical bc[...]dary. That argument might be all right if we were appealing to a number of island nationalities that had themselves definite geographical boundaries. Appealing, as we are, to Continenta[...]l nations with shifting boundaries; that argument will have no force whatever. National and geographical boundaries scarcely ever coincide. Geography would make one nation of Spain and Portugal; history has made two of them. Geography did its best to make one nation of Norway and Sweden; history has succeeded in making two of them. Geography has scarcely anything to say to the number of nations 'upon the North American continent; history has done the whole thing. If a man were to try and construct, a political map of Europe out of its physical map, he would find himself groping in the dark—Geography has worked hard to make one nation out of Ireland; history has worked against it. The island of Ireland and the national unit of Ireland simply do not coincide. In the last analysis the test of nationality is the wish of the people. A man who settles in America becomes an American by transferring his love and allegiance to the United States. The Unionists of Ulster have never transferred their love and allegiance to Ireland. They may be Irelanders, using a geographical term, but they are not Irishmen in the national sense. They love the hills of Antrim in the same way as we love the plains of Roscommon, but the centre of their patriotic enthusiasm is London, whereas the centre of ours is We claim the right to decide what is to be (air nation. We refuse them the same right. We are putting ourselves before the world it the same light as the man in the Gospel who was [...]ergiven the ten thousand talents, and who proceeded immediately to throttle his reighb[...]r for one hundred pence. After three hundred years, England has begun to despair of compelling us to love her by force, and so we are anxious to start where England left off, and we are going to compel Antrim and Down to love us by force.That is a very remarkable statement, and I quote it not merely because it is a forcible, pregnant, and eloquent statement of the case, hut because no man can say that it conies from the lips of a reviler of Ireland, or of a man who has no sympathy for national and Catholic Ireland. I think I must trouble the House with one other short quotation, because it is so much better that this testimony should come from the lips of those whose right to speak on the subject is not to be challenged, and whose sentiments towards Ireland have not been. disputed even by the strongest Nationalists. I remember, in this House, once uttering a sentiment of 1173 this kind, and I was criticised when I made the statement, very strongly, and not altogether from the Nationalist benches. I am very glad to be able to give this quotation from Father O'Flannigan. Now I come to the next quotation, from another very able Irish priest, who is a professor of theology in the Maynooth College, Father MacDonald, I think his name is—Were Ireland made a Republic, fully independent of Great Britain, it seems to me that she would be hound to allow Home Rule to the North-East corner, on the principles that underlie the claim we make for Home Rule in the United Kingdom, which regard as well founded. The Protestants of Ulster differ from the majority in the rest of the island, not only in religion, but in race, mentality, and culture generally. They are at once homogeneous and hetrogeneous —homogeneous in their districts, of which many are contiguous: hetrogeneous as compared with the rest of Ireland. A minority in Ireland, they are a majority in the North-East corner, and, therefore, on the principles that we have been advocating, are entitled to Home Rule.These wo quotations state the case which I have many a time attempted to put front this box in favour of the separate treatment of Ulster. If they unite, they must do it of their own accord. To force union is to promote disunion. There may be advantages in union—I do not deny it. The geographical conditions are such as to make desirable. There is an advantage in mingling races and religions so as to contribute varied ideas so as to have a different outlook; and there is undoubtedly an advantage in having the industrial and the agricultural population working side by side in the same Parliament. But that is a matter for those populations, and no one else, to decide. Lord Durham attempted to force Quebec and Ontario to join Upper Canada in the same Parliament. The plan had to be abandoned. Separate Parliaments had to be given to them, and it was only on that condition that confederation was accomplished. At the beginning, by forcing them together, you created antagonism. The moment you had separation, confederatian was possible.
The third fundamental condition is that any arrangement by which Ireland is severed from the United Kingdom, either nominally or in substance and in fact, would be fatal to the interests of both. You have only got to look at what occurred in the late War to realise what would happen. If Ireland had been a separate unit, with a separate Parliament, s hostile republic there—
§ The PRIME MINISTER
You could not guarantee that it would not be. A. hostile republic there, or even an unfriendly one might very well have been fatal to the cause of the Allies. The submarine trouble was bad enough, in all conscience, to overcome. There were many moments that were full of anxiety, not from fear—because those who were, dealing with it were men of great courage—but from a knowledge of the difficulties. But if we had had there a land. over whose harbours and inlets we had no control, you might have had a situation full of peril; a situation that might very well have jeopardised the life of this country. Time area of submarine activity might have been extended beyond the limits of control, and Britain and her Allies might have been cut off from the Dominions and from the United States of America. We cannot possibly run the risk of a possibility such as that. And it would be equally fatal to the interests of Ireland. Irish trade would decline, for Irish trade interests are intertwined with those of Great. Britain. Britain is Ireland's best customer. It would be fatal to Irish interests as well. If Great Britain, with all its infinite resources, cannot govern a hostile Ireland, I do not see how Ireland could control a. hostile North-East, with a great population of the same race, religion and interests, across a narrow channel. There would be trouble, there would be mischief. There might be bloodshed, and then the whole black chapter of misunderstanding between Great Britain and Ireland would be rewritten over again. We cannot enter upon that course, whatever the cost. I think it is right to say here, in the face of the demands which have been put forward from Ireland, with apparent authority, that any attempt at secession will be fought with the same determination, with the same resources, with the same resolve as the Northern States of America put into the fight against the Southern States. It is important that that should be known, not merely throughout the world, but in Ireland itself.
Subject to those three conditions, we propose that self-government should be conferred upon the whole of Ireland, and our plan is based on the recognition of those three fundamental facts: First, the impossibility of severing Ireland from the United Kingdom; second, the opposition 1175 of Nationalist Ireland to British rule in Ireland; and third, the opposition of the population of North-East Ulster to Irish rule. The first involves the recognition that Ireland must remain an integral part of the United Kingdom. The second involves the conferring of self-government upon Ireland in all its domestic concerns. The third involves the setting up of two Parliaments, and not one, in Ireland. That is the first proposal which we mean to recommend to Parliament—that there should be two Legislatures set up in Ireland. I will deal first of all with the 7.0 p.m. areas. One will be the Parliament of Southern Ireland; the other will be the Parliament of Northern Ireland. There are four alternative proposals which have been discussed with regard to boundaries. The first is that the whole of Ulster should form one unit, and the other three Provinces should form the other units of self-government. The objection to that is that it would leave a large area where there is a predominantly Catholic and Celtic population in complete sympathy with the Southern population. The second suggestion is county option. The objection to that is that it would leave solid communities of Protestants who are in complete sympathy with the North-Eastern section of Ireland outside, under a Government to which they are rootedly hostile. It is sometimes impossible to avoid that, but it is desirable to avert it where practicable, and no boundary has ever been fixed either in the United States or the Dominions by that process, The next suggestion is that these North-Eastern counties should form a unit. There is the same objection to that, because there are solid Catholic communities in at least two of these counties which are co-terminous with the Southern population; and it would be undesirable from the point of view of the North-Eastern Province to attach them to the Ulster Parliament. The fourth suggestion is that we should ascertain what is the homogeneous North-Eastern section, and constitute it into a separate area, taking the six counties as a basis, eliminating, where practicable, the Catholic communities, whilst including Protestant communities from the coterminous Catholic counties of Ireland, in order to produce an area as homogeneous as it is possible to achieve under these circumstances. So much for the areas which will be the basis of the constitution of these two Parliaments.
1176 I now come to two additional features of the Government proposal which differentiate it from the Act of 1914, and even from the American precedent. We propose that every opportunity shall be given to Irishmen, if they desire it, to establish unity, but the decision must rest with them. If they agree, it will require no Act of the Imperial Parliament to enable them to accomplish it. There are two proposals which we have in mind in order to attain that, object. The first is that there shall be constituted from the outset a Council of Ireland, consisting of twenty representatives elected by each of the two Irish Legislatures. This Council will be given the powers of private Bill legislation from the outset; but otherwise we propose to leave to the two Irish Legislatures complete discretion to confer upon it any powers they choose within the range of their own authority. The Council, therefore, will not only serve as an invaluable link between the two parts of Ireland—an Assembly in which the leaders of the -North and of the South may come together, and discuss the affairs of their common country—but it constitutes the obvious agency from which the two Parliaments can, without the surrender of their own independence, secure that certain corn won services, which it is highly undesirable to divide, can be administered jointly as a single Irish service. I will give you one or two illustrations. The Government does not propose in the Bill to lay down what services it thinks should be so controlled. It proposes to leave this matter to be settled by the two Irish Legislatures themselves.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
Oh, yes, by agreement. Nothing could be accomplished except by agreement between the two. For instance, take transportation—railways and canals. There are great trunk systems which, I believe, serve both areas. If the two Irish Legislatures agreed, they could give the control to this National Irish Council. I shall have a word to say later on with regard to this proposal. But that is an illustration of the kind of subject that might very well be delegated by the two Irish Legislatures to this Council, which represents both; but it can only be delegated by agreement on the part of both Legislatures.
Now I come to the second proposal, which we have put, forward with a view to 1177 enabling Ireland to attain unity if both sections desire it. We propose to clothe the Irish Legislatures with full constituent powers, so that they will be able, without further reference to the Imperial Parliament, and by identical legislation, to create a single Irish Legislature, discharging all or any of the powers not specifically reserved to the Imperial Parliament. It will then rest with the Irish people themselves to determine whether they want union, and when they want union. The British Parliament will have no further say in the matter. If the Irish electorate so determine, they can return a majority in each province of Ireland with a mandate, even at the very first election, to bring about a union of the North and the South. The Government propose that certain additional taxing powers should be handed over to an Irish Parliament as soon as Irish union has been accomplished. With regard to Irish representation in this Parliament, we propose to adhere to the scheme of 1914—that is, a reduction of the numbers to forty-two Members for all purposes.
I next come to the powers of these two Legislatures. We propose to proceed on the basis of the principle of the Act of 1914—that is, of reserving powers to the Imperial Parliament, and leaving the residue of the powers to the two Legislatures. What I call the Federal or Imperial powers which should be reserved to this Parliament will include the Crown, peace and war, foreign affairs, the Army and the Navy, defence, treason, trade outside Ireland, navigation (including merchant shipping), wireless and cables. I shall have something to say later on about the Post Office, which we only propose to transfer to the Irish Parliament when there is complete agreement between North and South on the subject. Meanwhile the Post Office will be reserved to the Imperial Parliament. Then there will be also reserved coinage, trade marks, lighthouses, the higher judiciary, until agreement has been established by the two Parliaments as to how they are to be appointed.
§ Sir E. CARSON
When my right hon. Friend says "judiciary," does he mean that there is to be a judiciary for each Parliamentary area?
§ The PRIME MINISTER
No; it is proposed that all judges shall be appointed by the Imperial authorities until there is an agreement between the two Legisla 1178 tures as to their appointment. I do not mean magistrates.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
The Imperial, Parliament will have to make arrangements with regard to the areas to which they are to be allocated, but the appointments will be Imperial until there is an agreement between the two Parliaments or in the National Council as to the appointments. These powers correspond to the powers reserved wherever there is a federal constitution, whether it is in America or on the Continent of Europe. The power of the two Irish Parliaments will be very considerable. There will be full control over education, local government, land policy, agriculture, roads and bridges, transportation—including railways and canals—old age pensions, insurance—and under the Act of 1914 these were reserved to the imperial Parliament —municipal aflairs, housing, local judiciary, hospitals, licensing, all machinery for the maintenance of law and order, with, the exception referred to in connection with the higher judiciary, and, of course, the Army and Navy.
§ Mr. A, HENDERSON
What will be the position of the two Irish Parliaments with regard to labour legislation?
§ The PRIME MINISTER
Labour was not a reserved power. Labour legislation also will be dealt with by the local Legislatures. I come to the question of the Constabulary. The two Irish Legislatures must be responsible for the maintenance of law and order. It would be idle to set up Legislatures in a country with administrations which are not responsible for the administration of the law. It is the first duty of any Government. There is no-Provincial or National Legislature in the world which has not this as one of its primary duties. If that duty be not discharged, then that Government has no-right any longer to remain a Government. It is inconceivable that that should happen. It is equally inconceivable that it should be tolerated. But no administration could undertake the responsibility for order unless the machinery for maintaining order were placed at its disposal. If is, therefore, proposed not to retain the control of the Police in Imperial hands beyond three years. The Government propose to give security to members of the Police Force and to Irish Civil servants by 1179 making provision whereby their pension rights are secured on the Irish Revenue in the event of either dismissal or resignation.
I now come to the Post Office. Under the Act of 1914 this became an Irish service. If Ireland is divided into two areas, there are administrative difficulties which, we are advised, would be so serious that we have come to the conclusion that it would be preferable to. postpone the transfer of the Post Office to Irish control until such time as the two Parliaments unite in asking that it should be transferred to the control of the Council of Ireland, or to any other common machinery that may be set up for the purpose. There will be searching Clauses for the protection of the rights of minorities in Ireland.
I next come to the very difficult, but all important problem, of finance. I think the best method of approach to this subject will be that I should take the proposals of 1914 as the basis of explanation. Those who are familiar with the subject will be better able to follow the scheme of the Government if they begirt with their knowledge of the Act of 1914. The Act of 1914 transferred no existing taxes. There was power to impose new taxes—if anyone could find them; but they were not to be substantially the same in character as any of the Imperial taxes. There Was power to vary Imperial taxes within limitations. The Home Rule Administration was financed under that Act by a lump sum equivalent to the cost of the Irish local services—a lump sum taken out of the Imperial Exchequer. Then there was provision for a surplus. To have deprived Ireland of the right of taxation, and simply given her a sum of money equal to what the services cost at that time, with-out any margin, would have starved the Parliament into bankruptcy. There was a margin provided. There was a surplus of £500,000 which, after three years, was to be reduced by £50,000 a year, until it reached the figure of £200,000. I need hardly say this Was an obviously inadequate figure. One can see now that that surplus was like a sand castle, which would have disappeared with the first lap of the tide. Since then we have had a great war. That has produced a twofold consequence, which has altered the whole character of the problem. The first consequence is that the National Debt has-increased eleven or twelvefold. The 1180 second is that the cost of all the services is doubled owing to the depreciation of the value of money; and taxation has enormously increased. It has increased throughout the world, and the British Empire is no exception.
Under the Act of 1914 there was, so far as I can recollect, no contribution towards Imperial Revenue—the maintenance of the Empire. That is a supreme injustice, especially under present conditions, to the taxpayer of Great Britain. Irishmen throughout the world are bearing their share of the burdens of this great War. It was undertaken in order to emancipate a small Catholic nationality on the continent of Europe. It has achieved the emancipation of several Catholic nationalities—Poland, Czecho-Slovakia, Croatia, among others. Irishmen in the United States of America bear their burden of taxation as a result of the War. In Canada, in Australia, in Great Britain, they do the same. I am sure Irishmen in Ireland would be ashamed not to bear their Share for the achievement of purposes which are so much in sympathy with the whole of their ideals. How is that to be ascertained? There are two alternative methods of arriving at the contribution to Imperial taxation and of the sum available for Irish local services. The first is the method of the 1914 Act. That is to transfer a lump sum equal to the cost of the services. This has the advantage, among others, of postponing the necessity of fixing the contribution until the normal is reached. But there are conspicuous disadvantages. There is one to which at the present moment, great weight should be attached. it is especially important during the first years of the experiment—before Ireland has felt its way to satisfaction arid contentment with the new system—to remember that the Machinery for the enforcement of the law will be in the hands of Irishmen—the machinery for the enforcement of the law against those who do not pay duties and taxes. During those first years it will be a temptation if the amount which is paid to the Irish local services be not dependent in the least upon the amount of taxation that is collected in Ireland. That is a temptation that ought not to he put in the way of any country, especially in the condition of unrest which will probably prevail in Ireland for, at any rate, the first few years of the trial of the establishment of self-government.
1181 The Government, therefore, suggest another method, which would give the Irish Government the whole advantage of the duties and taxes raised in Ireland in excess of a fair contribution to the Imperial service. Commission after Commission has bean appointed to ascertain what is a fair contribution, and it is quite obvious that no fair apportionment is possible so long as the expenditure is abnormal. Therefore, we propose to take the present yield of the existing taxes as the basis, and for a short period—say two years —to assume that a fair contibution is the amount contributed, after the deduction of local services, in the year 1919–20. There will, in addition to that, be a free gift, in order to finance the Irish Parliament, or rather to give it a margin for development and improvement, but I will come to that later. I am now dealing only with the basis of contribution.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
Yes, I mean both Parliaments. There will be the same basis of contribution for both. I think the best plan would be if I were to take the actual figures—to quote the famous phrase, I am using figures by way of illustration—because the figures, that is, the figures of the present year, are not normal, and cannot be treated as normal, but it gives an idea of what the Government have in their minds. The total revenue for 1919–20 derived from Ireland is £41,438,000—in so far as we can estimate it. The local services, including old age pensions and insurances, come to £12,750,000. The reserved services, including Police, Post Office, and Revenue Departments, bring that up to £19,550,000. Now the House of Commons has incurred additional liabilities under two or three heads in the course of this Session—one of them was incurred on Friday afternoon. They are in respect of 'services which are local services in Ireland. One is old age pensions, another is education, another is housing, another is health insurance. The last has not been incurred, but it is one of our proposals, and an addition will have to be made for the contribution to that service. Then there is another item which the House must take into account. Under the Irish Land Purchase Acts, agreements have been entered into and signed which 1182 in the aggregate come to, I think, £17,500,000. Those are Imperial obligations. The Imperial Government has undertaken to put them through in terms which are very favourable to the Irish tenants, under conditions that are extremely unfavourable, at the present eminent, Lo the Exchequer. Still, that is the agreement, the bond, and the Imperial Parliament will, I have no doubt, honour it. This will cost another £500,000.
That brings the total Irish expenditure up to £23,500,000—expenditure for purely Irish services. Deducting that from the total revenue of £41,500,000, it will leave a contribution of £18,000,000 per annum towards Imperial expenditure. That is the amount which at the present moment the Treasury derive from Ireland, and which can be applied to the cost of the National Debt, the Army, the Navy, trade, and running the machinery of the Empire, and war pensions, of which there are a considerable number in Ireland. Before the end of the two years' period, a joint Exchequer Board will settle the fair contribution for the future, having regard to the relative taxable capacities of North and South Ireland and of the United Kingdom. That sum will hold for five years, and will then be open to revision. The Joint Exchequer Board will consist of an equal number of representatives of the United Kingdom and the two Irish Parliaments, with an independent chairman, This measure does justice to the two Governments in. Ireland, is based upon taxable capacity; and includes a means of revision. There is also room for economy in local services, the cost of which in many respects are high owing to unsatisfactory conditions in Ireland. These economies will inure to the advantage of the two Irish Governments.
I come now to the surplus which we propose to recommend to the House of Commons should be placed at the disposal of the two Irish Parliaments, for the purpose of improvements and developments in Ireland. No doubt there are many services which stand greatly in need of it, such as education, the payment of teachers, and the pensions of teachers. Then, no doubt, public opinion in Ireland will expect that some money should be spent upon industrial education, economic, and agricultural development. I think it is desirable that the Imperial Parliament, having regard to the past of Ireland, for which we are largely respon- 1183 sible in this House, should deal generously with the two Irish Legislatures, so that they should not start with crippled finances. I believe in the end it will be wise expenditure for Great Britain if we can achieve contentment in Ireland by this process.
We propose, first of all, to deal with the initial expenditure which the two Parliaments must necessarily incur before we set the machinery going. It is proposed that there should be a grant to each Government of a single sum of £1,000,000, to cover the initial expenditure of setting up the machinery of government in the two areas. There ought also to be some provision of a permanent character, and the Government propose to provide this surplus out of the land annuities in Ireland. These annuities at the present moment amount to £3,000,000 per annum. In the Southern part of Ireland they have reached the figure of £2,400,000, and in the Northern part of Ireland the amount is £560,000. When the agreed purchases are completed there will be another £600,000, but I am not in a position to give the proportion between North and South in regard to that figure. The proposal of the Government is that these annuities should be handed to the Irish Governments is a free gift, for the purpose of developments and improvements in Ireland, to be deducted out of the contribution; that these Governments should collect the annuities themselves and retain them, and that the Imperial Government should undertake the burden which is now cast upon it of paying interest and the redemption of stock.
The next point to be considered in the scheme of finance is the taxation proposals. Under the 1914 Act there were no taxing proposals, and no taxes which concerned the Irish Parliament. It is proposed that each Irish Parliament shall have the taxing powers which, broadly speaking, are equivalent to those of State Legislatures in the United States of America,. The power of taxation is, of course, limited. The revenue contributed and collected by the Irish Legislatures under this scheme consist of the Land Annuities, Death Duties, Stamps, Entertainment Taxes, Licensing Fees, and any new taxes that ingenuity can devise, subject to restrictions as to Income Tax, Customs, and Excise. These resources together, on the 1919–20 basis and including the annuities, amount to £6,250,000 per annum.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
Yes; it is for the whole of Ireland. The three great taxes—Income Tax, including Excess Profits, Customs, and Excise would be levied and collected imperially. May I just give quite shortly the considerations which have determined our judgment in this respect? The first is that the Imperial Government must have a substantial guarantee for the payment of the contribution. The second is the inherent difficulty of collecting these taxes, except by machinery common to the whole of the United Kingdom. Let me take the Income Tax first of all. As everybody knows, collection at the source is the sheet anchor of British finance, and that is why the income Tax in this country has been a greater triumph than any tax of the same kind in any other part of the world. If the Income Tax in Ireland were transferred to the Irish Legislature, no one would suffer more than Ireland itself, and certainly the Southern part of Ireland would suffer; but the Irish Parliament may levy a surcharge by way of additional Income Tax, and that corresponds to the power which is given in the States of America. But I say, quite frankly, it is very rarely exercised. The Irish Parliament may grant a levy to individuals out of their surplus revenue.
Now I come to Customs. The Government propose to follow the course which I think is pursued in every federal constitution in the world, by retaining these imperially. This is not merely a question of a Customs barrier between North and South; it is a question involving trade, industry, and commerce—considerations which might promote friction between North and South, and riot merely that, but between Ireland itself and the rest of the United Kingdom. When Ireland is united it will be open to the Imperial Parliament to review the situation, and consider whether it is desirable to give Customs to the United Irish Parliament, But meanwhile, we are of the opinion that, with a divided Ireland, it would be quite 'impractical to set up a Customs barrier between North and South.
With regard to the Excise, we should have been glad had it been possible to give this power of levying Excise Duties to the two Legislatures, because obviously you are ruling out a considerable source of revenue by not transferring it to 1185 the Irish Administration. But there is some difficulty there—that if you gave Excise powers to the two Irish Legislatures, it would involve a Customs barrier between the North and the South; and certainly until union is achieved between the North and the South it would be undesirable, and I thin impracticable, to give power with regard to the Excise to either of the two Legislatures. Therefore, the position will be that the Irish Government would receive and retain the whole of the proceeds of all taxes levied by itself and the whole of the surplus proceeds of all taxes and duties levied by the Imperial Government in its territories, after deducting a fair contribution towards Imperial expenditure. In addition, £1,000,000 will be handed over for establishment expenses in each Legislature; and lastly, there will be a free gift of the annuities resulting from the land already sold to the tenant.
Those are the outlines of the proposals which the Government intend to embody in a Bill, and to submit for the consideration of Parliament at the earliest available opportunity. I will appeal not merely to the House of Commons, but to Irishmen and to all who are concerned in this problem, to give these proposals fair consideration. This is not the time to waste on recriminations. I am not sure that they are ever useful; in fact, I am sure that they are not. They never contribute to a settlement of any problem, and they hinder and embarrass the settlement of every problem. There have been plenty of mistakes on both sides. One would imagine, listening to one side of the story, that all the mistakes have been on the other side. It is not true. No race or country attempting to govern another has ever succeeded in doing it without a long array of blunders, and we are constantly taunted with these mistakes up to this hour. I am not concerned for the moment to deny the charge. Have there been no mistakes on the other side? Has Irish leadership always been blameless? I do riot want to enter even into recent events. All I wish to say is that there have been mistakes, there have been follies, there have been crimes on both sides; and we want that chapter to be closed for ever. The question is not who is to blame, but how to set it right, and that is not easy to answer. The worst of it is that, looking around, I find no section that can accept anything except the impossible. There is no section in Ireland who will stand up and say: "We 1186 accept this," or "We accept that," except as to something which you cannot put through. Under those circumstances, the British Parliament must accept the responsibility to offer what wisdom and justice dictate, trusting to the working of those attributes to win acceptance and success in the end.
In solving the problem, it is important that both countries should realise thoroughly the limitations of acceptance on both sides. Unless Irishmen in Ireland have real control of their purely domestic affairs, it is idle to proceed. Shams exasperate. They provoke despair, and despair is the mother of disorder. On the other hand, let it be made quite clear once more that Britain cannot accept separation. It would be fatal to the security of these islands. It might be fatal to the life of Britain, and this is no time to advance it, when we have the, memories of the late War. The idea that Britain will be compelled by force to concede anything which would be unjust either to her own people or to anyone else, anything that would be fatal to her own life and security cannot be maintained. If men think that Britain can be forced, they cannot have read the story of the last five years.
There are many who will say, and I must admit with some appearance of reason and sense: "Is this the time to propose anything?" My answer is that there never has been, and there never will be, a perfectly acceptable time. There is a path of fatality which pursues the relations between the two countries, and makes them eternally at cross purposes. Sometimes Ireland demands too much; sometimes when Ireland is reasonable England offers too little; sometimes when Ireland is friendly England is sulky; sometimes when England has been friendly, Ireland had been angry; and sometimes when both Britain and Ireland seem to he approximating toward friendship, some untoward incident sweeps them apart, and the quarrel begins again. So, the fitting time has never been, and never will be. But it is always the right time to do the right thing; and Britain can afford now more than ever, and better than ever, to take the initiative. This is riot the time when anyone can suspect Britain of conceding from fear. No one can taunt the land that by its power destroyed the greatest military Empire in the world—largely through its own power—that it has simply quailed before a hind of wretched assassins. The world will know, 1187 if we pursue this course, that we are entering upon it prompted by that deep sense of justice and right that has sustained this land during these years of suffering.
§ Sir DONALD MACLEAN
My right hon. Friend, in his opening sentences, stated that he commenced his speech on this very important occasion under circumstances of difficulty almost unapproached by any Minister who at any time had endeavoured to deal with the question of Ireland. Undoubtedly that is so, and, speaking for those with whom I am accustomed to associate on this side of the House, we desire most emphatically to join in that statement of horror and indignation which he made at the recent attempt upon the life of the Viceroy of Ireland. A strange fatality, as he has more than once said in his speech, seems at critical times to dog the fate of Ireland. While I do not pretend to follow the Prime Minister in any detail through the proposals which he necessarily quite vaguely outlined, I desire at once to say that I welcome most warmly the fact that there was throughout his speech, as far as I could gauge it, an entire absence of any proposal for the further coercion of Ireland. I hope that was so, because I should imagine that the powers at present exercised by His Majesty's Government in Ireland are amply sufficient to deal with the situation, and I was hoping that one of the great differences between what happened in May, 1882, when Lord Frederick Cavendish and Mr. Burke were foully murdered, and this occasion was that we were proceeding with proposals for conciliation and mediation and for the amelioration of the whole situation instead of being launched into another great scheme of coercion and repression. Until I hear very definitely to the contrary I am going to hope and persist in that belief. What is the position with which we find ourselves confronted? My right hon. Friend is the third Prime Minister who has risen in his place on that side of the House and proposed a Home Rule measure: Mr. Gladstone, Mr. Asquith, and now himself. On both previous occasions the benches below the Gangway were packed with eager, ardent representatives, truly elected and constitutionally selected representatives, of Ireland. To-night not a single Irish Member is in his place.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
I withdraw that expression. My meaning was perfectly. obvious. My right hon. and learned Friend is himself an Irishman, and I am sure that he did not agree with two or three remarks which fell from the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister with regard to Ulster. I am quite certain that my right hon. and learned Friend and his colleagues below the Gangway reckon themselves as Irishmen in the full spirit of nationality. I certainly express my own personal regret that my lion. Friends, or some of them at any rate, are not present. After all, it is from this Parliament that any remedial measures mina issue. Here is the place that these things must be fought out, and I hope some day or other a happy issue w ill ensue. I want to emphasise one or two things that my right hon. Friend said at the beginning of his speech. Let us, he said, recognise the facts. That is of immense importance. First, you have the fact that the Home Rule Bill is on the Statute Book. That is a very important difference between this and the other occasions to which I have briefly referred. Then, of course, it is perfectly obvious that no measure can have the slightest nuance of success Ireland which is not to the fair-minded man demonstrably an improvement on the Act now on the Statute Book. The other point the right hon. Gentleman made is very striking and of great truth and importance. One of the monumental differences between the position now and when the first Home Rule Bill was passed was that were great agrarian grievances based upon great agrarian injustices. But since those days, and, indeed, since the introduction of the second Home Rule Bill, there has been a continuous development in the material prosperity of Ireland, so that now we find ourselves face to face with a position which never before existed in all the long ages during which men have sought to govern each other—we are face to face with what we call sentiment, with what, after all, lies, deeply and has the most profound meaning in the hearts of men. We have, therefore, to deal in the coming days with 1189 the fact that the vast majority of the Irish nation—and there can be no doubt about it—are, for reasons which many people cannot fathom, but which all must recognise, in a state of what amounts to rebellion against His Majesty's Government. There are, if I may say so, two Governments in Ireland. One is the regular Executive which we know, but there also is undoubtedly in Ireland at the present moment a sort of de fecto authority to which vast numbers of the Irish people subscribe allegiance, and laced with that is an authority which is backed by 60,000 soldiers, supported by Artillery and infantry and by the whole panoply of modern German warfare. What I mean by that is that we had to adapt our ideas on the mechanical side of warfare to German ideals. You are face to face with a real difficulty, with a people almost in active rebellion, not for material gain, but for the achievement of the recognition of nationality.
My right hon. Friend stated that there was another very important point, and here I land myself in complete agreement. An Irish Republic is, I think, seriously contemplated on those shores, an extraordinary thing, I admit. It crossed my mind as the right lion. Gentleman was speaking that he was the first of the three Prime Ministers who had seriously admitted that. Go through the whole range of Mr. Gladstone's speeches and I think you will find nothing but a very slight reference to it, while in Mr. Asquith's speech, he introducing the last Home Rule Bill, it was ruled out as not worth discussion at all. But here my right hon. Friend seriously admits it is a proposal which is contemplated by men who, in normal circumstances, would have been Members of this House. It is a real difficulty showing how far we have travelled along this sad and almost hopeless road. Of Irish Nationalist Members, not one is here, and a very large number of the elected representatives of Ireland have been in prison, some of them almost daily since the meeting of this House. What is the cause of all this? It is of course difficult for anybody in a brief speech to analyse or even approximate, but I do suggest that during the last four or five years there has been nothing but blundering on the part of our Executive. I am bound to emphasise one or two of those blunders. When the Irish Convention met under the guidance of the present Prime Minister, who was specially asked by Mr.
1190 Asquith, the then Prime Minister, to take the burden on his shoulders—when that Convention, in March, 1018, was assembled by common consent, there never was greater agreement amongst men on this tremendously difficult and awkward question.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
I am not speaking of ordinary agreement. My right hon. and learned Friend of course speaks from knowledge.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I am sorry to intervene. The right hon. Gentleman must not talk like that. There was no agreement. IL is always assumed that there was agreement, but that the Government did not take it up. As a matter of fact the report was carried by, I think, a minority of the Convention—not a minority of those who voted. Apart from that two powerful sections of Irish opinion were unrepresented. One of the most powerful sections, Sinn Fein, declined to he represented. Mr. Wm. O'Brien refused to be represented. The Members for Ulster did not accept the report. Sinn Fein did not accept it. Mr. O'Brien did not accept it, Mr. Devlin did not accept it. The Catholic Bishops did not accept it. If there was any unanimity at all it was in rejecting the report.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
It is very interesting to hear W hat my right hon. Friend says. I am certain a very large number of earnest people on every side will feel that what he has said puts a different complexion on what was generally understood to be the outcome of the Convention, which is most disappointing.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
I may say this however, that at that Convention—at the end of it—there was a greater measure of friendly exchange of opinion—
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
There was a larger measure of friendly interchange of proposals and opinions than had ever happened previously in regard to Ireland. If that were not so, my right hon. Friend, as the head of a Coalition Government representing some very perfervid Unionists, would not have been able to make the proposal he is making to-day. There was a friendly and favourable atmosphere. But I shall never forget the night when we were 1191 informed of the proposal to introduce Conscription into Ireland. Those who knew Ireland and sympathised with Ireland agreed with my right hon. Friend (Mr. Asquith) when, speaking from these benches, he appealed that that proposal should not be pressed.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
Of course it was not! They found it impossible, but they put it into their Bill, and the mischief was done by that. The result was that a complete change took place in the political atmosphere in Ireland. Not very long before that Bill was introduced under these conditions there had been three by-elections at each of which a Sinn Feiner had been defeated, and, as far as I could judge from what my Irish friends told me, the Sinn Fein movement had received a check. But immediately afterwards the friends of the constitutional movement in Ireland threw up their hands in despair. We have heard from my hon. Friend the Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. T. P. O'Connor), in eloquent phrases, how he believed the proposal broke John Redmond's heart with despair. Both John Redmond and William Redmond—
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
I should like to say this with regard to these two men. They were denounced in this House as traitors to the country, as traitors to the Empire, and as enemies of the State. But time has justified them, and there is no man now who would charge either them or their colleagues with being anything but true sons with the best interests of Ireland at heart, and not unfriendly citizens of the British Empire. The position in which we find ourselves to-day is one, I agree, of extraordinary bitterness. I am not going to enter into any discussion of the proposals which my right hon. Friend has outlined to night. He has made a statement which might be altered by the Bill which he will introduce when we reassemble. I will only say this about it that so far as I am concerned, at any rate, any influence and efforts which I can put forward, to press forward even a step along the road will not be lacking. The time is too serious for party recriminations or for petty scores. No true friend, either of Ireland or of his 1192 own country, desires for one moment but that this running sore should be closed, and a fresh start made. But, having said that, I feel bound to make one general observation—that I do not think the proposals of the Government go anywhere near far enough.
How things have progressed in Ireland! What you would have settled on thirty years ago no man suggests, nor even any one of my right hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench, is anywhere adequate to-day. What Parnell would have taken, what Redmond would have taken is a mere dust in the balance of what, is required to bring Ireland in now. If it is going to be useful at all, it will have to be a broad, generous, noble gift, which this proud people can accept. It was an enormous relief to me —and I want to repeat it—that as far as I could find, in my right hon. Friend's speech, there was no idea of vengeance, and I hope I am right in the belief that it is his intention that no more repressive measures shall be attempted in Ireland. You have got an immense machinery now, and what do you want with more than 60,000 troops? Is he going to take away the right of trial at a time when this House will not be sitting? That will be the test in Ireland. That is the sort of thing that will be the test as to whether they are going to trust us or whether they will think it is another English game. Mr. Gladstone once said, in a long letter to Mr. Forster, in 1882,If we say we must postpone the question till the state of the country is more fit for it, I should answer that the least danger is in going forward at once. It is liberty alone which fits men for liberty.That is the note which must be struck if we are ever to get Ireland to join the sisterhood of the British Empire. I believe she will gladly do it if we brush aside the horrors of our sad past. In the whole history of the commonwealth of nations which we call the British Empire, how have we solved in the past the difficulties in Canada, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa? Was it by niggling measures? It was by the great, broad, open-handed meeting of difficulties. How did we settle South Africa? The graves were scarcely green after the war when we gave a gift to South Africa which made her in this recent war a splendid and a noble partner. My right hon. Friend has been a member of this House for many years and he has been in all these great fights and taken a splendid 1193 part in them; it is his opportunity; he is by far the strongest man to do it. Here is his opportunity. Is he going to seize with both hands, not hesitating, the opportunity to cure and settle this Irish question? That is how we settled it in South Africa. He was a, member of that Cabinet, and he knows what happened there. The half-and-half policy, the halting advance, was urged, but what won? The big policy, the open-handed policy, and if the half-and-half policy had been attempted we should never have got South Africa along with us. That that is the only way the whole history of the development of the British nation demonstrates beyond doubt, and as far as Ireland is concerned it is the only way we have never tried.
§ Sir E. CARSON
Anybody who looks at the constitution of the House to-day will readily understand the Herculean task that the Prime Minister has taken upon his shoulders. I am bound to say that to my mind it is a great pity that those who call themselves constitutional Nationalists would not do the House the honour of being here to-day to hear a scheme proposed for the future government of their own country—a scheme which at all events is, I think, an effort to face the real facts, and which is, I think, also an effort to do justice to those facts, whether I myself agree with them or not. But I, at all events, have never at any time hesitated, whenever schemes were put forward to try and settle this question, from doing my best to make such contributions as I could to the discussions. I have listened to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir D. Maclean), and really, at the end of it, if he will allow me to say so without meaning any disrespect, I do not know what he really wants. He talked a great deal about lost opportunities, and he talked a great deal about what he called coercive action in Ireland, as if murderers ought to be allowed to go free. He talked also a great deal of South Africa but he did not tell us what he would do except for this, and I was glad of this much. He told us that the idea of setting up a republic in Ireland was unthinkable. Was he driving at what is called Dominion Home Rule in his peroration? Did he mean that while a republic was unthinkable he would set up something which, by a mere stroke of the pen, could bring about the very thing that he says ought to be unthinkable to all people of Great Britain? I think the right 1194 hon. Gentleman made little, if any, contribution to the Debate
I have spent the whole of my public life in fighting this question. I have done so from no parochial instinct. I have placed in the forefront always the Imperial side of the question, although my heart was, deeply moved with those in Ireland whom I knew best and who I wished, and still wish, should always share not merely in the local advantages of a united Parliament, but in the great Imperial advantages which that united Parliament brought with it. To-night, notwithstanding all that has happened, rather because of all that has happened, I stand here as firmly convinced as ever that for Ireland, for the United Kingdom, and for the Empire, a united Parliament is still the best solution. I have seen nothing in what has happened to lead me to any other conclusion, and I feel certain that we made a great mistake in the face of foreign nations when we proceeded upon a kind of basis as if Ireland had no political unity or freedom at all. What wars it that Pitt gave at the time of the Union? He gave not only equal rights with Great Britain, but greater rights as things have tarried out than Great Britain has. Ireland is not now in a subordinate position. She is in an equal position, or rather a superior position, because every Irishman has two votes for the one vote that an Englishman or a Scotchman has, and the real reason why the Act of Union has not succeeded, at all events in the recent years in which I have taken part in public life, is because Irishmen themselves, out of hatred of Great Britain for historical reasons mainly connected with religion, have refused' to take part in the government of their own country under this Imperial Parliament. For the last thirty years, certainly twenty-five, there has not been a single Government which would not most willingly have entrusted to men, say, like the late Mr. Redmond and some of his colleagues, the most important positions in the Irish Executive if they had been willing to accept them. Therefore do not let us always go on in the face of foreign nations protesting that we have clone something dreadful in Ireland in shutting them out from all kinds of political office. On the contrary, they have had the fullest opportunity of the same freedom that Englishmen and Scotsmen have had and it is their own election that they would not accept it as England and Scotland have done.
1195 Many people imagine that when you make a change, you make an improvement. I am sure there are a number of Gentlemen opposite who imagine that when, I am us say, this bill is passed there will be a Utopia in Ireland. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Policemen will never be shot again. That shooting has been going on there as long as I can remember. If it was not the shooting of a policeman it was the shooting of a landlord or of a tenant whose land was coveted or something of that kind. I would not be talking honestly if I did not say I do not believe the passing of the Bill will be for the good of Ireland or that Ireland will progress better under the Bill than she would if you continued the same relations as you have at present. Also, as a Southern Irishman, I look with the greatest apprehension on what will happen to the large body of loyal Unionists in the South and West whose fate you are proposing to hand over to the Parliament in Dublin. The Prime Minister said there would be ample securities for minorities. I have no confidence in those securities. I do not believe you can contrive securities. We all know what happened during the War, when under the Home Rule Act you had reserved the whole question of Army and Navy and the defence of the realm to yourselves and you passed a Bill for Conscription for Ireland and you were never able to put it into force. That is the value of a reservation, and that will be the same value as regards guarantees. But I do not set myself up as infallible upon these questions. I may be too pessimistic. If there is one thing more than another that I love in the Prime Minister it is his extreme optimism. I believe it did more to win us the War than anything that happened at home in this country, and if his optimism wins us peace in Ireland God knows I am not the one to regret it.
If I am asked to pronounce upon this scheme to-night I must absolutely decline to do so. I have seen three Home Rule Bills passed in my own time. Each of them was a perfect solution of the Irish question; at least so it was stated in the perorations of many hon. and right hon. Gentlemen. When the first was passed it was to bring about a union of hearts, such as the world had never known before. When the second Home Rule Bill was proposed in 1893, the first perfect Home 1196 Rule Bill was denounced as one which would have brought the greatest misery upon Ireland, and that was admitted by all the Nationalist Members, and when the third was brought in in 1912 we were told that if either of the two previous ones had passed there would have been nothing but financial ruin and chaos, and that was accepted by all sections of the House. The Prime Minister has told us about the one which is now on the Statute Book, that although only five years have elapsed since it became an Act and although it has never been even attempted to be worked, there is not a single soul in any party in Ireland who now wants it. He told us that it could not be worked, and he is right—that it could not be worked without another. Having lived through the history of these first Acts, and as an Irishman who does care for his country, I am not going to pronounce an opinion upon this one, at all events, until I see it in print. I was asked, as the Prime Minister knows well, to go to Ireland in the middle of the War, after the rebellion, and to agree to terms put before us by the Cabinet. I was not then a member of the Government. I went there, and after a great deal of exertion in the interests of the War lf got the Ulster people to agree to the particular settlement that was put before us. Immediately I came back here I was disavowed by a number of members of the Government and the settlement did not go through. Ever since I have been charged with being unfaithful towards those who are my own kith and kin in the South and West of Ireland. So far as I am concerned, and I speak for those who act with me here, I am not going over to Ireland until two things have happened, one is, until I see the Bill in print, and the other is, until I am assured by the Prime Minister that he means to go through with the Bill to the end. Nothing could be more damaging than that any of us should set about to try to bring this Bill or something of the kind into favour with those with whom we act, and then the Bill should he abandoned ask my right hon. Friend above all things to consider this: What does he think the effect of this Bill if it is abandoned will 13e. upon the administration of law and order in Ireland, and what does he think of the uncertainty of that splendid body of police who, whatever Government is in power, or whatever proposals are made, have always been so loyal to the Crown in doing their duty? 1197 In joining in the general condemnation of the dastardly act which was attempted last Friday, let me say this, and I am sure the Lord Lieutenant will agree with me, that the life of any one of the policemen who have been killed is just as much worthy of notice in this House as the highest in the land. Lord French, who is an old soldier, and who looks upon them as his comrades there, will agree. Abandoning legislation of this character, and leaving those who administer the law in a condition of uncertainty, is about the very worst trait you can have.
Having said so much, let me take two of the facts referred to by the Prime Minister. In the first place, I am well aware that the Home Rule Act is upon the Statute Book. The Prime Minister said that that was one of the cardinal facts. So it must be to everybody who considers this question. I deplore its existence there, but I do not think that it is any use going back on the way in which it was put there, or the time it was put there, because I am anxious to avoid recrimination. There is one other fact, to me a, cardinal fact, and that is that this is the first Bill which has made the admission of Ulster's right to be treated as a separate entity. I believe that to be a great advance towards settlement. There is no use shutting your eyes to the fact that the people of the North of Ireland, the North-East part of Ulster, are as different from the South in their race, their religion, their ideals, and their views of you as it is possible to imagine. The whole conduct of Ireland in relation to the War has emphasised that fact. I am not saying that there were not good men and true who went out from the South and the West of Ireland. There were many of them, and I know to-morrow there will be many sore hearts who will say that you are deserting them. In the whole conduct of the War you can find no difference between the North-East of Ulster and any part of Great Britain_ They fought as you did, they sympathised as you did they grieved with you, they rejoiced with you, they made their fullest contribution to the War under the voluntary system, of almost any place. When you proposed Conscription they backed you. Ulster Members in the House were warned that if they backed conscription they would lose their seats and that conscription would be distasteful to the Ulster people. They backed Conscription in this House and the Ulster people backed 1198 them, and they have been sent back here stronger than ever they have been and with greater majorities than have ever prevailed before. Therefore, the War has emphasised the position of Ulster in a way that it was never emphasised before as differing entirely from what prevails amongst the general body of citizens in the South and West of Ireland.
If anybody says, "You ought not to give separate treatment to Ulster," I ask them to go down and tell the country here that you propose to put Ulster under Sinn Fein, that you propose to put Ulster, which 'was prepared to do, and did, everything it could during the War, under those who joined in a German rebellion during the War, and I believe they would get short shrift from the constituencies in this country. That brings me to one point which I intend to emphasise to-night. Ulster has never asked for a separate Parliament. Ulster's claim has always been of this simple character: "We have thrived under the Union; we are in sympathy with you, we are a part of yourselves. We are prepared to make any sacrifice that you make, and are prepared to bear any burden that is equally put upon us with the other parts of the United Kingdom. In these circumstances keep us with you." They have never made any other demand than that, and to-night I appeal to the Government as the Bill is not yet brought in to keep Ulster in this united Parliament. I cannot understand why we should ask them to take a Parliament which they have never demanded, and which they do not want. Why not leave them here? Believe me, they have proved a great asset for you in the late War, in their shipyards and in their factories and in their volunteers at the Front, and why now you should ask them to accept a Parliament if they do not want it, I cannot understand.
May I remind my right hon. Friend, and also the Leader of the House, that in the letter upon which they went to the electorate that was the programme put forward. Certainly what was put forward in the letter was that Ulster should be exempt from the Home Rule Bill and should remain part and parcel of this country. What is gained by a second Parliament in Ireland? At the last General Election myself, and my colleagues, were all unanimous in putting forward closer union with this country, and I will show you, why in a moment. I have never 1199 heard discussed in Ulster the question of a separate Parliament. I do not know what view they will take of it, but one thing I am certain of is that they prefer to remain in this Parliament. Of course, on the broad principle that I laid down, if this Parliament determines upon a system of devolution then Ulster could not object and would not object to the same treatment that Great Britain is getting. That would be quite right. I suggest to my right hon. Friend then to leave over the question of a separate Parliament for Ulster until the whole devolution problem comes to be considered. We want to remain with you. Do not turn us out. That is what they will say I know well when I go over there.
I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman and those who have framed this Bill—and, as I understand, the right hon. Member for Widnes will speak in the course of the Debate, I hope that he will also consider this point—realise that Belfast has something more than one-tenth of the whole population of Ireland. It is certainly the greatest industrial centre in Ireland. It is only a few miles from Scotland. What is more, the men in those shipyards—and they are now greatly increasing in number—the men on the Clyde and the men who work on the Mersey are all engaged in one great business. They pass to and fro from one place to the other. In the linen trade part of the process takes place in the North of Ireland, part of the process takes place in Scotland, and the men pass to and fro in these trades. Now, is it really to be asserted that you are going to have better government for these men, or is it a possible solution that you put them under different labour laws from the labour laws of this country or different administration of the labour laws in one country or the other? In my belief that is absolutely impossible, and so far as I am concerned, and I believe that I speak the views of the majority of them on this point, I believe that they will get far better terms in the long run while trusting to the legislation of this Parliament, legislation no doubt goaded on by the great trade unions of this country of which these men are all members, for I believe 90 per cent of the trade unionists in benefit amongst the Irish industrial population come from the North of Ireland and I believe that these men will be far safer and far more secure in having their 1200 interests cared for by this Parliament than they will ever be under a Parliament in Ulster.
I do not believe that labour is a proper subject for devolution. I do not believe that it is possible to run labour so closely connected with this country under different conditions. Are you to pass a forty-four hour week for the shipyard men in Belfast and a forty-seven hour week for the men across the way on the Clyde or the Mersey; and when you come down to other questions which are so akin to labour, in which labour is so interested—questions of nationalisation and all these kindred subjects—are those to be questions which the local Parliament in Ulster is to deal with, or are they to be questions to be dealt with by this Parliament?
I do not believe that it is possible for one moment to set up a Parliament in Ulster on these conditions without probably doing great injustice to these men At the same time let me say this I agree that it is a possible step towards dealing with the Irish question that you have treated North-East Ulster as a separate unit., and as you have done so I am not going here—do not misunderstand what I have said—to turn down your proposal. That is not my object. I have always said in this House and in Ulster that I would never do anything behind the backs of these people to bind them in the slightest degree. And so I say to-night. When I get the Bill and when I get the assurances I have referred to, I. will go there and I will take counsel with them. They are no fools. If they were you would not have had Belfast and its shipyards and its linen trade and aeroplanes to help you through the late War Upon their understanding of the question, and upon what they put forward, I would myself be greatly guided in the course I would take on this Bill.
Before I sit down I must put one or two questions to the Government—questions the answers to which will cause grave anxiety to many people, particularly in the South and West of Ireland. We want to know whether the Government have looked forward and tried to contemplate what will happen in Ireland if this Bill becomes law? I want to ask them if they have taken into consideration the various alternatives to what may happen? In the first place, I think we may take it for granted that the Sinn Feiners will have nothing to do with your Bill. There is no use shutting your eyes to that fact, and there is no use in not being prepared for 1201 it. The Sinn Feiners have 72 per cent., I think, of the representation in Ireland. What view the party led in this House by the hon. Member for Falls (Mr. Devlin) will take about the Bill I am sure I do not know. I understand that the Prime Minister has said that he means to force the Bill through under all circumstances. He used the words: "Force the Bill," not to-night, but on a previous occasion. Do let us contemplate the various things that may happen. Here is what Mr. De Valera says:I agree with Sir Edward Carson, that there is nothing between union and separation. There is not; from the very nature of things there can be no final or stable settlement of political issues between Ireland and England, intermediate between union and separation. There can be no real peace between Ireland and England until either Britain has assimilated Ireland and definitely annihilated the distinct national soul in Ireland which England has so far failed to do after 750 years of effort, or until England has definitely recognised that the soul has a right to seek its perfection in an independent Sovereign State. No Home Rule solution can be lasting.9.0 P.M.
That is the very basis of the existence of the Sinn Fein party, which some people imagine is a new party, only recently sprung into existence, but which has been working in Ireland under different names certainly all my life. There is no use shirking the fact that the basis of their whole action is to get rid of England altogether. What I want to ask the Government is this: If Sinn Fein captures the Irish party, as I believe under present circumstances they are likely to do, have you pictured to yourselves what is likely to happen? The first thing they will do, indeed they have done it, is to proclaim a republic in Ireland. What are you going to do then? You cannot coerce a Parliament the day after you have set it up. If they proclaim a republic, believe me they will proclaim it for the whole of Ireland, and they will be in a position, being the Ministers of Parliament, to arm under various pretexts, and do you think that, after all they have said—unless you believe they were not in earnest—the Parliament that they set up, and which will enable them to do these things, will not immediately proceed and annexe Ulster? More than that, what are you pre pared to do if they declare a republic and refuse to allow your Customs officers or your Excise officers to exercise functions in Ireland? My right hon. Friend did not tell us, though no doubt there will be provisions in the Bill, as to how he pro 1202 poses to collect revenue in Ireland. Will he have separate police there, or how will it be done? That is a very important matter.
There is another alternative. The Sinn Fein party may say "We will take no part in your Irish Parliament." It would be very bad leadership on their part, though they may think it is consistent. What then? The Parliament will be elected by a very small minority of the Irish people. Do you think they will have control over the Sinn Feiners, who will be in the majority? It is quite possible, and this I believe is a contingency which the Government ought to be prepared to face, that you will get no Parliament there to function for the purpose of these duties. What will you do then? You cannot leave the country without a Government. Of course, I know I may he told, and I am quite aware of the argument, that I am putting extreme ceases; that I am suggesting that the Irish are, as I think Mr. Gladstone used to say, constituted with a double dose of original sin. But who would have contemplated that seventy Members would have stayed away from this Parliament? Therefore, it is my duty, as an Irish representative, to turn to the people of this country upon behalf of Ireland generally, and especially upon behalf of those in Ireland whom I represent, and of those of my own kith and kin who live in the South and West of Ireland—the people I was brought up among—it is my duty to ask you, under these circumstances, what provision you have made for the government of Ireland. Let me once more press upon you the necessity of keeping Ulster as she is. Believe me, if troubles of that kind arise in Ireland, it will be far better for you to occupy, through this Parliament, the North-East of Ireland at any rate, in the troubles that may confront you. What is more, there will be far less likelihood of the South and West of Ireland interfering with Ulster, or attempting to interfere with Ulster, if you retain her in this united Parliament.
The Ulster Parliament, on the other hand, has attractions. I know that, once it is granted, unless they agree among themselves, they can never be interfered with. You cannot knock Parliaments up and down as you do a ball, and, once you have planted them there, you cannot get rid of them. Therefore, that would be the Parliament. It may be said 1203 that this House would have control over Ulster if they remained here, and you might do the ungracious thing which many of you wanted to do—I put it on no higher ground—that, where they wanted to stay with you, and where you had no cause of complaint against them, you still want to kick them out as if they were of no use, to please somebody else who has since served you in the way you like. These are real difficulties in the way, and it is no use shirking them. We would be glad, before this Debate closes, if the Government would show that they have these matters in contemplation, and are prepared to deal with them.
That, I think, is all I have to say. Above all things, let me not be misunderstood. Do not imagine that I am trying to discourage the Prime Minister On the contrary. But I do not want him to embark under greater difficulties than are necessary. Any that he can avoid, he ought to avoid. Any part of Ireland that he can bring with him with enthusiasm, he ought to try and bring with him with enthusiasm. It is worth his while. So far as I am concerned, I shall take counsel with the people who have so long trusted me, who have trusted me almost more than any leader has ever been trusted, and have given me a latitude far beyond what is generally given to those who lead sections in this House. What they may determine to do, I do not know. But one thing I do know I will try to do what I have always done—direct them with full reason and the fullest courage.
§ Mr. A. HENDERSON
I desire, at the outset, to associate myself, in the name of the Labour party, with the condemnation uttered by the Prime Minister and other speakers against the attempted assassination of Lord French. We consider that in that case, and in the case of the policemen who have been carrying out their duty, a policy has been applied that cannot be too strongly condemned. We believe that these methods merely bring disaster to any cause in the name of which the acts are perpetrated, however good and however important that cause might be. Whatever may be our opinions to-night of the policy that is being enunciated by the Prime Minister, I think all sections of the House will approve of his definite statement that the Government are in no way to be deflected from their policy by these very serious 1204 incidents, and I think I may say that, in this determination to persevere with their policy, the Government will carry with them good will and sympathy from all sections of the House.
I think we all recognise, with regard to this Irish problem, that more delay means but greater danger. We have listened to a very interesting and important speech by the right hon. and learned Gentleman who has just sat down. Those of us who have been longest in this House, and who have watched his courage, his determination, his consistency, with regard to the Irish question, have always admired his deep sincerity. I think, notwithstanding that, that he has been unnecessarily gloomy in some of his anticipations. I would like to remind him, and to remind the House, that the same gloomy prognostications were made some years ago when the then Liberal Government made itself responsible for the measure of self-government granted to South Africa. I recall with very great interest the statements, to which those of us who were supporting that measure listened from time to time, from this box by the senior Member for the City of London (Mr. Balfour), who is now the Lord President of the Council. But may I not ask, is there a single Member who opposed that great act of liberation, who would be prepared to question the wisdom of that policy now? I am one of those who believe that, once we get a measure, whether it be this measure or any other, that finds acceptance by the majority of the. Trish people—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear. Hear!"]—Certainly, that finds acceptance by the majority of the Irish people—
§ Mr. HENDERSON
The same beneficent results will follow. Tile right hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir E. Carson) raised one point in which I am very much interested, as are all my colleagues on these benches, that is, the effect on labour legislation. I must confess that a few months ago, if the proposal for two separate Parliaments had been brought before this House, I should have looked upon that proposal from the standpoint of labour legislation with much greater apprehension than I do now. After all, we have to remember that one thing the recent Peace Conference did was to provide us with some international machinery under the League of Nations for dealing with labour questions, and the first conference 1205 has just concluded at Washington. It may not have done all that its promoters expected, but it has made a move forward, and, so far as I am concerned, it does tone down to some extent my apprehensions with regard to the effects that might follow if we were to have two separate Parliaments in Ireland dealing with problems of labour and promoting labour legislation, and I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend will just look at that aspect of the ease and see whether it does not to some extent relieve the fears that he so eloquently put forward.
In coming to the Government scheme, there is very great difficulty in referring to such important proposals at this stage. It is essential that we should wait for the Government Bill. Until that Bill is in our possession it would be unwise for us to reach definite or final conclusions, and I think this particularly refers to the very important and elaborate financial proposals brought before the House by the Prime Minister. I am not in the slightest degree complaining of the course adopted by the Government. I think there is an advantage in their having adumbrated their proposal in this way before the Recess. I think it gives opportunity for very full and very careful inquiry. We on the Labour benches, when we heard that the Government were going to adopt this course, determined to send a deputation to Ireland. We will go with the information that has been conveyed to the House this evening, we will consult the very organisations to which the right hon. and learned Gentleman has just referred in his speech, and we will in conference with them, not only in the South of Ireland, but in the North of Ireland, endeavour to ascertain exactly what their views are before we reach our final conclusions on the proposals that have been brought before us.
§ Mr. HENDERSON
I do not know of any arrangement that has been made in recent days with the Nationalist party which affects the position of the Labour party on the general principles of self-government for Ireland in the slightest degree. As the House well knows, there is not a single member in the Labour party who was not returned as an out 1206 And out Home Ruler, and therefore if there has been any arrangement made it was not an arrangement whereby one can influence one against the other, but an arrangement whereby we can work in closer co-operation to give effect to a principle which we were all returned to this House to support. My remarks will be confined to the general principle of the scheme which the Prime Minister brought to our notice. I want to associate myself with the Leader of the Liberal party in his suggestion that he was not convinced that the Prime Minister's proposals were on right lines. I remember the last attempt which the Prime Minister made. I remember its failure. I remember how it failed. If there are those to be blamed for the failure of the last attempt with which the Prime Minister was associated it was the then Government itself, and I will tell them why. Though there was not actual agreement secured in the Convention, I have no hesitation in claiming that that Convention created a more hopeful and, I might say, a more beneficent atmosphere in Ireland than for very many years past.
§ Mr. HENDERSON
I do not know that the hon. Gentleman has the right to say that. I am expressing my opinion, and was in close touch with members of the Convention, not on one side of political opinion, but on both sides.
§ Mr. HENDERSON
If I were to treat the hon. Member as he is treating me, I would say he was there and is now making an ex parte statement.
§ Mr. HENDERSON
I may say that the Convention created a more beneficent and more hopeful atmosphere than had existed in Ireland for sonic time past. If there were anything which assisted in destroying that atmosphere it was the mistaken attitude of the Government with regard to the last Conscription Bill. I remember speaking on that memorable Friday when we were compelled to deal with the Clause of the Conscription Bill applying it to Ireland, that I made this statement, that if the Government enacted that Clause in the Conscription Bill, one effect it would 1207 immediately bring about was that there would be one party in Ireland, and that party would not be a constitutional party. I leave my hon. Friend and others to judge how correct was the statement, proved, as it was, up to the hilt by the unfortunate results that immediately followed at the General Election. I think it must be accepted that the War has created, so far as this Irish problem is concerned, an entirely new psychology. After all, we remember, for we were so often told by all the Allied statesmen, that one of the primary objects of the War was to secure the freedom of small nationalities, and statesmen everywhere, including the members of the present Government, reiterated over and over again the right of people to the principle of self-determination. It seems to me, in the light of those statements, what we have to ask ourselves when we come to judge this scheme that has been put before the House to-day is, does the scheme spell self-determination for Ireland? Does it really spell self-determination for the whole of Ulster? Is Ulster to be regarded as a small nation, but is a similar claim to be denied to Ireland as a whole? We all know that Ireland has been working for long weary years for a system of self-government. Ireland has been asking for its own Parliament; but, as we have been reminded by the right hon. and learned Gentleman whoever asked for a Parliament for Ulster? Moreover, what if the doctrine of mandate is to apply? I would like to put the question: Which candidate at any election in Ireland, England, Scotland, or Wales pledged himself to the creation of two separate Parliaments in Ireland? I followed the election addresses very closely. I followed the Government's manifesto. In none of these election addresses, or in the manifesto, was there any suggestion made by any Member, not to speak of any responsible Minister, that we were to set up two Parliaments in Ireland.
§ Mr. HENDERSON
If I understand the position, all that Ulster Unionists have asked is that they should be left alone. I never knew the Ulster Unionists had asked for anything in the nature of a separate Parliament. What do we find? It is not even proposed to consult the 1208 Ulster people by conferring upon them the right of a county vote. If it is wrong to force any other Ulster county against its will into a Dublin Parliament for the whole of Ireland, it must be equally wrong to force any Ulster county against its will into a Belfast Parliament! What are the facts in regard to Ulster. As I understand it, and I am willing to be corrected, for I have not the advantage, like hon. Gentlemen opposite, of obtaining information at first-hand, there are nine Ulster counties where there are what we may call a majority of people in favour of one Parliament for Ireland, a majority of Nationalists if you will.
§ Mr. HENDERSON
Well, I am giving the figures that I have been able to obtain. I am told that of the nine there are five where there is a Home Rule majority and that in the other two there is between 40 and 50 per cent in favour of Irish self-government.
§ Mr. HENDERSON
I admitted a majority against. That is self-evident, or I should have quoted figures.
§ Mr. MOLES
May I say to the right hon. Gentleman that in four counties, not two, there is an overwhelming majority of Unionists, and it is from these that the twenty-three Unionist Members were returned for the whole of the Province. There are 886,000 Protestants and 669,000 Roman Catholics. That is the position.
§ Mr. HENDERSON
I dealt with five, and then was going on to say that in two counties there was a minority which was as large as 40 per cent. I left the other two counties alone, because I quite realise that Belfast contains an overwhelming majority against any measure of self-government for their county. It seems to me the scheme, as it has been put before us, conflicts with the sincere aspirations of the great majority of the Irish people for self-government. At best these proposals. 1209 can only be regarded as a half-hearted and unsatisfying compromise which goes no distance to meet the claims that have been stated over and over again in this House, and I believe have obtained a majority of electors at successive elections amongst the Irish people. The right hon. and learned Gentleman rather elided my right hon. Friend who spoke from these benches about not having made any suggestion. I want to take the opportunity to put forward briefly one or two courses which I think were open to the Government.
The Government, I think, might have produced a scheme of what is usually described as Dominion Home Rule minus the Army and Navy, but giving the respective counties what is known as county option. The second course is what I would have preferred. We have been told that the Home Rule Act is on the Statute Book, and must come into operation, unless some new course is laid down by Parliament. What might have been done was this the Government might have summoned an Irish Parliament under that Act. They might have left to that Parliament the working out of its own constitution. I do not think it would have taken very long. I believe that the new circumstances that have arisen as a result of the War, especially the financial position, in which proposals could have been made which, probably, would have found acceptance with a majority of the Irish people. I think that that would have been a method which would not only have commended itself to Ireland, but would have commended itself to those who are watching, not only in our overseas Dominions but in the United States, to see what course the British people, who have talked so much about self-government and self-determination, were likely to adopt. At any rate, this would have been the nearest approach to self-determination. May I remind the House that this remedy has never yet been tried? In my opinion, when it is tried, many of the difficulties which have been brought before us will disappear; in fact, I am convinced that not a few of the dangers will also disappear.
We on the Labour benches, may I say in conclusion, are exceedingly anxious to assist the Government all we can to terminate the long night of and misunderstanding that has dominated the life of the Irish nation. We shall be told that the Bill does that. We used to be told 1210 in the early days that there was one school of British political thought which represented, what Mr. Gladstone called "Trust in the people qualified by prudence; "and that the other school of British political thought represented the opposite principle: "Mistrust of the people qualified by fear." We have never yet trusted the Irish people, even if our trust was qualified by prudence. We have shown our mistrust of the Irish people over and over again. From the old days, possibly long before, of the Land League agitation, right on until now, some of us are almost compelled to believe that—and recent evidence would seem to bear it out—that we are getting right back to the worst form of mistrust and government by fear. We were urged by the Prime Minister against any policy of recrimination.
We do not want to recriminate. But we have heard a great deal as to the demand for Irish independence and an Irish republic. That demand is the inevitable result of the opposition to a reasoned measure of self-government. Whilst we may not desire to recriminate we must state emphatically that if the demand has grown in. this respect the responsibility for that increased demand must rest with those who have so resolutely resisted the claim of the Irish mission to freedom. Am I not right in saying these proposals in many parts of Ireland will be regarded as a triumph for the dictatorship of the minority? These are days in which we are hearing much of the dictatorship of the minority. I am as much opposed to a dictatorship of a minority in Ireland as I am in Russia, because I think it is totally inconsistent with the principles of sound and real democracy. Some of us, whilst we will analyse these proposals and give the Government scheme the most careful consideration possible, whilst we are prepared to confer with those in Ireland, the members of our own trade unions, I must say here in the name of the British Labour party that we have not lost our faith in the principles of self-government or in the principles of self-determination, and when the time for our final test comes, so far as our attitude to these proposals is concerned, that test will be made in harmony with the fundamental principles to which I have referred.
§ Brigadier-General CROFT
The speech which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Henderson) has just made renders it a little difficult for hon. Members who had 1211 listened to him to understand exactly whether he approved of the Prime Minister's proposal or was against it. The right hon. Gentleman said there were several fundamental objections, but there seemed to be a glimmer of hope at the end of his speech that he was going to support these proposals. The right hon. Gentleman claimed that there was no mandate for two Houses of Parliament being established in Ireland. I think it is necessary that we should know whether the right lion. Gentleman (Mr. Henderson) is in favour of two Parliaments for Ireland. Will he answer that question? I invite an answer as to whether he is prepared to go on with Home Rule without granting two Parliaments to Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman is reluctant to say "Yes" or "No" to that question, and it is an important matter in view of the fact that it was practically agreed in the last Parliament during the War that whatever happened in the future there was to be no coercion of Ulster, and if the right lion. Gentleman does not accept that view he is placing the Labour party definitely on the side of those who wish to coerce Ulster on this question.
The right lion Gentleman, the Member for Peebles (Sir D. Maclean), told us that the present happenings in Ireland were largely due to the five years blundering which we had recently passed through. I should lake to remind the right hon. Gentleman that Mr. Asquith was Prime Minister three of those years, and I should like to know if the right hon. Gentleman refers to incidents which happened in Ireland under Mr. Asquith. We have heard a great deal too little about those blunders and a great deal too little about what Britain has done for Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Peebles also said that a complete change had come over Ireland as a result of Conscription. I remember Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman once told some distinguished politician that they should cease this foolery, and anybody who claims that the position of Ireland is worse on account of the proposal for Conscription—because it was never applied to Ireland—or who says the position is any worse than at the time of the rebellion is making an exaggeration.
The right lion. Gentleman concluded by an eloquent appeal which had nothing to do with the facts. He asked why we 1212 could not do for Ireland what we had done for Canada, Australia and South Africa. May I remind the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Widnes (Mr. Henderson), as I would also like to have reminded the Leader of the Liberal party (Sir D. Maclean) if he had been present, that we had nothing to do with those constitutions. The people themselves paved the way by unity in Canada, Australia and South Africa. The people there were consenting parties, and you had agreement among them, and the result there was that we built up those great dominions and commonwealths. Therefore, it is hardly for us to make any comparison between South Africa on the one hand, where you had Britain and Boer consenting, with Ireland where unhappily you have a complete cleavage, which has been admitted in the discussions in this House by those who do not desire a complete in Ireland. I tabled a Motion along with the hon. Member for Walsall because it seemed to us desirable in view of what had been said in the Press that we really should face facts in this House.
Although everyone would desire to see some solution of the Trish question I do feel that it is the duty of every single individual Member of this House not to allow this occasion to pass without saying what his faith is and whether he feels strongly upon this point. The sole reason I have intervened is because the right hon. gentleman the Secretary of State for India, who introduced momentous reforms recently, which were passed rapidly through the House, turned upon hon. Members of this House, who ventured to criticise that measure practically as if they were pickpockets, because they had not protested against the measure earlier. Before dealing with the reasons why there are great dangers in the Prime Minister's proposal, I ask the House to run back through recent history. In 1906 Ireland was more happy, content and free from crime than she had been in her history. The law was administered and it was obeyed, and those who had the privilege of being in Ireland in 1904–1905 and 1906 will bear witness to the fact that there was no discontent or agitation and it is since that date that we have seen a change.
I need not argue the point because my principal witness would be Mr. Augustine Birrell (who himself said that when he was Chief Secretary). Since1906 there has been a weakening of administration in Ireland 1213 and that country has once more passed from settlement and content to political agitation. Then came the decision of the Government which held office prior to the War to legislate, and with all due respect to the right hon Gentleman the Member for Widnes, the two elections of 1910, there was no mandate whatever on the subject of Home Rule. The matter was completely left out of the speeches of all the leading Gentlemen who at that time were seeking re-election in order to carry out their proposals concerning the Veto Bill and the People's Budget. Home Rule was practically unmentioned, and I for one, believing in the union of the United Kingdom, venture to think that the legislation, therefore, was passed through without any great decision of the people of this country.
The Bill, however, went through, and we were suddenly faced with a perilous position which involved the coercion of Ulster. That was in 1914. We were faced with what certainly looked like civil war, and many Unionists along with many Liberals joined together to see if they could arrive at some federal solution which would prevent that disaster. If I may be forgiven for mentioning a personal matter, I myself actually took a leading part in that work, and with our lamented colleague, Sir Mark Sykes, was one of the joint secretaries of a committee working on those lines. What were our views? Speaking for myself, while opposed to any movement which might have the effect of weakening the real union, I was, in order to prevent the coercion of Ulster, prepared to submit to some proposals which, without affecting the sovereign powers of Government, might give some form of self-government to Ireland. There has been a tremendous lot of miscalculation in the Press lately as to what a federal solution means. After all, a federal solution is compatible with union, but the Dominion solution would be absolutely destructive of the union. We were faced with civil war, and all of us who had watched the European situation and who realised that the Kiel Canal was complete and that in the opinion of many Germans her time had come to strike, were prepared to do everything in our power to try and bring about a settlement of this question. I mention that to show that I was not a bigot and that I and a large number of those who worked in the same cause, rather than being extremists, were actually workers for a 1214 settlement. Then came the War. Seeing the way that Mr. John Redmond and his immediate followers rallied at that time to the cause of civilisation, my views were not altered, and, had he survived and had he and his supporters remained in control of the political machine in Ireland, I should still adhere to those federal views that. I held in 1914. Unfortunately, that was not to be. Every constitutional Nationalist in the South and West of Ireland, with two or three exceptions, was defeated at the time of the General Election. I confess that I was too optimistic. I had hoped that the Constitutional movement was a more permanent power in Ireland. One is forced to the conclusion that things were not quite what one had hoped. In spite of the fact that the Home Rule Bill hail passed and was on the Statute Book, the extremists gained control of the political machine, and, as the right hon. Gentleman has said, they were not on the side of the Empire.
I do not think that any good cause is served by referring to the story of the Rebellion of that Easter week, and of the stab in the back that was given at that time. The Government, however, ought to have learned a lesson from what occurred in Ireland in those days. Apparently, they dared not act with any firmness at that time. I do not want to refer to the proceedings of Mr. Asquith, who somehow managed to convince ail parties in Ireland that the Government at that time were not prepared to be firm. They presented the blind eye to affairs that were going on in Ireland, and the rebels were released and again were able to start their campaign of terrorism in Ireland. Worse than that, the Government of that-day made no attempt to stop the latent rebellion that was going on. Mr. De Valera escaped from an English prison and, instead of being rearrested and made to complete his sentence, he was permitted by His Majesty's Government to go all through Ireland proclaiming himself President of an Irish republic. I remember the great wrath displayed in this House, when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Peebles, and the right. hon. Gentleman the Member for the Platting Division (Mr. Clynes), representing the Labour party, moved the Adjournment of the House in order to call attention to the speech of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for the Duneairn Division (Sir E. Carson). They complained that he had reiterated a 1215 speech which he had made before the War, and in which he laid it down that if he and his friends were deprived of the protoction of the Imperial Parliament they would take steps to protect themselves. He had said it so often before that it was rather extraordinary that this notice should have been taken of the speech. Great umbrage was taken at that hypothetical threat. The same right hon. Gentlemen and their supporters, however, have taken no notice whatever, nor have they made any attempt to move the Adjournment of the House on account of the actual case of Mr. De Valera, who has proclaimed himself President of th Irish Republic, who is therefore engaged in open rebellion, and who, I should imagine, although I am not a lawyer, long since ought to have been arrested for high treason. I do not know what is the reason. Perhaps it may be that Mr. De Valera has never opposed the Liberal party in this House as has my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for the Duncairn Division.
The important fact is that all power in Nationalist Ireland has passed from those who recognise constitutional means of gaining their ends to the forces of revolution and of separation. My information from Ireland is that things are very much worse than either the Chief Secretary or the Government would have us believe. There is a very large number of men of a dangerous character in Dublin, not just a few assassins, but probably hundreds, and it may be thousands, who are bent on destroying property and making mischief if they can. It is no good this House offering honeyed words to the Sinn Feiners or having any make-belief with regard to this question. My honest opinion is that no legislation for Home Rule can have the slightest effect upon the Sinn Feiners. You might as well offer a pill to Vesuvius as a Bill to the Sinn Feiners. Yet the Prime Minister comes down here in order to propose this new measure. I regret exceedingly, owing to the extreme sweet reason of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman and of the speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the Duncairn Division, even to have to indicate that one does not approve, but I would urge the House to face facts. This is no new question. Great principles ire involved, and it is our duty to say what we think is right. My opinion is that we should get rid of sentiment, which is so 1216 often dangerous, and that we should get rid of emotion, which in Governments is nearly always disastrous. If Governments allow their judgment to be guided by the emotions of the moment they are likely to get into trouble. Probably there are at least 100 men in this House who genuinely believe that great wrongs have been done to Ireland, though they know no more about Ireland than about India. The fact remains that they believe that there are always wrongs which this country is inflicting on Ireland. We might be the guilty parties! We heard the Prime Minister say that crimes had been committed on both sides. What crime has this House committed in Ireland for the last 50 years? If we examine the question we will find that Ireland has always had preference. We have only to look at legislation and see how favourably Ireland has been treated by the Imperial Parliament. In the matter of licensing legislation Ireland has always been excluded from restrictions imposed in this country. During the War Ireland was excluded from. the restrictions then laid down here. With regard to Conscription, although we are told that the mere talk of it in this House had disastrous effects in Ireland, Ireland was contracted out of that part of the duty of citizenship. With regard to foodstuff during the War when the real test was made Ireland got preference; the people were not rationed, but were allowed to live in the lap of luxury. I venture to say that Ireland has been the spoilt darling of the Empire. There is no country in the whole of Europe which can show so few of the real sears of war. The generosity of Great Britain to Ireland has been absolutely unequalled, at any rate during the last 30 years—unequalled in the history of any country in the world. Let us therefore come down from these imaginary grievances to real solid earth.
What is going to happen if we are carried away by our emotions at the present time? I am in touch with numerous men who believe in Home Rule as the ultimate solution of the Irish question—men who reside in this country, and not one of them holds that this is the hour when we should hand over their destinies to these forces in Ireland. No Parliament that is established in Dublin with the best will in the world can prevent it being Sinn Fein. If such a Parliament is established, the right hon. Gentleman (Sir E. Carson) has told us that one of two things will happen. Either the Sinn Fein members will absent 1217 themselves from the Dublin Parliament, and then the government of the South and West of Ireland will be left to the hon. and gallant Member for Waterford (Captain Redmond)with his corporal's guard—and nobody will suggest that these three or four men could govern Ireland, when there are some sixty or seventy Sinn Fein members absent from its Parliament. Therefore, our self-deception then would be complete and you would have utter chaos. The second alternative is that the Sinn Fein members will attend the Dublin Parliament, and it is not indisputable that on the very day that Parliament meets, the Sinn Fein members will declare that it is the. Parliament of the Republic? Just consider what that means. It means that the revolution will be real, and although for the moment the Government may retain the control of the purse, the police will pass under the power of the Parliament, and you will have vested these declared republicans with an authority which they do not possess at the present time and never can possess unless we are going to give this Parliament to their care. Therefore, it seems to me that 10.0 P.M. this organisation, although we say we are going to give securities to the minority, will be placed in a position to carry on a campaign of boycott and terrorism, and the loyalists in Ireland will be in danger either of being driven out of the country or of being exterminated. Just consider the ideas actuating these people. I believe, if we are going to establish a Sinn Fein Parliament in Dublin, you will be establishing the authority of a Bolshevist regime in Ireland. What are the motives of the Prime Minister in producing this plan here this evening? We all know there was a pledge by the Liberal Government which ceased to exist soon after the commencement of the War, to the Nationalist Members of this House, that they would go on with their Home Rule legislation and that to that pledge the Prime Minister was a party. But I submit it is impossible for the Prime Minister to redeem a pledge to a party which no longer exists. That is clear on the face of it. Further than that, we have the fact that Sinn Fein has repudiated any such form of Home Rule and that cannot be the reason for bringing in this Bill. There must be some other reason, and I venture to think it is on account of the extraordinary mix tip of words we have had ever since the Prime Minister and President Wilson were.
1218 staying so long together in Paris. The whole of the Peace Treaty, as we know, was subordinated to the Fourteen Points of the President. Unhappily the President at the present time is not able to deliver the goods which were promised in the Fourteen Points, and the consequence is that the foundations of the Peace Treaty are affected. If there was a bargain of any kind between the Prime Minister and President Wilson with regard to Ireland, whether it was a proper or improper bargain, I submit it is no longer binding because, unfortunately, the other party to the bargain is not in a position to carry out his side of it.
The right hon. Member for Widnes introduced once more those magic words "self-determination"which may yet cause the greatest trouble in the world because of the very looseness with which it is interpreted. If we had self-determination we might ask certain Members to remove themselves from this House, but that is impossible; we have always to put up with them. I want to submit to those who are great believers in self-determination that really we ought not to go too far with this question. The opinions of the people of the United States of America are very different to those of the people of Ireland on this subject. In the frightful struggle between the North and the South, actually there were more men killed in that civil war—especially in proportion to the population—than we lost in killed in the whole of the Great War which has just concluded. Why were those lives sacrificed? Simply to compel one part of that Continent to remain with the other part from which it desired to secede. I venture to think that if Virginia to-morrow was to attempt to set up an independent Republic, which is unthinkable, or even to claim Dominion Home Rule, collecting her own taxes and exercising all those other powers which are exercised by the Dominion of Canada, President Wilson would go to war against them, and I believe, too, he would be supported by the whole country. If it was so essential to the United States to incur all that bloodshed in order to keep those two half-Continents together, how much more essential is it in the case of these islands which are so close together, for us to preserve our union intact? We want to go very carefully on this question; but day after day we are seeing the terrible crimes which are taking place in Ireland, and if we did not regard life so 1219 cheaply now, after the holocaust of the world War, this country would have been roused to a great storm of fury over the murder of those men whose only crime is that they are wearing the uniform which represents the authority of this House in Ireland. We have even seen recently this terrible attack on the representative of His Majesty, and I noticed this remarkable statement in a newspaper, one of the Government Press, that I was reading on Saturday: "Had the attempt proved fatal the Home Rule Bill would have been dropped, but happily it failed, and the Government can go on with the Bill." That is a very extraordinary line of reasoning, for it means that if the shooting is straight no Home Rule Bill can be carried, but if it lacks proficiency and only the blood of a personal attendant sitting within two feet of the object of the attack is shed, then you can go on with the Bill. It is very difficult to understand these niceties of inches in this question. The fact remains that the attempt was made and a most desperate attempt at that, and it ix as made by the creatures of the system to whose charge it is deliberately suggested that we should hand over a Parliament in Dublin.
I do not want to press the Chief Secretary, but I would ask him this: la this movement connected with Sinn Fein or is it not, and is it not a fact that this Parliament is bound to be a Sinn Fein Parliament and therefore would be actuated very likely by precisely similar ideas? I believe, and I believe the majority of Members of this House would agree, that the only way to encourage that kind of thing is to show fear, and most reluctantly I believe the Prime Minister is not quite aware of the psychology of the Irish people when he says that they will not regard this measure as a sign of weakness. I believe you will have to make a very different argument for the people of Ireland. I bad a forebear who happened to be Lieutenant-Governor of Ireland in the time of Queen Elizabeth, and he placed on record this, that the Irish were a very turbulent people, but if you were only just and firm with them you found they were most reasonable on every occasion. I cannot help thinking that there are political reasons in bringing this proposal before the House this evening which really do not fit the facts. I have even heard it said by one or two hon. Gentlemen in the smoking room, "Let us bring in a Bill of 1220 some sort. We know it will be turned down, but we can at any rate show the people of the United States of America that we made an attempt." Let us not go in for that kind of opportunism, which does us no good in the long run. I am sorry to see the Unionist party are taking such very little interest in this question of the Union; the Unionist leaders, unfortunately, have been conspicuous by their absence ever since the Prime Minister sat down. The Nationalist party also should have been interested in this measure, and perhaps their absence proves that it is stillborn.
§ Brigadier-General CROFT
They are all coming in large numbers at the next election, as some hon. Members will discover in their own constituencies. The recent happenings which have been going on during the War have absolutely proved up to the hilt the case which the right hon. Gentlemen used to advance to those of us who sat at their feet in days gone by, and I think they might remember that their trusteeship, represented in the Unionist party on that bench, emanates from their glorious defence of the Union.
Are they now going to desert their cause and their principles and their friends, merely because they have been proved overwhelmingly right by the claims which they have ever put forward in the past? Is it that they are suffering under a hypnotism from which they cannot free themselves If the Leader of the House were here I should ask him if the great Welsh Svengali is forcing him and his fellow Trilby's, the senior Member for the City of London (Mr. Balfour), and the right hon. Member for the Strand (Mr. Long) to consent to sing this Radical, Home Rule proposal, quite unconsciously, under his spell-binding influence. The right hen. Member for Colchester (Sir L. Worthington-Evans) is present, and perhaps he can tell me whether they are under the effects of this hypnotism at the present time, and where the Unionist Leaders stand on this question? The Leader of the Unionist party was speaking at Liverpool a few days ago, and said he was going to stay in the Coalition just so long as any principle which he regarded as vital was not violated. I am entitled to ask the Leaders of the Unionist party whether they are for or against the Union. I am not ashamed 1221 to say that if the late Mr. John Redmond was controlling the political situation in Ireland at the present time, with those who thought with him, I would do everything in my power, after his action in the War, to see that the principles which the Prime Minister set forth this afternoon, were enacted in a measure in order to establish a Parliament in Dublin and a Parliament in Belfast. But that is not the situation to-day, and we are blinding ourselves to the facts if we think that it is.
The history of the War has proved that the Unionist party's faith as it was known in the past has, unhappily, proved a correct faith. It is the duty of this House to see that so long as this crime is going on in Ireland there is no talk of any faltering in any form. We ought to give every support to the Executive and especially to the Chief Secretary, who, although I differ from him on a great many questions, has shown the greatest courage and the greatest sincerity ever since he undertook that office. I would ask those who used to belong to the Unionist party—I am afraid I am about the only Unionist left—why they are deserting their old principles, when all the arguments they ever put before their country in the past have in reality been borne out by the War, and when all the teaching of history and of common sense demand that we should stand by that Union which has proved the safeguard of our land, and we ought to do everything in our power to strengthen it by wise administration and by a firm holding up of justice in Ireland. Those of us who have seen what has happened during the War must realise that the Union which alone made this country safe in the past can alone keep it safe in the future, and that any experiment of this kind, which is merely in order to camouflage the situation, and which can lead to no real and permanent peace, is doing no good turn either for England or Ireland. It is our duty to do everything in our power to see that law and order is carried out, and that only if we can get all parties in Ireland to consent to come together into some scheme are we justified in breaking up the Union which has proved a bulwark against our enemies.
§ Lord H. CAVENDISH-BENTINCK
Like every other speaker who has preceded me, I fully associate myself with the horror that has been expressed at the outrage against Lord French, and still more with the disgust at the murder of the 1222 unfortunate policeman. It is part of the tragedy of Ireland that a section of the population, driven to desperation by what they consider unjust government, commit some act which hampers those who are working for a juster system of government. Coercion leads to crime and crime to coercion. Coercion plays into the hands of the criminal and the criminal into the hands of coercion. But the fact that these outrages have taken place ought not to prevent us attempting to probe to the root of the difficulty, and if we do so find that though Ireland is governed by a Liberal Prime Minister and Chief Secretary, and the Government is composed of a great many Liberals, Ireland is not governed at present on Liberal principles but on the principles of FitzGibbon, Earl of Clare. FitzGibbon, believed thoroughly that the majority of the Irish people were incurably bad, and, therefore, the minority being good, Ireland should be governed in the interests of the minority. The present Government thoroughly believes in minority government, and I am afraid it is minority government which has inspired the speech and the proposals put forward by the Prime Minister. These proposals are inspired by a thorough distrust of the majority of the Irish people. It is a thoroughly unsound and artificial proposal, and though I wish it well and hope it, will be accepted by the Irish people, I fear there is very little chance of it, and I am very much afraid that the last state of Ireland will be worse than the first.
The reason why we have always failed to solve the problem of Irish discontent is that we have never yet approached the Irish problem in the spirit of the British constitution, which is that the majority should rule, and it is in that spirit that we have solved all our Imperial problems. We have solved the South African, the Canadian and the Australian problem. Before the days of Lord Durham there was exactly the same discontent in Canada, exactly the same racial animosities as prevail to-day in Ireland. Canada was governed in the interests of a minority. For instance, in lower Canada, although the Representative Assembly was entirely French, the executive council was a nominated council and was entirely British. The result was that there was violent discontent and violent racial animosities, and the British minority made exactly the same claim to the monopoly of loyalty as the people of Ulster do at 1223 present, and made exactly the same charges of disloyalty against the French. A step was taken in tile right direction when Lord Elgin, who was Governor-General, in the spirit of the Durham Report, granted responsible government to the Canadians. But he made the mistake, on the recommendation of Lord Durham, of uniting the two provinces under one Parliament, and it was not until 1867 that the Canadians themselves solved their own problem. The Prime Minister in his speech this afternoon said that the Canadian problem was solved by the creation of two provincial assemblies. I am sure that the Prime Minister did not wish to mislead the House, but that is not in accordance with the facts. The Canadian problem was not solved by the creation of two provincial parliaments. The Canadian problem was solved by the creation of the Dominion Parliament, an all-Canadian parliament, a Canadian parliament which gave all creeds and all races in Canada the opportunity of expressing their nationality. Provincial parliaments were set up in which the minor subjects of legislation were accorded, but the essential part of the Canadian settlement was that the Canadian people solved their own problem.
I submit that the only way to solve the Irish problem is to follow strictly the Canadian precedent, to create an all-Irish Parliament and let the Irish people solve their own problem. It may be that separation is the only solution. But if, separation is going to be accepted by the Irish people, separation can only be accepted when the Irish people themselves come to the conclusion that separation is the only way out of the difficulty. I cannot help thinking that the Canadian precedent is a most hopeful precedent. Let there be an all-Irish Parliament to which all the major subjects of legislation should be accorded, and let there be strictly subordinate Parliaments in North and South to which minor subjects of legislation should be accorded. If the Canadian settlement removed racial animosities I think that there is every reason to hope that the removal of an unjust and thoroughly bad old government will smooth away racial animosities in Ireland. Personally I cannot help thinking that we are to a very large extent responsible for the racial animosities in Ireland. The hatred between North and South, to a very large extent, is the effect of bad government.
1224 Remove that bad government and racial animosities will die away. It is exactly the same with crime. We must clear our minds of a great deal of cant with regard to crime. Personally I believe Ireland to be one of the most crimeless countries in Europe. I ask hon. Members, was there any crime in Ireland in 1914 when the Irish people were hoping to get Dome Rule? There was not, and nobody can say that there was. The crime that is existing in Ireland now is the result of Ireland being governed by red hats, by tanks, and by men in steel helmets. If you remove the tanks, the red hats and the steel helmets, and give Ireland the opportunity of governing itself, crime in Ireland will die away at once. It was Lord Sherbourne who said, "We govern people. We do not understand them. We do not attempt to understand them." All that the Irish people ask is that they shall be treated as normal human beings. There is nothing abnormal about the Irish people or about the Irish question. If Ireland is governed in the interests of the majority, she will behave exactly the same as every other Government responsible to the people.
§ Mr. ACLAND
I do not want to enter into the merits of the proposals put before the House by the Prime Minister. I should like to say one thing with regard to what was said by the hon. and gallant Member (Brigadier-General Croft), that I for one should not be at all afraid if the Parliament of the South of Ireland were to return, initially, persons of a Sinn Fein persuasion. Let me refer to one subject—forestry. It is a fact that it is the one party, they are the first set of men, who have done anything effective in regard to that matter. If Sinn Fein should continue to produce people who are really keen and anxious and practical on matters of real Irish development, surely it would be a good sign and not a bad sign. It reminds me of what was once said by a famous Irish ecclesiastic, namely, that there are certain people who, when the stream runs dry see no necessity for building a bridge, and when the stream runs high say it is impossible to build a bridge. The fact that there is unrest in Ireland is no reason why we should not do our very best to settle that; question. If, whenever there is any disturbance in the country we are to hold cur hands and to say that it is no responsibility of ours, then this question will never be 1225 settled. It seems to me that there are certain important things to consider if you try to look forward to next year and to envisage the passage of a Bill. The first is that the work of the Government and of the House on the Bill should as soon as possible be divorced from the influences of Irish administration. There is a prevalent opinion.—I dare say it is not justified—that there are in the Government two currants of opinion—that one would like to go as far as the Prime Minister went in a liberal grant of self-government to Ireland, and that the other is in favour of something like a return to years of firm government, and so on. The sooner the Bill can be removed from that atmosphere of suspicion the better. Then there is the question that before we really embark on legislation it would be well, if we could, to give the parties interested a chance of being heard. The axiom upon which the prime Minister spoke is, after all, a very considerable axiom. It was this because by trying to force union you have created disunion, therefore by forcing disunion you may create union. There are many doubtful points in that doctrine, and it needs to be very carefully examined. Surely it would be a good thing, although the Shin Fein members have refused in this House, if they could come and give their views as to what they think would be the position if the ideal of complete independence which they are now advocating were put into practical form?
If we legislate, we ought to legislate with all the facts before us, and all the cards of every party or section on the table, if we possibly can have them there. Particularly I would like to go into this doctrine, which seems to be inherent, implicit, in the solution that the Prime Minister puts before us, namely, that Ulster should have a claim to keep Ireland divided. Personally, like other English Members of Parliament, I have only had a limited experience of Irishmen, but it has always seemed to me that the two nations, as they are called, in Ireland, are very much nearer together in their sentiment, in their out look on life, on politics, and on everything else, than either of them is to any other nation or to us on this side of the Channel. Therefore, it seems to me that we ought to examine things very carefully, if we can, before we consent to a system of initial division of these people, Who, after all, are all Irishmen and are proud of it, and rightly proud of it. I think it is possible that the united wisdom 1226 of the House of Commons, as expressed through this Parliament, may perhaps be better in finding a permanent solution of this question than the united—or perhaps should say the divided—wisdom of the Government. Therefore, I suggest that the Government should bring on the First and Second Readings of their Bill as early as possible in the forthcoming Session, and should then refer the Bill, as was done in the ease of the India Bill, to a Joint Select Committee of both Houses. The procedure before the Joint Select Committee of both Houses is interesting. First of all, if the precedent of the India Bill is followed, anyone interested is asked to give evidence, and that evidence is given in public. Secondly, there is only one Report; you cannot have a Report and a Minority Report, so that you would not risk arriving at a deadlock by having the Committee equally divided, or anything of tht kind. Thirdly, you may by that procedure, if the matter were thoroughly threshed out, avoid the necessity of weeks, or even months, of detailed work on the floor of this House, which, probably, is not the best place for shaping the details of a great settlement. Fourthly, there is, of course, in that procedure, the best chance of avoiding what has wrecked more Home Rule Bills than one in the past, namely, disagreement between the two Houses. It would be fatal if, at this stage, we were again to be checked and prevented from making any progress by a disagreement between the two Houses, ashes happened in the past. The procedure which I suggest undoubtedly did an enormous amount. of good in the case of the India Bill, in clearing the air and making every party to what, I think, is now almost generally regarded as a great settlement, feel that they had a real chance of expressing their views before a really responsible body representing both Houses of Parliament.
Let us remember that the Government has talked rather big about their determination to have all sorts of Bills put forward in the early days of the next Session. They are already pledged to a considerable legislative programme, but it does not work that way. You perhaps have a few weeks when the Address has been passed, and so on, when you can get the First and Second Readings of one or two big Bills, but then you are tied to many weeks when practically nothing but financial business can be done. If the Government were to get the First and Second 1227 Readings of this Bill quite early in the Session, and then refer it to a Select Committee, no time would really be lost. You cannot really get on with the details of a Bill that has to be dealt with in this House until well on into May or June. At any rate, I commend the suggestion to the serious attention of the Government, because I believe that a Bill which represented the considered judgment of the House, threshed out in public before such a Select Committee, would command more confidence, and would be likely to meet with more success, than even the very best Bill that the Government could put before us without such procedure.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I think the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Duncairn has answered to the test which Solomon applied in the case of the two women and the child that they both claimed, and has proved himself to be not a real lover of his country. This Irish question is much more than a British question to-day. It is a great European question. It is not that we would tolerate interference on the part of other European countries in the settlement of our own affairs, but at the present time we have been reduced to such an impasse by the selfishness and the imperialisms of nations big and little, old and new, late enemies and late friends, that a lead is now needed from some country, and more especially from this country, to lead them away from it. We have not yet given that lead. We to-day are begging and imploring the small nationalities in Europe to be a little unselfish, to settle their differences by consent and to drop a little of their exaggerated irredentism's in order that we may save the lives of many hundred thousands of people, not only during this winter but in the years to come because of wars which will break out unless a. really clean settlement is made to-day in Europe. When we suggest—say to the Poles—that they should not claim the whole of Eastern Galicia, or to the Czecho-Slovaks that they should not fight for Teschen, or to the Italians that they should not claim more than their just dues on the shores of the Adriatic, they can say to us, "What have you done in your own concerns Have you shown yourselves to be unselfish in any way? "It is from that point of view that I direct attention to the speech made by the Prime Minister to-day. It was very disappointing, hesitating and ungenerous.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I beg the Noble Lord's pardon. I heard his speech with the greatest of interest arid welcomed his sentiments, as I always have done ever since I entered this House. The strategical position was dragged up again from the sterile debates in the 'eighties. That position is hopelessly exaggerated. The Prime Minister was very indignant the other day when he was twitted by the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin. (Lord R. Cecil) with being, or with some members of the Government being, lukewarm over the League of Nations. Had the right hon. Gentleman thought for one second of the League of Nations before making the speech he delivered this afternoon? Are we arming ourselves for another war? Have we to consider what hostile forces there may be in the four corners of the world and over the seven seas in the coining years? What will be more important than the air route across the Atlantic will be the air routes to the East. The air routes from London to Moscow or Delhi will he across half a dozen countries. Each of them, if hostile, could cut our air routes in the event of civil war in Europe. Are we to try to control the foreign policy of all Europe, because that is what it amounts to if we are to be frightened from granting a measure of Home Rule to Ireland, because of the possibility of having a hostile country on our flank in Ireland in the event of another war? I will ask one question. Will the two Parliaments that are to be set up in Ireland be represented, as our Dominions will be, en the Assembly of the League of Na lions? That is of great importance, because it means the success or failure of the whole scheme.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
If only these Irish were nice. sad. sober, sensible and businesslike Englishmen. what a perfect Bill this would be! Unfortunately they are Irish, therefore we have to consider whether the Irish people themselves will accept this measure. Everyone in this House knows perfectly well that the Irish people to-day will not accept this measure. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Duncairn (Sir E. Carson) was perfectly right. You will get Sinn Feiners elected in an overwhelming body to that new Dublin Parliament, and these Sinn Feiners 1229 will refuse to take the oath. There will immediately be trouble. The Irish people are riot like the English people. They do not wish to accept a businesslike settlement. They have made up their minds what they want, and will not be content with anything else. It is no use our bringing forward the most ideal scheme of Home Rule so long as even the constitutional Irish party will not attend the House to hear it propounded. The right hon. Member for Camborne (Mr. Acland) has suggested putting this Bill before a mint Select Committee as was done in the case of the India Bill. Does he really imagine De Valera would come over here in Order to give evidence, and can he picture De Valera's frame of mind after he had peen cross-examined for half-an-hour by the right hon. Member for Camborne? Obviously the Irish people are not a practical people. They are not a people who like to be told what is good for them. They have told us what they want, and that is to cut themselves loose from the Government here. I think it is our duty here to be quite frank on this Irish question and make up oar individual minds what is to be done. I have made up my mind long ago, and although it may not please Irishmen or Ulstermen, or my Constituents, I am going to state it. I think we ought immediately to hold a plebiscite In Ireland as to whether each individual will prefer secession or to remain attached to the British Empire. I would make that proposal to Ireland, and at the same time to President Wilson, and ask President Wilson to see that the plebiscite was stated in a fair way, exactly in the same way as we are now sending our troops to decide as to the plebiscite in Silesia or Dantzig. I would go further and say to the President that we are content to allow him to appoint a Commission to decide. I would ask him to appoint a Commission to consider the financial obligations of the two countries, and I do that, not because I want to see the Irish secede, but because I am perfectly certain that the only way to re-establish good relations between the Irish and the English is to give them what they want, and then let them see how inconvenient it is. We know perfectly well that the whole of South, East and West of Ireland depends on its exports to this country, and first give them what they ask, and let them see we are not their enemies, and then we may hope to see the British Empire reestablished as a free commonwealth of 1230 co-operating countries. We know perfectly well that is the right thing. All our instincts tell us that the British Empire has been made strong by giving subordinate countries their liberty, and then they back you up. That, I believe, would be the best solution of the Irish problem, and I believe that the Prime Minister himself will be forced to that solution, even when he has carried this Bill into law, as it is merely following the right solution, while it is creating more friction, more bloodshed, more coercion and more crime to postpone the day when we shall have to come to that solution.