§ Mr. CLYNES
I beg to move,That this House do now adjourn.Earlier in the day there appeared upon, the Order Paper questions, the point of which was whether the Prime Minister had had his attention drawn to the speech delivered on Saturday last, near Belfast, by the right hon. Gentleman (Sir E. Carson), and I asked what action the Government proposed to take upon the statements in that speech. I asserted that it incited to breaches of the law, and threatened violence and illegal action in the event of the law being carried out, and I asked whether the Government would give any assurance that action would be taken so as to treat equally all persons affected by the law in this Kingdom. The answer I received from the Leader of the House was:I am advised that there is no ground upon which His Majesty's Government could take action with regard to the speech referred to.486 We are interested to know, of course, what are the technical grounds upon which the Government stand in giving us no more than that answer, but we are more interested to discuss the great issue which has been raised from a level high above technicalities. There are very big considerations raised by the statements of the right hon. Gentleman (Sir E. Carson) which we on this side cannot ignore. I want to speak from three standpoints—the standpoint of how these statements which I have quoted affect the position in Ireland, the standpoint of how they affect our position here in this country, and the standpoint of what is obviously the duty of the Government in relation to the issues which have been raised. We approach with some reluctance what might appear to be a personal attack upon a Member so experienced and so distinguished in this House and in the public service as the right hon. Gentleman, but we are impelled by a sense of public duty and by the very real consequences hingeing upon the statements which have been made, and which the Government has so far ignored, to ask the special attention of the House in this way for a discussion of those matters. The speech contained this statement in reference to any intention to give effect to the Home Rule Act—an Act passed and confirmed by this House, and not yet removed from the Statute Book:I gave you this pledge in the Ulster Hall and I repeat it now once more, that if any attempt to revive it or to put it into force is made I will at once summon the Provisional Government and I will move that we repeal the Home Rule Act, if nobody else does.We understand that there is but one Government in the United Kingdom. We are all required to stand equally before it and to be answerable to it. It would appear from those statements that there is still in existence another, brought provisionally into existence by the right hon. Gentleman to meet contingencies which existed a year or two before the War. Is the Government aware of the existence of this Provisional Government? Can they be ignorant of the existence so short a distance across the water of another Government, which a very powerful personality in public affairs in this Kingdom and in this House declares he will invoke and use should any attempt be made to revive the Home Rule Act which rests upon the Statute Book? Further in that speech the right hon. Gentleman said:I tell the British people from this platform here in your presence, and I say it now with all solemnity—I tell them that if there is any, 487 attempt made to take away one jot or tittle of your rights as British citizens and the advantages which have been won in this war of freedom, I will call out the Ulster Volunteers.I think that entitles us to ask a question as to what knowledge the Government has of the rifles, the ammunition, and the warlike material wherewith alone Volunteers can be of any service. Whatever else we might say of the right hon. Gentleman— I am sorry not to see him in his place— no one of us would consider him lacking in personal courage. For the work which he has undertaken he has all the necessary physical and moral qualities which will be required, and the question which he has raised is this: Can the Government show itself as physically and as morally courageous as the right hon. Gentleman? Are there in existence in Belfast, under the guardianship and protection of trustworthy Ulstermen and Unionists, rifles sufficient to make the Volunteers of service? We have been informed that rifles have been collected, and in some way stowed away in safe custody. The conclusion to which I am driven by these confident statements and emphatic threats of the right hon. Gentleman is that the rifles and ammunition are in the safe custody of his friends in Ulster, and that should the moment arrive when he thinks it advisable to call them out the men will be deliberately armed as Volunteers, fully equipped for warlike purposes, and I think we are entitled to ask what information we can get to reassure this House that should this threat be carried out it cannot be made effective for the want of the necessary munitions, rifles, and armaments to make the volunteers of any service. Whatever may be the political attachment of Members who sit in different parts of the House, I am sure they will agree with me that it is regrettable, at least, that a public man should at this moment lend himself to courses which, whatever our view may be of their merits, are bound, as a matter of certainty, further to encourage, and further to add to the difficulties of the Government of this country. In that regard I am supported by a statement used recently in our Courts by the Public Prosecutor acting on behalf of the Government in connection with a case where a comparatively unknown offender had said something in public which was regarded as highly dangerous to the public interest and as in- 488 citing to public disturbance. Sir Arthur Bodkin, the prosecuting counsel, in addressing the Court, said:At a period when there was a great deal of unrest and excitement among the people a speech of the kind he had described was gravely reprehensible. The Defence of the Realm Regulations afforded a speedy way of showing the-defendant and others that while freedom of discussion on all public questions was permissible, a period of unrest was not to be made the occasion for stirring up the prejudices of one class against another by suggesting disorder, violence, and crime.If those in our Courts of Law speak in this way as a corrective upon minor wrongdoers because of public statements which they have made in the expression of their views, surely we may expect, at least, some-corresponding repudiation and some similar warning to be given to the more powerful and influential persons whose word is winged not merely throughout every great town in this country, but practically through the Press of other great countries as well. It may be that the right hon. Gentleman feels that his cause is so overwhelming that he is entitled to regard himself as the great exception; that he feels so profoundly and deeply in the justice of his cause that he is entitled to go to any lengths in the use of any language to prevent existing conditions being changed. He knows much more about the law than. I do, but that would not be accepted as a plea in any Court of Law, and it cannot be accepted as a plea in this House. These few men, poor men some of them, perhaps illiterate men, who have been punished by terms of imprisonment of a few weeks varying to terms of five years, feel deeply and fervently in the justice of their cause, and, propelled as they are by a conviction of their own, however wrong they may be, have said these things which have brought them into collision with the law. Whatever our own personal beliefs, however deep and fervent they may be, they must not be used either as a defence or an excuse for such flagrant incitements to violence as are contained in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman to which I have referred.
At this moment some 50,000 or more soldiers are in Ireland for the purpose of enforcing the law. I have no doubt that the right hon. Gentleman regards that extreme and costly measure as a proper course. I cannot reconcile his view that the law, as he sees it, should be enforced by military means upon those who think differently from him, and that he himself should be- 489 free so to degrade the law and so to belittle the position of Britain in the enforcement of the law as has been indicated in his speech. We cannot consistently require the Army to enforce the law in the case of the majority in Ireland, and then say that the minority, or those who speak for the minority, are entitled, repeatedly, to incite to breaches of the law as clearly as is incited in the right hon. Gentleman's speech. This is not an occasion upon which we can enter into a Debate upon the general position of Irish government. I can only say for myself that I am most anxious, as I am sure men of all parties must be anxious, to have a settlement of the Irish trouble, and we who take the self-government point of view include in that view an earnest desire to consider in the fullest and the fairest way the views of those who are in Ulster, and who, at any rate, include or compose a considerable part of the Ulster population. That, however, is not the question. It is the business of the law to secure respect for it, or, if not respect for it, to insist upon obedience. It is the business of the Government so to act in applying the law as to make it rest upon the confidence of all classes, rich and poor, high and low, that they will be equally treated in relation to it.
This is not a moment when the Leader of the House, or those who are responsible for the forces of government in this country, can thank the right hon. Gentleman for his recent public utterances. At no time was the government of Ireland a more embarrassing and more troublesome problem than at the present moment. Perhaps at no time was the law more generally disregarded and flouted than it Is in Ireland at the present time. That is not to concede my case, but it does not in any way hinder the plea which I make. We on this side of the House have raised no complaint against the enforcement of the law when it has had to be enforced against Nationalist Ireland, and equally we expect to have the encouragement and the support of all sections of the House when we say that the law must be equitably applied to Ulstermen also. The total effect of these statements of the right hon. Gentleman, must surely be further to increase the embarrassment of the Government and further to add to the difficulties of those who are seeking to reconcile the law with Irish opinion, and to see that the Government as it is settled by this House runs consistently and equally to 490 every part of Ireland. Next to the effect of this line of conduct upon Ireland there is a very serious effect upon our position here. We have inherited from the War many strange difficulties, and a considerable number of men come back to our country in a disturbed state of mind. Speaking, as I think I can, for my colleagues on this side of the House, I may say that we have appealed to them for patience. We have told them to trust in the justice of this House. We have asked them to believe that by constitutional means and by ordinary, orderly, and electoral methods the grievances, which are felt with the deepest intensity—an intensity as deep as can be entertained by Ulster—can be remedied by action in this House. The answer, when we have made this plea to large masses of workmen, has been, if I may be allowed to use this term, "What did Carson do?" That is the answer, illogical, and in a sense shorn of any real point, but still quite convincing to those who are very glad to have a high example set for them in doing what they propose, and I can assure this House that the statements of the right hon. Member for the Duncairn Division are repeatedly quoted in what is called the Extremist Press.
The extremists make his sayings their motto. They set forth his example as a thing to be followed, because they say, "That is the only course that can be successful. The Government cannot, or dare not, resist the right hon. Gentleman or apply the law to him. Why, therefore, should we bend to the law? Why should we depend on any appeal to reason when us has only to resort to force and to threats and he can secure any object that he may have in view?" As the great archapostle of direct action, the Member for the Duncairn Division of Belfast is frequently held up as the man whose sayings and conduct justify the policy and the methods of those who have been hauled into our Courts in London and are now in jail for saying loss harmful things. You may read the reports of these cases as I have read them only this afternoon, a sheaf of them—I will not trouble to quote one—and you find in them that several of these offenders, having been brought into Court, have in their defence quoted the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Duncairn Division. It is upon his doctrine that they rely. He set the example to be followed by them. The Government cannot fairly and cannot 491 honestly prosecute people—illiterate it may be in some cases—for saying things that are repeated time after time from platforms in the North of Ireland by the right hon. Gentleman. The law cannot be respected unless it is applied to rich and poor and weak and strong alike, and the Government must not ride off upon any interpretation of a purely technical or legal character.
I could show the House by quotations from these different cases that the Courts and the juries who have tried these cases and the men who have had to decide them and impose punishment have had regard not exactly to the technical part of the offence committed by these poor men, but have had regard to the effect of their offence upon the public mind and upon the soldier. And these offenders who are now in jail had no great Press to recite their sayings in the next edition. I suppose that there is not a paper in this country, perhaps not one in America, and in many lands remote from ours, which has not given the substance, if not exactly the words, of these two parts of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman which I quoted earlier in my remarks. And the man who stands up in Hyde Park, and whose speeches are taken down only by a shorthand-writer, and would rest secure in the secrecy of the policeman's notebook, is brought before a tribunal in our country because we must uphold the dignity and equality of the law and impose punishment for these minor offences. Now, I can assure the House, from one's knowledge of the effect of these statements upon Labour and upon the public mind, that very serious harm is being done to the whole cause of government and of law and order by this absence of restraint or correction of such statements such as I have already quoted. The Leader of the House, in reply to my question earlier in the day, stated that, according to the advice given to the Government by the Law Officers no action could be taken. Might I ask for the terms of that advice? I do not want a legal opinion without the usual payment, but this is an occasion upon which I am sure the country and the House should be told what are the grounds for failing to act in the one case when action is so common in the other, and the Law Officers should, I think, tell the House fully what are the considerations which weigh with them in 492 ignoring these incitements to violence and threats to defy and to break the law— threats to call out the volunteers, threats to use the force of armed men.
These are things which cannot be laid to the account of those men who are now in jail for speaking upon small platforms in our parks to small numbers of people. After reading these cases I realise, taking the whole of them together, that the harm. done by these men who have been punished with sentences varying from moderate terms of a few weeks' imprisonment to five years' imprisonment is, collectively, considerably less than the harm done by these incitements to illegal action uttered; by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Duncairn Division. We bring this matter forward with real reluctance. We have not sought it. During the whole course of the life of this Government the party with which I am associated has been anxious to give the Government a trial in carrying through and completing the great work of the reconstruction for which this Parliament was elected. How we can hope to" apply our minds to any great domestic problem in face of these divisions which have been caused, in face of the confusion in the minds of the people, and this idea that there is one law for them and another for the rich, is a question which is exceedingly difficult to answer. I want to have at least some assurance from the right hon. Gentleman who is going to speak for the Government that there is going to be equality before the law, and if, before actually violating the law in the sense of committing some physical act, a person threatens to do so, and incites to violence and says that, in the event of certain action being taken by the Government, he will flout the forces of the law, I want to know whether that, in the case of a mighty personage, is to be passed over as so much harmless speechmaking, and, in the case of the poor man, is to be held up as a reprehensible incitement to disorder which must be punished with all the rigours of the law. I repeat that we bring this matter to the notice of the House this evening reluctantly. We would prefer that every minute of our time should be devoted to the great work of reconstruction for which Parliament was elected; but so serious is the issue raised by these speeches that we think that even more harm will be done to the cause of peace and law and order if we ignore what has so plainly 493 been declared, and therefore we ask for some reassuring statement from the Government to-night.
Lieut.-Colonel AUBREY HERBERT
I think the House will believe me when I say that I rise to speak on this question with very great reluctance. I cannot look at it quite from the angle of my right hon. Friend who has just sat down. Members like myself are still young Members of the House, but we are old enough to have had a pretty long association with the Ulster Members in this House, and it gives me something like a heartache to have to say what I know is going to hurt, at all events one of the senior members of the Ulster party, for whom I have respect and admiration. I am afraid he will have little affection for me by the time I sit down, but, after all, those personal considerations have to be put aside. I say that 1 would have very much preferred to have kept silence to-night; but if you keep silence to-night, what does it mean? It means this, that you are going to allow the egotism of one man and one community that ought to be purely self-destructive to drag us all into their wreckage, and 1 do not think we are prepared to accept that. The main point, it seems to me, is this: At the one moment when this War has been won and everyone of us should be doing what we can for peace, the right hon. Gentleman who has been attacked to-night is doing all that he can to cart us back into the vortex of war. Perhaps the House will allow me just for a few moments to look back upon the past.
In 1914 we were on the verge of civil war. Many of us then were very young Members of this House and we were very immature politicians. We thought, and I still think we thought rightly, that the Government had played us a dirty trick in the way they had brought on the Home Rule Bill, and in the actual Home Rule Bill, and we went round the country saying that "Ulster would fight and Ulster would be right." Then we were brought face to face with the reality of the whole situation. We saw what it was going to mean to the entire British Empire—to Australia, to Canada, to ourselves, and to Ireland—and a great many of us, perhaps too late, had to reconsider our opinions. What a great many of us did then was this. We had made speeches to induce other people to go and fight. We did not think we could leave these people, and therefore we volunteered 494 to fight for Ulster. Meanwhile we did all that we could do to make a compromise. My Friend Sir Mark Sykes worked as very few men did; and would to God he was with us now ! He had a real power of feeling in him, and he had a real vision, a real intuition of what men must fight for. Before the War the right hon. Gentleman who has been attacked to-night had made a speech in Ulster and had collected a body known as the Ulster Volunteers. Now I hold that that' body was really the uncle of Sinn Fein and the stepmother of trouble all over our Empire, from Egypt to India. After that there came the War. Then Mr. Redmond, I think, did one of the finest things that have been done in history. After forty years of work he and the Irish party, by constitutional methods, had got a Home Rule Bill upon the Statute Book. Mr. Redmond risked all that work; he had the flash of insight as to what this War really meant, and he did what was done by many who threw up everything they had and went straight into the War. Mr. Redmond said, "This War is Ireland's war, because it is a war for freedom." Later on, when history is written, I think you will see that freedom owes a very great debt to Major William Redmond, who died fighting for the Allies, and to Mr. John Redmond, who died fighting for the cause of his own country and the cause of freedom.
Any man who has any knowledge of what has happened in the last four years must deplore the catastrophe and the accident that occurred to us. No man like myself, who recognises the enormous debt that all this country owes to Lord Kitchener, can bear to say a word against him, but the truth is that Mr. Redmond's offer for recruiting was never fairly received in the War Office; and, again, Mr. Redmond's offer to go on to recruiting platforms with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Duncairn was not accepted by that Member. Now what have we got 1 This country, this world is in turmoil, and when the ship of Peace is about to reach harbour you have this speech made by the right hon. Member. The War is not finished yet. It is still going on. When he made this speech, on what lines did he make it? He speaks about the Home Rule Bill which is on the Statute Book. He refers to it, I think, as a putrescent corpse. I am not going to attack the courage of the right hon. Gentleman, because I know he is a brave man, but those are very easy 495 words to slip from the lips of a Gentleman who has never known what the smells of the battlefield are like. Then, again, we are told that he speaks in loyalty to the British Empire. What is this loyalty? It is a loyalty of Shylock. During this War many great things have been done, many great passions have been evoked that one never dreamt of. Misers have given their gold. You have pacifists even who have given their blood, widows who have given their only sons; and now, when the War is not yet finished, you have the right hon. Gentleman saying, "We will give nothing at all." What we know in the House is surely this: Ulster is proud and Ulster is rightly proud. Ulster has not been made by England. Ulster has been made by herself. When Ulster takes up this position, "We will simply block the way; we will do nothing at all; you must fight your own difficulties in Canada, Australia, and the United States, and every other place," then, I say, it is time that every man who cares for his Empire should dissociate himself entirely from that Ulster view. In the past, if you will look back to the-recent years, all our successes have been gained because we have been generous and because we have been faithful to our word. We fought the Boers in South Africa and beat the Boers in South Africa, but because we treated them in the old English spirit we have had General Smuts and General Both a fighting at our right hand. Surely this victory is big enough to make us forget smaller things. We are now at the turning of the ways. Let us remember the spirit that has made men fight, and let us remember the spirit that has made men forgive. We have got the chance of uniting Ireland to us now as we have united the Boers in South Africa, and I very much hope that the Government will take that view and speedily bring about a settlement of the Irish question.
§ Lord HUGH CECIL
I think no one can make the smallest complaint of the action of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Clyne) and his Friends in raising this discussion. It has already led to two very interesting speeches. We have had the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, and with almost every word of that speech I find myself in substantial agreement, except about the point of law, about which neither of us can be said to be very good judges. Nothing could be more admirable 496 than the moderation of tone and lucidity of statement of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, and it will, I am sure, greatly add to the authority with which he always speaks in this House. I am afraid I am not at all in agreement with my hon. Friend who spoke last, despite his fascinating personality, since he seemed to me to make precisely the speech which I hoped would not be made on the present occasion. The right hon. Gentleman lays down a proposition which no one can dispute. He says—and with a truth which I am sure we all deeply feel—that the present is of all times a time when it is necessary to uphold the authority of the law and the impartiality of the administration of the law. Nothing in the world could be more mischievous than the supposition that the law is not fairly administered as between the richer people and poor and insignificant people. Nothing is now a greater danger than lessening the general fabric of public order and the authority of the law, and to every word of that we shall all give hearty acceptance. I do not at all hesitate to say that I think in the circumstances of the time and of the present moment the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for the Duncairn Division (Sir E. Carson) is altogether indefensible. It cannot be defended. But as to whether it is not merely indefensible but illegal, the point, 1 think, is perhaps open to considerable doubt. But if it is also thought to be illegal I should agree that it is very desirable that proceedings should be taken against my right hon. Friend in order that the law might be vindicated. I say that as one who is deeply interested, too much interested perhaps, in the difficult and anxious question of the ethics of resistance, "the case of resistance considered," as our ancestors used to describe it. I have more than once been unfortunate enough to speak in this House on topics akin to that, but I have never been able to take the view which some people find so easy to take, that the law must be always respected and that the individual has never a right to resist the law, whether it be suffragettes or conscientious objectors, or Ulstermen, or any other person. I have never been able to take the view that you can lay down the plain proposition that the law is the law and must be obeyed, and there is no more to be said in the matter. I think, on the contrary, there must always be the supreme appeal to private judgment.
497 9.0 p.m.
But there are two things which must be borne in mind, and which are constantly forgotten. One thing which is constantly forgotten is that the law must never be broken either passively or actively except in very rare cases indeed; secondly, it must never be done unless it is the only possible way of saving the country which you are assisting; and thirdly, and this is the point most forgotten, though the individual subject has a perfect right to say, "My conscience of life has been to take this or that course against the law," the Government have also the right to point out, "We too have a conscience, and our conscience requires that we should repress your lawless conduct." These appeals to force or the breaking of the law are all in the nature of dissolving the ordinary social contract between the governor and the governed, and the governor is as much entitled to use force against the governed as the governed is against the governor. I should not at all complain, even if I thought my right hon. Friend in this particular case justified, of the doctrine laid down by the right hon. Gentleman opposite that if he has broken the law he should be prosecuted. The proper doctrine is that when a rebel appeals beyond the law he has no right to complain if others use force to which he himself has appealed. It seems to be quite clear that my right hon. Friend's action is indefensible, without going deeply into the question, because one of the obvious requirements is not fulfilled. It is quite obvious that he is not left without a constitutional remedy for a threatened danger to his country. Obviously this House and the other House are under the influence of a majority of those who on the whole Home Rule controversy believe rather in the Unionist than in the Home Rule point of view, and this House is absolutely pledged, and so deeply that it could not without the grossest dishonour break that pledge, not to force Home Rule on Ulster against the wish of the Ulstermen. There can be no doubt that both my right hon. Friends on the Government Bench personally and the whole party who support him are pledged by the language that was used at the time of the election not to force Ulster under a Home Rule Government against its will. That seems to me, without going further, to make my right hon. Friend the Member for Duncairn's speech absolutely indefensible, and there is no justification whatever, as I have said, 498 in using the sort of language he does. Whether it is illegal or not, I am not a judge. I have always understood it is impossible to commit a hypothetical offence, and that if you say you are going to break the law in some circumstances not yet arisen you are not breaking the law and are not, therefore, liable to prosecution before a Court.
§ Lord H. CECIL
You must incite to something that is going to happen and not under circumstances which have not yet arisen. No one supposes that the law is at all likely to be broken in consequence of the language the right hon. Gentleman used in this instance.
They pinched me for inciting anyhow, and my language was not half so damaging as that of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Duncairn Division.
§ Lord H. CECIL
It may have been not so damaging, but more likely to lead to a breach of the law. Although, as I say, I entirely censure, as far as it is proper for me to do so, the language of my right hon. Friend the Member for the Duncairn Division, it is necessary, especially after the speech of my hon. Friend behind me (Lieut.-Colonel A. Herbert) to say one word to prevent a misapprehension. On the question of illegality, I am with the right hon. Gentleman opposite. On the question of policy, I entirely disagree with my hon. Friend behind me, so far as I understood the point which his speech was designed to make. There is a disposition. I think, in some people to say that, because the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Duncairn Division uses blameworthy language, therefore the whole of the Ulster objection, to Home Rule ought to beset aside and overridden, or the possibility of its being overridden ought to be considered, and we released in effect from the deeply sworn surety against the coercion of Ulster.
§ Lord H. CECIL
I thought that was what the hon. Member meant, but; it does not much matter whether he meant it, because a good many people mean it, at any rate. I am quite sure not only that that would be an act of political perfidy without parallel in Parliamentary history, but 499 it would also be a profound blunder and a violation of principles which are deeply enshrined in the very Treaty of Peace which we are about to ratify next week. Why should we treat Ulster worse than we propose to treat the people of Southern Schleswig, the people of Upper Silesia, or the people of Danzig I Why should Ulster-men be the only people who are not to be consulted about the government under which they are to live? I should like to hear what the Labour party would have said, supposing it were proposed that we should send British troops, let us say, to force Danzig under the dominion of Poland—how instantly the Trade Union Congress would be assembled, how we should be threatened with direct action, and goodness knows what! The thing would be regarded as intolerable, and rightly so, but if we are not to coerce Germans to go under Poles, why are we to coerce Ulstermen to go under Nationalists?
§ Mr. DEVLIN
Will the Noble Lord also declare that the South of Ireland men who do not want to come under Home Rule are not to do so?
§ Lord H. CECIL
I should be delighted to exempt them, too, but geography forbids. The point is that you can exempt the Ulstermen, because they live together in a corner.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
Would the Noble Lord exclude me and those whom I represent from a Home Rule Parliament?
§ Lord H. CECIL
I am quite willing to allow him to go and live in Danzig, if he likes. I do not want to get into a conversation, but what I am anxious to emphasise is that we shall not get out of the Irish difficulty in that direction. We cannot possibly do in Ireland what we certainly should not do anywhere else. There is no part of the world where we should accept the proposition that a population perfectly satisfied with the Government under which it lives, and violently hostile to the Government under which it 500 is proposed to be put, should be put under that Government against its will. What is the objection to partition? We are told that this is to recognise an Ulster veto on. Home Rule, but it will do nothing of the kind. It is to recognise an Ulster veto on a proposal affecting themselves. No one would maintain that the objection of Ulster should be an objection of a con clusive kind to what is to happen to the rest of Ireland. All that is maintained is that as in Upper Silesia, and as in Danzig, and other places, the wish of the population, the doctrine of self-determination— an expression I am not a great admirer of—should be applied here as elsewhere. What is the objection? You say it blocks Home Rule, but it is not so. It is not the Ulster veto that blocks Home Rule, but the Nationalist veto against partition. It is a coalition of the two which stand together, and jointly stand in the way. I am for the moment assuming that other objections have been met. Which of those two vetoes is the more reasonable, the veto which only relates to what is to happen to the persons who make the veto, or the veto which relates to somebody else quite different? Which is the more unreason able, to say, "We will have nothing done if you do not bring under our authority a body of people who wish to remain where they are and not come under our authority," or, on the other hand, to say, "We are satisfied with the Government which we live under, and we will not con sent to a change." Surely the reasonable position is the position of those who merely seek to determine their own fate, and not the position of the people who insist on determining the fate of others as well. What is the objection to partition? I am told it is inconsistent with Irish nationality, and —
On a point of Order, Sir. May I ask whether Members are entitled to debate Home Rule from top to bottom?
§ Lord H. CECIL
I need not trouble you, Sir, to intervene. I agree with the hon. Gentleman. I was led to go further than I intended into the subject, because I wanted to meet what was said by my hon. Friend behind me, but I agree that this is not the occasion. I was anxious to show in regard to the objection which is, I think, in the minds of a good many people to the speech which is under criticism, an objection not merely legal, but also political, that on that political point I do 501 not think we must allow ourselves to drift, in whatever just reprehension we may utter of the character of the speech itself, we must not allow ourselves to drift into the position that the sentiment which that speech was intended to appeal to was an unreasonable and intolerable sentiment which ought to be set aside. I do not think it is. I think it is a perfectly reasonable sentiment, and one which ought to be upheld, and I am sure we shall not get out of our difficulties in regard to Ireland in that direction. Never, never, never will you get out that way. If it be so decided, try your experiment on the part of Ireland that wants it, try it and let them show by experience, if they can, that it is an acceptable system which will attract Ulster. You may try the conversion of Ulster, but you will never succeed by the other method. I do not want to detain the House any longer. I only wanted to concur in reprehending any appeal to lawlessness under present circumstances, because I think such an appeal under present circumstances is quite unjustified. I wanted to indicate my admiration for the attitude which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Clynes) takes up in generally up-holding the maintenance of law, which is of such vital importance at the present time. I wanted, lastly, to say that these things do not involve the smallest modification of the general resistance to the proposition that Ulster should be put, against its will, under a Home Rule Government.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL (Sir Gordon Hewart)
I am sure that no Member of the House could have listened to the speech in which my right hon. Friend opposite submitted his Motion for the Adjournment without admiring—if he will allow me to say so—both the sincerity and the ability with which he addressed the House, and I am glad to add, as the Noble Lord who has just spoken has said, that with almost the whole of that speech I find myself in entire agreement—that there must be in the administration of justice one weight and one measure, that it is important now, and at all times, but never more important than at this time, to secure respect for and obedience to the law, and that the earnestness and conviction with which an offence is committed, if indeed an offence be committed, are no excuse for the offender. Those are propositions with which everyone of us must agree. But I cannot help thinking that the House has a 502 little departed from the very limited subject-matter upon which leave to move the Adjournment was granted.
Let us just look for a moment at the terms of the Motion which is before the House. The Motion complains of what is described asthe lack of any declared intention on the part of the Government to set the law in motion against the right hon. and learned Member for Duncairn.Those words assume that there is some law which both can be, and ought to be, set in motion against him. They do not say what that law is. [An HON. MEMBER: "Treason felony!"] I hear the hon. Member opposite say "treason felony." I will deal with that in a moment. The Motion for the Adjournment does not profess to say what that law is. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] If hon. Members will bear with me, the remaining words of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman do supply at least a clue to what is intended to be conveyed by the authors of this Motion. The words refer, and the right hon. Gentleman has referred, to the speech or speeches delivered by the right hon. and learned Member on Saturday last, and the allegation against those speeches is that they were speeches inciting to violence and breaches of the law, calculated to endanger the safety of the realm. If that were indeed a true description of those speeches, or if I were satisfied that it was a true description of them, it would be, no doubt, my duty to set the law in motion and to run the risk of a jury taking a different view. But it is precisely here that the allegation contained in this Motion, and reiterated by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, breaks down. Observe the question, and the only question, which is involved. It is a clear, direct and strictly limited question, and it is essentially a question of law. We arc not considering whether it was desirable that those speeches should be delivered. We are not considering whether, if any time or any occasion at all could be thought suitable for such speeches, 12th July was that occasion, or the present year was that time. Still less are we considering whether at this time, or at any time, such speeches as these ought to be expected of a right hon. and learned Member of this House, a leader and ornament of the Bar, quite recently a Cabinet Minister and a senior Law Officer of the Crown.
No, Sir, the question is a different one. The question is this: Whether the Law 503 Officers of the Crown ought to have advised the Government that these speeches were speeches inciting to violence and breaches of the law, calculated to endanger the safety of the realm, and, therefore, that the law ought to be set in motion? The Law Officers of the Crown are responsible for the advice which they give. My hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General, at the moment when this question arose, was away in Paris, but since his return I have communicated to him the advice which I gave in response to the question asked me, and he entirely concurs in it. We have been asked, What was that advice? The advice which I gave, and to which I adhere, is this: that in this speech there was nothing upon which it was possible to found legal proceedings. [Interruption.] Hon. Members are entitled, no doubt, if they please, to interrupt, but I am sure they will bear with me while I give my reasons for that. Two passages, and two passages alone, in this speech have been referred to, and, if I may, I will reread them. They were the two passages which I had marked as being the only two passages in that speech as to which it could even be suggested that legal proceedings were possible. Let us look at those passages. The first is this. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said:I will tell them if there is any attempt made to take away from you one jot or tittle of your rights as British subjects, and the advantages which have been won in this war of freedom, I will call out the Ulster Volunteers."If"—Yes. I pause to ask: Does anyone propose to take away from the Ulstermen one jot or tittle of their rights as British subjects? Does anyone propose to take away from them the advantages which have been won in this war of freedom? What the right Hon. and learned Gentle man said in a rhetorical passage, which I am not in the least defending, seems to me to be miles away from a criminal offence. What he is saying upon the happening of an impossible condition in future times is, "I will take a certain course." It is a hypothetical, contingent threat. That is one passage. My hon. Friend opposite in terjected the words "treason felony." There is no "treason felony" in this case. I pass to the other passage. This is the sole remaining matter which is alleged. At the close of his speech the right hon. and learned Gentleman said this —
§ Mr. CLYNES
Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman forgive me if I ask a question with regard to that last quotation, in order that we may see precisely where we are? There is a great question of the nationalisation of the mines. Do I understand now that any miners' leader may say that if this Government does not nationalise the mines, any measures of violence which the miners by overt or direct action may care to take will be quite within the law
§ Sir G. HEWART
I am certainly not going to express an opinion upon a hypothetical question of that kind, but I am sure the House observes this, that the parellel passage which the right hon. Gentleman has thought fit to put to me is not a parallel passage at all. In this hypothetical case he puts into the mouth of that miner, not a statement as to something which he himself will do upon the happening of a future event, but he puts into the mouth of that miner a general invitation to miners upon the happening of a future event. [HON. MEMBERS: "What is the calling out of the Volunteers?"]
The second passage is this:I gave you this pledge in the Ulster Hall, and I repeat it to you once more, that if any attempt be made to revive or to put it into force I will summon the Provisional Government.Again, if the right hon. and learned Gentleman wishes to say that he will summon an institution which he chooses to call the Provisional Government at some future time upon the happening of some event, whatever else you may think or say, I should differ from a lawyer who said that that was the commission of an offence.
By all means, as the right hon. Gentleman has said, let us look at this matter from a level high above the level of technicalities. The question here is a question whether a criminal prosecution ought to be lodged. Does the right hon. Gentleman seriously say that the question whether a criminal prosecution is to be lodged is to be considered apart from technicalities? As soon as you begin to ask, What offence is he to be charged with? What is the indictment to be? you find yourself faced with the technicalities of the criminal law. It may well be that connected with this matter, but not upon this Motion, there are political questions which must indeed be considered from a level high above technicalities; but the question whether in a particular case a 505 criminal prosecution is to be lodged, and the Law Officers of the Crown are to advise, is a question we have to consider in the light of the criminal law; and the criminal law is not disparaged in the smallest degree by the fact that in the course of debate somebody may choose to stigmatise or dismiss it as a matter of technicalities.
Those are the considerations upon which I gave the advice by which I stand. Let me add this one observation. This is not the first, nor the second, nor the twentieth time that, as a Law Officer of the Crown— for the last six months as Attorney-General and for three months acting as Attorney-General during the absence of the then Attorney-General in America—I have had to consider and to decide. In this case I have not to decide, but I have had to consider; but in an enormous number of eases I have had to decide whether a crimial prosecution should or should not be lodged. I have sanctioned many, I have refused many more; but from first to last I have never proposed to myself any other step than that there must be one way and one measure for the rich or for the poor, for the influential or for the powerless.
My right hon. Friend, in the concluding part of his speech, referred to the absence from the House of the right lion, and learned Gentleman whose speeches have been referred to. I suggest that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is absent solely from, a feeling of delicacy. Of this I am quite sure: he is the last Member of this House who would be absent from any lack of courage. Let me add this further. It is not really upon this Motion the speeches of the hon. and learned Gentleman that are being attacked. What is being attacked is the course which the Government have taken. The Government have taken that course on the advice of the Law Officers, and the persons who are being attacked now are the Law Officers of the Crown. The right hon. and learned Gentleman is absent, but he is not the person who is being attacked. Therefore, the answer which I suggest to this Motion is this: If indeed it were true that an offence had been committed, a prosecution ought to follow. I go further, and say that if I were satisfied that an offence had been committed, or that there was a case to be tried, my advice would have been different from what it was. The answer to this Motion is that there may well be a lack of declared intention on the 506 part of the Government to set the law in motion against the right hon. and learned Gentleman, for the reason that, on what has taken place, however much it may be-regretted on many grounds, especially at a time like the present, there is no law to be set in motion, inasmuch as no offence has been committed.
§ Sir DONALD MACLEAN
The reply which the right hon. Gentleman has given is one which I venture to think is, even on the assumption that his law is unchallengeable, a reply to be regretted throughout all classes of society, and I think first of all for this reason. Of course, it is only matters of policy that we are really concerned with in. our general debates in this House, and on great questions of policy of this kind it is a deep-rooted feeling throughout the whole British nation, and it has been for many years, that on broad general grounds it should be easily demonstrable that there is no distinction between a breach of the law committed by a person of privilege and authority and one committed by a person who occupies the humblest ranks here. The unfortunate thing is—and in this I am sure I shall have the agreement of my right hon. Friend opposite—that, however clear may be the law which he has. laid down, there will be in the minds of hundreds of thousands of steady-minded, reasonable, ordinary citizens of this country a feeling that a distinction has been made between my right lion, and learned Friend the Member for the Dun-cairn Division and the mob orator, as we may call him, or the trade union leader, or the ordinary Labour agitator, in dealing with questions of offences against public order.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
I am simply stating that that is What will be felt throughout the Kingdom on reading this Debate. With great deference, I ask my right lion. Friend, as a Law Officer of the Crown, if he has—and this is on the legal point—consulted the Irish Law Officers with regard to the position in Ireland as distinguished from the position in Great Britain That is where the ordinary man and woman feel themselves at issue. In Ireland to-day there has been, substantially at any rate, a suspension of the ordinary law which my right hon. and learned Friend has made an appeal to 507 to-day. I do not know if I am correct or not in saying that martial law is practically being administered in Ireland today; that it is possible, by order of the Lord Lieutenant or an officer, as the case may be, to arrest or bring to summary trial, without any of the ordinary legal processes to which we are accustomed in this country, any person who delivers a speech which, in the opinion of the Law Officers of the Crown, is likely to be subversive of public order. I believe that something of that kind is the case in Ireland to-day and that there are in Ireland to-day hundreds of men, political offenders, in prison. That seems to me to be a point with which my right hon. Friend has not dealt. The Defence of the Realm Act runs in Ireland, of course, as it does here. The special Acts which are applicable to Ireland have been revived, and are in force with all the authority of the Lord Lieutenant, backed by the great armed forces which he has got there. I ask again—Has the Law Officer, in the opinion he has given us here tonight, fully considered the Irish law? Is he satisfied in his own mind that, as compared with an Irish Nationalist or a Sinn Feiner—of course, let them all be equal before the law—that in the decision he has come to with regard to the exemption from prosecution of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Duncairn he has dealt with him as equally, as solemnly, before his idea of what the law is in Ireland, as he would deal with the humblest peasant in Ireland to-day That is the point I should like to make.
§ Sir G. HEWART
I gather that my right hon. Friend is asking me a question. In coming to the conclusion to which I did come I did not consult the Irish Law Officers. I did not consult them because I was not asked to do so. I received a case for the opinion of the Law Officers of England, but I had the advantage of conferring with my colleague the Attorney-General in Ireland, and he entirely agrees with me in the advice which I have given.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
Of course, I deal with this legal point with all the deference which I naturally feel in discussing such a matter with my right hon. and learned Friend. What did the right hon. and learned Member for Duncairn say:I will once more summon the Provisional Government.508 That body, an illegal body, was set up on 10th July, 1914. That is an appeal, in language which everybody in this House deplores, I take it, to an illegal body, for what must be an illegal act. I feel that these points which I put forward, though they may be strictly not well and solidly grounded in law, raise an amount of dubiety in the mind of the general public which makes the decision which the Government have come to one which, at any rate, I regret.
I will only say this, that I do not think the matter can rest here, on what, after all, is an opinion based upon some rather nice legal point. My appeal to the Government to-night is this, in just three or four sentences. They know, we all know, the deep waters through which we are attempting to find our feet at the present moment. No one knows what the outcome of the next few weeks may be. There is one great thing, which will always carry the British people through, and it is this, if they have a deep-rooted confidence, whatever their mistakes and differences of opinion may be, in the essential earnestness of the Government of the day. Although this may be just the nice legal position, are the Government going to leave it there; is there not some step which they can take? [An HON. MEMBER: "No!"] Well, I do not know. This is not a Court of law. It is an Assembly of the representatives of the people of this nation for discussing whether there are good laws or whether laws may be altered, or some administrative act may be taken to remedy an injustice and a grave danger. That is the position. I do not know whether this Motion might be withdrawn and whether the Government of the day might agree to a Motion in this House expressing its opinion that language of this kind, uttered in the circumstances of the day, is a matter on which we can, at any rate, express our condemnation, because the people of the country are looking for something to be done with regard to this matter beyond the nice legal technicalities of the situation. If we pass this thing without anything more than, I will not say legal evasion, but avoiding any action owing to legal advice, the people will feel and say that we have not fully done our duty. The thing cannot be left where it is. Something ought to be done, and I make the suggestion, which I have thrown out in all seriousness, in the hope that this act, which is only one of a series, reacting in this country in the next few days, and at 509 Keswick—[HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Oh, that is the trouble, we will not face the facts. Let us face the facts and try to do something to swing back moral authority to this House of Parliament and to the Government. If we do that, 1 have no fear of what the future may be; but if we fail in it, I have great fear.
§ Captain WATSON
I rise to intervene for a very few moments. Unlike the right hon. Gentleman who moved the Adjournment of the House, and the hon. Member who followed him, who both somewhat apologised and said that they spoke with reluctance, I rise to-night with no reluctance at all, because I feel that this is about the most serious matter which has come before the present Parliament. I am perfectly sure that every hon. Member in this House wishes to deal with the question, and has already shown his intention of dealing with it, with that seriousness that it deserves. I should like to be allowed—although it may seem almost invidious on my part to do so—to add my tribute to the moderation, fairness, and conspicuous ability with which the right hon. Gentleman moved the Adjournment of the House. For my part, I agree with almost everything he said. I thought, however, that the weakest part of his case was shown when he said it would not do to ride off on a technicality or a legal point. He knows perfectly well, and the whole House knows perfectly well, that the meanest criminal and the most illiterate defendant is entitled to acquittal, and ought not to have an indictment lodged against him, if there is a good legal or technical defence to his case.
But I should also like to add that, for my part— and I am sure the feeling is shared by some hon. Members behind me who support this Government— that up till now we are disappointed with the attitude which the Government has shown. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Yes, many, I am sure, on this side of the House, as well as on the other, hope that before this De-bate is concluded some other expressions will be made by members or a member of the Government—[An HON. MEMBER: "The Leader!"]—replying for the Government, as to the attitude they propose to adopt in the future with regard to matters of this kind. Because, whatever may be the opinion of this House as to whether a legal or a technical offence has been committed— and whether we agree with the answer by the Attorney-General or not, 510 at any rate we all agree that his advice was given in purity, disinterestedness, and impartiality—yet we do hope that some further answer will be given by the Government it may be said that the terms of the Motion for Adjournment do not pro-mote this. May 1 point out to the House that the questions on the Order Paper this afternoon all include in them some-thing more than an answer to mere legal or technical points? The question which was put by my right hon. Friend concluded by askingwhat action the right hon. Gentleman proposes to take to show equality before the law for all who advise men to defy it and threaten violence if the law is carried out?The next question on the Paper concludes by askingwhether the Government approve of such action?Therefore, I think it was to be expected, if not in the answers this afternoon, certainly from the answer of the Government to-night, that it will show its strong and emphatic disapproval of the dangerous and inflammatory speech which was made a few days ago; that it will show to this House, to the country, and to the whole world that in thefuture—and in the near future—this House will deal with a strong, determined, and impartial hand—that the Government will deal with these matters in a manner which will gain the widespread approval and sympathy of the country.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
I am afraid I will rather disappoint the House in the one or two observations that I intend to address to Members this evening. I have not risen for the purpose of attacking the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Duncairn Division (Sir E. Carson). I am not surprised at any speech any Irishman makes breaking the law in Ireland, nor am I in the least surprised that the right hon. Gentleman, who is not only a powerful and brilliant lawyer, but a keen and instinctively powerful political tactician, should deliver the speech he did deliver. We on these benches are hostile to the Government: the right hon. and learned Gentleman has nothing but contempt for them. We assail the Government: he threatens the Government. There is one thing about the right hon. Gentleman that I admire: when he threatens the Government, he means what he says; therefore, when he told us that, if they put the Home Rule Act into operation as it stands upon the 511 Statute Book, that he would call out the Ulster Volunteers, with all their scientifically organised military equipment and, in a word, organise another rebellion in Ireland and in Ulster, he meant what he said. I must give the right hon. Gentleman credit for having the courage of his convictions and the courage to declare those convictions. Therefore, in these questions it is not the right hon. Gentleman who is to be assailed, but the Government, because a more mean and tricky performance than that to which we have been witnesses to-night I have never seen in this House. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney-General for England rose at that box. What business had he there? The speech was delivered in Ireland. It was delivered in a heated and inflammatory atmosphere. It was a speech in which it is suggested the law was broken in Ireland, and not in England.
The right hon. Gentleman is a Liberal. We know something of the class of Liberals who are going nowadays. He is a Liberal. He got up, and on the strength of his past Liberal record told us that since he took office he had stood as a stout defender of the weak and as an assailant of wrong, whether committed by the weak or the strong. But he stands at that box, not to uphold the law at all, but because he is the more capable interpreter of exhibiting how lawyers can see that the law is abused. The right hon. Gentleman says that he regards all per-sons as equal in his eyes. I am glad he made that speech to-night; I am delighted he made it. I shall demand in this House that every humble peasant in Ireland who is arraigned before the law will have his case considered in this House, and we will have the legal opinion of the Attorney-General as to whether that man has been rightly arrested or not. I am delighted that the right hon. Gentleman has come here to-night, because at last we shall get equality before the law for all sections of the people of Ireland.
Supposing I were to get up on a Belfast platform and say, "I am opposed to the partition of Ireland. I believe in Home Rule, which is to me as deeply profound and passionate a conviction as it is to any person. I demand my right to be included in an Irish Parliament sitting in the capital of Ireland, and if you attempt to drive me out of it I will organise the Belfast Branch of the National Volunteers 512 and I will compel you by force to allow the Constituency which I represent in Parliament to remain within the Irish Parliament." Would that be an offence? If a Sinn Feiner stands upon a platform in Ireland and says, "If we do not get an Irish Republic, we will organise our forces and arm and drill them, is that an offence? What does the right hon. Gentleman say? His interpretation of the law is this—[An HON. MEMBER: "Inequality!"]—that you can be a contingent rebel if you take up one attitude, and you cannot be a contingent rebel if you take up another attitude. That is the position of the right hon. Gentleman. All I have to say is that the Members of this House who nave forecasted and foreseen great dangers to the State by utterances of this character must determine that question for themselves. I submit to the House of Commons that to arrest peasants for singing "The Wearing the Green," to break up meetings because the Irish language is to be the language spoken at those meetings, to proclaim great Gaelic festivals and national sports with a Catholic Archbishop in the chair, may appear to be a contemptible thing in the eyes of the Government, and may be an affair of no account, and yet a speech of that character can be delivered in a highly heated atmosphere before an easily in-flammable audience, and the Law Officer of the Crown for Ireland, who knows some-thing as to how the law is interpreted in Ireland, is not called upon to give an legal interpretation, but the Attorney-General for England is selected in his place.
Where is the equality? This has been done not to vindicate the law but to apologise for and. vindicate the law breaker, and that is the position of the right hon. Gentleman. All you have to do now if you are a supporter of the Coalition Government is to use the word "if," and that meets every legality and egality. That gives the right hon. Gentleman an opportunity of coming to the House of Commons and delivering his interpretation, and he tries to narrow this question down to a point of law. It is not a point of law at all, and it has not been raised as such, but as a matter of public policy. I do not object to the right hon. Gentleman making speeches breaking the law, but I do ask that if a poor peasant in Tipperary or Cork is merely guilty of some offence, or of no 513 offence at all, which in the eyes of the Government is an offence, and if he can find neither an apologist in this House nor elsewhere, it has certainly come to a nice conditions of affairs here when a man in a highly conspicuous position in the public life of the nation need not come down to defend himself as long as the Attorney-General will come down and do it for him.
§ 10.0 p.m.
§ Mr. INSKIP
A greater contrast between the two speeches to which we have just listened could not possibly be imagined. Tine right hon. Gentleman the Member for Peebles (Sir D. Maclean), who is a Lawyer and acquainted with the law, invites this House, as a suburban debating society would behave, to pass resolutions of dissent or disagreement with the utterances of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Duncairn. The only comment that I venture to make upon that is that this House is not a Court of law and neither is it a Court of morals nor of taste. The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken (Mr. Devlin), not professing a knowledge of the law, roundly condemns the right hon. Gentleman the Attorney-General, whose advice was given, because in his estimation he gave a wrong interpretation of the law. If the hon. Member who has just spoken intended to charge the Attorney-General with ill-faith in the opinion he expressed, I am confident this House will not support his accusation. If he intended to impugn the accuracy of the law which the right hon. Gentleman ex-pressed, and the opinion he gave when it was sought, I think this House will prefer the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman to that of the 'hon. Member who knows perhaps not so much about the law as the right hon. Gentleman whose opinion he condemns.
The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Clynes), who opened this Debate, won our admiration by the manner in which he did it, and I think none of us will dispute the general thesis which he laid before this House. If it is equality of the law which we demand, then we are all in agreement with the right hon. Gentleman. It would be disastrous, indeed it would be obnoxious to every one of us, if we thought there was any foundation for the suggestion that the great are allowed to go scot-free, when the poor and the friendless are prosecuted and persecuted. It is not what the right hon. Gentleman said that we disagree with. Some of us think that the evidence 514 which he adduced did not support the charge which he brought. He suggested, in the first place, that because a number of comparatively small and friendless people had been charged with sedition or incitement to crime, and had been found guilty that therefore the right hon. Gentleman should be condemned, but that argument will not hold water for one moment.
I do not want to labour the point which has been made. The right hon. Gentle-man the Member for Duncairn has committed at the worst a hypothetical offence. I do not possess the learning or the qualifications of the Attorney-General, but I venture to deal with one criticism of his opinion upon this question of a hypothetical offence. He was asked whether a miner who threatened a breach of the law if nationalisation was not at once enacted would be guilty of a crime. I cannot help thinking that it would be apparent to every one of us that there is the clearest possible distinction between a man who threatens a breach of the law, if the law under which we all live is not altered, and the threat of a man who says, "If the law under which I possess property and have to live is altered in a manner either prejudicial to my property or my liberty, thon I shall do what I think is right under the circumstances." I think hon. Members will not, upon reflection, disagree with the distinction between two such statements as that. I will offer an illustration which occurs to me on the spur of the moment which will make my meaning plainer. You may make boundaries between countries which have to be altered. It would be intolerable if people who valued the liberty they possessed under one Government were not to be allowed to defend themselves if that liberty is to be taken away by an alteration of the laws under which they are living. That, at any rate, is part of the offence which the right hon. Gentleman has committed. Suppose, as the hon. Gentleman suggests, he goes down to Dublin and takes up a position antagonistic to the existing law; that he defies the law under which we all live and have our liberties, and declares that if this law is not altered then he will commit a crime?
§ Mr. DEVLIN
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the Home Rule Act is on the Statute Book, and the threat, if threat was intended, was that if that Act was put into operation?
§ Mr. INSK1P
I am as well aware as the hon. Member that the Home Rule Act is on the Statute Book. But the hon. Gentleman must be as well aware as I am that it is not the law of the land until it becomes effective. He does not take away from the strength of my argument by suggesting irrelevancies of that character. The point seems to be clear if only hon. Members will reflect on the distinction between the two illustrations which have been suggested in the argument advanced this evening. The hon. Member has also suggested that this is a matter of policy rather than of law. I am inclined to agree with the hon. Member on that' question. It does appear to be a question of policy, but if there is one part of our traditional British policy which we value more than any other, it is that every man has not to be prosecuted who commits a breach of the law if the greater interests of public safety or private liberty require that he should not be proceeded against. Wherever you look in this country, if you desire to discover crime, you will find incitement to rebellion or to resistance of authority. I may give another illustration. An emissary was recently arrested in Berlin who, I understand from the public Press, has had connection with emissaries from and leaders of the Bolshevik regime in other countries. I do not know whether he has been released or proceeded against. I imagine if that man, who has been, as some of us understand, in active correspondence with the leaders of the greatest and most criminal system the world knows, is released, it will be not because he is innocent of crime, but because it is the policy of the Government to allow men who can do no great mischief to express themselves and to behave in an intolerable fashion. That is part of our traditional policy. We allow people to express sentiments which are not perhaps desirable, but which will do no great harm unless they are persisted in to the last resort. There is one further consideration I would venture to dwell upon. The hon. Member opposite gave the right hon. Member for the Duncairn Division full credit for his courage. I cannot help thinking it is an advantage for this House and the country to under-stand where Ulster stands. I am not defending the right hon. Gentleman. I am not defending Ulster. She may be, if you please, obstinate and foolish in the attitude which she takes up, but if we are going to settle this problem which does 516 baffle us, it is well to realise the factors with which we have to deal, and it is use-less to blink the fact, if it be the fact, that Ulster is determined on a certain course.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member is going rather beyond the limit of the Motion for which leave was obtained, and I may just remind the House of the actual terms of the Motion, which are "the lack of any intention on the part of the Government to set the law in motion," etc.
§ Mr. INSKIP
I accept your ruling, Sir. I merely desired to make this point, that it may be an advantage that the right hon. Gentleman should not be proceeded against if his utterances, though technically an offence against the law on the whole, may be allowed to be made without endangering either the liberty of the subject or the peace of the realm. I will not proceed with that argument, however, in the light of your suggestion that I should not develop it. I will only say this, in conclusion, that Ireland has had a sorrowful history. She presents a baffling problem to us. It does not seem to me we are assisting the solution of the problem if we quicken blunders into crime, or find treason in utterances that were surely inspired only by the utmost loyalty to the Crown and by love of the country to which the right hon. Gentleman belongs.
§ Mr. T. SHAW
I am profoundly disappointed by the speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman. I remember an occasion when the Secretary for Ireland, speaking from the Front Bench with a full sense of responsibility, said it was his determination and the determination of the Government that law and order should be prevalent in Ireland. I ask the Government to be just as firm and just as deter-mined on this occasion as they claimed to be on the occasion to which I have referred. Let me point out what the right hon. and learned Member for Belfast said and claimed. He claimed that he had an army at his command, an Ulster volunteer army which he could call out if this Parliament passed a law to which he objected. That was the essence of his claim with regard to the army. He claimed also that he had a government which he would call together if Parliament decided against the policy that he advocated. I thought the name of His Majesty the King was "George." It appears, however, that in a certain part of Ireland his majesty is "Edward." That citizens of this realm 517 can be permitted to have an army and a government and yet not break the law seems to me very strange. If we tell our people that there is no breach of the law in claiming an army and a government of their own to use against this Government if Parliament passes a law of which they do not approve, what will they reply? Some of us are fighting day after day to prevent breaches of the law; we are fighting day after day to convince working men who do not believe there is equality before the law that the safest course is constitutional action and constitutional methods. And yet here we have men who can go on platforms and say things that we know would land working men into gaol inside of a week from the utterance of them. How can we conscientiously go to our people and say the people are equal before the law, when we know in our heart of hearts that they are not equal? I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman to consider whether he could convince any outside audience in this country that the things that have been said in Belfast are not against the law, and, at the same time, justify the imprisonment of men for saying things not half so damaging and not half so dangerous? Our men have never claimed that they possess an army and a government to act against our Army and our Government in case Parliament passes a law which they do not like. We simply cannot go and speak with a voice which we know is not true. If we feel that men are not equal before the law how can we hope to convince our people that they are? This is one of the examples to my mind of the inequality of men before the law, for it is permitted that the rich and mighty shall do things without punishment which in a poorer and less educated man, who is to be pitied rather than blamed, would lead to his instant imprisonment. If the right hon. Gentleman had said that in spite of the fact that technically there was no offence against the law the Government keenly represented speeches of this kind, one could have understood the position of the Government, bait no statement of the kind was made. One is led to infer that so long as a man is powerful enough he can say what he likes, and the Government of this country will bow to him and allow him to have his way. There is danger in this country of action being taken that, to my mind, has arisen directly from this kind of lesson. People 518 have been taught that all that is needed to get what they require is to intimidate the Government. This is the kind of action that has taught the lesson. 1 earnestly appeal to the Government to make a clear declaration one way or the other as to whether this speech is to be condemned or is not. I earnestly appeal to them to make it obvious to all the people in this country that pride of place shall not shield from the powers of the law if the law be broken, that no citizen of this country has the right to assume that he is the commander of an army, and that he is the convener of a Government. The commander of the Army, under our constitution, is His Majesty the King, and there ought to be no other army, and the man, whatever his name may be, who claims to have an army in these Islands outside the Army of the King is in his proper place in gaol and ought to be gaoled just as the commonest and poorest of men would be in the like circumstances. This is no occasion for the mincing of words. A fine-spun legal argument will get away from the point. Either this is a crime committed against the country or it is not. If the Government believe it is not let them say so, and take what follows. If they believe it is a crime let them state so equally frankly and then those of us who are trying our best to keep the country on constitutional lines will have a chance with our people. But let the Government maintain the attitude laid down by the right hon. Gentleman, let them play with fine technical phrases, let them play with details of law, let them not make a plain statement, and there is not an organised workman in the whole country who will believe the word of the Government when they claim that Britons are equal before the law.
§ Brigadier-General CROFT
The hon. Member (Mr. Shaw) has laid stress on the inequality of various subjects before the law. Does he really imagine there is anybody who has ever been proceeded against or is now languishing in gaol because of some statement that he may have made in which he indicated that if a certain thing happened, which had not happened, at some future date he would take certain action? If so it seems to me the law is a "hass" and ought to be altered on the earliest possible occasion. Can he quote a single case of a man who suggested that if certain events happened at some distant future date he was going to take some action and was proceeded against? [An 519 HON. MEMBER: "Any amount!"] It is a debating point that is not seriously advanced.
§ Brigadier-General CROFT
I listened with great interest to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman (Sir D. Maclean). It was one of the most eloquent speeches he has ever made in the House. Not only was it eloquent, it was passionate. We know how very moved he was standing at the box and upholding law and order in this country. In view of the course of the Debate I cannot help asking how it is that the right hon. Gentle-man's enthusiasm is so new-found, and why when a leader of Sinn Fein in Ire-land announced himself President of the Irish Republic, the right hon. Gentle-man did not come here and insist that the law should be put into force? I will ask the right hon. Gentleman another question. When Mr. de Valera escaped from a British prison—I am not here to excuse the action of the Govern-ment—did the Leader of the Liberals come here in order to demand that he should not be allowed to roam about freely in Ireland, and that he ought to be in prison? I will ask him another question. How often has he been here in order to ask how it is that this gentleman who escaped from an English prison is allowed to be in the United States at the present moment?
§ Brigadier-General CROFT
That has nothing to do with this Debate, but I think that if my hon. Friend ever votes for his convictions he will not get more than four people to go into the Lobby with him. I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman another question, although he does not seem anxious to answer me. Has he seen the speech made by Mr. Philip Snowden, who used to be a Member of this House, in which he expressed the hope that the revolution which he sees coming may not be a bloody revolution, in which he practically threatened revolution, and that there might be a bloody revolution in this country unless some-thing is done which he desires? I did not notice the right hon. Gentleman coming into this House then and showing himself anxious to preserve law and order. Does he seriously contend—I am not a lawyer— 520 that if he himself, as Leader of the Liberal party in this House, made a speech and said that unless prohibition was carried in five years' time ho would call out his fighting men in the Liberal party, that he-ought to be locked up and proceedings ought to be taken against him by the Government? I think we may really dismiss his speech as a finely stage-managed but not very serious attempt to deal with this question.
I want to deal with a more serious point raised by the Noble Lord the Member for the Oxford University (Lord Hugh Cecil), who took a very interesting line, and suggested that there was no need for the right hon. Gentleman (Sir E. Carson) to-have made such a speech, because he knew of the consistently good faith of this Parliament, and that the pledges which were-made months or years ago with regard to Ulster would always be carried out. I hope they will be carried out, but all pledges have not always been carried out. I cannot deal with the question of pledges-now, except to answer the argument of the Noble Lord; but he must remember that sometimes circumstances do not enable a political party to carry out its pledges. The Member for Somerset (Colonel Aubrey Herbert), in his most courageous speech this evening— for he is always courageous in championing of the right to fight in Ulster or the right not to fight at different periods— disputed the argument of the Noble Lord. He said that whatever we do we must be faithful to our sworn word. The sworn word of my hon. and gallant Friend was to go and fight in Ulster and I suggest to the Noble Lord that where one such gallant fighter can disappear from his pledges, there may be a number of others who may do likewise.
The whole situation has been brought about owing to the fact that a very powerful newspaper magnate had seen fit to declare for Home Rule. I do not think that anybody can seriously dispute that the speech of the right hon. Gentleman never would have been made at all if we had not had this new policy announced that there was to be Dominion Home Rule in Ireland. That was the reason why—
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. and gallant Gentleman is now executing a flank movement. He must confine himself to the subject under discussion.
§ Brigadier-General CROFT
I was only following the habit which has always made 521 me wish to go round a hill when I could not go over the top. I will merely say that the point is germane to the Debate inasmuch as it caused the speech to be made. The right hon. Member for the Miles Platting Division (Mr. Clynes) started his speech by saying that he under-stood that there was only one Government in this country, and asked could the Government be ignorant of the suggestion of the right hon. and learned Gentleman to call together a Government. I submit that the right hon. Gentleman who pleads for equality has not noticed the setting up of another Government in Ireland, which has also been called together, and which neither he nor his Friends have ever protested against.
§ Brigadier-General CROFT
In 1906 Ire-land was peaceable. It had never been more so. The right hon. Gentleman regards it as a great crime that the right hon. Member for the Duncairn Division suggested that Volunteers might be called together once more. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Peebles (Sir D. Maclean) and the Labour party, when did they stand up in this House and condemn the constant drilling, which went on, of the Sinn Fein Volunteers in Ireland?
§ Brigadier-General CROFT
My hon. Friend mentioned that he had always been a very keen advocate of federalism. So have I—I cannot go into that question now--until I saw what happened in the War. Things have happened in the War which have rendered the whole situation different. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Duncairn was not making a new speech. He was making the speech which he has made all along—the speech which my hon. Friends always cheered in the past. And when he repeats that speech now, is there anything changed in the situation? Has Ireland during the War proved that it is more desirable that the right hon. Gentleman should abandon his policy? All the prophecies which the right hon. Member for Duncairn made in 522 the past have been proved during the War to be correct. If it was right for the right hon. Gentleman at the time he made his first speech to swear the oath that he would fight sooner than go under a Government of Nationalists, as they were then, the conditions are precisely the same to-day, only they are very much strengthened. The Government of the right hon. Gentleman, who was then Member for East Fife, then sat on that bench, and their legal advisers did not take action when a similar speech was made then, and I ask, in view of the changes during the War, and the conditions that now exist in reference to the minority in Ireland, whether there is any justification for saying that the situation has undergone any change since then? And I ask hon. Gentlemen who have only recently come to this House, and have not heard these Debates in the past, to remember that the right hon. Gentleman in his speeches—I am not here to apologise for him—had no reason for changing his views merely because the. War has passed which has proved that the people under whose government you want to drive the people of Ulster were not ready to stand by you in your hour of trial.
§ Mr. ADAMSON
I will intervene for only a few minutes. The incident which we are discussing is one of the most serious matters which this House has had to discuss for a considerable time. This is not the first time that a speech of the kind we are considering has been delivered by the right hon. Member for Duncairn. We had him delivering speeches of a similar character before the War. The hon. Gentleman who spoke last drew attention to that fact. Not only was the right hon. Gentleman delivering such speeches before the War, but he was gun-running and making preparations for armed rebellion in order to defeat a law passed in this House. What results followed? The right hon. Gentleman very shortly after was loaded with honours by the Government; he was appointed to a high Government position. What I want to tell the Government is this—that these speeches and the actions I have spoken of have been quoted in this country during the past five years from hundreds of plat-forms, and they have been put forward as the excuses for the preaching of all sorts of policies. Now, again, we have the right hon. Gentleman repeating his very serious offence. I want to ask the 523 Government what they intend to do on this occasion. If the Government has no other policy than the one outlined by the learned Attorney-General, I want to say that the attitude of the Government is as dangerous at the moment as the speech itself. I do not profess to have any know-ledge of the technicalities of the law, but if no offence has been committed—
§ Sir G. HEWART
I do not want to interrupt. The right hon. Gentleman says he has no knowledge of the technicalities of the law, but he is saying that the prosecution ought to be started.
§ Mr. ADAMSON
No, no; I am not. I said that if the policy that has been out-lined by the learned Attorney-General is the policy of the Government regarding this, the answer which has been given is as dangerous as the speech itself.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW (Leader of the House)
I really want to know what my right hon. Friend means by "policy." The question is whether or not action should be taken. The answer is that there is no cause for it. Does he say that in order to influence public opinion we should have a prosecution, even though we know no offence has been committed?
§ Mr. ADAMSON
There are other ways in which the Government can show their disapproval of the action of the right hon. Member for Duncairn; there are steps that can be taken. I want to give the Leader of the House an opportunity of saying something on behalf of the Government, and give him as much time as possible. Before I conclude let me say that if the learned Attorney-General is right, there are other ways in which the Government can show their disapproval of the action that has been taken by the right hon. Gentleman. All that I want to say regarding the position taken up by the Attorney-General is this: It is very difficult indeed for us who sit on these benches to reconcile his opinion of this case with the opinion that has been given by legal authorities in this country regarding scores of prosecutions which have taken place. Recently we had three or four men committed in the city of Glasgow for inciting to riot, and those men are in prison now. It is very difficult for us to believe that every man is being treated equally in the eyes of the law when speeches of this kind are being 524 allowed to pass and we are calmly told by the Attorney-General that there has been no offence committed in the eyes of the law, and that the right hon. Gentle-man the Member for Duncairn is not amenable to the law for this speech he has delivered. As I was pointing out, there are other ways in which the Government can show its disapproval of the action that has been taken by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House in finishing up this Debate—and I am going to resume my seat to give him the opportunity of finishing up the Debate—can, if he cares, condemn the action in the name of the whole Government—can so show to the whole country that at least the Government wants to see all the citizens of this country placed on an equal footing. There is another policy that can. be pursued by the Government if they care. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Duncairn has received honours at the hands of the Government. If the offence is as serious as some of us think, they can strip him of those honours. There are many ways in which the Government can show their disapproval, if they really disapprove of the action that has been taken by the right hon. Gentleman. I know of nothing that could be more dangerous under the present conditions than the injudicious speech that was delivered on Saturday last. It certainly deserves the condemnation of his fellow countrymen, and in particular the condemnation of the Government itself.
§ Mr. T. P. O'CONNOR
May I ask if this Debate is coming to an end without any observations from the Leader of the House? I will immediately resume my seat without saying another word if the right hon. Gentleman desires to address the House and state his views with regard to the speech.
I had no intention of doing so, but if the hon. Gentleman will give me ten minutes it will be ample.
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
I will give you fifteen minutes. I have listened, I must say, to this whole Debate with feelings of the greatest misgiving, not merely for Ireland, but for England—I mean Great Britain and Ireland—and I hold that, great as is the offence which the speech of the right hon. Gentleman committed, against the peace of Ireland, it is a. greater and more perilous and more criminal offence to the peace of this country. 525 I warn hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side, who represent to a large extent the propertied interests of this country—I warned lion. Members of this House in the last Parliament and several other Parliaments, and I warn them again here. You brought down the constitutional movement in Ireland. It was you who created Sinn Fein. It was not De Valera; it was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Duncairn Division; it was the Leader of the House who backed him; it was all those Gentlemen who threatened to go to Ireland to fight against the will of Parliament—it was they who created Sinn Fein. I warn you that, as they broke down the constitutional movement in Ireland, they are going the right way to break down the constitutional movement here. I should like to know what answer my right hon. Friends have to give to the apostles of direct action, to the gospel of revolution, bloody or otherwise—horrible words are now used—what answer are they to give, those Gentlemen in office, to the cowardly connivance of the Government in the incitements to violence made by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the Duncairn Division? I will not deal with the Attorney-General. I do not think he is worth dealing with. I am perfectly sure that in all his long career as a barrister, when he has had to speak deliberately to a brief, there never was a more humiliating moment than when he had to face the realities of this situation in a series of despicable legal quibbles. I did not get up to criticise the right hon. Gentleman or to speak on the question generally, but to challenge the Leader of the House to tell the country that he at least, the Leader of the Conservative party, uttered the strongest condemnation of these incitements to violence against the civil law.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
I think it rather hard, and a little unusual, that, because I am interested enough to listen through a whole Debate, I should be expected to take part in it, when I am perfectly satisfied with the answer which has been given by my right hon. Friend the Attorney-General on behalf of the Government. I really cannot understand what this is all about. Take, for instance, the last dramatic utterance of the right hon. Gentleman opposite—that it was a Liberal Minister defending his opinion.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
I am not quite sure that that would not condemn him more. It means that a lawyer who is asked for a legal opinion has got to give that opinion to suit his policy, whether he is a Liberal or a Conservative. I do not think that is right. The other condemnation is that we have not done something which we were not asked to do, and which it would be out of order to do on the Motion which the House is now considering. If a decision was wished for on another point, the Motion could have been made in another form, and had that been done I feel perfectly certain that my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for the Duncairn Division would have been here, and we should at least have heard his side, of the question. But they chose to put the issue on the clear point, whether or not the Government ought to prosecute my right hon. and learned Friend for what he said. That is the whole point? What do we find in the Debate? We find my right hon. Friend, who is more or less a lawyer—that is really meant as a compliment— more or less on one side. Even though that is a correct definition of the law, it is bad policy. But my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Belfast (Mr. Devlin) takes a different view. He is not even less a lawyer, but, like the great Leader of his party, who once said that no one knew the Rules of the House so well as he did because he had broken them all, so, perhaps, my hon. and learned Friend knows the law from the same point of view.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
May I point out to the right hon. Gentleman that I have broken no laws yet, but it is so profitable I propose to do so?
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
I can say with some confidence to the hon. and learned Gentleman that if the law had been strained, as he wishes it to be strained to-day, he would have been prosecuted very many times. I say that nothing could be worse than that the impression should be made that there is one law for the rich and one for the poor, but I put it to my right hon. Friend opposite: What in the world does he mean by this kind of speech 1 I should like to know. His view is that whether this is a legal offence or not, it should be treated as a legal offence. I do ask my right hon. Friend, who has made a good deal of study of history, Is there any blot 527 upon the history of Parliament which is more constantly pointed out, and is more deservedly pointed out, than the condemnation of Sir John Fenwick by passing a retrospective Act of Parliament for the punishment of him for something which was not illegal at the time he did it?
§ Mr. CLYNES
My answer is that I could cite a number of cases where the Government have taken action and put poor men in gaol because their sayings were an incitement to violence, and they are in prison to-day. I say that the speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman incited to violence, and that similar action has not been taken.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
That does not touch my point at all. That is pitting the opinion of my right hon. Friend on a legal question against the opinion of the Law Officers. My point is that if there is a legal offence, if we are advised that there is a chance of condemnation of a legal offence, it is our duty to prosecute. But I say further, though we are advised there is no legal offence, we are told that we should create a legal offence for the purpose of punishment. If that is so, where will it lead? Has my right hon. Friend considered that? My hon. Friend opposite said that you cannot get people to believe there is one law for the rich and one for the poor. I wish he could see a large part of my correspondence. It is not all friendly, and I do not think there is a single day in which I do not receive a great many letters in which I am accused of acting as a member of a Government which has one law for the working classes, which does every thing they want, and which refuses to give similar justice to other classes. Look a little further. It is perhaps perfectly true that the speech of my right hon. and learned Friend is of more importance from his point of view because of his influence, but are we really going to make legal prosecutions depend on considerations of that kind? 1 could give many instances where the question is exactly analogous. "We must have a complete revolution in this country"—I read that the other day, and I thought it was very strong and very alarming—" We must have a revolution in this country; we do not want bloodshed, but there must be a revolution." Where is the difference between that and—
§ Mr. T. SHAW
May I ask whether, if that man had an army that he was going to call out, you would then have intervened?
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
No; it is not. If my hon. Friend will allow me, I think I am not playing with it. If you take the view that this is not a question of law but a question of policy, then I am playing with it. But I say that if the question we have to consider is whether or not the Government should have taken action on it, then we could only have taken action on it if we were advised that it was illegal now, and in no other way. My hon. Friend who spoke last dealt with my share in this kind of speech, and I was rather surprised that it was not referred to earlier. Well, I am not going now—a good many years have passed—to refer to that. I have never thought it worth while to defend it when it has been raised before, but I am going to say something relevant dealing with this particular speech. We may have been wrong or we may have been right, but what we did then, quite clearly, as far as the English and Scottish Unionists were concerned, was to say that the Government of the day were going to drive people out of British citizenship without the authority of the British people. And I said, over and over again, "Have a Parliament which approves of what you do and, so far as I am concerned, all resistance will stop." That is what I said; it may have been right or wrong.
§ Mr. A. WILLIAMS
Did the right hon. Gentleman not withdraw that statement afterwards about approving what Parliament had done? It was so reported in the papers.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
Well, I am afraid I did—I am not quite sure I withdrew it so unequivocally as the hon. Member says. But, at all events, this is the point I am going to put. I agree with my Noble Friend the Member for Oxford University, a man may be morally justified in breaking the law, but the Government of the day can never be justified in not punishing a man who breaks the law. I say that quite clearly, and I thought at the time, and I 529 think I said it, that the contempt of the law at that time was caused, not by our threatening to break it, and I believe at that time—because acts were done which did break it—that the contempt of the law arose, not because we disobeyed it, but because we disobeyed it with impunity. That was where the contempt came in.
I say now, I am not going, whatever hon. Gentlemen may think I ought to do, on a Motion which does not raise the question at all, to consider it my duty to judge the speech of my right hon. Friend. But I say this, and I said it in answer to a question the other day on the floor of the House, if it came to a question of breaking the law by my right hon. Friend—and as it happens there was no one in political life with whom I was more intimately connected than him, and whatever mistakes he may make I do not believe that he does them from any other motives but what he believes to be right—that is no excuse—I say that nothing could possibly be more painful to me than to take action against him. But I say now to the House that there must be equality in the law, and if we had been advised that he had broken the law I would have said at once that, so far as I was concerned, I had only two
§ choices before me, either to have him prosecuted or to resign my position as a member of the Government, and I say to the House of Commons now, You have raised a definite issue. Has my right hon. Friend broken the law? We are advised he has not. If the advice were different, or if it becomes different, the Government must act in his case as it would act in any other case, and I give the promise, so far as I am concerned, that I should either act in that way or I should cease to hold office.
Lieut.-Colonel A. MURRAY
Does the right hon. Gentleman disapprove of the speech made by the right hon. and learned Gentleman?
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
May I be allowed to answer it, Sir? I thought I had. 1 say that I do not think it my duty, on a question which is quite irrelevant, to judge the conduct of my right hon. Friend in his absence.
§ Question put, "That the House do now adjourn."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 73; Noes, 217.531
|Division No. 73.]||AYES.||[10.58 p.m.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Hail wood, A.||Richardson, R. (Houghton)|
|Arnold, Sydney||Hall, F. (Yorks. Normanton)||Roberts, F. O. (W. Bromwich)|
|Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle, E.)||Hancock, John George||Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor)|
|Barton, Sir William (Oldham)||Harbison, T. J. S.||Royce, William Stapleton|
|Bell, James (Ormskirk)||Hayday, A.||Sexton, James|
|Benn, Capt. W. (Leith)||Hayward, Major Evan||Shaw, Tom (Preston)|
|Bentinck, Lt.Cot. Lord H. Cavendish||Hinds, John||Short, A. (Wednesbury)|
|Birchall, Major J. D.||Hirst, G. H.||Sitch, C. H.|
|Bowerman, Right Hon. C. W||Hogge, J. M.||Smith, Capt. A. (Nelson and Colne)|
|Bramsdon. Sir T.||Johnstone, J.||Smith, W. (Wellingborough)|
|Breese, Major C. E.||Kenworthy, Lieut-Commander||Spoor, B. G.|
|Briant. F.||Kenyon, Barnet||Swan, J. E. C.|
|Bromfield, W.||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George||Thomas, Brig-Gen. Sir O. (Anglesey)|
|Cairns, John||Lunn, William||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Clynes, Right Hon. John R.||Maclean, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (Midlothian)||Tootill, Robert|
|Coote, Colin R. (lsle of Ely)||Malone, Col. C. L. (Layton, E.)||Wallace, J.|
|Davies, Alfred (Clitheroe)||Malone, Major P. (Tottenham, S.)||Walsh, S. (Ince, Lancs.)|
|Davies, Major David (Montgomery Co.)||Murray, Lt.-Col. Hon. A. C. (Aberdeen),||Williams, A. (Consett. Durham)|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Murray, Or. D. (Western Isles)||Williams, Col. P. (Middlesbrough)|
|Devlin, Joseph||Newbould, A. E.||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Stourbridge)|
|Donnelly, P.||O'Connor, T. P.||Wood, Major Mackenzie (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Edge, Captain William||O'Grady, James||Young, Robert (Newton, Lanes.)|
|Entwistle, Major C. F.||Rattan, Peter Wilson|
|Galbraith. Samuel||Redmond, Captain William A.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr.|
|Graham, W. (Edinburgh)||Rendall, Athelstan||T. Griffiths and Mr. T. Wilson.|
|Grundy, T. W.|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Blair, Major Reginald|
|Ainsworth, Captain C.||Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir F. G.||Boles, Lieut.-Colonel D. F,|
|Allen, Col. William James||Banner, Sir J. S. Harmood-||Borwick, Major G. O.|
|Archdale, Edward M.||Barlow, Sir Montague (Salford, S.)||Brackenbury, Col. H. L.|
|Archer-Shee, Lieut.-Col. Martin||Barnston, Major Harry||Bridgeman, William Clive|
|Astbury, Lieut.-Com. F. W.||Beckett, Hon. Gervase||Brittain, Sir Harry E.|
|Astor, Major Hon. Waldorf||Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes)||Britton, G. B.|
|Atkey, A. R.||Benn, Sir Arthur S. (Plymouth)||Brown, Captain D. C. (Hexham)|
|Baird. John Lawrence||Benn, Com. Ian Hamilton (Greenwich)||Bruton, Sir J.|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Bird, Alfred||Buchanan, Lieut.-Colonel A. L. H.|
|Bull, Right Hon. Sir William James||Hewart, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon||Peel, Lt.-Col. R. F. (Woodbridge)|
|Burdon, Colonel Rowland||Hickman, Brig.-General Thomas E.||Pennefather, De Fonblanque|
|Burn, Colonel C. R. (Torquay)||Hilder, Lieut.-Colonel F.||Perkins, Walter Frank|
|Burn, T. H. (Belfast)||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Philipps, Sir [...] (Chester)|
|Butcher, Sir J. G.||Hood, Joseph||Poliock, Sir Ernest Murray|
|Campbell, J. G. D.||Hope, Harry (Stirling)||Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton|
|Cope, Major W. (Glamorgan)||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||Pratt, John William|
|Carew, Charles R. S. (Tiverton)||Hope, John Deans (Berwick)||Prescott, Major W. H.|
|Carr, W. T.||Hopkinson, Austin (Mossley)||Pretyman, Rt. Hon. Ernest G.|
|Carter, R. A. D. (Manchester)||Hughes, Spencer Leigh||Pulley, Charles Thornton|
|Casey, T. W.||Hunter, Gen. Sir A. (Lancaster)||Purchase, H. G.|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Hunter-Weston. Lieut.-Gen. Sir A. G.||Raeburn, Sir William|
|Cayzer, Major H. R.||Hurst, Major G. B. J||Ratcliffe, Henry Butler|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Inskip, T. W. H.!||Raw, Lieut.-Colonel Dr. N.|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord Hugh (Oxford U.)||Jackson, Lieut.-Col. Hon. F. S. (York):||Rees, Sir J. D. (Nottingham, E.)|
|Chadwick, R. Burton||Jesson, C.||Reid, D. O.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. A. (Birm., W.)||Jodrell, N. P||Remer, J. B.|
|Chamberlain, N. (Birm., Ladywood)||Johnson, L. s.||Rogers, Sir Hallewell|
|Clough, R.||Jones, Sir Evan (Pembroke)||Roundell, Lieut-Colonel R. F.|
|Coates, Major Sir Edward F.||Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen)||Royden, Sir Thomas|
|Coats, Sir Stuart||Knight, Capt. E. A.||Royds, Lt.-Col. Edmund|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Knights, Capt. H.||Samuel, S. (Wandsworth, Putney)|
|Cohen, Major J. B. B.||Law, A. J. (Rochdale)||Sanders, Colonel Robert Arthur|
|Colvin, Brigadier-General R. B.||Law, Right Hon. A. Bonar (Glasgow)||Seager, Sir William|
|Compton-Rickett, Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Lewis, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Univ. Wales)||Seddon, J. A.|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Lewis, T. A. (Pontypridd, Glam.)||Seely, Maj.-Gen. Rt. Hon. John|
|Cooper, Sir lichard Ashmole||Lloyd, George Butler||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)|
|Coote, William (Tyrone, S.)||Locker-Lampson G. (Wood Green)||Shortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on-T., W.|
|Cory, Sir Clifford John (St. Ives)||Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (Hunt'don)||Sprot, Colonel Sir Alexander|
|Cory, Sir James Herbert (Cardiff||Long, Rt. Hon. Walter||Stanley, Colonel Hon. G. F. (Preston)|
|Courthope, Major George Loyd||Lonsdale, James R.||Starkey, Captain John Ralph|
|Craig, Captain Charles C. (Antrim)||Lort-Williams, J.||Stephenson, Coionel H. K.|
|Craig, Col. Sir James (Down, Mid.)||Loseby, Captain C. E.||Stewart, Gershom|
|Cralk, Right Hon. Sir Henry||Lowther, Major C. (Cumberland, N.)||Strauss, Edward Anthony|
|Croft, Brig.-General Henry Pagi||Mackinder, Halford i.||Sugden, W. H.|
|Davies, Sir O. S. (Denbigh)||M'Laren, R. (Lanark, N.)||Sykes, Sir C. (Huddersfield)|
|Davies, T. (Cirencester)||Macquisten, F. A.||Talbot, G. A. (Hemel Hempstead)|
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington)||Maddocks, Henry||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, S.)|
|Dockrell, Sir M.||Magnus, Sir Philip||Townley, Maximilan G.|
|Du Cros, Sir Arthur Philip||Manville, Edward||Tryon, Major George Clement|
|Elliott, Lt.Col. Sir G. (Islington, W.)||Marriott, John Arthur R.||Turton, Edmund Russborough|
|Eyres-Monsell, Commander||Mason, Robert||Vickers D.|
|Falcon, Captain M.||Meysey-Thompson, Lt.-Col. E. C.||Waddington, R.|
|Fell, Sir Arthur||Mitchell, William Lane||Walker, Colonel William Hall|
|Fisher, Rt. Hon. Herbert A. L.||Molson, Major John Elsdale||Watson, Captain John Bertrand|
|Flannery, Sir J. Fortescue||Moreing, Captain Algernon H.||Weston, Colonel John W.|
|Fexcroft, Captain C.||Morrison-Bell, Major A. C.||Wheler, Colonel Granville C. H.|
|Gange. E. S.||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert||Whitla, Sir William|
|Ganzoni, Captain F. C.||Murray, Hon. G. (St. Rollox)||Wigan, Brigadier-General John Tyson|
|Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Murray, John (Leeds, W.)||Williams, Lt.-Col. C. (Tavistock)|
|Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel John||Murray, William (Dumfries)||Williams, Col. Sir R. (Dorset, W.)|
|Nall, Major Joseph||Wills, Lt.-Col. Sir Gilbert Alan H.|
|Glyn, Major R.||Neal, Arthur||Wilson, Colonel Leslie (Reading)|
|Grant, James Augustus||Newman, Major J. (Finchley, M'ddx.)||Wood, Sir H. K. (Woolwich, W.)|
|Green, J. F. (Leicester)||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. (Exeter)||Wood, Sir J. (Stalybridge and Hyde)|
|Greig, Colonel James William||Nicholson, R. (Doncaster)||Wood, Major S. Hill- (High Peak)|
|Gretton, Col. John||Nicholson, w. (Petersfield)||Worsfold, T. Cato|
|Gritten, W. G. Howard||Nield, Sir Herbert||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Guest, Maj. Hon. O. (Leic., Loughboro')||Oman, C. W. C.||Young, Sir F. W (Swindon)|
|Hall, Lieut-Col. Sir Fred. (Dulwich)||O'Neill, Captain Hon. Robert W. H.||Younger, Sir George|
|Hamilton, Major C. G. C. (Altrincham)||Palmer, Brig.-Gen. G. (Westbury)|
|Hanson, Sir Charles||Parker, James||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Lord E|
|Henderson. Major V. L.||Pease, Rt. Hon. Herbert Pike||Talbot and Mr. Dudley Ward.|
|Henry, Denis S. (Londonderry, S.)|