§ Major E. WOOD
I beg to move,That, with a view to enabling the Imperial Parliament to devote more attention to the general interests of the United Kingdom and, in collaboration with the other Governments of the Empire, to matters of common Imperial concern, this House is of opinion that the time has come for the creation of subordinate legislatures within the United Kingdom, and that to this end the Government, without prejudice to any proposals it may have to make with regard to Ireland, should forthwith appoint a Parliamentary body to consider and report—In moving the Motion which stands on the Paper in my name and that of another hon. Friend (Mr. Murray Macdonald) may I say that the subject, of course, is not a new one. It came before the notice of a great many hon. Members in the last Parliament, and although it was never discussed, I think, on the floor of this House so late as, I think, 5th March, it was a subject of discussion in the other House, when there was a very full Debate upon it. I do not intend to refer to that Debate beyond saying that it was an occasion of a speech by the Lord Chancellor, and in regard to that I think it is just to inquire how far that speech should rightly be taken as representing the views of His Majesty's Government, or how far it merely represented the individual opinion of the Lord Chancellor. As a good many of us know, the opinions expressed by the Lord Chancellor on the subject were at complete variance with what are the known sympathies and indeed beliefs of more than one member of the Government, and are extremely difficult of reconciliation with what was the opinion of the Prime Minister given to an important and influential deputation which waited upon him on the subject in the course of last summer.
- (1)upon a measure of Federal Devolution applicable to England, Scotland, and Ireland, defined in its general outlines by existing differences in law and administration between the three countries;
- (2)upon the extent to which these differences are applicable to Welsh conditions and requirements; and
- (3)upon the financial aspects and requirements of the measure."
I suppose that this Motion commands a very general measure of support in a great many quarters, and for a great 1874 many different reasons. I will begin by telling the House what is in my opinion the dominant consideration that leads me to recommend it to the consideration of the House. I think that all hon. Members were struck— of course it was not new, though it was forcibly expressed—by some reflections of the hon. Member for Glamorgan (Mr. Hartshorn) in a speech which he made recently upon the state of Ireland. He said—I do not quote his words—that the most potent incentive among the people of these Islands to direct action would be any diminution in the confidence that they felt in the institutions under which they live. I do not think it is too much to say that, in the times immediately in front of us, what may tilt the scale between civilisation and disruption may be the confidence that our people have in their institutions. That confidence, let us be very sure of it, depends upon the ability and efficiency with which those institutions do their work. Therefore, if it be at all true, as I think it is, that this House has receded in public estimation, the case that I wish to submit to hon. Members is that that is due to the fact that we have been asking too much of our machinery. I do not want to exaggerate in any way the case that I wish to make, but I think it is safe to say that there is no department either of our executive, our administrative or our legislative life that is not showing signs of what I may call wear and depreciation. It is quite customary to hear deplored in this House the evil results of what is called the lack of Cabinet government. To that cause is attributed, for example, the extravagance, the divergent policy of the Government, and the failures to which Governments are subject I take it that there are those who are sanguine enough to suppose that the breakdown of Cabinet government is merely due to the action of this Government, is merely due to war conditions; and that if the Government chose, and if and when war conditions pass, it would be at our own option when we reverted to the earlier system of Cabinet Government. I believe that those who hold that view are thoroughly wrong, and I think so for this reason. Even if the number of important Government Departments had not grown so numerous that during the War we required a War Cabinet, and before the War, I think I am right in saying, we required an Inner Cabinet 1875 —even if that were not the case, the Departmental pressure on Ministers to-day has so grown in intensity that a Minister tends more and more to be immersed in the day-to-day work of his Department. He is every day faced with the dilemma of either having to neglect his Department or to neglect the House of Commons, and most of them are bound, perforce, as we know only too well, to neglect the House of Commons. Unless it be possible to devise some means of squeezing forty-eight hours out of twenty-four, I submit—and I believe Cabinet Ministers will be the first to agree—that it is almost impossible for a Departmental chief to form an intelligent opinion upon one-half of the subjects that come before him in his capacity as a member of the Cabinet. For that reason, I submit that we are not likely to find a remedy in reversion to the old methods. Incidentally, that, of course, constitutes a complete revolution in our governing system. Instead of the collective co-operation and responsibility of a Cabinet, we have now got to a great extent Government by semi-independent Departments, with an appeal to a Committee of Ministers to settle their differences, or, if not to a Committee of Ministers, to some outstanding personality such as the Prime Minister. That is a revolution in our system of government. All that is true, I think, of the Cabinet and of the Government, and it is no less true of individual Members. I put this point in all seriousness, that if representative institutions are to remain a reality, and if Members of Parliament are to be something more than machines to register the decrees of right hon. Gentlemen on this bench or on that, they must be able to keep in touch with their constituents, and to form some sort of judgment upon the mass of material that from day to day comes before them. And yet every Member of Parliament knows that that is impossible, and hardly anyone attempts it. If he did, I do not think I should be wrong if I said that he would within twenty-four hours, or forty-eight hours at the most, fall a victim to what I might call intellectual indigestion. The thing simply cannot be done, and we all of us know it.
I think I shall have carried the general sense of the House with me thus far. But even if our domestic business were to remain at what it was before the War, and we all know that it has immensely in-creased to-day and is likely to go on in- 1876 creasing, the problem would be grave enough to justify us in asking for an inquiry into the possibilities of a better system. But we all know that there is much more in it than that. The War, and all the international problems that are its legacy, and the teaching of the War, is going to have this effect, among others: It is going to make the ordinary man take a vastly more live and continuous interest in foreign policy than he ever took before. Every man and every woman now knows what war means, and, in so far as wars are the result of bad diplomacy, every man and woman are going to see to it that they use their influence to make diplomacy good. That will mean interest in foreign policy. And there is a further consideration. I am very glad to see my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary in the House, because I am sure he will agree with what I am going to say. [AN HON. MEMBER: "He is at the Admiralty now!"] I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon; he moves from one office to another so easily. At all events, he will remember, and will sympathise. Within the next few months, or within the next year, we in this House are going to be face to face with the consideration of a great many questions of immediate and common concern to ourselves and the Dominions. There are questions of defence, questions of trade, of naturalisation, of land settlement; and in regard to all of these, even without reckoning Indian reforms, Egypt, and so forth, the Dominions will be anxious to work and to build in conjunction with ourselves. But we must have time to do it. I have heard my right hon. Friend say—and I believe every other ex-Colonial Secretary has said the same thing—that when Dominion representatives come to this country they find it hard to understand how immersed we are in what to them seem to be our parochial concerns. If we are prepared to attend to-these matters, we can build a structure in common. If we are not, we shall only have ourselves to thank if they proceed on the business without us, and the work is conducted independently of us. I do not say a word about the possibilities of the future Imperial Constitution. In my own belief, if that comes, it will rather be the outcome of spontaneous growth than of conscious constitution-building. But this I would say: that if ever there be an essential preliminary it is that this Parliament should be put as much in a position of freedom from the local concerns of Scotland, Ire- 1877 land, Wales, and England, as the Dominion Parliaments of Canada and of the Commonwealth of Australia, for example, are with regard to the local concerns of, say, Manitoba or New South Wales.
That, I think, is an essential precedent condition. To meet this condition of things it is, I think, not untrue to say that within the limits of our present Constitution we have tried almost every device that the wit of man can suggest. I regret that my right hon. Friend who generally sits beside me here to keep me in the path in which I should go is not here to-day. He, of course, is not conscious of this problem at all, because he has a simple remedy, which is to repeal most of the existing laws and pass no new ones; and, of course, on those terms these problems cease to be vexatious. But to most of us the problem is not so simple, and in order to try to meet it we have moved uneasily during the last few years under the restrictions on Debate, the substitution of Orders in Council for legislation, boards of control, and, last but not least, Grand Committees. I really do not think it is necessary for me to labour the point in regard to Grand Committees. I was amazed to hear my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House say the other day that on the whole he was very satisfied with the way in which the Grand Committees had worked. I do not think he can have sat on a Grand Committee. If he asked the opinion of any private Member who not only has to sit on Grand Committees and put in such spare time as he can in the House, but is expected by the Whips to be often in two places at once, and is only able to be in one place, the Grand Committee, by withdrawing himself from business of first-class importance here, I do not think he would have found support for his view in the minds of many hon. Members. After all, let me remind hon. Gentlemen that a good deal turns upon what is meant by working well. I have no doubt that the Grand Committees are turning out legislation. So does a sausage machine turn out minced meat. But the point is whether that is not being done by withdrawing Members and by withdrawing subjects from this House and committing them to a handful of Members upstairs, and whether that is not a cost absolutely out of proportion to the results obtained. I believe that it must produce results which are disastrous in this House. Therefore, my conclusion as to that is that it is as groundless to 1878 suppose that we can remedy our defects by tinkering in this way or that with our present system as it is to suppose that you can make a horse pull more than a certain load by merely refitting the harness in which he pulls it. It is not the way he is pulling that is wrong, it is the load you are asking him to pull. If that be so, what we suggest is that we should inquire and inform ourselves as to the extent to which it may be possible to delegate a good deal of the business that we do here to subordinate assemblies, perhaps in: different parts of the country.
Our business, as I see it, falls into three pretty obvious divisions. First of all, as to the business described as being essentially central, such business, for example, as defence, Foreign Office, Colonial Office, Government of India, finance, and so on. Then you have business which is definitely local that might be summed up under the expression of local government, licensing, education, land questions, agriculture, and so on. Again, I do not give an exhaustive list. Then you have the three classes as to which there might be some debate as to whether they should be local or central, and of which the chief is, of course, industrial questions. That, I admit quite frankly, is a subject for debate, although I hold a strong opinion that these questions should be treated centrally, but that is a matter for argument. I would suggest one other reason to the House why I think hon. Members should take these proposals into very serious consideration. I do not think there is anything much more important in the consideration of our institutions than that of arriving at an agreed settlement of that old problem of the Second Chamber. Lord Bryce recently presided over a Committee, and they have reported, but I have not read all their words of wisdom, although I have informed myself, and I have no doubt they have produced conclusions which are both valuable and wise. What I want to suggest is that, be those conclusions good or less good, the difficulty of arriving at an agreed settlement of the Second Chamber controversy is not so much the merits or demerits of this or that scheme, but whether you reform the House of Lords or not under your arrangement, the Second Chamber is going to remain. This body is charged with dealing with the very matters around which the most acute political controversies centre. Under the sug- 1879 gested reorganisation, most of the matters which have occasioned the most acute political controversy would disappear from the purview of the United Kingdom Parliament, and the way would be less proportionately more clear for an agreed settlement of that problem which would command the assent of all parties.
Just a few words with regard to two of the main objections and difficulties. The first point is that raised in the Amendment of some of my hon. Friends who in this matter fear the predominance of England. For my own part, I have no sort of objection to including their Amendment, which asks for inquiry into that question in the main Motion. I think their fears are groundless, and I would use my utmost endeavour if it became a matter of practical policy to defeat it. I am most anxious to have it inquired into, because I think that would be the best method of defeating it My hon. Friends will find no apposition from me with regard to the Amendment they are seeking. Again I say that I do not realise their fears. Let me ask in what way will Scotland be worse off under the poposed arrangement than to-day? The only difference would be that she would obtain complete control of her own local concerns, and she would retain complete control and exactly the same proportion of control over United Kingdom affairs. It would rather be for England that I should fear if national talent were to be confined more narrowly to national channels. When I look round the House, if that were to be so we should lose the services of the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Duncairn Division (Sir E. Carson), and all those lights would disappear from the service of England. Therefore I cannot share the fears of my hon. Friends.
In conclusion, let me turn to what no doubt is to a great many of us one, if not the most serious, difficulty in this matter, and that is the question of Ireland. I desire to say what I wish to say to the House with perfect frankness, and I hope without offence. First of all, let me say that I do not in any way underestimate the difficulty, but I would begin by urging the importance in that matter of maintaining our perspective. Let us remember that the population of the United Kingdom is 41,000,000, and the population of Ireland is 4,500,000. Let us also remember that if we come to think that a general case was 1880 made out for the United Kingdom it would be just as unreasonable to debar the United Kingdom from the advantages of the change because there was an Irish difficulty as it would be to force a change upon the United Kingdom that was not in its interests merely as an expedient for turning an Irish corner.
My first plea is for perspective. Having said this, I state quite clearly that if the conditions in Ireland, or the greater part of Ireland, are what I believe them to be, it would be merely shutting our eyes to facts to suppose that any constitutional plant would flourish unless the soil in which it is planted has some respect for law as the elementary principle of social life. Therefore I agree with those who say that our first duty in this House must be to assist those who are charged with the restoration of law and order in Ireland. But while I say that that is our first duty, I say with equal and perhaps greater emphasis that it could not be and must not be our whole duty towards Ireland, and in my judgment we should be mistaking the temper of this country and our Dominions most fatally if we suppose that they would be satisfied with anything short of a definitely constructive policy for Ireland, and that is a remedy for a situation that cannot be indefinitely prolonged. Therefore I would urge that in this matter we should make our position plain that in restoring, as we intend to restore, law and order, we should be doing that in the interests chiefly of Ireland herself, in order that at the earliest moment she might qualify to enjoy the same rights of self-government that we are prepared to confer upon England and Scotland.
I do not blink the fact for a moment that it may very likely be the case that the predominant elements in Ireland at this moment would wholly reject Home Rule proposals. That is a fact of which my Noble Friend the Member for Oxford University (Lord H. Cecil) has often reminded us, and it is a fact as to which I am not sure whether my right hon. Friend who sits below me, in view of the language he has used in the past, would wholly support that view. I might say in passing, in order to make my own position perfectly plain, that exactly in the same way as I regard the question of the division of England as an open question and one for inquiry, so I regard the question of the division of Ireland into separate federal units as also open for inquiry. I have my own views about it, and I should 1881 do all I could to make those views prevail, but that is a question which is open for the most full and frank inquiry. At its worst I do not think we should have achieved any solid gain unless we had done two things. First of all, unless we had secured the general assent of Great Britain to this principle and had made it plain to Ireland that the measure of what was the right policy for Ireland was not simply the shifting test of what Ireland wanted. The day before yesterday they wanted a Home Rule Bill; yesterday it was Dominion status, and to-day it is a republic; and you cannot make that shifting test the sole test of your Irish policy. Therefore the alternative test—and this would be the first proposition I would wish Great Britain to give a considered assent to—is that the test must be what is right and possible for the United Kingdom. If it were possible to make a clear definition on principle and make a firm offer to Ireland, that would be there for her to take as soon as she chose; but what I would hope to achieve as the second result of value which would be to remove the question of Irish policy from that most fatal position in which it has been for the last thirty years of being subject to inflation or deflation in this House on no principle but as the result of political action. That would be a really solid gain.
I think that the real ground of opposition to Home Rule Bills in the past and other Home Rule Bills in the future would be the treatment of Ireland in isolation. I have always held the view—and it has been shared in all parts of this House—that the isolated treatment of Ireland inevitably and largely increases the danger of separation, for the simple reason that demands pressed against a central Parliament by a single subordinate assembly become absurd, silly, and impossible when you are dealing with one central and several subordinate assemblies. If I may take a homely similie it would be this: Every parent will support the view that it is a much more difficult thing to bring up an only child than it is to bring up one of several children when the other children are always unconsciously helping the parents to keep what would be a single child if there were no others—well, I would say the troublesome child, in order. I have tried, without being unduly wearisome, to lay some of the main considerations by which those of us are moved who support this Resolution. I am bound to say I think on general grounds 1882 a case for inquiry is amply made out. The War has made a great modification, of the whole position, notably in the field of finance, and therefore it is essential, if we are to know where we stand, that we should have a full, independent and careful inquiry. The ordinary voter, I think is ready enough to appreciate the results of bad government, but in practice-he is slow to diagnose the disease, and the-duty of diagnosing disease lies upon Parliament and on those who form and guide political opinion in this House and in the country. This is, I believe, a first step towards finding a remedy for some of the evils under which we are labouring, and it is further laying the foundation of a more vigorous national and imperial life on these grounds. I commend the Motion to the consideration of the House.
Mr. MURRAY MACDONALD
I rise to second the Motion that has been so well and ably laid before the House by my hon. Friend. The Motion rests on the opinion that Parliament has more work to do than it can adequately perform. My hon. Friend has dealt with that so far as it relates to our present situation. But the congestion of business is not a matter of to-day or of yesterday, and I want to say a few words on the history of this subject. If we look back for a moment to the eighteenth century we see no signs of Parliament being then over weighted by its work. It was equal to the task imposed upon it. But there was hardly any part of that task which was concerned with the passing of measures of legislation. If we except the Act of Union between England and Scotland, it is true to say that no great measure of legislation affecting either our civil or our political interests dates from that century The whole attention of Parliament was concentrated on questions of administration, and it was success or failure in dealing with those questions that determined the fate of Governments. This was the situation in. the eighteenth century. Since then a great and stupendous change has taken place in the affairs of this country, and in the work of Parliament. That change, I think, has been due to three main causes. The first is the growth of the Empire and of the responsibilities of Parliament in relation to-it; the second, the enormous development of our industrial life, and the constantly-increasing demands for legislation which has sprung out of and accompanied 1883 those developments; and the third, the change, nothing less than revolutionary in its nature, which has taken place in the ideas of men with regard to the sphere of government and legislation. These causes have been adding for now nearly 100 years, with constantly accumulating power and effect, to the mass and the volume of business of Parliament.
I pass over the growth of the Empire with three statements which I believe to be indisputable facts. The first of those statements is that, quite apart from the strictly domestic affairs of the United Kingdom—putting them entirely out of the account—the affairs of the Empire, taken by themselves, have imposed on Parliament in our time a responsibility incomparably greater than has ever been imposed on a single Legislature in the whole history of the world. The second is that this responsibility presses more and more heavily upon us every day as days go by; and the third is that we shall not long continue to hold the Empire together unless we give more time to its affairs and more of that sympathy which can only grow from a knowledge of the conditions of the people which is impossible to us in the situation in which we now stand. I pass to the change in the nature of the work of Parliament as affected by the growing demands for legislation. I have already said that the work of Parliament in the eighteenth century was limited to questions connected with administration. With the passing of the Reform Act of 1832 those questions have retreated more and more into the background, they are placed no longer in a position of first importance, and the responsibility of Parliament has been more and more taken up by questions of legislation. I do not wait to consider whether the interests of the country have suffered from the fact that the time and attention of Parliament have been so completely absorbed by legislation as to prevent it exercising real supervision over administration, although I have a very clear and decided opinion on the subject. My present concern is with the fact that the growth of legislative work has been the main cause of the congestion of the business of Parliament. The stages of that growth are clearly marked out by successive extensions of the franchise. It was natural and inevitable that this should be so. As each new body of electors was 1884 brought within the framework of the Constitution new demands for changed conditions of our life arose, and the inability of Parliament to cope with those demands became every year more and more obvious. Formal complaints of this congestion and of its injurious effects date back as far as the year 1837. In that year the first of a long series of Select Committees was appointed to consider the subject and report on means by which the transaction of business could be expedited. If anyone desires to obtain evidence, he can turn to these Reports. But there is other and certainly not less convincing evidence of them. There is hardly one of our great men in the last eighty years of our history, quite irrespective of party, who has not drawn attention to the need of some change in our mode of working. I could give many quotations from speeches to prove this, but one is sufficient for my purpose. In 1846 Sir Robert Peel, one of the great figures in our Parliamentary history, in a record of an interview which he had with Mr. Gladstone, is reported to have spoken of "the increased multiplication of details in public business, and the enormous task imposed on the available time and strength by the work of attendance in the House of Commons. He said it was extremely adverse to the growth of greatness among our public men, and that the mass of public business increased so fast that he could not tell what it would end in, and would not venture to speculate even for a few years on the mode of administering public affairs. The consequences were already manifest in its being not well done." If this was the state of things in 1846, "what may be said of the state of things to-day? I shall not attempt to describe the difference. But I would ask Members to pause for a moment. I would like to put several questions to hon. Members in this House. Is there a single man amongst us who does not feel that he is overweighted—I might safely say over whelmed—as a Member of this House by the burden of his responsibility? Is there a single man who feels he can keep abreast with the work? Is there one amongst us who, in the immense multiplication of detail that daily absorbs and exhausts his attention, does not feel that he is in danger of losing all hold of guiding principles, even to the very idea of it? Is there anyone who does not feel that his work as a Member is becoming less and less moral and more and more purely mechanical in its nature? So long as these questions can be asked with even the semblance of justifica- 1885 tion, we may be sure it will become increasingly difficult to get men who care either for their moral or their intellectual integrity to consent to serve their country in Parliament. That is all I want to say as to congestion. It is not a thing of today nor of yesterday. It is an evil which has been slowly and almost insensibly accumulating upon us for at least eighty years, and it is an evil which we must in some way get rid of.
I turn now to consider the remedy. Two alternative ways, and two only, have been suggested for dealing with it. The first is a change in the Rules of Procedure regulating the transaction of business in this House; and the second is embodied in the Motion which we are now considering—namely, devolution of function. As to the first, if we could assume that the business of Parliament was fixed and stationary, we might perhaps not unreasonably hold that it could be made to answer its purpose. But we cannot. We have made I do not know how many changes in procedure during the last forty years, and all have failed to accomplish their purpose. The mass of business has steadily out grown our capacity to deal with it. Without claiming any deep insight into the future, and without taking any very Comprehensive views of the state of things in the Empire, we can confidently say the business of Parliament is not likely to go on accumulating more slowly in the years that lie in front of us than it has done in the years that are behind us.
Before passing to consider the second alternative, there is one excrescence of our Constitution which has been growing to alarming proportions in recent years. I refer to the devolution of legislative powers of our public Departments. That is a devolution that is going on on a vast and ever-increasing scale. No measure of legislation of large general importance has passed through Parliament during the last twenty years which has not contained provision for referring controversial points to public Departments to settle by means of Orders in Council or Provisional Orders, or by other indirect methods, and the larger and more controversial the points the greater has been the temptation to provide for their settlement in this way. I do not blame anyone for it. It was natural that it should be so. Business pressed, and what is more natural than that the difficult parts of it, demanding more time than could be spared to them, should be handed over to public Depart- 1886 ments to settle? But who denies that it is an evil? If we add to that the growing habit, due to precisely the same causes, of legislation by reference, then under it our system of law has become hopelessly complicated, and its administration more and more difficult and uncertain, and under it, moreover, the powers of Departments are rapidly growing. I make no reflection on the Departments. The work has been imposed on them, and it would be an injustice not to admit that it has been generally carried out in a fair, moderate, and judicial spirit. But, none the less, the thing is an evil, and unless some more legitimate form of devolution can be devised these Departments will in course of time become as prolific in the issue of legislative enactments as Parliament itself.
In the operative part of the Motion it is suggested that we should adopt a scheme of Federal Devolution applicable to England, Scotland, and Ireland, and determined in its general outlines by existing differences in law and administration between the three countries. The use of the word "Federal" to describe the nature of the scheme has, I am told, given rise to some doubts and misgivings about it. In one fundamentally important fact our Constitution, as it is now, is held, and rightly held, to be superior to any federal constitution. In a federal constitution, strictly so called, the legal sovereignty is divided between the central or federal Government and the Governments of the several peoples who have entered into the federation, and this seems always to be a source of weakness in the federal constitution. In the case of our Constitution, on the other hand, full and undivided sovereignty resides in the Parliament of the United Kingdom, and a change which would parcel out this sovereignty between the central and the subordinate legislatures would be accepted, if at all, with extreme reluctance, and only because the evils resulting from it would be less than those we have to face under existing conditions. The change which the Motion proposes would not have this effect at all. Carry through the change to-day, and the legal competence of this Parliament to undo to-morrow what it has done to-day would remain absolutely unimpaired. This, I think, ought to be obvious enough. On the other hand, it ought not to be forgotten, as it too often is in arguments on this subject, that the British Constitution has never been and was not intended to be completely unitary in its character.
1887 As it is on this fact that the operative part of the Motion ultimately rests for its justification, let me try to make it clear by attempting to define what are the separate capacities in which Parliament, as we know it, now acts, and let me also try to make clear upon what principle it is that we propose to distribute powers as between the central and the subordinate legislatures. The capacities in which Parliament acts are four. In the first place, it acts as the local legislature for the peoples of England, Scotland and Ireland, regulating their severally distinct and strictly domestic interests. In the second place, still as a local legislature, regulating the interests common to the three peoples. In these two capacities the legislative functions of Parliament correspond roughly to the legislative functions of the provisional and central legislatures in the Dominions of the Empire. In the third capacity it acts as the presiding authority over the great Dependencies, Protectorates and Crown Colonies. In the fourth capacity it stands before the world as the supreme presiding authority over the British Empire as a whole, ultimately responsible for its destinies. Our proposal is that it should hand over its functions in respect of the first of these capacities to subordinate legislatures in the three countries. Within a certain area of interests neither small nor unimportant, but the same in the three countries, we legislate now for each country as a unit by itself, and each country has its own separate judiciary and its own separate administrative system charged with the responsibility of giving effect to its own separate laws.
There is nothing therefore in the proposal that is not consistent either with the spirit or the working of the Constitution as it is now, and it could be carried out without any large or material disturbance of our present system of government. Why then should we hesitate to free Parliament, by the adoption of this proposal, from some portion of the impossible task which the conditions of our time impose upon it. I know of only one objection which has been seriously urged against it. It is that there has been a movement, both in our life and in the life of all the great States of the world, towards an ever deepening and extending union, and that the interests of a peaceful and progressive life are everywhere bound up with the furtherance of this movement 1888 and that the proposal we are considering is opposed to it and goes in the direction of separation. If I thought this was a well-grounded objection, I should not be to-day pleading for the adoption of this proposal. But let us consider it. The union between the three Kingdoms is concerned with four spheres of interest and it has not operated in the same way in all four. In respect of the domestic interests common to the three peoples, and in respect of their relations with the other peoples of the Empire and of the world outside the Empire it has been a completely integrating union. In these three respects the three peoples have been as one. If we attempted to impose the English system on the peoples of Scotland so that there would be one administration common to both countries, we know that the attempt would break the Union. The attempt has not been made in the case of the Dominions, and the union between us and them is due to the fact that it has not been made. It was made in the case of the American Colonies, and we lost them. It has been made in the case of Ireland, and Ireland remains to-day the one outstanding failure in the government of the peoples of the Empire. To give to peoples the right to control the conditions of their own domestic life is not to pave the way for separation. It is to recognise one essential condition of a real and abiding union between them.
I proceed now to consider the two further points in the Resolution which demand a few words of explanation. The first relates to Wales. She forms at present an integral portion of England. With a few very minor exceptions, the same law and the same administration runs through both countries. How far it is consistent with the interests of Wales that she should have a legislature of her own, possessing the same powers as the legislature of the other countries, I do not know. In the Resolution the question is left an open one, and it is the opinion of Wales which must ultimately decide it. The second point relates to finance, and it presents us with the only real difficulty in the way of the scheme. It is easy to map out the areas within which the Parliament of the United Kingdom on the one-hand and the subordinate legislatures on the other would severally exercise their legislative and administrative powers. They are, as a matter of fact, already clearly marked out. But that is not the case in regard to finance. Putting aside 1889 certain small exceptions which are to be found in Ireland, the same finance law runs through the three countries. They are all taxed alike, and the difficulty is that it is impossible so to disentangle our finances as to allow the subordinate legislatures certain definite sources of revenue which would be equal to their requirements while we reserve to the Imperial Parliament certain other sources which would be equal to its requirements. A way out of the difficulty can, I believe, be found—not, I admit, an altogether satisfactory way, but one which has been found to work in other countries where legislative and administrative powers are distributed between central and subordinate legislatures.
Perhaps I may say a word in regard to the Amendment standing in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for the Camlachie Division of Glasgow (Mr. Mackinder), although my hon. Friend who moved the Motion said what was perhaps all that is necessary to say in regard to it. My hon. Friend thinks that it is desirable to divide England into provinces, each with its subordinate legislature in order to avoid the inconvenience which might result from the great predominance of one partner in the Federation. I do not know to what inconveniences my hon. Friend refers, nor do I quite understand from the Resolution whether the inconveniences are to be felt by the people of Scotland or by the people of England, or by this Parliament. I cannot decide what are the conveniences or how the conveniences are to make themselves felt, and who and what is to be exposed to these inconveniences. Whatever my hon. Friend may have in his mind, I feel sure that when he comes to consider the inconveniences that would result from the dividing up of England into provinces he will find that they are immensely greater than any inconveniences that would result from maintaining England as a single unit. I have explained why Wales does not appear in the first Section of our Resolution, and that I think will be a sufficient answer to the Amendment in the names of two hon. Members for Welsh constituencies. This concludes what I have to say on the terms of the Motion as it stands on the Paper. Would that it was all I was called upon to say with regard to them.
But Ireland rises up against me. One section of the people of that country constituting a large majority of the whole is 1890 in a state of open rebellion against union with the peoples of England, Scotland and Wales in any shape or form. Seventy Members of Parliament elected for constituencies in that country by the same franchise and under the same law as we have been elected for our constituencies, refuse to take their seats in this House, and apparently with the full consent and approval of their legally constituted electors have openly maintained the right to set up a free and independent republic in their country. Another section, much less numerous but very powerful, tell us that they are entirely satisfied with the union which exists, and that they desire no change in it. A third section, still less numerous, and far less powerful, though not negligible, takes up a position between these two extremes, and urges us for the sake of peace and conciliation to grant to Ireland what is known as Dominion powers of Government. This, I think, is an adequate account of the conflict of opinions prevailing in Ireland at tins moment, and I am driven by it to admit that there is no section of opinion in that country favourable to the proposal embodied in this Motion. What, then, are we to do? Out of the confusion and uncertainty that prevails in that country and in our relations with it, one thing that is certain quite clearly emerges and that is that the Irish question cannot be allowed to remain just where it is. It is not merely that it is poisoning the life of the people of Ireland from one end of that country Lo another, without distinction of class, interest or creed, but it is poisoning our life as well. There is not a single relation of that life that does not feel and suffer from its evil influences. It weakens us here at home. It injuriously affects our relations with the self-governing Dominions. It is at this moment materially weakening the influence of our power in India and Egypt. It prejudices our relations with the United States and it unquestionably weakens our influence among the nations of the world.
The Irish question cannot be allowed to remain where it is. What, then, are we to do with it? Ruling out as impossible the suggestion that we should do nothing, three alternatives present themselves. Either (1) we can yield to the demand of the majority of the Irish people and concede independence to Ireland, or (2) we can grant her the powers of Dominion government, or, (3) we can retain her as an integral part of the United Kingdom 1891 and grant her such legislative and administrative powers as in accordance with the terms of the Motion it is proposed to grant to England and Scotland. I think this exhausts the possible alternatives before us. As to the first, the demand for independence was originally made by a small body of men holding extreme views, and, if we may judge from their writing and speeches, totally unacquainted with affairs. To this small body there has been added in the last three years a constantly growing number of adherents until at last the body has attained the formidable proportions which we see to-day. These new adherents are, not originally men of extreme views. They adopt these views not because they were predisposed to favour or support them, but because they became more and more profoundly discontented with the existing condition of things. That is not a mere guess or speculation on my part, but it is a legitimate inference from acknowledged facts. On several occasions during the past three years the movement was obviously dying down, and adherents were deserting them, when some unhappy incident occurred, connected with Government, which restored to it all and more than its old strength and proportions. I am not going to argue with the men who make this claim. The claim appears to me to be one inconsistent with the moral and material interests of Ireland as it is with those of Great Britain, and against it we have to present an inexorable front. But this does not exhaust our duty in the matter. We cannot govern Ireland by the sword. This is impossible, more clearly impossible for us than for any people on the face of the earth, and more clearly impossible to-day than at any past time in the history of our relations with that country. Something we must do, something in accordance with the principles whose application in other parts of the Empire has allayed discontents as widespread, exorcised opinions as extreme, and which in our experiences have never yet failed in their healing efficacy.
This brings me to the second alternative as to whether we should confer upon Ireland the powers of Dominion Government. To this it has been objected that if we did we should be conferring on Ireland the power at any moment of cutting the connection between her and us, and therefore it is impossible for us to grant such powers to her. This line of reasoning astonishes 1892 me. That the one and only sure means by which, as a very full and ample experience teaches us, the people of this Empire are held together in the bonds of affection and interest would, if applied to Ireland, be the means of disrupting the Empire, I for my part refuse to believe. It is, moreover, a very dangerous and very untrue line of argument to follow. It is as if we said to the people of Canada and Australia, South Africa and New Zealand: "We have conferred upon you powers of government which enable you at any moment to declare your independence, and in order to maintain the integrity of the Empire we would, if we could, withdraw those powers from you." It is an argument as dangerous as it is false. Self-government within the Empire applied as we have applied it has been the means, and practically the sole means, of saving the Empire. I do not, therefore, think that we ought to reject on any ground of principle the proposal that Dominion powers of government should be conferred on Ireland.
Let us look at the proposal a little more in detail. If Federal Government on the lines suggested in the Motion was in operation, Ireland as well as England and Scotland would have within the sphere of general legislation and administration all the essential powers of the Dominion Government, but within the region of finance it would not have those powers. What the claim for Dominion government in Ireland practically amounts to is that she should have the same unrestricted powers over finance that are possessed by the Dominions. To this claim I say quite briefly and boldly that whatever may be its abstract merits the thing would not work. The conditions that make it workable in the case of the Dominions are not the conditions under which it must work, if at all, in Ireland. I make that statement knowing that it will not be, and ought not to be, accepted on my authority, and knowing that I cannot prove it in detail here and now. It is a point which must be gone into by the Committee, which I hope will be set up as a result of this discussion. But something I ought to say upon it. Let me take the Income Tax to illustrate what I mean, and let me assume that Ireland has the same unrestricted power over that tax as Canada has. Let us see what is the difference in the working of this power as between Canada and Ireland. In Canada the income of the Income Tax payer is 1893 derived almost exclusively from Canadian sources, from sources which come within the direct supervision and control of the Dominion Government. In these conditions there can be no confusion in the working of two separate and distinct Income Tax systems as between Canada and us, but the conditions between Ireland and us arc very different. Many Irishmen derive portions of their income from British sources, and not a few British derive portions of their income from Irish sources.
How, then, are you going to work two separate and independent Income Tax systems, both largely concerned with the same incomes and under which taxes which would certainly vary in rate, and in limits of exemption and abatement? It would be impossible.
I turn now to the third and last alternative. Is there any hope that that would be accepted by Irishmen as a means of conciliation between them and us? That depends on two things. The first is that we should be able to convince Irishmen that the powers to be conferred upon them are real and large powers, and that the restrictions upon these powers are not capriciously imposed, but are such as the actual moral and material relations between them and us impose upon them and us alike; and, second, that these powers should be exercised over an undivided Ireland. The two things must go together. We will not undermine the evil influences of the extreme men in that country unless they do go together. Unless they do go together you will not detach the men of moderation and reason from the support which they are now giving to the men of extreme views. The one hope for the future of Ireland and for the future relations of that country with this country is that you should succeed in detaching them from that support. I wish that I could have stopped there, but I cannot. If there is any truth in the idea that the success of the proposal embodied in this Motion depends, in so far as it relates to Ireland, on that country being treated as a single unit, then that success depends on the attitude of Ulster. They have taken up two grounds of objection to proposals of a similar kind which were to apply to Ireland alone. The first is that these would drive them out of their British and Imperial citizenship. The second is that they cannot trust themselves to the sense 1894 of justice of an authority composed of their fellow countrymen or consent to subject themselves to it.
The first relates to a matter of fact, and is easy to dispose of. Under the Home Rule Act Irishmen and Ulstermen are deprived of a very material part of their rights as citizens of the United Kingdom, but under the proposal which we are now considering they would not be deprived of any of these rights. They would remain in as full and complete enjoyment of them as the people of England and Scotland. So that objection disappears. The other is a matter not of fact but of opinion. I express no judgment on this matter. 'No judgment of mine would have or ought to have any weight. It would be presumption on my part to expect that it would or should. But there are two reflections I venture to make upon it. The first is that if impartial justice is ever to prevail in Ireland, it must be there, as elsewhere, by the free opinion of all sections of her people. This is the only means by which justice spreads and grows. The other reflection carries me back to the situation in which the British Empire now stands, as it is affected by the Irish question. This question, we know, affects profoundly the internal and external relations of the Empire. Ulster-men are loyal subjects of the Empire. No one disputes it. But does not this loyalty impose on them some obligation to help us towards a settlement of what is admittedly undermining the influence of the Empire? The question in its narrower relations affects them more closely than it does us. Yet in its larger and wider relations it affects both them and us alike. It is for them to answer. For my part, I believe that the acceptance of this proposal lies deep in the truest interest of Ireland, of Great Britain, and the Empire, and in that belief I second the Motion.
§ Sir EDWARD CARSON
The latter part of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman seems to me to widen very much the original discussion inaugurated by my hon. Friend (Major E. Wood). I had not the faintest idea that this Debate was going to turn into anything like a Home Rule Debate on the old lines. The right hon. Gentleman has suggested that one of the questions that will come before the Commission which he proposes to set up is the question of granting Dominion Home Rule to Ireland.
§ Sir E. CARSON
I do not know why so much of his speech was devoted to the question of eliminating an Irish Republic, and now he says that he has also eliminated Dominion Home Rule. Do I understand that to be so?
§ Sir E. CARSON
Then I think it would be far better if the right hon. Gentleman had confined his observations to the Motion on the Paper. It is certainly a wide enough Motion. It raises sufficiently important questions without dragging in these old Irish controversies. He showed in a very few moments that Dominion Home Rule was impossible for Ireland. I rather thought, in one part of his speech, that he was in favour of it, but when he came to consider the somewhat trivial question of finance he found that it would break down entirely and that there was no analogy between Ireland and Australia or any of the other overseas self-governing Colonies. However, I pass from that, for I am not going to be drawn into that controversy at the present moment. But I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for one thing which he said. He said that the Home Rule Act had deprived the citizens of the North of Ireland of a great deal of their birthright as citizens of the United Kingdom. That was always my contention, and that was why I was prepared to fight and would be prepared to fight again. But, if I recollect aright, the right hon. Gentleman voted for that Bill.
§ Sir E. CARSON
Then he was prepared to vote for a Bill which he confesses openly in the House of Commons now would deprive us of our rights as citizens of the United Kingdom. And I have no doubt that at the same time he thought that we were wrong in trying to fight for that citizenship which he himself so much prizes. I pass from that and come to the Motion, which is one of the most important Motions which we have had this Session, or, indeed, in any Session. It is the Motion to set up a Committee to frame practically a new Constitution for the United Kingdom—and just look at the House! If anything could demonstrate the condition into which we have come in the present state of affairs, it is the appearance of the House this evening.
§ Sir E. CARSON
That is the point. I am trying to help the right hon. Gentleman, and he will not let me. We have set up this Session this system of Grand Committees working from morning till night, and I believe that as things are going at present it will ruin this House. I admit that I supported it, but I never for a moment thought that the business we were on would, as I have no doubt it does, require them to sit there so long that the whole of their time would be taken up, and that they would be able to give no attention whatever to this House. I think that that is disastrous. To carry on our great Imperial and great constitutional questions in the absence of a great body of Members of this House, which would be afterwards asked to come down here and pronounce upon the arguments that have been used, is a thing that puts an end to the whole usefulness of this Parliament as a legislative body for the United Kingdom, and also to a certain extent for our Dominions beyond the sea. Therefore, if this was a Motion to inquire as to whether there ought to be a devolution of some of the Business of this House to some other bodies, I would certainly support it. I believe that it will come to that. I believe that we have come to it, and I believe, also, that when we come to investigate how that is to be done, we shall be up against a problem with which we ought not to interfere without the greatest possible amount of information and knowledge, before we act, so that we may be absolutely certain of what we are doing and of its effect upon all the relations of Government—financial, economic, and political.
But I object to this Resolution, in the first place, as would be naturally expected, because I do not understand what is meant by saying, without prejudice to any proposal which the Government may have to make in regard to Ireland. My hon. Friend who proposed the Motion said nothing about that. The right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken did not deal with it either.
The Government had expressed its intention of dealing with the Irish question. We did not desire to put an obstacle in the way of the Government's acceptance of our Motion by ignoring proposals it might have to make with regard to Ireland.
§ Sir E. CARSON
You propose to submit the question of Ireland to the same Com- 1897 mission, so I really do not know what you mean. You really put in that with the view of roping in for this Resolution hon. Members from Ireland. So far as I am concerned, any dealing upon a question of this kind ought to be a dealing with the United Kingdom, and not differently for different parts. While I agree that you must have these local bodies with certain powers conferred upon them by way of devolution, I entirely dissent from the proposition that the unit must be in accordance with nationality. I see no reason for it. I see no reason why England should be only one part. I see great difficulties in having England only one part. I see no reason why Ireland should be only one pare. I see great difficulties in that also. For my own part, while I agree that we ought to have an extension of local government by a process of devolution, I entirely object to its being put on the ground of emphasis of different nationalities of different parts of the United Kingdom. Look at Canada, or look at America, or look at any of those countries where there are subordinate Parliaments. Are they based on questions of nationality? Just imagine for a moment Ontario raising as its watchword "Ontario a nation," or Quebec crying "Quebec a nation"; and the same argument applies to the United States. What you want to see, what you want to ascertain, are the different localities which require different treatment, and you want to devolve upon those different localities, in accordance with the local circumstances, such devolutionary powers as will enable them to meet their needs. It is really a question of extension of local self-government, and not of splitting up the United Kingdom with emphasis into different nationalities.
There is another point which I would like to bring to the attention of the House, and that is that as regards devolution it is entirely a question of degree. The question is, what are you going to devolve? The hon. Gentleman who moved the Resolution at once felt that he was skating over thin ice when he dealt with the question of what these local Parliaments should have powers over. Of course, the first thing you have to do is to see how far you interfere with your Imperial Parliament. That is the most vital thing of all. You must take care that in that Imperial Parliament there is a residuum of power—that is, that the Imperial Parliament guides and governs all the other Parliaments. One of our great objections 1898 to the Home Rule Act was that you put the residuum in the Irish subordinate Parliament, instead of taking it in this Parliament. Then again, as regards the Imperial Parliament, you must set up your principle of taxation for feeding Imperial resources. That must be a system which cannot be interfered with or weakened by any other subordinate Parliament, or you will at once come to grief when you try to carry out your Imperial duties towards the Empire. And as regards all that you must take care that these questions are considered equally and with equal sacrifice in relation to all the various subordinate Parliaments set up. But when you come to deal with the question of devolution it is there I suggest that you really require your Commission, because one of the most difficult things to analyse is where the Imperial begins and ends, where the national begins and ends, what is local and what is national, or what is Imperial. My hon. Friend behind me said he did not know into which category he would put industrial matters.
§ Sir E. CARSON
That only means there are two opinions, and that is quite sufficient for my argument. Take the question of labour. Are you going; to have different labour laws in your different provincial Parliaments? If you do, you will find great difficulties in carrying on. Are your railways to be an Imperial and national affair or are they to be local? Go and read some of the cases that have occurred on these two subjects between the Dominion Parliament in Canada and the subordinate Parliaments in the different provinces, and you will sec, how full of difficulty the question is. But these are not insurmountable. I am not laying it down as such, but I am putting it forward in order that hon. Members who have not from time to time been brought into close conflict with these questions may see that this is a matter not to be dealt with lightly, but one which goes to the whole root of the proper government of this country. One thing which has been said to-day I agree with entirely, and that is that I do not believe devolution is a step towards separation. Indeed, I am not sure that devolution, if properly carried out, may not lead to closer union, because when all have agreed as to the local contribution to Imperial taxation and to 1899 the maintenance in the Imperial Parliament of certain rights, you will find when you have set them up that you cannot touch any of these Parliaments, no matter what their demands may be, without touching the whole fabric of the Constitution. In that way it becomes one, a great whole which has to be dealt with as a whole. One of my great objections—and a fatal objection—to the Home Rule Act was that you were dealing with one unit of the United Kingdom in a manner in which it would be impossible to deal with the other units, and by making the exceptions you were attempting to create you were simply adding another lever to those who were not prepared to accept union at all with this country, and who would Use that lever for the purpose of greater demands and much greater separation from the United Kingdom. I therefore regret that the Motion has been framed in the way in which it has been framed.
I desire to say only one word more as regards Ireland, and I would not say it but for the observations of the right hon. Gentleman. He says the Irish question cannot remain where it is. That is what we are always saying about the Irish question, but may I point out that while we have always been saying that, does the right hon. Gentleman ever reflect for a moment what a strange thing it is, after the work of thirty years in trying to deal with that question, and the culmination in the Home Rule Act, that not a, single soul in Ireland that I know of desires after five years that the Act should be put into force? There are worse things than leaving the Irish question where it is. Do not meddle with it and make a mess of it, which you are so constantly doing, but as far as possible treat it as you treat England and Scotland, and try to work the United Kingdom as a united whole. You will thus do far better than by trying to make patchwork of one part of a great structure which you cannot touch without in some way or other interfering with the functions of the whole.
§ Sir HENRY CRAIK
The right hon. Gentleman emphasised a point on which I go much further than he does. We have to look at this matter in the light of common sense, and I think I shall be able to show that, at all events, to some of us, there are practical difficulties in this Motion. I must begin by saying that we all, I certainly for my humble part, fully 1900 appreciate the good intention and aims that lie behind this Motion—aims with which we fully sympathise. I quite agree that if we can give greater aptitude for Imperial affairs to this House, if we can give greater promptitude to our business, if we can give greater responsibility to local action, those would all be objects which we would desire, if possible, to attain. I followed with deep interest the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Ripon, and that of my right hon. Friend opposite. Each of them gave us much argument that was sound. For a moment I would glance first at the speech of the hon. Member for Ripon. He began, not by explaining what it was he wanted, and what he meant to attain, but by first of all telling us that there were evidently differences between different Members of the Government upon this question. That does not carry us much further. He went on to say that this Motion could be advocated from the most diverse points of view. We do not gain strength by that fact.
He told us his chief reason was that the House is receding in popular estimation. That sort of thing has been heard in every generation, and will be heard in every succeeding generation. Another reason he urged for adopting this drastic method was that Members of Parliament were all overworked, and that the subjects to be dealt with were growing so numerous that they could not possibly overtake the work. That may be so, but was there ever a time in the history of this House and Kingdom when the matters to be dealt with by the Grand Inquest of the Nation were not beyond the powers of individual Members? The man who attempted to be an expert in all the subjects that came before the House would soon be fit for Bedlam or would soon get there. There will always be an immense deal of work of the utmost variety for this House, and it will always require more than the wisdom of any individual Member. It must be dealt with by the collective wisdom of the House, which shapes its Members and educates them, and which is far greater than that of any single Member. You could never have any legislative assembly if you expected every member of it to be an expert in every subject which came before it. That is not possible. The hon. Member who moved did not give us any clear idea as to what it was he aimed at, except that he thought that generally this House was 1901 falling in reputation, and that, therefore, it should get rid of a great many of its functions, and, secondly, that its Members could not really overtake all the questions which came before the House. The right hon. Gentleman opposite said that there was great congestion in business. I quite agree, but now the complaint is that legislation is almost too rapid, and that we are likely to have an over quantity of it. The right hon. Gentleman referred to an inquiry held in 1837, and quoted words of Sir Robert Peel during that inquiry, but he did not quote any proposal Sir Robert Peel made. He used an argument which had great force with me, and that is the grave objection to the delegation of the legislature of authority of Parliament to Ministers. I blame both Ministers and Parliament for that. I think it is an evil tendency, and that this House ought to resist that tendency, which, I think, is not merely forced on Ministers by exigencies of time. it tends to establish bureaucratic power which is dangerously increasing in this country at this moment. I do not think the proposal before us would do much to relieve that difficulty. Let us come to what it is those who submit the Resolution want to do. They wish to have a great Imperial Parliament which can deal with great Imperial questions, high diplomatic questions, and questions of defence. Is that going to be an Imperial assembly in which the Dominions are to have a place? Neither the Mover nor the Seconder told us whether they proposed that that great council should be elective or not.
That would be entirely beyond the scope of the Motion. The Motion deals with the delegation of certain powers exercised by this Parliament now to certain smaller bodies.
§ Sir H. CRAIK
The argument advanced was that it was very important that this great Imperial Parliament should be freed from some domestic matters, but is it not best to tell us how that Imperial Parliament is to be constituted. If you elect members to Parliament on the present basis are the Dominions to be represented also by elected members. Is it not most likely that the Dominions will take men of large experience and men who have held high offices and who are well known in administration. If you have elected members for this great super-Parliament how are they to differ from the members of the local Parliaments. Are 1902 you to have one man coming forward to a constituency and saying, "I really cannot give any time to the consideration of these minor local questions. I can only occupy my time with large diplomatic questions and great world-moving propositions, and in a succession of full-dress Debates which will be listened to all the world over. If you want somebody to attend to local affairs you must ask somebody else of a lower grade." Are you to have others who will come forward and say, "I do not aspire to the great Imperial Parliament.'' Do you think you are likely to get the very best men for both Assemblies, or is the suggestion made here some time ago to be adopted, namely, that as a sort of consolation prize, those who are second and third on the poll are to be members of the local Parliaments. These arc matters of practical importance, as to which I think we should be told before we deal in this scheme. I turn to the question of how this proposal will affect particular parts of the country. The right hon. Gentleman opposite referred to Ireland, and I want to know how it will affect my own country. I would ask English Members' not to listen while I give certain confidential advice to my fellow-Members for Scotland. I would ask those fellow-Members, Do you think that we are so very badly off in the present arrangement of the Constitution that it would be well to cut the painter and set up for ourselves a separate Assembly, and do you think under those circumstances we would have half of the Cabinet and of the important positions in England assigned to us? Is it suggested that higher intellects who aspire to take part in the affairs of the nation are to be cut off from local affairs, and will Scotland be any better off if she is to have a sort of second-best Members to deal with local affairs?
We should pause long before we engage upon a dangerous project of this sort, because it is all very well to say there is no harm in an inquiry. We know very well that if a great Parliamentary inquiry is held it will be immediately asked why are you doing nothing, and why are you not taking decisive steps to carry out the report of that inquiry. You appoint a great inquiry as to how devolution is to take place, and are you going to let that yield nothing at all? Do you think it will not give rise to various schemes, schemes 1903 that will be disturbing and unsettling to the whole working of the British constitution? Surely in the first place, before we introduce this disturbing element, before we try to reconstitute our Constitution, we ought to have some clearer idea where we are. For the first time we are asked to divide legislative functions in this country. Extend local administration as far as you like—we have done that largely in the recent past", and I hope we shall do so more in the future—strengthen your local administrative bodies as much as you like, put upon them what duties you can, but beware before you introduce a competing legislative authority, which cannot grow into any importance without stripping away some of the importance of this central authority. The Mover and Seconder of the Resolution admitted that there was an enormous difficulty in saying what were local and what were Imperial questions, but who is to decide them? Is it not positively certain that between his Imperial Parliament and the local bodies there will be an immediate difference of opinion as to what are the functions belonging to each, and who is to settle those? Are we to have that new piece of machinery in out Constitution which has been found necessary in the United States, but which I contend is absolutely alien to the whole spirit of our Constitution, namely, that differences between different legislative bodies should be decided by the Supreme Court? Do we want the Law Courts to decide between us and these devolutionary bodies? That would be perfectly new to us. I believe myself that, desirable as all this raising of this Imperial idea of this House may be, anxious as we all are to quicken our procedure—and we have shown it by recent measures which we have adopted—ready, as we are, to foster activity and public spirit by independent action on the part of the various localities of this country, yet I think the first and the most important thing we have to do is to say, "What is to be the form of our great Imperial Parliament that is to bring the whole of the Empire together?" My right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. Long) in another place told us he found in his experience as Colonial Minister that the various Colonial people he met found fault with this House because it was so much occupied with small and petty affairs.
§ The FIRST LORD of the ADMIRALTY (Mr. Long)
I did not say small and petty. The language used was that they found us engaged upon domestic rather than Imperial affairs.
§ Sir H. CRAIK
But surely the thing that has been most distinctive of this House all through its history, the thing that has brought it most close to the hearts of the people, the thing that has made it what it is, a great power in the nation, is that it combines care for domestic politics with a spirit for great Imperial politics. Surely my right hon. Friend will agree that the comparative interest in Imperial and domestic politics varies from time to time. There are whole Sessions of Parliament when the whole central interest of the House rests upon some domestic question of great importance. Surely he will remember in the Session of 1906 that the whole interest was occupied with the Education Bill. At another time the interest shifts, and Parliament occupies itself in some great foreign question. That is what enables our House to suit itself to the various interests and experiences, and to get hold of the hearts of the people it represents. Do not let us fancy that we will make ourselves a greater body if we try to wash our hands of what we call domestic questions, and if we say to our constituents, "You must not trouble us with these local matters of yours, we leave them to others; we can only meet as a great Imperial concern; we can only have full dress Debates which all the world will listen to." That is not what the Parliament of this country has been. Let us do what we can to expedite our measures, let us do what we can to entrust a very wide share of administration to local authorities, but let us pause before we strip this House of a great part of the functions that have made it great in the past, and let us pause before we divide the unity of legislative authority and make two competing legislative authorities in the Kingdom.
§ Mr. LONG
Before I say a very few words about the Resolution which is before the House, it is my duty to tell the House what is the view which His Majesty's Government take of the attitude that they should assume on this occasion, and they have decided that the proper course is to leave this Debate freely and absolutely to the House of Commons, with freedom both for Members of the 1905 Government and, of course, for other Members of the House to take such part in it, either by speech or by vote, as they may see fit. So far as the Government are concerned, they do not propose as a Government either to try to affect the vote of, or to offer advice to, the House of Commons. But individually we shall, of course, express our views, whether we are for or against the subject of the Resolution. As a supporter of the Federal system, I confess that the precise wording of this Motion places me in somewhat the. same difficulty in which my right hon. and learned Friend the leader of the Irish Unionist party, who spoke a few moments ago, found himself. There is language in it which I think is misleading, and the phrase to which my right hon. and learned Friend referred is, I think, very puzzling. I have no responsibility for the Motion and I am not going to criticise those particular words from the point of view adopted by my right hon. and learned Friend, who put the case for himself and for those for whom he speaks, but it seems to me that the introduction of those words is destructive of the Motion itself. The Motion, as I understand it, the Motion that I am anxious to support, is a Motion advising that there shall be a Parliamentary body set up to inquire into and make recommendations upon a system of subordinate Parliaments for the United Kingdom. It seems to me, if that be the decision of the House of Commons, as I hope it may be, to be a contradiction of terms to say that that action is not to prejudice in any way action regarding Ireland. One of the reasons why I am a strong Federalist is because I have always maintained that if you find it necessary to alter your Parliamentary system by some devolution of business, whatever may be your governing reasons, you should treat the United Kingdom as a whole, on the same terms and in the same way and that you should give to all members of the United Kingdom the same privileges and the same Parliamentary rights and the same Parliamentary powers, and if it is suggested that in setting up a Federal system there is to be, because there is an Irish Act on the Statute Book, some separate treatment for Ireland, I could not vote for the Resolution.
Will the right hon. Gentleman allow me to try and explain? The phrase is. "without prejudice to any proposals it (the Government) may have to make with regard to Ireland." 1906 Will he consider our position? We were asking the Government to appoint a body to report upon a matter to apply to the three countries. We had been told—I do not say with authority—that they were considering some proposals for dealing with the Irish question, and we wanted to make it clear to them that we were not going to prejudice their proposals and that they would still be at perfect freedom to follow out their own ideas with regard to Ireland without being pledged to any proposals which we might make.
§ Mr. LONG
I understand the intentions of the right hon. Gentleman, but his explanation does not in the smallest degree lessen my criticism of those words or remove my objection to them. I will not bore the House by repeating what I have already said, but I will add this, that I am here to support a Federal—system that is to say, a system under which you will give to subordinate Parliaments some of the duties which are now performed by the central Parliament alone; and that principle seems to me to be somewhat impinged upon by the insertion of those words, and I should like this Motion better if those words were removed. But if there be a Division on this question I shall vote, as I have often had to do before in the House of Commons, for a Resolution which docs not precisely express my views, but which contains the principle to which I desire to give my support, and which I desire to see given effect to by subsequent Parliamentary action. With the speech of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for the Duncairn Division (Sir E. Carson) in the main I agree, and I did not observe that his objections were to the principle of devolution or to the proposals in the Resolution. They were rather well timed advice as to the difficulties, criticisms as to some possible suggestions, and indications of dangers which undoubtedly lie ahead in the adoption of any proposal of this kind, and all that ho said, as he told us himself, indicated that those are difficulties which are not insuperable.
My right hon. Friend who has just addressed us has spoken in language of caution to the House of Commons. He has begged us not to be precipitate, or to act without careful consideration, but that is a very strong argument in support of the Resolution, because the advice which the Mover and Seconder of this Resolution give to the House of Commons —advice which I am here to support to the best of my poor ability—is, not that you 1907 are to adopt here and now a cast iron plan which they have thrown down before you, but that you are to appoint a Parliamentary body, and upon that body is to be devolved the task—difficult, no doubt, but by no means insuperable—of devising a scheme which will give effect to the general principles expressed in this Resolution. That is obviously ft policy of caution and of prudence. Lot mo remind my right hon. Friend—though I am afraid he will not regard it as an inducement to alter his views on this occasion—of the action which Parliament took when they appointed the Conference over v. which Mr. Speaker presided with such enormous advantage to Parliament and the country, when they discussed in that Conference a question, probably as difficult and as thorny as any you could put before a conference, namely, the alterations that were to be made in the Parliamentary franchise. There were strict divisions of opinion about it in this House and out-side. There were some branches of the question which were regarded with the greatest possible affection by different parties and different groups of parties, and yet once that Conference met—a Parliamentary conference such as this, representative of the various Parliamentary parties, and presided over by a great chairman—those difficulties gradually disappeared, and to-day we owe it to that Conference that we have got a reform of our franchise carried peacefully, quietly, and with general consent, which, I believe, we should otherwise never have got without the bitterest and most prolonged Parliamentary conflict, fights outside, and probably to-day we should be trying to deal with these great after-war questions, and solve these great peace problems in a Parliament with whoso, constitution the great majority of electors would be wholly dissatisfied. That, surely, is an argument in favour of a course recommended by the Mover and Seconder of this Resolution.
My right hon. Friend adopted what I have always heard described as the feminine argument He found it was easier to ask the other person a question than to produce precise arguments of his own. Surely my right hon. Friend disregarded his own advice. He urged us to be cautious, prudent, and to step warily, and yet he asked us here to produce a plan for an Imperial Parliament before we have dealt with our local and domestic 1908 difficulties. Surely that is putting the cart before the horse. Surely it is our business to see whether we have difficulties of our own; whether, if we admit that the existing system does not promise the success that is desired, we are able to find something better; or whether we are forced to the conclusion that statesmanship is bankrupt and that we have to admit failure and cannot produce a remedy? Surely that it what we have got to do? In the Debate we have had, so far, and in previous Debates on this subject in and out of the House of Commons, has there been found anybody to deny that our system to-day is not sufficient for our purpose and that our machine no longer can turn out the articles that the United Kingdom requires? Reference has been made to the changes under which legislation has gone upstairs. My right hon. Friend, in his speech, referred to one of the new practices under which Bill after Bill is cot through this House and placed on the Statute Book. How? By taking power, when you come to the most difficult and complicated questions, to deal with them by Order in Council, or, worse still, by Regulations drawn up by a Department, the result being that half your law is to be found, not in your Statute Book, but you have got to go to Schedules, to Orders in Council, or to Regulations counted by hundreds and thousands before you know what is the law and how it ought to be administered. That is one of the difficulties which we arc compelled to face. Is that denied by anybody? I do not think anybody has ever attempted to deny the existence of that evil and the reality of it.
But there are other evils. Does anybody deny that the demands upon this House for legislation have grown enormously in the last twenty or thirty years, and that, situated as we are now, with our present powers, we cannot hope to give reasonable effect to all these suggestions? Will anybody dispute that if he looks through the Order Paper, takes the number of Bills that are suggested here for our consideration, and further asks himself, What are the things we want done, and what prospect is there of getting them done? I am not quite, sure, but I think I am one of the oldest Members of this House. I am sure there is nobody in the House, except my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, who has sat in it longer than I have, and there are very few who have sat here as long. I have spent 1909 nearly forty years here, and this House holds, not only my admiration and my gratitude for all the favours it has showered upon me, but my undying and unfailing admiration, and I would, if I could honestly do so, vote preferably to leave things as they are. It is not the House that has failed. I do not think it is Ministers or Members who have failed. I will not say anything about Ministers, because I happen to be one myself, and, judging from the newspapers, some of us are guilty of almost all the crimes of which human beings can be capable. I do not honestly believe myself it is in any degree the fault of Members of Parliament. Members of Parliament have changed, of course—changed immensely since the day when I first entered Parliament—but he would be a very unjust man to the House of Commons who contended that they had changed for the worse. Parliament to-day is as capable, as honest, as high-minded, and as devoted to work as ever was the Parliament of this country in all its great and glorious history.
It is not Governments; it is not Members of Parliament. No, it is that times have changed, and we have got to change with them. The need for legislation is greater. The power of our people to appreciate their deficiencies and their wants, and to suggest remedies for them, has immensely increased. The power to express their need in powerful language which reaches us here is far more widespread than it was in those earlier days. Parliament must realise it has a different task to accomplish to-day from that which it had ten, fifteen, or twenty years ago, that it has to bear a heavier burden, that it has to realise it has to meet much greater and more widespread demands. It cannot do that itself, and it must ask for some other means by which this burden can be borne, because borne I believe it must be, or you will have discontent and dissatisfaction among our people, and not only will you discredit Parliamentary institutions, but you will do worse than that—you will endanger the very fabric upon which the United Kingdom, and, therefore, the Empire, rests. You must give the people the feeling of confidence that when they came here their just and legitimate demands can be met without undue delay, or you will have them say, as they are beginning to say now, that Parliament is of no use and they have lost their respect for it. Can you do this unless you are prepared to set up subordinate Par- 1910 liaments, and to devolve some part of your work upon them? I support this general principle, because I believe that the answer to that question must be in the negative. I believe you cannot accomplish this great task unless you are prepared to look facts in the face, and adopt the new plan which is suggested in this Resolution. I agree with my right hon. Friend (Sir E. Carson) in one of his criticisms. I refuse to approach this question as one of different nations. I have always held that different parts of the United Kingdom have different requirements, that they look at their needs through different coloured classes, and we know it here. Let me give two illustrations, one in regard to legislation. My right hon. Friend said perfectly truly that this House owes much of its glory and its greatness to the fact that it has always been identified with the lives of the people. I do not want to see that great part of our work destroyed, but I want to see it altered in degree. In many parts of the country you have different conditions which demand different treatment. What do you do now? Is the Parliament of to-day acting in true accord with the lines laid down by my right hon. Friend? The answer made by anybody who is conversant with our history and practice must be that it is not.
§ Mr. LONG
I will tell my right hon. Friend why. My right hon. Friend referred to the question of education. What is the history of education legislation in this House? A Bill for England, a Bill for Ireland, a Bill for Scotland yes, and a Bill for Wales—four distinct Bills dealing with the same subject. Is not that turning this House into a separate legislative body? It is quite true, you will tell me, there is in this House ultimate control and supreme authority. But what actually happens? it is no use talking in this practical age of what we can do or might do. What I am trying to get the House to realise is what we do actually in practice. A Scottish Bill or an English Bill comes up. Other Members go away, and very often do not come in to vote when Divisions are taken, but when they do it has been urged more than once with great force that they come in to upset conclusons arrived at by those who represent the interests concerned. No, Sir; this is not so great a change in reality as it would seem. Look at the financial side of the question. I am not 1911 an authority on finance, and it has generally been my duty in my political life to be getting money out of the Treasury and not to be conserving the national finances. But let the House realise what happens in this matter of finance. An Education Bill is passed for England. Some critics of our Parliamentary institution have said unkindly that it is desirable to gild your pill. I do not put it in that way, but it is necessary very often to find financial assistance in order to enable a particular measure at the moment to be carried out. The Bill applies to one part of the United Kingdom alone, and, for its smoother working financial Grants are made. Ever since 1888, when this plan began, what has happened? In 1888 you passed the Local Government Act, which is practically for England and Wales. Why only those two countries? Why did the Education Act only affect England and Wales? Because your systems are totally different. You could not—the Parliamentary draftsman or the most brilliant man in the world could not—put together or draft a Bill which would have applied equally to the two countries. Therefore you had to deal with them in separate Bills.
How about finance? In order to make the English Local Government Act or the Education Act work smoothly and effectively, you had to make grants of money. You could not deal with them at the same time in these other countries to the rest of the United Kingdom. Scotland says, in a case of the kind, "You arc giving a Grant to England; we shall have to have one as well; it is quite true we have nothing particular to spend it on at present, but you must give us an equivalent Grant." I forget the exact formula, but there is a formula, and on that basis, even though there is no necessity for the money, it has been given. My right hon. Friend behind me (Sir H. Craik) challenged me. I challenge him in return. He will remember that on more than one occasion when the equivalent Grant was given we have had Debates here as to how the money was to be applied so that we might make some provision for it. I can remind him of Debates which for the moment he may have forgotten, when the way in which the money was ultimately spent was the result of a game of battledore and shuttlecock. The Session was drawing to an end. Everyone's patience was coming to an end, too. Some way was 1912 arranged for applying the money until some better use could be found for it. That, I say, is a waste of public money. In dealing only with one part of the country you have to deal with it not only as a Legislative Council, but also from the point of view of finance, and in order to satisfy the people you actually have to make financial Grants which for the moment are not required and ought not to be made. That is the way the thing is working out now. What I am saying is not an invention of my brain nor am I telling a silly story which does not represent the facts. It is a real and very simple account of what actually takes place. Then my right hon. Friend says: "How are you going to draw the distinction between the Imperial and the subordinate Parliaments. What control are you going to have?" So far as I am concerned I have had the experience of helping to draft a good many Acts of Parliament and I am prepared to give ray assistance towards drafting a federal plan. I have in my dispatch box a scheme which, as I think, would work extremely well. But the time for that is not yet.
If this Resolution in the main is adopted there follows the task of deciding these difficult questions—and I agree they are difficult in this question of devolution—as to whether you are going to adopt the American procedure and introduce a Supreme Court to decide questions where there is a difference of opinion between the central and subordinate Parliaments. I agree it would be a tremendous change in our old British constitution. I do not, however, think it is necessary or inevitable that this should be so, but that is exactly one of the questions which the body suggested in this Resolution would have to consider—consider what would be the form the devolution proposals should take. In his speech my right hon. Friend, I think, misunderstood what I said in speaking in the Committee Room. I also think he misunderstood what has been said here. I want to correct any false impression that may have been given. When I referred to my experiences at the Colonial Office and spoke of the conversations I had had with distinguished representatives of our various Dominions Overseas, there was no intention of suggesting that the Imperial Parliament would be unwilling to deal with these questions because they were not worthy of it. What animated these gentlemen who spoke to me, and what is my own conviction, is 1913 this—let the right hon. Gentleman carry his mind back over the years he has sat in this House. This War, from which we have just emerged, thank God, triumphantly, has shown us many things and taught us many lessons.
Amongst them is one that we in this House, responsible for the government of this country, have never given sufficient time to the consideration of those great problems the solution of which often affect, if they do not make, the whole difference between peace and war. We know now that there is much we might well have discussed in days gone by thin we left untouched. How often on the floor of this House has my right hon. Friend heard Debates as to our relations with other countries, as to the steps we were taking, the policy we were pursuing? As regards our great Dominions, it is obviously unnecessary to have Debates, because they manage their own affairs. But think of our great Colonial Possessions, our Crown and Colonial Governments and Protectorates. Questions concerning their government, of vital interest, as not only affecting the credit and reputation of the country, but the welfare of posterity and the greatness of the Empire, how often are they discussed? A few hours on the Colonial Vote occasionally! A few hours on Foreign Office questions! A few hours thrown to India! What is the rest of our time taken up with? Is it not entirely taken up with legislation affecting domestic concerns? My right hon. Friend said that in the eighteenth century this Parliament was more concerned with legislation than with administration. It was so concerned with legislation because it had more time. It is not that Parliament itself has altered. It is that Parliament has to do work to-day that the Parliament of that time did not do. One cannot be blind to the altered conditions, which ask for and demand altered service on our part.
Greater burdens were thrown upon individuals than they could well bear, said my right hon. Friend, and my right hon. Friend answered that by saying that men could not be expected to grasp and understand all these questions. Look for a moment at the way in which our business is done. We sit throughout the greater part of the year. Autumn Sessions and winter Sessions now come regularly. We sit all through the spring and the summer. 1914 We have an immense amount of business to deal with, and very often it has to be hurriedly concluded when the end does come. Is it possible that work done in that way is likely to be as efficient as we would wish it to be? Are we not really as individual Members bearing rather heavier burdens than we can bear? Is there any other remedy? I would ask those who object to the principle of this Resolution, I would ask those who object to the Federal plan, is there any other remedy that you can suggest which will deal with what is an undoubted and generally admitted evil? I, at all events, know of no other. I was in this House before we had any closure. I have never liked it. It is hostile to my own personal views about the conduct of Debate and the discharge of public business. But does anybody suggest to-day that the closure should be abandoned?
How much business would you in an ordinary way do, or when party warfare waxed strong and feeling ran high, without some form of closure? Again, take the form of closure which deals with great masses of Amendments, and even allows parts of Clauses to go through without being properly debated, all this machinery is necessary if you are to get through the vast amount of business that the House is now asked to perform. When I first entered the House one of the most interesting and valuable parts of our work was to be found in the amount of time given to private Members. Most valuable Bills were sometimes brought in by private Members, affecting the welfare of the State. Some of their Resolutions led to immensely important reforms. If Parliament is to do the work that Governments are called upon to perform to-day, the time for private Members has to be limited, and, as all know, it has now come to this point, that private Members' opportunities are so few that they are really hardly worth having? Is there any other plan? The Imperial Parliament is overburdened. In the forty years I have served here every kind of remedy has been mentioned. We began with the closure. You have gone on from the closure ordinary to the closure in its more complicated form. There has been set up what we call Grand Committees—and we have now improved upon that. You have done all you could to get through the work. Has it been successful? Do you believe that by simply transferring work from the House to Committees that you are going really to solve the problem?
1915 There is one other aspect of the case I should like a word or two about. It is not, I think, wrong to suggest that some of these domestic questions with which we deal would be better settled in the locality, because we find in some of them a very great conflict of opinion between the North and South, between different parts of the United Kingdom—not necessarily in different parts. I do not mean as between England and Scotland and Ireland, but between different parts of the country. I never have pretended that if you have Devolution you may not have to consider more than one Parliament in each country. That is one of the inevitable, consequences of a difference among our people. But at all events you will give more time in this House to discuss those greater questions of Imperial concern, whether foreign or of our own Dominions and Colonies; you will give greater opportunity for discussing the great questions of Imperial Defence which must be common to the whole Empire after the War, and I believe you will have greater opportunities of carrying the minor domestic legislation which is demanded and required, and which I do not think this House can hope to pass if we are to deal with these greater questions.
My right hon. Friend says, "Does this mean that you will have an Imperial Parliament in which the Empire will be represented?" I never concealed my own views or hopes—whether I shall live to see it or not I do not know—but I always hoped, and hope now, that it will come, and that in this great Assembly there will be men entitled to speak for all parts of the Empire on the great Imperial questions. Whether we shall ever get it I do not know. The question is a very difficult and definite one. It involves the representation of the different parts of the Empire. You certainly never will bring about a reform of the kind if it involves any lessening of the absolute rights and powers of the Dominion Parliaments. That is what I have hoped for. But this Resolution has nothing to do with any question of that kind. It is a purely domestic affair. It suggests to us that we have great and difficult Parliamentary problems that we ought to solve, that our own House is capable of being improved, and that we should set our own house in order before we think about greater things. It is not so imperious as any of the suggestions made by my right hon. 1916 Friend, but, although I do not quite agree with the wording of this Resolution, I believe that in it is to be found a principle which this House will be compelled sooner or later to accept, and which I hops it will accept now while there is time to deal without haste with this tremendous question. I believe that this Resolution affords us an opportunity to express our opinion, and I for one shall not hesitate, if I have the opportunity, to give my vote for it. I read it as indicating that the time has come when it is necessary in the interests of the United Kingdom and of the Empire to set up Federal Parliaments, and to leave this great Parliament here to deal with those wider questions which I believe in the immediate future it must consider, and the solution of which I believe is bound up not only with our own prosperity here, but with the very existence of our Empire.
§ Major MACKENZIE WOOD
I have listened with great interest to all the speeches which have been delivered this afternoon, and I wish to offer a few observations, not so much on the general problem as on the especial point of view of Scotland. For many years Home Rule for Scotland has been one of the stock planks of Parliamentary candidates in Scotland. It must be confessed, however, that Home Rule in Scotland has been largely an academic question. But in the last year or two a change has taken place, and I do not think it is too much to say that at the present time it may be taken to be a question of immediate practical importance. Circumstances have forced it to the front. Probably the constitutional changes which have been suggested in the way of associating the Dominions more with Imperial affairs have suggested it, but there is no doubt that feeling in Scotland on this question has hardened, and that Home Rule there to-day is a much more living thing than ever it was before. But apart from any question of a federal solution for the difficulties of government in this country, I think there is no doubt that public opinion in Scotland would have compelled Parliament to take up this question as affording some means of getting over the neglect of Scottish affairs which has gone on for so many years. Older Members may be a little reconciled to the amazing congestion in the House of Commons, but to a new Member the position is simply appalling. I find this afternoon 1917 that I ought to have been in three places at the same time, and I am certain that most of the few Scotsmen who are against Home Rule, if they had a week in the House of Commons would very soon alter their minds, and would at once admit that something must be done to give Scotland her proper place, to find some means by which Scottish affairs should be dealt with in the way in which they ought to be dealt with, and to find some means and some system whereby exclusively Scottish affairs would be dealt with exclusively by Scotsmen in Scotland. For my part I attach a great deal of importance to having the Government in Scotland. Not only would this save a great deal of time and money in running backwards and forwards from Scotland to England, but it would enable us to enlist in Parliament a type of man whom we are unable to get at the present time. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir H. Craik) told us that if we had a local legislature in Scotland it would be something in the nature of a second prize to membership of this House. In my view, if we had a local legislature in Scotland, we would be able to rope into Parliamentary affairs men of the largest experience, who would gladly come to this House if it were not that it was so far a way. Although they cannot come to this House they would be delighted to go to Edinburgh, because then they would be able to look after other affairs in a way that they could not do if the Parliament were in London. In the same way constituencies in the North of Scotland are greatly handicapped by the fact that they are so far from the seat of Government. They cannot approach their Members, they cannot approach Government Departments in the same way as they would otherwise do. A local legislature in Scotland would therefore enlarge the circle from which Members of Parliament could be drawn. An absentee Member of Parliament is open to the same objection as an absentee landlord, and the sooner absenteeism is put an end to the better. It seems to me that one of the great disadvantages of the present system is that all the diverse interests of Scottish Government are at the present time fixed in the Secretary for Scotland. The Secretary for Scotland cannot possibly be an expert on all the many question for which ho is responsible in Parliament. Scotland would like separate Ministers for Agriculture, for 1918 Health, for Fisheries and probably for other things, but at the present time it is impossible to get that, because of the number of Ministers we have in this House already, and also, and mainly, perhaps, because anything in the nature of appointing other Ministers for these special duties would take away the prestige of the Secretary for Scotland and deprive Scot land of the influence in the Cabinet which she ought to have. There is another point of view from which Scotland and, I imagine, other parts of the United Kingdom also, would look at this question. The spirit of nationalism has been awakened all over the world by the War. It was never probably more in evidence than it is at the present day, and as far as Scotland is concerned I think it is not too much to say that the achievements of Scottish soldiers have gone a long way in doing this for her. Scotsmen realise that they have a special point of view, and they desire to develop along their own peculiar national lines. Scotland is much more democratic than England. She is more advanced in her ideas with regard to education, with regard to land reform, and with regard to temperance, and she desires to be mistress of her own fate on these matters and others like them. She desires to be able to settle questions relating to these subjects without the interference of other parts of the United Kingdom. I believe that a subordinate legislature, such as is suggested by this Resolution, would meet the aspirations of Scotland on this point. it would secure for her all that she desires without doing anything to undermine the authority or supremacy of the Imperial Parliament. For that reason I welcome the Resolution, and I hope it will be passed. But I welcome it even more, because I think there may be some possibility of getting out of the terrible Irish deadlock from which we are suffering at the present time. To-day's discussion suggests that a much nearer approximation to unanimity could be obtained if we set ourselves to consider this question, and if all parties tried honestly to find a way out. The First Lord of the Admiralty has already referred to the good results which arose out of the Speaker's Conference, leading to the Reform Bill of the last Parliament. That is surely an absolute analogy, and is the very best promise that one could have in entering upon such an inquiry as is suggested by the Resolution to-day. I hope, therefore, that the House 1919 will adopt this Resolution, and that the inquiry will be set on foot at the earliest possible moment. I believe that if this problem is grappled with in the way in which we have reason, from the speeches which have been delivered to-day, to hope it may be, we shall be able to achieve solid advantages from the course which has been suggested by the Resolution.
§ 7.0 P.M.
§ Mr. MACKINDER
I desire to congratulate the hon. and gallant Member who has just spoken upon his first speech in this House. It is a pleasant duty which has fallen upon me as a fellow Scottish representative, and I am sure it is the general feeling of the House. I agree very heartily in one point which he made. He referred to the difficulty of manning this Parliament under present conditions. In distant parts of the country men must become more and more professional politicians if they are to be present here in Westminster under the conditions of to-day, and I believe that if legislation affecting distant portions of the country, and affecting the social life of those portions of the country, were settled within those regions, a better type of man would be obtained, in the sense that he would be a man still in business, still engaged actively in the affairs of the region, and therefore he would speak with a more vivid knowledge. I believe we have to face this increasing difficulty in this House, that, at any rate as regards those portions of the country not in London or near it. a very great deal of social legislation will have to be carried on by professional politicians.
May I say that it is not my intention to move the Amendment which stands in my name, and that of two other hon. Members. Our object in setting down that Amendment was to call attention to a certain characteristic of this Motion. The right hon. Gentleman who spoke from the Front Bench expressed himself dissatisfied with the precise wording, and he said that it narrowed the issue, and that what he was going to vote for was not for the words of this Resolution, but for the broad principle which it contained. He said that he intended to vote for the setting up of a Parliamentary body to consider the creation of subordinate Legislatures within the United Kingdom. I should never have set down my Amendment if that had been the statement made by this Resolution. This 1920 proposal narrows the issue by adopting a national basis for the system of devolution. Under the headings 1 and 2 quite clearly it makes nationality the criterion of the amount of devolution and not efficiency in government. I am amply satisfied with the success of the Amendment in drawing attention to this defect. Almost every hon. Member who has spoken has referred to this Amendment, and the right hon. Gentleman on the Front Bench (Mr. Long) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Duncairn (Sir E. Carson) emphatically endorsed the point of view I wish to urge. They both urged in connection with the subordinate Legislatures which are proposed to be sot up that they should not be set up in respect of nationalities, which they regard as a retrogressive measure, but they should be in regard to regions which have today-common interests which may be rational but arc not necessarily so.
I am not going to refer to two great questions which have already been discussed. On the one hand there is the failure of our present system. That has been discussed, and I agree with what hon. Members have said. On the other hand, as regards the necessity for setting up some great organ of Government in this Empire, whether that organ is to be Parliamentary in its nature is not yet settled. As the late Secretary for the Colonies said that is a difficult and delicate question, but surely the first thing we have to do if we are to be capable of playing our part alongside the Dominion Parliament of Canada and the Commonwealth Parliament of Australia, is to eliminate from our duties those details which are eliminated from the duties of the Commonwealth Parliament and the Dominion Parliament. Then we shall have a system which will permit of correlation.
I put those two great questions on one side, because I want to deal with what has been spoken of as the Heptarchy. The very nature of federation seems to make that an urgent question. One hon. Member told me that if I felt the inconvenience that might ensue upon having a predominant partner in this country, then I must also consider the inconvenience of breaking up England. The hon. Member exactly expressed the difficulty that I feel, which is that it is going to be difficult to break up England on the one hand, and, on the other hand, it is also going to be difficult to work a federation in which England remains not broken up. That is the essen- 1921 tially practical difficulty which our Parliamentary Body will have to face, and it seems to me absolutely essential that that difficulty should be faced in this Debate. Whatever the terms of reference to the Parliamentary Body may be, they will be settled by the Government and submitted to Parliament, and I gather from what the right hon. Gentleman said just now, that they will be general terms, and will not exclude the difficulty to which I am drawing attention. Why do I say that this is the crux of the whole matter? There is the inconvenience of dividing England and the inconvenience of having an undivided England. I say that for this reason. You may tell me that, of course, there will be an Act of Parliament which will define the provinces of the supreme and of the subordinate Parliaments. There will be a Constitution, but it will be a paper Constitution unless it corresponds to realities. Where is the Act of Union at this moment? With one single exception, where are the hon. Gentlemen who represent Ireland? So far as this House is concerned, the Act of Union is not in existence at this moment. That is a case of a paper Constitution and absent realities.
Take the complementary case. England has been worked for centuries without a written Constitution. It has developed a, Constitution which has been the admiration of the world because it consisted of living realities and the habits of the people. Whatever your written Constitution defining the relations of the superior and subordinate Parliaments may do, unless it has reference to the realities of human nature acting in great assemblies, that Constitution will become void and useless. Let us imagine for a moment the condition of things if you had the three or four legislatures contemplated by the un-amended Motion. Hon. Gentlemen tell me England is already predominant and will be predominant and that there will be no change in this respect. But there will be this vast change: England to-day as a nationality is, unorganised; then England will be organised, which is a vast difference. The effect of it will not only be in this England, but it will be in. the smaller portions of the United Kingdom. If you ask me why, traditionally, Scotland has been Liberal, I should have to say two things. In the first place, Liberal is a Scottish word for Conservative; and if you go on my second point—why Scotland was not content to call Con- 1922 servatism Conservatism—I should tell you because England did so, and Scotland must assert her nationality by trying to be different in all things.
If that is the case when England is unorganised, how much more will it be the case when England becomes organised? In the presence of that great power within this United Kingdom, the nationality, the separateness of action of Scotland and of the two parts of Ireland, or at any rate of one of the two parts of Ireland, and of Wales, will be emphasised ten times over. The other portions of the country will be incited to assert themselves against predominant England. Think of what that England will be, and think of the English Parliament. The Parliament which would be set up under this Motion would be one representing 36,000,000 people, and your Imperial Parliament would represent 45,000,000 people. The Premier for England will be a very big man alongside the Premier for the United Kingdom. Supposing there was a difference of opinion as to the delimitation of powers between the superior and the subordinate Parliaments, is it going to be an easy thing to keep in order that great giant in the Federal system?
Let me assume that it is an acute difference rousing passion. Your scrap of paper will be in very great danger of being torn up, human beings being human beings. Even if we put ourselves as a nation into the strait-waistcoat of a supreme court of judicature for the purpose of interpreting the Constitution and supreme Act of Parliament, I venture to say that the Court itself will find the need of all the support it can get if one of the suitors before it is this suitor representing the 36,000,000 out of 45,000,000 people in this country. How in practice do you keep the Parliaments which are nominally subordinate in a truly subordinate position? Simply by letting no one be predominant, so that the supreme Parliament may always be sure that if there is a difference between it and one of those other Parliaments it will at once have the assistance of the remaining subordinate Parliaments who become jealous of the ambition of that one Parliament. Those are realities which we commonly practise in our life. They are the very simple essence of our conduct in public meetings. I remember once hearing a sermon at Oxford by Bishop Creighton; he was 1923 trying to define the essence of an Englishman, and he said it was contained in that famous old idea that if three Englishmen were thrown up from a shipwreck on an island the first would propose, and the second would second, that the third do take the chair. The chairman in our assembly, if he is faced by some minority who challenge his authority, appeals to the whole body to support the Chair, and he gets support from the great majority, and he is thus able by our common constitutional methods to rule the minority.
That is entirely based on the fact that he is dealing with a small element in his audience, but if that audience is equally divided, then the balance is destroyed and the authority of the chair is lost. If you go from that simple method, which is the very root of our liberties and customs and ways as a nation, right away up to the organised system which we are contemplating, the same essential facts of human nature hold, and if you attempt to create fictions which are alien to those facts, so much the worse for your fictions. Imagine a great crisis; such a crisis as the opening of our War, in 1914. Imagine that the passions of men are deeply stirred, and stirred all the more deeply because of the restraint which is put upon them, Remember, those of us who were here at that time, that strained hour when Lord Grey—Sir Edward Grey as he then was—spoke to us, and when this House declared war; for it was this House which declared war, not by vote, but by accepting the word spoken by its representative, the Foreign Secretary. Assume that at that time you had had in existence a great English Parliament and these other Parliaments, and assume that one of these other Parliaments had differed. At that moment we were more united in the declaration of war than at the declaration of most wars, and practically of all wars, in our history. If you had had an organisation at hand in one of these subordinate legislatures, you would have had machinery ready to declare a lack of unanimity on the part of this nation.
It is essential, then, that your Parliaments should not, if they are subordinate, be such as in any way to challenge the supremacy of the great Parliament. If your English Parliament, elected by 36,000,000 people sat in London across the river, in that great palace which is now going up and which might be usurped; if you had that Parliament, then 1924 we should come to have in this country what is commonly called, at this moment, a dyarchy. For it would be impossible, practically, to prevent an English opinion from being crystallised there, and although it might not express itself there, excepting in times of great tension, it would find its expression here, although that expression was, in fact, crystallised to a large extent across the water. On that point, I would only just remind hon. Members that even the London County Council, in 1906, went some little way for a time towards wagging this Parliament. On that county council, before 1906, there was a very active group of young men. Some of them came into this House in 1906, and it was notorious that for two or three years opinions formed and crystallised outside were interpreted here by that group of men. At this moment there are bodies of men, not only in this country but in other countries, who are anxious to displace Parliamentary accepted institutions. They wish to set up some new Assembly, based on Soviets, some new federation of communism. May I remind hon. Members of what the Prime Minister said in a speech, when people came to him in this country and wanted to legislate in industrial matters practically outside the House by setting up a Soviet system here. He said, "You have your Soviet, the national Soviet, in the House of Commons."
There is a very great danger if you set up two Parliaments, based probably on two franchises, almost certainly on different electoral areas, that one of those Parliaments will be got possession of by one party in the State, and the other possibly by the other party. That matters little if one is a truly subordinate Parliament. It happens, again and again, in Canada, that you have Liberals in command of some of the local Parliaments; the Conservatives in command of some of the others; and, we will say, the Conservatives in command of the Dominion Parliament. But it would matter vastly if you had one majority in your Imperial Parliament, drawn from your 45,000,000 people, and the party opposite were in the majority in your Parliament of 36,000,000 people. There would be a clash of two Parliaments, representing two party organisations, and I believe that under those circumstances your attempted distinctions, based on Acts of Parliament, for defining the power of the two Assemblies, would 1925 practically become nugatory. As an. "historical matter, surely the whole history of federation teaches us the truth of what I am venturing to put. In the case of Germany, in the Constitution of 1871, there were some very elaborate clauses inserted with the object, so it was hoped, of preventing the dominance of Prussia. There was a Foreign Affairs Committee, for instance, set up, which gave a large voting power to Bavaria, Saxony, and Wurtemburg, as against Prussia. What was the effect and the result of that? The result was that not the written constitution but the realities had effect. Prussia found methods, imposed fictions on the Empire, and the result was that it was Prussia and not those States so elaborately protected which actually governed the foreign policy of the German Empire.
Take our own Empire. What do we find? In Canada you have two large Provinces, Quebec and Ontario, more or less equal in numbers. You have a number of smaller Provinces, and it is perfectly certain that neither of those great Provinces could, in effect, rule the whole Dominion, because in the contest with the other Province all the smaller Provinces would rally round. Therefore, you are secure against the crystallisation of power within the Dominion in any one Province. The same thing happens in Australia. There you Lave, in Melbourne and Sydney, two great cities, approximately equal. You have two great States based upon them—New South Wales and Victoria—and you have no prospect, hardly a possibility, of the rule of the Commonwealth of Australia by any one State. Take the case of the United States. It is obvious that, though New York is a State twice the size of Scotland, yet New York is but a small part of the total States of America. Take the case of Switzerland, on a smaller scale. There the same thing holds. Even the Canton of Berne is not supreme among the cantons. I say that where federation has worked, men have recognised the fact that you must have a reasonable balance, such that no one member of the federation can bully the remainder. The only exception that I know of, and that is an apparent exception, is the case of the United Netherlands, where the State of Holland had undoubtedly power. But there you were not dealing with nationalities. You had not the risk that Canada had to face with Quebec, or that we have to face in Ireland or even 1926 Scotland. In truth, Holland really settled the whole policy of the United Netherlands. I do not think that Scotland would quite agree to have the whole policy of the United Kingdom settled by England.
Surely we do not want to throw away what we have achieved. For international purposes we are a unit, and surely it is the full determination, at any rate within this Island, of our citizens that we shall remain a unit when acting with other countries. In this War we have come through as a unit. Our object is not to go back, not to reverse the swing of history and go back to the condition of things when we had separate states, representing separate states in Scotland and England, at any rate, and separate nationalities in Wales and Ireland though not organised as states. Our object is to secure that we give the fullest effect to the unity of intention and will as expressed in this Parliament by relieving this Parliament of those local and not necessarily national duties that can be devolved upon the subordinate legislatures. We want greater union and not less union as the result of our devolution. Therefore, I believe that we should take a course such as that advocated by the right hon. and learned Member for Duncairn (Sir E. Carson), who thought the units should be, as far as possible, not national units. But there is no reason why some should not be national and others not national. Take the case of Canada, and consider the Province of Quebec. In Quebec you have a nationality—the French-Canadian—a complete nationality. The French-Canadian is not simply a Frenchman to-day; he separated from France before the Revolution. The French-Canadian is a nationality. In that Province of Quebec he has his own system of land law, his own system of family law, his own system of education, his own system in his relations to religion. All that was secured to him by treaty originally, and all that has been allowed to him in the system set up by the Act of Parliament which established the federation of Canada. It is perfectly possible to have a federation, as you have in Canada, in which you have one unit which is a nationality, and in which other units are not nationalities. Ontario, Manitoba, British Columbia, and the Maritime Provinces are all English-speaking Provinces; all belonging essentially to the same nationality, the English-Canadian.
1927 Therefore, I do not see the slightest difficulty in having certain of our units here that are national, and certain others that are not national. I feel that the only result would be that, as in the case of Canada, the nationalities would be reduced to their proper proportion and not allowed an exaggerated importance. Surely, in the matter of settling the Irish question, we have this essential fact. I know full well that the Irish will not welcome this proposal, and that a certain portion, at any rate, of Ireland wishes either for independence or what is called Dominion self-government. But the difficulty of the Irish question for us is not in Ireland, it is in America and Australia. In Ireland you have only 3,000,000 people who belong to the discontented ranks of the population; 3,000,000 out of 45,000,000. But the importance of the Irish question as an international question comes from the fact that you have a great Irish party in America and in Australia. You have a system there of government by party under which the Irish make weight to be thrown either on one side or the other. There is the difficulty. But your devolution system is a complete answer to that. In America, Canada and Australia the principle of federation is believed in profoundly, and if we in this country say to Ireland we are going to establish a federal system in this country and you in Ireland if you can agree may be one unit, or if you do not agree you can be two units, but you shall have the same powers as the French in Quebec have, then I venture to say you have got that kind of logical answer to Irish agitation in the United States and Canada which you will find in no other way, and I believe it will go a very long way towards removing what is really the importance of the Irish question—that is the importance of it outside Ireland and not inside. I do not want to be dogmatic in regard to this matter. All we have asked for in the Amendment is that this question shall be considered, and that the question referred to the Parliamentary body which may be set up shall not be limited to the Nationalist basis as the Motion itself would limit it.
Suggestions have been made that you might divide England in such a way as to gain great benefit from the division. Let me suggest. I do not put it as a final idea, but suggest the division of London from the rest of the country—a 1928 London vast enough for Greater London and far greater than the county council London, which only contains 4,500,000 out of the 8,000,000. Then there might be a division between agricultural England and the industrial North. The complaint of the agriculturists is that they have the most ancient and, in some ways, the most essential industry of this country, yet as the facts are to-day their legislation has to be got somehow with the consent of the vast urban majority in this country, and they are fortunate indeed if they do not get town interference with rustic matters. If you have a predominantly agricultural England as one-England, what would happen would be that year after year and Session after Session it would be possible for the Legislature to set up a standard of agricultural-law for a country predominantly agricultural, and it could shape its policy for agricultural purposes. Similarly, your industrial North, with other wants than those of London or of agricultural England, could legislate and so gradually shape common English law in a direction, best fitted to promote the industry of the North. What would be the effect of that? It would be that, as regards those industrial districts in the South which require-special legislation, the agricultural South; would look to the example of the North; which was making the running in an industrial direction, and industrial North, when it had to consider legislation for its agricultural districts, would have a standard set for it by the agricultural South. I venture to say that instead of getting an eternal system of compromise such as you get in this House, you would get some-thing which would make for an advance far more rapid than the advance you get out of any compromise. You would get. real power in the hands of agriculturists, to realise the needs of modern agriculture, and you would got real power in the hands, of modern industry, without interference from London to realise the material needs of the industrial community. We should get, too, that which we now gain only by looking to the legislation passed in our different Colonies and in America, and could compare the different expedients put forward here.
You would get all that under the conditions I am suggesting. Without suggesting we should necessarily divide the country into these three areas, I venture to put it, even although those areas would not represent separate nationalities, they 1929 would represent separate interests. We talk of this Mother of Parliaments. We take ourselves back to Magna Charta and the time of Edward the First, but remember what England was in those days—the North a desert; Wales a wild man's land: England, for all practical purposes, the rich agricultural plain of the Midlands, East and South. London was not so far from the centre of that. It was a nation of farmers, about 2,000,000 of them, a, nation with one great industry, agriculture—for at that time we used to allow our shipping to be done for us—it was a nation of farmers of 2,000,000 inhabiting one plain, in the midst one market town (London) with this great tidal river coming up to it for trade. It was the simplest thing to establish a Parliament here—one King, one Parliament, one plain, one city, and merely villages elsewhere, one uniform nation. There is a simplicity about our history for that reason, and the hero of that history is this Parliament, which has evolved through these centuries, but which is now being ruined because of the tributary streams from Scotland and Ireland which have brought complexity to what was once so simple. We want to retain what is good in that splendid river. We want to adapt our conditions afresh and to assign to each region of the old England its Parliament; to agriculture, its Parliament; to this mighty London that has grown up, its Parliament; to that industrial North, which is the creation of the last two centuries, its Parliament,' to Scotland, which grew up in antagonism to this country, which has a nationalism largely derived from Bannockburn as well as a nationalism based on a great industry established in a relatively sterile land, its Parliament, and to Ireland—well, as to that it would be dangerous to speak.
§ Mr. MACKINDER
I have told my hon. Friend he can establish what kingdoms the Parliamentary body may choose. I suggest to him that after all Kent is not a small part, in fact, of Greater London. Modern facts do amount to that.
The question has been put forward of your having a reformed House of Lords. If that means that you are to have anything in the nature of a Senate, and that is the only meaning I can attach to it, if the House of Lords as a Senate is to be recruited from the States, then surely it is 1930 emphatically necessary that the great predominant majority in that body should not be drawn from one State only, but that it should be from the whole federation.
All I ask, is that hon. Members should look at the facts and not be content with mere Acts of Parliament. I admit it may be inconvenient to divide England, but I venture to assert it would be inconvenient to have an undivided ling-land in your Federation. Some of my friends will say, "You are surely on the horns of a dilemma and you imperil the whole idea of federation." That may be so, but I do not believe it. If you are going to securely establish your federation then you must face these facts, and you must recognise their reality. All our efforts at Home Rule have hitherto failed because we have not recognised these facts. We have been attempting to give a special position to one portion of the Kingdom, and we have tried to erect a convention, a mere paper connection, to be maintained by Act of Parliament. Why did Mr. Joseph Chamberlain, who was in many things so wise before his time, why did he, from the first, advocate Home Rule all round? It was because he saw there was safety in numbers. In the number of subordinate Parliaments there is safety, for the majority of subordinate Parliaments will be able to exercise restraint on the recalcitrant Parliament that would cut itself adrift or otherwise misbehave. If you adhere to an undivided English Parliament you have lost all opportunity of obtaining that balance of power within your system which is the reality that must underlie any printed document creating a constitution.
§ Sir RYLAND ADKINS
I do not know whether the House is glad or sorry that my hon. Friend who has just spoken should have started another hare which has brought into this controversy already sufficiently important, conflicting new ideas as to the slicing of England. For my own part I hope that Members in all parts of this House who were prepared before the hon. Member spoke to support the Resolution will not be hindered from doing so by their enjoyment of his speech, by their delight in its rhetoric, or by their appreciation of the way in which he managed to drown facts in most elaborate sentences of delightful fancy. Not soon will some of us forget his picture of the true Medieval England, this peaceful homogeneous plain, with a solitary city, yclept London, in which there were no 1931 differences between town and country in which all was woven in one piece, one calm uniform, simple texture, knowing nothing of the difficulties which modern life so unhappily brought. The passage in which he described that will remain with me till mind and memory flee, but it shows how a perversion of historical perspective can give as much delight as the fairy tales of our childhood. The facts, as they are known to every Member of this House and to the vast majority of the public outside is that mediaeval history in this as in most countries has been marked by a most intense divergence, generally amounting to animosity between town and country. Every urban community looked on the district outside as its enemy and prey. Nothing was more difficult in the welding of our State than the slow coalescence of urban and rural international life, and the efforts of statesmen, of King and of Parliament to work for the true unity of the State, instead of looking at sectional and geographical differences. And now, in the twentieth century, there comes down the hon. and learned Gentleman, adorning his discourse with every kind of picturesque illustration, nearly all inaccurate, to find an argument, or where be cannot find it to invent it, in order that the House of Commons may be induced to adopt a form of devolution which, whatever else it does, will cut our England into three parts. I think much water will run down this historic river, which I have no power to describe in the glowing terms of my hon. and learned Friend, before that ideal is realised. London, forsooth, we are told, is to be one, and what a London—Kent, apparently merely its front garden, and, I suppose, Essex its backyard—and, therefore, London, with a circle of subordinate suburbs stretching from sea to sea, is to be one-third of the State. We are all familiar, reading history less coloured than the hon. and learned Gentleman's speech, with the part that the city of Paris played in the French Revolution. The power of the city of Paris would be trifling compared with the power of this gigantic and elaborated London in the state of things to which the hon. and learned Gentleman referred. Then there is the serious argument that you are to have an agricultural England stretching how far north we are not told. Is the boundary to be the Trent? Is it to be Birmingham? Fancy Birmingham partially digested in an agricultural Eng- 1932 land! And "then beyond that we are to have a northern industrial area in which the sparse districts of sterile laud which still rear sheep and grow oats are to realise their deep subordination under the teeming artisans who tyrannise over them. This is to be the tripartite England of the future.
I hope the grave and serious question which the House, not before it is time, is asked to discuss to-day, will, although adorned by this excursus, not be led away by it to attach importance to this fantasy of political destruction. I hope the House will concentrate its attention, as it has already done for several hours, on the high and far-reaching issue as to whether we are to apply to the problem of Great Britain and Ireland the federal method. I would address the House as-one who has spent the greater part of his life in trying to do some work in local government and ask it to consider most favourably what I would call Home Rule for England. We had the case of Home Rule for Scotland presented with great charm in a maiden speech. The arguments for Home Rule for Ireland are familiar to all of us. Is it not time that England and the case for its Home Rule was considered with equal care? For what happens? In this House year after year the Government of England as a whole has less time given to it and has less done to forward it. I am not talking, of course, of legislation. I am talking of government. When I first entered this House thirteen years ago we spent double the time in discussing and passing Estimates which were largely concerned with the internal government of this country than is given to them to-day. Take Department after Department. The Local Government Board, now reborn as the Ministry of Health, the Board of Education, the Home Office, the Board of Trade—the greater part of their administrative work is work controlling the government of England, and yet it is only for a few odd hours in each Session, and then only by concerted action on the part of large numbers of Members of the House, that there is any reasoned and continuous investigation as to how that government is carried on and how it is to be linked up with the local government of the country over which it has such great power. If I may speak of my own experience of county council work and associations, what one notices year after year is the constant and rapid growth in what I may call the intensive cultiva- 1933 tion of local government in this country. For one thing that had to be done thirty years ago there are now twenty. That can only be done if the central authority in each Department is kept under vigilant Parliamentary oversight and control, and yet all through these years the control by Parliament of all these Government Departments has grown less and not more. In fact, there has been growing up for several generations that which approaches to a silent revolution in government in this country.
Our country, almost alone among the great countries of the world, has had a principle of government in which the amateur has always had predominance over the professional. Unlike great Empires in other parts of the world we have never been governed either by a soldiery or by a bureaucracy. Eight away back to those ages to which the hon. and learned Gentleman referred with such vividness, as I take it the true line of the development of the British Constitution was the constant assertion by Parliament, as soon as it became articulate, of powers over kings and statesmen and bureaucrats, so that those chosen by the people, who, whatever else they were, were in a sense amateur and not professional administrators, should have and exercise constantly year after year both control and initiative in the government of the country. For this was our Constitution praised by philosophers of all countries. For this was Britain the envy of each State on the Continent which gradually grew out of tyranny into freedom. And yet in the last thirty or forty years, while in so many ways we have broadened the basis of the Constitution, while so many more of our fellow-citizens have their share in votes, in speeches, and in influence, the power of the House of Commons in controlling Government has dwindled year by year. Is it not part of our duty to recover for our race that special note and principle and method of government which has been so successful in the ages that came before us, and that can only be done by the creation of a subordinate legislature for England as a great national unit, just as for Scotland and for Ireland, in recovering for England by means of a subordinate legislature that which would exercise constant and vigilant oversight for the administration of the country, and which would provide that initiative which may be wanting in technical knowledge, which may be wanting in 1934 the accomplishments of the expert, but which would have that vitality which only comes when it comes from a popular assembly representing the real tendencies and desires of the people. Therefore I most earnestly support, on the grounds that it is necessary to complete and to vitalise local government in this country, the proposal now before the House, and, so far from this leading to undue parochialism, the principle of the creation of subordinate legislatures would set free this Mother of Parliaments for even greater and higher duties.
It is a singular thing that in that very period which has seen our grip of local government weakened the interest taken by the House in matters of international politics has grown weaker too. There were fewer discussions of foreign policy in this House than there had been twenty years previously. There was far more discussion of foreign policy in the days of Lord Palmerston than there has been since. There was far more discussion in the period of the great French war than in the days of Lord Palmerston, and far more discussion still than that in the days of Chatham and Walpole. The fact is, that the development of Parliamentary procedure and practice has not only weakened the grip of Parliament for internal administration, but it has removed from Parliament, largely without intention, but partly perhaps by design, the myriad opportunities of taking a quick and vivid interest in international problems, and considering the spread of education, considering the developments of the Press, is it not most remarkable that there is probably less diffused knowledge, at any rate, among those classes which have had educational advantages, about the politics of Europe in the last twenty years than there was among our great grandsires a century ago. If you have a subordinate Legislature relieving the House of Commons from so much of the work it tries to do, but has not time to do, you are giving it more time to concentrate its attention on these international matters which are becoming more and not less important as the years go on.
When science has abolished space, when we are scarcely any more an island, when we are more interwoven with other nations than we ever were by all the endless ties of trade and commerce and competing ideals, it is surely of the greatest consequence that there should be far more opportunities for this House to discuss 1935 such matters and strengthen and control Ministers by the informed opinion of the House of Commons than has been possible in recent years. Why are we the only legislature that has no Foreign Affairs Committee, independent or semi-independent of the Government of the day? There would be scope for developments of that kind which would strengthen the democratic hold on international matters if this House had the time to give to them, and it can only get the time to give to them by the freedom gained by the creation of a subordinate legislature. Therefore on all these grounds, to assist and to vitalise local government, to give this House greater opportunity of dealing with Imperial and International matters, it is surely desirable that there should be a Committee or Conference set up directly to see whether it is not possible to devise methods of devolution which would preserve the national unity of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, methods which, if they ended in the creation of these subordinate bodies, would yet create such bodies as would really draw to them men of long experience and. of practical wisdom, because the work they would have to do would be worth the doing For these reasons I support the proposal, and I trust this is one of those rare occasions on which the overwhelming feeling of the House in favour of the proposal will not be allowed to ebb away in mere expression, but will be the foundation of wise and considered action.
§ 8.0 P.M.
I listened with great pleasure to the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Long), and I am bound to say that I have heard very few speeches which in my opinion placed such decent arguments before the House. I believe also that the views put forward by the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. and learned Member (Sir Ryland Adkins) do nearly meet the desires of the great mass of citizens in this country. There can be no doubt that since 1906 there has been a growing feeling that Parliament——