HC Deb 03 June 1919 vol 116 cc1936-74

Question again proposed, 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—

  1. (1)upon a measure of Federal Devolution applicable to England, Scotland, and Ire land, defined in its general outlines by existing differences in law and administration between the three countries;
  2. (2)upon the extent to which these differences are applicable to Welsh conditions and requirements; and
  3. (3)upon the financial aspects and requirements of the measure."


I was suggesting that during the last fourteen or fifteen years this House has been tremendously overworked, and although responsible Ministers have done their very best to expedite business, we have been utterly unable to deal with the needs of the various countries to which we are supposed to attend. All kinds of methods have been tried. I remember, in 1906, it was suggested that, except in the case of Ministers, speeches of Members should be limited to ten minutes. I am extremely sorry that the House did not accept such a suggestion. For years certain Members of the House seemed to think that they were entitled to go on speaking almost eternally, and that men who did not put forward anything like the same pretentions ought to be glad to listen to their rhetoric. There are 730 Members of this House, many of them well versed in different matters affecting the State, in commerce, law—I need not develop the particular matters in which Members of this House are versed. But whatever we do we have always been met with a gradual increase of business—the guillotine, the kangaroo, the method of putting the closure into operation by compartments—millions of money, indeed thousands of millions, over a number of years have been voted without any debate at all, and, of course, it is impossible to say to our constituents that such a method should be continued. We must recognise that the whole conditions of political life have changed completely, and that the various nationalities should have conferred upon them the right of legislating in those matters which are peculiarly theirs. Take the case of the Scottish Estimates. When they come before the House every English Member leaves the House. There is not the slightest attempt to apply the knowledge of English Members to these Scottish subjects, and the whole matter is left entirely to the hands of the Scottish Members. The whole of us, English Members, from Newcastle right down to the South of England, simply take a day and go away, and a comparatively handful of Scottish Members are left, men who are keenly, and properly keenly, interested in those matters relating to Scotland.

The same thing applies to Ireland. We have known during the last fourteen or fifteen years that when the Irish Estimates come on we go out and leave the whole matter entirely with the Irish Members. It is only when the Government desires to raise objections to the arguments put forward by the Irish Members that the House takes any serious interest in the matter. But it is very much worse when the House is called on to deal with Imperial legislation or responsibilities. When I was young we used to be told that India was the finest jewel in the British Crown. It is almost a complete hypocrisy. Whenever the Indian Estimates came before us the House was nearly always empty. I do not know any problems in which the responsibilities of Government are so great as those affecting India at the present time. But in the past, when the Indian Estimates have come before the House, the responsible Minister has been speaking to a very small body of Members. The same thing applies to the Crown Colonies. We have hardly ever taken any notice of the conditions affecting them. We have acted as though these are matters that might very well be left to the Ministry. After all, I believe that we ought to give to nationality a greater responsibility and greater power than we have given in the past. I believe that a spirit of nationality can be given to a great extent to Scotland and to Wales, and that it would be perfectly consistent with the great Imperial responsibility which we can entrust to the Imperial Parliament. Take the case of Scotland. Is there a single person who can deny that the Scottish people can be perfectly true to the great British connection, can be "fervent supporters of a real and true Imperialism, the Imperialism which helps the whole of the British people to lead in the development of civilisation, and yet at the same time be perfectly true to the spirit of nationality?

We need not say too much in favour of the Scottish people, but everybody must admit that as a body they have taken a great part in the development of the Empire. Their loyalty is undoubted. They surely ought to be given full power of governing themselves in those matters which are peculiarly their own. In other words, they can have a great love for that true Imperial bond which connects Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Great Britain, and there is nothing at all inconsistent between that and a love of their own country, which, after all, is a matter of the spirit. That is really how we ought to look at these things. If Scottish Members are willing to have a direct responsibility in the work that rests upon them as Scottish Members, why should we compel them to come in many cases hundreds of miles from the northern part of their country to this Assembly? I am sure it has been a great waste of physical and mental energy to come here to deal with matters which could just as well have been decided by the Scottish people in Edinburgh or in Glasgow, in a Parliament dealing with matters that were peculiarly local to Scotland. Often they have been called upon to travel hundreds of miles under all kinds of atmospheric conditions and at tremendous cost, only to find when they reached here that the routine of the House made it quite impossible for Scottish matters to be dealt with by the Scottish people, and that in many cases there was a most heart-breaking process day by day and week by week which made it utterly impossible to get on with the business. There is a real doubt developing in the minds of the people that Parliament is not in earnest in this kind of thing. The arguments I have used apply equally to Wales. Nobody can deny how keenly they feel as Welshmen that they should have the right of managing those matters which are peculiarly Welsh matters. But that does not in any way lessen their high patriotism and their love for the British connection. We should, in so far as we can, let them deal with matters that are peculiarly their own. We could thus relieve the burden of this huge House enormously, and the folks who send us to Parliament would be very much better satisfied that we really were in earnest in doing the work they had committed to us.

I am bound to say, however, that when we begin to talk about breaking up England into three or four bodies I should regret it very much indeed, and I shall certainly vote against any measure that tampers with the unity of England. I am not going to follow the rhetoric of the Scottish Member who spoke in the tone of Boanerges, and pointed out the desirability of breaking up England into three or four parts. I believe that the English people have for centuries led the world, that they have led the civilisation of the world. It is perfectly true that our forefathers were illiterate; it is perfectly true that Parliament did not represent the vast body of people. It is quite true that many of them were little better than slaves at the time. It is equally true that the sense of the English people was that they were a united body, not very much later than the-time of. Henry the Fifth, and undoubtedly from the time of Henry the Fourth. In my honest opinion it would be the greatest possible mistake to break up that unity. I believe that the English people represent the greatest factor and the greatest power in the development of civilisation, and in the progress of the world, and I should view with the greatest regret any interference with that wonderful English spirit. The English, of course, are a generous people; they are a kindly people. They are willing to help the Scottish people, they are not desirous of standing in the way of the Welsh people, the fact is not that the English people themselves are incapable of the high statesmanship that has been shown by the Welsh and the Scottish, but that the English people have always been generous, and that if the Scottish people are doing very well, and the Welsh people too—if all the high offices have been as a matter of fact held by the Scottish or by the Welsh, there has been very little complaint on the part of the English people. The English name and character has spread itself throughout the world, and I do believe with all our faults it is the greatest factor in the civilisation of the world. It is because of that our party is going to support this Motion. It is, after all, a matter for inquiry.

Surely when we recognise how magnificently the Dominions, the Commonwealth of Australia, the Dominion of Canada and the Dominion of New Zealand came to the support of the Mother Country in its time of greatest possible need, we are bound to realise that new problems will arise and problems of the greatest significance which will place upon the Imperial Parliament a kind of responsibility we never had before. The world is entirely new. We have, for example, the problems that will result from the navigation of the air. The whole world will soon be encompassed by great aerial machines. There are a thousand and one things possible as science knows no end. Tremendous developments have taken place and it is really of the greatest possible importance and necessity that we should bring together, in a mutual family, so to speak, those Dominions and those members of the British race which have-rendered such magnificent services during the last four or five troublous years. Surely when we think of what they have; done that conclusion is forced upon us. Not very long ago it was thought that we really ought to cut ourselves adrift from the Colonies. It was said in the middle-part and indeed the later part of the 19th century that the Colonies were a great burden upon us, and they were called '' those wretched Colonies," and were regarded by some people as a mill stone round our necks. I cannot imagine a single politician now who would fail to recognise how wonderful has been the development of those Colonies which used to be convict settlements and were so regarded. We know perfectly well there are wonderful possibilities in their development, and because we believe they should take a definite and responsible part in a great Imperial Council we ask that in taking part in the development of civilisation and enlightenment that no responsibility shall be placed uopn them in the decision of which they have not taken a full part. I believe myself that an Imperial Council will have to be established, and that there will have to be subordinate legislatures. How can we leave Ireland alone? It is utterly impossible. It is perfectly true that our Imperial position is weakened in the eyes of other nations because, year after year, we fail to give decent self-government to the Irish people. No statesman can be condemned. It is a problem which I am quite sure the British people would gladly solve. I do not think there is one man out of a hundred thousand but would gladly do his best to solve this problem which has caused such an infinity of trouble to statesmen for the last century. An inquiry can do no harm. We may very well find that a Dominion Parliament might meet the necessities and the desires of the Irish people less such exceptions that might follow from the inquiry. In any case, it-is quite clear that we cannot for the good name of the British people allow Ireland to occupy a position which is really pathetic, and which, of course, lessens the good will entertained by other nations in respect of our treatment of that unhappy country. I think an inquiry can do no possible harm.

Brigadier-General COCKERILL

The House has listened with very great interest to the speech of the hon. Member who has just addressed it. There was one observation from him which especially appealed to me, and in which he said that some of us were very patient in listening. I can assure him, if he will only let me know when he intends to speak, he will find in me an extremely happy listener. The First Lord of the Admiralty, in his speech, mentioned a point which rather bears on the same question. He pointed out that, as a result of the way in which our business is divided to-day, and as a consequence of such an amount of business being taken upstairs instead of on the floor, Members, and especially new Members, have but rare opportunities of addressing the House. I agree with him that that is a very great disadvantage under the new Procedure. New Members are not able to grow habituated to the atmosphere of the House, as they were in the old days, and the result is, possibly, that they are not able to express themselves on the interests of their constituencies in the manner they were able to do in the old days. It is common cause that some devolution is essential, and it is common cause that to-day most of the work that falls upon this House cannot be undertaken adequately. It is common cause, too, I think, that the questions which must be devolved, if any are devolved, upon the secondary Legislatures are questions of a local nature and questions which, in every Act which has constituted a Dominion Parliament have been described as questions of a local and private nature. I think it is common cause, also, that all those topics must, if any are, be devolved to the local Legislatures. The First Lord of the Admiralty expressed his approval of what is, after all, the main point in this Motion, and that is the idea of setting up a Committee to advise in regard to this question. My regret is that ho did not go-further at once and, considering the unanimity which apparently prevails in the House, set up, as has been set up in the case of all the Constitutions of the Empire, a Conference immediately which should be charged with the duty of recording resolutions on which, ultimately, a Bill could be based to express the views of this House.

A few weeks ago I tabled a Motion which I venture to think would have been a very good introduction to this Debate. I obviously could not raise now the arguments I should then have raised had the opportunity fallen to me, nor, indeed, do I desire to do so, because I hope to have an opportunity on the Colonial Estimates of touching on the subject of my Motion at a later date. But it was suggested in that Motion that the time had perhaps come for the devolution to a separate Parliament and to a separate Cabinet of matters that concerned only the United Kingdom. Personally, I do not share the-view of the First Lord of the Admiralty that if we had approached this question from that end we should have been putting the cart before the horse. I cannot help thinking that the House must have noticed, as I have noticed, that in the League of Nations which has been set up you have actually an attempt being made to co-ordinate the common interests of all the nations in the world at a common council table. Surely if it was possible to set up a council of the League of Nations, and what almost amounts to a Parliament of the World, it should have been possible before that to set up a similar assembly to deal with the affairs of this Empire at a round table. But be that as it may, it seems to me that it is essential that upon the League of Nations the representatives of the British Empire should speak with one voice in matters affecting vital Imperial interests. Similarly, it seems to me, and having that in view, that the time is ripe to organise and to create some central council which in the same -way shall discuss, co-ordinate, and harmonise the common interests of this great Empire, and since the sovereignty inheres in these Houses of Parliament only to deal with these very large questions, it seems to me that it should have been a possible course in the first instance to have separated from the Imperial Parliament all those questions which are really and fundamentally not of Imperial interest, but of interest to the United Kingdom only, and to devolve upon some Parliament of the United Kingdom questions affecting the United Kingdom only. It might then, I think, have been a simpler matter to have gone a step further and to have decided which questions might safely be further devolved upon Parliaments or assemblies to discuss and consider and decide questions of a local interest.

There is, it has seemed to me, a very marked ambiguity in the term "Imperial Parliament." I used to notice it in the old controversies which perhaps are dead, or perhaps only sleeping, an echo of which perhaps we heard in the House when the right hon. Gentleman sitting opposite me was speaking. In those controversies it always seemed to me that there was some ambiguity as to what hon. and right hon. Members meant when they used this term "Imperial Parliament." This Parliament is imperial in the sense that it has some control over Imperial affairs. I am no constitutional lawyer, and I trench on these matters with great diffidence, but it has seemed to me that there are questions with which this Parliament is accustomed to deal, so far as they relate to the United Kingdom, with an authority and a power wholly different, wholly superior to what they deal with when questions of interest to the Dominions are concerned. We have devolved upon the Parliaments of the Dominions large questions of their own self-government, and as a result the Imperial Parliament, so far as it is Imperial, really has little power, except, I believe, though I am open to correction, the power of disallowing certain Ordinances which may be passed in the various Dominions, but which this Parliament and the Crown would probably never dream of disallowing. But when you come to use the term "Imperial Parliament" in connection with the affairs of the United Kingdom, you come to a power and authority which is in- defeasible and absolute, and it seems to me that one wants to keep these two distinct uses of the term "Imperial Parliament." they may not be accurate, but they are in very common use, and are terms which really have very wide differences of meaning.

The question I ask myself is whether, in the Motion which is before the House now, it is the intention to retain the Parliament of the United Kingdom as a Parliament which shall deal with all the main questions affecting the affairs of this United Kingdom, and that, too, even when, if ever, a true Imperial Parliament be set up. I think the answer is certainly in the affirmative. I think it is certainly the intention of the Mover of the Resolution to keep unimpaired the powers of the Parliament of the United Kingdom and devolve only subordinate and purely local affairs to the other Parliament. But I think the House will agree with me that we should do nothing to interfere, in anything that we might do now in reconsidering the constitution of this country and Empire, with the ultimate reconstruction of the machinery of the Government of the Empire. I think there is one thing we must recognise when such reconstruction takes place. In my judgment that reconstruction is urgent and essential, but we have heard to-night from the First Lord of the Admiralty, who shares my view as to the essential necessity of this reconstruction, that he perhaps is not so hopeful as I am that it may be undertaken sooner than some of us expect. We must recognise that in any such reconstruction the Dominions will not consent to be represented in the Imperial Parliament, when it is set up, except on terms of absolute equality with the people of the United Kingdom. That in itself, in my judgment, makes it essential to retain unimpaired the power and authority of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, and that Parliament must take care to retain all those powers which in Canada, Australia and South Africa are, by general consent, retained in the central Government.

In the Dominions, when Federalisation took place, the movement was one of centralisation. In this country, if we devolve any powers upon subordinate legislatures, we shall be moving in the reverse direction. I do not myself attach very great importance to that. It might be represented that this was a movement towards disunion and towards disruption. I do not think it could fairly so be represented. The object of the Motion is, I think, identical with the object statesmen had in the Dominions. The object in the Dominions was to centralise all matters of common concern in the Dominions, and to redistribute all those matters which were of local concern. That, too, is our intention here. We seek to centralise matters of common concern—if I under-stand the Motion aright—and to redistribute all those matters which are merely of local concern. I think on many sides the view is held that local autonomy is only favourable to a larger unity where local sentiment in the parts composing the whole is weak, or where local sentiment in the parts is overshadowed and governed by a wider patriotism. In the Dominions Constitution the stronger the national sentiment that has prevailed in the component parts, the closer has been the union that has been ultimately developed. In Australia, you had a number of separate States grown up under separate governors, with separate institutions. Each State was extremely jealous of its own institutions and anxious to retain them, but those States were, I think, in no sense national. In the case of Australia, for example, there was always inherent in each State a feeling of wider patriotism towards Australia as a whole—a feeling which has been very strongly evinced during the course of this great War. In Australia, it might be mentioned, although there was no national feeling in the State, yet when the Constitution was framed, they took care that every State should retain in its own hands every power that it had had previously, except such as might be definitely withdrawn.

Major-General Sir NEWTON MOORE

The States created the Commonwealth.

Brigadier-General COCKERILL

I do not think the hon. and gallant Gentleman was in the House when I was mentioning that matter. I pointed out that the movement was in the reverse direction. But the States in Australia, although they had no national sentiment behind them—for I do not think it can be pretended that the feeling in Victoria or Queensland, for example, had reached anything that could be described as a national feeling—yet when they came together, they were careful to retain all those powers, except such as were stipulated to be withdrawn from them. In Canada, in the same way, you had a strong national sentiment I think only in one of the component parts of what now forms the great Dominion of Canada. And there you find that the central Government deals with all matters which are not expressly assigned to the provincial Governments and, among the matters which are expressly assigned to the provincial Governments are all matters such as under this Motion we seek to devolve upon subordinate legislatures, that is to say, matters of a merely local or private nature. In South Africa you had the national sentiment more strongly developed than in any other of the Dominions. In each of the great States—if you can call them so—which go to make up the Union of South Africa, you had a very strong national sentiment—a national sentiment which cannot have been the less in the years immediately following the great war between themselves and this country. And yet there, where you had. the national sentiment the stronger, you find that when they came together to form a union, they took care to make that union as close as it could possibly be made, and the provincial Governments are permitted to deal only with such matters as are directly delegated to them, and though they include matters of local and private concern, the decision as to what are matters of local and private concern rests with the Governor-General in Council.

9.0 P.M.

Of course, the conclusion that I draw from those facts is that where you have, as you have in this United Kingdom, a strong national sentiment in each of the component parts of the Kingdom, you would be wise, I think, to take account of that fact, and when you give autonomy to the subordinate legislatures you should take care to limit it very clearly and closely to matters of purely local and private concern, and you should, I think, keep in the hands of the Central Government—in this case, in the hands of this-Parliament and of the United Kingdom and the Empire—very closely the final decision as to what questions should or should not be dealt with in those legislatures. Of course, there were other factors affecting the situation in the various Dominions. In Australia, though I speak again with diffidence in the presence of the hon. and gallant Gentleman behind me, who has had so much greater experience than I have had, I think it is the fact that these States had grown up, each one, owing to the immense distances between them, and owing, in the first years of their existence, to the lack of means of communication, had grown up around some major port which was in itself in direct communication with the United Kingdom. Each was jealous, therefore, of that inter-communication. You had not any central authority in Australia. You had the powers of the States set around the circumference of the country.

You had precisely the opposite case in South Africa. There the main interests of the country are centrally situated. The main point in dispute in South Africa was the channel of communication from the central part of the Dominion to the coast, and thence to the outer world. The consequence of that was that in South Africa you had a tendency towards central union and centralised government, the extent of which perhaps does not exist equally in the Dominion and the Commonwealth of Australia. But I should not weary the House with all these details, important as they might be to those who sit on this Committee and have to consider the question of the subjects with which the subordinate Legislatures should deal, but that I want to express a note of warning in regard to the setting up of Parliaments of separate nationalities in this country, unless you keep the central Government of sufficient strength. I might remind the House that you had that previous to the passing of the Act under which, some fifty years ago, the Dominion of Canada was brought into existence. But the Act itself was based upon certain Resolutions which were passed at the Quebec Conference. That Conference took place in 1864, almost immediately after or during the closing period of the American Civil War. Every member of that Conference must have had ever present in his mind the causes of the American Civil War. They must have foreseen the danger that had accrued there in allowing any kind of subordinate powers to the component parts of the Federation. Probably similar considerations were in the mind of those who framed the South African Constitution. I am speaking rather longer than I intended, but this question of nationality is important. The view I have put before the House is strengthened by events in Scandinavia, where you had an autonomous and national Norway seceding from a federated union in response to national feeling. Similarly, in Hungary and Bohemia you see the same tendency.

Important as this question of nationality is, there have been other practical reasons which, not only in the Dominions and the Empire, but also in the United States of America, have been tending, as I think, towards centralisation of government rather than to the entrusting to the subordinate legislatures of excessive powers. The annihilation of distance by road, rail, and flight, and the extension of trade connections, has made it essential in those countries, and have led to a gradual strengthening of the central Government. I think it is really not open to argument that both in the Dominions and the United States the tendency leans toward entrusting the central Government with ever-increasing powers and to deprive the local States of the powers they already possess. That being so, it seems to me that we should be very wise in this country very carefully to consider and very cautiously to act in decentralising the powers possessed by this House and in handing them over to these subordinate Legislatures. The true solution of our difficulties—difficulties which have been so well expressed by previous speakers—on the one hand of overloading the Parliament of the United Kingdom with matters of purely local interest, and on the other hand with matters of mainly Imperial concern—the true solution is to keep the power of devolution in the hands of the central Parliament of the Kingdom, and in devolving powers upon subordinate Legislatures to limit those powers very strictly to local and private affairs. In addition to that I confess that I hope and think that before many years are past that this House will be taking on the further task which I think is essential if its labours are to be properly crowned with success, the task of creating the machinery of a Central Imperial Council or Parliament in order to negotiate agreements between the various nations that compose the Empire on all those large questions which are really wholly of Imperial concern—those questions of trade, defence, foreign affairs, and all those other questions which affect the inter relations of the component parts of this Empire.


I have listened to this Debate with very considerable interest, and I particularly appreciate the speech of the Member for the Ince Division, because he paid the little country to which I belong a very happy compliment. At the same time, I think he did claim rather too much magnanimity for the country to which he belongs. As a matter of fact, when the hon. Member speaks of magnanimity he should apply that to the Welsh nation, because we can truly say that we deserted the plains of England for the mountains of Wales so that the English could be happy in this sunny land where we live now. I am not altogether sure whether the time really has arrived for the discussion of this very great question. The hands of the Government have been very full, not in considering Home Rule for these islands, but in putting an end to German rule; and, although I am a Home Ruler, I would rather have seen a final and complete settlement in regard to German rule of the world before we paid attention to the very great question of Home Rule for these islands. But as the question has been forced upon us, I put down an Amendment on the Paper. I am not going to speak to that Amendment to-night, but I want to speak on the general question. I put that Amendment down because I realised that in this Motion the little country of Wales was overlooked. The Motion merely deals with Scotland and Ireland, and I think I have a right to claim that the little country to which I belong—gallant little Wales—has every right, when the question of Devolution is discussed, to be Considered at least on a level with Scotland and Ireland. There are many reasons for that. In the first place Wales has played no mean part in bringing this War to a triumphant conclusion, from the Prime Minister, a brilliant son of Wales, down to the humble Tommy, who gave the Germans every reason to respect him. I therefore say that, in view of the patriotism and loyalty of the Welsh nation towards the British Empire, we have a right to be placed on the same level as Scotland and Ireland. Then there is the question of language. I do not think there are many Scotsmen here to-night who can claim to be able to speak Gaelic. Although I am a Welshman born outside of Wales, I have taken the trouble to learn my mother tongue, and I could speak to this assembly in. Welsh just as well as in English; and I may say that there are very few Welshmen in Wales or out of it, in England or in Patagonia, who are not able to speak their mother tongue. With regard to Patagonia, it is an interesting fact, which may not be generally known, that there are thousands of Welsh families who have settled there, Patagonia being a province of the Argentine Republic; They have their own Welsh chapels, and I am sure it will surprise the House to hear that hundreds of them only know the Welsh language and the Spanish language; they do not know the English language. Nevertheless, there are no more loyal people to the British Empire than the Welsh people of Patagonia. I think the same applies to all parts of Wales. During this War and during all previous wars Wales has always been a loyal part of the British Empire. Of course, I must admit that, although we have strong claims for Home Rule in Wales, it would be unreasonable to claim that we should have any preferential treatment. I can quite see that before we could claim Home Rule the Irish question must be settled. We can only have Homo Rule when Federal Home Rule is brought about, and obviously Federal Home Rule would be hopelessly incomplete until the Irish problem is solved, and until that unhappy country is brought into the British Empire as a self-governing part of that Empire. When that is going to take place I do not know. Some ill-prophets say it will take years before we can hope to bring forward a Home Rule Bill which will satisfy the Irish. I am speaking now individually, and not for the Welsh party to which I belong. I see a smile on the face of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, who is the Chairman of our party, but I am not committing my party when I say that, speaking personally, I feel that we in Wales in the meantime should advocate strongly that there should be a Secretary of State for Wales. In passing, I may say that I very much regret, in regard to the Health Bill, that we were not offered an Assistant-Secretary for Wales. I think that would have been a, generous act and a small compliment to our little nation. It was not done. I certainly do think that we ought to have a Secretary of State for Wales in this great work of reconstruction that is now going on. Under the Health Bill a separate Board has been allotted to Wales, but that really means Whitehall government. Scotland has a special Home Rule Bill, and in all essentials, as far as health is concerned, Scotland has Home Rule.



Notice taken that forty Members were not present; House counted; and forty Members being found present


What I was trying to make out was that, while we are waiting for a system of Federal Home Rule, we should have for Wales a Secretary of State, so as to co-ordinate those Departments which will be set up in Wales under the work of reconstruction, such as Health, Insurance, Housing, Education, and Agriculture, may be co-ordinated by a Secretary of State who, I hope, will be a Welshman, and who would understand the aspirations of Welshmen and would appreciate the Welsh peculiarities. We admit that we have peculiarities. What nation has not? The peculiarities of the various parts of the British Empire make for its efficiency, and I think that the peculiarities of Wales ought to be considered and studied. If we are allowed to develop in our own peculiar way on our own national lines in our home affairs, I think it would make not only for the good of Wales, but also for the benefit of the British Empire, to which we are all so proud to belong.


I think this House should be grateful to the hon. Member who brought this Motion forward, not only because it has enabled us to discuss this important question, but because it has enabled us to hear two speeches which, I think, are extremely important, namely, the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Duncairn (Sir E. Carson) and the speech of the First Lord of the Admiralty. I think those speeches opened the door through which we can see a solution to that problem which has baffled this House and this Legislature for generations. Furthermore, I think that this Debate is interesting and useful from the fact that it has shown up till now an absolute unanimity of opinion in favour of this Motion that a Committee of Inquiry should beset up. No one appeared to be satisfied with the present state of things except the right hon. Gentleman who represents the Scottish Universities (Sir H. Craik), who is the only one who has spoken against the Motion. Certain Members are not satisfied and could not be satisfied with the present state of things. At every turn, as was indicated by the First Lord of the Admiralty, people are becoming sick of these delays, and there are people who are endeavouring to secure by unconstitutional means reforms which ought to be settled by this Legislature. This Parliament is so overloaded that even your Grand Committee system has been of no avail at all, and speeches show that hon. Members them- selves are greatly discontented with the system of Grand Committees, under which measures of first-class importance are sent upstairs, and these Committees are so constituted that hon. Members who are most interested in these particular questions frequently do not find a place on those Committees, and those measures are considered by hon. Members who are often indifferent to those particular Bills, with the result that it is frequently difficult to form a quorum, and those measures are inadequately discussed, and bureaucracy reigns supreme at the present time.

We heard the other day a very able speech delivered by the hon. Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton). He referred to certain Egyptian questions from first-hand knowledge, and he told us how there were Egyptian gentlemen who felt very keenly the lack of interest taken by this Assembly in the affairs of that country. There are most important Indian and foreign affairs which are never discussed unless by some fortuitous chance some hon. Member is successful in the ballot or the matter is of such urgency that the adjournment of the House can be moved; otherwise these questions can only be dealt with by that exceedingly unsatisfactory method of questions and answers which are allowed in our proceedings every day. No one who has sat through the whole of this Debate can have done so without realising that the opinion of this House declared through the Debate is that the whole of our Parliamentary machinery has broken down and has become unworkable.

The only alternative is this system of devolutionary Home Rule. I regret very much the absence in this House at the present time of the present Governor-General of Australia (Sir Munro-Ferguson), who has contributed very valuable speeches in these Debates. I remember that he defined this question of devolutionary Home Rule as an establishment in which each unit had a central authority around which could be grouped the local authorities, and I accept that as an exceedingly good definition of devolutionary Home Rule. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Scottish Universities seemed to think that all that was necessary was to devolve certain extra powers upon the local authorities, but I entirely disagree with him. Those local authorities are already entrusted with largo powers under the measures which are being passed through this House, and I think we ought to establish a central authority consisting of each of the units of the United Kingdom, in order to have a greater speeding up of the work of the local authorities who have to administer the great measures which you are passing through Parliament at the present time. We have to disentangle the management of Imperial affairs from those which are of a purely local character, and it is the disentangling process which this Committee will have to decide.

I want to say a word or two about the Irish aspect of the case which to me is by far the most important, I have always believed that it could be possible to find a solution of that knotty problem by means of devolution. As a Liberal I naturally desire, and desire urgently, to see this Irish question settled, and I welcome the very clear enunciation of the First Lord and the Chancellor of the Exchequer at the time of the General Election, but still more do I welcome the speech of the First Lord of the Admiralty this afternoon in which he declares himself strongly in favour of a federal solution by means of Home Rule all round. I am a strong supporter of the Coalition for the reason that the last Parliament, which was a Coalition Government, showed that it was possible to decide the most knotty questions which under the old party system would have created the greatest possible diversity of opinion and the strongest opposition. I believe that this Coalition Government can decide this old-standing controversy, too, if it sets its mind to it, and if a clear lead is given. Surely this Debate, which has shown the greatest possible unanimity of opinion, will prove to the Government that it is necessary, on this question of Ireland, to take a strong line and to give us a strong and clear lead, to which it is obvious the vast majority of Members of this House at the present time would give their very cordial support. I thought I noticed in the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Ripon (Major E. Wood), who moved this Resolution, a reference to the present condition of Ireland, and to the fact that it was necessary to do something, as it were, to pacify Ireland at the present time before we could proceed to the larger question of dealing with devolutionary Home Rule. I rather regret that anything of that kind should have been brought into this Debate although I may have misunderstood the hon. and gallant Member. He did, however, say something about the present condition of Ireland, and the apparent animosity which was supposed to exist between Ireland and this country. Frankly, I have always hoped and believed that that animosity was a purely political one; fictitious, as it were. One can only speak from one's own experience; and from certainly my experience, when I came across, as I frequently did, Irish units in various theatres of war—I was attached to one for a very considerable time—I was forced to come to the conclusion that those men belonging to the Irish community were just as much heart and soul in favour of the Empire and the cause it represented as I was or anyone else.

Everyone realises and recognises with gratitude the efforts made at the commencement of the War by the Irish Nationalist Members of Parliament to raise troops; efforts which were in a very large measure crowned with success. I am speaking, of course, only of the South of Ireland, because it is the condition of affairs in the South of Ireland which is engaging attention at the present time. There is no need to refer to Ulster, whose action is recognised by all with the greatest gratitude. Whatever may be said about the Sinn Fein policy—and I am not going to defend it—those who came across individual Sinn Feiners in the various theatres of war were forced to come to the conclusion that the Sinn Feiner, individually, harboured no particular hostility to an Englishman or a Scotsman. I remember one doctor, who was attached to a unit in my charge at one time, who was a very ardent and keen Sinn Feiner, and who made no attempt to disguise his opinion, yet everyone in that unit, whether English or Scotch, drank his physic with the greatest possible confidence. I have met other Sinn Feiners in the various duties I have had to carry out, and whatever their private opinions may have been on England or Englishmen, I always found that those opinions were relegated to the background as long as there were any Germans to be dealt with. I believe that this animosity is largely political and fictitious, and possibly the Committee which, I hope, will be set up as a result of this Debate may find a solution of the trouble, may cause the unrest to settle down, and may settle the question once for all. There was a very famous statesman and orator, who, I think, few Members except, perhaps, the First Lord of the Admiralty, can remember personally—Mr. Joseph Cowen. For many years he represented Newcastle in this House, and he happened to live all his life in that division of the county of Durham which I have the honour to represent. Speaking in a Home Rule Debate, he said: It is not a gift, but a state of feeling, an attitude of mind that is required in order to draw the two peoples together. That speech was made in this House thirty years ago, and surely to-day, after thirty years, and after this great War, it may be possible for us all to adopt that attitude of mind.


I have listended to a great part of this Debate with most profound satisfaction, because in it has been found the first fruition of work with which I was associated in 1914, when the discussion of constitutional questions looked blackest and most difficult. The right hon. Gentleman on the Front Opposition Bench (Mr. M. Macdonald), who seconded the Motion this afternoon, led small band of people who were anxious to look at our constitutional problems in the United Kingdom from the broadest possible standpoint and not to confine themselves to the terrible and sad trouble which the Irish question had got into owing, if I may say so, to the mishandling of a series of Parliaments. I want to recall to the House that we are debating here and now a question of vital urgency, because Parliamentary government is being questioned where Parliamentary government has never been questioned before. Unless we can ensure the proper working of Parliamentary government in these Islands, the brightest and the best creation of British genius, namely, Parliamentary government, may go down before the pressure of modern conditions in the new world. To my mind, it is vital, if we arc to retain the confidence of the peoples of the world in Parliamentary government, that this ancient Mother of Parliaments shall go forward with courage at this moment and release from its control, not absolutely, but at any rate in practice, a large amount of the control of administration and a large amount of the legislative functions which it has hitherto performed. The hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir H. Craik) said this afternoon that before he could support a Motion of this kind he wanted to see a scheme for an Imperial Parliament thought out and produced. He was profoundly wrong in suggesting that course of action. We shall never be an Imperial Parliament until we cease to be a gas and water Parliament. Until we have got rid of gas and water we are never going to get proper consideration of the big questions which this Parliament ought to deal with.

What I want to call the attention of the House to in particular is what we are doing and that we propose to do on Thursday next in regard to India. On that day we are going to consider a Bill which will establish responsible local government in eight provinces in India. We are going to devolve from the highly centralised bureaucracy two subordinate legislatures in India, and we are going to give to those subordinate legislatures considerable power over all local questions. If we are going to do that for India, must we not also do it for ourselves? We have had in connection with these reforms a most valuable document, the Report of the Feetham Committee, known as the Functions Committee, which went into the various functions of government hitherto performed by the Government of India, and classified those subjects which must be retained by the Central Government and those which could be handed over to the subordinate legislatures. What we are asking here to-day is that a similar Committee for the United Kingdom should be set up, and I hope when we have such a Committee we shall not hesitate to insist that the Government take up the Report of that Committee and to proceed as they are proceeding in the case of India, to put it into practice in this country. I am perfectly certain it is essential to the future Parliamentary control of our Ministries which are responsible for the growing interest Government action is taking in the daily lives of the people. If we are to retain Parliamentary control in that way, we cannot do it in this House, overburdened as it is with work.

I do not wish to go back too much into history, but I want to remind the House that this Parliament as we know it to-day is the result of three separate Acts of Union. The first in the reign of Henry VIII. was the Union with Wales, and that union was made complete—that is to say, the executive and the legislative powers in regard to Wales were all contemplated in this House. In the reign of Queen Anne the Act of Union was passed with Scotland. There the legislative union was carried out, but the executive union remained very largely separate as it is today. And last of all we had the Union with Ireland, and there even more than in the case of Scotland the executive remains entirely separate from the executive of Great Britain and certainly from the Executive of England and Wales. The consequence is that you have not got even now a complete Act of Union. You have a Board of Agriculture, a Board of Education, and a Local Government Board for England and Wales. Scotland and Ireland each have their own separate Board of Agriculture, Board for Local Government, and Board for Education, and we see the result in the legislation which is introduced into this House. Take, for instance, the Housing Bill. The Government came down with a policy with regard to housing which they placed before the electors of the United Kingdom. To give effect to their policy what did they do? They did not introduce; one Bill and pass it through this House, but they introduced three Bills, one for England and Wales, another for Scotland, and another for Ireland. They sent them to three different Grand committees, and the Members who had amended the English Bill upstairs did not serve on either the Irish or Scottish Committees, and the consequence is yon get all the disadvantages of union and none of the advantages. I am perfectly certain that on a question like housing you can never properly tackle it until you deal with it in regard to Scotland by Scottish Members, in regard to Wales by Welsh Members, in regard to England by English Members, and in regard to Ireland by Irish Members. We can at once, I believe, devolve these functions, which are already separate in regard to their executive [...], to subordinate legislatures.

In this matter there is an increasing demand, and an increasingly just demand, on the part of the Welsh people that they should have control over their own education and over the things which most intimately concern their national life. They are not separatists in any way, but they feel that in regard to education they have a distinctive contribution to give to British civilisation, and can best give it by realising that Welsh education is essentially a matter for Welshmen. I may say I am both a natural-born devolutionist and a natural-born Unionist, because I am partly Welsh, partly Irish, partly Scottish and partly English. There fore I have a fellow feeling with the feelings of each section of the United Kingdom, and at the same time I am perfectly confident that, while recognising these feelings, you will not in any way diminish the pride we all have in the joint heritage of the British Empire. In fact, I always say that we could never have had a British Empire had it not been for the different traditions, the different races, and the different sentiments co-operating together as part of a diversified civilisation in this country. I think that any practical statesman has to recognise that the problem of to-day is to harmonise local sentiment, local patriotic sentiment—very often racial sentiment—with the absolute necessity for every race and every nation worthy of the name to realise that it cannot be purely selfish. That is why I deplore the rise of Sinn Fein in Ireland—whether it takes the form of a purely Ulster Orange conscience or whether it takes the form of extreme Irish independence in the South of Ireland. We know the message has to go forth to all the nations of the world that we all have common duties one towards the other, and one of the things which makes me a convinced Unionist, while i am a devolutionist, is my belief that it would be absolutely impossible to give any form of Home Rule to Ireland or to any part of the United Kingdom which hands over to a separate Parliament labour legislation, factory legislation, and the like. I opposed the Home Rule Bill very largely because of that. You cannot say you will insist on so many hours being worked and such-and-such a minimum wage and such-and-such conditions of labour in England and allow quite different ones in Ireland. You cannot have a Labour Convention with your Allies and with the League of Nations if you are going to allow Ireland to legislate a lower standard than is maintained in this country, and it is absolutely vital that we should retain for the central United Kingdom Parliament the control of factory and labour legislation. I would say that to any Nationalist who is anxious to press his claims on sentimental grounds. Face practical realities, and there you will find that in a large number of subjects to-day the union must be maintained whilst at the same time your legitimate desire for a greater control over your local affairs can be realised.

I should like to say a word or two about the procedure of this House. I have been on two Standing Committees at once and had to choose which I would attend, while at the same time I have been on an important Government Committee at the India Office examining the India Bill and doing what I could to prepare for the Indian Constitutional Reforms. It is utterly impossible to carry on government in that way, and it is utterly impossible to expect Members of Parliament to work fourteen hours a day and do decent work. We cannot do it. That is what the Government is asking us to do to-day. The present procedure of this House is absolutely ruining this House. It is ruining debates on the floor of the House. It means that a large amount of legislation is going upstairs, and instead of being within the knowledge of Members of Parliament and of the people of this country it is done by twenty or thirty Members in a Committee Boom. It does not matter how many OFFICIAL REPORTS we have; it is not the same thing and it never will be. Then I come to the greatest farce of all, the attempt of this House by means of an Estimates Committee to get some control over financial expenditure. With the pressure of legislation upon us, as we now know it—and it is going to be just as much in future years as it is this year—it is utterly impossible for this House to devote itself to one of its principal duties, namely safeguarding the interests of the taxpayer from extravagant expenditure by the bureaucracy. We can never do that by means of an Estimates Committee. We can only do it on the floor of the House, and we can only do it on the floor of the House if we have more time for detailed consideration of the Estimates. The Estimates Committee that we have set up is an absolute farce. The only thing we have done after many weary sittings is to reduce the expenditure upon the Lord Chancellor's bath. That is the single triumph of the new Rules of Procedure. If we are going to restore Parliamentary control over expenditure, we have to set up subordinate legislatures to help us to do it.

I do not wish in any way to minimise the difficulty of setting up what I frankly admit is a new Constitution for the United Kingdom. In the first place, my idea of devolution is that you should retain the present House of Commons precisely as it is to-day. No change is needed in its numbers, its personnel, its methods of election, or its representation. But the mere fact that you set up, in addition to the present House of Commons, four or even more subordinate legislatures will relieve you of all the local legislation. It will relieve you of all the private Bills, of practically all the local government work, of the agricultural work, of education, and of public work on many other subjects, because, although you re- tain the right of this Parliament to legislate on all and any subjects, the mere fact that you have subordinate legislatures, with Ministers responsible for them, with power to legislate in certain particulars, will make this House very shy of dealing with those questions, just as in the case of the Dominions we still retain the power to legislate, but we do not exercise that power, because we have devolved, in practice, the legislative and executive functions in regard to those Dominions to other Legislatures. In the United Kingdom I am perfectly certain it will be possible to make a division of functions as is being made in the Government of India Bill under the Report of the Feetham Committee without the necessity of any supreme Court or any Court of law. In the Government of India Bill there is no supreme Court and no Court of law. No Act of Indian legislature can be questioned by any Court of law, and provision is made in the Bill for the power and the right of a subordinate legislature to take a particular course by executive act, and that is perfectly simple and the right way to do it, and in spirit the way in which our Constitution has grown. I am not deterred by that. The real difficulty—I do not wish to shirk the difficulty—is the problem of finance, and that will be the most important function which the Committee of Inquiry which we seek to set up will have to face. I have always taken the view that if you devolve some of the functions of Government upon subordinate legislature you must give them fiscal freedom within the items of revenue over which they have control. I am sure we shall require, if we have this scheme of devolution, to retain certain sources of revenue, such as Death Duties, Customs, and the like, to the central Parliament to defray the central expenses of maintaining the armed forces of the Crown, all the commercial expenditure and the expenses which are obviously central expenses, and we must at the same time give latitude and full freedom in regard to other heads of revenue to the subordinate legislature. That is the problem for the Committee. Those who have been working at the subject of devolution for some time past have been prepared to face this question and there is already in this House a large body of informed opinion upon this subject which is prepared to go before the Committee which the Government, I hope, will set up, and submit views as to how devolution can be carried out.

10.0 P.M.

I hope hon. Members will not be deterred from going forward with this policy by fear of the Irish question. Do not let Ireland and the acute problem of Ireland which we have to face deter our minds from the necessity of producing a scheme for the United Kingdom and for Great Britain in particular. I have always understood in regard to Ireland that the right hon. Member for the Duncairn Division (Sir E. Carson) based his strongest opposition to the Home Rule Bill on the fundamental principle that it would deprive him and those who think with him of their British citizenship. He said, "You are depriving me of my equal share with Welshmen, Scotsmen, or Englishmen in the affairs of the United Kingdom, and in the affairs of the Imperial Parliament. Under a system of devolution that position can no longer be held against Home Rule, because we are not depriving anyone of British citizenship. All alike will be equal. All would have an equal share in Imperial and central matters, and an equal share in local matters. Therefore the ground of that opposition goes by the board.

I say this further about the Irish question. I would be the last person to prejudice in any way a solution of that question by the possible division of Ireland, although I should regret it profoundly. The Irish part of me comes from the South and West of Ireland, and I should profoundly regret to see the people of North-East Ulster abandon the people who have been with them in the past, when an Irish Parliament was established I want them to come in and help those of us in the South and West who do not see eye to eye with the majority of our neighbours. I want them to come in and ensure, as they can ensure, that we get fair play. I am perfectly certain that that is an appeal which ought to be made to them more often. I do not rule out the question of a possible division of Ireland, because there are appeals made nowadays on this question of Ireland about self-determination. If self-determination means anything it means the division of Ireland. I regret it, but self-determination, if it is self-determination for Dublin, is also self-determination for Belfast. You cannot solve the Irish question merely on lines of self-determination. You have to take economic and other questions into consideration, and it is only through some system of devolution, it is only through an all-round scheme, that there is any ray of hope among the dark clouds which over-shadow the problem of Ireland today. Probably Irishmen will unite in rejecting devolution when they first hear of it, but when they see a concrete scheme in being, when they see a local legislature being set up in Edinburgh and Cardiff—and if the hon. Member for Glasgow (Mr. Mackinder) has his way, in York and Winchester as well—and they see something ready to hand, you will get a very remarkable revulsion of feeling. You will get a large number of people in Ireland who will say, "At least this is something. Let us see if we can work it." You will get a party in Ireland who will realise, as I think very many Irishmen are beginning to realise, that the rule of Mr. De Valera—I suppose I ought to refer to him as the hon. Member for one or other of the many divisions he represents—is not likely to be any great benefit to them either from the point of view of their economic prosperity or of their moral progress.

So I do urge this House not to shrink from the difficulty but to go forward boldly and insist that the Government should take this up as their policy and make the British Constitution stronger and firmer and one which is elastic and on which we can build for the future. One of the things to which I attach most importance is that when we have got rid of the gas and water and the local affairs which take up so much of our time, we shall be able then to call our Dominions together and say, "We are now in a more fit state to be called an Imperial Parliament. Come and let us discuss together the future development of an Imperial constitution upon a basis whereby the local affairs of each part of the United Kingdom are subordinate, and the central affairs of the United Kingdom as a unit are arranged for, and now we must build on top of that an Imperial constitution where the Sovereign Governments can be federated." That is the difference between devolution and federation. We are asking for devolution now in order that we may federate in a few years time. That is my earnest hope. Another thing; when we have got rid of the gas and water, and the greater Birmingham Bill, the Belfast Education Bill, and all these Bills are given over to-local legislatures, then I feel certain that the questions of Egypt, India, our foreign relations, our trade, our labour legislation, and the common affairs of the United Kingdom will have proper attention by this House. The country at present is bewildered by Parliament one day dealing with the minutiae of the development of a particular corner of the United Kingdom, while next day we are discussing expeditions to Russia, and things like that. As long as this goes on, it is no wonder that the House is losing the confidence of the country. Devolution is a necessity if we are to save Parliamentary institutions in this country, and I hope that we shall have no Division, but that we shall unanimously press upon the Government the necessity of dealing with this question here and now, and going forward with no uncertain step.


Despite the eloquence expended in support of this Resolution, I think that I shall be expressing the feelings of a large number of my colleagues when I say that attempting to discover what devolutionists are really after is about as hard a job as trying to catch a will-o-the-wisp in Scotland. We have heard a great deal against the present Parliamentary system, and we have heard—largely, I think, from new Members—no end of suggestions for the manufacture of fresh institutions. I submit that this House is not a manufactured article. It is a growth, and a growth which I think still commands the respect of the nations forming the United Kingdom. Those who support this Resolution ought to be able to show in what the advantages of this scheme consist to compensate for the disadvantages which we say attend it, and I would ask the House to agree with me that we must first rid the ground of the tendency towards the confusion of administrative and legislative work. One can understand schemes which propose to subdivide the administrative work of one of our Government Departments in. the interests of economy and expedition. We have a sample of that in our Private Bill Procedure Act in Scotland. Under that measure we can in Scotland, without taking the trouble of coming here, with the expense and the delay involved, pass any private. Bill which we care, unless, as often happens, a corporation or other body applied to have the Bill taken upstairs here because it wanted a wider atmosphere.

I have had occasion to discuss Home Rule in three elections in Scotland, and I wish to repudiate very emphatically the suggestion that there is any desire for Home Rule on the part of the intelligent majority of the people of Scotland. When you are asked about Home Rule in Scotland the point is put to you thus: Is it right that with regard to the purchase of, say, gasworks or waterworks we should be put to the expense of going to London? Once you advise your interrogator that he does not require to go to London, and that he can carry it through under the Private Bill Procedure Act, he apologises for his question, he explains that that is all he wants, and that that is what he means by Home Rule. I say that if the Debate has served no other purpose than to advertise more the existence of the Private Bill Procedure Act then it has served a very excellent purpose. To go further than that, I take it, is the intention of the Resolution. They do not have in view the sub-division of administrative work, but they have in view, as their Resolution states, the establishment of subordinate legislatures. What does that mean? It can mean only one of two things—the duplication of law at enormously increased cost or the creation of a system which can tend only towards the old diversity of law, and this inevitably means ultimately a conflict of law.

I am rather surprised at the want of courage of the Resolutionists. They fight shy of the ultimate results of their own action. As proof of the confusion of ideas existing, I heard to-night from an hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite that federation and devolution are one and the same thing arrived at by two different roads. I would ask him to remember this, that federation expresses a natural law, and that devolution is surely a breach of natural law. Again, I heard from this side of the House that just as they are decentralising the work of India, so they would propose by this Resolution to deal with the work of this Parliament. Think of that as an argument! In India we have been pursuing a government—rightly in my opinion—by the necessarily autocratic methods of a ruling Power. We are seeking to substitute for those methods some semblance of democratic government. We have not altered the government of India in the matter of degree, but in the matter of kind. What it is proposed to do in this Resolution is further to democratise the democratic institutions of our own country. Therefore I say there can be no comparison between the two things. I mention this only to show, as I hope I can conclusively, the extraordinary confusion of ideas that exists on this constitutional question. I submit that no case whatever has been made out by the Resolutionists for setting up these subordinate legislatures- I am rather surprised to hear Grand Committees damned so wholesomely. The supporters of the Resolution are very lucky in having a very colourless Resolution. Nobody can tell what they mean, and that is the best part of their case. It is all very well for the Resolutionists to attack an institution which has run successfully throughout the centuries, and to hold up a kind of dream thing which these young and budding Parliamentarians assure us is to be so very superior to that which we have hitherto enjoyed.

I think that would hardly be worthy of the English race, and it is scarcely to be expected that Scottish Members could accept such a well-intentioned scheme. I submit no case whatever has been made out against this great Mother of Parliaments. A case has been urged against the Grand Committee system. In the old days Home Rulers in Scotland were described by a very distinguished and facetious Scotsman as representing the odds and ends of the country, and they usually gave as an explanation for their demand that Scottish business could not get through here. Then we set up Grand Committees, and what is the complaint now? We are told that business is going through too quickly. I shall probably be told, "You cannot be in Grand Committee and in the House," but that is really a matter of the adjustment of hours. We are running but of work on the Scottish Committee, and that surely gives us time, if the hours are properly adjusted, to give all the attention we ought to give to this House. Therefore, I submit, so far as my experience goes, and I think I shall be endorsed in this remark by many other Scotsmen, that the Grand Committee system is working most satisfactorily. I have been reminded to-day of the Colonial analogy. Am I wrong in saying that the position of these Parliamentary institutions is the very best justification for leaving our Parliament undisturbed? Our Colonies are pursuing precisely the same line of development in their Parliamentary institutions as we have done here. The local Parliament has been superseded by the Dominion Parliament. I heard an hon. Friend opposite deplore the fact that the Dominion Parliament was sapping more and more the powers of the local Parliament.

Brigadier-General COCKERILL

I did not deplore it, but stated it to be the fact.


The Dominion Parliament is doing that in obedience to a natural law, and it is an excellent reason why we who have travelled the road of unity should not turn back. I say that Colonial development is following precisely the same lines as the old land has done. We are further ahead and that is only one way of saying that the mother is older than the child. It would be a retrograde step on our part to again break up the Union Parliament into several Parliaments. The next fallacy urged is that of the small nation. The hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Mackinder) was particularly anxious as a good Unionist to plead that these subordinate Parliaments should not be established on a national basis. I forget how many Parliaments he was going to have. I know that Ireland was to have two, and Scotland at least one, and England was to have many, until an English Member stepped forth to object, and rightly object, to the division of England. One section of Irishmen take exception to Ireland being mentioned in the Resolution at all, and another section of Irishmen, to show their profound regard of this big effort, stay out of the House altogether. Not one of the Nationalists has appeared in this House during the Debate. I only want to show how little impression has been made upon Irishmen, and but for the Irish case you would have heard nothing about devolution. Ireland's demand for Home Rule may be right or wrong, but you will never satisfy that demand by giving them this mixture of gas and water; and if we are to be tortured for Ireland, that is no reason why we should proceed to torture Scotland, and as a Scotsman I take the strongest possible exception to any disturbance of the present condition of unity. I will tell you why. You cannot create these subordinate Parliaments without creating a conflict of law. That means that you place obstacle after obstacle in the way of commerce, in Scotland, at the present time, where we are expending large sums on education, the humblest boy is educated till he is fifteen and later has to go to continuation classes until he is eighteen. Are you going to restrict that boy's opportunity, are you going to abridge his platform, by putting up these obstacles to commerce? I am surprised that Labour Members support devolution, having in view the sacrifices made by Scottish workers to give their sons an education. I know that we have so-called free education, but the Leader of the Labour party knows that it is a distinct misnomer, and he knows the sacrifices represented by the worker having to maintain his child at school. That boy at the finish has health, education, and the widest possible opportunity, and I say with conviction that the man who supports the establishment in Scotland of a separate Parliament is, consciously or unconsciously, restricting the opportunities of the worker's child. On that ground if on no other I would oppose this Resolution.

Another point urged was this, and it is one to which I gave the most marked attention. It is said that if we relieve this Parliament of Scottish business, English, Irish, and Welsh business, we shall make this Parliament more representative of the Empire. Did I think so, I should hesitate, despite the reasons I have already urged, to oppose this Resolution; but we should not do anything of the kind. You may evacuate from this Parliament all these local powers, all this English, Scottish, Welsh, and Irish business, and this Parliament will remain no more representative of Empire then than it is now. Your difficulty is a geographical difficulty, and I submit this thought for the consideration of Members, that in a House of Parliament elected solely by the electors of the "United Kingdom it is unwise to dwell too often or too long on matters particularly affecting your Dominions. If you had this Parliament freed of all these other duties, if you set this Parliament down to discuss nothing but Dominion affairs, then your Parliament, constituted as it is, would not in its work promote a greater cordiality with our great Dominions overseas. Your Dominions know that you cannot touch their business unduly, and, so long as this Parliament is constituted as it is, they do not wish you to interfere in their concerns unduly. On this topic we ought to remember what we sometimes forget, that democracy, like industry, is, after all, still very young, and not a little of our trouble is oftentimes due to our not recognising this.

Your real Parliament of the Empire will come some day. It will be evolved by the political genius of our race when the conditions are ripe, when democracy is more mature, when democracy is less suspicious, and then, in a clear atmosphere, you will discover your Empire Parliament, but not an Empire Parliament created on what you call a popular franchise. Your Empire Parliament can never come that way, and if you would have that day approach as quickly as possible, you dare not multiply Parliamentary institutions now. The more you multiply your Parliamentary institutions the more difficult do you make the realisation of this dream of a Parliament of Empire, because the more Parliamentary units you have to consult, in order to have the creation of that wider Parliament. That is, I submit, a thought that might be kept before this House. I am speaking as a Scotsman. I want to say I am qualified by a very full discussion on Home Rule by a strong industrial constituency in the centre of Scotland to state what I believe to be Scottish opinion on this subject. Speaking as a. Scotsman, I believe I can claim that my country has contributed no little to the strength of the Union. I can say she is very grateful for, and very conscious of, the strength she has secured from the Union,. Scotland has no need of a paper constitution. Her historical record is a fine proof of the great wisdom shown by these men in the past who made her take that tide which leads to unity. It is by taking that tide that Scotland has been so prosperous during the last 200 years, and now to-day, combining the soul of the clansman with the patriot's heart, it is the chief pride of her race to have dedicated both to the service of the Empire.


My right hon. Friend the Member for the Duncairn Division (Sir E. Carson) stated in the course of his speech that, in his opinion, this subject was the most important question which had come up for consideration in the House of Commons since the last election. I entirely agree with that statement of the position, for we are discussing here not only a possible means of Tendering this House more efficient, but we are also considering, at any rate indirectly, the means of eventually bringing about some form of Imperial federation which will be, in the hope of many of us, a result which eventually will come about. In regard to this particular Motion, and speaking upon it as I do, as representing an Ulster Constituency, I could not help noticing a marked difference between the manner in which it was approached by my hon. Friend who moved it and my hon. Friend who seconded it. The Mover approached this question primarily from the point of view of the necessity, which he considered to be a vital one, of delegating certain powers of this Parliament to subordinate Assemblies. He dealt equally and upon the same basis with Assemblies in different parts of the United Kingdom. The Seconder of the Motion, in the latter part of his speech at any rate, dealt not only with the matter from that point of view, but he went so far as to deal with it largely from the point of view of a possible Irish settlement. In regard to this he stated it as his opinion that Dominion Home Rule, while impossible of realisation at the present time, was not altogether inadmissible. He went further and said that he, at any rate, based his support of the Resolution on the fact that if you are to grant these subordinate Parliaments you must grant a Parliament to Ireland—the whole of that country, undivided and united.

That point of view is one which, I am glad to say, has not been substantiated or supported by other hon. Members. The First Lord of the Admiralty, who spoke for the Government, stated that he only approached this question in a spirit of great sympathy and support if, as a basis and a foundation of it, you admitted the possibility of dividing into subordinate Parliaments, quite irrespective of nationality, as it has been called, or whether you are dealing with England as a unit, or Scotland or Ireland, and of a division into, if necessary, much smaller units representing different interests in the various parts of the United Kingdom.

That aspect of the question was very ably dealt with in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for the Camlachie Division of Glasgow (Mr. Mackinder). I must say that I was in agreement with him when he said that you must deal with England—the great predominant partner, as it would be, in any scheme of Federal Devolution—not as one unit at all. He put forward what were to my mind most conclusive arguments in favour of dividing up England into different districts for the purpose of these subordinate Parliaments. If you admit that England may possibly be divided up into different Departments, you approach this question upon a basis, not of the Resolution as framed, that is to say a Parliament for England, a Parliament for Ireland, a Parliament for Scotland and possibly for Wales, but upon the basis that possibly there may be a number of smaller legis- lative assemblies not based upon nationality but upon the representation of different districts or different interests in the whole of the United Kingdom. We hear upon all sides now that the Irish question has got to be settled. If I thought that it was possible to settle the Irish question upon any basis of justice or equity I should certainly be in favour of it. It is a question that has led to difficulties in this country for many years past, and if it were possible really to settle the Irish question in the sense of putting an end to all the troubles and difficulties which have been created in that country, I myself, and I feel certain that those who think with me, would be the last to oppose any solution which would settle that question upon really equitable terms to all the parties concerned. In regard to this particular Motion, so far as it affects the Irish question, there is at least this to be said for it, that the idea which underlies it approaches the question from a different point of view to that from which it has been approached by Parliament in the past. It suggests as a solution for the Irish question, in conjunction with the general question of the Government of the United Kingdom, equal terms for all portions of the United Kingdom. That is not what was suggested in the Home Rule Bill. That has never been suggested before in this House as a solution of the Irish question. I regard a suggested solution of the Irish question which is based upon the same treatment for Ireland as for the rest of the United Kingdom in a very different light from that in which I regard a settlement based either upon the old Home, Rule schemes or upon the modern, fantastic and impossible ideas of Dominion Home Rule.

Notice taken that forty Members were not present; House counted; and forty Members being found present


When the count took place I was saying that I regarded this particular suggestion or a solution of the Irish question rather differently from the other solutions which have in the past been put forward, on the ground that it does provide for equal treatment for the different parts of the United Kingdom. That is a principle for which we Ulster Members have consistently and constantly done our best to secure in this House. We say that what is good for the rest of the kingdom is good enough for us, and, so far as a Resolution of this character would provide for different bodies in different parts of the United Kingdom not based upon national delimitation, and so far as the suggestion was applied equally to the United Kingdom as a whole I, for my part, should not be disposed to consider that it was by any means an impossible solution of the difficulties which face us. If you admit that, the absolutely necessary corollary is that in any Irish part of such a scheme Ulster would have to be a separate unit. The hon. Member for Stafford (Captain Ormsby-Gore) said that if you are going to solve the Irish question upon a basis of self-determination, that means and must always mean the division of that country into two different parts. I absolutely agree with that. We, in the North of Ireland, have always maintained and still do maintain that so far as we are concerned we are perfectly satisfied with the system of government which has served us so well in the past. Yet if, at the same time, you are going to introduce into the United Kingdom a different system of government by subordinate legislatures, then, although we do not ask for it, you must logically, equitably, and under any system of fairness, treat the two different parts of Ireland as two different units in the federal system of the United Kingdom. I do feel that that is a most vital and fundamental fact so far as Ireland is concerned in connection with this scheme which is proposed.

I think hon. Members must realise that the two different portions of Ireland, the Northern portion and the Southern and Western portions, are divided from each other by far larger and far more fundamental divisions than, for instance, Scotland is divided from England. There can be no question as to that. There is, of course, the great religious difference; there are differences with regard to all kinds of questions which we should like to see dealt with in quite a different way from what they would be dealt with by any Assembly which controlled the whole of Ireland. Take the education question, for instance. Upon the education question we should like to see much more popular control. Owing to religious differences and difficulties people from the other parts of Ireland do not like popular control. With regard to the licensing question, and with regard to the control of liquor traffic, we in the North of Ireland take quite a different view from that which is taken in the other parts of the country. We in the North of Ireland are in quite a different position from the rest of the country as regards the finance of the housing question. Our rates are not so great. It will be much easier to raise money for housing than it will be in other parts of the country. Take the question of local government. In many questions which affect the lives of our people every day and every week of the year there are fundamental differences between those who live in the North of Ireland and those who live in the other parts of the country.

I think it is now almost universally admitted that in any form of change that is to come about—whether by devolution or federalism or any other system, the only way in which you can equitably provide for an Irish settlement is by treating the two different parts of the country as two different units in the Federal system. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Duncairn stated that in his opinion devolution would not lead to separation. In so far as devolution would be an all-round system, I absolutely agree with him. If you have devolution by creating different Parliaments for all the different districts in the United Kingdom, treating all alike, I do not think it would lead to separation or have any tendency towards separation. There was a time when devolution, as it was called, was suggested as a solution of the Irish question. That was many years ago, when Mr. Wyndham was Chief Secretary. In those days the Irish Unionists, and none more vehemently than my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. Long), opposed devolution for Ireland with all the power at their command. Why was that so? We opposed evolution for Ireland in the days when Mr. Wyndham was Chief Secretary, first of all because it was a solution which was suggested for Ireland only, and there was no question of its being applied to any other parts of the United Kingdom. Therefore it was not on the same basis as the present proposal. Secondly, we opposed it because there was no suggestion of any separate treatment for the two different parts of Ireland which are in essence so [...]erent. Therefore now, although devolution in the limited sense was, I think, absolutely impossible and unsuitable as a solution of the Irish difficulty or of the difficulty of congested business in this House, I do feel, as the right hon. Member for the Duncairn Division said earlier in this Debate, that if it is to be examined by a Committee or Commission of this House, or of the two Houses, whichever it may be, it must be largely regarded in the light of events which have taken place since 1904 and 1905, when it was proposed only as a solution of the Irish question. And, of course, one cannot help feeling the difficulty of the congestion of business in this House, one cannot help feeling as a Member of this great Empire, that some new system of government of the Empire has got to come sooner or later. If this suggestion is in any way going to help the better, more efficient, and more united government of the Empire, at any rate it is worth some consideration. I most sincerely and honestly feel that this War has been worth winning if, as the result of it, and of the sacrifices which we and our fellow kinsmen in different parts of the Empire have made in it, some better system of government for this Empire can be evolved. I think that this Motion, although as it is worded I could not possibly vote for it, if it is going to help in the future government of the Empire upon lines which will enable the component parts of our Empire to be united in the general administration of the Empire, deserves most careful consideration, and this, I take it, the Government are prepared to give it. If that consideration is given to it I could not possibly support the recommendations which it might involve unless they dealt with the Irish part, which is, after all, one of the most important parts of this question, in such a way as to treat the two parts of the country as entirely separate and different units in this federal scheme. But even though I say that, I feel that, representing the North of Ireland, we are perfectly satisfied with the system under which we have hitherto been governed. This Motion, supported as far as it was by my right hon. Friend (Sir E. Carson), also has my support on its main principles so far as it is entirely confined within the limits which I have mentioned.

Motion made, and Question "That the Debate be now adjourned" (Mr. G. Thorne), put, and agreed to.

Debate to be resumed To-morrow.