Order read for resuming adjourned Debate on Question [3rd June].
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—
§ Question again proposed.
§ 4.0 P.M.
§ Sir DONALD MACLEAN
There was a very remarkable consensus of agreement in regard to the Motion before the House in the Debate which took place yesterday during the portion of it that I. heard, and the remaining portion I have since read. I do not think there can be any doubt that the reason for that consensus of agreement is to be found in the present experience of almost every hon. Member of the House of Commons now assembled. Our work has been more than doubled, in fact it is not any exaggeration to say it has been at least trebled, and what we have been trying to do is to meet the situation by triplicating ourselves. A very strong statement was made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Duncairn (Sir E. Carson) yesterday. I do not go quite so far as he does on this question, but what he said was:I believe that as things are at present (referring to the Grant Committee system) 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 they would be able to give no attention whatever to this House.Someone told me the story of the man who lost half an hour earlier in the day and spent the whole of the rest of the day in trying to catch it up. That is not an 2064 unfair description of hon. Members of this-House, and certainly Ministers will feel that it is a wholly accurate description of them. Let me give one little experience-of my own. I have been one of the chief sufferers because I have to attend in the House as much as possible, and I spend a great deal of time in the House, but it is imperative for me to attend at least two Committees which have been and are now sitting. What happened this morning in the Scottish Committee on Housing I We went through a very large amount of business, I do not say inefficiently, but I do say that the business we did there this-morning was not the kind of attention to the details of legislation which is at all likely to prevent subsequent litigation, and at no distant date fresh legislation. That Committee at this very moment is going on to-deal certainly with one of the most important parts of the measure—the new Clauses—and here we are discussing a Motion which very definitely relates to the question of legislation and the administration of Scottish affairs in a separate Legislative Assembly in Scotland. I admit at once that we are going through a time of great emergency and that, therefore, we must take emergency measures, but there is no doubt, if this system is to be pursued, that the authority of this House will be most seriously shaken. I do not hold the view, which some hon. Members do, that that authority is likely to be seriously shaken by the attempts that we are now making-to cope with a large mass of legislation. I am quite sure that the public will understand that it is an effort put out to meet a particular and special emergency. The cry for legislation is very clamant, or is supposed to be very clamant, but, personally, I do not know how far legislation is going to cure many of our social defects. As far as my recollection goes—I have not had an opportunity of refreshing it—there was one of the Greek Republics called Lockria which suffered very much from a great output of legislation. Subsequently an edict was issued somewhat to the effect that any legislator who proposed a new Bill should go out into the market place with a rope round his neck, and that any member of the public in that market place, if he objected to the piece of legislation attached to that particular senator, should be at liberty to pull it tight. My classical recollection probably wants some refreshing, but, at any rate, the opinion is now 2065 widely held that in that Republic legislation was afterwards very considerably restricted, and, if my right hon. Friend the junior Member for the City (Sir F. Ban-bury) were here, it is the sort of precedent that he would receive with enthusiastic approval.
What sort of chance have we in this House to supervise administration? What chance have we of real effective legislation? I do not think that there is very much doubt in the minds of most people that our present system requires drastic amendment. There is another point which I think appeals to us all, or, at any rate, to those who have been some considerable time in the House of Commons. Ministers are becoming much too highly specialised. The extreme point to which specialisation is driven, as far as Ministers and their Departments are concerned, inevitably tends to destroy to a very large extent one of the most important features of our Government, namely, the joint responsibility of those high officers of the State who constitute the Government for the time being. After all, what is one of their great functions? It is like the function of big men everywhere. After a while, after having gone through all the processes of experience, the great use of a man of long experience and high capacity is his power to decide things. Our Ministers, after all are not merely governing the United Kingdom; they are in a very special sense governing one-fifth of the globe. There are many decisions constantly necessary to be given with regard to even the most, self-governing of our Dominions, and, as regards India, that vast problem which is on our Empire's horizon to-day, and the Crown Colonies, I should say that every day of the official life of any Government great decisions have to be taken.
It all depends upon the atmosphere in which these decisions are taken whether they are likely to be well-thought out, sound, and judicial. In what kind of atmosphere are His Majesty's Ministers compelled to work? Of course, now is an exceptional time; but even in the piping times of peace it was an atmosphere which was wholly unsuitable to calm consideration and swift and necessary decision. Our system is a system of world-government. After all, that is what it comes to, because any decision by the British Cabinet on matters outside the United Kingdom nine times out of ten is a world decision. The atmosphere in which they have to work is quite unsuited for the 2066 right kind of decision being given. The marvel is that they are right so often. It reflects a very great deal of credit upon the traditional and almost the inherent capacity of this country for government that more mistakes have not been made. The difficulties are accumulating. What have we to look forward to? Have we to look forward to a state of things which is-going to be less complex or more complex? I have not the slightest doubt that it will be more complex at home, throughout our Dominions, and the world over, and it is high time that we put ourselves in order and in a fit condition to grapple with; these things. Of course, the British way is to wait until you are in trouble and then do your best to get out of it now much better it would be if we were to seek now, in the way which this Motion indicates, somes means of getting cur-selves ready to meet these tremendous problems which are already almost hard, pressing upon us.
The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. Long) yesterday made a point of great importance. "Our legislation," he said, "is becoming riot so much a matter of Statutes which appear on the Statute Book as of Regulations which are issued under them." That is profoundly true. There is the English Housing Bill which has just passed through this House, and there is the Scottish Housing Bill which is at present passing through the Committee stage. The most important parts of those measures are really in the Regulations. I know that it is emergency legislation, but what happened under the Military Service Act? My recollection of that Act is a pretty acute one. We passed the Statute here, but the Regulations under which all the tribunals had to work were the real thing, and they, of course, became a pure Departmental matter. It is inevitable and we cannot help it—under the system I do not see any other way of doing it, and I am not complaining about it—but every legislative week more power goes out of this House into the Departments. The power of bureaucracy steadily increases and the power and control of Members of Parliament over the Executive and the Departments steadily decreases. We have all pretty well come to the conclusion that that ought not to go on. Yesterday references were made to foreign systems. The United States, with a population of about 100,000,000, have forty-eight State Legislatures; Germany, with its 66,000,000, has 2067 twenty-six State Legislatures; Canada, with 8,000,000, has nine Provincial Legislatures; Australia, with 5,000,000, has six State Legislatures, and we, with 45,000,000 odd and an Empire covering one-fifth of the globe, have the whole of the burdens falling upon Parliament as we' know it to-day.
It is an interesting thing that where ever new Legislatures have been set up or administrative changes introduced, they have always been upon the plan which is indicated in the Motion now before the House. It is quite true that we have not grown up in that way. The essential difference is that we have not a Constitution superimposed upon us by Statute. The British Constitution is a thing which exists, like the British Common Law, and it develops and adapts itself from time to lime as need makes it apparent. The time has undoubtedly come for a change. I would, however, express the hope that, what ever may be done, there will be no attempt to superimpose a Statute which will bind the supreme Parliament as we know it. We should thereby break with the traditions of the past in a way which I, for one, would be extremely chary of attempting to do. There, at any rate, we have what we may call "modern experience," and in some way or other there is no doubt that we shall have to adjust our machinery to it. A good deal was said about Ireland. I may disappoint some hon. Members, but I feel bound to say that if anybody imagines that by a kind of Legislative Assembly which might be set up in York, Winchester, or Cardiff we are going to solve the Irish problem, he makes a big mistake. It is always better to face the facts. You have there a country which at present is held down by 40,000 add troops with artillery, with machine guns, and the whole paraphernalia of war. It is just like attempting to put out a City fire, by squirting rose water on it.
The problem is tremendous. It is not comparable at all with the devolution of domestic business from this House to minor legislative assemblies. This is not the time for a Home Rule Debate, but I may say in passing that this suggestion may be extremely useful and may tend to minimise the Irish problem by the process known as infiltration. But that takes a long time. The problem of Ireland is insistent and immediate, and I do not think 2068 it will wait for the procedure adumbrated in the Motion now before the House. Something must be done if we are going to maintain the authority of Parliament as was said by my hon. and learned Friend who moved the Motion yesterday in a speech to which we all listened with very great pleasure and profit. It was a plucky speech from his point of view, a speech marked by statesmanship. We must maintain the authority of Parliament. Very serious times are before us. Parliament is representative of all classes of society here to-day, in greater or lesser numbers. Some might be more adequately represented, but at any rate we are all here represented, and we shall get through the hard and difficult times almost precisely in proportion to the amount of moral authority which Parliament wields. I am sure with such a Motion as has been moved, seconded, and debated, if carried into effect and if an inquiry is immediately held, good results must come.
§ Mr. RONALD McNEILL
I must say I listened with a certain amount of disappointment to the speech of my right hon. Friend (Sir D. Maclean) because he told us at the outset that he had either heard or read the whole. Debate which took plane yesterday on this subject I thought therefore he would have been struck, as I have been, by what appeared to me to be serious omissions on the part of the supporters of this Resolution. I gathered he was going to supply those omissions. I am sorry he failed to do so. Let me point out in my opinion what the omissions were. This Resolution appears to me to contain in itself two propositions, both of which must be affirmed by those who are prepared to support it. The first of those propositions is that there is such a congestion of business, such an impossibility of carrying on under the present system that some change must be made. The second proposition is that, assuming that to be true, the best way—indeed, the only way—of making that change is that which is suggested in the Resolution. Having listened to the Debate or read those parts of it which I did not hear yesterday, like my right hon. Friend opposite, I am strongly of opinion that, although there were many speeches made in favour of this Resolution, not one single speaker, or any combination of speakers, really offered sufficient proof of either of those two propositions. Let me refer to the first about congestion. On that we really have had no practical evi- 2069 dence. We have had a certain amount of evidence, such as was given by my right hon. Friend just now with regard to his own experience—he felt he ought to be in the Scottish Committee upstairs and at the same moment ought to be in the House. One can understand there is in that evidence of incompleteness of procedure. But is it the permanent procedure of this House? I have never been led to believe that the present procedure of Grand Committees and the present rush of business to Grand Committees, is intended or likely to be a permanent feature Therefore, I do not think you can support a motion of this kind for making a far-reaching and revolutionary change in the constitution of the country merely because of the emergency which followed upon the War, and the great rush of legislation required in a very short time. For one Session, at all events, we are subjected to the inconvenience of which my right hon. Friend complains. We have had a certain amount of evidence of that sort, and we have had a great deal of eloquence as distinguished from evidence as to the impossibility of the present system of congestion. That is common knowledge. But I expected my right hon. Friend to have noticed that omission, and to have come prepared to tell the House what measure—I have been unable to find one—within the last few years, backed up and demanded by public opinion in the country, has been held up and failed to become law for want of time to carry it in this House. I have myself been trying to think of any practical measure of legislation proposed in the country, and undoubtedly backed up by the country, for which this House has been unable to find time to pass it into law.
What has been our experience during the last few years? Let me put to the House another line of argument. Take the last two Sessions of the last Parliament. I do not think the demands on the time of the House were any less during the War, for great masses of emergency legislation were put forward, and there certainly was as much occasion for inquiry into, and criticism of, the administration of the War; there was as much demand in every way on the time of the House as there is likely to be in the near future. Yet what was our experience? Week after week and month after month the House never sat on a Friday at all. There was a Sessional Order. I believe, that the House should not sit on Fridays unless 2070 otherwise determined. It was also a common experience that whereas the normal time for the sitting of the House was until eleven o'clock it constantly rose between 7.30 and 8. The working time of the House, I venture to affirm, during the last three or four years of the last Parliament was not anything like used to its fullest extent. What is our experience during the present Session?
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
My hon. and learned Friend must surely carry in his mind that there was a condition of war.
§ Mr. R. McNEILL
I began by saying that the condition of war, if anything, added to the burden which this House had to bear in regard to legislation, and that the amount of criticism of administration was equally full. But what is our experience this very Session, which has in a few months produced this Resolution? I have not made inquiry into statistics, but day after day the House, has been up at seven or eight o'clock, there has never been a full week's sitting such as we were accustomed to in old times, sitting on till eleven o'clock each evening, with an occasional suspension of the Eleven o'Clock Rule, and an occasional all-night sitting. We have not had any such experience. We have been going extremely leisurely during the present Session.
§ Mr. R. McNEILL
My right hon. Friend is very pleased to refer to the by-elections, but if I may use a homely phrase I think he is rather bucking himself up too much about them. At any rate we who disagree with him have nothing to fear on that score. I want to point out further that if there was a circumstance to band to disprove the whole case for this proposed congestion of work in the House of Commons it is to be found in the fact that at this time, the most important part of the Session, when as a rule in the past we have found the Government beginning to take all the time of the House, and to reckon up almost hour by hour whether they will be able to get their programme through by the end of the Session—at such a time as this the Government have actually thrown away two days of Parliamentary time to discuss a private Resolution of this sort, upon which they announce they are going to take no action at all. Not only that, but even on the first day, notwithstanding a very carefully elaborated claque on the 2071 part of the newspapers, which declared that this Motion was going to excite an immense amount of public interest, even on the first day of the Debate twice had the bells to be set ringing in order to get a quorum into this House. The suggestion cannot be that this was due to the sitting of Grand Committees. That yesterday had nothing to do with the attendance in this House, which was just as meagre during the last two years as it has been in this Session, and there were no Grand Committees sitting upstairs last year. Yet everyone, I am sure, including my right hon. Friend the Member for the Spen Valley (Sir T. P. Whittaker), who I believe is going to speak on this Motion, will not controvert that point, that in the last Parliament the House was quite as sparsely attended as it is to-day, when the whole blame for the state of affairs is now being put—wrongly and unjustly, as I think—on the sittings of the Grand Committees.
My right hon. Friend the leader of the Liberal wing of the Gemini said just now that one of the results of this terrible congestion of business was that our legislation is now being carried on so much by rules find regulations. In that he was following my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty, who said the same thing yesterday. He also referred to legislation by Orders in Council. I entirely agree with my two right hon. Friends in the view they take of that manner of drafting Bills, but neither of them attempted to show—and, indeed, I think neither could have shown that want of time in this House has anything in the world to do with legislation by rules and regulations or by Orders in Council. The reason is mainly that the Departments who require these Bills desire to have greater elasticity in the application of them. At any rate, it has nothing to do with any limitation of time at the disposal of the House of Commons. Tomorrow the House is going to be asked to consider a Bill entirely changing the whole government of India. That Bill is a mere frame of black canvas into which the whole picture is to be painted by rules and regulations, and that is not because there is no time in this House to discuss it. Why did not the Government put down the Second Reading of the Government of India Bill for the two days we have been wasting our time over this Resolution? It is not want of time. The 2072 Secretary of State for India has accompanied the Bill by a memorandum in which he defends the principles embodied in it, and explains the reasons for the procedure adopted in incorporating into the Bill a great number of rules and regulations with power to make them.
Therefore that particular criticism as to our present methods of legislation has nothing to do with the subject. The First Lord of the Admiralty and some other hon. Members have made a great point of the alleged decline in the prestige of Parliament. They say that that decline is entirely due to the supposed fact that we have not time to get through our work. There, again, no evidence whatsoever, beyond mere eloquence and assertion, has been offered in support of that proposition. I do not believe that has anything to do with it. I believe there has been a decline in the prestige of Parliament, but I should attribute it to very different causes indeed. This would not be the occasion to do more than intimate the sort of things which have brought it about. Nothing has done so much to bring about the decline in the prestige of Parliament as the fact that we are now the paid servants instead of the honorary servants of the public. The payment of Members has done much to destroy the prestige of Parliament in the eyes of the public outside. I agree that that is merely a matter of opinion and I am not prepared at the moment to do more than offer that as my opinion. There is as much evidence for it as has been offered for the statement that it is due to the lack of time.
Another matter that has very largely affected the prestige of Parliament is the increasing power asserted by the Ministry of the day. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Yes, but that, again, has nothing whatever to do with the amount of time. I believe that what we are doing now with regard to putting on the Government Whips is absolutely unnecessary. Heaps of Bills are brought in. Take one which is fresh in my mind, the Local Government Bill for Ireland altering the methods of elections in that country. It was not supported by any of the Irish parties. That is neither here nor there. The point is, especially as it was not demanded by any of the Irish parties, that the Government might well have left it to the decision of the House. A great number of the Bills brought in might so be left to the decision of the House. But when every measure, great and small, brought in, it goes out 2073 to all the Members of the House that it is a matter of confidence in the Government, and they feel bound either to go in and vote behind the Government Whips or in the Government Lobby, otherwise they would destroy the Government of the day. That destroys all initiative on the part of the private Members. Members stay outside in the other precincts rather than in the Chamber. There is no inducement to listen to the arguments. It is no use having any cant about these matters. In ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, Members who are supporters of the Government, even with the present large majority, are not prepared to vote against the Government. That is owing to the way in which they are dragooned in order to support measures which ought never to be made matters of confidence in the Government. It is that, and not any want of time or anything to do with the Grand Committees upstairs, which has destroyed the interest of private Members in the proceedings in the House, and, in consequence, the interest and respect of the public outside in the proceedings that go on here. I would like to ask the supporters of this Resolution, who have based so much of their case upon the work of the Grand Committees, how the actual procedure of the House during this Session would have been altered and affected supposing that these subordinate- legislatures called for in the Resolution were already in existence. The great Bills which are being considered upstairs, would they or would they not be still considered in this Parliament, or would they be delegated to some subordinate legislature? Not one single hon. Member who has supported the Resolution up to now has thought it worth while to refer to that point, yet it is one of vital importance.
Mr. MURRAY MACDONALD
The terms of the Resolution provide that wherever there are differences in law the subject of the law goes to the subordinate Parliament, whereas now we are legislating for England, Scotland, and Ireland in separate matters of legislation.
§ Mr. McNEILL
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman, but he does not in the least degree relieve me of the difficulty. Take one of the great Bills on which Parliament has been engaged—the Bill for setting up a Health Ministry. Take another one—perhaps it is a stronger one in support of my point—the Bill for setting up a Ministry of Transport. Those 2074 measures have been recommended to the House especially on the ground that they cover a great national field of reform. Take even matters such as the right hon. Gentleman has just alluded to, where there are minor differences of law and possibly of administration in England, Scotland, and Ireland respectively. Take education. If you are going to deal with education, I imagine that the right hon. Gentleman who seconded this Resolution would say that education obviously is a matter which must be dealt with by each of the several local legislatures. There might be other subjects. What would he say about those I have already mentioned, transport, housing, and health?
§ Mr. McNEILL
Even under those Bills where you could divide them among the several legislatures as regards administration, they must all rest upon a common finance. These are practical matters which the supporters of the Resolution have apparently thought entirely beneath their notice. I want to know assuming that these legislatures were set up, what financial delimitation is it proposed should be set up as regards the taxing authority as between this Parliament and an English Parliament, a Scottish Parliament and an Irish Parliament? We had sufficient difficulties, heaven knows, when we were discussing Home Rule for Ireland. There would be the difficulties of finance when you have set up, say, in England, first of all a taxing authority in this House dealing with Imperial subjects, whatever they may be, and then you would have an English Parliament which, as my hon. Friend for Camlachie (Mr. Mackinder) said in his excellent speech yesterday, scarcely, if at all inferior to this Parliament. What taxing authority is that Parliament going to have? You are going to have in any county or borough in England three large separate taxing authorities—the Imperial Parliament, the English Parliament, and the local rating authority. I will not say that the demarcation of those various taxing authorities passes the wit of man, but I do say when right hon. and hon. Members propose a Resolution to this House that that is a fundamental difficulty with which they ought to deal, and they ought not to ask this House to pass a Resolution of this sort, airily saying that the whole method of government of this country is to be upset, without offering for the con- 2075 sideration of the House one single particle of evidence as to how the financial difficulty is to be met. How do the supporters of this Resolution define what is imperial finance, what is national finance, and what is local finance? Have they in their own minds any clear idea of the demarcation between these three? If they have, they ought to have given them to the House before now.
I want to turn to another aspect of the question. We have been told in many speeches that one of the great objects of this so-called reform is that this House should be more free to consider foreign and Imperial affairs. That is very desirable, but there, again, up to now that case rests upon generalities. No hon. Member has told us exactly in what way we are to take part, for instance, in Imperial affairs. The greater part of our Empire is now self-governed. There are very few matters in relation to the government of the Empire, outside India and the Crown Colonies, in which this House is entitled to interfere in any way at all, and it would be very much resented if it did. So that apart from proposals for uniting the Empire and some new method of federation which may come along in the future, there really is nothing, so far as I can see, in regard to which this House is called upon to give very much of its time to the consideration of the affairs of the Dominions. With regard to foreign affairs I agree that it might be to our advantage if the House took more notice of them. But how much? What are the opportunities? You may have a set Debate on foreign affairs from time to time. You may have a reduction moved in a salary of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and have a general Debate on foreign affairs. There may be from time to time—no doubt there are—occasions when some diplomatic instrument might very usefully be criticised in this House. But it would be idle to suggest that the discussion and criticism of foreign affairs is a matter which need occupy so large a portion of the attention and time of the House that in order to procure that time it is necessary to make such a far-reaching change as is now proposed.
With regard to the second of the two propositions I mentioned as underlying this Resolution, I do not think, for the reasons I have endeavoured to give, that the slightest proof has been given that the time of this House is so very much overloaded that 2076 it is incompetent to deal with its legitimate business, but assuming it has been proved, the next question is, is the method proposed in the Resolution not only the best but the only way of dealing with that difficulty? I regret that this Resolution is drawn in such narrow terms. If it had merely said that the time has come for the creation of subordinate Legislatures within the United Kingdom and to that end an Inquiry should be set up as to how it should be done, there would have been a great deal to say for it. But all methods are excluded by those who vote for this Resolution with one exception, because this Resolution provides for the appointment of a Parliamentary body to consider and report upon what?A Parliamentary body to consider and report (1) upon a measure of Federal Devolution applicable to England, Scotland and Ireland.Therefore, the only method which, according to this Resolution, is open for inquiry is the method of three subordinate Parliaments. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I think that is so. It is quite true that an Amendment was put down by one of my hon. Friends yesterday, but it was not moved, and no Amendment up to now has been moved. Whatever hon. Members may think, in my view if the Resolution were carried as it now stands, the only Inquiry possible would be the method by which you would set up these three subordinate Parliaments.
There are two alternative methods of relieving this House, neither of which would I myself advocate, but both of which I think are better than the one proposed. The first is this: My right hon. Friend (Mr. Long) concluded his speech yesterday by offering a pious hope that we have often, heard before, and that many of us share, that some day or other there may be a great super-Parliament, in which there may be representatives of the Dominions of the Crown overseas. I share that hope, though it is still rather a dream. But, if that is to be done, it will not and cannot, in my opinion, be done by relieving this House of some of its more local functions and then inviting representatives of the Dominions to sit in this House. If you are going to do anything of this sort at all, the proper thing to do is to maintain the present Parliament in its present position and with its present functions so far as the United Kingdom is concerned, and to erect a separate and distinct body, whether you call it a Parliament or an Imperial Council, or anything 2077 else, not subordinate to this Parliament in the sense of the Resolution, but a separate Council or body charged with the consideration of Imperial matters, representatives, if you like, of the Dominions sitting in it, and also in charge of foreign affairs, matters connected with the government of India, and so forth. That is the true federal principle. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir D. Maclean), as I thought, inadequately explained some facts which he had in his mind with regard to the Dominions. There has never been an example of federation anywhere which operated by devolution. Every federal constitution in the world has been an attempt at greater centralisation and greater unity than previously existed. In Canada, Australia, South Africa, Germany, and the United States, it was because there had grown up in a haphazard way sovereign States which desired to draw together into a greater unity and greater centralisation and who were not willing to give up the whole of that sovereignty although that was done in the case of South Africa, and, as the next best thing, as they could not bring about an organic unity, they brought about a federal constitution. Federalism is always a drawing together towards unity. You are now trying to use the same method, not for centralisation but for disintegration. I do not say by any means that the fact that there is no precedent for it is a fatal objection, but as there has been no example of federalism brought about in that manner certainly it is rather illegitimate to call in aid examples of federalism elsewhere in the world for doing something in a totally different direction, and therefore, if you are going to do this at all, do it by the true federal principle, by conferring powers upon some federal Parliament which you may set up, which will be charged with the federal interests of the whole Empire and of foreign affairs.
But there is another way in which it might be done, which I also think is a better alternative. My hon. Friend (Mr. Mackinder) pointed out yesterday what is I think, profoundly true, that you never can get successful working federation in this country if you have a tremendous discrepancy in power, volume, population and wealth between the different units that form the federation. Therefore he suggested the division of England, the predominant party. Our British habit has 2078 been to proceed by analogy from our own Constitution. If you want to get, as I think you must get, considerably smaller units than England, Ireland and Scotland, why not proceed upon the analogy of what is done when there has been congestion, in the Law Courts? When you find the business of the Courts is so overloaded that they cannot get through their work, you do not set up provisional Courts, you confer greater jurisdiction on the County Courts. You have an administrative council in every county in the country. If you want to get rid of some of the businesses of the House why not give legislative power to the county councils? Hon. Members smile at the suggestion. They are welcome to do that because we smile at theirs, and the smile is equal, but I shall be interested to hear why it is utterly ridiculous and absurd to give legislative powers to such bodies as the London County Council, or associations of county councils if you like, while it is perfectly natural in the opinion of some hon. Members to set up new legislative authorities for these different component parts of the United Kingdom.
My hon. Friend (Mr. Mackinder) pointed out the very real danger, if this Resolution were acted upon, of having two authorities existing side by side so nearly equal in power that you might find the authority of one insufficient to control the authority of the other. My hon. Friend gave some illustrations. He might have given an illustration which has often been mentioned and which is very relevant, because it introduces that side of this question which is concerned with Ireland. One of the main reasons why the Irish Parliament of the eighteenth century was done away with was because it was found by Mr. Pitt that on important questions, such as the Regency question for example, it took up an attitude at variance with that of this Parliament, and it was felt that the danger arising from a. conflict of attitude between the two Parliaments was a very great danger to the country as a whole, and especially at a time when war was going on. The same thing might and would happen in this country on all sorts of matters, and if we were at war the danger would be supreme if this Parliament was taking up one line and the English Parliament, to say nothing of the Scottish and the Irish, began passing Resolutions hostile to the policy of the Government. It would be a desperate and fatal danger, and although it 2079 might not be so dangerous in connection with other matters than war, it would be certainly inconvenient and would be very likely to bring the Government of the country to an impasse altogether.
I was glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman (Sir D. Maclean) say this Resolution and the policy founded upon it, whatever else it might or might not do, would offer no solution whatever of the Irish question. But we should never have heard of it if it had not been that it was hoped that it might produce a solution of the Irish question. This is not a new policy. It is called by a new name but that is all. This Resolution is what a few years ago was known as Home Rule all round, and the only reason why Home Rule all round was ever heard of was because it was thought by the supporters of Irish Home Rule that it might be a way out of the difficulty, and that the strong objection which at that time was being taken, and is still taken, in this country to Irish Home Rule might to a certain extent be masked by a proposal for having the same thing all round. But the right hon. Gentleman and I agree that, at all events, that, is no solution to the Irish question to-day, and that is amply confirmed by the fact that throughout the Debate—a Debate on a Resolution which actually proposes to set up a Parliament in Ireland—not one of the Nationalist Members even thought it worth while to come into the House. It would have been inconceivable a few years ago, or even last year, that such a Motion should be put on the Paper and not a single Nationalist Member think it worth while to come to the House. We are all agreed—the Nationalists by staying away—that this offers no sort of solution to the Irish question.
But I do not think the matter ends there. Although it offers no solution to the Irish question, it still remains a policy which the outside public undoubtedly connect in their own mind with the old Irish controversy, and therefore I think this Resolution, ought to be taken very seriously. Even the subject of Home Rule for Ireland has never been accepted by the constituencies, with the possible partial exception of 1892, which was speedily and emphatically reversed a few years later. The policy of Home Rule all round has never been put before the constituencies, still less has it been accepted by them, and although, of course, 2080 it is true that a question of this sort was not considered of any importance as an issue at the last election, nevertheless it is a fact that the present House of Commons consists of a majority of Members who call themselves members of the Unionist party. They were elected as Unionists; they bear the label of Unionists; they have been very much reproached in some quarters for having what was called the coupon of Unionists. But at all events, whether it is a label or a coupon, whether they like it or do not like it, it is attached to them not only by their opponents but by their friends and by the constituencies. I hope a House of Commons with such a majority, with such a label, and with such traditions, will not signalise the first three or four months of its existence by voting for a Resolution which, although it is easy to turn it aside by saying it is mere inquiry, will, nevertheless, be taken by the country outside as an admission by this House of Commons that it accepts the proposition that you must have subordinate Legislatures set up in this country. That is a Motion which no Unionist without very mature and careful thought ought to accept, and I earnestly hope that those who have been elected will bear in mind the speech of the hon. Member (Mr. Kidd) yesterday, who said, I believe quite truly, that the majority in Scotland has no desire whatever for a policy of this sort, and I believe it is the same in England; and I most earnestly hope the present House of Commons will be very careful before it supports a Resolution of this kind, and, on the contrary, will show a large majority in the Lobby against it.
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Mr. T. A. LEWIS
In rising to address the House for the second time I hope I may be able to claim that I have not exhausted its indulgence, and that I may ask for a continuance of that indulgence. I wish to say a few words from the point of view of the Principality to which I belong. It is rather suggested in the phraseology of the Motion that Wales stands on a somewhat different footing in this connection from Ireland, Scotland and England. On the other hand, we hold that so far from that being the case that if anything our claim is an older one, a better defined one, and altogether from every point of view a stronger one than can be urged by any other part of the British Isles. It is quite true that in the past, particularly in 2081 this House, we have not made our claim so pressingly and so vocally as has been the case with other sections. But I do not think that importunity or the power to use one's voice is always a synonym for one's desserts and the justice of one's cause. This Motion does not approach the problem along the best, the highest or the firmest grounds. I am not content to approach this very big question on the mere ground of expediency of administration and of governmental procedure.
From our point of view we would like to press this question on the impregnable and indefensible ground of the unquenchable nationality which exists not only among us, but among all the nationalities which comprise these islands. I am not at all content that this discussion should come to an end merely by arguing on the ground of expediency and of procedure in this He-use. If one may make an historical allusion, I think Shakespeare would be very much saddened if he knew that the power which he gave to Glendower to "call up spirits from the vasty deep" could be used to press an unwilling House of Commons not to work too hard those Members who happen to be sitting on so many Grand Committees. If this question is not approached in a bigger, a higher and more ancient spirit than has been urged several times in this Debate, I am afraid that the success of it will not be commensurate with the anticipations of many hon. Members. I know there are considerations applying to England which do not apply to Ireland, and perhaps do not apply to Scotland. It has been rather interesting to me as somewhat of an outsider to hear English Members using language and arguments which must be new even to their own ears. In the past we who live on the fringes of this country have had to listen to a great deal of bantering and sometimes worse on the part of English Members because of our supposed inveterate divisiveness, and we shall watch with something of interest and sympathy some of their incipient tortures at seeing the approaching dismemberment of their country.
The demand for Home Rule in Wales is not made for selfish reasons. We ask for it not only for the sake of the Principality itself, but also for the sake of the indirect good that would accrue to the British Isles and we hope the Empire from it. I think we have satisfied all the tests of self-determination, and that we have satisfied every postulate of representative govern- 2082 ment in the past. We have made a united demand in this House and out of it for a large number of years, and I would ask then, what possible reason can there be for delaying the grant to us of self-government until the rest of the British Isles has been brought to a similar frame of mind? Surely nobody imagines that we have anything in the nature of an Ulster in the Principality. I do not think anyone would urge that we cannot manage our own affairs. The most prejudiced will admit that during the War we have made in more than one case a contribution of men who have given outstanding service to the Empire in its time of need, and I have no reason to believe that the stock has not been exhausted. Further than that, I do not think anybody would suggest that from our quarter there is any fear of ultimate separation. Anyone who travels that way will know that Off as Dyke has been levelled with the ground for a very long time, and I do not think in any scheme of reconstruction if is intended to rebuild it in the future.
The two main tendencies in the world at the moment are towards internationalism and nationalism. Some people may say that these tendencies arc inconsistent and incompatible, but I do not think they are. They are complementary. Internationalism, whether you look at it in the form of the League of Nations or the Socialist International, means, so far 'as I understand it, the establishment in all countries of a minimum standard of life, the establishment of a minimum wage, a maximum working week, and a minimum standard of comfort for all peoples. I do not imagine that internationalism in any form, from whatever quarter it emanates, seeks to weaken, and certainly not obliterate, in any way racial or nationalistic distinctions. The Peace Conference at Paris has set up the League of Nations, which is international, and has given its sanction to the creation and establishment of a very large number of entirely new nations on the Continent of Europe. The question of establishing shorter hours of labour, minimum conditions of comfort in all nations, may solve one problem, but it opens up another very vital problem, and it is this—the shorter you make the hours of work the longer you make the hours of leisure. It is quite easy to legislate and to say how long the working hours shall be and how much shall be paid, and what the conditions of life shall be. It is quite easy to stereotype these 2083 things, and the iron necessities of our industrial system leave very little play for individuality. To me, a far greater problem is this—that as you diminish the hours of work and increase the hours of leisure, what provision are you going to make to help the people of the world in their various nationalities to employ their leisure hours to the best advantage of the community at large? Here is a great problem for the future, and to the extent that it is solved will be measured the quality and the value of the contribution that the different nationalities can make to the progress of real civilisation.
I am firmly of opinion that if we approach the question of Home Rule from this standpoint a little more frequently we shall come to the conclusion that the world will gain immeasurably by the intensive cultivation of all that is best and most distinctive in the life of any nationality, however small it may be. Devolution to us as a small people, has never meant a question of machinery and administration. I entirely repudiate that view, much as it was emphasised from the Front Bench opposite. To us it means the only possible way in which a nation can make its maximum contribution to the material and the spiritual necessities not only of itself, but of the great community of which it forms a part. The Government of the future will be more entirely than it has ever been before in the hands of the common people in every country. They have the political power in their hands, and they will exercise it progressively as time goes on. The future lies with those countries and those peoples, and, indeed, with that country which can produce the most enlightened, the most self-controlled, and, if I may use the phrase, the most uncommon common people. I would like to make a claim for my own countrymen in this connection. We have the materials and the conditions for giving to the world as fine, as rich, as complete an example of a pure democracy as this world has seen, at any rate since the days of ancient Greece.
Owing to historical causes, into which I need not enter, there is less class feeling in Wales than in any other country I have ever read of. I will not go into the historical causes, because that might involve a great many of the ancestors of many hon. Members in this House, but in days gone by, by a judicious mixture of Bolshevism and proselytism, they took care to destroy 2084 the greater part of our upper classes, while another part was Anglicised, so that they no longer counted as of ourselves. The result has been that we went into the wilderness of neglect, ignorance, and superstition for a period of much more than forty years, and when the renaissance came it did not come from this House—much as this House was held up by an enthusiastic Englishman yesterday as a source of all that is good and lasting in these islands, but it came—and I say it with pride and without the slightest fear of contradiction from anyone who has taken the trouble to look at the records—in a curious and unique way from the common people themselves. All that we have to-day in the shape of education, religion, literature, and politics even, has found its inspiration from among the ranks of the common people, and all the great leaders whose names we revere and which are household words throughout the length and breadth of the Principality were and are men who started life in the lowest possible circumstances. Therefore, we may look forward to the future with hope, because we have already a civilisation that is very broad-based, and broad-based on the people's will in the best sense. The result is that there is a distinctive culture amongst the people which is not surpassed in these islands, and nowhere else that I know of. It is a culture which is symbolised by the peculiar traditions and institutions which are very dear to the hearts of all sections in our country. It is our cultural contribution to the life of the Empire.
Of late years a great deal of the odium which has attached to industrial unrest in our country has been due to the fact that agitators, who came very largely from outside, have come down amongst us because they found that there was a greater responsiveness to new ideas owing to this training than in any other part of the British Isles. We would like Home Rule in order that we may so put our industrial house in order, that we may deal with these, I will not say aliens, but these outsiders, who come to exploit and take advantage of the culture and responsiveness of our people—a culture which was never meant to be prostituted in this way. The other day there was an inquiry held into the best methods for the conservation of the resourses of this Empire. I would respectfully urge that in considering this very large question we should bear in mind that the very best pos- 2085 sible resources of this Empire and of this country are contained in the distinctive. and highest characteristics that belong to the various constituent nationalities of the British Isles and of the Empire. These constituent nationalities, during the last five years, have given of their best blood and manhood in all the great theatres of war in the defence of civilisation, and all I ask now is that you should give them a chance, by the extension of self-government, for that self-development which would enable them to bring to the common treasury of the race a cultural contribution second to that of no other land.
§ Mr. F. C. THOMSON
I desire to say a few words from the point of view of Scotland. As a Unionist, I support this Motion whole-heartedly, because I think it points to a solution by way of conference that had the happiest results in the conference that preceded it and settled the many thorny questions which beset the franchise. That is of happy augury. If this most difficult problem that in the past aroused much hostility on one side or the other could be settled with a large measure of common agreement, it is surely by the method of conference, with people of extreme views on one side or the other, and with the great mass of the people holding & middle view, that this question would be solved more satisfactorily than by any other method I listened with much interest to the hon. Member for the St. Augustine's Division. As a new Member, I speak with some diffidence with regard to conditions in this House, but it seems to me that there is a great deal of pressure on the time of Members of this House. The hon. Member said that the House dealt with the question of general affairs, foreign affairs, and Imperial affairs, and asked what more was wanted. It seems to me, as the last speaker pointed out, that more and more the great mass of the people are taking an interest in these Imperial and foreign affairs, and we cannot carry on in this country unless we have the great mass of opinion behind us; and, therefore, questions such as India and Egypt ought to be debated in this House with much greater fullness and receive much more attention than they do.
Our system of government in these countries has a splendid record, but is capable of great improvement. We go on from stage to stage, and it is well that these things should be thrashed out fully, and the public instructed as far as possible. 2086 This is of great importance, and would save us many blunders in the future. Our position is unique in history. We are a great democratic country, carrying on the government of an Empire of different races and creeds all the world over, and we want that our democracy should be as instructed as possible to follow what goes on; and it seems to me that in present conditions, when so much of the time of the House is taken up with domestic matters, that that is very difficult. A great deal has been said about foreign affairs, and the events of the last few years have shown that it is very dangerous indeed for a country like ours to relegate foreign affairs to an occasional discussion on the salary of the Foreign Ministers. I do not think that people will be satisfied with that in the future. As the Mover of the Motion pointed out yesterday, the people realise thoroughly now that foreign policy may land the country into a war. Therefore, they want to know exactly in what way the policy of the country is tending. In the days before the War we were content to leave that all alone. Then we found ourselves suddenly landed into this dreadful impasse, this dreadful struggle of the last four years. People now want to understand which way the country is governed. I think that if we had a well-informed public opinion, based on this House, and a general interest in these matters, the rather tragic failures to grasp the situation with regard to Eastern Europe, the position of Austria-Hungary, and as regards Germany, and other crucial questions on which the people were in the completest ignorance, might have been largely avoided, by a fuller interest in foreign affairs and more frequent opportunities of dealing with these questions and getting from Ministers what was the policy of the country, and whither it was tending. There was nothing of that, and there is a very great danger if we find ourselves in the future in a situation for which we were not prepared and for which we had in no way looked.
I was very much struck yesterday by the remarks of an hon. Member who pointed out, quite truly, that in the years before the War there was less interest taken in foreign questions than in Palmerston's time, and there was less interest in Palmerston's time than in the Napoleonic era; so that instead of having progressed in interest in this matter, we have gone back. We cannot have Parliament performing adequately its 2087 great functions it that state of affairs continues. It is by the devolution of a largo amount of domestic business from this House that we shall come to a solution of our problem. The Mover of the Motion referred to the division of business which might result from the adoption of this proposal. Defence has always been appropriated to this House. Then he said, quite truly, that such matters as education and local government would fall probably to the different assemblies in other countries. He said also that industrial questions would be a matter for delegation. I myself strongly deprecate any delegation or devolution of industrial questions from this House. I think that this House—and I am sure the Labour Members will agree with this view—would require to keep a firm grip of these things. Education, local government, licences, and matter such as housing, which have been taking up all our time in this House or in the Committees, might well be dealt with in the different countries.
We have not at the present moment a fully unitary constitution. No one wants to go back on the Union of 1707, which, I think, was a very good thing for my country. My country has contributed her full share, and on the other hand has benefited from that Union. If I thought that this Motion in the slightest degree would lead to any such thing, I would oppose it absolutely. Anything that would set Scotland against England or England against Scotland would be a crime against both. But it is because this Motion has nothing whatever of that in its nature that I support it heartily. After 1907, for many years in the eighteenth century, we had a separate Scottish Secretary. That was given up for a long time, and Scottish affairs were carried on more or less under the supervision of the Home Office. But thirty years ago the Secretary ship of Scotland was instituted, and we have had an absolutely separate Scottish administration since. We have always had separate Education Acts. The Scottish system is different. The people are attached to it. Therefore it is not as if we had a completely unitary constitution and started to break it up, but we want to keep local Scottish matters to be dealt with by Scotland on Scottish soil, and in that view there is nothing in anyway contrary to the essentials of complete unity between England and Scotland. After all, it comes to this, that under the present system you have Scottish business 2088 considered here or in Grand Committees, practically only by Scottish Members, as it is the Scottish Members who attend. In one sense practically Scottish Members are regulating Scottish affairs, but I maintain that you are asking the same set of individuals to do two things. You are asking them to take their part in Imperial questions, and at the same time to deal with these local matters which can be dealt with better by another set of men in the country concerned. If that were done the saving of time to the Imperial Parliament would be immense.
§ Mr. THOMSON
I am hopeful that the time which is spent here is of some benefit. This Motion is one which promises great benefit, and I would like to see it passed by a large majority. My hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Kidd) spoke last night about the great advance made in Scotland in recent years and the education that is given there up to the age of eighteen, and asked, "Are you going to shut up in Scotland these young Scotsmen who have been afforded such great opportunities? Are you going to parochialise them?" I answer, "Not for one moment." If I thought it meant anything of the kind I would not support the Motion. But it seems to me that while preserving an absolutely full union certain local matters with regard to Scotland can be dealt with better on Scottish soil, and for that reason I support the Motion.
§ Mr. CLYNES
Those who brought this Motion before the House must be gratified by the degree of support which it has received from all quarters, and I take this opportunity of associating the Labour Members of the House with the terms of the Resolution. There are many aspects of it which cannot be disintegrated in Debate and which could be more fittingly handed over to the Parliamentary body referred to in this Motion which it is suggested should be appointed by the Government. A great many of the best pieces of legislation during the period of the War resulted from Reports that became the subject of almost unanimous agreement on the part of Members of the House delegated to report on highly controversial questions. Perhaps the greatest instance of severance which we have was that which resulted in the almost unanimous passing by this House of the Reform Act. Mem- 2089 bers will recall how highly controversial, almost to the point of total inability to secure anything like a measure of agreement, were many of those points which afterwards did become the subject of agreement when dealt with by practically such a body as that which is suggested in this Motion should be appointed to deal with this question of devolution. I, therefore, want to leave to that body, if it be appointed, the discussion and due consideration of these points of detail, and meantime to adduce a few principal reasons for supporting this Motion. With the great growth in the population of the country there has been an even greater growth in the number of questions and the variety of interests which this House has had to take into consideration, and although periodically in the Press we sue something to the effect that this House is losing its influence and that the country is paying little regard to what it does, any such loss, if it has ever been apparent, has not been real, and the House can very soon recover any loss which it might temporarily have suffered.
This House is the great Court of Appeal for all questions that matter very greatly to the masses of the community, but the increase in the number and variety of questions has proved to the average Member of this House that it is physically impossible for even the strongest men to keep pace with the weekly growth of subjects. We have a very inquisitive public, altered in many respects in relation to Parliamentary matters. This House cannot go on generation after generation increasing the authority of the people in relation to politics and matters of government without finding a corresponding increase in the general weight and burden of the work which Parliament has to perform. Millions of people now have votes who formerly had not got them. Votes tend to produce grievances, so that now we find large masses of people sending to us deputations or a very large number of letters daily on questions which formerly they would not trouble to bring before the notice of their Member of Parliament. There has been, for instance, an enormous change in the relation of labour to the Government and to very many Government Departments. Look at what is the work in its degree and in its importance which the Board of Trade has to perform now in relation to labour—work which it never had to perform before. I speak of 2090 labour not in its narrow sense of the manual worker, but in its broader aspect in relation to the general industry and commercial activity of the community. Trade and commerce and business have grown so much and have become so varied and complex that the attitude of those engaged in those interests towards Parliament has altered very much. In other words, the things which ten or twenty years ago were regarded as the private affair of the individual workman or association of workmen, or of individual employers—the private concerns that they settled amongst themselves until a few years ago—have in recent years become a matter of public importance, lifted to the level of some sort of Parliamentary action and brought before this House in one form or another. We have had even to establish a Labour Ministry. The Board of Trade undoubtedly was overburdened. It dealt in a more or less haphazard way with certain duties which it was realised should be rearranged and apportioned to some more appropriate body. The Labour Ministry was, therefore, established. Other Ministries have also been called into existence recently. We shall have to deal for a very long time with questions affecting hundreds of thousands of our people, who have been put upon the list for pensions and allowances as a result of the War. We have, not absolutely settled yet how far the State should be responsible for some control of the continued supply of the food of the people—a question which is not unimportant.
One need not recite these several features of growth. It is because of this growth that Members of the Commons arts almost exhausted by the variety and complexity of the political and Parliamentary questions which they have to deal with. I am sure that we are not less eager than before to carry any share of the Parliamentary burden which within reason can be borne, but Members of this House who are devoted to their duty, and who are trying to serve their constituents, find it almost impossible to conform to the minimum requirements of Parliamentary service, not to say the maximum. It means spending a good portion of the day in the handling of correspondence, in personal interviews and discussion with those who have to convey information, or who may want it. It means that you must attend Committees, and I do not mean merely the Committees upstairs, those large and 2091 responsible bodies recently created. There are scores of other Committees on which Members must act, and which must take up considerable time if they are properly to understand the questions which have to be discussed finally in general terms and settled in this House. It has therefore become a necessity to delegate to others, if we can the transaction of much of the business which is now brought before this Imperial Parliament. I think that every Member every day must be struck with the inappropriate-ness of some of the questions which at times we are compelled to put on the Order Paper. To bring before a national and Imperial Chamber such a large number of the little, local, personal questions which fill the Order Paper day by day and which we are compelled to bring before the notice of Ministers, is, I think, an abuse of the time of Parliament and a real source of waste in regard to the time of responsible Ministers.
We have had during the course of the later stages of the War, and since it was ended, frequent appeals for retrenchment and economy in matters of finance, and yet the House finds itself at times in the position of voting away millions of money in a minute, to a great extent because it has not been able, on account of the pressure of other business, to give the days of time which ought to be given to these great questions of national expenditure. There are other causes for the easy way in which we at times vote large sums of money, but if Members could feel that in addition to having a nominal responsibility in regard to national expenditure they actually had a full margin of time in which to express that responsibility, in which fully to enter into the details of expenditure—if they had that feeling without the consciousness that they were incurring the displeasure of the Government in taking up time, I am sure that many economies could be effected. It is undoubtedly true that we very often have to press Government Departments to spend. I am not arguing that all expenditure is uneconomical or that it is wasteful. We cannot have great tasks undertaken and completed without a very considerable charge, but I am satisfied that if the House generally had many more days each Session for consideration of these questions of finance, our sense of responsibility in regard to wastage and economy would find expression in some considerable 2092 saving of money. Therefore, I think we ought at least to agree to the proposal of the Motion and charge the body there in referred to with the duty of considering and reporting upon the three or four specific lines of duty mentioned. In so doing we could have at least the consolation that we are tending towards the placing of business and authority in the hands of those who understand certain local questions far better than we do. I am sure it is to the advantage of decisions that they should be reached by those who best know the matters to be settled. We found during the War that our many local authorities showed themselves patriotically ready to shoulder very many burdens, to carry them without pay or reward, meeting their own expenses very frequently, as many councillors and other heads of municipalities had to do. But the powers of these bodies were limited. They frequently had to come here at very great cost to ask us for permission to do that which ought never to have been questioned on the part of this House. It would save them a considerable amount of time and money if their powers could be enlarged and if they could have authority generally in matters of local life and local government.
This Motion tends not merely in the direction of economy. It tends in the direction of efficiency in government, in, that it would enable those whose powers are now limited to have enlarged powers and to settle better than we can the things that they understand better than we understand them, while it would leave to us as an Imperial Parliament a wider margin of time to look after those greater affairs of Empire and world politics than we have an opportunity of doing on the existing basis
§ Mr. LINDSAY
I have been in this House for nearly two years and have never ventured to address it before. I am not now very certain about my powers of speaking, and I ask, therefore, that the House will extend to me an even greater measure of toleration than is usually shown in such cases. The reason I have intervened is that I have studied this question of federalism for nearly twenty years. I have been struck with the extraordinary view expressed by supporters of the Motion, who seem to assume that there was something superior in federalism because various great countries, notably the United States, had adopted a federal system. To my 2093 my mind that impression is an illusion. Washington at first was regarded as a sort of clearing house on small questions which arose between the different sovereign States. So strong was the idea that those States still retained sovereign powers that it is on record that when Thomas Jefferson was President and visiting a particular State, he insisted on its Governor taking precedence in that State. Anyone who compares the conditions which prevailed at that time with those of the present day will see that the United States has travelled a long way since then, and that the Federal system has followed, as several hon. Members have pointed out the natural Jaw of tending towards the increase of powers of the Central Government. It is the natural law for this reason, that the Federal or Central Government will attract all the best men who go into politics, assuming that good men go into politics at all. The Central Government in every federation has always increased its powers at the expense of the various subsidiary Governments. That has been effected in the United States, not only by Amendments to the Constitution, but also by interpretation of the Constitution. Washington has increased its powers immensely, whilst the powers of the various States have diminished. It is only seven years ago since a Constitutional Amendment was passed which gave the Federal Government power to impose an Income Tax, and it is only within the last few months a. Constitutional Amendment has been made to take away from each State the complete control of the liquor traffic, with the result that the United States is in the happy position of becoming permanently dry. The same thing took place in Australia. Centralisation came gradually, and it took twenty years of constant effort on the part of those anxious to give it effect. It is proposed that we should do the opposite here, and I think that hon. Members who supported devolution should take those well-known cases into consideration.
The hon. and gallant Member who moved this Resolution alluded to one very well-known difficulty, and that is as to what are central or federal powers and what are local He did not attempt and could not, of course, give any description or definition under which class any particular power should be. I took the trouble, after listening to him, to analyse to-day's Order Paper as regards questions. There are 156 questions, and of those 102 seem 2094 to me to be federal, twenty-two local, and thirty-two doubtful, so that if my analysis is correct the adoption of this form of devolution would not relieve this House in respect of questions. In order to deal with the surplus of business what machinery is to be substituted? It seems to me that in a federal scheme the Foreign Office, the Colonial Office, the War Office, the India Office, the Admiralty, the Treasury, the administration of the Post Office, the Pensions Ministry, the Board of Trade, and possibly the Ministry of Labour would come under the federal portion, while the following Departments might be local: the Home Office, the Local Government Board, the Irish Office, the Scottish Office, the Board of Education, and possibly the Board of Agriculture. Thus we have got a vast number of most important Departments obviously federal, and only six at most of the other Departments which would be State Departments. If the suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for Camlachie (Mr. Mackinder) were adopted, we would have seven different Legislatures, that is three in England, one in Wales, one in Scotland, and two in Ireland. That means that we are going to have seven Governors or Lieut.-Governors of States, seven Prime Ministers, seven Home Secretaries and all the rest, and seven Speakers and seven Deputy-Speakers. It would also mean the setting up of vast administration. We hear complaints now about the number of officials and I do not think this proposal would have the effect of reducing them. Possibly we might also have seven Presidents of Senates. I presume in each Lower House there would be a hundred members—as at present the London County Council has over that number—and then in the Upper House there would probably be fifty members. That would mean that we would possibly have over a thousand members of the State Legislatures, and probably they would desire to be paid as much as we are here. If we are going to have a system of rural and urban councils, county councils, State Legislatures and then the Imperial Parliament, I think by the time people have paid the various rates and taxes they will not have very much left for amusement.
There is also the question of cost. I am extremely sorry that great financial expert the hon. Member for South Hackney (Mr. Bottomley) is not here to-day to give us his opinion on this aspect of 2095 the question, but I understand he is fulfilling a pressing engagement in another place. I have no doubt that he or some others will be able to tell us something as to the financial cost. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Platting referred to the local questions that engage the attention of the House. I would ask hon. Members to look at Questions 76, 77, and 78 on to-day's Order Paper, which stand in the names of two Members of the Labour party. Question No. 76 asks the Secretary of State for War about a private in the Royal Scots, No. 43976, and No. 77 about a private in the Scottish Rifles, No. 14244 and No. 78 is a similar question. If the right hon. Gentleman's colleagues acted in the way they are doing now those little local matters would still come here, as the Secretary for War would be a federal official under the scheme. If such questions are out of place in this Assembly, how much more would they be out of place in this great body which might be set up under this scheme? I think the House ought to congratulate me on the fact that, although I am an Ulster Member, I have not, so far, mentioned the question of Ireland, but yet I feel that I cannot sit down without saying a few words about Ireland. I entirely agree with what my right hon. Friend the Member for Peebles said, and that is, whether you take this scheme or leave it, it will have absolutely nothing to do with settling the Irish question, and if hon. Members vote on this matter with the idea that it will have the slightest influence on what is going on in Ireland, they are absolutely and completely mistaken.
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ Sir FREDERICK YOUNG
I think that the subject-matter of this Debate is well worthy of the time that has been given to it. In common with so many other speakers, I, as a new Member, have felt oppressed by the difficulty which we all must feel in giving anything like adequate attention to the very many matters which come before this Parliament, and I think it is very proper that we should see if there is any remedy for what is not only an evil, but what is likely to become a growing evil. The suggestion of the establishment of a federal system will not, no doubt, bring about all the good results which some of the speakers forecast, but I think it must in some measure help to alleviate the position in which we find ourselves At any rate, the alternative, so 2096 far as I can gather from the Debate, is to continue or drift on in the position which has been outlined by many hon. Members. I think that alternative is one which we cannot face with equanimity, and that any other alternative such as that contained in this proposal is worthy of the closest investigation and consideration. A great deal has been said on this occasion and in other Debates as to loss of prestige concerning this House. I think if this House is suffering from loss of prestige it is very largely owing to utterances made by Members of the House itself, and I have noticed frequently this Session it has almost seemed the purpose of hon. Members to depreciate the House and its prestige in their remarks, always deploring the fact in their statement that the prestige is being lowered, and it seems to me that if they would say less themselves that which they deplore would be less obvious.
I am very interested in this question, because I was born and have spent all my life in a country which has federalised, and that is Australia. The difficulties of federation there were very much the same as those which arose in connection with federation in America, but those difficulties do not oppress me in connection with the subject in this country. To produce a federal system here ought to be infinitely easier than it was in Australia. You start from a central Government which is able to establish a federal system without any compromise or any agreement. In Australia, on the other hand, you had six States, all with their semi-sovereign rights, and very naturally each of those States was very loath, or at least those who were in public positions were very loath, to surrender those sovereign rights to any considerable extent. That does not apply to people as a whole who are more or less indifferent to the question of sovereign rights, but those in authority at the head of affairs, very naturally and very humanly, value those sovereign rights considerably. Not only did you have that feeling, but you had amongst a number of States which had been in existence for half a century or more considerable jealousies, which were very noticeable among one or two of the Australian States, and those jealousies had to be overcome. It is not surprising that it took something like twenty years before a system of federation, which was on the whole a very successful agreement, could 2097 be arrived at. But whilst that system on the whole is a very satisfactory one, it bears upon the face of it many defects arising from the fact that there were State jealousies and also that the State authorities were loath to give up sovereign rights. Those two difficulties are in the one case absolutely absent, and in the other case not in any degree so noticeable in the United Kingdom, and, therefore, I feel that, whilst the difficulties might warn hon. Members that the task of forming a federal system is considerable, they need not be oppressed by it.
It has been asserted that all the existing federal systems are evidence of a tendency to central government, but they are evidence of something further. They evidence this fact, that people living in given localities were not willing to surrender all self-government, and, subject to small defects arising out of existing conditions, I think that federal systems, as regards large countries, either in area or population, represent the happiest system of government—that is, government as regards the most important and Imperial matters by a central Government, and government of minor and domestic affairs by local and domestic Governments. The same arguments which induced the various States in America and Australia to reserve to themselves a certain measure of local government are equally good arguments why in this country we should investigate the question whether we should not establish local Governments here to deal with local and domestic affairs. The same argument applies equally, although the operations are the reverse. In any federal system I think that experience shows that in addition to giving the central Parliament the oversight of all great Imperial and foreign questions, it is of the utmost importance that that central Parliament should have within its sphere all questions upon which uniform legislation is desirable, and a great deal may be learnt in that direction by studying the result of the other federal' systems of the world. In Australia, owing to the factors I have mentioned, the central Government undoubtedly has not the control of some matters which require uniform legislation owing to State jealousies, and the result is that our federal system there suffers a considerable disadvantage, and there has been a continuous campaign for many years now to strengthen the central Government and to that extent to weaken the 2098 local Governments. There have been bitter controversies on the subject, and it has fallen to my lot to resist, as a matter of fact, the effort to increase the strength of the central Government, but not because I did not appreciate the points I have mentioned, and in particular that the central Government should have full control of those matters requiring uniform legislation throughout the length and breadth of the given Dominion or Empire. But the opposition of myself and many others was due to the fact that those who were aiming to create a stronger central Government were endeavouring to carry a great deal more, and for political reasons rather than for true State reasons.
If I may instance a matter where the Australian system fails, and to illustrate the necessity of powers which will enable the central Government to deal uniformly on certain matters, I would refer to the question of industrial affairs, which, I think, must of necessity be under the control of the central Government. Under the Australian system the compromise, which is unfortunate, is something like this: Each State controls the industrial affairs which are strictly within its borders. That is, if a strike occurs in any one State, that State alone has the control of that strike, and can legislate in respect of it. The central Parliament can only intervene where a strike passes from one State to another, so that it is existent in at least two States out of the six. The result of that has been that where a strike has arisen very naturally out of some industrial grievance in one State, it has been the policy of the trade unions and labour councils there to work up an artificial strike in another State, so as to bring in the federal right of intervention, and the purpose of doing that was that they felt that they had a better chance of getting their grievances remedied from what they considered a more favourable judge presiding over the Federal Court than they were likely to get out of the judge who presided over the State Court. So that, by dividing up the industrial sphere, instead of bringing about peace and harmony in industrial matters, exactly the opposite result has come about Apart from this, I think advantage may be derived from some form of federation in this country from the fact that it would split up the administration and bring a good deal of the administration and the bureaucratic government more in touch with the individuals of the country, and the administrative offices 2099 would be more amenable to the public, and I think would attend to their affairs with more speed and with more regard for the individuals concerned, who at the present time, almost equally with members, feel pretty hopeless as regards many things that happen in administration.
It has been suggested that this question of federation will not be a solution of the Irish question. I think it is well worthy of consideration quite apart from that, but at the same time I think that it may tend towards that solution. It has been said during the Debate that any Member who is a Unionist could hardly support this proposal, but I look upon that as not having any foundation. I think that one can be a Unionist, as I am, and yet support this Resolution, because I do not think that federation means disunion. As a matter of fact, I hope the effect of it may be greater unity, and for that reason I have no fear as a Unionist in supporting the proposal, that this matter should have full consideration by this House or by any committee which is established. As regards Ireland, I often think that there arc very few people who know anything about the question. I do not pretend to. I know that Australia, where they pass Resolutions quite frequently on the subject, know nothing about it, and I am equally confident that the people in America know nothing about it, and, what is stranger still. I do not think the people here know much about it. I do not think the Irish people themselves know what they want, and I do not think the English people know what they want to give them, and the whole thing has been such a political cry for the last generation that the mind is bemused, and we have got very few concrete ideas on the subject. I rather incline to the view that if a system of federation were established, with due regard to the two very distinct parts of Ireland, and if there was a fair system of local government in purely domestic and minor matters, the great body of people in England and Scotland would say they had finished with the Irish question, that the Irish had got all that anybody could ask for, and that there could come up no Irish question which could be supported by agitation to the extent that it has been in the past. I think some form of federation, whilst it might not actually settle the question, would satisfy a great many people that there is very little left on the part of the Irish people to agitate about 2100 and very little left for those in other parts of the world who take an interest in Ireland to found their case upon for intervening in the affairs of the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. MARRIOTT
This Debate has been so very largely sustained by Members from other parts of the United Kingdom—from Scotland, Ireland, and Wales—that I feel that a mere Englishman has hardly any right at all to intervene. Still, I hope before the Debate closes I may be allowed to put before the House a few observations arising out of a very long study of this particular question. There is one point on which, I think, there is agreement, curiously enough, in all quarters of the House. I do not think anybody will deny, whatever he may think of the merits of the Motion, that it is one of the very highest constitutional significance. The terms of the Motion have obviously been thought out with very great precision, though, if I may say so, I do not think the terms of the Motion are altogether felicitous or free from ambiguity. May I, even at this stage of the Debate, attempt to remind the House what is the object at which this proposition aims? It is, according to the terms of the Motion, to enable the Imperial Parliament to devote more attention, on the one hand, to the general interests of the United Kingdom, and, on the other hand, to matters of Imperial concern. What is the method by which this object is to be attained? It is to be attained by what is described—I think very infelicitously—as "federal devolution"—that is to say, the creation of several subordinate legislatures within the United Kingdom. Then the Motion is curiously and, as it seems to me, very gratuitously complicated by the insertion of the phrase "without prejudice to any proposals" for the settlement of Irish Government.
Leaving altogether aside criticism of the form of the Motion, let me address to the House a few words in criticism of its substance. The case for this Motion seems to me to rest upon one main proposition, namely, that the Imperial Parliament, as at present constituted, is not adequate to the fulfilment of the duties imposed upon it. What; are those duties? They are, in the first place, taxative. This House is the guardian—as I and others often think, a very careless and negligent guardian—of the public purse, but I suppose we shall 2101 hear a little more about that later this evening. Secondly, it is legislative; in the third place, deliberative; and, fourthly, this House is charged with the very important duty of attempting to control, if it can, the Executive Government. I invite the attention of the House to this point. Of those four functions, the first—the taxative function—applies only to the United Kingdom. The other three functions—the legislative, the deliberative, and the control of the executive—apply, in the first place, to the United Kingdom, in the second place, to the whole Empire—for this House is the only Legislative Assembly which can legislate for the Empire as a whole; we must never forget that—and, finally, this House has also to deal with these three separate functions for each of the three constituent parts of the United Kingdom—England, Scotland, and Ireland. Those who propose and those who support this Motion declare that these functions are not at present adequately performed. First, as regards the Empire. May I venture to quote the words of a very influential evening paper which appeared on the evening of, or the day after, the Debate which took place in this House on the Indian Budget? The words were these:The House of Commons, to judge from its appearance when the Secretary of State addressed it, considers the affairs of India to belong to the category of unhappy, far-off things, which are beyond its comprehension.I think that, under the circumstances, that is a very ungenerous comment on the proceedings of this House on that particular evening—a most ungenerous comment, because the writer of these words ought to have been perfectly aware that at the moment when that Indian Debate was taking place, there were, I think, five or six Grand Committees sitting upstairs, and a number of Select Committees sitting as well. But I merely quote the comment to show that this House finds it, at any rate, difficult to perform its functions as an Imperial Assembly. During these last few months—this is known, I suppose, to every Member of the House—there have been a large number of soldiers and others from our Overseas Dominions, and I tell the House, what it already knows, that those visitors from overseas have not been at all favourably impressed with the proceedings in this House. They came here supposing that this House was really an Imperial Parliament, and they find it for the most part either neglecting, as they imagine, that particular function, as on the occasion to which I referred, for very 2102 good reasons, or immersed in what they regard as parochial and purely local business. I say it without fear of contradiction that, from the Imperial point of view the proceedings of this House do not impress those who come from the more distant parts of the Empire, and that, from the point of view of the Imperial Parliament, is a very serious allegation to-be brought against it.
But, quite apart from particular incidents and from special occasions, such as the one to which I have referred, I do not think it can be maintained that, from the point of view of the position of this House as an Imperial Legislature, or an Imperial deliberative Assembly, it is at present in a position to do its work properly. Then, as to the United Kingdom: we are trying during the present Session a very great experiment of devolution on the spot—of devolution to Grand Committees. I sometimes wonder whether the Members of this House realise the extent of that experiment. I asked the Leader of the House a few days ago whether the Government expected Members of this House to be in two, if not three, places at once, and he replied that the Government had no such expectation. If the Government does not expect a physical, if not a psychical, impossibility, the distribution of business clearly contemplates it, for I made a calculation the other day, and found that, out of the 700 Members in this House, you cannot count on more than 480 at the outside of what I may call ordinary, private working Members. We have to deduct seventy Members who are elected for Irish constituencies but do not sit. We have to deduct about 100 Ministers and their satellites or Parliamentary Secretaries. We have to deduct, say, another 10 per cent, for unavoidable casualties, and occasions such as to day, and that leaves not more than 480 working Members including all the lawyers, all the business men and the other Members of this House. I had the curiosity the other day to turn up 1he numbers of these Grand Committees, and making no allowance for duplication, I find that there are no less than 427 members on those Grand Committees at the present time—427 out of 480. In addition to that, there are 225 Members—again not allowing for duplication—at the present moment serving on Select Committees. I say without hesitation, that if these Grand Committees are going to be regularly worked at the pace they have been worked 2103 during the first few months of this Session, then the rest of the work of the House cannot possibly be adequately done.
May I next say a word or two about the method of reform—leaving the case for reform—adumbrated in the Resolution before the House; but, before doing so, may I notice in two or three words a rather curious contradiction of fact? If you consult the regular text books on these questions, you find that the Constitution of the United Kingdom is invariably described—and perfectly accurately described—as a unitary Constitution. But look at the matter from the point of view, not of constitutional theory, but of political practice. For this analysis I rely on a very learned and illuminating paper read to the British Association a few years ago by an ex-Home Secretary—my friend Mr. Herbert Samuel. There is a very great deal more of what is loosely called federalism in the working of the United Kingdom at present than is commonly supposed. Take the judicial system. England, Scotland, Ireland, already each has its own separate judicial system, its separate staff of judges, and, for the most part, its separate law officers. The only link between the several parts of the United Kingdom in respect of judicature is the Supreme Appellate jurisdiction of the House of Lords. Then, leaving the Judicature on one side, take the Legislature. It will be said that that, at any rate, is a unitary body. If the Legislature itself is a unitary body, the resulting legislation is not. I take the first ten years of the present century. During those ten years there were 458 public Acts passed in this House. Of those 458 public Acts, only 252 were uniformly applicable to all parts of the United Kingdom. The Legislature may be unitary; the resulting legislation is not.
Then as to the Executive The Cabinet system is, I suppose, no longer in existence, although I hear it is to be reconstituted. But before the War we had a Cabinet. Of that Cabinet of some twenty members, there were fifteen members dealing with home affairs, leaving the Foreign Secretary and Colonial Secretary on one side, and of those fifteen members, only four exercised their administrative powers uniformly in each of the three parts of the United Kingdom. Those four were the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the President of the Board of Trade and the Postmaster- 2104 General, and of those four, only one—the Postmaster-General—included in the ambit of his jurisdiction the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. Of the rest, the Local Government Board is, of course, exclusively English, and also the Education Board and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. The Board of Agriculture is exclusively an English Board in regard to everything except the diseases of animals. Diseased animals appear to be common to all parts of the United Kingdom, but that is only part of the jurisdiction of the Board of Agriculture. Then take the Home Secretary: he is in a curiously anomalous position. In regard to the judicial side of his functions, his prisons, and so on, he is exclusively an English officer. In regard to the industrial side of his functions, aliens, and so on, he is an officer of the United Kingdom. Well, then, can it be said, in view of these facts, which will not, I think, be controverted—they cannot be—that our present system is really and essentially a unitary system. Let me pass, if I may, to the change contemplated by this Motion. I would ask hon. Members to observe precisely what is suggested. It is suggested that the Imperial Parliament is to retain two functions. Here is a point where I am somewhat critical of the Motion. It is to be at once the Imperial Parliament and the Parliament of the United Kingdom. I submit that this is at once illogical in theory and inconvenient in practice.
§ Mr. MARRIOTT
Well, it is a matter of opinion, but 1 think so. My right hon. Friend will have an opportunity of contradicting me, but I think the terms of the Motion are quite clear in that respect—That, with a view to enabling the Imperial Parliament to devote more attention to the general interests of the United Kingdom, and—Note this:to matters of common Imperial concern.What does that mean? The right hon. Gentleman opposite dissents. But these are the terms of the Motion. I do not think I am misinterpreting their meaning. Unless I am mistaken that means that there is to be retained in this one legislative and deliberative body the affairs of the United Kingdom—according to the Motion—and matters of common Imperial concern. That is to say: it is to be at once, or to remain, the Imperial 2105 Parliament—[An HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear."] Yes, very well, but also a Parliament for the whole of the" United Kingdom I submit that that is both illogical and inconvenient in practice. Illogical for this reason: We have lately seen—and I rejoice to have seen it—a bifurcation of the executive sphere of the Imperial Parliament. We have lately developed—and I rejoice we have developed—a real executive for the Empire as a whole, the Imperial War Cabinet. I hope that that institution will take its place amongst the permanent constitutional institutions of the Empire. You have bifurcated your executive. I ask whether you contemplate, whether this Motion contemplates, a corresponding bifurcation of the Legislature? This Motion in itself does not; it contemplates leaving matters as they are at present, that is, that there shall be one body of men elected exclusively by the electors of the United Kingdom controlling the bifurcated executive, controlling the two executives. To make the Imperial constitution logical and complete, you want, on the one hand, to have a real Imperial Parliament, and on the other a Parliament for the United Kingdom which shall be co-ordinate in authority with the Dominion Parliaments. You want, as contemplated in this Motion, your subordinate provincial legislative bodies for such provincial units as wisdom may dictate. I agree with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for one of the Divisions of Belfast in thinking that wisdom will not make those units necessarily coincide with the nationalities of what used to be known as the Celtic fringe. I suppose, however, the supporters of this Motion will say, "Well, do not go too fast; one step at a time." [An HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear!"] But you are, I submit, confusing the issue which you are putting before the House to-day. You are confusing the issue by binding into a single phrase the two inconsistent ideas of federalism and devolution.
If you had proposed this as a measure of devolution and left your federal idea on one side, I should have had far less objection to the terms in which the Motion is framed. I object to this hyphenated phrase, not at all on the ground of mere black letter pedantry, but on the ground of utilitarian convenience, and above all on the ground which I think in phrases of this kind is important, of lucidity of thought. For whether you look at political theory or 2106 historical precedent, federalism, as has been pointed out again and again in this Debate, has, with one exception, invariably been a movement towards closer union. That is the essential characteristic of the federal idea and the federal movement throughout the world. You have it, of course, in the ease of the United States of America. You had it in the case of Australia. You had it in. the case of the Empire of Germany. You had it in the case of the miscalled Federal Union of South Africa. In all these cases it was a coming together. The only apparent exception to that rule is the great Dominion of Canada. Some hon. Member this afternoon included Canada in that generalisation. But that, I think, is a very doubtful point. Allowing, however, that Canada is an exception, it is an exception more apparent than real. It was, I admit, a centrifugal movement as regards Ontario and Quebec: it was a centripetal movement as regards the other provinces in that great Dominion.
The intellectual confusion to which I have referred as involved in the terms of the original Motion has brought into very striking relief the terms of the Amendment which was upon the Paper but which has not, as a matter of fact, been moved. That Amendment was referred to by the hon. Gentleman for one of the Glasgow Divisions, who, in his brilliant speech yesterday, referred to the predominance of one partner in the federation. What is the federation to winch reference is made? Is it a federated United Kingdom, or is it a federated Empire, or is it both? Do you want your heptarchy in order to equate your Wessex or your Mercia with Scotland or with Canada; with Canada or with Alberta; with Australia, or with New South Wales? We want above all clear thinking on a question of this kind. Or is there behind this heptarchy proposal another motive which is not so ostentatiously avowed? Is the proposal made in reference to England to render the federal solution more acceptable to Ireland? As I listened to my right hon. Friend the Member for Belfast I hoped that that might be the case. Speaking myself as a perfectly convinced, unrepentant Unionist, believing profoundly in the necessity for maintaining the legislative union unimpaired, I say frankly I can see nothing in this proposal for devolution which is not absolutely and entirely consistent with the maintenance of the legislative union, and. indeed, that was 2107 frankly avowed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Belfast himself. I think of all declarations that have been made in this Debate his was the most significant and important in this regard.
This Motion, however, as I understand it, is not put forward primarily in the interests of Ireland, or Scotland, or Wales, or any other single part of the United Kingdom. It is put forward, I believe, in the interests of the United Kingdom as a whole, and of the Empire as a whole. I believe that the acceptance of the devolutionary principle would conduce very greatly both to the better government of the United Kingdom and also to the closer unity of the British Commonwealth. But just at the moment I would frankly confess there is one other point that appeals to me in favour of this Motion more strongly—and it is the last word I have to address to the House. It is this: I am profoundly convinced that at this moment throughout the Western world, indeed throughout the whole world, and not least in our own country, the whole principle of representative democracy or Parliamentary government is on its trial. I am absolutely certain that the whole principle of Parliamentary government—and I would beseech hon. Members to regard this matter very seriously—is really threatened from a good many quarters. Of those quarters by far the most menacing at the moment is the demand for localised or direct democracy, or what I venture to call political syndicalism or Soviet Government. That menace is, I am certain, very much less remote than a good many people are aware of and if I were not detaining the House too long—[HON. MEMBERS: "Go on."]—No, I have already spoken long enough—I should very much like to develop this point in some detail. Here I will only say this one word. Whatever substance there may be in the demand for a form of direct democracy—we all know what that means—it consists very largely in this: That people are looking to this Imperial Parliament for more than the Imperial Parliament can at the moment physically give them. Failing to get what they want from the Imperial Parliament they are turning in disappointment, some of them in disgust, to other methods. It is because I realise that this is a danger confronting and menacing, at this moment as I believe, the whole principle of Parliamentary government and representative democracy in the 2108 form in which we in this country have evolved it during the last 300 years, that I, at any rate, intend to go into the Lobby in support of the Resolution.
§ Sir T. WHITTAKER
The only criticism to which I need refer of the hon. Member upon the Motion is based upon the view that we have to deal with the whole question of Imperial Federation at the same time as we are dealing with the question of devolution in the United Kingdom. The Motion and the speeches developed upon it suffer somewhat from the want of a term to describe the Parliament of the United Kingdom as distinct from any future Parliament that might be set up to be called the Imperial Parliament. For the time being we speak of the Parliament of the United Kingdom as the Imperial Parliament, and the Parliaments which are suggested for the various parts of the United Kingdom as the local or national Parliaments. We have not a phrase which quite describes the Imperial Parliament as distinct from the present Imperial Parliament of the United Kingdom. This Motion and this Committee are not intended to deal with the question of Imperial Federation, but with devolution for the United Kingdom, and for that purpose, roughly speaking, the Imperial Parliament, because it is the only Imperial Parliament we have got. Although the hon. Member who has just sat down criticised this point, we are really at one in what we are thinking about.
I would like to say a word about the criticism offered by the hon. Member for the St. Augustine's Division (Mr. R. McNeill), because he challenged the fundamental position that there is any case for devolution. He asked is there such congestion as has been alluded to, and he challenges that, and says we have no evidence of it. I do not know what evidence he wants. We have seventy years of the testimony of the leading statesmen of the country one after another pointing out the position into which we were drifting. We have the testimony of continual Committees being appointed to consider the difficulty in which the House was finding itself Session by Session, and we have had proposals by the Government to so adjust the procedure of this House that it might, if possible, grapple with the burden which was upon it. It seems to me that is all the evidence you need.
I do not want to base the case for this Motion upon war conditions, because everybody knows that at the end of every 2109 Session before the War we had what is known as the slaughter of the innocents. Before the last few years the Government always came forward and announced which measures it would take. I am not referring to the slaughter of private Members' Bills, but of Government measures brought in which cannot be passed. We all know that the pigeon-holes of the Departments are full of measures which they would like to pass, and which would, if passed, be of value to the community. We are told as proof that there is no congestion that during the War the House did not sit full time. Why? Because Ministers were not available or the Departments to advise us and enable us to deal with questions which might have been dealt with. Furthermore, the country was not in the spirit, and had not the time to devote its attention to ordinary legislation, and Members of Parliament were otherwise engaged. That is why they could not sit full time here. We are told that the House does not go on often after seven o'clock: that is proof that you cannot have Members working all day and all the evening. It is proof that the device you have adopted for grappling with congestion prevents Parliament attending to its work. Mr. Gladstone once said that Parliament was over-weighted and almost overwhelmed, and we all know that the position has steadily got worse since that time.
We have exceptional pressure now, but we also have some exceptional relief. We are not working under full party conflict, and those who have been in this House as long as I have know what that means. We are getting through a number of Bills this year any one of which would practically have occupied a whole Session if we were working under ordinary party conditions. We have a great deal less Private Bill legislation, and although on the one hand there is exceptional pressure, it is the fact that on the other we have favourable conditions to legislation. The truth is that we have attempted three great tasks any one of which would have been sufficient for a Parliament. We have attempted to legislate separately for England, Scotland, and Ireland, and to give attention to the affairs of the United Kingdom as a whole, and in addition to that we are looking after the interests of the greatest Empire the world has ever seen. You cannot do it.
We have a Debate on India dealing with 3,000,000 people, and we are given one evening. In order to get through our work 2110 we are continually resorting to the Closure, curtailing Debate, and destroying the control which private Members have over the work and business of this House. We have recently resorted to Committees upstairs, which are doing the work under conditions about which the bulk of hon. Members know nothing. In ordinary times it is this pressure of business that facilitates obstruction, and it makes obstruction under those circumstances a serious party weapon. Half the Members of this House do not know what obstruction really means, but they will have experience of it when we get back to ordinary conditions. It is a very serious party weapon, and it is congestion alone that makes obstruction effective. It all involves more curtailment and more closure, and that tends to destroy the interest of Members in this House. If hon. Members cannot take their part in the Debate, if the matter in which they are interested cannot be fully discussed, if because of the pressure they are besought by the Whips who say to them, "For goodness sake be quiet and do not talk," you are destroying the interest and value of this House, the liberty and independence of those who are in a. majority are sacrificed in this way because of the congestion, because really the Government are forced to indicate to hon. Members that those who talk are the enemy.
It also means that it increases the power of the Government of the, day, and that is a genuine danger. In spite of party discipline I think we ought to have the Government Whips off a great deal more, and have much more free voting, but you cannot do it owing to congestion, because the Government cannot get its measures through, and it is bound to apply the Whip. The House of Commons is becoming less and less a deliberative Assembly, and more and more a mere instrument of party Government. In my judgment that is fatal to popular representative Government and to democratic Government, and if we do not remedy it the time will come when popular representative Government will perish. Every Session since I have been in this House we have been devoting -time to curtailing the powers and privileges of private Members. In this way we deprive them of their interest and power.
I had the honour two years before the War began, of being appointed the Chairman of a Committee created to inquire into the procedure of this House, with a view to suggesting means and methods by which the position of the private Member 2111 might be improved. We sat for two Sessions, but our deliberations were brought to an end by the War, and therefore were not concluded. That Committee was appointed because of the feeling before the War that private Members were gradually being crushed out of their interest in Parliament, and Parliament was suffering on that account. The work is too much for hon. Members to be able to give adequate attention to. We have six Standing Committees, we have about a score of Select Committees, and we have Royal Commissions sitting. We have Private Bill Committees, and, in addition to that, we have a number of unofficial committees of Members of this House which are very valuable and very necessary, and they all take time.
Besides this we have a great deal of correspondence to attend to and it tends to get greater. My right hon. Friend said earlier in this Debate that the mere extension of the franchise brings in more correspondence. Those you represent have a right to write to you, and we have that correspondence to attend to, and we have to go to Departments and gather information and make representations. In addition to that we have to turn up at some Committee or Royal Commission at eleven o'clock in the morning, and sit the greater part of the day on those Committees, and then surprise is expressed that we are not here at 2.45 and do not remain in the House until eleven o'clock. It cannot be done.
Another thing which is a very serious matter is that we do not want here only those who can give all that time. We want men engaged in the actual affairs of the country, engaged in its business and professional life, and working class life and who are in actual touch with them day by day. We do not only want a man who has nothing else to do. We want men engaged in daily life; but if you are to attend to all this correspondence, start at eleven o'clock in the morning, and stay here until eleven o'clock at night, they cannot do it. This is going to diminish the power of the House of Commons. All this is going to deteriorate the Members of the House of Commons because you will not get quite the right men. It means that the Government and the Departments are driven to legislate by Orders in Council, and Regulations issued by Departments, and that is not satisfactory. In some cases it may be necessary and desirable, but in 2112 most cases it is very difficult for the ordinary man to know what the law of the land really is because of these various Regulations. All this tends to increase the power of government.
There is another thing about which I feel very strongly. It also means the overworking of Ministers, and that means that Cabinet control is weakened. I am told that now it is practically hopeless to get members of the Cabinet to consider and deal with the proposals of their colleagues. When proposals are brought before this House by a Government, the ordinary procedure used to be that those were the considered proposals based on the judgment and consideration of the whole of the Cabinet, and we thought that we had got the result of the judgment and experience of the ablest men in our midst. What is the fact now? It is not legislation by the Cabinet but by the Department and the Minister alone, and that is not good enough. It is a very serious matter.
Members of the Government are not on the Front Bench now during Debates as they used to be. When I first came to this House, unfortunately now twenty-seven years ago, the members of the Government were all on the Treasury Bench. What did that mean? That leaders of the Opposition were always on this bench. [An HON. MEMBER: "Where are they now?"] In Mr. Gladstone's day, woe to the man who was in his Cabinet and did not sit on that bench. When you have a Minister who has introduced a Bill here it is his baby, and you must not touch it. You may talk till you are black in the face, but you will make no impression on him until the Whip tells him that he is likely to be left in the cart in the Lobby When a Bill represented the considered judgment of the Cabinet, and they were not in the same position about it as a Minister is now, if Members addressed them, and their point was good, they would tell the Minister, "Yon will have to yield; this is a sound point." You got Amendments and you got consideration for Amendments then that you do not get now that the House is left just in charge of the Minister in charge of the Bill. It is a great advantage to the House to have a Cabinet on the Front Bench. Members then feel that they can speak with some practical effect. You might as well talk to a stone wall as to a Minister in charge of a Bill It all tends-to destroy the interest in debate, and, if you destroy the interest in debate, you 2113 will not get the debate, and you will not get effective criticism and that education of the House and of the Government which is necessary. A "Parliament" means a talking place. Some of the talk will not be of very much value, but in the long run it is useful. It educates the House, and it brings public opinion to bear upon the Ministers. This point is the more serious and the more important because, unfortunately, at the present time, we are practically living under a system of single chamber government. This House, given time, has power to put through anything that it likes, and so long as that is the position it is the more important that what it does put through should be thoroughly considered and carefully discussed, and should not be forced through, as I have known it to be the case with Bills again and again, with half of it, and more than half of it, never discussed at all, but passed under the Closure. It is dangerous when we are practically under single Chamber government, and it is a very great departure from the principles upon which our Constitution has been built up. It is a danger, I believe, to popular government.
We were promised that the question of the Second Chamber should be dealt with. Why has it not been dealt with? Because there has not been time It is a very difficult problem, but it is extremely desirable that it should be faced and should be dealt with. I believe that this devolution would remove some of the difficulties which stand in the way and would very much simplify dealing with that question. What is the position? There is; no country in the world of the population and wealth and with the trade of this country that is governed by a representative single Parliament, and certainly there is no Empire of the variety and extent of ours that has a single Parliament as its supreme authority. I suggest that the remedy for all this is to devolve local national work upon local national Parliaments. That is the position in many countries in the world. Canada has nine provincial Parliaments, Australia six, South Africa four, the United States forty-eight, Germany twenty-six, and Switzerland twenty-two We have had in the past expressions in favour of this devolution from statesmen like Mr. Gladstone, Mr. Chamberlain, Lord Rosebery, Mr. Asquith, the present Prime Minister, and Mr. John Redmond. I have heard it suggested that the ten- 2114 dency of the world is towards unity, and that to devolve your power is to go back. I suggest that it is nothing of the kind. The tendency is towards unity, but nowhere is the tendency towards unity in one Parliament. Nowhere since the United States formed their federation—in none of our Dependencies—has union taken the form of setting up one single Parliament. It has taken the form of retaining the local Parliaments and forming another Parliament for the more important and larger questions.
§ Sir T. WHITTAKER
South Africa has not one Parliament only it retains its four provincial assemblies. The tendency of the times is obviously towards a supreme Parliament with subordinate; provincial legislatures to deal with subordinate matters. Other countries have reached this stage by federation; we shall reach it by devolution. The aim of both is the same, only our condition is different. We have got the one Parliament, and the only way in which we can get the new system is by devolution. Other countries have got the system by federalism. There are only two methods of reaching the same results, and the methods are determined by the present conditions. No one in the United States, in Germany, in Switzerland, in Canada, or in Australia suggests suppressing the subordinate Parliaments and setting up one supreme Parliament. No one suggests getting into the condition and position in which we are placed. We are actually following the trend of modern times. Is it desirable that we should go on dealing with great Imperial affairs in a Parliament which will more and more be elected on domestic issues? The same elector would not always vote for the same man for the two jobs. He would not always vote for the same man to deal with home affairs as he would to deal with Empire affairs, and it is not desirable that our foreign policy and our policy in great Imperial matters should be determined by a Parliament elected on the Trades Disputes Bill, Local Veto, Education, Disestablishment, or something of that kind. That is the difficulty in which we find ourselves at the present time.
A word about Ireland. The Motion was drawn in the form in which it exists in order that it should not in any way hamper or interfere with the Government in any proposals which they may have to deal with Ireland. Everyone admits that Ireland is the weak spot in our con- 2115 stitutional machine. It has baffled this country for a century. We are told to leave it alone. You cannot leave it alone. It will not be left alone. It will not leave us alone, either at home or abroad. It is worse than a great danger; it is a discredit to the statesmanship of this country that we cannot settle it. We cannot permit separation; we cannot grant Dominion government, if that means that Ireland is to be a Dominion. If by Dominion government she means that she is to be part of this Dominion, as the provinces are part of the Dominion of Canada and Australia, that is another thing, but, if she means that she is to be a separate Dominion, then I say that geographical considerations and all questions of defence absolutely forbid it. The union, however, will not be a success, it will not be stable, and it will not be permanent until the festering sore of Ireland is healed. We have got to face the question and to deal with it. It is an essential condition of successful union here as elsewhere that the opinion of the component parts of the union should predominate and prevail in all local and national matters as distinguished from United Kingdom and Imperial matters, and it is because the opinion of Ireland on Irish and national matters has been persistently ignored for a century that we are in the difficulty in which we are to-day.
§ Sir T. WHITTAKER
No, we are going to hand over to them and give them power to deal with these local and national matters. That is the only way in which you will promote a real Union.
§ Mr. McNEILL
My right hon. Friend said just now that he was not prepared to give Dominion Home Rule to Ireland, but the majority of Ireland are asking for it.
§ Sir T. WHITTAKER
The trouble has arisen because we did not allow them to deal with their own local and national affairs. We have got into this inflamed condition when requests are made which cannot be granted, but you will never have satisfaction in a country which is ruled in its local and national affairs against the opinion of that country; and that is what we have done for 100 years. While devolution alone will not settle the Irish question, it will very much help the solution of it. Devolution would avoid that exceptional 2116 treatment to which objection is taken. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the Duncairn Division (Sir E. Carson) objects to the emphasising of nationality in this Motion. We do not emphasise nationality. We take it as it is. Nationality is there, and we are dealing with nations. The laws and administration are different in England, Scotland, and Ireland. We merely recognise that fact. We are not emphasising it. It is there. The line of demarcation between the laws is national. It is there now; you cannot get away from it. Nationality, after all, is a fact. It cannot be ignored.
§ Sir T. WHITTAKER
It is very easy for people to put questions or to make requests that are impossible. This is not a matter of defining nationality as if we were dealing with Ireland alone. The Motion, however, does not prevent there being two Parliaments in Ireland. I should be very sorry if there were two, but it does not prevent it. This is a request for inquiry and consideration, and, if no other solution can be found, then we may have to try two Parliaments in Ireland; but I think it would be deplorable. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Duncairn said, referring to Ireland, "Do not make a mess of it." But it is mess enough now; the mess is there, and you cannot very well make it worse. At any rate it has to be dealt with. Let me say a word on the question of two Parliaments. I do not desire to see two Parliaments, but it would be quite consistent with the principle of Devolution. Nineteen of the States of the United States of America have smaller populations than the six north-eastern counties of Ulster. Seven out of the nine provinces of Canada have a. smaller population than those six counties. Four out of the six States in Australia also have a smaller population, and half the South African States as well have a smaller population.
But my point is that we have to do something with the problems which we have here, apart from the Irish question. We have to deal with our own Parliament here. Our case in this Parliament is urgent. Is Ireland to prevent us from recovering Parliamentary freedom and efficiency here, because really all the objections taken have been taken by those who naturally have looked at the question through Ulster Are we in this Imperial 2117 Parliament as a whole United Kingdom to be held up by a Parliament that cannot do its work because of trouble in Ireland? Are we to be hamstrung? Are we to keep open a running sore in the Empire because Irishmen cannot agree among themselves as to their own form of Government? We are asked how we would define Imperial and subordinate finance. It is not impossible. It is easy to raise difficulties to sot us by the cars, but we can refer these things to a Conference for the purpose of deciding which of the various methods should be adopted. The United States, Germany, and our great Dominions have found no great difficulty in defining the difference between Imperial and subordinate finance. We are asked by the hon. Member for St. Augustin—
§ Mr. McNEILL
May I inform the right hon. Gentleman that the St. Augustine's Division has ceased to exist, and that I have the honour to represent Canterbury?
§ Sir T. WHITTAKER
I beg the hon. Member's pardon. I am sorry I have not noticed the change. What is the suggestion the hon. Member makes? It is that these legislative powers should be exercised by county councils. I ventured to smile. Fancy in England and Wales fifty-two legislative bodies with laws differing! With all respect and courtesy, it is ridiculous. Then the hon. Member for the Camlachie Division (Mr. Mackinder) arised a bogey about the preponderance of England I really think that was a topsy-turvy argument. The preponderance already exists. This is where you have the preponderance of England. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir H. Craik) asked us last night a question on this point, and at the same time he whispered to his colleagues something to the effect that they had got a very good thing here and had better stick to it. The preponderance is here, and what we are proposing is to take away matters in which England has the preponderance now, if she likes to exercise it, and give them to these separate Parliaments where England would not preponderate. Therefore, the argument is all the other way. If you had separate Parliaments in these various countries that, you are proposing to federate, and if you were proposing to bring them into one Parliament here, there might be some danger of the preponderance of England. But you have already got it, and we are proposing 2118 to reduce it by giving these subordinate Parliaments large control over their own affairs.
With regard to Ireland, may I venture to say that unless Irishmen can agree—and there does not seem to be much prospect of that—then the Parliament of this country must grapple with the problem and do what it believes to be just and right. It must cut the Gordian knot by producing and enforcing its own scheme. In conclusion, I would just say this, all great business men are at sometime in their career brought to a test. It means whether their business is to grow bigger or whether it has reached its maximum. The test is this: Have they got the courage and capacity to select subordinates to carry on their various departments and to trust them to do so? The big business man, the man having great organising ability himself, has a further capacity to find the right men and put thorn into the various departments and to trust them. If he does that, there is no limit to the extent to which his business may grow. But if he cannot do it he is limited to what he- can look after himself. That is really where this nation is to-day. We are at the limit of what we can do here. Have we got the courage and capacity to say that the right thing is to delegate to various parts of the United Kingdom those matters which they are more competent to deal with than we are, thus relieving our burden, which prevents us not only from doing our duty to the people of these various countries, but to the Empire as a whole?
§ Mr. WALLACE
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Peebles (Sir D. Maclean) was greatly concerned at the action of the Government in wasting time by granting two days for the discussion of this Motion. I take a totally different view. I regard their action as not only a significant but a hopeful sign that the Government realises that this is a matter which requires very serious consideration. The necessity for some scheme of devolution is so self-evident that it requires no demonstration; but I wish, if I may, to say something about it from the point of view of Scotland. Whatever the opinion of this House may be, there is no mistaking the feeling in Scotland regarding some system of self-government under a scheme of devolution. At a recent Liberal Convention there was no subject which evoked so much enthusiasm as the question of 2119 some form of Home Rule, and with the exception of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Scottish Universities I know comparatively few Scottish Members who are not pledged up to the hilt to advocate this policy in the House. It is a matter of common knowledge that Scottish affairs do not receive adequate attention in the House of Commons, and it may arise from two causes. It may arise from the fact that the predominant partner is so selfish as to absorb the major portion of Parliamentary time or; on the other hand, it may arise from the fact that Scottish Members, imbued as they are with a spirit of altruism and with that retiring modesty which is so characteristic of the race, fail to present their demands to this House with that persistency and determination which alone commands success at Westminster. But whatever the position may be, our contention is that Parliament, as at present constituted, is not equal to meeting the legislative demands made upon it.
How are Scottish affairs administered? We have a Secretary for Scotland, and all legislation for Scotland has to filter through the narrow bottle-neck of the Scottish Office in London. The Secretary for Scotland, if I may say so with all respect, is an ideal man for the position. He is always accessible to Scottish Members, and treats them with unvarying courtesy. But what is he called upon to do? What are his duties? He is Minister of Education, Minister of Agriculture, and Minister of Public Health. Indeed, he is responsible for all Local Government Board administration in Scotland. He is responsible really for the administration of all Scottish affairs outside the Law Courts. To discharge these functions adequately would require him to be a sort of Admirable Crichton. He would have to have the wisdom of Solomon. I was reminded by a Scottish friend the other day that had Solomon been Secretary for Scotland under present conditions he would have lost his reputation for wisdom in a very few weeks. He would, however, I think, have been far too wise a man to have accepted such a post. We contend with all modesty that we are quite competent to manage our own affairs. We also contend that in national outlook and sentiment we are considerably ahead of other parts of the United Kingdom. I do not think I am claiming too much in 2120 stating that we are ahead in the matters of education, temperance, and municipal reform, and generally speaking we think that our outlook entitles us to a better system of legislation than we can take advantage of at present. May I suggest we are quite expert so far as financial matters are concerned. There is no race under the sun which knows more exactly the dividing line between judicious expenditure and reckless extravagance, and I sometimes wish that we had Scotsmen at the head of our great spending Department. It may be we are a dull race, with little sense of humour, but we have a very real idea of the value of money.
§ Mr. WALLACE
May I suggest that the one desire in our mind is to have the management of our own affairs. We are somewhat tired of English officialism and bureaucracy as we find it at Whitehall. We should be glad to remove our Scottish officials from the contamination of Whitehall. I was surprised to find that that contamination is a very real danger. I recently called at the Scottish Education Department with a deputation concerning-a very important matter of education in, my own Constituency. I had anticipated that, on a question of this kind, I should' be enabled to enlist the active support and co-operation of the Scottish Education Department. When the Scottish Education Department knew that our business concerned the Admiralty, who we contended had not carried out their contract, I was told by the Head of the Scottish Department, with a dignity which totally failed, to impress me, that one Government Department must on no account interfere with another Government Department. I should like to see all our Scottish officials removed from those influences to a purer and more invigorating atmosphere, which we can certainly find for them North of the Tweed. I could say a great deal about why we should have self-government in Scotland. One of the reasons is that we have no North-East corner in Scotland where the loyal inhabitants show their loyalty by breaking the law of the country. That is a great recommendation. We have no religious difficulty; we have no internal jealousies. For instance, my right hon. Friend the Chairman of the Labour party (Mr. Adamson) is a constituent of mine. We represent together in this House the county of Fife, which the 2121 House, which prides itself on its knowledge of Scottish history, will recollect was at one time a great historical kingdom by itself. We in Fife have no jealousy at all of other parts of Scotland, and we should be quite willing to fall in with any national system of self-government which is granted to it by this House. We all look at these matters from a business point of view. We are quite convinced of the congestion, and we are quite convinced that if we were granted a system of self-government of our own we should save a great deal of money. We should no longer have these deputations coming down from Scotland and spending long weary weeks in London.
I could give the House examples of where a Lord Provost and Glasgow Baillies and Edinburgh Baillies have spent week after week waiting upon the goodwill and pleasure of this House, and spending a great deal of money in consequence. How over much the presence of Glasgow and Edinburgh Baillies may brighten the life of this dull metropolis of ours, we ought to see that they remain at their duties at home so far as possible to administer their local affairs. No one would deprecate more strongly than I the laying of sacrilegious hands on the institutions and Junctions of this great House. I have heard of new Members who have come here who have been disillusioned, and of others who think we have entered upon a period of Parliamentary decadence. I am glad to say that I share neither view. This House, which always fascinated me from the outside, fascinates me more than ever from the inside. No one with a shred of imagination could come into this great Chamber as a new Member without feeling. a deep sense of responsibility, without a consciousness of its great traditions, without many a glance back at those distinguished and historical figures whose eloquence and public service serve as inspirations to us of the rank and file, who only desire, as private Members, to play a worthy part. I hope the day of disillusionment will be long deferred. Neither do I accept the dictum that Parliament has become decadent. It would be an ill-day for this country when what is euphemistically called "direct action" takes the place of constitutional Government. In view of the extremely critical days in which we live, I cannot help expressing surprise at and making a protest against the statements of certain public men that the present Parliament has no real sanction or authority. 2122 Statements to that effect have been made by men who were in the last Parliament but who are not in this, some of whom held high rank. I suggest to these gentlemen that they are preaching a dangerous doctrine and one which will recoil upon the heads of its exponents and apostles. Our only hope is not to undermine but to strengthen and consolidate in every way the authority of the House of Commons. My last word is that as we have reverence for the past of this House, we have every reverence for the present. It has become clear that it is in no sense equal to the demands made upon it. The after war problems make the position much more difficult and complex and subjects of a strictly Imperial nature must occupy Parliamentary time for many years to come. This House, in view of Imperial responsibility, must become less insular and take a wider view. The relations between the Mother Country and the Dominions overseas must be the concern not only of Government Departments but of each individual Member of the House. In adopting the Resolution before the House we shall accomplish that purpose and also satisfy the national aspirations, so long suppressed, of Scotland, Ireland, and Wales.
Mr. HUGH EDWARDS
Two features have characterised the two days' Debate. The first is the utter elimination of party spirit and prejudice. If this Debate had taken place in pre-war days, anyone sitting in any part of the House would be able to divide the lines of argument which any of the speakers would take. They would follow party lines. In these two days' Debate one has been very much struck with the remarkable fact that some of the strongest speeches in support of the principle of devolution have been made by Unionist Members. I take it that this practical unanimity—I think I may so describe it—in regard to the basic principle of this Resolution has been begotten in every instance from the same cause. There has been deep recognition of the fact that the business of the House is becoming congested, that the Parliamentary machine is in danger of being blocked, and that unless there is something in the way of devolution of function Parliamentary government will break down. I share the view expressed by the Member for Oxford City (Mr. Marriott) when he declared that the most significant statement in the whole Debate was that made by the right hon. and learned Gentleman 2123 the Member for the Duncairn Division of Glasgow (Sir E. Carson) when he said in his speech yesterday that he was in favour of devolution and regarded it as probably destined to save Parliamentary government. An admission of that kind from that quarter is significant in the highest degree, and we may regard it as promising for the future. All the arguments that can be used in favour of a devolution of function have already been used, and one can say nothing new. I rise, however, for the special purpose, on behalf of my Welsh colleagues, to put in a plea for Wales. We are not at all satisfied with the way in which the Motion refers to Wales, and our suspicions have been deepened by the speeches of both the Mover and the Seconder. The Mover was at great pains to show how devolution would affect England, Scotland, and Ireland, but he was absolutely silent in regard to Wales. The Seconder spoke of the three countries and of the three peoples. He spoke of England, Scotland, and Ireland, and he seemed to forget the case of Wales in almost every instance. Some years ago there was published a monumental work, the "Encyclopædia Britannica," which was supposed to represent the whole of human knowledge from a molecule to a planet. It gave one hundred pages to England, one hundred or so to Scotland, and about one hundred to Ireland, but when you turned up Wales you saw this:Wales—see England.The House will at once admit the unfairness. There is no argument that can be adduced for establishing the national entity of Scotland or Ireland that cannot be used with equal force in regard to Wales. I would go even further than that. Wales is a greater nation than either Scotland or Ireland. It has a language of its own. I very much doubt whether any Irish Member or Scottish Member can speak Erse or Gallic.
I very much doubt it. Perhaps the hon. Member will give me a specimen when the Debate is over. This House has already recognised the principle of distinctive treatment in regard to Wales. We are different ecclesiastically. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Stafford (Captain Ormsby-Gore) will remember that when the Welsh Church Bill was brought before the House special 2124 emphasis was laid upon the distinctiveness of Wales from any other part of the Kingdom. It was one of the stock arguments. We have had it in the realm of education and in regard to the Insurance Commission. Wales has been given an Insurance Commission in the same way as-England, Scotland, and Ireland. If you are going to apply the same principle of devolution to the constituent portions o the United Kingdom on the principle of nationality, Wales is as much entitled to it as Scotland or Ireland. I believe I shall carry the House with me to that extent. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the Duncairn Division of Belfast took exception to that. He thought the basis should not be that of nationality, and I believe the hon. Member for Oxford City endorsed that view. But if you do not take nationality, what principle are you going to take? Are you going to take population? Are you going to have one Parliament for South Wales and then take North Wales and add it to Lancashire? Anybody who knows anything about Wales knows that we will not be ruled by anyone but ourselves, although we are quite prepared to give you a Prime Minister. I would appeal again to the hon. and gallant Member for Stafford who, although no longer a Welsh Member, knows how strong the racial sentiment is, and how impossible it is to run anything successfully in Wales unless you have the force of national sentiment behind it. If this Motion is carried, as I believe it will be, I hope that on the Committee there will be placed Members who will have some regard for the nationality of Wales. Wales has too long been regarded as the Cinderella among the constituent nations of the United Kingdom. I wish that both the Proposer and the Seconder of the Resolution would satisfy themselves as to the force and strength of national sentiment in Wales. Next week we are having there a great conference in favour of Welsh Home Rule, and the remarkable thing is that one of the chief men in the movement is the Unionist Member for one of the Divisions of Monmouthshire. In Wales we have no party; we have no Ulster there and no division of opinion. All sects and parties are agreed. For that reason I support this Resolution, with-the further plea that special attention should be given to the case of Wales. While the Mover and Seconder are so keen on advocating the claims of Scotland and Ireland the claims of the smaller countries should not be overlooked.
Sir HENRY COWAN
I should like to say a few words in answer to the question put by the First Lord of the Admiralty to himself yesterday and answered by himself in a way in which I should not have thought of answering it. I refer to the question as to whether there is any other method excepting federal devolution by means of which the congestion of this Parliament could be relieved. There is another way; and although I am strongly in favour of the general purport of this Resolution, though like many other hon. Members I do not altogether agree with its precise terms, although I am entirely in favour of federal devolution, that federal devolution being on the basis of nationality, and have consistently since I came into the House pressed for the right of Scotland to have its own Legislature, still I think if the whole question of devolution is to be inquired into it is right that it should not be forgotten that there is an alternative to the method suggested in the Resolution. It is not necessary, in order to devolve the domestic affairs of this House, to set up four or five or half a dozen separate Legislatures. It is only necessary to set up one subordinate domestic Legislature for the whole of the United Kingdom. To that Legislature might be committed all legislat on not directly concerning the Empire as a whole. To that one Legislature might be committed, for England, for Scotland, Ireland, and Wales all the powers which it is suggested in the Resolution should be conferred upon the separate Legislatures for those four different nationalities, or for the provinces suggested by the hon. Member (Mr. Mackinder).
This method would have the great advantage of simplicity. It would not meet the national aspirations of England, Scotland, Ireland or Wales, but on the other hand it would not excite animosities or arouse prejudices. I suggest that it should be considered by the body which, I presume, will be set up after the passing of the Resolution as an alternative to the other method suggested and as a temporary expedient by which the congestion of business in this Imperial Parliament could be as effectively and adequately relieved as by the method suggested in the Resolution. I do not suggest it as a permanent
§ solution, but I think while Ireland is in its present position, while it is admittedly so difficult, perhaps impossible, to satisfy Ireland, a temporary measure might be adopted. A few years in the life of a nation are as nothing, and if this system were adopted for only a few years there would, I think, be evolved out of it a completer and more satisfactory system of federal devolution. I admit, however, that there are difficulties, because while Scotland is keenly in earnest in its demand for Home Rule and England is content with the present state of affairs, Wales is certainly dissatisfied and Ireland is undoubtedly angry. But, notwithstanding all these difficulties, I believe the reason why hon. Members, irrespective of party, have combined to give a fair hearing to proposals such as have been put before the House to-day is that they realise the increasing congestion of business and the enormous tax and strain which is being put on their powers, and they realise that the machine is on the point of breaking down, and, therefore, at the conclusion of this Debate I throw out this suggestion to those who are opposed to federal devolution, to those who dislike the idea of setting up Home Rule Parliaments in these different nationalities, as a possible line of compromise which would enable the House effectively to devolve its powers outside the Imperial sphere, and at the same time reserve all other questions for future discussion and settlement.
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—
§ The House divided: Ayes, 187; Noes, 34.2127
|Division No. 40.]||AYES.||[7.53 p.m.|
|Adair, Rear-Admiral||Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Astor, Major Hon. Waldorf|
|Adamson Rt. Hon. William||Archer-Shee, Lieut.-Col. Martin||Baird, John Lawrence|
|Adkins, Sir W. Ryland D.||Arnold, Sydney||Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle, E.)|
|Bell, James (Ormskirk)||Henderson, Major V. L.||Roberts, Rt. Hon. G. H. (Norwich)|
|Bellairs, Com. Carlyon W.||Herbert, Col. Hen. A. (Yeovil)||Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor)|
|Benn, Com. Ian Hamilton (Greenwich)||Hogge, J. M.||Rodger, A. K.|
|Benn, Capt. W. (Leith)||Hope, Harry (Stirling)||Roundell, Lieutenant-Colonel R. F.|
|Bennett, T. J.||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||Rowlands, James|
|Birchall, Major J. D.||Hope, Lt.-Col. Sir J. (Midlothian)||Royce, William Stapleton|
|Blake, Sir Francis Douglas||Hughes, Spencer Leigh||Royds, Lt.-Col. Edmund|
|Bowerman, Right Hon. C. W.||Hume-Williams, Sir Wm. Ellis||Sanders, Colonel Robert Arthur|
|Bowyer, Capt. G. W. E.||Jameson, Major J. G.||Scott, A. M. (Glas., Bridgeton)|
|Brace, Rt. Hon. William||Johnstone, J.||Seager, Sir William|
|Briant, F.||Jones, Sir Edgar R. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Seddon, J. A.|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Jones, Sir Evan (Pembroke)||Shaw, Tom (Preston)|
|Bromfield, W.||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)|
|Brown, J. (Ayr and Bute)||Jones, J. (Silvertown)||Short, A. (Wednesbury)|
|Buchanan, Lieut.-Col. A. L. H.||Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen)||Smith, Capt. A. (Nelson and Colne)|
|Buckley, Lt.-Col. A.||Kenworthy, Lieut-Commander||Smith, W. (Wellingborough)|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir W. J.||King, Com. Douglas||Smithers, Alfred W.|
|Carter, W. (Mansfield)||Knights, Capt. H.||Spoor, B. G|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Lewis, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Univ. Wales)||Stanier, Capt. Sir Beville|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. A. (Birm., W.)||Lewis, T. A. (Pontypridd, Glam.)||Stanley, Colonel Hon. G. F. (Preston)|
|Chamberlain, N. (Birm., Ladywood)||Lort-Williams, J.||Strauss, Edward Anthony|
|Child, Brig.-Gen. Sir Hill||M'Donald, Dr. B. F. P. (Wallasey)||Sturrock, J. Leng-|
|Clay, Capt. H. H. Spender||Mackinder, Halford J.||Swan, J. E. C.|
|Clyde, James Avon||M'Lean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Thomas, Brig-Gen. Sir O. (Anglesey)|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R.||Maclean, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (Midlothian)||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, S.)|
|Collins, Col. Sir Godfrey (Greenock)||Magnus, Sir Philip||Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Colvin, Brig-Gen. R. B.||Malone, Col. C. L. (Leyton, E.)||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Compton-Rickett. Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Malone, Major P. (Tottenham, S.)||Waddington, R.|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Univ.)||Marriott, John Arthur R.||Wallace, J|
|Cowan, Sir H. (Aberdeen and Kinc.)||Mildmay, Col. Rt. Hon. Francis B.||Waring, Major Walter|
|Davies, Alfred (Clitheroe)||Mitchell, William Lane-||Warren, Sir Alfred H.|
|Davies, Major David (Montgomery Co.)||Montagu, Rt. Hon. E. S.||Wheler, Col. Granville C. H.|
|Davies, T. (Cirencester)||Moore, Maj.-Gen. Sir Newton J.||White, Charles F, (Derby, W.)|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Morgan, Major D. Watts||White, Col. G. D. (Southport)|
|Dawes, J. A.||Mosley, Oswald||Whittaker, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas P.|
|Doyle, N. Grattan||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert||Wignall, James|
|Edge, Captain William||Murray, Dr. D. (Western Isles)||Wild, Sir Ernest Edward|
|Edwards, C. (Bedwellty)||Murray, Hon. G. (St. Rollox)||Wilkie, Alexander|
|Edwards, Major J. (Aberavon)||Murray, John (Leeds, W.)||Willey, Lt.-Col. F. V.|
|Edwards, J. H. (Glam., Neath)||Nall, Major Joseph||Williams, A. (Consett, Durham)|
|Entwistle, Major C. F.||Neal, Arthur||Williams, J. (Gower, Glam.)|
|Farquharson, Major A. C.||Nelson, R. F. W. R.||Williams, Col. P. (Middlesbrough)|
|FitzRoy, Cant. Hon. Edward A.||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. (Exeter)||Wills, Lt.-Col. Sir Gilbert Alan H.|
|Forestier-Walker, L.||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William||Wilson. Rt. Hon. J. W. (Stourbridge)|
|France, Gerald Ashburner||Palmer, Brig.-Gen. G. (Westbury)||Wilson, Col. Leslie (Reading)|
|Gange, E. S.||Parker, James||Wilson, Col. M. (Richmond, Yorks.)|
|Gilbert, James Daniel||Parkinson, John Alien (Wigan)||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. John||Parry, Major Thomas Henry||Wilson-Fox, Henry|
|Glyn, Major R.||Perkins, Walter Frank||Winterton, Major Earl|
|Graham, D. M. (Hamilton)||Perring, William George||Wood, Sir H. K. (Woolwich, W.)|
|Greenwood, Col. Sir Hamar||Pownall, Lt.-Col. Assheton||Wood, Major Mackenzie (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Greig, Col. James William||Pratt, John William||Woolcock, W. J. U.|
|Griggs, Sir Peter||Purchase, H. G.||Yate. Col. Charles Edward|
|Gritten, W. G. Howard||Rae, H. Norman||Yeo, Sir Alfred William|
|Grundy, T. W.||Raffan, Peter Wilson||Young, Robert (Newton, Lancs.)|
|Guest, Capt. Hon. F. E. (Dorset, E.)||Ratcliffe, Henry Butler||Young, William (Perth and Kinross)|
|Hailwood, A.||Raw, Lieutenant-Colonel Dr. N.|
|Hall, Capt. D. B. (Isle of Wight)||Rendall, Athelstan||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Hancock, John George||Richards, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Major E. Wood and Mr. Murray|
|Harmsworth, Sir R. L. (Caithness-shire)||Richardson, Alexander (Gravesend)||Macdonald.|
|Haslam, Lewis||Richardson, R. (Houghton)|
|Archdale. Edward M.||Gretton, Col, John||Rees, Sir J. D. (Nottingham, E.)|
|Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes)||Henry, Denis S. (Londonderry, S.)||Remer, J. B.|
|Bigland, Alfred||Hopkins, J. W. W.||Samuel, S. (Wandsworth, Putney)|
|Brown, Captain D. C. (Hexham)||Hurd, P. A.||Stewart, Gershom|
|Brown, T. W. (Down, N.)||Jodrell, N. P.||Townley, Maximillian G.|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Larmor, Sir J.||Wedgwood, Col. Josiah C.|
|Craik, Right Hon. Sir Henry||Lindsay, William Arthur||Wilson, Capt. A. Stanley (Hold'ness)|
|Donald, T.||Lorden, John William||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Eyres-Monsell, Com.||M'Laren, Hon. H. D. (Bosworth)|
|Falcon, Captain M.||Molson, Major John Elsdale||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Sir|
|Fell, Sir Arthur||Morrison-Bell, Major A. C.||Frederick Banbury and Mr. Ronald|
|Gardner, E. (Berks., Windsor)||Nield, Sir Herbert||McNeill.|
|Grant James Augustus||Preston, W. R.|
Motion made, and Question, "That this House do now adjourn," put, and agreed to.
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—