§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ Mr. DEVLIN
I beg to move, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."
I think it would have simplified our procedure this evening if one of the hon. Gentlemen who have put their names on the back of this Bill had enlightened the House on one or two matters, and had given us information in regard to one or two considerations which I venture to submit here in moving the rejection of this Bill. In the first place, we are living in an age of democracy. All our lives, constitutional conditions and progressive ideas are based upon the democratisation of our institutions, and it would have been, I think, rather an advantage if some of those who had backed this measure had told us frankly that the Belfast Harbour Commissioners, who are promoting this Bill, were prepared to recognise the spirit of this age and to introduce into this measure a wider and broader franchise upon which this great trust is to carry out its operation in the City of Belfast. I have been taunted—not in any unfriendly way—by some hon. Gentlemen opposite with the fact that the franchise on which the Harbour Commissioners of Belfast are elected is as broad and wide, if not broader and wider, than many of the other great harbour trusts in these islands. I am not prepared to contest that, although I am not prepared to admit it. But that makes not the slightest difference to me. It is not a question whether this harbour trust is more or less democratic than other institutions of a similar character. To me the question is, does it represent the people? I say it does not represent the people, and that no institution should live in Belfast or anywhere else which is not inspired by a democratic spirit and based upon a democratic foundation. Here is a great public trust which denies to the masses of the people the right to that legitimate influence which every man is entitled to exercise in the performance of civic functions, whether in the direction of corporate affairs, in connection with our boards of guardians, or in connection with 328 our water trusts and harbour trusts; and, for my part, although I know I shall be defeated when I bring this question to a final issue, I would take every opportunity afforded to me to rivet public attention on the matter, and, if possible, to make a fight against the perpetuation of a system by which a trust of this character is confined to a leisured and special class of the community.
Take this harbour trust. One would imagine that the welfare of a great port like the Port of Belfast would be promoted by having represented upon it every element of the community. It has been said that the constitution of this body is more democratic and more broadly based than the Harbour Trusts of Cork and Dublin, but on the Port and Docks Board of Dublin—an institution which I should be the very last to defend—there are representatives of the Corporation of Dublin. There are no representatives of the corporation upon the Harbour Trust of Belfast. [An Hon. Member: "The Lord Mayor!"] The Lord Mayor is there by co-option. [An Hon. Member: "He is ex officio!"] The corporation is allowed to select one man, the Lord Mayor. [An Hon. Member: "And one other!"] There is no other so far as I am aware. I question very much whether the Lord Mayor is ex officio, but at all events the corporation, as such, has no representation. So deeply embedded are these gentlemen in Belfast in their Tory and reactionary ideas that even the Corporation of Belfast—the most reactionary and most conservative body in Ireland or in Great Britain—is supposed to be too progressive to have its own representation upon a harbour trust. Then the body for whom I speak—the Catholics of Belfast—have no representation. They constitute 100,000 out of 400,000 population. No doubt they do not contain the wealthiest members of the community—that was why they sent me here—but, after all, they contribute to the wealth of the community; they are the toilers and workers in the community, and many of them, in face of tremendous drawbacks and the difficulties placed in their way, commercially and otherwise, have sprung to posts of commercial and industrial eminence in that city, yet not one of them is considered fit to be elected to this body. There is just as much chance for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle as there is for a Catholic to pass into the sacred precincts of the Harbour Commissioners of Belfast. [An HON. 329 MEMBER: "Do you suggest that they should be co-opted?"] If the Commissioners were wise, that is what they would do. There would be no need to make a protest against the exclusion of the representatives of 100,000 of the population if they were co-opted.
Note the intolerant spirit of this body! Although they have the right of co-option, they would not co-opt a Catholic on that trust. You may ask me, What has religion to do with this? [Hon. Members: "Hear, hear."] Very well, what has religion to do with it? Religion or irreligion has everything to do with everything in Belfast. They say, "Oh, do not introduce religion into it, because we are masters of the situation and we keep the representatives of your religion out of it!" But if you want Home Rule for Ireland, they are the very gentlemen who blow the bugle and sound the war whoop if the Catholics of Ireland attempt to secure any form of liberty for themselves. I will tell you why religion enters into it. One would imagine that when these gentlemen have the whole control and the dominant power in Belfast they would be at any rate generous enough to give an absolutely unrepresented minority of that population—100,000 out of 400,000—some decent chance in the appointments to the salaried positions in that great city. Before I come to that, may I point out that in my judgment no institution should stand where the great mass of the people are disfranchised and where a very small, indeed an infinitesimal, minority of the population have all the votes? Some of them have forty-nine votes, some of them have thirty-three votes, some of them have twenty votes, and so it goes on in this cycle. The suggestion that underlies the determination of hon. Gentlemen opposite to defend this citadel of reaction is that neither the Catholics nor the working classes have the trains, or the civic spirit, or the enterprise, or the knowledge to add their contributing element to the building up of the power, industrial and progressive, of that great city. I deny that altogether. If that principle were admitted in regard to a great harbour trust, why is it not admitted in regard to Parliament, municipalities, and the great governing bodies? If you admit the principle that they are not fit, because they are working men or because they belong to a particular creed, to have the power of electing men to guide that trust, you must 330 universally accept the principle that men of that type are not fit for the discharge of the ordinary functions of Government which the State has entrusted to them.
Let me come to the question of why I am entitled to raise the question of religion in this matter—a thing I dislike very much. When Catholics are not allowed to have anything to say in the management of this trust, one would imagine that there would be sufficient shrewdness to treat Catholics decently. Instead of that, we find that the wages paid by the Harbour Trust to its salaried official staff amount to £1,260 a year, of which £400 is paid to Catholics. There is one Catholic employed by them and fifty-six non-Catholics. The berthing masters receive £2,212 11s. 3d., one Catholic employed. The harbour police receive £8,379; three Catholic harbour police are employed. The pilots receive £1,382, of which the Catholics receive £150. Yet the Catholics constitute one-fourth of the entire population of this city. I know what I shall be told. It has been impressed on me by hon. Members opposite time and again that after all you are in a minority, and minorities must suffer. That is really the happy epigram of Mr. Birrell. There never was anything that so enraged hon. Members as that declaration when he made it. Mr. Birrell was then dealing with the fact that those gentlemen were in a minority. They revolted against it, and rightly, because minorities ought not to suffer. Minorities ought to be like little children. They ought to be tenderly handled. These are the representatives of minorities, and I want to put their loyalty to this principle to the test. I see them all in a row. They are here for this Debate. I ask them now to answer me this question: Do they think it fair, as gentlemen who have played on public passion in this country because they were in a minority, that in a great trust of this character there should be not a single Catholic, and that the salaries paid to officials should be £12,060 per year to their friends and only £400 to the minority who are not represented on that board?
Then I come to another question. Not only is the corporation, the great municipal trust of the city, not directly represented, not only are the Catholics not represented, but Protestant labour is not represented. The Catholic population of Belfast is 100,000 out of something like 400,000. That is a minority, and again 331 minorities must suffer. But the working classes in Belfast are 80 or 85 per cent. of the entire population. Does anyone imagine that the working people in Belfast are going to allow themselves to be blindly denied their fair rights in the adjustment of everything that touches their lives and affects their interests in that city, and not to have a single representative upon one of the great public trusts? I will give the House an example of the need there is for labour representation on this body. I received this morning a communication from a man I do not know and never met. He says:I have been requested by a considerable number employed at Harland and Wolff's shipyard to place before you a few grievances existing at present in Belfast Harbour. Thousands of men employed in the shipbuilding yard on the County Down side have had to use the harbour ferry as a means of transport to and from their work. The method employed by the Commissioners is antediluvian. The vessels used for this purpose are slight and small and I might also add that on many occasions during the War men were compelled to return home in the early morning rather than stand in a long queue in a downpour of rain. The same conditions prevail to-day. Crowds of men have to wait a considerable time before being ferried across to their homes, and many a time are soaked to the skin before reaching their abode. It is a common sight to see a man dragged from the water where he has been unfortunately pushed in by the crowd behind. Only on Tuesday last a friend of mine almost met his death by drowning due to the bad system, and but for the plucky action of a fellow workman—whose name he gives—employed as a fitter in Harland and Wolff's who plunged into the icy cold water and brought the unfortunate man out of danger. He was taken in an ambulance to the hospital to receive treatment. The unfortunate fellow has not yet returned to work. This is a fact.And then he gives his name.I do not wish to deal further with these conditions as I might go on writing for hours. But according to our Press here in Belfast the Harbour Commissioners are going to make great extensions, but never a word regarding the system of transport for the men who are employed in the shipbuilding yard and who on the dark nights and mornings stand shivering on the ferry steps in danger of being drowned. However, we trust to your usual influence to remedy this prevailing evil and give the men an up-to-date system of reaching their work in good time.Why should a working man have to write to me to get that done? Why should he not have the right of one of those who constitute the community whose enterprise, whose labour, and whose blood and toil have built up this great port and this great city? Why should they have to write to a 332 Member of Parliament to get this, or something like it, done and popular attention directed to it instead of being able to do it by having a representative of his class on the trust to stand up and speak for his class?
I suppose some hon. Members expected I was going to enter into an analytical examination of this Bill and give a dry recital of reasons why I should deal with this matter in detail. Nothing of the sort. I am anxious to give the Harbour Commissioners, and every public body that is entrusted with great responsibility, all the power it can secure for the public good, but I take advantage of the opportunity which this Bill and this House afford to say that it is not fair, it is not decent, it is not defensible to carry on that trust by a denial to the great and vital interests involved of the right and the responsibility of guiding that trust in carrying on its business. Minorities are entitled to representation. It would be a good thing for the harbour board if it had representatives of a minority. It is not fair to boycott and ostracise the Catholics of Belfast, who constitute a quarter of the community. It cannot be defended if you try to keep working men from representing their class, whose lives are governed so largely by the conduct of the harbour trust. I will put this to a Division if I should only get half a dozen votes, and I hope Gentlemen who have lived and thrived upon the claims of minorities to due recognition will tell us what they propose to do to satisfy the just demands of the minority I represent. I notice one of the Labour Unionist representatives is very ready to rise. Perhaps he will answer this question. Does he or does he not approve of the refusal of this body, through the exercise of its franchise, to give to his own class the representation they ask? These are simple questions. I am going to be replied to by a great forensic advocate. I know he will bring all his brilliant skill into the defence of this indefensible cause, but I hope for once in his life he will rise above his prejudice, and, being a defender of minorities, will be consistent in this, that a minority is a minority whether it is on his side or is not.
§ Mr. MacVEAGH
I beg to second the Amendment.
I hope the House will favourably consider the representations which my hon. Friend has made. The manner in which the Belfast Harbour Board has discharged 333 its duty is a matter of notoriety. [An HON. MEMBER: "Very good."] Very good from the point of view of the very prosperous employer of labour who makes that objection and of his friends who have taken very good care that not a representative of the working classes ever obtained a seat upon that board. I will be very glad if he will tell us what Labour Members ever sat upon it. In addition to that they have carefully excluded from the Board all representatives of the Catholic minority who form nearly a fourth of the population. My hon. Friend, who has moved the rejection of the Bill, has stated that the defence for the other side will be that minorities must suffer. I rather assume that they will allege that the same thing happened in other parts of Ireland. I ventured, by way of anticipating that argument, to say that there is not a corner of Ireland where such a story can be unfolded as is unfolded in the city of Belfast. No Catholic was allowed to enter the Belfast Corporation until a Conservative Government in this House took the Belfast Corporation by the throat when they were promoting a Bill here, and compelled it to carve out the wards in the city of Belfast so as to give that minority a representation which it had hitherto been denied. That is absolutely unprecedented in the whole history of municipal institutions in this country, and yet a Conservative Government in this House found it necessary to take this step to put an end to this scandal of the exclusion of all Catholics. The wards were divided and the Catholics obtained some representation on the city corporation.
But the evil of the Belfast Harbour Board was never redressed, and there to this day no Catholic has been allowed; Turk, Jew, or atheist may enter, but not a Papist, and no Catholic has any chance whatever of obtaining an appointment under that Board unless he is lucky enough to conceal the religious opinions which he holds. Some of the hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side I have challenged to get up and tell this House when any Catholic was ever elected, and I challenge them to contradict the figures given by my Friend as to the manner in which Catholics are excluded, and I challenge them to give the name of a representative of Labour who was ever admitted to the charmed circle of the Belfast Harbour Board. I do not know much about the merits of this particular Bill. I assume that like other har- 334 bour Bills and corporation Bills there is a proposal to confer further powers upon that body. If that is so, it is the undoubted right of this House to intervene and ask how they have used their powers already conferred upon them, and it is the duty of this House, if they have abused them, to prevent them continuing the abuse of them in the future. That can be very easily done by the procedure of a Select Committee, but for the present we have to establish our case, that the Belfast Harbour Board has grossly abused its powers in the past, that it has been a monopoly for the ship owners and the wealthy classes in Belfast, that not even the middle classes are allowed a voice in the government. That being so, I strongly support, as a Belfast man, the proposal put forward by my hon. Friend, and I hope that the House will think once, twice, and thrice before conferring further powers.
§ The CHAIRMAN of WAYS and MEANS (Mr. Whitley)
As Chairman of Ways and Means it is my duty to advise the House on matters relating to private Bills and I shall therefore be pardoned for intervening for a moment. This Bill now before the House is one of similar Bills promoted by Dock and Harbour Boards to enable them to meet the new after-war conditions, and in particular to meet the largely increased wages which have become payable to the persons employed in the docks and harbours all over the country. I have said that there have been in this Session twenty of these Bills; nineteen of them have passed through their Second Heading without any objection, and this particular Bill is the twentieth. Amongst the Bills that were not blocked on the Second Reading were similar Bills from Dublin and from Cork, and I wish to recall to the House really what this Bill is. The Bill consists of three Clauses only, and out of the three Clauses one only is what we call the operative Clause, namely, the second Clause. This gives powers to the Commissioners of the Belfast Harbour to obtain some increase of their charges to meet the new cost of working the harbour, and to enable them to carry out improvements to bring or keep the equipment of the harbour up to date, and in accordance with modern conditions. Now, I do not take any exception at all to the speeches to which we have just listened. They are in accordance with the rights of Members of the House of Commons to bring forward at this stage griev- 335 ances that they may have with regard to the particular statutory authority concerned, and I have no doubt that what has been said by the two hon. Members who have spoken will be duly taken note of both in Belfast and in other quarters of Ireland.
I do not pretend to pronounce an opinion as to whether or not that it may not be desirable that this and other harbour boards might be brought up in constitution to more modern ideas. It may quite well be that there is a good deal to be said in that direction, and I should be the last person, therefore, to take exception to what has been said in that regard. But the first point I wish to put plainly before the House is that that cannot be done under the present Bill—that is, an alteration in the constitution of the Commissioners of the Belfast Harbour. It is outside the notices which have to be given according to our private Bill legislation, and therefore it is impossible to accomplish that under the present Bill. It would also be impossible in the case of Dublin or Cork or the Liverpool Mersey Docks and Harbour, or any ether of the nineteen Bills which are at present before the House of Commons.
§ Mr. MacVEAGH
Am I to understand that it is not within the competence of this House to refer the Bill to a Select Committee and give an Instruction to the Select Committee to amend the constitution of this board?
§ The CHAIRMAN of WAYS and MEANS
Certainly, I do not think that this Bill comes within these powers. Whena private Bill is promoted promoters have to give certain notices in the locality, so that people in the locality will know what the proposal is, and will have an opportunity locally of bringing forward their point and also of presenting Petitions to this House on matters relating to the Bill.
§ Mr. MacVEAGH
Does not my right hon. Friend remember that in the case of the Belfast Corporation Bill, which did not deal with representations, the matter was raised in this House, and the Bill was sent to a Select Committee? The reference to the Select Committee, with the support of the Government of the day, was followed by an Instruction to the Committee to alter the position of the Belfast Cor- 336 poration before further powers would be conferred on them, and that was carried in this House.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
And by a Tory Government!
§ The CHAIRMAN of WAYS and MEANS
I am not in possession of what was done in the case of that Bill, or what were the notices that had been given.
§ Mr. MacVEAGH
They had nothing to do with franchise.
§ The CHAIRMAN of WAYS and MEANS
But I am quite sure that in the case of this and the other nineteen of these Bills it is not competent to the Committee to do it, but the hon. Member might have dealt with the question by placing on the Order Paper to-night an Instruction of the kind.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
I will move it.
§ The CHAIRMAN of WAYS and MEANS
I do not know what view Mr. Speaker will take of that, but I am confident that it would not be within the present procedure of the House.
§ Mr. MacVEAGH
It was done in 1896.
§ The CHAIRMAN of WAYS and MEANS
I would suggest to the House that hon. Members would be quite within their rights in bringing forward this question, and I do not doubt, after what they have said, that various harbour boards will consider the question of whether their constitutions are capable of improvement to meet modern conditions. Certainly, if it were the occasion to debate the constitutions of the various harbour boards, it would only be necessary to quote some of the more modern ones to show that there are cases in which the constitutions are capable of improvement. But let that movement come from the localities concerned. That, I take it, is largely what the hon. Members have had in mind in bringing forward this matter at the present moment. It seems to me that it would be an action which the House of Commons would not wish to maintain to discriminate in this matter against a particular harbour board. If I am informed correctly, the franchise on which this particular harbour board is elected is, at least, as wide as most of those in Ireland or in the rest of the United Kingdom. Do not let me put it higher than that, and I beg the House not to be diverted from the consideration of this case as a matter of business.
337 I have myself already obtained the assent of the House to sending a number of these Harbour Bills to a Joint Committee of the Two Houses. I feel that the question which they raise ought to have rather a more deliberate consideration than would be possible under the ordinary procedure of the House. The House assented to that Motion of mine without any question, and the only matter before us now is whether or not this last of the twenty Bills should be similarly dealt with or whether it shall be thrown out now on its Second Reading. To throw it out on its Second Reading would be simply to say that we will not grant to Belfast Harbour what we have already granted to Dublin and Cork and seventeen other harbours of the United Kingdom, namely, a fair tribunal to consider whether or not they are to be entitled to raise their charges on ships and their dues for the business they transact in order that they may be equipped to deal with modern conditions. I beg the House of Commons not to make a Bill of this character the occasion for one of our old-time Debates on matters with which we are very familiar. The hon. Members have no doubt served the purpose with which they initiated the Debate. They have called attention to the fact that in their view the time is ripe, if it is not over-ripe, for an improvement to be made in the constitution of this harbour board. I hope that they will be satisfied with that, or at any rate the House will be satisfied with going so far as that, and let this Bill proceed along with the nineteen others for a consideration of the only matter which is contained in the Bill.
§ Mr E. CARSON
I remember once a great many years ago in this House, an eminent Irishman, having made a speech in which he moved the rejection of an important Bill, asked me after he had I made the speech, what I thought of it. I said I thought it was very good but that he might have referred to the Bill. He said to me, "How could I; I never read the beastly thing." The hon. Member opposite is in exactly that position. He does not know what the Bill is about nor does he care. The merits of the Bill have nothing to do with him whatsoever. He wants to raise the old Irish controversy upon every occasion. He wants to uphold his position as a Catholic and to be the champion in this House of the Catholics in Belfast.
§ Mr. MacVEAGH
They are right.
§ Sir E. CARSON
Well, whether they are right or wrong, I decline entirely to go into that question this evening. Every harbour board in the United Kingdom, including Waterford, Cork, and Dublin in Ireland have already applied, in exactly the same form as we have in this House, to have considered this matter of the increase of tolls on account of the increased price of labour under the harbour boards. I did not examine the Waterford Bill and the Cork Bill to see whether the majority of these boards were Sinn Feiners or Nationalists.
§ Captain REDMOND
The minority rule in Waterford.
§ Sir E. CARSON
I did not examine them. I know that the hon. Member knows all about them. I am only saying that it never occurred to me to examine any of these questions at all.
§ Captain REDMOND
You knew very well.
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ Sir E. CARSON
The sole question is as to whether the Bill ought to be treated differently from any other Bill in the United Kingdom, or whether the House ought to declare this evening that, without having any examination before the Joint Committee, the Belfast Harbour Board ought to close down its works or reduce its labour I will leave the matter there, but I think that I ought to make one or two other observations. My first observation is this, that no shipping company which uses the harbour, nor the Corporation of Belfast as the custodian of the affairs of the people there, offer any opposition to this Bill. There is no opposition except the political or religious opposition which is offered here this evening. The hon. Member who moved the rejection spent a great deal of time in talking of the misdeeds of the harbour board in not electing Catholics on the board. The Belfast Harbour Board had no power of co-option whatever, and they could not do it even if they wanted to. When I tell the House that the franchise of the Belfast Harbour Board is far more democratic than that of any other harbour board in the United Kingdom, I think they will be somewhat astonished at the opposition of hon. Members opposite. Belfast has a constituency of 10,851 for electing the harbour board. London for its harbour board has a constituency of 4,17l, Glasgow 2,215, and Liverpool 3,500. 339 So that Belfast has a constituency which is larger than the combined constituencies of London, Glasgow, and Liverpool, and yet it is the only one which is being opposed here. I have here the constitution of the various harbour boards. Harbour boards, whether rightly or wrongly, have not been elected in the past upon what you would call democratic constituencies. That may be right or it may be wrong. Let me take, for instance, Southampton. In that case the number of elected members is six and the whole constituency is 147. The appointed members there are, I expect for very good reasons, one by the Admiralty, one by the War Office, one by Trinity House, one by the Board of Trade, one by the Borough Council, one by the County Council, and so on, all people who are more or less connected with the administration and business of the harbour. In the same way, in Liverpool the elected members are only twenty-four, and the qualification there is payment in the name of a British subject or a person resident in the United Kingdom not being a British subject, of not less than £10 in rates and dues on ships or goods. So that you will see that what they had in view in framing these constitutions was really an interest in the harbour itself and in the business carried on in the harbour. I expect that is why the harbours in the United Kingdom have been such a great success. What are the harbour boards to do? They are elected themselves. It is open to any Catholic to stand. I am told there have been Catholics on this harbour board. It is purely a question of selection, and no question of co-option, which would enable the harbour board to do what the hon. Member opposite says they ought to do.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
The right hon. Gentleman says there is no power of co-option, and yet they co-opted Sir Crawford McCullagh.
§ Sir E. CARSON
I do not know why they did, or, if they did, under what circumstances. Sir Crawford McCullagh was Lord Mayor. I do not know whether he came on as Lord Mayor and was kept on. But here we have simply a commercial Bill, one out of nineteen or twenty, which we ask should go with the others, and, so far as I am concerned, having stated so much to the House, I decline to be drawn into a discussion on Nationalist, 340 Sinn Fein, or Unionist, or Protestant, or Catholic, and I ask the House to treat this as a purely business matter.
§ Mr. T. P. O'CONNOR
I am sure that Members who have heard this discussion must have been a little surprised, and I think some of them at least above the Gangway on this side, I may say a little shocked. We have the right to raise this question on such a Bill as this, and I am afraid I must say to my hon. Friend the Chairman of Ways and Means, if he will pardon me, that he took a somewhat narrow view in discussing this question. It has become the practice of this House through many Sessions, and I might say through a generation, to take advantage of a proposal to this House of a concession to a railway or public board to bring before the attention of the House the particular condition under which either the railway company or the public board performed its functions. Several members of the Labour party of the past have brought forward, on railway Bills, for instance, questions regarding either wages or hours, or the recognition of a union, or other questions affecting the labouring portion of the Empire. I have known instances in which, by legitimate pressure which members of the Labour party or other parties have been able to put upon particular enterprises, either private or public, the result has been large and desirable, and just concessions to the labouring people connected with those enterprises. I myself, though I speak here as a representative of a city where we have an extremely good dock and harbour board, though elected in a rather narrow franchise, I myself, though at the moment I may in some important particulars regard myself as their chosen spokesman, have been compelled—I did it most unwillingly—to move and to obtain the rejection of a Bill brought in by that board. Why? It was not that I objected to the provisions of that Bill any more than I object to the provisions of this Bill, for it is quite right that harbour boards under the changed conditions should have the right to increase their tolls. The right hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir E. Carson), charged my hon. Friend (Mr. Devlin) with not understanding the Bill. Really after all the veriest tyro could understand the Bill since it is practically a Bill of one clause which deals with the question of raising tolls owing to war conditions.
341 When the Liverpool Bill to which I have just referred was brought in there was a dispute going on at the time between that board and a section of their employés. The point at issue was whether the board was ready or not ready to recognise the union amongst its employés, or in fact I believe amongst only a section of them. I did my best, and I have spent my life endeavouring to make compromises between extremes on all sides, to get the board to agree to the recognition of that union. I told them they would lose their Bill which they very badly wanted. They remained obstinate and I was compelled to oppose and to press the matter to a Division which turned out to be a success. The Bill was rejected and I believe the board, getting more sense by its defeat, did the very thing which they had hitherto refused to do. Therefore, I claim that this is a perfectly reasonable, legitimate and well proved and traditional method of bringing before the House and of obtaining if possible the reform of grievances in the constitution of the board concerned. The right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite was complimented, quite rightly, by my hon. Friend here as a master of brilliant forensic persuasion. The only brilliancy I could discover in his speech was that he carefully avoided discussing the merits of the question before the House. The merits of the question are, shall a body be given further powers, however desirable and necessary these powers may be, without that body, through its spokesman in this House giving the House some assurance that proved, incontestable evils, grievances, and inequalities in its conduct are going to be removed? It is all very fine for the right hon. and learned Gentlement to suggest that they know nothing about either the religious or the class position of the people who are associated with this board. An Irishman can say that to Englishmen with some expectation of its being believed, but he cannot say it to an Irishman with any such expectation. That form of camouflage is purely for English consumption.
It is not an accident—the right hon. and learned Gentleman knows it as well as I—that no Catholic is on this board, and it is not an accident that no Labour man is on this board. I do not want to dwell on the purely sectarian side of this question, for everybody knows there is no bitterer enemy in this House of the spirit of sectarianism than I am. I wish I could say 342 the same of my hon. Friends on the opposite side of the House, but it is certainly a remarkable coincidence, and so much of a coincidence that it cannot be an accident, that one-fourth of the population of a city cannot find a single representative on one of the great public and governing bodies of that city. I pass to the representation of Labour. My own opinion is this, that there is not a public board of any kind in this country which, if its controllers were wise, would not have a Labour representative on that board. Have I to argue this proposition at this time of day, with the state of feeling all over the world, including this country, that in a great public body of a great city Labour is not entitled to representation? I think I would be abusing the patience of the House if I said a further word on that point. I now ask, Is it a coincidence or is it an accident that Labour has never had representation on the Belfast Harbour Board? An hon. Gentleman said they are all workers on the board. Of course, we are all workers, but everybody knows that that is not what we mean when we use the generic term Labour What we mean by it is a man who belongs to that large mass of the people who are the workers with their hands, and therefore I cannot accept that statement of the hon. Gentleman as an answer to my ease. It is quite true, I am sure, that on this board they have some of the best business men in Belfast. I am sure they are too intelligent and too enterprising a city not to choose some of their best business men for that body, but a business man is not a worker in the sense in which we ask for representation of the Labour party. My hon. Friend read a letter. A harbour has something else to do and other people to deal with besides merely shipping and shippers. Down in my own Constituency in Liverpool most of the people there are people who earn their living on the docks of Liverpool. I do not know whether they have any representation upon the Liverpool board.
§ Sir E. CARSON
Is that camouflage too? It may do with Englishmen, but it will not do with an Irishman.
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
I never tried to fool an. Irishman in my life, but honestly I do not think there is.
§ Sir E. CARSON
Why do you not oppose their Bill?
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
§ Sir E. CARSON
Not this Bill.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
We will oppose it next time.
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
I am glad the House has had the unusual spectacle of an Irish Debate conducted in a good humour. I opposed and I defeated the Liverpool Port Bill on the very grounds I raise here, namely, of not acting in the proper spirit towards labour. As I said, it is quite a false and narrow conception of a harbour board to think that it has not to deal with other people besides the shippers, and with other things besides the shipping. It has to deal with the interests, with the wages, with the safety to limb and life of the large messes of people who are concerned in its working, and who do perhaps as much to its working as even the prosperous and wealthy commercial gentlemen who form the board. [Hon. Members: "More."] Hon. Gentlemen are English, and they do not understate cases, which an Irishman always does, and therefore I hold that every man who shares my opinions—and I cannot imagine any man contesting them—[An Hon. Member: "Oh"]—any rational man, any broad-minded man. I have just as much right to oppose this Bill, because of its unfair attitude to labour,
§ as I have to oppose a Bill from my own city, politically, which was charged with the same offence. I do not suppose we are going to defeat this Bill on a Division.
§ Sir E. CARSON
You would be very sorry if you did.
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
But I do hope that we shall get a sufficient body in the Lobby to give a warning to my friends and countrymen from Belfast that they must be a little up to date, and that they must try—I know it is an effort—to forget that we are not fighting the conflicts of the Twentieth Century on the bitter sectarian memories of the Sixteenth.
§ The CHAIRMAN of WAYS and MEANS
I was asked a question by the hon. Member for South Down about an Instruction, and I have since had the opportunity of looking up that question, and I find that in 1905 a proposal of that kind was submitted, and Mr. Speaker ruled that it was not competent to move an Instruction of an exactly similar character to the one that had been suggested in the Debate here. If hon. Members are curious and wish to turn to it it is on page 658 of Erskine May.
Question put, "That the word "now" stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 176; Noes, 52.345
|Division No. 9.]||AYES.||[9.20 p.m.|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Cory, J. H. (Cardiff)||Hickman, Brig.-Gen. Thomas E.|
|Ainsworth, Captain C.||Cozens-Hardy, Hon. W. H.||Hills, Major J. W. (Durham)|
|Amery, Lieut.-Col. L. C. M. S.||Craig, Col. Sir James (Down, Mid.)||Hinds, John|
|Archdale, Edward M.||Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Sir Samuel J. G.|
|Astbury, Lt.-Com. F. W.||Davies, Alfred Thomas (Lincoln)||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy|
|Atkey, A. R.||Davies, Sir Joseph (Crewe)||Hood, Joseph|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Davies, T. (Cirencester)||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)|
|Barlow, Sir Montague (Salford, S.)||Dennis, J. W.||Hope, Lt.-Col. Sir J. (Midlothian)|
|Barnett, Captain Richard W.||Dockrell, Sir M.||Hopkinson, Austin (Mossley)|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Donald, T.||Horne, Edgar (Guildford)|
|Barton, Sir William (Oldham)||Edwards, A. Clement (East Ham, S.)||Howard, Major S. G.|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Elliot, Capt. W. E. (Lanark)||Hurd, P. A.|
|Benn, Com. Ian Hamilton (G'nwich)||Eyres-Monsell, Com.||Hurst, Major G. B.|
|Betterton, H. B.||Falcon, Captain M.||Jackson, Lieut.-Col. Hon. F. S. (York)|
|Birchall, Major J. D.||Farquharson, Major A. C.||Jephcott, A. R.|
|Blades, Sir George R.||Fell, Sir Arthur||Jones, Sir Evan (Pembroke)|
|Borwick, Major G. O.||Fisher, Rt. Hon. Herbert A. L.||Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen)|
|Boscawen, Sir Arthur Griffith-||Foxcroft, Captain C.||Jones, Wm. Kennedy (Hornsey)|
|Brackenbury, Col. H. L.||Geddes, Rt. Hon. Sir A. C. (Basingstoke)||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement|
|Broad, Thomas Tucker||Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Glasgow)|
|Buckley, Lt.-Col. A.||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. John||Lewis, T. A. (Pontypridd, Glam.)|
|Burdon, Col. Rowland||Glyn, Major R.||Lindsay, William Arthur|
|Burn, Col. C. R. (Torquay)||Goff, Sir R. park||Lloyd, George Butler|
|Carew, Charles R. S. (Tiverton)||Gould, J. C.||Locker-Lampson G. (Wood Green)|
|Carr, W. T.||Grayson, Lieut.-Col. H. M.||Lort-Willlams, J.|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward H.||Greame, Major P. Lloyd-||Loseby, Captain C. E.|
|Carter, R. A. D. (Manchester)||Green, J. F. (Leicester)||Lynn, R. J.|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Griggs, Sir Peter||Lyon, L.|
|Cough, R.||Guinness, Lt.-Col. Hon. W. E. (B. St. E.)||M'Donald, D. H. (Bothwell, Lanark)|
|Coates, Major Sir Edward F.||Hacking, Captain D. H.||M'Guffin, Samuel|
|Cockerill, Brig.-Gen. G. K.||Hailwood, A.||M'Laren, R. (Lanark, N.)|
|Cohen, Major J. B. B.||Harmsworth, Cecil B. (Luton, Beds.)||M'Lean, Lt.-Col. C. W. W. (Brigg)|
|Collins, Col. G. P. (Greenock)||Henderson, Major V. L.||Macmaster, Donald|
|Compton-Rickett, Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford)||McNeill, Ronald (Canterbury)|
|Mitchell, William Lane-||Raper, A. Baldwin||Ward, Col. L. (Kingston-upon-Hull)|
|Molson, Major John Elsdale||Raw, Lt.-Col. Dr. N.||Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)|
|Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred Moritz||Rees, Sir J. D.||Watson, Captain John Bertrand|
|Morden, Col. H. Grant||Reid, D. D.||Weston, Col. John W.|
|Moreing, Captain Algernon H.||Remer, J. B.||Wheler, Col. Granville C. H.|
|Mosley, Oswald||Renwick, G.||Whitla, Sir William|
|Mount, William Arthur||Richardson, Albion (Peckham)||Whitley, Rt. Hon. John Henry|
|Nall, Major Joseph||Rowlands, James||Wigan, Brig.-Gen. John Tyson|
|Neal, Arthur||Samuel, S. (Wandsworth, Putney)||Wild, Sir Ernest Edward|
|Nelson, R. F. W. R.||Samuels, Rt. Hon. A. W. (Dublin Univ.)||Williams, Lt.-Com. C. (Tavistock)|
|Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. (Exeter)||Sanders, Colonel Robert Arthur||Williams, Col. P. (Middlesbrough)|
|Newton, Major Harry Kottingham||Seager, Sir William||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Stourbridge)|
|Nicholson, R. (Doncaster)||Shaw, Capt. W. T. (Forfar)||Wilson, Col. Leslie (Reading)|
|Nicholson, W. (Petersfield)||Smithers, Alfred W.||Wilson, Col. M. (Richmond, Yorks.)|
|O'Neill, Capt. Hon. Robert W. H.||Sprot, Col. Sir Alexander||Wilson-Fox, Henry|
|Parker, James||Stanier, Capt. Sir Beville||Winterton, Major Earl|
|Pease, Rt. Hon. Herbert Pike||Stanley, Col. Hon. G. F. (Preston)||Wood, Sir H. K. (Woolwich, W.)|
|Pennefather, De Fonblanque||Steel, Major S. Strang||Wood, Sir J (Stalybridge and Hyde)|
|Perring, William George||Stephenson, Col. H. K.||Worsfold, T. Cato|
|Pickering, Col. Emil W.||Talbot, Rt. Hon. Lord E. (Chichester)||Yate, Col. Charles Edward|
|Pinkham, Lieut.-Col. Charles||Taylor, J. (Dumbarton)||Young, Lt.-Com. E. H. (Norwich)|
|Pownall, Lt.-Col. Assheton||Thompson, F. C. (Aberdeen, S.)||Young, Sir F. W. (Swindon)|
|Pratt, John William||Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Raeburn, Sir William||Turton, Edmund Russborough||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr. Moles and Captain Craig.|
|Ramsden, G. T.||Waddington, R.|
|Randles, Sir John Scurrah||Walton, J. (York, Don Valley)|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Hirst, G. H.||Shaw, Tom (Preston)|
|Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle, E.)||Hogge, J. M.||Short, A. (Wednesbury)|
|Bell, James (Ormskirk)||Holmes, J. S.||Sitch, C. H.|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Irving, Dan||Smith, Capt. A. (Nelson and Colne)|
|Brown, J. (Ayr and Bute)||Johnstone, J.||Smith, W. (Wellingborough)|
|Cairns, John||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Spencer, George A.|
|Carter, W. (Mansfield)||Jones, J. (Silvertown)||Spoor, B. G|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R.||Kenyon, Barnet||Swan, J. E. C.|
|Davies, Alfred (Clitheroe)||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George||Taylor, J. W. (Chester-le-Street)|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Lunn, William||Thomas, Brig.-Gen. Sir O. (Anglesey)|
|Donnelly, P.||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Edwards, C. (Bedwellty)||Malone, Col. C. L. (Leyton, E.)||White, Charles F. (Derby, W.)|
|Entwistle, Major C. F.||Malone, Major P. (Tottenham, S.)||Wignall, James|
|Galbraith, Samuel||O'Connor, T. P.||Williams, A. (Consett, Durham)|
|Graham, D. M. (Hamilton)||Redmond, Captain William A.||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Graham, W. (Edinburgh)||Richardson, R. (Houghton)|
|Griffiths, T. (Pontypool)||Roberts, F. O. (W. Bromwich)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr. Neil M'Lean and Mr Devlin.|
|Grundy, T. W.||Royce, William Stapleton|
|Hall, F. (Yorks, Normanton)|
Question put, and agreed to.