§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Mr. SAMUELS
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
This is a Bill of considerable importance for the local government of Ireland in the future. It has become necessary on account of the fact that the Suspensory Acts, 1916, 1917, and 1918, which have prolonged the existence of the local authorities, will expire in a short time, and we have to consider the question what local authorities are to administer the various Acts which are in existence in Ireland. The last election for the 100 county councils were held in June, 1914, and those for the urban communities in January, 1915. Some of the members of these bodies are therefore five years over their time and a great many are three years over.
§ Mr. SAMUELS
Under the Local Government Act, 1898, there were thirty-three county councils in Ireland, each having about twenty-one members. The electorate varied in the different counties from something like 2,000 voters up to 10,000 in the county of Cork. Each county is divided into electoral divisions, each returning one member by direct vote. The rural electoral districts return two members by direct vote. There are a very large number of rural divisions, and each rural district councillor is also a guardian of the poor. In some cases there are urban and rural districts combined in one Poor Law union, and the result of the present system of election is that these authorities are constituted of fifty, seventy, one hundred, and (in the case of Dublin) 137 members, far too large a number to do business in any energetic and thorough manner. It is proposed in the Bill that rural district councils shall be reduced by half the number, and that where there is an amalgamated union it shall be reduced by one-half or by some reasonable number which will correspond to the requirements of the particular union. There are eleven municipal boroughs in Ireland, and for those boroughs the elections take place on the 15th January in each year. The elections for the counties take place in June each year. There are six county boroughs—Dublin, Belfast, Cork, Limerick, Londonderry, and Waterford. They are divided into wards. In the City of Dublin each ward returns one alderman and three councillors; there are twenty wards, and the corporation consists of eighty members. In Belfast there are fifteen wards, each returning one alderman and three councillors, with a corporation of sixty members. Limerick has eight wards, each returns one alderman and four councillors. In Cork each of the seven wards returns two aldermen and six councillors. In Londonderry and Waterford, each with five wards, each ward returns two alder- 101 men and six councillors. There are five boroughs—Clonmel, Drogheda, Kilkenny, Wexford, and Sligo, each with three wards, each returning two aldermen and six councillors.
§ Mr. SAMUELS
Yes, they are all adapted from the Local Government Act. In addition to that there are urban districts, not being boroughs, which are divided into district electoral divisions. There are towns with town commissioners, and they are divided into wards or electoral areas as the case may be. All these representatives have hitherto been returned by direct representation. The effect has not been satisfactory in a great portion of Ireland. The ratepayer, in his capacity as ratepayer, has practically not been represented in large districts on either the county council or on the corporations, district councils, or boards of guardians. Almost everywhere it is politics, and politics alone, that have succeeded in winning the local government elections over the greater part of the country.
§ Mr. SAMUELS
We have not the same amount of gradations in Ireland that we have in England. Political tenets, unfortunately, in Ireland, over a great portion of the country, have under the former system not corresponded with substantial interest or zeal for economy in local administration.
§ Mr. SAMUELS
In certain of the towns, for instance, where the house is let in tenements—which is an evil we have to deal with largely in many cases in Ireland—where the rating is under £4, the lessor pays all the rates, and all the inhabitants of the tenement houses have the vote. The result has been that in portions of some of these boroughs the great body of the electors have no real interest in checking the raising or method of administration of the rates so far as they tend towards efficiency or economy. There has been great extravagance and great mismanagement, and in several of the towns they have created, for the purpose of trying to watch the operations of these bodies, what are called ratepayers' associations.
§ Mr. SAMUELS
In Ireland it has not had very much effect. Take the case of Dublin. There the rates were 12s. in 1908 and 13s. in 1914. This year they have risen to something like 16s. 11d.
§ Mr. SAMUELS
From the civic point of view there has been a great need for some method, if possible, of getting persons returned, I do not say on political grounds at all, but in the interest of the welfare, prosperity, and commercial interests of the cities. It is also a matter of the greatest importance to the State, which has advanced very large sums upon the security of the rates, that there should be the best possible form of local government body representing the ratepayers. Millions of money have been advanced and millions more will have to be advanced in the immediate future, and great obligations will be imposed upon the local bodies for carrying out schemes of housing, education and health, which we hope will soon be entrusted to their keeping. Considering the whole position, the Government have come to the conclusion, in view of the dissatisfaction which largely prevails in the country, that a system of proportional representation should be introduced for Ireland. I may say that when that was announced it was welcomed almost universally by the Press all through the country. I do not think there is any opposition, at any rate any responsible opposition, put forward by the Irish Press.
§ Notice taken of the fact that forty Members were not present; House counted, and forty Members being found present—
§ Mr. SAMUELS
The Government in the circumstances propose to introduce the principle of proportional representation for these local elections in Ireland. It was almost universally welcomed by the whole of the Irish Press. There was in 103 Ireland one instance last year of an election for a local body under proportional representation which certainly proved a perfect success. That was the case of the borough of Sligo. Sligo is a very ancient borough which had been reduced practically to a state of bankruptcy. Certain seizures were made under judgments against the property of the corporation and they had to come to Parliament for the purpose of seeing what could be done to restore their position. A Private Bill was introduced at the instance of the Corporation, with the consent of the people of Sligo, in which this principle of proportional representation was embodied. Sligo was divided into three wards, each returning two aldermen and six councillors, and an election was held under the principle of proportional representation on a most important matter. It is generally put forward with regard to proportional representation that except in the case of highly intelligent and educated communities it would be very difficult to carry it out in effect.
§ Mr. SAMUELS
At any rate, the election in Sligo proved a complete success. There was in the three wards a well-balanced return, and all parties were represented. I believe the Corporation of Sligo as it is now is one which has met with the thorough approval of the citizens of that important town. It will be said, I am perfectly sure, that one swallow does not make a summer, but, at all events, one swallow is always the harbinger of spring. A reasoned Amendment has been put down by the hon. Member for Canterbury and several other hon. Members who object to the introduction of this Bill for Ireland on the ground that it does not prevail in relation to Great Britain. I do not know about Great Britain, but this system does not prevail in what may be called Greater Britain. In Scotland, for education purposes, the local bodies are elected on this principle of proportional representation, and I am informed on the highest authority from Scotland that the result has been that a first-class set of candidates has come forward, men who would otherwise not have come forward at all. Therefore it has had the excellent effect already that men who hitherto have refrained from such affairs, 104 because they thought they would be plunged into politics or would only be elected on party grounds, have come forward in a real public spirit and with the expectation that their abilities as educationists will be fully considered by the electorate under the new system. So when it is said that this is introducing for Ireland something that does not exist in Great Britain, it is inaccurate. It does exist in the system of election for local bodies in relation to the education authorities in Scotland. But if Parliament thinks a new method of election or any other new system or any reform is desirable for Ireland, I do not see why it should wait upon England or Scotland. My view of the United Kingdom is that it ought to be the United Kingdom of Ireland and Great Britain, and I should like to see it in the van of progress in these matters. I believe this system will be a progressive one. It will give an opportunity to the people in Ireland to express their feelings in matters like these free from the fear that it will be cutting against their party interests. The privilege of giving a second, third or fourth preference is something which will very often influence a man, and he will think out the matter for himself and not be bound to vote the party ticket. These are the circumstances under which the Government is introducing proportional representation. I received a letter this morning from a person in the very highest position in Ireland, who has, perhaps, the best possible opportunity of any man in the country for knowing what the state of feeling is in regard to such a measure, and this is what he writes:—I have never known any Bill which has received such wide support from all sections of the Press and the people as this one. Indeed, men of all classes, politics and religions are convinced of the urgent necessity of the measure.
§ Mr. SAMUELS
Sir Henry Robinson, President of the Local Government Board, and there is no man in Ireland who has a better opportunity of judging the state of feeling. I have also received a letter from a gentleman in the South of Ireland. I will not mention his name.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. Whitley)
I must remind the right hon. Gentleman that if he quotes from a document for 105 the purposes of argument he is liable to be called upon to produce the whole document.
§ Mr. SAMUELS
I shall not read the document. But I have received several letters from correspondents in different towns who say they are very anxious that the Bill should be introduced and they believe it would introduce a new spirit altogether in the method of elections.
To deal with the Bill itself, it is only in the case of an election for the full number of members that the proportional representation system will be introduced. There will be as few changes as possible introduced into the system of local government by the Bill. Under existing provisions relating to elections casual vacancies are filled by co-option in county and rural district councils. They are filled in the case of Boroughs by an election held for the particular place, and it is not intended to interfere with that system. In the case of casual vacancies co-option will still exist under the previous Acts, and in the case of vacancies in boroughs or urban constituencies there will have to be elections. It is intended to reduce the number of members of boards of guardians and rural district councils. They are much too large. Power is given to the Local Government Board, as has been given under the provisional Local Government Acts and the Franchise Act, for the purpose of defining the electoral areas as far as necessary. The intention is to interfere as little as possible with existing wards or divisions of that character, but it is necessary for the Local Government Board to define particular areas for the purpose of proportional representation, because, of course, it will be necessary to group electoral districts. In defining the local electoral areas and assigning members thereto the Board will, as far as practicable, securethat the total number of members of any local authority other than a rural district council or board of guardians shall not be altered; that the number of members assigned to the local electoral areas shall in each case be such as to give equal representation upon the basis of population; that the number of members assigned to any local election area shall not be more than nine nor less than three. Except, so far as is necessary for the purpose of forming local electoral areas, nothing in this section shall affect any existing district electoral divisions, or the powers of the Local Government Board with respect thereto.The Local Government Board has authority over the whole matter only as far as 106 practicable to deal with it as far as may be necessary for mapping out these different areas, and it is necessary that they shall form such areas as shall not have less than three nor more than nine members.
§ Mr. SAMUELS
Yes, it applies to all. The reason the number nine is decided upon is that in some cities—Cork, Londonderry, and Waterford—there are eight representatives in each ward, two being aldermen and six being councillors.
§ Mr. SAMUELS
That is a matter the Local Government Board will have to deal with themselves. But it is highly improbable that they will be interfered with. All the representatives in rural districts and county council are to go out of office next December. Under ordinary circumstances they would go out in June next, but it will be quite impossible to have all these arrangements made for county councils, rural district councils and guardians, and everything plotted out and ready for a June election. Then it has to be taken into account that we have only one register in Ireland, and there will be a new register in October which will be perfected about the end of November, for appeals generally go to the Court of Appeal at the beginning of November, and by the end of November the new register will be perfect, and it is desirable when you are introducing this measure that the election should take place upon the new basis. The first election will therefore be in December.
§ Mr. SAMUELS
It would not be desirable to hold it up till June, 1920, but possibly it could be arranged in Committee that at any rate elections in future shall take place in June. I think it is desirable, at any rate for this year, that as soon as the register is made there should be an election. The election for the town councils will take place as usual in the beginning of January next year. All 107 the town councils and all the aldermen and the other elected representatives will go out together and there will be a general election for rural and urban purposes. For the future the tenure will be three years. At present aldermen hold office for six years, but it is proposed that the tenure of aldermen shall be in the same position as that of other councillors for the future, and the intention is that the first two elected for a ward under the system of proportional representation shall be returned as aldermen and the others shall be returned as councillors.
Power is taken in Clause 7 whereby if default is made by local authorities in performing their statutory duty the Local Government Board may by Order appoint some person to discharge the duty of the council or the commissioners, or such of those duties as may be specified in the Order, and after the making of such an Order, as long as it is in force, the powers and duties of the councillors or commissioners shall be discharged by the person who is thus appointed. That is a similar provision to one which is to be introduced into the Housing Act for England. It has become necessary, in the opinion of the Government, to be prepared for an attempt to make local government impossible. It has been publicly announced by politicians in Ireland that they intend to make local government impossible, and this Clause provides that if such an attempt is made it shall not prevail. There are powers at present for dealing with the case of the neglect of roads or sewage and one or two other matters under the Public Health Act, by which the Local Government Board can appoint persons to carry out those duties, and there used to be a power relating to boards of guardians who might be suspended and their duties discharged altogether by persons appointed by the Local Government Board, and it had to be resorted to. Now that immense powers with regard to housing and health—far greater powers than have hitherto existed, are going to be entrusted to local authorities, it is most important that the public bodies charged with these great duties shall carry them out and shall not be in a position to abdicate their functions, and create a local anarchy.
The Bill which I am now proposing will read together with the other Local Government Acts for Ireland, and we 108 hope the House will read it a second time to-day and that it will be passed into law as speedily as possible. I do not presume to say that we come here with an exaggerated anticipation as to what will happen under the provisions for proportional representation, but we have every reason to hope and believe that, with regard to the particular conditions of Irish public life, and to the particular antagonisms which exist and the gaps that prevail in the different classifications of electors in Ireland, that the introduction of this new method will give new hope, vitality and life to the public administration in Ireland. With that object in view, and almost with that assurance, we bring forward the Bill and ask the House to read it a second time.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
It would be an unusual procedure to extend an Irish Bill to Great Britain. I do not say it is impossible, but I would like to see the proposal first.
§ Major O'NEILL
I beg to move to leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the words,this House declines to proceed with a Bill which, by establishing proportional representation as the basis of local elections in Ireland, introduces a principle of election in Ireland different from that prevailing in Great Britain.I feel I must draw attention to the fact that on the Second Reading of a Bill of the importance and magniture of this one, that the Chief Secretary is not in his place.
§ Mr. SAMUELS
The Chief Secretary regrets very much that he has been called to Ireland on urgent business. He had hoped very much to be here.
§ Major O'NEILL
I quite understand that the right hon. Gentleman has very good reasons for being absent, but surely the Government could have arranged that a Bill of this importance should have been read a second time, when the Chief Secretary was able to be here! I do not intend to go into details of the arguments for or against proportional representation. My hon. Friend who will second this Motion will do that, as I understand he has made a particular study of the subject. The whole of this question was covered in detail in the last Parliament. Numbers 109 of Debates took place on the Representation of the People Act on the question of proportional representation.
§ Major O'NEILL
For Parliamentary purposes, and on every occasion that system as a principle of election was defeated. It was introduced for Parliamentary elections, but I cannot see why if it is good for municipal elections it should not be good for Parliamentary elections. I confess that I do not fully understand the principle of proportional representation.
§ Major O'NEILL
When I was present in this House the year before last and the matter went to a Division I voted against proportional representation together with the majority of this House. So far as I understand it in theory, the principle is excellent. It apparently provides that if you elect people to an assembly they should be represented in that assembly in exact proportion to the number of electors of the different parties who returned them. That is what proportional representation is in theory, but in practice, so far as I understand it, it has on every occasion on which it has been tried proved unsuccessful.
§ Captain REDMOND
Has the hon. and gallant Gentleman made himself acquainted with the election in Sligo?
§ Major O'NEILL
I have. The question of Sligo was also referred to by the right hon. Gentleman. I do not know anything about politics in Sligo, and I do not know whether the present Sligo municipal body is any better than the last one. I am told it probably is.
§ Major O'NEILL
My point about Sligo is that Sligo is an isolated question. It was one case only, whether it be successful or not. One of the very first principles which I learned at school was never to argue from a particular to a general principle, because if you do it is a fallacy. Because Sligo has been a success—if it is a success; we do not know yet—that is absolutely no ground for basing an argument in favour of applying proportional representation on the large and sweeping scale which is proposed by this Bill. 110 There is another point about Sligo, and that is that the electors of Sligo were consulted before proportional representation for them was brought in. It was they who promoted the private Bill in this House, and that surely is a very different state of affairs from the one which exists at present as regards Ireland in connection with this Bill. We on these benches object to being experimented upon in connection with this question. The whole thing is an experiment, and in my opinion it is particularly unsuitable to the election of local government bodies, whatever it may be in regard to Parliamentary bodies. Surely, in regard to a man who is a member of a county council or a rural district council, or any other local body, it is more vital in his case than in that of a Member of Parliament that he should be in close personal daily touch with the electors who returned him. That is utterly impossible under any system of proportional representation. On the merits of the case I am inclined to be against proportional representation. At any rate, I would say that it is surely better for us to retain a system which we know than to embark upon some other system the details of which we do not know and which are open to suspicion in practice. My objection to this Bill would be very largely removed, or at any rate I should look upon it from a different point of view if it were applied to the whole of the United Kingdom. That is the real basis of the opposition which we on these benches propose to give to this Bill. It seeks to impose upon us differential treatment, and we do not see why we should be made the subject of this experiment. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not?"] Would the hon. Member like his particular constituency to be made the subject of this particular experiment?
§ Major O'NEILL
The hon. Member is presumably a Member for a university. I did not know that. That, to my mind, was a very special case included in the last Bill, and it was quite outside the main argument for proportional representation on a large scale. I should oppose any measure which seeks to differentiate either in favour of or against the part of the country which I represent. I should oppose equally a measure introduced to halve the Income Tax in Ulster. I do not see why the people of the North 111 of Ireland should be subject to special and different treatment from those of Great Britain. What we desire is the same treatment and the same measures as those applied to other parts of the United Kingdom.
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ Major O'NEILL
I do not. I should like to see an Education Bill for the whole of Ireland. I want to see Ireland placed on the same basis in regard to education as England. I would like to see the Education Bill which was passed last Session applied to Ireland, and the advantages which it gives to English children applied to Ireland, or, at any rate, to that part of Ireland which I represent. The question of the Education Bill which was passed last Session is itself a strong instance of what I was saying. That Bill did not apply to Ireland. Take another Bill. The Reform Bill of two years ago as introduced did not apply to Ireland, and subsequently, but only in face of the most bitter opposition from the party, which was then a party considerable in numbers, represented by hon. Gentlemen opposite, the Redistribution Clauses were applied to Ireland. The Health Bill as introduced did not apply to Ireland. We are told that it is going to be made to apply now, but it is doubtful whether the Amendment proposed by the Government will carry the matter very much further.
§ Major O'NEILL
The Transport Bill, the Second Reading of which was proposed the other day, applies to Ireland, but a differentiation is set up which, as my right hon. Friend the Member for the Duncairn Division of Belfast (Sir E. Carson) stated in his very convincing speech, does not apply to Ireland in a way which will benefit or facilitate its application at any rate in the North of Ireland. Then the Housing Bill so far does not apply to Ireland. This consistent policy of leaving Ireland out of all beneficial legislation which is carried for other parts of the United Kingdom, is a policy against which we upon these benches desire to enter our most emphatic protest. Not only are we left out of Bills which are for the benefit of England, but now it is proposed to put us into a Bill as to which we have never 112 been consulted, the main principle of which we do not want, and which it is not suggested ought to be applied to any other part of the United Kingdom. That is most unfair and indefensible conduct on the part of the Government. On this one point I may give the House a very curious instance of very much the same condition of affairs. In another part of Europe, which is leading to a great deal of trouble and difficulty—I refer to the analogy of the province of Catalonia in Spain. I have been to that province and it often struck me that the resemblance of the political position of Catalonia versus the rest of Spain as compared with the political position of Ulster is really so remarkable as to be really quite extraordinary.
To begin with, the province of Catalonia is in the North of Spain, and its largest town, the great city of Barcelona, is in the North-east corner of Spain just as Belfast is in the North-east corner of Ireland. Barcelona is the largest city in Spain. It has the biggest industrial connection and the largest businesses in the whole of Spain. A large number of industries of all kinds are carried on in that city, more particularly textile industries. In fact, I think I am right in saying that the city of Barcelona, and its district, are second only as a textile manufacturing centre in the world to the city of Manchester. It is also a large port. It trades with all parts of the world. It is far and away the largest centre of labour and the labour movement in Spain. That, too, is undoubtedly the case in regard to Belfast. Trade Unionism is more represented in Belfast than in any other city in Ireland. This is a very remarkable parallel, and what Barcelona and the district object to is being dragged at the heels of an unprogressive State. They see in Spain around them all kinds of political intrigue. They see a country with a very strong and somewhat reactionary church, a country which, in many respects, is hostile to reform, and they do not like being dragged at the heels of that country just as in a Bill of this nature we from the North of Ireland do not wish to be dragged at the heels of those who presumably want proportional representation in Ireland, and we say that if it is brought in for any reason at all, the only possible reason for its introduction must be that in some ways it is intended to prevent county councils in the South and West of Ireland from being carried by the Sinn Fein party. Whether that result will be attained is ex- 113 tremely doubtful; but whether it is or is not, I do say most emphatically that it is not right and not just that those who do not want this measure in the part of the country which I represent should be compelled to accept it simply because other people from other parts of the country may think that it is in their interests that it should be introduced in the parts which they represent. I was reading the other day the Debates on this subject when it came up on the Reform Bill, and in view of the present situation which has arisen in connection with Ireland I was greatly struck by a portion of a speech by Mr. Herbert Samuel, who was then in this House. He was speaking on an Amendment moved by the hon. Member for the Falls Division of Belfast, seeking to introduce proportional representation into the City of Belfast.
§ Major O'NEILL
Possibly Dublin and Cork as well. I know that it was Belfast, but I will take the hon. Member's assertion that Dublin and Cork were also included. On that Amendment Mr. Herbert Samuel said:For my part I should like to see the experiment tried in Ireland.The experiment!I think it is a misfortune that the experiment was not tried in England in the boroughs.Of course, the English boroughs would not allow themselves to be experimented on in this way. Then he goes on:I should like to see it tried somewhere, and if the majority of Irish representatives wish it tried in Ireland I should like to see how it would work in that country.Do the majority of Irish representatives wish to see this experiment tried in Ireland? I do not know. They are not here to say, but, at any rate, surely we in this House are entitled to go upon what the majority of Irish representatives in this House think about this matter, and the majority of Irish representatives in this House are opposed to the application of the principle of this Bill. A large number of Members from all parts of this House voted against proportional representation when it came up in the Reform Bill Debates, and among them were many members of the present Government. I think that I am right in saying that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House voted against it, at any rate, on one occasion. The right hon. Gentleman 114 the present Chancellor of the Exchequer not only voted against it, but took a most prominent part in opposition to the principle of proportional representation in the Debates. Last, but not least, perhaps I ought to say—in this case the Vote was given against the Amendment to which I have referred which was moved by the hon. Gentleman opposite—a member of the Government who voted against the principle of proportional representation was no other than my right hon. Friend who is now introducing this Bill.
§ Major O'NEILL
On every occasion when proportional representation came before the House in the Debates on the Reform Bill the question was left to the free, unfettered decision of the House. The Government Whips were not put on, because it was recognised that this is a question which should be left to the unfettered decision of this House. I ask the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill to follow the example which was set by the Leader of the House as short a time ago as the winter of 1917, and, at any rate, if the Government are determined to press the principle of this Bill, I do not see how they can possibly on any system of right or logic refuse to adopt the course which they adopted two years ago and leave the decision to the unfettered decision of the House without putting on the party Whips.
§ Mr. MOLES
I rise to second the Motion of my hon. and gallant Friend. I oppose this Bill because it sets up, in regard to the rights of citizenship, one standard for Ireland and another for the rest of the United Kingdom. I oppose it also, because no mandate for this measure has been sought or obtained. I oppose it because it seeks to enact a principle which has three times, and always by increasing majorities, been rejected. I oppose it lastly and most of all because the things which are claimed for this system cannot be achieved under it. The right hon. Gentleman who introduced this measure ought to have carried the history of Sligo a great deal further, or he should have said a great deal less about it. I propose to supplement his narrative in some very vital matters. So far back as 1896 the then Sligo Corporation had a rating limit of 8s. 6d. in the £1 imposed upon it by Bill. Then came the Local Government Act, and the 115 affairs of the Sligo Corporation were carried on under that Act from 1898 to 1903. It passed from one orgy of mismanagement and civic incompetence to another, until so grave a position had arisen in 1903 that the Sligo Corporation, snowed under by an avalanche of debt, sought statutory powers to increase its rating limits, but the long suffering ratepayers rose en masse against the proposal. They formed a citizens' association, and appealed to the Local Government Board to protect them. Mr. Drury, the Local Government Inspector, was sent down to conduct a local government inquiry. The corporation were heard, and the citizens were heard, and the application was absolutely and peremptorily refused by the Local Government Board, who expressly found that with any kind of business capacity in the management of its civic affairs the Corporation of Sligo ought to be perfectly well able to conduct the business of that borough with an 8s. 6d. rate. Things went from bad to worse, and shortly after that inquiry what is known as "Larkinism" struck Sligo as it struck Dublin, and as it struck Cork. It struck it like a devastating fire, and the personnel of the Sligo Council, bad before, became infinitely worse then. Scandal after scandal multiplied until finally the corporation, as the Attorney-General has told you, drifted into hopeless bankruptcy, and could no longer continue. Public proceedings were brought against it in public Court, a sheriffs decree was issued, and the sheriff took possession of the town hall, which was corporation property, and sold by public aution to liquidate the debts of that council the furniture in the town clerk's office. The corporation employés had not been paid their weekly wages and salaries and of course they ceased to work. A huge accumulation of dirt formed on the streets of Sligo. The gas works, having had their bill in common with many others unliquidated, gave notice to the corporation that unless some substantial amount were forthwith paid to their creditors, the town would be put into physical darkness, being already intellectually so. You will see, therefore, that the position is a great deal different from that which the learned Attorney-General has told you, and very different indeed from the document which is being circulated to Members and which purports to disclose the whole position in Sligo. It was not the system of election which broke down in Sligo, it was civic 116 management that broke down, and the thing that was sought to be remedied was not the electoral system at all, but the class of man who was being returned to the corporation. An hon. and learned Gentleman says "Hear, hear," but I will show that his applause is a little too previous.
When the corporation again sought to promote a Bill, again the ratepayers' association rose in revolt, and the ratepayers' association this time, curious to relate, was representative of every phase of political opinion in Sligo except Sinn Fein, Sinn Fein being the governing voice in the corporation. Nationalist, Independent, bonâ fide labour, all combined to down Sinn Fein. Then the corporation saw that their Bill could not go through in face of this storm of opposition, and they approached the ratepayers' Association. I would call the attention of my right hon. and learned Friend to this. The Ratepayers' Association said, "Yes, we will qualify our opposition so far that we will permit the Bill to go through that will take us out of this morass of debt, disgrace and dishonour, but we demand that a given number of your corporation shall resign their places, and that the Ratepayers' Association shall nominate a given number of members who will be co-opted in their place." That was not proportional representation, and it was because my hon. and learned Friend who applauded just now thought proportional representation was the consequence that he said "Hear, hear." When the Corporation refused to accede to that demand, there was left for them no alternative except to try the hazardous one of proportional representation, and that was carried by a majority vote, and that was how it came into Sligo. I affirm here, with a knowledge of the municipality which I think very few men in this House possess, that under the old system you would have returned all identically but four men returned here, because it was a majority of the ratepayers who achieved the dethronement of Sinn Fein. So much for the example of Sligo. Proportional representation is not a new discovery so far as Ireland is concerned, nor is it a new discovery so far as this House is concerned. As my hon. and gallant Friend (Major O'Neill) has told you, three times this House has discussed this question, and three times rejected it when it was proposed to apply it to England and Scotland. I suppose it 117 is thought to be just, because it was rejected for the major that it was a necessity for the minor, and if the House has reached a frame of mind like that, I suppose it will agree that practically anything is good enough for Ireland. I had the pleasure and duty of serving upon a very important body known as the Irish Convention, and amongst the multifarious subjects which that body so painstakingly explored was this identical question of proportional representation. The Subcommittee that had it under investigation sat for weeks, discussing the precise problem which is brought before the House by this Bill.
§ Mr. MOLES
I had the pains of preparing it. The Sub-committee which considered the matter was presided over by his Grace the Archbishop of Dublin, whose knowledge of these matters, with very great respect, is second to none in this House. There sat on it an hon. Member for one of the divisions of Tyrone, and one of the leading lights of Sinn Fein and two of the ablest and best members of the Irish Labour party. Not only did they investigate proportional representation, but they investigated also the Belgian system, which is proportional representation plus plural voting, and they investigated every phase of proportional representation. Having investigated it for weeks, and having studied the position in every single county in Ireland, they came unanimously to this conclusion:Having regard to the smallness of the Unionist electorate in many counties, the proportional representation system would not give representation to the Unionist minority.I submit that upon that finding by a body of experts proportional representation stands condemned. That Sub-committee brought its recommendations before the Grand Committee, and my hon. Friend the Member for the Falls Division (Mr. Devlin) was a member of that Grand Committee, as was the then hon. Member for Waterford, the late Mr. John Redmond. They again subjected all the facts which we had collected and collated to examination, and they again came to the unanimous conclusion that proportional repre- 118 sentation was wholly ineffective to deal with the Irish position and must break down. Their finding came in turn before the Convention. Every county council in Ireland sent its chairman to represent it upon that Convention, so that you had there thirty-two men, each of whom knew his county individually from A to Z, and they were, in fact, a body of experts such as have never been collected on this question, and possibly may never be collected again. They unanimously, with all their their local knowledge, confirmed the finding of the Sub-committee and Grand Committee, and frankly fell back upon the principle of nomination. More than that, those who have inspired this particular Bill, and whose action the Attorney-General is reflecting, agreed with that verdict, and they know that put to the test the system will break down. This House can very easily apply a test which is purely arithmetical. I will not go through the elaborate system of telling you how the quota is formed, but I will tell you the result. Anybody who knows proportional representation is open to check me if I err. I will take the maximum case of the Attorney-General. You cannot have a larger constituency than nine and you could not conceivably have a larger area than an entire county. An entire county would be absolutely unworkable. No sane county councillor would dream of making an appeal to such a constituency. The thing could not be done. It would be impossible to canvass it, or for the candidate to travel through it and address public meetings, and impossible for a man of limited means to send out circulars to in some cases a constituency with 73,000 voters. No sane man would contemplate such a position. But suppose you had such a position, which is the best for proportional representation, what would happen in a 70,000 constituency, and I take a round figure because it is the more easily examined. With nine members, and a 70,000 constituency, your quota would be 7,001. That really means 10 per cent., or slightly over 10 per cent., of your electorate. Let us see how far you could get with a position like that throughout Ireland. Take the county of Clare, where the Unionist minority is 1.86 per cent. You are seriously putting forward the proposition that proportional representation is going to give representation to 1.86 per cent.
§ Mr. MOLES
There are four, I believe. I wonder whether my hon. and gallant Friend ever heard the saying we have in Ireland, "You might as well look for holy water in an Orange lodge." I go on now to county Kerry, 2.74; county Limerick, 2.92; Tipperary, 5.43; county Waterford, 4.32. I do not care what province you take outside Ulster, your minority is so small that neither proportional representation nor any other elective system will protect them.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I must ask the hon. and gallant Member not to keep interrupting. The more he interrupts the less I shall be inclined to call him.
§ Mr. MOLES
It is also a little unfair to me as a new Member. The figure for Cork county is 8.55, which is the best case that can be made out for proportional representation. In Cork borough it is 11.56. I would have discussed Cork borough without invitation, because unless we are prepared to face all these problems we ought not to come here and condemn proportional representation root and branch. What is the position of Cork borough? The Attorney-General gave us the figures for Cork, and if you will look at those figures you will find that 11 per cent. of them would give you about six members, assuming always that all of your minority voted. But anybody who has experience of municipal or county council elections knows that if you ever achieve 50 per cent. of your electorate you have done a surprising thing, and that is one thing that is nearly always left out of consideration by those who advocate proportional representation. Suppose the best happened in the matter of Cork borough, and you succeeded in obtaining the highest you could hope for, six members out of your sixty, what does that achieve? Does it really and effectively protect the interests of the minority? Of course it does not, and nobody pretends that it does. Fifty-four will vote down six, just as easily as fifty-nine will vote down one. You do not need proportional representation to make your protests vocal. You have had your ratepayers' associations, your public meetings, your chambers of commerce, all joining in an ever-growing chorus of denunciation, and all of them hopelessly ineffective, because, despite the storm that raged round your council, the members inside would go on with their gross mis- 120 management, voting away vast sums of public money. And you may put six in in Cork borough and ten in in Dublin city, but they will go on doing in Cork and in Dublin what they have been doing, until the great body of the electorate rises above the system that to-day tyrannises over and dominates them and makes an end of it, and puts in men only upon their merits, capable of wisely and properly conducting the business. That you can do just as well under this system as under proportional representation. You can search the entire province of Connaught, and I defy any man to show me how you will elect on one public body in Connaught one single representative under proportional representation more than you do now. I have gone carefully through the whole position, county by county, and I am certain that my hon. Friends who think differently from us respecting this Bill have looked into these facts, and if they have looked into them in the way that I have they are bound to come to the same conclusion.
I want now to turn rather from the particular to the general. What case has been made out for this particular Bill? If there is no more to be said for the Bill than has been said for it by the right hon. and learned Attorney-General we might have walked into the Division Lobby at once and condemned it, because no case whatever has been made out for it. I am not reproaching him for that. It is the old familiar picture of a brave man struggling with adversity. There is no case for it, and all the talent in the world could not redeem a ridiculous proposition of this kind. It is proposed to try this thing on the dog. That is the position. You did try it in an English constituency, and they would not tolerate it. You have made your effort and failed, and you cannot cover up your failure by trying it now on Ireland. Let us be frank about this business. What is happening here is this, that those who are putting forward this Bill know that just as Sinn Fein swept the country in the recent General Election it is going to sweep it again when the general election for county councils and other public bodies comes along, and they hope by this system that they will defeat that. They will not. If the system be really proportional representation, and if Sinn Fein be the overwhelming voice of the country, and if proportional representation achieves what it claims it does, it is bound to make Sinn Fein proportionate master of the situation in all these public bodies just as 121 it is in Parliament. There is no escape from that, but what do you think Sinn Fein will say of that performance? They will realise that Parliament has been asked to lend itself to what they will regard as a trick to keep them from their just rights, and you will aggravate them, and the warring body of Nationalists split up among themselves will see all hope of reconcilement for ever vanish, because you will find in every one of the county councils, rural councils, boards of guardians, and urban councils a battle royal between Sinn Fein and Nationalism, and you will go on perpetuating the split. That will be the result, and you cannot escape from it, and no man who knows his Ireland will challenge that statement. We protest that as we are part of this United Kingdom you are bound to treat us as you treat all the rest of the British race. You ought not to regard us on the one hand as supermen, nor have you on the other hand any right to regard us as a great deal less than human and the only people fit to be shackled with a system of this kind. I hope the House will not stultify itself by lending itself to any such proposition. I hope it will do as other houses have done, and tell those who have put forward this Bill that it does not represent justice as between all the sections of the United Kingdom, and that wherever else it ought to be tried Ireland is the last place in which to attempt it. I would ask the House very earnestly to believe that we on these benches desire the good of our country as whole-heartedly, as earnestly, and as sincerely as any who sit in this House, that we are as deeply concerned for her welfare, that we have tried as hard as any to advance her good name and her best interests, and that we believe sincerely that if you go on with this mad proposition you will have done as bad a day's work as you have ever done for Ireland.
§ Lieutenant-Colonel W. GUINNESS
We have had a very interesting speech from one of the Members for Belfast, in which he gave the description of the state of affairs in Sligo before proportional representation and after.
§ Lieutenant-Colonel GUINNESS
He gave us the state of affairs in Sligo before proportional representation, and I can give it to the House after. Before propor- 122 tional representation, he showed in greater detail than I could have done to what an absolutely bankrupt state local administration had reduced that community. Since proportional representation, although in Sligo for thirty years there had never been a Unionist representative, there are now nine Unionists as against sixteen of all the other parties together, and the Unionists happen to be the strongest party in the whole of the municipal council. The hon. Gentleman pointed out that Sligo was only one of many cases. He told us that Sinn Fein had swept Cork and Dublin, and I think it will probably be found that it will also sweep Limerick. Surely that is a very strong reason for us to try this same method in those cities that we have found so extraordinarily successful in Sligo. No doubt it is not necessary in Ulster from that point of view; but this Bill is primarily intended to help administration in the South of Ireland, and if it will do that and not injure Ulster there is a strong case for this House to pass it. The hon. Member who seconded the Motion dealt in some detail with the census returns, and pointed out that the number of Protestants in various counties in Ireland is so small that they could not hope to get a quota enabling them to have a Protestant representative under proportional representation. We are not thinking of Protestants in local administration. In Ireland we want to give representation to the ratepayers, who in many cases have not had their interests properly considered, and we are quite convinced, judging by the Sligo experience, that we shall get a far more just representation of minorities under proportional representation than under the present system. The hon. and gallant Member for Mid Antrim (Major O'Neill) pointed to the fact that this House has on several occasions refused to adopt proportional representation for Parliamentary elections, and he seemed to think that that was a conclusive argument that it was unsuitable for local elections in the same way. The Royal Commission on electoral reform dealt with this particular point, and in their Report—they reported against the transferable vote in the case of Parliamentary elections—they said:Nor does our adverse view of the transferable vote extend beyond the political election where the question which party is to govern the country plays a predominant part. As we have already pointed out, the system shows at its best in elections where the comparative merits of candi- 123 dates as individuals are at issue. Thus there would be much to be said in its favour as a method for the constitution of an elected Second Chamber. Again, though it is no part of our reference to consider the applicability of the transferable vote to non-legislative bodies, we may observe that many of the most important objections to its use for political purposes are not valid against proposals to employ it where the functions of the body to be chosen are primarily administrative.Local government in Ireland is not, or ought not to be, devoted only to political issues. What we need in Ireland, and what we have not had, is to get the assistance of the large ratepayers and of the best administrators. That is the object, I take it, of this Bill, and not to give a bigger representation to Protestants or a bigger representation to Catholics. The true cause of the opposition which is being shown by Ulster Members is no doubt a desire for what I believe to be an unattainable uniformity between Ulster and this country. They do not really deal with the merits of proportional representation in Ireland. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Not in Ireland. The hon. Member dealt with proportional representation in general. He did not deal with the particular case of the ratepayer in Ireland. An ideal is set up which, I think, is quite unpracticable, and what is justified neither by past experience nor, I think, by their own true interest. It is a very remarkable feature of British legislation that, while insisting on union in essentials, it allows the maximum variety to meet local conditions. In local government the London system is very different from the system of Manchester. In the government of the three Kingdoms, Scottish legislation has been very different from Irish legislation, and, if special local conditions can be shown, Parliament is accustomed to afford a patient hearing to, and not to turn down, a proposal owing to any theoretical objections on the ground of uniformity.
I believe that Ulster is making a great mistake if she is seeking to alter this principle. Ireland differs from England in race, temperament and social organisation, and that difference must be reflected in the legislation suitable for that country. England's meat in many cases would be Ireland's poison. To force the same regime on both countries would be to create a grievance, and to play straight into the hand of the Separatists. The circular which we have had sent round states that it is obvious that if this were introduced 124 into the local government of Ireland it would inevitably extend to Parliamentary elections. Is not this an astounding admission of the value of proportional representation? Obviously, the system will not be extended unless it is a success, and, if the circular means anything, it is that when once given a fair trial the merits of proportional representation will be found such as to make it irresistible. But I think the whole of this argument is really misleading, because the inference is that the scheme is put forward as part of a wider plan for the reform of local administration throughout the three Kingdoms, and of course it is nothing of the kind. The proposed reform in Irish local elections is merely asked for to meet the special conditions of that country, and can therefore be safely supported by those who, on general grounds, object to the extension of proportional representation.
There is a great contrast in the electoral position as between England and Ireland. In England, both for Parliamentary and local government purposes, every opinion can at least gain expression under the existing system. Opinions are distributed in so fine a mosaic that all colours find representation in each district. In Ireland it is entirely otherwise. Political convictions are no longer there a mosaic, but they are grouped in great monotonous patches, and the effect of this grouping is accentuated by the fact that party class and religious politics control Irish local elections to a degree which is undreamt of in Great Britain. In Parliamentary elections, no doubt, a rough balance is brought about by the opinions of the minority in the South being indirectly represented here, either by Northern representatives or by representatives for Great Britain, but this does not help in the least in local government. The Nationalist organisation in the South has for many years monopolised representation, and this fact will be aggravated, as against Unionist opinion, very much in the future, because it is well known that Mr. John Redmond exercised a very strong influence in favour of toleration in local politics—an influence which is in no way accepted by his Sinn Fein successors. At the present time there is a very great sense of grievance in the South of Ireland. I take for the moment the religious census which was mentioned by the hon. Member for Belfast. In Dublin, although it is on this evidence and on other evidence estimated that about one-seventh 125 of the population is Unionist at the present time, there are only two members of the Dublin Corporation representing the Unionist party. That is to say, although it has one-seventh of the population, it has only about one-fortieth of the representation. Owing to the War, it is impossible to get recent figures of the rest of Ireland, but the latest that I could get show that in Munster, out of a total of 227 county councillors, there were only two Unionists. That is to say, there was only 1 per cent. of representation, as against 15 per cent. of the estimated population. [An HON. MEMBER: "Take the other provinces!"]
§ Mr. SPEAKER
It is impossible to go on with the Debate if hon. Members keep up a running conversation. The proper place to do that is in the Lobby—not here.
§ Lieutenant-Colonel GUINNESS
The hon. Member asked, What is the position in county Antrim? I am not in a position to speak for the North of Ireland, but even if it were true that the converse exists in Antrim—and I have no reason to think it does—it would in no way help the unrepresented Unionist ratepayer in Connaught to be told that large sections of Nationalists were possibly unrepresented in county Antrim. The greatest curse in Ireland has been the ascendancy of extreme political opinion. It has been carried to an extreme degree in local elections and administration. According to the latest figures I could get, in spite of the fact that in Cork the Protestants are estimated to pay about one-half of the rates, no Protestant has ever been appointed as a surveyor, rate collector or a clerk in the county council since the Local Government Act of 1898 came into force. If we wish to encourage moderate opinion in Ireland, we must remove this disability. Although the Sinn Fein party may for a time continue to hold a majority in the local councils, even if a handful of moderates can get elected, and gain inside knowledge of local administration, they will be able to do very much by criticism and publicity to bring about reform, and in doing so there is no doubt that moderate opinion, which is very much needed in Ireland, will be immensely strengthened and encouraged. The sense of injustice now existing among the unrepresented minority would, to a large 126 extent, be removed if their views could even gain expression upon local authorities. This Bill is unpretentious in its object, and limited in its application, but I honestly believe that it may indirectly prove to have very far-reaching results in breaking down the prejudice of centuries, and allowing Irishmen of all sorts and conditions to work together for the benefit of Irish administration.
§ Sir M. DOCKRELL
I do not intend to weary the House with any lengthy remarks, especially after the speech of the hon. and gallant Member who has just sat down, I would just like to explain my own position by way of illustration of the arguments which, I think, are sound in support of this Bill. I myself am the only representative of the Southern Unionists—those outside Ulster. I have never before had the honour of being a Member of this House, but, judging from the reports one has seen from time to time, this House seems to have been constantly reminded that Ulster and Unionism were synonymous terms, and that outside Ulster there did not exist such a thing as a Unionist—in fact, that Unionists were almost as extinct as the Dodo, or, at least, you might put them all in a Handley-Page machine—one of those in which the right hon. Gentleman with so much courage flies across to Paris—they are so few in number. Perhaps some hon. Members will be surprised to hear that I am the sole representative in this House of about 350,000 Unionists. I admit that is a very large order, but we must take things as we find them, and that is the absolute fact. That being so, I ask, Does the House think that that is a fair representation? Proportional representation in the Bill, I hope, will have the effect of giving representation where it does not now exist. We have heard a great deal about not arguing from the particular to the universal, and I do not ask the House to argue to-day from the particular city with which I am connected, namely, Dublin.
We are now reaching a stage in Dublin when, as the Irish novelist said, "We backed one another's bills until there was not 7s. 6d. left in the regiment." In the case of Sligo, when they got to that stage things began to improve, and some reform began. I expect that it will be the same in Dublin, because generally reform comes when 127 things get worse. Owing to the fact of the increase of limited liability companies the old firms of proprietary businesses are passing away and these firms are losing their hold in the representation of Irish and Dublin corporations. I do not think it is possible for anyone to question that. I understand it is not possible to raise the question of the franchise upon this Bill. If it were, I would like to raise the question of a better representation of those who place capital in business. There are some people who deal with a light heart with other people's money. I strongly support this Bill. It is carrying out an operation which has been very successful during the War—the transfusion of blood. Unfortunately I have to speak for the very large number of Unionists outside Ulster. I may say I am the only pebble on the beach. I shall vote for the Bill as an Irishman and as one who lives in Ireland.
§ Captain DIXON
In rising to address the House for the first time I crave its indulgence. I oppose this Bill being brought forward at the present moment and as injurious to the people of Ireland. It is a purely domestic question how Ireland can best be represented in the local bodies and we have the Government taking up this position with regard to Ireland only. The overwhelming majority of the Irish people are opposed to this Bill because it is opposed to Irish interests or because proportional representation would not suit the conditions of Ireland. This Bill is absolutely foreign to Irish sympathy and Irish feeling. Why is it brought forward at the present moment? It is an attempt to trick Sinn Fein by tinkering with the system of representation, and I believe the majority of these people will resent it. The representation of the people of Ireland is inadequate on these councils, but we do not want Ireland to be made the dumping ground for measures which are being rejected in England and experiments of political cranks. I believe this Bill will destroy to a great extent the personnel of the Irish county council. In some cases the population of these counties runs into three hundred or four hundred thousand, and it would be quite impossible for a man to canvass these three or four hundred thousand people or to send letters to every one of them. By bringing in this system of 128 political trickery all over Ireland you will give a fillip to Sinn Fein. There are gentlemen prepared to do this when they know that the overwhelming majority of the Irish people are against it. It would only be throwing another apple of discord into the affairs of Ireland. I would ask the House and the Government not to press this Bill. We still believe in Ireland that fair play is a jewel, and I hope you will recognise that.
§ Captain REDMOND
It must be obvious to all Members that this Bill, while it is opposed by the Ulster Members, has the support of those Members with whom I am associated. It appears to have resolved itself into a petty squabble between the Unionists of Belfast and the Unionists of the South of Ireland. It is a Bill to establish a new system, and I desire to say that I support this Bill, although there are one or two Clauses with the general purpose of which I do not agree. The right hon. Gentleman the Attorney-General suggested that the election should take place for the rural areas in June and not in January. Anyone who knows what the conditions are in Ireland, the climatic conditions, will realise that June would be a much better time than January, and it might be possible to have the whole of the elections on the same day. One of the hon. Members who has just spoken has made a comparison between Belfast and Barcelona. I should not like to make the same comparison with a city of bombs and Bolshevists. The Members for Belfast have been coming here for years, complaining and screaming that they represented an oppressed minority. They do not like now to experience the same thing for themselves, but I suggest to them that what was sauce for the goose ought to be sauce for the gander.
§ Captain REDMOND
The minority in the rest of Ireland demand and ought to get fair representation. Once, however, the minority of Ulster is thought about, once it is suggested that the minority of Ulster, which is a larger minority than that of the Unionists in the South and West of Ireland, should have as equal and fair representation as the minority in the South, then the cry is heard, "Hands off Ulster!" These are the very words that fell from the mouth of the hon. Gentleman who seconded this Amendment He turned round to the hon. and gallant Gen- 129 tleman the Member for Bury St. Edmunds—I took his words down—and said, "Leave out Ulster." That is the very kernel of the opposition to this Bill by Members from the North of Ireland. Let the minority in the South of Ireland, because they belong to one political persuasion, have fair representation! But the minority in the North of Ireland, in Belfast, Derry, and Tyrone, must ever and always be ground down by the Ulster ascendancy, and we, they say, shall never allow them to have their proper and fair representation! We who come from Ireland know only too well the real opposition to this Bill. It is this: Hon. Members opposite know that under proportional representation it is quite possible, nay, probable, that the majority of the people in Derry City, who are Nationalists, will for the first time come into their proper representation. They also know that the people in the county of Tyrone—a division of which I had the honour to represent for several years in this House—will also come into their own. They do not care two straws whether the Unionists of Dublin—or Waterford for that matter—get representation so long as the Nationalists of Belfast, Derry, and Tyrone do not get their fair share. That is the kernel and the essence of the Ulster opposition.
We heard from the seconder of this Amendment that one standard should not be set for Ireland and another standard set for the United Kingdom. I am very glad indeed to say that with that principle I am in total accord. It is a most interesting episode at this time of day to find an Ulster representative, the representative of Ulster Unionism, coming to the House of Commons and saying that majorities should have their rights as well as minorities, and that majority rule—that is the same standard—should apply in Ireland as in the rest of the United Kingdom. If that rule had been made applicable during the last century what a different history there would have been in Ireland. But no, the same standard has never been administered to Ireland as to Great Britain. Majorities in Ireland have never counted. A powerful minority from the north-east corner of that country has been able to clog the wheels of progress. [Laughter.] It is all very well for hon. Members to laugh. They know as well as I do that every great measure of public reform that was ever proposed in this House for all classes in Ireland, especially for the working-classes, has been opposed by hon. 130 Members sitting upon the benches opposite, or their representatives. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO."] Only the other day we had an instance of a Bill, proposed from these benches, brought in to give the workpeople of Belfast the right to work. In what lobby were hon. Members opposite?
§ Captain REDMOND
The hon. Member says: "The only lobby into which they could go." Yes, and in absolute consistency with their past record, they voted for their reactionary Tory principles. That is the upshot to the opposition to this Bill. What about Clause 7, which the Attorney-General, or, I suppose, in his absence, I may say the Chief Secretary, has thought fit to introduce into the Bill? Clause 7 has got no more to do with this Bill than if it had been introduced into the Bill to which we have just given a Second Reading. It confers upon the Local Government Board general powers, not concerning the proposals made in this Bill itself, but concerning the whole system of the administration of local government in Ireland. I challenge the Attorney-General, when making his reply, if he intends to reply, to say upon what grounds, for what reason, under what circumstances, and from what pressure he was brought to introduce this extraneous Clause into this measure.
§ Captain REDMOND
As I mentioned to the House on rising, this Bill was not of our creation. The hon. Member wants to know that! I can tell him, and the Attorney-General, I am sure, will endorse me, when I say that this Bill was not of our creation or initiation in the slightest respect whatsoever.
§ Captain REDMOND
My hon. Friend beside me says it is Guinness's Bill. It may be Guinness's Bill, but at any rate it is not Dunville's. I am very glad the hon. Member interrupted, because the one point I was most anxious, above all others, to make on rising was that we have had neither hand, act, nor part in bringing this Bill into the House. Having been brought into the House it is a question for us as to what action we shall take upon it. In all problems, and in all con- 131 siderations of the Irish problem, we upon these benches have always given the greatest consideration to minorities. [An HON. MEMBER: "Oh."] As hon. Members will remember in dealing with the Home Rule Bill we were only too anxious to do what we could for the then minority in the North-east of Ireland. This Bill has now been brought forward in the interests of minorities—I do not care whether the minority is in the south, or west, or north-east of Ireland. So far as I am concerned, I support this measure because I believe it will give fair representation to minorities whether they be Southern Unionists or Ulster Nationalists. I cannot, however, understand hon. Members opposite. They must recognise, though they may be in a majority for the time being in the House, they are still in a minority in Ireland, and yet they come forward and declare against and oppose a measure to increase the representation of, and to give fairplay to, minorities throughout the whole country.
So far as the Clause about which I am speaking goes it confers upon the Local Government Board general sweeping powers. What right have the Government, I ask, to come to this House and say that the Local Government of Ireland is not going to be carried on in the future as it has been in the past? What right have they to give to this important and almost omnipotent Board in Dublin an extra power? Have the Local Government Board asked for this power? If they have not asked for this power, have the people of Ireland, including the friends of hon. Members opposite, asked for it to be given to the Local Government Board? On the contrary, I believe that it is the work of the bureaucracy in Ireland, who are only too anxious to bolster up and attempt to make permanent and lasting that system of Castle Government which has done so much harm and played so much to the detriment of the country. Hon. Members opposite have spoken about differential treatment in regard to Ireland. They want Ireland to be treated exactly the same as this country. They want Ulster to be treated like Yorkshire.
§ Captain REDMOND
Yes. Are coercion Acts applicable in Yorkshire? They are applicable in Ireland. I thought I heard the right hon. and learned Gentleman say that he did not want coercion Acts?
§ Captain REDMOND
I can quite understand the right hon. and learned Gentleman, from his past career, not objecting to coercive Acts being extended all round the world.
§ Captain REDMOND
After all is said and done, right hon. and hon. Members from Ulster say that they want precisely the same government in Ulster as there is in this country. I wonder what they would say to their friends in Ulster, either farmers or landlords, if it was proposed that the Land Act of 1903 should not apply to Ireland because it was not applied to this country? I wonder what they would say if they went to their constituents, especially the rural Members, and said that the Agricultural Labourers Acts should not be applied to Ireland because they were not applied to this country? Their answer may be, "Oh, but we want them applied all round!" [An HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear!"] Are hon. Members going to set about and get them applied to England? Will they refuse to accept a single measure for the benefit of Ireland, for any class or section of the community, until it is applied to England? Is that their doctrine? If so, it is an exceedingly new one. It was not their doctrine when they got their Land Act in 1903. It was not their doctrine when they got subsequent measures, not only for the benefit of Ireland at large, but for their own constituents and friends in particular. If that is their doctrine now, it indeed is a very new doctrine, and one that, I think, they will depart from in a very short time. It is unnecessary for me once more to state that I stand by the representation of minorities, and that is why I support this Bill. I want to see the Protestant Unionists of the South and the Catholic Nationalists of the North, both of whom are in a minority, get fair representation in their local districts, and I hope, with the deletion, at any rate, of this Clause, that this Bill will pass into law.
§ Sir E. CARSON
The speech that was made by my hon. Friend the Member for the Ormean Division of Belfast was one that I should very much have wished had been delivered in the presence of a much larger House, for it was one of the best maiden speeches that I have heard for a long time in this House. It was informing in its material, it was carefully thought out, it was logical in its conclusions, and, notwithstanding many interruptions, I congratulate my hon. Friend upon having got through the ordeal of his maiden speech so well. I have been asking myself who has instigated this Bill. Until the hon. Member for Waterford (Captain Redmond) spoke I thought that he and the hon. Member for the Falls Division of Belfast (Mr. Devlin) had instigated it.
§ Sir E. CARSON
I will tell the hon. Member I felt perfectly certain that the Sinn Fein party did not suggest it. I think the Attorney-General admitted that the Bill was largely directed against the Sinn Fein party, and I do not suppose that Mr. De Valera was consulted. On the other hand, there are twenty-two Unionists from Ulster here who have never been consulted at all, and who were no more consulted in relation to this Bill than if they had never been elected for this House at all. I thought that an Irish Executive would surely consult some Irish Members or some Irish party, and under these circumstances I really thought it must have been the hon. Member for the Falls Division and the hon. Member for Waterford who were the originators of this Bill. Now we know that we may take it that the solitary representative from the South-West is the only one remaining, and although I do not hear him say that he was the originator of the Bill he is going to support it. On a matter involving constitutional right in relation to local government elections in Ireland, I enter my emphatic protest at this early stage of the Session against this method adopted by the Irish Government of not having the least regard to the opinion of hon. Members elected to this House in regard to such constitutional changes. I really do not see what is the use of our coming here at all, and I am not sure that I shall not become a Home Ruler if this sort of thing goes on.
Look at the absurdity of it. I am not now going to detain the House with a lecture on proportional representation, but 134 I may say that I have listened to discussions on that subject for twenty years or more, and I have never yet got the faintest idea of what it means. I do not know, and I do not think the Attorney-General knows or, if he does, he certainly did not explain it to the House when he introduced this Bill in his lucid statement. I cannot find it in the Bill, except in a mystical statement at the end, where it says that a transferable vote means a votecapable of being transferred to the next choice when the vote is not required to give a prior choice the necessary quota of votes, or when, owing to the deficiency in the number of votes given for a prior choice, that choice is eliminated from the list of candidates.I have pictured to myself a county council election in Galway—
§ Sir E. CARSON
I take Sligo, where there are 2 per cent. of Unionists or Protestant voters, and when they go to vote each voter will see in front of him the words I have just read.
§ Mr. A. WILLIAMS
He will see posted up what he has to do in marking his paper. Those words have nothing to do with the elector's part of the work.
§ Sir E. CARSON
Well, if these words have nothing to do with the work, this is the only part of the Bill in which I can find anything about proportional representation. I do not claim to have any special ability in relation to this, or anything in relation to proportional representation, but I never have understood what it means. [An HON. MEMBER: "Sligo understood it!"] I will talk about Sligo in a moment. I am not going to indulge in a lecture about proportional representation. It has never been shown, and it cannot be shown, that it would be any advantage either in the North or in the South of Ireland in relation to the existing state of affairs there. The hon. and gallant Gentleman behind me, who took such an exalted attitude of moderate opinion for the occasion, in every one of his arguments simply begged the question, and he said that if you will only do this the minority will be represented all over the place. I think the Attorney-General drew the gloomiest picture of self-government in 135 Ireland I have ever heard described in this House, and I certainly will make a note of all he said with a view hereafter to any Amendment they may make in the Home Rule Act, for if the description the right hon. Gentleman gave is anything like the reality, and I am not saying it is not—
§ Sir E. CARSON
If the gross mismanagement he spoke of exists to the extent that he has described, and it is actually necessary at the very moment when you are introducing proportional representation to introduce a Clause to say that on the ipse dixit of the Local Government Board you can abolish a county council, what becomes of local government in Ireland? That is being introduced in the same Bill which according to his argument, and the argument of the hon. and gallant Gentleman behind me, is going to revolutionise the whole of the representation of the county councils of Ireland. I do not believe it for a moment, and I doubt very much if anybody can adduce any arguments, to show that it is true.
They always say "Look at Sligo." Now I think I know as much about Sligo as most hon. Members, and I only wish that a fuller House had heard the full description of what happened at Sligo which was given by the hon. Member for the Ormean Division of Belfast. Sligo was the outstanding instance of the way in which dishonest administration run mad could bring a place to bankruptcy. The councillors of the Sligo Corporation thought they could get along without enforcing rates and especially exempting themselves personally. As they were getting no rates they had no money, and they could not pay their employés, who were left without wages. The gas was going to be cut off because they could not pay for it, and eventually the furniture and the mace of the mayor was sold up by the sheriff's men in the courthouse in Sligo. Under these conditions the ratepayers' association got together, and they comprised all classes, including the labouring classes. They knew that all this was disastrous, and the election happened to be under proportional representation. I will show how all this came about in a moment. The whole of this revolt against mismanagement and bankruptcy was brought about by this corporation, including the non- 136 payment of wages and debts and everything else. Was there ever a more absurd argument?
What happened in Sligo before they got proportional representation? It was given to Sligo after investigation there, and they asked for it, and with their own consent this House granted it to them. With regard to the Bill that brought forward proportional representation the year before the Reform Bill, I ask the House to remember that this House before it would apply proportional representation even in Parliamentary elections to any of the great constituencies in this country insisted that there should be public investigation held in those various constituencies to try and find out whether the people were in favour of making this great reform, and this great change, and they went round to a number of places and it was found that not in a single place were the people in favour of it. Then my hon. Friend pointed out that at the Convention in Dublin there was a special commission of experts representing the whole of Ireland to go into this question of proportional representation, and they unanimously came to the conclusion that it would not be in the least helpful in Ireland.
§ Sir E. CARSON
Municipal purposes are a great deal worse. For Parliamentary purposes you may have the larger area, and a small area like a rural district is not the slightest use for proportional representation. Under these circumstances, I put this to the House with all solemnity. Are the Government treating us fairly in proposing to apply proportional representation to Ireland without one single hour of investigation, without the slightest information, without going into it in any single city or county, without giving anybody in Ireland a single opportunity of being heard as to how it is going to work out, treating every community in Ireland—Belfast, Dublin, Cork, or wherever it may be— with the greatest possible contempt as if they were not worthy even to be considered in relation to this matter? It is a-thing which you would not dare to do in. England or Scotland. I ask the House: Is it fair to come down here and ask us to accept what has been rejected over and over again in England and in Scotland, and to tell us, although not a single party 137 in Ireland has even been consulted on the matter, that we must accept it, whether we like it or not? Why? Because for some unknown reason the Government think that they ought to anticipate the action, I suppose, of the Sinn Feiners, and because they think that by this indirect method rather than by direct treatment they can deal with the menace of the Sinn Feiners, who, after all, are now, at all events, in the majority in Ireland so far as representation in this House is concerned. It is really a political outrage. It is a thing which would not be tolerated in this country for one moment, and I ask the House, when we go to a Division—I shall certainly encourage my Friends to go to a Division—to make a protest against this exceptional treatment. We have never deserved this treatment, because we have always been willing to go along with you in all the different matters. Take the last four years. We have been quite willing to have every measure applied to us that has been applied to this country. What really happened is that when you have anything good you exclude us from it, like the Housing Bill, the Health Bill, and the Education Bill, and when you want to make an experiment on the vile body you choose Ireland as the place in which to make it. You are trying to do that by this Bill. I ask the House to say that it is not treating us fairly as members of the United Kingdom. I ask hon. Members, and especially hon. Members opposite from my own country, to look at the Bill, whether they are really going to confide to the Local Government Board the powers by Orders in Council that this Bill proposes to give.
§ Sir E. CARSON
What are they? The Local Government Board are to be enabled by this Bill to sweep away every provision about the representation of every single corporation in Ireland, and, of course, of every county council. It is to be left to the supreme judgment of the Local Government Board to divide all the counties, boroughs, urban and rural districts, Poor Law unions, and towns into local areas at their own free will. Really that is delegating to a Department a far bigger power than anything ever granted before, and, if there were nothing else in the Bill, I for my part would oppose it on that ground. They will be able to fix the wards and the boundaries, and they will be able to gerrymander matters to suit whatever policy 138 they have in view. Not only will they have power to do this, but they will have power to regulate the numbers.The number of members to be elected for each local electoral area shall be such as may be assigned thereto by Order of the Local Government Board, and in constituting the local electoral areas and assigning members thereto the Board shall, so far as practicable, secure that the total number of members of any local authority other than a rural district council or board of guardians shall not be altered.An hon. Member opposite challenged me, and said that there was a difference between Parliamentary and local elections. I think the difference is all in favour of applying proportional representation first to Parliamentary and afterwards, if found successful, to local elections. In a local election, in order to bring in proportional representation, you have to group a number of areas. In, that way you may get all the representatives from any one district or from near one district, and you may have special districts absolutely unrepresented. One advantage in rural district councils is that the rural councillor knows the particular place from which he comes. Once you group these districts you have no certainty that any particular area will be represented at all. Therefore, so far from it being an advantage to try this experiment in local government, the advantage is to have it first applied for Parliamentary purposes, and that the House has rejected. Then—The Local Government Board may by Order apply the provisions of this Section with the necessary modifications—whatever that means—to the election of the members of any kind of local body other than the local authorities mentioned in this Section upon the application of the local body concerned.I say that for the House to perform an experiment of this kind and at the same time to leave to the Local Government Board the whole setting up and framing of the boundaries of these various local authorities is really an outrage upon the procedure of this House. As far as I can see, it does not even require an inquiry. They do it all on their own initiative, and there is not even an inquiry. The council is not allowed to be heard. The ratepayers are not allowed to be heard. No one is allowed to be heard. It is all handed over to the Local Government Board in Ireland. They will frame the constituencies to cut out the Sinn Feiners or to make the Sinn Feiners as harmless as possible. I have 139 not that confidence in them, and I decline to be a party to this kind of legislation. We do not want in Ireland this change that you have refused to have in England. Our case is that if you have it at all it ought to be argued out for the whole of the United Kingdom, and that we are right is shown by the fact that we know perfectly well that if the matter were being debated as regards the whole of the United Kingdom there would be a very different House, the arguments would be weighed, and there would be a very different Front Bench.
§ Sir E. CARSON
We have not had a single argument except from my right hon. Friend who has proposed this Bill. It is a very far-reaching Bill. It is an experimental Bill. It is a Bill taking away existing constitutional privileges and rights in relation to local government. It is a Bill discriminating between different parts of the United Kingdom. Above all, it throws the whole arbitrary power of the settlement of the constituencies into the hands of an administrative body, and under these circumstances I ask the House to reject it.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Sir ROBERT WOODS
I rise to lend my support to this Bill, and I do it with the trepidation that naturally and notoriously afflicts Members of this House who address it for the first time. I regard this as an extremely important Bill for us in Ireland, and as one which gives us some hope that a way may be found out of the somewhat chaotic condition of municipal affairs that exists in many parts. Minorities in Ireland are notoriously unrepresented. I do not wish to apologise for or to excuse the election of people to municipal offices on religious or political grounds, beyond saying that if men choose to give their votes in a particular way they are perfectly within their rights in doing so. There is another very important minority that I hope and believe is growing in Ireland. It is a minority that considers that in a municipal election only two tests should be applied, namely, business capacity and individual integrity. It is a minority, but it is a growing one. A great many attempts have been made recently to get men with good business capacity on to municipal bodies in Ireland, but owing to the impossibilty of getting men elected, those attempts have 140 been sporadic and generally unsatisfactory, the result of it being that the case has been allowed to go by default and people have given up the effort in despair. That is the true reason why in municipal elections you are lucky if you poll 50 per cent. of your minority vote. People know that the thing is impossible, whereas under proportional representation it is a certainty that your representation will be in exact proportion to your strength if you choose to exert it. One of the strongest reasons for the Bill is that the proposer of the Amendment had no better argument than the fact that the Bill was not to be applied to England. I submit that that is no argument at all. It is as if one said, "The weather is very fine in England, and so we in Ireland must not be allowed to put up umbrellas." We need this protection, and I regard that fact as a very strong reason why we should have it. We have been told there would be great difficulty in understanding this complex and very difficult matter of proportional representation. It is said it is beyond the capacity of the voter. I have heard the same kind of allegation made with regard to the fifth proposition in the First Book of Euclid, and therefore it carries no weight with me. I have considered this matter as well as I can, and I look on this Bill so far as the part of Ireland for which I speak is concerned, as one of first-class importance. I hope, therefore, the House will pass it.
§ Mr. W. COOTE
I am sorry the hon. Member for Waterford (Captain Redmond) in his remarks was rather unkind to Ulster, and in order to clear the air I think I had better state the facts which govern the representation of Ulster so far as the county councils are concerned. In County Antrim something like 30 per cent. of the population is Roman Catholic, and Roman Catholics have five councillors out of twenty. In Armagh where 45 per cent. of the people are Roman Catholics, they have ten councillors; in Cavan, where 81 per cent. of the population is Roman Catholic, they have all the representation, and the Unionists are not represented; in County Donegal, where the Roman Catholics are 78 per cent. of the population, the Protestants only have four representatives; in County Down, with 31 per cent. of the population, the Catholics have eight representatives; in Fermanagh, with 56 per cent. of the population, they have fifteen representatives; in County London- 141 derry, with 41 per cent. of population, they have eight; in the County of Monaghan they have the entire representation although they only represent 74 per cent. of the population; and in Tyrone, with 55 per cent. of the population, they have thirteen Roman Catholic representatives. So much for the representation of Roman Catholics in the Ulster county councils.
Now I come to its effect. I cannot do better than give you the case as I know it. For the last seventeen years I have had the honour of being a county councillor for county Tyrone. We have a very small majority of Unionists, but are we the bigots that we are represented as being? Take the officers whom we have appointed. We have two county surveyors, one a Protestant and one a Roman Catholic; we have an asylum for Fermanagh and county Tyrone; the senior doctor is a Protestant and the assistant doctor a Roman Catholic. We have lately started a sanatorium. The first doctor we elected and the first matron we chose were both Roman Catholics, and we chose them because we believed they were the most competent people to take charge of an institution of that kind. Nearly all the nurses in the county are Roman Catholic and half the assistant surveyors as well. Then take the committees — the health insurance and other committees. They are so constituted by arrangement as to give only a fair majority to the Unionists. I want to challenge my hon. Friends opposite who have made these statements against us. I say that since local government came into force, something like twenty years ago, the County Council of Tyrone, although it has a Unionist majority, has given more positions to Nationalists and Roman Catholics in that county than have been given by Nationalist county councillors outside Ulster all over Ireland to Unionists.
§ Mr. COOTE
I think these figures are convincing proof that the county Tyrone Unionists are not so intolerant as has been suggested. The hon. Member for Trinity College (Sir R. Woods) supports proportional representation on mathematical grounds. He suggests on those grounds it is consistent. That is where I join issue 142 with him. He forgets the areas and the small minorities in the areas which even proportional representation will not make any provision for. He forgets the great number of people who will not bother about voting at all, and therefore I say this question cannot be solved as a mere mathematical problem. It will not work out in practice as it appears to do on paper. I object to this change being made because it is impracticable and impossible in operation. Then, again, take the county council areas, of which there are twenty-one. With a county council area of 2,000 voters the county council candidate has quite enough to do to canvass and circularise that number of voters. But under the provisions of this Bill, as explained by the Attorney-General, there will be areas ranging in size from three to nine representatives. Let me take the case of a six-representative area. That will mean, that the county council candidate, drawn from the ordinary population, it may be a farmer or a trader, without very much money or time to spare, will be forced to contest an election in an area which is equal to a Parliamentary area. He will have 12,000 electors to canvass. He will have to circularise them all, he will have to provide the necessary stationery and clerical assistance, and he will have to engage personation agents at the various polling booths. It will, in fact, be a miniature general election, the cost of which will fall on the candidates, who will not have the special facilities of franking their letters which are enjoyed by the candidates in Parliamentary contests.
Then, again, take the question of oversight. Here will be found one of the most serious objections to this Bill. It applies equally to county council and district council work. A very important class of county council and district council work involves direct personal contact. A district councillor is responsible for his area. He must see that his roads are put on the presentment sheet; he must see that any defects in the bridges in the district are reported; he must see that the Poor Law work of the district is properly discharged. If he is now to be one of six councillors or a district, it will mean that what is everybody's business will prove to be nobody's business. It may be possible for the six elected members to be chosen from one corner of the constituency and they may know nothing about the other districts in the constituency. Therefore there will be no proper oversight. Under 143 the present arrangement in my county a district councillor has an area of about 300 square miles to look after, but under the proposed arrangement, by joining up six areas, you will get 1,800 square miles to be looked after, and I am very much afraid that no county councillor will be able to do that, so that for a considerable part of the constituency there will be very little oversight. Under proportional representation you will not have the effective work which is possible under direct representation. You will also have indifferent and careless members who will not look after the particular interests of their particular districts; they will shirk duty and throw the responsibility on other people.
Another very strong objection I have to proportional representation is this, that it will in many constituencies tend to intrigue and gerrymandering. There will be a policy of give-and-take, which may result in the best men being rejected and the substitution for them of accommodating people who will not mind if they do put their hands into the public purse. Suppose you have in a closely contested district in the North a Unionist majority. The Unionists at present are doing the work, and doing it well, and I think that, whatever may be said of other parts of Ireland, no one will allege that there is anything wrong with county council and district council work in the province of Ulster at the present time. It is, admittedly, done economically and efficiently. But suppose you develop a school of cranks who object, for instance, to allowing on the road motor traffic in the interest of agriculture. Suppose I go before the constituency at the next election and say I am in favour of the roads being used for this motor traffic, in the interest of the development of the country generally. You will always be able to get a margin of cranks who will not give way, and a cave may be formed by these cranks consisting of Nationalists, Sinn Feiners, and some Unionists. What is going to happen to the men who stand fearlessly for clean public life and administration? I am certain the effect will be to render county council work less efficient; you will degrade it; you will bring in to do it men who will not act according to their conscience, who will be simply accommodating individuals who want to catch votes and to carry out their views at the expense of the county rates.
144 Why should this change be resorted to in communities which are doing well? Why should this be brought about simply because Sligo has not done its work efficiently? Because Sligo was found wanting and was a disgrace to public life, why should we all be made doctors in our own cases? Speaking for my province, I say that our administration is as healthy as it possibly can be, that the work is done as economically as possible, and that there is no reason why this change should be made. Instead of stopping Sinn Fein, you are giving it a handle with which to intrigue and remove the solid foundation on which our county and municipal work generally is standing, and to weaken if not to destroy it on many boards, especially in Ulster. Lastly, this scheme has not been invited by the people of Ireland. It does not appeal to the people in Ireland. It is all very well for the Attorney-General to say he has letters from individuals who are loud in the praises of proportional representation. They do not understand what it means. It looks so well on paper, but in practice it is impossible. I make this offer to the right hon. Gentleman: If he believes that the people and the Press of Ireland are in love with this measure, will he make it optional, so that they may by resolution adopt it as a means of electing their representatives if they so wish? If he will do that, I have no objection whatever. Then the people on the public boards in Ireland can themselves put this very popular and plausible thing into practice, if they think it is wise to do so. They ought to be the best judges. Since they were not consulted, that is a courtesy which the right hon. Gentleman ought to allow them. This measure is going to work mischief. It is going to cause inefficiency, to destroy the personal control by a district councillor and the county councillor of his own particular people and his own particular area, and to allow a class of men to come into these councils who will not be careful of the public funds. As such I denounce the measure and shall be glad to take part in the Division against it.
§ Mr. MacVEAGH
The hon. Member who has just addressed the House has delivered an eloquent panegyric upon the county council of which he is a member. He has told us how broad-minded and tolerant he and all his colleagues on that county council are. Not satisfied with that, he challenged anybody in this House to get up and point to any respect in which 145 the Unionist county councils of Ulster have shown anything in the nature of intolerance. He confessed to ignorance as to the difference between the wages list and salaries list. There is material difference. The salaries list consists of those who hold the appointments worth having, while the wages list consists of those who hold insignificant appointments, and who are paid by weekly wage.
§ Mr. MacVEAGH
The county surveyor is the only case to which he can point. [An HON. MEMBER: "And the medical officer."] What are the facts? There are five Catholics on the salaried list of the county council of a county in which the Catholics are in a majority. There is no man who has preached the doctrine of exclusice-ness in the giving of these appointments more vehemently than the hon. Gentleman, yet he comes, to this House and poses as the champion and apostle of toleration and broad-mindedness. He knows Dungannon. There the Catholics and Protestants are about equal in population, but there are only two Catholic employés under the Unionist council. Out of a total salary and wages list of £575, only £36 goes to Catholics, and that goes to two street scavengers. Yet the hon. Gentleman comes here and says: "We are the champions of toleration and broadmindedness. Who dares to point the finger of scorn at us?" I could go through the whole list of the local authorities in a county in which the Unionists hold the majority, and in not a single instance do they give appointments to the Catholics, with the five exceptions I have named, although the Catholics form a majority of the population of the county. I am amazed at the effrontery of the hon. Gentleman in these circumstances in getting up and challenging anybody to accuse this county council of intolerance.
§ Mr. MacVEAGH
I can tell you all about the rest of Ireland, but I prefer to deal with your county first. We have heard a great deal to-night about Sligo. Here is a speech delivered by the Rev. Thomas Brown, of Bandon, county Cork, a Presbyterian clergyman, a member of the hon. Member's own church. He speaks of the good will shown to the Presbyterian ministers and those of other Protestant denominations in the South of Ireland by their Catholic neighbours, and he says: 146Last week, at the Poor Law elections in Cork, Miss Day, a Protestant, was returned at the head of the poll; in Bandon, the Earl of Bandon, a Protestant, is chairman of the town commissioners; in Kinsale, Mr. David Acton, is chairman, and he also is a Protestant; whilst in Skibbereen the same pleasant conditions exist, the chairman there, Mr. William W. Wolfe, being another Protestant.The examples of not merely religious toleration, but religious generosity on the part of Irish Catholics might be extended almost indefinitely. The Rev. W. Armour, another Presbyterian clergyman of the town of Sligo, appealed to his co-religionist in Ulster to muzzle their Parliamentary representatives, such as the hon. Member to whom the House has just listened, and to allow the Protestants in the South and West to speak for themselves.
§ Mr. MacVEAGH
But he is a Presbyterian minister. Evidently he is suspect once he declares himself in favour of Irishmen settling their own affairs. As soon as it is made clear that the hon. Member has no right to speak in this House on behalf of Protestants in the South and West, he suggests that any Protestant in the South and West who calls himself a Home Ruler is therefore a bad Protestant. I could quote facts by the dozen in this matter, but that would not make the hon. Member ashamed of the statements he has made to-night. As a matter of fact, in every council in Ulster where there are Unionist majorities it is the same. The Antrim County Council has five Catholic employés out of sixty-five, the Armagh County Council three out of fifty, while the Down County Council, of which I know something, out of a total salary list of £5,520 gives £185 to Catholics, who form one-third of the population. Yet the hon. Gentleman is not ashamed of it. In every county in Ulster where the Catholics are in a majority on the local authorities the Protestants have their fair share in the possession of emoluments, and it is the same throughout the South and West of Ireland. But we can safely challenge the Unionists of Ulster to point to a single case in which a Catholic Nationalist has been elected by a Unionist local authority to any job of the value of £200 a year. It is an odious and hateful task for any of us on these benches to pursue this sectarian question at all. I hate to be dragged into a discussion of this kind. It is perfectly sickening. But 147 we cannot allow charges of this kind to pass without repudiation. We have always preached in this House, and on the platform throughout the length and breadth of the country, that we want nothing more than fair play in our own country, and that the fair play that we claim far ourselves we are willing to give to those who differ from us. Because of that we have always advocated the principle of proportional representation. We are willing to give to minorities everywhere the representation to which their numbers entitle them. Unionist Members who ask for the sympathy of this House on the ground that they are a down-trodden minority who are going to be persecuted off the face of the earth by the majority in Ireland when they get self-government, come here and say, "Do you propose to give representation to minorities in Ireland? The thing is intolerable. Perish the thought! We shall never consent to minority representation because it means the destruction of our monopoly in the northeastern corner of Ulster." That is why they are out against it to-day. It is not any objection to minority representation as such. It is an objection to a system being terminated under which minorities in the North-East of Ireland are able to grind down majorities, and they come here to make their fight to-night for the maintenance of their ascendancy.
There are a few points on the Bill on which I desire to say a word. The first is that no one on these benches, and so far as I know no public authority in Ireland, has ever asked for this Bill. No Irish Member was asked his, opinion or was consulted before or after the Bill was introduced, and no one in this House has any responsibility for the decision or the action of the Government. They have introduced the Bill purely for political pur-purposes, to meet difficulties which they feel themselves they may be face to face with in the course of a few months, ant' I think it is right that we should make it perfectly plain that no one in the House has any responsibility for the introduction of the Bill. It is entirely the responsibilty of the Government themselves. I feel also that if proportional representation is a good thing for Ireland it is an equally good thing for England, and it ought to be applied to England for local elections as well as to Ireland, and if it is a bad thing for England you have no 148 right to practise it upon us in Ireland. On the details of the Bill I would suggest a few points for the Attorney-General's consideration. In the first place, it does not ensure any unity of elections. If there is one thing on which I agree with the right hon. Gentleman (Sir E. Carson) more fully than another it is in want of confidence in the Local Government Board, as in all Government Departments in Ireland. I am very glad to welcome the right hon. Gentleman's conversion and to congratulate him on rising in this House to denounce so vehemently as he did the whole system of Dublin Castle rule in our unfortunate country, and I hope he will go on delivering speeches of that kind in the years which are to come. When he said he had no confidence in the Local Government Board he uttered a sentiment to which we on these benches most cordially subscribe. We are not content to leave it to the Local Government Board to map out these areas for proportional representation. We are not content that they should sit down and plan out a schema guided by no principle but subject to all the political pressure and wire-pulling which can be brought to bear upon it to manipulate constituencies in a certain way. Surely unless proportional representation is to be absolutely hopeless the proper way of doing it is to fix your unit and fix the number of members who will be elected by that unit and adhere religiously to it throughout the whole country. I see no reason why a small town in Ireland should not constitute one unit. I do not know any reason why a small town should not poll all its men in one polling station, and elect them all upon one ticket, and although in rural areas where the population is more scattered it might be necessary to fix a lower figure in the unit still it is necessary that the unit should be definitely fixed in the Bill itself and not fixed arbitrarily by the Local Government Board.
Another point I would suggest to the Attorney-General is that all these local elections should be held on one day, and that instead of being held, as proposed in the Bill, some in June, and some in December, all should be held in June. If it is impossible to hold them next June, hold them the June after. There is really no violent hurry for an election next December. Postpone the election till the following June and let us have it in the summer time, which will be much more convenient for everyone. I have gone 149 through a great many elections depth of winter, and I am not enamoured of them. They are very inconvenient performances. We should extract a great deal more satisfaction out of an election which would be held in the summer months. What is the hurry about having an election in December? You can either force the pace a little further and have it in September, which will give us fairly decent weather, or you can put it back until June. You have a Clause in the Bill postponing the period. Therefore you can fix any period you like in the postponement Clause, and there is no reason why it should not go back until the following June. A third suggestion I would make is that all these elections should be held on the one day and, as far as possible, on one voting paper. It is all a question of organisation. There is nothing at all to prevent it being done. If we have such a capable Local Government Board as the right hon. Gentleman says, there will be no difficulty in framing their regulations ensuring that all elections shall take place on one day and all on one voting paper, which will avoid a great deal of confusion and also a great waste of public money.
We shall offer all the opposition which is within our power to Clause 7. Whether in Committee upstairs, or when the Bill comes down, we shall fight it tooth and nail if this Clause is retained It is a perfectly monstrous proposition that if the Local Government Board is satisfied, after such inquiry as it deems necessary—there is no provision for a public inquiry at which the parties concerned can be represented; without any inquiry at all if the Local Government Board thinks fit—any county council, district council, or town commissioners can be superseded. It is not merely if all these local authorities refuse to discharge their duties, but if they fail to discharge their duties, or if they are unable to discharge their duties they are to be superseded, and an individual appointed. That is a power which we shall never consent to being placed in the hands of any Government Department in Ireland, and we shall offer it every opposition that is within our power. I would suggest to the Attorney-General, who, I must say, considers all the representations which are made to him in a very fair and reasonable fashion, and I think does his best to meet the views put before him, that he should consider our views in respect to these points, and if 150 he will eliminate this obnoxious Clause, and give us an election at a date which will meet the public convenience, and if he will also arrange that all the elections should be on one day and on one paper, I think he will make his Bill a really useful one, which will meet the public convenience in every way.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
I am sorry that the right hon. Member for the Duncairn Division (Sir E. Carson) has left the House, because I intended to offer him my sincere congratulations on the tremendously passionate Home Rule speech which he delivered this evening. Everybody knows that the right hon. Gentleman can be very powerful when he feels strongly, and, whether it is in the House of Commons or in the Courts of Law, we are all deeply interested in hearing declarations of the character of the declaration which was made here to-night. I envy him his power of vituperation and denunciation. Unfortunately for themselves, the members of the Government were all absent. The Chief Secretary for Ireland was absent, the Prime Minister was absent, and the other members of His Majesty's Government were absent. If they had been here I think they would have wriggled in more senses than one at the extraordinary denunciation which the right hon. Gentleman gave to the House of the influence and the conduct of British administrators in Ireland. In the course of his speech he stated that no section of Irish representatives were consulted before this Bill was introduced. He was not consulted. We were not consulted, and the Sinn Fein representatives in Ireland were not consulted. When did the right hon. Gentleman get that experience? Does he not know as well as we do that every action of the Government is taken without consultation with any representative authority in Ireland? He rightly said that in regard to the housing, in regard to reconstruction, and in regard to public health, there has not been a single Irish representative, so far as I know, consulted, and certainly none of the representative bodies in Ireland have been invited to express their views as to the way in which the Government should adjust these problems.
What I complain of in regard to the right hon. Member for the Duncairn Division is that, while he gets up in this House and works himself into a perfect agony of indignation against the treatment 151 of Ireland by the British Government, when it comes to the question of carrying iris own arguments to their logical and legitimate conclusion, he is the most bitter and violent antagonist of the only possible means by which a situation of that sort can be met. We say, and we have said for thirty or forty years, that if you are going to deal with Irish affairs to the satisfaction of the Irish people; if you are going to accept constitutional principles in the guidance of the destinies of either this nation or of Ireland, the only way in which you can do it is by placing the sole and entire responsibility of the government of the country and its administration upon the shoulders of the people themselves. One thing the right hon. Gentleman did not do. He did not deal with the Bill before the House. I wondered when I saw that splendid array of the whole of his party, headed by himself, as if the whole Empire was shaking. They were gathered here to-night as if some terrible evil was to befall Ireland, England, Scotland, and all the countries represented in this Parliament.
What is this Bill? This Bill proposes to give minorities representation. The right hon. Gentleman has for thirty years based his power in appealing to the British electorate upon the principle that he represented a minority. But when a Bill of this character is proposed to give minorities representation upon public bodies he comes to the House of Commons and opposes it with all the violence which he formerly manifested when he was opposing the Home Rule Bill. What is the meaning of it? The meaning of it is this, and I confess that it was to me somewhat of a tragic comedy which was performed in this House, that while the southern Unionists as represented by the hon. and gallant Gentleman, who is the genius and author of this Bill, want proportional representation in order to secure for themselves representation in the South, the right hon. Gentleman is not willing to give, but is here to fight to the death against giving representation to the Nationalist party in the North. The Attorney-General has made a mistake in regard to this Bill. What he should have done would have been to introduce proportional representation to give representation to the southern Unionists, but not apply it to Ulster. In other words, to allow the Unionists in the Nationalist 152 councils in the South and West of Ireland, but not to allow Nationalists on the Conservative councils in the North of Ireland. Then the right hon. Gentleman (Sir E. Carson), who made the House ring with his ironies and cynicisms at the expense of the Government and his violent denunciation of these proposals, would have come here and given his choicest blessing to the Gentleman representing the Coalition Government. That is the whole secret of the right hon. Gentleman's position.
The right hon. Gentleman and his party stand as a whining majority, always telling this House and telling the world that they as a minority must have the power to deny to the majority its rights and privileges which belong to every constitutionally governed country, but the minute you come and ask for minority representation in the North of Ireland they say, "Oh no, it shall not be done" and they are here to fight against it. This has reminded me of a real Irish faction fight with its different colouring, that it was a faction fight between the reactionaries of the North and reactionaries of the South, a fight between the followers of the right hon. Member for the Duncairn Division and of the two hon. and gallant Gentlemen (Colonel W. Guinness and Major Newman). I do not know which of the attitudes of these conflicting Irish factions I regard as the most offensive. I heard the hon. and gallant Gentleman who spoke from the other side (Lieutenant-Colonel Guinness), and I have no doubt his remark will be reiterated by the hon. and gallant Gentleman who sits behind me (Major Newman) that what you want in Ireland, and what you would get under proportional representation, is good administrators and large ratepayers. There is a genuine good old Tory reactionary ring about that sentence. I was amused to hear some description given as to what ratepayers were. According to what I gathered, the owner of slum property who extracts large and indefensible rent from the people who live in the slums pays the rates, is the large ratepayer, while the person who is rack rented, the slum dweller, gets out of this unhappy condition and out of his limited capacity to pay, and that his rates are really paid for him. This argument that rates are only paid by the man who hands the money to the rate 153 collector is the greatest nonsense I ever heard. The real ratepayer is the tenant of the house. The so-called ratepayer is merely the middle man through whom the rate is transferred from the man who pays rent to the man who receives the rate.
Then this talk of wanting good administration I regard as most insulting to the county councils and various public authorities in Ireland. Not from the lips of partisans in this House, but from the lips of men who have followed the administration of local affairs in Ireland, from men like the present Foreign Secretary (Mr. Balfour), and like the late Mr. Wyndham, we have heard the declaration made, not once, but twenty times, that the administration of our Irish county councils and our local boards has been as clear, as clean and as pure, as honest and as efficient as, and in many cases more efficient than, the administration of county government in any part of England or Scotland. And when Gentlemen who call themselves Southern Unionists come here and make these sweeping charges of incapacity, inefficiency, and corruption against the recognised public authorities, who discharge their duties so well, and in my judgment so splendidly, all things considered, as to extort such eloquent eulogy from the Foreign Secretary and Mr. Wyndham, the least they might do was to give some instance to show where this corruption and maladministration takes place.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman (Lieutenant-Colonel Guinness) says we want moderate men. I wonder is be the type of moderate man, or is the hon. and gallan Gentleman behind me (Major Newman) another type of moderate man? Give me the Orangeman beating the big drum. After all, he wants to hold all the power just as now he does not want to give minority representation. He at least believes inThe good old rule, the simple plan,That they should take who have the powerAnd they should keep who can.All that we can understand, but when hon. Gentlemen, aristocrats of England, whose connection with Ireland is that they are landed proprietors, get up in this House and detach themselves from their Ulster Orange Friends and take up the attitude that they are all superior persons, coming from the universities and colleges, whose only acquaintance with Ireland is that they come over and live there for a month in a year and patronise the people, and 154 then return to this House and speak about inefficiency, bad administration, and the necessity for having moderate men, may I say that you can be very moderate in Ireland if you live in England for eleven months of the year, and they can preach these fine rhetorical homilies in this House when their only view of Ireland is what they get through the columns of the "Outlook" or the "Times," while they represent English constituencies. One touch of nature makes the whole world kin, and I join the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Duncairn Division (Sir E. Carson) in resenting this patronising air, which has been assumed by those who call themselves Southern Unionists.
But the most remarkable thing which I have heard in this Debate was the sentiment expressed by the hon. and gallant Gentleman to the following effect: "Ireland is different in race, sentiment, characteristics, and temperament," and this statement was delivered with pure, fresh Celtic oratory from the Unionist Members from the North and South—the representatives of the North in their denunciation of the perfidy of the British Government and the representatives of the South in their denunciation of the wickedness of the genuine characteristics of the Irish people. Of course, it is true that Ireland is different in character, traditions, historical records, race, point of view, and everything. And that is why we have asked for and fought for self-government for Ireland during the last forty years, by constitutional weapons, and now since these weapons have been broken by the weapons of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on those benches, and a new instrument for freedom has been taken into its hands by the Irish people, we tell you that until you get rid of our Celtic sentiment, our racial feeling, our Irish fervour, the difference in temperament, and everything which distinguishes one nation from the other, you will never, along the lines on which you have been proceeding, arrive at a solution of the Irish problem. But I do earnestly appeal to right hon. and hon. and gallant Gentlemen not to come here with their special pleas, uttering sentiments of this character, without allowing those sentiments to be properly realised, and putting forward arguments which, if we draw the only logical conclusion, can have no other effect than forcing them to see, as I am sure this House will see, that the solution of this question is not in tin- 155 kering with proportional representation, or fresh powers of local government, but in transferring the whole power and responsibility of government from this country to Ireland.
I am a Member of this House not because I want to be here. I have the greatest possible respect for Members of the House, and I have the greatest possible contempt for the House as an institution. I have nearly as great a contempt for this House as the Prime Minister has, and I do not know anyone who comes less to this House than I do except the Undersecretaries and various Ministers of the different Departments which have been established since this Government came into existence. But now that we are here, as unfortunately we are here against our will, when legislation is proposed affecting our country, we must try to influence that legislation in order to make it, if not as beneficial as it could be made, the least hurtful to those whom we represent. Therefore, when a Bill of this character is introduced, which proposes to establish proportional representation, I am in favour of the principle laid down in that Bill. I am no convert to that principle. I am a Member of this House nearly seventeen years, though you would not think it to look at me, and on every occasion when a proposal in favour of proportional representation was introduced, I voted for it.
An hon. Gentleman opposite stated tonight that this principle had never been accepted in Parliament. It was accepted. In the Home Rule Act which is now on the Statute Book, there is a Clause which directs that in the cities of Dublin, Belfast, and Cork, the elections of Members of Parliament in the first Irish House of Commons shall be by proportional representation. Therefore this is not the creation of a precedent at all, but is merely following what was done in the case of the Home Rule Act. When the Representation of the People Act was before the House last year, I made a proposal with regard to proportional representation, but, of course, I was defeated, and I think, among others, by the right hon. and learned Gentleman who introduced this Bill. I think it would have been more in the nature of things if the Attorney-General had passed over the Bill to the tender care of its real father, and he would have brought more poetry and more intensity into the nursing process, and would have handled it with skill, and 156 he would have no evil reputation in this respect, because the right hon. Gentleman who introduced the Bill laid himself open to the severe criticism by the right hon. Member for the Duncairn Division when he told him that one of the extraordinary features of British politics was that the right hon. Gentleman was asked to introduce a Bill in favour of proportional representation, though he was one of the Gentlemen whose votes defeated it in last Parliament. When the Representation of the People Bill was before the House I proposed that the attitude which the House adopted in regard to the Home Rule Act should be taken with regard to proportional representation and should be applied to those cities. That was defeated by such powerful exponents of proportional representation as the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite. Again, when proportional representation was proposed for England, I voted for it. I am in favour of proportional representation because I am in favour of giving the minority in every country. if not their adequate share in the representation, at all events some measure of a share of the representation to which their numbers entitle them, instead of this thing of sweeping away minorities and of telling people, say, at an election where there are 7,000 votes, that those with 3,600 are to have all the representation and the rest none at all. But I do not regard this as half so important in regard to Parliamentary representation as I do in regard to municipal and county representation, because, after all, I do not think we lose so very much if we do not have proportional representation in an assembly of this character. This is not a business assembly; it is a debating society largely made up of Gentlemen who, I understand, now find themselves in the painful position of being in constant conflict between their consciences and their coupons. I do not regard it as so important here, because this is not a business assembly. But a local body is a business assembly. A municipal corporation ought to be a model of how business should be done. A municipal corporation does in the public interests what private interests do for themselves, only in a broader and wider way. A municipal authority touches every interest of the people; it touches their health and their civic virtue and everything that affects the well-being of the community. You do not want the most inflammatory oratory or the most 157 powerful politician on those bodies, but what you want is the most capable citizen who loves the people, who understands the people's wants, who is intensely devoted to the cause of social and civic progress, and who will apply his mind to that sound and efficient administration which ought to lie at the foundation of well-ordered civic government. That is what we want, and there is no doubt about it that no more fatal blunder can be made than to have municipal affairs carried on upon party lines. I have never yet spoken on a platform either in my Constituency or in any part of Ireland in favour of any candidate for municipal honours on party principles. And I would not do it, because I think there is too much involved, and I think it is a great mistake to introduce our conflicting contraversial issues into matters which are entirely domestic and social and civic. That is the reason that I say there is much larger justification for a proportional representation Bill in connection with our municipal and county affairs than there is in connection with our conduct of Parliamentary institutions. But is this a proportional representation Bill? I would have given it loyal and unfaltering support if it were a proportional representation Bill, but that is only part of its functions. It proposes here to set up a sort of House of Lords in Ireland over the local authorities I do not want to discuss again Clause 7, which has been denounced from every part of the House. That Clause states:If the Local Government Board are satisfied, after such inquiry as they deem necessary, that any county council, district council, or town commissioners Have failed or are unable to perform all or any of the duties imposed upon them by or in pursuance of any Statute, the Board may by Order appoint some person to discharge the duties of the council or commissioners, or such of the duties as may be specified by the Order.How does the Local Government Board come to be a sort of sacrosanct institution with the right of determining whether a local body discharges its duties well or not? If a local body were found guilty of corruption I could then see the force of this proposal, or if it were guilty of some heinous offence which could not be defended. But this gives the Local Government Board the power to say whether a local body discharges its duties not to its own satisfaction, not to the satisfaction of the electorate who have constituted its membership, but to the satisfaction of the Local Government Board. What if I pro- 158 posed a clause for insertion in this Bill enacting that "The various local authorities be empowered to dismiss the Local Government Board if they do not do their duty satisfactorily?" In my judgment that would be just as justifiable as to give this proposed power to a number of old, hoary reactionaries sitting in Dublin, who know as much about the common affairs of life as I do about the latest crisis in Japan. Those gentlemen are to set themselves up to determine whether a local council is doing its duty or not. Just at the time when we are aiming at more extended liberty and are trying to secure broader autonomy for Ireland, here comes the Local Government Board in the name of liberty and in the interests of proportional representation, and it asks us to accept the proposal of this kind with regard to the Local Government Board. With the exception of knowing that that body is composed of a number of old gentlemen, I do not know anything about them. I object to old age controlling me unless it has some other virtue. A more monstrous proposal I have never heard than to give these gentlemen the power to say to the elected representatives of the people that they shall submit to this august concern all that they think and all that they do and all that they say in order that the Local Government Board may say, "Quite right," or else "Clear out, and we will send a commissioner to do your work." Imagine the city of Belfast, which is not always perfect, despite what the right hon. and learned Gentleman thinks—
§ Mr. DEVLIN
May I point out to the right hon. and learned Gentleman that it was perfect when I represented it, until he became a Member for Belfast. Take the city of Belfast, and suppose, by one of those circuitous turns of fortune that three Nationalists were appointed members of the Local Government Board. They might think that many things the Belfast Corporation did were not justifiable. I know I am scratching my own imagination and the imagination of the right hon. Gentleman very far, but still in these curious times—when you have an Ulster Tory Member preaching Barcelonaism and Bolshevism and defending anarchy in Spain just to keep himself in the way because he may have to defend 159 anarchy again in Belfast—it is quite possible amidst all these changing fortunes that we might have such a body as a trinity of Nationalists on the Local Government Board, and what would be said if these gentlemen came down to the Belfast Corporation and said, "You may be discharging your duties satisfactorily to yourselves, and it may be all right so far as the electors are concerned. It is difficult to put our finger upon precisely what crime you have committed, but according to our immaculate judgment you are not conducting the affairs of this city properly. We suspend you, and we appoint a paid commissioner to take your place." This is the only legislation that the Coalition Government have evolved for Ireland since they came into operation. I am very glad that the right hon. and learned Gentleman agrees with us that this is a proposal that cannot be defended, and that will not be accepted without protest from Ulster, and I hope he will be as violent as I shall be in resisting this proposal in Committee. But now that he is in his place may I ask him if he is in favour of the rights of minorities? Does he believe that minorities ought to have representation? I know that he believes that in certain things minorities should govern majorities, but as the principle of proportional representation, as apart and distinct from this measure altogether, gives to the people the only guarantee that minorities can have that they will be represented, I am surprised that he is opposing it.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
May I produce Sligo again. I hope the fresh introduction of Sligo will not cause the right hon. Gentleman any further perturbation. There are a number of specialists on this question here, and I hope they can convince the right hon. Gentleman that he is wrong in saying that proportional representation does not secure proper representation for minorities. It has been tried in Sligo. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"] I hear hon. Gentlemen sneering at Sligo, but what was wrong with Sligo? For nearly forty years Sligo was governed by an old Tory reactionary corporation, and Sligo is denounced to-day because it had to bear the inheritance of a corrupt Tory organisation. If it had to come to this Parliament to save it from bankruptcy it 160 was your extravagance that made it bankrupt, and other men of higher public probity had to take in hand the work and to transform the representation in order to save it from the evils which were brought upon it, but the right hon. Gentleman has told us that it is not a success. We are dealing with Irish towns and counties, and Sligo is a typical Irish borough.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
I hope it is not in the sense that other Irish boroughs have to bear the burden of the reactionary finance of the right hon. Gentleman's friends, but in other respects it is a fairly typical borough. The people of Sligo are as decent and respectable as in any other part of the world. Do not think there have not been bad finance and worse administration in other parts, even here in your immaculate England, but I am dealing with the typical case of Sligo, where this principle has been tried. What is the opinion of the Press of the various parties? The "Irish Times," one of the right hon. and learned Gentleman's chief organs—
§ Mr. DEVLIN
I am really surprised at the right hon. Gentleman. I understood it was the most intellectual Press representative of the non-intellectual Tory party in Ireland.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
If the right hon. and learned Gentleman had read that paper it would have done him all the good in the world. The last leading article that I read in the "Irish Times" was almost a replica of a speech delivered by my right hon. and learned Friend in his denunciation of the perfidy of the British Government, and therefore I am glad to congratulate him that his vituperative attack on the British Government did not find inspiration in the office of the "Irish Times." The "Irish Times" says:The election has established beyond dispute two big things in favour of proportional representation. First, that it is a thoroughly workable system.May I here relate a personal reminiscence to the right hon. and learned Gentleman. I believed in proportional representation, 161 and I went to a lecture on it here, and I came out more ignorant than when I went in. The right hon. Gentleman never made the admission that I make. It was my stupidity—not the fault of the system, because here it is in working, and, according to the "Irish Times," it has been a great success, and also according to the "Independent," which is another Irish organ.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
I do not know. The difficulty now is to know what is what, and who is who. I sometimes wonder where we are, when I hear the right hon. Gentleman denouncing the right of minorities to representation, and when I hear flowers of poetic oratory from the hon. and gallant Member for Bury St. Edmunds, in his advocacy of the necessity of putting moderate politicians in public places. When I hear these things, I wonder where I am. But all these newspapers one by one have stated that the system has been tried and been a success, and, strange to say, in Sligo there were no spoiled votes. I was not there myself, but my hon. and gallant Friend (Major Newman) was.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
My hon. and gallant Friend was not there, but he knew all about it. It was Mr. Humphreys who informed the hon. and gallant Gentleman, and, at a moment of unusual personal friendship and close co-operation, he has informed me that there were only forty spoiled votes. Surely if the poor people in Sligo can understand proportional representation, it is not a very big compliment which the right hon. Gentleman and myself pay ourselves if we say we are not able to understand it. I believe the right hon. Gentleman honestly is in favour of it, but he merely gathered his forces in the House to-night to denounce it in order to attack His Majesty's Government. His speech was not an attack upon proportional representation, but was a magnificent indictment on people who ought to be indicted. I am very glad the right hon. Gentleman got them in the dock, and gave them all he did. The only regret I have in the matter is that the whole of them were not there. I have come to the conclusion that they got some whisper from the benches opposite that the right hon. Gentleman was to be on his feet this evening, andThey fled full soon in the month of June,And bade the rest keep fighting.162 I want to end as I began. I am in favour of the principle of proportional representation. The right hon. Gentleman insinuated for a moment that I was the author of the Bill. It was a very poor compliment to me.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
I am in favour of the principle of proportional representation, because it gives minorities the only chance of securing representation. I believe it is a fatal thing to keep minorities from exercising that influence which they ought to exercise. That is why I am in favour of it, and I have been in favour of it ever since I came into this Parliament. I object to certain Clauses in the Bill, and, unless I get an assurance that these Clauses will either be eliminated, or changed on the lines suggested, I question whether I will vote for the Bill. But no doubt the Government will carry it whether we vote for it or not, and subsequently we shall be able to deal with these objectionable parts of the Bill when we get into Committee. I do say, as one who is a genuine democrat, that I think you are making a fatal blunder in rejecting a proposal which gives to the minority some small measure of the power which its weight and authority ought to give. I know the tendency there is when parties are strong to take up the purely official and party attitude and to say, "We are the party, and we must remain." The parties, at all events, in this country are not permanent. Parties change more rapidly in this country than they do in Ireland, and the time may come when you may be in a minority, and you may be refused the exercise of your legitimate right as an important minority in determining things which touch your industries, your commerce and your life. Therefore, I say, apart altogether from the question of the application of this principle to Ireland, that principle which gives legitimate right to a minority of the population to have its fair share in the adjustment of all those questions that affect the minority as well as the majority, will always receive my support.
§ Major MORRISON-BELL
The House has listened with great pleasure to the remarks of the hon. and learned Member, and its only regret has been that the right hon. Gentleman (Sir Edward Carson) has lost his right to reply by an earlier intervention in the Debate. We have had this 163 evening such a domestic Debate, that it hardly seems right for an English Member to intervene at all; but, as I suppose some of us will have to go into the Lobby, perhaps a few remarks on the subject touched on during the Debate will not come amiss. I have noticed previously in this House that Debates dealing particularly with this question have been always characterised by the absence, practically, of any remarks about the subject in question. To-night we have had the question of proportional representation touched on here and there, but, considering that this is a Bill chiefly to deal with this question, it has not been touched on too much. It has been asked, in the course of the Debate from the benches below the Gangway, What is the origin of this Bill? I do not pretend to be in the secrets of the Government, but I should think that it is quite obvious how this Bill comes to be put before the House. The principle of proportional representation got into a private Bill for the borough of Sligo. The election was held, and it was seen at once what an enormous success that principle had been. The whole of the Press of Ireland, as the hon. and learned Member who has just sat down has said, was unanimous in its favour, and I see in an account of that election that it was at once followed by requests from pearly every local authority that the principle should be adopted at their election. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I cannot say every authority, but a great many authorities. It was not advocated, obviously, in the great boroughs in the North, but there was a very strong and almost unanimous opinion in favour of the Bill, I understand, and that must surely be the justification for the Government having brought in this Bill. The Mover of the Amendment did not touch very much upon the question of proportional representation, but the hon. Member who seconded it did, and I propose to deal very shortly with some of his remarks, just prefacing what I have to say by referring to the Amendment, which Apparently seems to contemplate that this principle is something quite new, and has not been tried in Ireland or in Great Britain. Of course the principle was adopted in the Home Rule Bill in 1912.
§ Major MORRISON-BELL
Exactly; but the principle is the same, though its 164 application is different. This Amend-deals with the principle, and, of course, the principle has been adopted not only for Ireland but for England too, and was tried at the last election in university elections, and was apparently a great success. Therefore, as far as the Amendment goes, it would seem that there is nothing new, and there is no reason why the House should be at all nervous about its adoption now. But the hon. Member who seconded the Amendment expressed a great many fears as to whether this principle, if adopted, would work. Surely a sufficient answer to that is what happened in the Sligo election. The-reasons for that election we have heard from the hon. Member. He did not say much about the way in which the election worked out, but there is no doubt whatever that the result gave every satisfaction, and gave a representation in proportion to the number of votes cast. It was said that the principle was too complicated to be understood. The right hon. Gentleman who spoke for the Amendment told the House, in quoting one of the Clauses of the Bill, that he was unable to understand it, and he read the second part of Clause 10. I admit that when put into Parliamentary and legal phraseology it looks rather complicated, but that is due to the system by which it has to be put into words which do not make the meaning very clear at the first glance. But all that this Section (b) of Clause 10 means, when put into ordinary English, is that if a candidate has more votes than he wants his surplus vote is transferred to the next choice; or if a candidate is perfectly and hopelessly out of it at the bottom of the poll, and therefore eliminated, his vote is not lost, but transferred to the second preference, namely, to someone who does want the vote. That is the whole meaning of paragraph (6) of Clause 10, and I think it is capable of being understood by anybody who will read it carefully. In fact, it was not open to very much misunderstanding even in Sligo, where, it was said, quite a large proportion of the voters were illiterate. I think 10 per cent. was given as the number of voters who were illiterate, and, notwithstanding that, and the so-called complications of this system, only 1 per cent. of the votes were spoiled. The hon. Member who seconded this Amendment also said that he was perfectly certain that in any election held under this system a very small proportion of the 165 electors would go to the poll. I do not know really that he has any right to make that statement.
§ Major MORRISON-BELL
Without actually quoting the figure of 50 per cent. I do not think I in the least misrepresented the hon. Gentleman when I said that he said a small number of electors would go to the poll. I think 50 per cent. is small, and, therefore, I think he and I entirely agree. But I was going to say that I do not quite know upon what he bases his prophecy, for in this Sligo election, instead of 50 per cent. going to the poll on this entirely new system, which we were told would not be understood, no less than 73 per cent. of the electors went to the poll. And I should be inclined to prophesy 'that, instead of the numbers becoming smaller in the future, that number of 73 per cent. which was registered at the very first trial will, grow larger and larger, and we shall get up to 80 per cent. and possibly 90 per cent. of the poll. I think that 73 per cent. was a very encouraging figure on the very first occasion, and that there is every reason to hope that the interest shown at Sligo will not only not be less, but will be more in elections to come. The truth is that this system, which has so far justified itself in Sligo and given that small borough the honour of holding the very first election under it, and giving the lead to the rest of Ireland, if one may judge by the comments in the Press—that system is going to spread until every county council and every local authority will be elected by that system; and I do not think there is any doubt that inside ten years, if not five years, we shall have the elections for this House under proportional representation. It is unfortunate at the present moment that large sections of the community should be unrepresented in this House, just as it is unfortunate that large sections of Ireland should not be represented in this House. I do not believe that even though this system may be established it will do away with all 166 the difficulties, but rather will increase them, for it will alter very considerably the whole system under which Parliamentary business is done here. But it will certainly do this; it will ensure that every minority, or every sufficient minority, will be able to send its members to this House, and have its views represented here. I am not afraid of what one hon. Member below the Gangway mentioned in his speech. I am not afraid of having what is called the crank here. I do not believe that this system will introduce cranks into this House.
§ Major MORRISON-BELL
I am very much obliged to you, Sir, for bringing me back to the point. The hon. Member did refer to cranks, and I presume he meant cranks in local government elections. As I said, I do not think that the electorate in local government elections will be likely to vote for many of these social cranks. I believe it is rather a bogey introduced against this system, and I hope that by the adoption of this Bill the way will be paved to elections on this principle not only in Ireland but in England also for purposes of local government.
A few years ago the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just spoken was a pronounced exponent of proportional representation.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman has given us admirable speeches in favour of that system, and I am glad he is going to do so in the future. With some trepidation I would follow him, but I do it partly because I am a believer, and have been for many years, in proportional representation; and secondly, I have the honour to be an Irishman. I greatly regret the opposition that has been put forward. I quite understand the principle of it. Opponents do not want this thing tried in their own constituencies. They say, "Try it on the dog." That observation has been used in this House before, and has been one of the methods of argument against which we have had to contend. Everyone has said, "Why not try it somewhere else?" Undoubtedly if it had not been for that argument Parliament would have carried proportional representation for the recent election. We can say this to Ulster: that 167 proportional representation is going to be tried in Scotland, which will be before Ireland, and that will, at any rate, explode their opposition on the theory of the dog. I have been very anxious to see proportional representation tried for the election of Members of this House, but I have always thought it would be far better to start the method at local elections. Take your local electors and train the country through them to this method of election, and so gradually bring all up so that the method may be brought into play for Parliamentary elections. We are having our chance in Scotland under the Education Act, and then, I trust, it will follow in Ireland. I may say this—which is an open secret—that if the President of the Local Government Board in this country had not had so very many big Bills to deal with this Session, he would have endeavoured to bring in a Bill to have English local authorities elected under proportional representation. The Proportional Representation Society have had more than one resolution sent by urban and rural district councils from various parts of the country asking them to try to get this method applied to local authorities.
I would ask the House to go back to 1898, when local government was carried for Ireland. If in 1898 we had had the method of proportional representation for the election of Irish county councils the whole course of Irish history, I am convinced, might have been very different. That Bill was introduced with a chorus of approval from all parts of the House, and the Second Reading was carried by a big majority, only twenty Members voting against it. One of those twenty was the present Prime Minister. The then Member for Waterford, the late Mr. John Redmond, made an eloquent speech in favour of the Bill. Perhaps I may read to the House his last few words:No man's politics or religion should be allowed to be a bar to him if he desires to serve his country on one of the new bodies.…The almost impassable gulf that separated groups and parties would (continued Mr. Redmond) be for the first time bridged by the working of the new Local Government Act. We have single-member constituencies, and the county councils were captured in the first few years of their working. I myself put up and was defeated in the election of 1898 in my own Division. I fought a hard fight and 168 obtained 600 votes against about 800. I was standing as a non-party man, and merely as a man who wanted to take a hand in the work of the county. In two adjoining divisions two Unionist friends put up and were defeated. I say that undoubtedly, had we had proportional representation I or one of my friends would have been returned to do the county council work; we would then have been helping in the local government of Ireland. The hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite gave figures showing how small was the Unionist vote in the South of Ireland. He adopted a very ordinary method of reckoning it up. He simply counted how many partisans there were, or units, forgetting that there are a certain number of Catholic Unionists. If he will do me the honour some time of coming to stay with me in the South of Ireland, I will take him to see a good many Catholic Unionists who are very staunch in their Unionism. One should not forget that fact in dealing with politics in the South of Ireland.
That, however, is not the reason that I support this Bill—merely because it would give us Unionists a certain representation in the local councils. An hon. Member has told us that in the borough of Cork we are in a ratio of about 12 per cent., and in the county of Cork of about 9 per cent. I support this Bill chiefly because it will give the man of ordinary weight in local affairs, the man whom everybody trusts, his chance of taking an interest in local affairs. Frankly, I do not care whether that particular man is a Unionist, a Nationalist, or a Sinn Feiner. If he can persuade his fellow citizens and the ratepayers that if he is elected he will go to the council with one object and one object only, and that is the administration of their affairs well and wisely. I say, though personally he may be prepared to vote against me for membership of this House, I should be inclined to vote for him in local matters. One hon. Member has told us, and quite rightly, that what we really want as members of these local bodies in Ireland are business men who will remember that they are business men and that the bodies are business corporations. As I say, proportional representation will, at any rate, give us some chance of the middle interest being elected to take its share in the local affairs of Ireland.
It has been said—perhaps not in this Debate, but outside the House—that if a 169 man is an Irishman he cannot forget his politics. If a good business man who is prepared to put his politics aside and to go into a local council and conduct the business there properly is up against a patriot who, perhaps, has "served time," in gaol, that that patriot will win all the time. I quite admit that that would probably be the case in a single-member division. If you had twenty single-member divisions for the counties of Cork or Tipperary, and in each division one man against another, in those twenty certainly the patriot would win. With proportional representation the feeling would be different, and the third, fourth, fifth, or sixth choice would probably be given to the business man who would try and save the ratepayer's pocket, and in that way business men would be elected to these local bodies. That is bound to happen under proportional representation, for it would give the middle interest in Ireland a chance. In this way the elector would have a chance of being represented by a man who without being a patriot might be a man of weight and honesty, but you will be doing something to secure more efficient local government. I will conclude by quoting a few lines from a Sligo Sinn Fein paper. The "Sligo Champion," on the 5th January this year, referring to this system, said, "It is very plain and very simple." When Sinn Fein papers say that, it is good enough for me, and I think it should be good enough for the House of Commons.
§ Captain CHARLES CRAIG
Something has been said with reference to confusing Unionists and Catholics by the hon. Member who has just spoken. He says it is quite wrong for us to say that there are no Unionists who are Catholics. We have never said that, because we know that there are a certain number of Catholics in Ireland who are as good Unionists, for instance, as myself, but that number is so small that it is a negligible quantity, and it is perfectly right, speaking roughly, to say that the number of Protestants in Ireland represent roughly the number of Unionists in that country. If you add to that the number of Roman Catholic Unionists it would not mean more than 2 per cent. of the population and really there is nothing in that point, and when we speak of Protestants we speak of Unionists.
§ Captain CRAIG
I consider that I know a great deal more about Ireland than the hon. Member who interrupts me.
§ Captain CRAIG
I know there are a number of Catholics who are Unionists, but it is perfectly right roughly to say that the Protestants of Ireland represent Unionists. The hon. Member opposite said he was very glad to hear that my hon. and gallant Friend (Major Morrison-Bell) has declared himself to be an advocate of proportional representation. I wonder what it is that has brought my hon. and gallant Friend round to that view.
§ Captain CRAIG
My hon. and gallant Friend had the misfortune to be a prisoner of war with me in Germany, and we organised a very interesting trial election there on this question of proportional representation, which gave us a great deal of interest and amusement for some time. I remember on that occasion asking if he was in favour of proportional representation, and he told me he had not definitely made up his mind. I would like to ask him if the result of the Sligo election finally turned the scale in favour of proportional representation?
§ Major MORRISON-BELL
What really changed me was the fact that re-distribution had been got out of the way.
§ Captain CRAIG
I thought perhaps it was the Sligo election which, has persuaded my hon. and gallant Friend towards the side of proportional representation. I look upon this proposal of the Government as very serious indeed-The House will remember that at the beginning of this Session we spent a considerable time in discussing how the very important measures which the Government had in hand could be got through the House. The complaint was that there 171 was not enough time at the disposal of the House of Commons under the old system to get these important measures through, and a very drastic re-arrangement of the business of the House was agreed to for the express purpose of getting these great measures through the House.
How is the Government using this valuable time which the new Rules have given to them? They are using it amongst other ways by bringing in a Bill like this, which is not a Bill arising out of the necessities of the country after the war. This is a Bill of which there was no indication given at the General Election, and after all it is a great constitutional change, and it is usual, according to the Parliamentary practice of this country, to give some indication at a General Election of the measures which the Government is going to bring in as soon as the House meets. No indication of any sort was given that such a measure as this will be brought in. Not only is that so, but this Bill is in direct opposition to the wishes of over 90 per cent. of the representatives of Ireland. Of course they are not all here, but, as everybody knows, the Sinn Fein party, the largest party in Ireland, opposes this Bill as strongly as we do. From what we gather in the Debate this Bill is largely directed against the Sinn Fein party, therefore it is safe to assume that they are not in favour of it. The party to which I belong, which is the next largest party representing Ireland, numbering twenty-two, is absolutely opposed to this Bill. Who are in favour of it? There are six Nationalist Members and two Unionist Members in favour of this measure and ninety-two or ninety-three Irish representatives against it. I say that it is a most wanton act for the Government to bring in a Bill which is so absolutely opposed to the wishes of their own supporters as this Bill is. I would go further and ask the Government to explain what is the object of this Bill? We have to grope through the various speeches from various quarters of the House to find out for ourselves what is the real object of this Bill. The right hon. and learned Gentleman who introduced the measure did not make it at all clear, at all events to me, what is the object of the Bill. He said that he wanted to see certain interests, which were not represented at present, represented on the county and borough councils. Is that the 172 real reason? I think, probably, the real reason is to be found in the speeches of other Members, namely, that this is an attempt on the part of the Government to save certain county councils and other local councils in Ireland from the Sinn Fein party.
I do not think that the Bill has really been introduced from the point of view of giving the Unionists in the South of Ireland better representation on county and district councils. At any rate, if that is the object of the Government, I think it has been abundantly and absolutely proved that the Bill is altogether futile. It is quite true, as my hon. Friend for one of the Divisions of Dublin has said, that the Bill possibly would give one or two more seats on the Dublin Corporation to Unionists, and it might secure the return of a few Unionists here and there scattered over the South and West of Ireland on county and district councils, but those Unionists would be so few in number that they would not have the slightest effect on the policy pursued by any of the councils to which they were elected. If that is so, what improvement is to be gained by putting them on? Those hon. Members who were present in the earlier stages of the Debate may remember that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Colonel Guinness), in rather a plaintive voice, asked us Unionist Members who are opposing this Bill why we objected to something that would do the Unionists in the South of Ireland good and would do us no harm. If that were absolutely so, it would be a good question to ask us, but the hon. Member for Waterford (Captain Redmond) a few moments afterwards told us that the reason we did not want this Bill was that we should suffer considerably by it in Ulster. He proceeded to point out that it was highly probable, if not certain, that in the city of Derry we should lose control of the council. That at once does away with the point which my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds made, that this was a Bill which would do them a lot of good and us no harm—if it is true, as the hon. Member for Waterford has said, that we are going to have the municipal control of one of the most important cities in the North of Ireland taken out of the hands of the Unionists, who have controlled it equitably and well for many years, and put into the hands of people corresponding to those who made such a mess of 173 affairs in Sligo. In Derry some 75 per cent. to 80 per cent. of the rates are paid by Unionists, and the same proportion of the property and business of that town is in the hands of Unionists. Yet if this Bill passes—we have the word of the hon. Member for Waterford for it—the control of that city will be taken out of the hands of the Unionists and handed over to the Nationalists. If that is so, I maintain that we have very good reason for opposing the Bill. Some of my hon. Friends have suggested that the same thing would happen in other parts of Ulster. Quite apart from the effect that it may have upon Ulster, however, I maintain that we have great reason to complain of the action of the Government in introducing this Bill. We object very strongly to Ireland being used as a ground on which to carry out these experiments. Why did this House last year or the year before—unfortunately I was away at the time—turn down this proposal of proportional representation time after time? Obviously, it was because they did not think that it was a good thing for the country. I maintain, when you examine the question, that you will find that the conditions are just the same in Ireland as they are in England. In Ireland we are divided into Unionists, Nationalists, and Sinn Feiners. Does anybody suggest that there is no sharp divisions between the various parties who seek to get representatives on the local councils in England? The divisions between us may not be the same, but they are there just to the same extent. When this question was before the House with regard to England, the House would not have it. It defeated it. Why therefore are we to be made the ground for trying an experiment which was so conclusively and decisively disposed of in this House only a year ago?
A great deal has been made of the case of Sligo. Sligo is like the blessed word Mesopotamia. Apparently, it contains irrefutable arguments in favour of proportional representation. Things in Sligo, as the House has been informed, had come to such a horrible pass that the unfortunate inhabitants were ready to try any experiment to better their conditions. Somebody came along and proposed proportional representation. In such a state of affairs it was quite easy to tell that proportional representa- 174 tion was going to have a certain effect. The people of Sligo were ready and willing to grasp at any straw which would get them out of the horrible condition of affairs into which they had got themselves. It is no wonder that they even had the courage to tackle a proposal of proportional representation. It was a foregone conclusion. Before the experiment was tried it was perfectly clear to everybody that it would have the effect which it did have. The whole difference between Sligo and this case is that there the people had examined the question and were satisfied it would do what they wanted. It is very different in the rest of Ireland. We in the North of Ireland are absolutely satisfied that proportional representation will not do what the Government thinks that it is going to do, and in view of the fact that we have not been consulted and in view of the fact that just over 90 per cent. of the representatives of Ireland in this House are unquestionably opposed to proportional representation, I say that it is—
§ Mr. A. WILLIAMS
Can the hon. and gallant Gentleman give any evidence of the fact that the Sinn Fein Members are against it?
§ Captain CRAIG
No; I can only give what is called presumptive evidence. This Debate has shown pretty plainly to everybody that the Bill is directed against Sinn Feiners, and, if it is going to lessen their position in Ireland, we may safely say that they are opposed to it. I have never heard the suggestion put forward by anybody that they are in favour of it. Presuming that the Sinn Feiners continue to be in as great strength as they were at the General Election, they would sweep the country—the county councils, the district councils, and every municipal council in the South and West of Ireland—just as they have swept the Parliamentary boroughs and constituencies. Therefore, I think I am perfectly safe in saying that they are against it. I would like to reiterate this point, that 90 per cent. of the representatives of Ireland are opposed to this Bill. We have very often heard speeches from the Front Bench telling us we should not oppose Bills which are desired by the majority in Ireland. But here is a case where over 90 per cent. of the people are opposed to a measure, and yet the Government are proposing to pass it in spite of that fact! One hon. Member told us there was evidence that this 175 Bill was approved by a very large section of the Irish people and that the Press particularly were in favour of it. But again I would point out that it has been the practice in this House to judge of the support of a policy or measure by the attitude of the representatives of the country affected towards it. All my friends from Ulster, twenty-two in number, are against this Bill. We have every reason to believe that all the Sinn Fein Members—although absent from this House—are absolutely opposed to it, and I say the Government are doing a very uncalled for and wanton act in disregarding the wishes of that portion of the party which supports them to the extent it has done in this War. We people from Ulster claim that during the War we have done our part to support the Government as firmly and as well as any other part of the United Kingdom, and we think it is a very ungrateful act on the part of the Government, that, on almost the first opportunity it has had, it should have gone out of its way, without even taking the trouble to consult us and to find out what the true results of this Bill are going to be, to seek to apply this Bill against our strongest wishes. We certainly shall force our opposition to a Division, and shall fight the Bill at every stage, doing our level best to defeat it.
§ Mr. SAMUELS
The Government accept full responsibility for introducing this Bill. They agree it is a very serious measure, but the circumstances under which it has been produced must be known to everybody resident in Ireland who knows anything of what is going on there. For years past, since 1878, the machine has captured the whole representation on local authorities in Ireland, and I should have hardly thought it necessary to point that out to anybody who knows what is going on there. I deny that for one moment on this question of local government any question of creed, or any question of politics has influenced the Government in introducing this measure. What we have to look at is what is going on in Ireland, and I ask my hon. Friends from Ulster to face the facts. At the General Election, on the Parliamentary franchise, 75 per cent. of the representation has gone over to the Sinn Fein party. What is the declared object of that party? It is to make local government in Ireland absolutely impossible and to break down British reign and rule in Ireland by cap- 176 turing local bodies, as was done by Hungary when Austria was forced into giving her independence. There they began by capturing the local bodies.
§ Major O'NEILL
Is it not the fact that the right hon. Gentleman never mentioned this question of the Sinn Feiners in his speech moving the Second Reading of this Bill? May we take it that that was the real reason why this Bill has been introduced?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I thought the hon. Member rose to ask a question. It is not open to him now to put forward arguments.
§ Mr. SAMUELS
I did not mention the words "Sinn Fein," but I thought everybody understood from me that, owing to the impulse of certain political feeling in Ireland, the position the Government had to face was a serious one, and I pointed out it was a matter affecting not merely local and civic administration but State administration also. I pointed out that many millions of money had been advanced already by the Government—I think the loans to local authorities now total £26,000,000—and it is the local authorities who have to administer this vast sum. The country, too, is going to undertake great schemes for the public health, great housing schemes, and great schemes of reconstruction, which are to be applied to Ireland, and no one has been more insistent that they should be so applied than my hon. Friend from Ulster. Who are you going to trust the administration of these things to? Are you going to trust them to bodies elected on the present franchise and under the present machinery—bodies which have been absolutely captured by people who call the rest of the United Kingdom "the enemy," and whose object is to break down the rule of the "enemy" and make the whole administration in Ireland impossible? I do not know whether Sinn Feiners are in favour of this Bill or not, but it is a remarkable thing that Arthur Griffith, the intellectual originator of Sinn Fein, its most able protagonist, a most brilliant writer, a man of great ability, and a most dangerous opponent, is himself one of the vice-presidents of the Irish branch of the Proportional Representation Society. All I know is that when the election took place at Sligo, Sinn Fein only gained a certain proportion of the representation, and the Sinn Fein papers unanimously 177 spoke in the highest terms not only of the system of the election but of the method in which it was conducted and its results.
Having to face this state of affairs, what was the duty of the Government? It was necessary to bring in a Bill sometime or other to deal with elections. Could we perpetuate the old system with its disastrous effect that business men, professional men, and commercial men, North and South, should, on account of political feeling or dogma, have been excluded practically ever since 1878? The hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. W. Coote), in his most able and energetic speech, gave us the figures for the province of Ulster. I was astonished to hear that in Monaghan and Cavan there was not a single representative of the minority. In Monaghan and Cavan there should be a fair representation, I do not say of Unionists, I do not say of politics, but of people who, by training, capacity, commercial standing or position as agriculturists ought to be on the county councils and directing county affairs. What have county councils to do with party politics? What have they to do with the fourteen points or with the Peace Conference?
§ Mr. SAMUELS
Yes, if you take up any paper to-day you see that the county councils and the urban councils are directing their attention to these things, and not thinking about drainage and sewage. What has dogma to do with dustbins? We want to see if these things cannot be changed, for the old system has broken down in the North and in the South. I do not know myself, and I have not been able to gather from the speeches of my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Ulster Benches, what they apprehend. Do they apprehend that the grit of the North is going to be swept away on account of proportional representation which might change a few-seats on the corporation of Belfast or Derry, and which might thus affect the composition of those great corporations? Even if the Roman Catholics were conceded a few seats on the Corporation of Belfast or of Derry—[HON. MEMBERS: "They have them!"]—I do not think that the men who get in would be returned for anything except their business capacity, for North Ireland is hard-headed on these matters. I do not think they will give themselves up to enthusiasm for other people's 178 business. In the South we are too much given to thinking what is going on in this House and another place, and neglecting what is going on in our own townships and urban districts. There are numbers of hard-thinking men—good business men, men of integrity and honour, and women too—plenty of them—who are most anxious to take a proper and reasonable share, not in politics, but in the administration of their local affairs. What chance have they under the present system? None. There is one man up for the area. He has the ticket and you must vote for him.
§ Mr. SAMUELS
Coupon or ticket, or whatever it is, he is up for the area and you have the one chance of voting either for him or against him. But it makes a great difference if you can bring in a second, third or fourth preference, and anyone who knows the want of moral courage that prevails through a great part of Ireland knows that there are plenty of men who will say, "Mickey, I give you the vote." So he did, but he gave a vote to Jim and to Tom and to the rest of them down the list too, and if you give a second, third and fourth preference it will greatly affect their elections. Hon. Members have forgotten what has happened in Scotland. The Scottish elections are coming next month and they have had the effect, under proportional representation, under the Education Act, as I have been assured on the very highest authority, of bringing forward a number of candidates who would never have stood under former circumstances—men devoted entirely to education—and they will very likely have better representation than ever before on the Scottish Education Board.
My right hon. Friend (Sir E. Carson) said the Bill gives the Local Government Board far too much power with regard to the delimitation of areas. It is exactly the same power as was in the Act of 1898, neither better nor worse. Power was always given to the Local Government Board to map out the areas, and they have always shown perfect impartiality and fairness in regard to the matter. As to Clause 7, it is a very important Clause, and one on which the Government must insist. We must not let the machine of local government break down. There is ample precedent for the Clause. Before 179 the Local Government Act of 1898 was passed, under the old Poor Law Acts, the Local Government Board was able, if the guardians broke down and ceased to do their work, to put it into the hands of two or three persons to carry on the administration of the Poor Law system. Under the Act of 1898 itself powers are given in cases where the road authority neglects its duties to transfer them to individuals. The same thing applies to the Public Health Act in Ireland. If they neglect sewage or one or other of their duties they are to be entrusted to the administration of persons appointed by the Local Government Board, and its officials carry them out and afterwards the administration can be restored to the local guardians. The very Clause that stands in this Bill is incorporated in the Sligo Bill, and the principle of it in almost the same words is embodied in the great Bill dealing with the housing of the people in England. Under these circumstances, I ask the House to pass the Second Reading of this Bill. There was never a Bill so called for in the public Press of Ireland as this Bill, and until this Amendment was put down upon the Paper we did not know that any responsible body in Ireland was opposed to the Bill.
§ Mr. SAMUELS
As I said, there is a great deal to be said for the summer elections, certainly in regard to the county elections. But there is the question as to whether it is not desirable, when the new register comes into force at the end of November, that as soon as possible an election for both the urban and the county areas should take place upon that register. Of course, any views that may be pressed upon us in Committee will receive the most careful and anxious consideration. I ask that we may now have the Second Reading.
§ Mr. JONES
The time I shall occupy will not require any expressions of indignation from hon. Members. As no Member of the party with which I am connected has spoken, I claim the indulgence of the House. I heard to-night that the 180 Sinn Feiners and the Unionists in Ireland are agreed in opposition to this Bill. That is one of the reasons why I shall vote for the Bill. If those who are opposed to real reform in Ireland, and who are out for complete separation from Great Britain, are prepared to associate themselves with those who have been the hereditary enemies of Irish democracy, I think it is about time that sensible men in Great Britain should realise where they are. I am speaking as an Irishman with a Welsh name, but I hope I am not a welsher. As a member of the Celtic race, and as a member of a big industrial organisation, I would ask hon. Members opposite to realise where they are. Whenever there has been great industrial trouble in Great Britain the first claim of hon. Gentlemen opposite has been that there should be a proper vote of the men taken before any drastic action is entered upon. That is to say, that before the executive or the constituted authority take any drastic action they should consult the people whom they claim to represent. Proportional representation means that all sections, whatever their views may be, shall have equal citizen rights. That in so far as their numbers gave them the right to representation the representation shall be guaranteed. Up to now in Ireland we have been cracking one another's skulls. Now we are going to start counting them, and some of our Friends object to the process. They would rather have the old, antiquated method than the more respectable method. In the North of Ireland you have one kind of majority and in the rest of Ireland you have another kind of majority. The Sinn Feiners have come in, and not because of any constitutional idea, not because of the principle contained in the proposition of proportional representation, we have the odium theologium introduced to try to destroy the possibility of real constitutional reform in Ireland.
Suppose our Friends opposite realise their ambition. They will be able to go up and down Great Britain and say, "Ireland is impossible, for the Sinn Feiners are in control." Consequently, Irishmen, Englishmen, Welshmen, and Scotsmen will be brought into antagonism against each other, on the basis of national prejudice and racial dislikes. Therefore, we as Labour Members, whatever may be the consequences to ourselves, say that if we are a minority we have got to suffer, for 181 the Government is with the majority, but it is not right for Ireland to be divided up into sections. Whether a man comes from the South, West, East, or North of Ireland after all he is only an Irishman, and if his votes are sufficient to entitle him to representation he has a right to representation based on such votes as he can get in the ballot-box. Any other kind of government means only bureaucracy or autocracy; therefore we as Labour Members support proportional representation. I come from a place where we are in a majority on the local authority, but we would like to see proportional representation there, so that those who are opposed to us would have their fair share of representation. All sections of the community have the right to representation. This House of Commons cannot pretend to represent the people if
|Division No. 16.]||AYES.||[10.34 p.m.|
|Adkins, Sir W. Ryland D.||Graham, W. (Edinburgh)||Morison, T. B. (Inverness)|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Gray, Major E.||Morrison-Bell, Major A. C.|
|Ainsworth, Captain C.||Green, J. F. (Leicester)||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert|
|Astbury, Lt.-Com. F. W.||Gregory, Holman||Murray, Dr. D. (Western Isles)|
|Atkey, A. R.||Greig, Col. James William||Nail, Major Joseph|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Griffiths, T. (Pontypool)||Neal, Arthur|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Griggs, Sir Peter||Newman, Major J. (Finchley, Mddx.)|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Guest, Major O. (Leices., Loughb'ro'.)||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. (Exeter)|
|Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle, E.)||Guinness, Lt.-Col. Hon. W. E. (B. St. E.)||Norman, Major Rt. Hon. Sir Henry|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Hallwood, A.||Norris, Colonel Sir Henry G.|
|Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes)||Hall, Admiral||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William|
|Benn, Sir Arthur S. (Plymouth)||Hartshorn, V.||Palmer, Brig.-Gen. G. (Westbury)|
|Benn, Com. Ian Hamilton (G'nwich)||Hayday, A.||Parker, James|
|Benn, Capt. W. (Leith)||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford)||Pease, Rt. Hon. Herbert Pike|
|Bennett, T. J.||Hilder, Lieut.-Col. F.||Perkins, Walter Frank|
|Billing, Noel Pemberton||Hinds, John||Pownail, Lt.-Col. Assheton|
|Blake, Sir Francis Douglas||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Sir Samuel J. G.||Pratt, John William|
|Borwick, Major G. O.||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Prescott, Major W. H.|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Hood, Joseph||Pulley, Charles Thornton|
|Breese, Major C. E.||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||Raffan, Peter Wilson|
|Broad, Thomas Tucker||Hope, Lt.-Col. Sir J. (Midlothian)||Raw, Lt.-Col. Dr. N.|
|Brown, Captain D. C. (Hexham)||Hopkins, J. W. W.||Renwick, G.|
|Buchanan, Lieut.-Col. A. L. H.||Hopkinson, Austin (Mossley)||Roberts, F. O. (W. Bromwich)|
|Buckley, Lt.-Col. A.||Horne, Sir Robert (Hillhead)||Robinson, T. (Stretford, Lancs.)|
|Carr, W. T.||Irving, Dan||Roundell, Lt.-Col. R. F.|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Oxford Univ.)||Jameson, Major J. G.||Rowlands. James|
|Chadwick, R. Burton||Jephcott, A. R.||Samuels, Rt. Hon. A. W. (Dublin Univ.)|
|Cockerill, Brig.-Gen. G. K.||Jesson, C.||Sanders, Colonel Robert Arthur|
|Colfox, Major W. P.||Jodrell, N. P.||Seager, Sir William|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Johnson, L. S.||Sexton, James|
|Cooper, Sir Richard Ashmele||Johnston, J.||Shaw, Hon. A. (Kilmarnock)|
|Coote, Colin R. (Isle of Ely)||Jones, Sir Evan (Pembroke)||Shortt, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Cope, Major W. (Glamorgan)||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)||Smith, Harold (Warrington)|
|Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Smith, W. (Wellingborough)|
|Davies, Sir Joseph (Crewe)||Jones, J. (Silvertown)||Sprot, Col. Sir Alexander|
|Dockrell, Sir M.||Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen)||Stanier, Capt. Sir Beville|
|Doyle, N. Grattan||Jones, Wm. Kennedy (Hornsey)||Stanley, Col. Hon. G. F. (Preston)|
|Edge, Captain William||Law, A. J. (Rochdale)||Steel, Major S. Strang|
|Edwards, Major J. (Aberavon)||Law, Rt Hon. A. Bonar (Glasgow)||Stephenson, Col. H. K.|
|Elliot, Capt. W. E. (Lanark)||Lewis, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Univ. Wales)||Stewart, Gershom|
|Eyres-Monsell, Com.||Lister, Sir R. Ashton||Strauss, Edward Anthony|
|Farquharson, Major A. C.||Lort-Williams, J.||Sturrock, J. Leng-|
|Fell, Sir Arthur||Lunn, William||Sugden, Lieut. W. H.|
|Foreman, H.||M'Curdy, Charles Albert||Surtees, Brig.-Gen. H. C.|
|Ferestier-Walker, L.||Maclean, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (Midlothian)||Sutherland, Sir William|
|Fraser, Major Sir Keith||M'Lean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Talbot, G. A. (Hemel Hempstead)|
|Galbraith, Samuel||Mallalieu, Frederick William||Taylor, J. (Dumbarton)|
|Gibbs, Colonei George Abraham||Molson, Major John Elsdale||Thomas, Brig-Gen. Sir O. (Anglesey)|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. John||Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred Moritz||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, S.)|
|Gianville, Harold James||Moore-Brabazon, Lt.-Col. J. C. T.||Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, W.)|
§ by any political arrangement or any arrangement made behind the backs of the people it claims to have an autocratic, a democratic, or any other kind of majority which is not a fair representation of the people. I support the Bill on general principles. Even if it meant losing seats in this House, we think that democracy is a principle that ought to be preserved, and therefore in every locality we say that every section of the community should have its fair representation. I hope that the Bill will be carried, and that eventually its principles will be applied to all the United Kingdom, and that we shall no longer be governed by a minority.
That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question.
§ The House divided: Ayes, 170; Noes, 27.183
|Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)||Watson, Captain John Bertrand||Worsfold, T. Cate|
|Waddington, R.||White, Col. G. D. (Southport)||Young, Sir F. W. (Swinden)|
|Wallace, J.||Wigan, Brig.-Gen. John Tyson||Young, Robert (Newton, Lancs.)|
|Walsh, S. (Ince, Lancs.)||Williams, A. (Consett, Durham)||Young, William (Perth and Kinress)|
|Ward-Jackson, Major C. L.||Williams, Col. P. (Middlesbrough)|
|Ward, Col. L. (Kingston-upon-Hull)||Williams, Col. Sir R. (Dorset. W.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Lord Edmund Talbot and Capt. Guest.|
|Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)||Wilson, Col. Lestie (Reading)|
|Waterson, A. E.||Woods, Sir Robert|
|Archdale, Edward M.||Donald, T.||Moles, Thomas|
|Barnett, Captain Richard W.||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir Fred (Dulwich)||O'Neill, Capt. Hon. Robert W. H.|
|Burn, T. H. (Belfast)||Hambro, Angus Valdemar||Reid, D. D.|
|Carson, Rt. Han. Sir Edward H.||Hamilton, Major C. G. C. (Altrincham)||Samuel, S. (Wandswworth, Putney)|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Kerr-Smiley, Major P.||Whitla, Sir William|
|Coats, Sir Stuart||Lindsay, William Arthur||Wild, Sir Ernest Edward|
|Coots, W. (Tyrone, S.)||Lloyd, George Butler||Wilson, Daniel M. (Down, W.)|
|Cory, Sir Clifford John (St. Ives)||Lonsdale, James R.|
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington)||Lowther, Col. C. (Lonsdale, Lancs.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr. R. McNeill and Captain Craig.|
|Dixon, Captain H.||M'Guffin, Samuel|