§ "(1) The House of Commons of Southern Ireland shall consist of one hundred and twenty-eight Members returned by the constituencies in Ireland named in Part I of the Second Schedule to this Act, and the number of Members to be returned by each such constituency shall be the number mentioned in the second column of that Part.1165
§ (2) The House of Commons of Northern Ireland shall consist of fifty-two Members returned by the constituencies in Ireland named in Part II of the Second Schedule to this Act, and the number of Members to be returned by each such constituency shall be the number mentioned in the second column of that Part.
§ (3) The Members shall be elected by the same electors and in the same manner as Members returned by constituencies in Ireland to serve in the Parliament of the United Kingdom, except that at any contested election of the full number of Members the election shall be according to the principle of proportional representation, each elector having one transferable vote, as defined by the Representation of the People Act, 1918, and His Majesty in Council shall have the same power of making Regulations in respect thereto as he has under Sub-section (3) of Section Twenty of that Act, and that Sub-section shall apply accordingly.
§ (4) The House of Commons of Southern Ireland and the House of Commons of Northern Ireland when summoned shall, unless sooner dissolved, have continuance for five years from the day on which the summons directs the House to meet and no longer.
§ (5) After three years from the day of the first meeting of the Parliament of Southern Ireland or Northern Ireland, that Parliament may alter the qualification and registration of the electors, the law relating to elections and the questioning of elections, the constituencies, and the distribution of the Members among the constituencies, provided that in any new distribution the number of the Members shall not be altered, and due regard shall be had to the population of the constituencies other than University constituencies."
I beg to move in Sub-section (1) to leave out the words "twenty-eight" and to insert instead thereof the words "forty-five".
This Amendment is intended to afford some opportunity for unpopular minorities in the initial conditions of self-government in the South of Ireland to get some representation. As the Bill is drawn, and in view of the unfortunate differences, it is most improbable that those who are now called Southern Unionists will have more than five representatives out of a total of 128. Their population, according to the census returns of 1911, would entitle them to about one-tenth of the total membership of the House of Commons, and that would mean about 12. I do not believe for one moment that the present grouping of parties in Ireland would persist very long if this Act were put into force; but everyone must admit that considerable time will inevitably elapse before the new 1166 parties crystallise, and before men of substance in the South of Ireland who are now associated with Unionist opinion get a fair opportunity of making themselves heard and felt. Although I agree that no paper safeguards really will be effective in the long-run, and that eventually the Southern Unionists must depend upon popular election and upon the opportunity of making themselves heard, I do think in the special circumstances, and in view of the bitterness of feeling in the South of Ireland, the Southern Unionists should be given an opportunity of representation by some special means.
There are two alternative proposals on the Order Paper. One alternative would set up a franchise on a property basis of an annual value of £40 and upwards. In many ways that is a preferable method of allowing minorities to make their voice heard. In that way you would get more quickly the re-grouping which would unite what are now Southern Unionists and Moderate Nationalists. I think you would get men of stake in the country probably to work together, and they should get an opportunity of putting their views forward in the popular chamber and making out their case so that it should not be left entirely to the centre to look after their interests and save them from injustice. If it felt that this property franchise is undesirable, there is another alternative which stands in the name of the Noble Lord, the Member for Dover (Viscount Duncannon), which would give a religious franchise. The religious franchise has very few recommendations in the abstract, but, unfortunately, we must recognise that in Ireland there has been division on very clear religious lines in the past, and we have also the precedent of the religious franchise being adopted in the case of the constitution which has recently been passed for India. I do not look upon the religious franchise so favourably as I look upon the property franchise. I look on both these safeguards as merely transitory provisions. You must allow all sections in Ireland to make their opinions heard during the very liberal time that must inevitably elapse before the new Southern Parliament will settle down and people are feeling their feet, and while the future course of Irish government is being decided. I hope the Government will find a franchise to meet the case of these minorities in the south and the west, although I do not set any 1167 particular store by one against the other. In the report of the Irish Convention it is recognised by all the parties in the south that there must be special representation for the Southern Unionists during the initial stages, and the Convention suggested that this representation should be given by means or nomination. The hon. and gallant member for Chelsea (Sir S. Hoare) has an Amendment down on the Paper to allow certain members to take their seats on the nomination of the Lord Lieutenant, but I understand he has decided not to move that Amendment, as he prefers one of the other alternatives which are on the Paper.
§ Mr. LONG
I would like to say here and now that it has been the object of the Government, and of myself, in particular, to meet my hon. and gallant Friend with regard to some of the proposals which he has made. The last thing which we desire is to get into any form of controversy with him, because we recognise the extraordinary difficulties of his position. He is practically the only champion of Southern Unionists having connection with that part of the country, and those whom he represents have to face a situation which may be one of great peril. I should like to say, also, that we realise the force of these facts, and recognise the courage and ability and the great consideration for the Government with which he has put his case on different occasions. I would like to make a passing reference to something which fell from him yesterday. He charged the Government with constantly giving way to my hon. Friends who represent Ulster, and flouting suggestions made by those who speak for Southern Unionists. I think that he made that charge without careful consideration, because the two large concessions which we have made up to this point are with regard to the police and to the constitution of the Parliaments. The decision with regard to the police had nothing to do with Ulster. It is true that it was made at the suggestion of the right hon. Member for Duncairn (Sir E. Carson), but it was made in the interests of the police themselves and general order in Ireland. The alteration was entirely in accordance with the structure of the Bill. It was only a matter of detail. It may be of great importance to the police, but it is in no way inconsistent with the 1168 general structure of the Bill as presented to the House.
The great alteration which we have made in the Bill was in deference to the suggestion made by my hon. and gallant Friend, and was, indeed, contrary to the suggestion from the Ulster Members. That was the concession of a Second Chamber as a protection to the minority. That was by far the most important concession—one which alters the general structure of the Bill more than any other. I am sure that my hon. and gallant Friend will see on reflection that there has been no descrimination as between North and South Ireland in the attitude which the Government have taken with regard to Amendments, and that if there has been any dropping of the balance on one side or the other it has been on his side. What my hon. and gallant Friend now asks is that we should incorporate in the Lower House certain Members who will not be elected by popular selection. He has expressed no precise preference for the two plans which are to be found in the Amendment—one nomination and the other the creation of certain special constituencies with a special franchise and the election of a fixed number of Members of the Lower House by special electors for particular constituencies, the electors to have a fixed rating qualification. We are entirely at one with my hon. and gallant Friend and those whom he represents in their desire, if possible, that there should be a representation of the minority in South Ireland, but we are anxious to face the facts as they present themselves to us. We have put on the Paper two new Clauses which stands in my name. One deals with the condition of things which may be found in Ireland when this Bill becomes law. There we propose that in certain circumstances very definite steps shall be taken, and we believe that that is the greatest protection which we can give against the election of a Parliament which would be sent there to defy the Constitution and the Crown and generally run amok.
Assuming that this Parliament is not constituted as we contemplate, but is merely a Parliament composed entirely of persons of one set of political opinion, is it useful to introduce into that Parliament of 128 a small body of men who will be in a hopeless minority, and who would 1169 be flouted, I venture to say, by all the elected Members as coming there not through the ordinary channels, but by a special process of selection or election? What chance would there be for them to protect in any way the interests of the minority? My hon. and gallant Friend is quite right when he states that the Convention which sat in Dublin did draw up a constitution in which it was proposed to add some specially elected Members, but that was in one sense a different case. Special qualifications have been unknown in this country now for a very long time. They never were popular, and were always the object, by some people, of criticism and condemnation. I cannot help thinking that the best course for the minority to adopt in Ireland is to rely on the protection which they have asked for, and got, in specially constituting a Second Chamber.
We have undertaken that the Amendment setting up that Chamber shall be placed on the Paper before we come to the Report stage. Without concerning ourselves now with what precise form that Second Chamber is to take, it is quite clear that if it is to be elected, not as a revising body, but as a real protection for minorities, then it must be constituted in some special form which will secure in that Chamber a body which will be different from those in the Lower House, and which would be able to protect the interests of the minority. We have given a very full consideration to this difficult question. We are as anxious as my hon. and gallant Friend that the minority should be protected, and I am rather hopeful that if our new Clause operates, as I believe it will, in a salutary way, it will probably result in a better state of things in Ireland, so that we shall see, sooner than my hon. and gallant Friends hope for, such a reconstruction of parties in Ireland as will avoid the great danger that he fears—that the minority will find no representation in the House of Commons. For these reasons the Government do not feel justified in accepting either of these two alternatives.
§ Lord H. CECIL
I wish to make a suggestion which I think is relevant to this Amendment. The Government have adopted, I think very wisely, the principle of proportional representation in this Bill, but if you apply proportional 1170 representation and you have to deal with the case, as you have in Southern Ireland, of very small minorities, the only way that you can get representation of those small minorities is by having a large number of representatives returned by each constituency. Speaking broadly, if you want to have representation of one-eighth of the population you must have a constituency returning eight Members. Then one of the eight Members will be representative of that one-eighth. If, therefore, you somewhat enlarge the Chamber, as my hon. and gallant Friend suggests, or as I would suggest a great deal more than he, to a considerably larger number, and use those additional Members so to enlarge the constituencies in the schedule—that you would have a considerable number of constituencies returning from six to ten Members—you would in that way secure a considerable number of Unionist representatives. Of course, they would be only a very small minority, but you would get more or less representation in proportion to the population. I ventured to put forward a plan for a Convention, and I contemplated in that plan having double the number of representatives in the Parliament, with constituencies returning from seven to ten representatives, thus getting representation of small minorities. I think that that would give a more encouraging prospect. Therefore I hope that my right hon. Friend's new Clause will deal with the matter. I hardly think that it will, unless by allowing minorities to be the only persons who will take the oath of allegiance, and therefore the only persons before the constituents. It would not be a satisfactory plan if only the minority sits in the Irish Parliament. I do submit that the schedule might be re-cast, and that the constituencies may be so enlarged in representation as to enable small minorities to be represented.
§ Major HILLS
I plead for some further consideration of the position of Southern Unionists. I believe that a large majority of this House wishes something done to give them representation in the Parliament of Southern Ireland. Various ways have been suggested. The First Lord of the Admiralty did not dissent from the advisability of giving some representation to the scattered minority of Southern Unionists. All he did was to say that it would be very difficult, and that certain 1171 provisions which are to be inserted in the Bill would meet the case to a certain extent. My Noble Friend (Lord H. Cecil) made the very interesting suggestion that you might meet this difficulty, partly by grouping constituencies and partly by the simple process of arithmetically doubling their numbers. Thereby you would reduce the unit, which could return at least one Member. I am told that the objection to that is that the units are too much standardised, and that you would have to group constituencies to such an extent that you would get a geographical area rather too big for a single constituency that it would be hard to get about and communication would be difficult. I think the Government ought not to dismiss the suggestion entirely, for it contains the germ of a possible settlement. Ruling out Proportional Representation, we are left either with a system of special and fancy franchises or with simple nomination by the Crown. My hon. and gallant Friend (Lieut-Colonel Guinness) put forward a scheme for the election of a certain number of Members of high property qualifications, and there has been another suggestion for a religious plebiscite. Equally with him I want to see some representation of Southern Unionists in the Parliament. I do not much like fancy franchises, and unless we can secure the object by some kind of Proportional Representation—I do not think we can—I would rather see nomination by the Crown.
The First Lord of the Admiralty has raised two objections to nominations by the Crown, and of course they are forcible objections. The first is that these Members would come in with no sort of authority behind them, and the second is that they would be in a hopeless minority. I have been long enough in this House to know that it is not always numbers that count. I need not point to the innumerable examples in our political history of the great authority that a small minority can exercise. My right hon. Friend's main reason for rejecting the Amendment was that the Second Chamber was a sufficient protection. In passing, I should like to deal with the new Clauses that appear to-day. I am quite unable to realise how they protect Southern Unionists at all. All they say is that in certain contingencies these Southern Parliaments shall not operate. 1172 It is a curious sort of protection for the Southern Unionists to abolish the Parliament altogether. The only real protection they have got is the Second Chamber. I grant that it is a very real protection. Surely the decision of the Second Chamber is immensely strengthened if in the First Chamber there has been a body of Members who in debate can argue the case and begin to form public opinion on it. If the Second Chamber has merely to come down and start to veto what the First Chamber has done, they are not in nearly as strong a position as they woud be in if there had been a powerful and well-instructed minority able to put the case. I appeal to the Government in the matter. We have to meet quite exceptional circumstances. We must look on the one hand to the dark and difficult situation in Ireland and on the other hand to the fact that scattered among a population which now is hostile are small bodies of Unionist opinion, that they are one-tenth of the voters, and that if they have their numerical rights they would secure at least twelve to fourteen seats in the Parliament. It is a case that calls for exceptional remedies. All doctrines about representation, about government by majorities, and the authority that attaches to elected representatives are perfectly true, and no one respects them more than I do, but I hope that even now the Government will try to find some means of meeting the situation.
§ Mr. PENNEFATHER
I would like to join with the last speaker in appealing to the Government to extend sympathy to the demand for the protection of the minority in Southern Ireland. I say that, not only because I am a Southern Irish Unionist, but because I represent a constituency in England which shares with a great many other constituencies grave fears for the position of their Protestant co-religionists in Southern Ireland under a Parliament such as we may expect to be elected under this Bill. I am not going to say anything calculated to arouse hostility on any religious question, but there is no use blinking the fact that the great majority of the Unionists in Southern Ireland are Protestants. They are a very scattered minority, and therefore it is extremely difficult for them, by Proportional Representation or by any other means, to get adequate representation in the Lower Chamber. I agree as to the importance of having a few men 1173 in a Southern Parliament who can at least state the case in order that it may not by default go to the Upper House without having been properly debated. As showing how scattered is the minority, let me quote some figures. In Leinster there are 989,000 Catholics and 152,000 non-Catholics; in Munster 972,000 Catholics and 54,000 non-Catholics; in Connaught 587,000 Catholics and 20,000 non-Catholics; in County Cavan there are 74,000 Catholics and 15,000 non-Catholics; in Donegal there are 132,000 Catholics and 33,000 non-Catholics; in County Monaghan 53,000 Catholics and 17,000 non-Catholics. The total is 2,808,000 Catholics and only 293,000 non-Catholics. In other words, the proportion is ten to one. Unfortunately, it is not an even proportion throughout the country, and it could not be exercised in an even manner under Proportional Representation. That must mean that in many cases those who have been, and are, most loyal, men of the highest position and the best education, will be unable to secure any representation in the Southern Parliament. I think those are matters which require the consideration of the Government, and I think there will be a very strong feeling in the country that we have abandoned our friends unless we do something to give them at least a fighting chance in the Southern Parliament.
§ Sir H. CRAIK
I think my right hon. Friend the First Lord must recognise that there is very considerable sympathy with the proposal put forward by the Mover of the Amendment. I am rather surprised that amongst the various suggestions put forward one particular method of obtaining representation of the minority has not been mentioned. These fancy franchises are hardly possible. I hope that no Member will do anything to encourage anything like religious franchise. It is rather surprising that this House, which only some two or three months ago passed a Bill affecting India, seems to have forgotten entirely the device which we who sat on the Joint Committee, following the recommendations of Lord Southborough's Committee, adopted, namely, the device of communal representation of special constituencies which were reserved for a minority. Surely, when the House has adopted what is a perfectly simple and often suggested remedy for the repre- 1174 sentation of minorities by means of communal representation, it is worth while thinking of some such means of establishing what they all desire to have, namely, the presence of a small representation of this very weak minority now liable to have its rights and aspirations set aside. I throw that out only as a suggestion, because I think the House might do well to consider whether it could apply its own action in regard to a Bill so recently passed for one of our Dependencies to the exigencies of the case in Ireland.
§ Mr. MURRAY MACDONALD
How does the right hon. Gentleman propose to make communal election operate in Ireland?
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Mr. R. McNEILL
I do not know whether the Mover of the Amendment intends to divide the Committee upon it. For personal reasons, I should like to say that on several occasions I and some of my Friends have felt ourselves compelled to differ from him. We have always done so with the very greatest reluctance, and only for reasons which appeared to us absolutely imperative in the interest of Northern Ireland. I am inclined to agree with what fell from the First Lord, that the proposal of this Amendment would not be a very effective safeguard for the Southern Unionists. At the same time, if my hon. Friend who speaks for them considers that those whom he represents would really feel any satisfaction or greater sense of security if these provisions were put into the Bill, I cannot find any such imperative reason for voting against it as have separated me and my hon. Friend on other occasions. Therefore, speaking for myself alone, I do not know what my Friends may do if my hon. Friend is unable to prevail on the Government to accept his Amendment, and if he chooses to take a Division I will go into the Lobby with him.
§ Mr. LONG
I hope I may be able to make a suggestion which will relieve my hon. Friend who has just spoken from the agonising process of voting against the Government. In one of the speeches which the Prime Minister made referring to this Bill—I forget which it was and I am not quite sure whether it was made in this House or outside—he stated on behalf of the Government, of course, that while we had done our best to draw this Bill on what we believed to be sound and fair working lines, at the same time the subject is so difficult and there are so many different issues concerned that we did not pretend that this Bill was to be taken as the last word in a new constitution for Ireland, and that we should welcome the views of the House and welcome suggestions. It has been for that reason that those members of the Government who are charged with dealing with these Amendments have on some occasions held back when an Amendment has been moved, bcause we hoped that the House would voice their views and give us some guidance as to the general feeling of the House upon those questions in regard to which we often find ourselves, as in this particular one, in entire sympathy with the Mover of the Amendment, with the object he has in view, and only differ from him as to the means by which that object can be achieved. I am old enough to remember all the Home Rule Debates in this House since the '80's, and I must with shame confess that I have taken part in all of them. My position to-day is not precisely similar to that which I occupied on previous occasions when I spoke from the opposite Benches. I am not the only person who finds the situation changed. I am thankful to say even in the sparse attendance we have in the House, but an attendance which is very representative of the different parties in the House, with one exception or two exceptions, the small Irish party and the Labour party, that I find there is an entire absence of that old feeling of bitterness and rancour which made the Home Rule Debates of the old days so difficult, and, may I say quite honestly and frankly, so painful to many Members of the House.
Among the most fervent supporters of Home Rule I believe that there is a strong desire as there is amongst the friends of those in the South of Ireland that if possible there should be some measure of protection given to those 1176 people of the South which will secure for them a voice in the new assembly. It is, of course, desirable that that should be so, because a Parliament composed solely of one political opinion would obviously not be the kind of Parliament to legislate satisfactorily for the general interests of the country. Having said so much I would venture to make this suggestion. I hope my hon. and gallant Friend will not expect me to make a definite promise on this occasion. What I am willing to do is on behalf of the Government between now and Report stage to consider, of course after consultation with the Prime Minister in a matter of this importance, whether it is not possible to devise a method which will secure representation in the lower house of the Southern Parliament for those who are in a very small minority. Whether it would be necessary to adopt any suggestion of a similar character for the North I do not know. No representations have been made on the subject. I do not think the minority there is in the same parlous condition or anything approaching it as it is in the South. On the whole, I think the general opinion expressed in this Debate has been adverse to fancy franchises. I think that method has found general condemnation. My right hon. Friend (Sir H. Craik) indicated a preference for the system which has been adopted in India. I do not think that would work in Ireland for this reason, that it is based on a set of conditions which are to be found in existence in India and for which it would be very hard to find anything similar in Ireland. We are all agreed that we want, without too wide a departure from general democratic principles, to find some method of giving representation to the minority in the South. I think it comes to this, that there are only two alternative suggestions. One is the very attractive suggestion made by the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University (Lord H. Cecil) as to the rearrangement of the schedule of the constituencies, so as to secure full opportunity for proportional representation to work. The other is pure nomination. I confess I am more attracted by the suggestion as to proportional representation, though I am not myself an advocate of proportional representation. I hope my hon. Friend will be content with the assurance that before we come to Report, this matter 1177 shall be most earnestly considered by the Government, and that we will endeavour to find a scheme, which we will put on the Paper, to meet his views. I have no hesitation in making that declaration.
I do not think there has been or that there could be any opposition from any part of the House to any proper proposal that might be made to give the minority in the South proper representation in the Southern House of Parliament. As a young Member I took the greatest interest in the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman as to the old controversy, and I think we all regard it as a happy matter that these Debates are free from the bitterness of the past. I hope when the Government are considering this question of giving the minority in the South adequate representation in the Southern Parliament, they will also go very carefully into the question as to whether some such provision ought not to be made as to the Parliament of Northern Ireland as well. Up to the present there has been no discrimination drawn between the two Parliaments. It would be a serious matter, and one which would aggravate the controversy, if the Government introduced a provision as to the Southern Parliament, which would make a discrimination. Therefore, I trust they will give this question their most serious consideration.
§ Captain ELLIOT
The Government, in considering the question of the representation of the minority in the Southern Parliament, must be very careful to consider also the position of the minority in the Northern Parliament. It is all very well to say that minorities are more concentrated in the North and will therefore secure representation, but these Parliaments are the real bodies under the Bill, and anything which would injure their amour propre must be carefully avoided. We suffer very much from having no representatives from Southern Ireland in this House, and therefore there is a tendency to consider that this House is bullying the Southern Parliament to an unlimited extent. I am sure the Ulster Members would be the last to wish that impression to get about, but they must recognise the necessity even to avoid the suspicion of injustice in this case, that special representation for the protection of minorities is being put into the constitution of the Southern Parliament with 1178 no such corresponding provision in the case of the Northern Parliament. It is certainly claimed by the Southern Irish that they have been quite as tolerant of the Protestant minority in their midst as the Ulstermen have been of the Roman Catholic minority in their midst. I am not going to judge in any way between the two, because I have not the necessary information, but I beg the First Lord most earnestly that he should consider whether any proposal put in this Bill to safeguard the minority in the South should not also have a parallel provision to safeguard the minority in the North, even though he considers it unnecessary.
§ Captain ELLIOT
The First Lord also said, what I thought was rather rash, that the atmosphere of calm was a great advantage in this Debate. I think it is the most terrible and appalling thing that we should be debating this Bill in such an atmosphere of calm. It is the difference between an operation and a post mortem. There is an atmosphere of strain and interest in the one which is absent from the other, but that is not to say that the post mortem is the more advantageous transaction, and if we could get a little more interest taken in this Bill I think it would be all to the good. I venture to throw out this suggestion, that the question of an occupational representation as against a geographical representation might well be considered in this case. It has been suggested by the right hon. Member for Scottish Universities (Sir H. Craik) that some sort of communal representation might be adopted, but we do not have communities corresponding in this country to what there are in India. The question, however, of an occupational representation might surely get in some of the Southern Unionists, the loyalists who are, we are assured, in many cases the leaders or, at any rate, take a very high place in the communities to which they belong. If that is so, any such business as getting in possibly trade union leaders, and possibly representatives of the doctors, and the various occupations in an area might get over the difficulty without, on the one hand, a fancy franchise and, on the other, hand nomination. Undoubtedly nomination would be regarded as a direct insult by 1179 the Southern Parliament and, I very much fear, by the Northern Parliament also. I can imagine nothing more unpopular than the position in the Northern Parliament of some person specially nominated to represent what this country might consider to be a down-trodden minority in Ulster. Therefore, I ask the First Lord to consider the two points I have made, namely, that the Northern Parliament must have a parallel restriction to the Southern Parliament, and that the question of an occupational franchise to bring the minority in in a democratic way might well be considered.
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
I regret that the hon. and gallant Member who has just sat down did not develop his theme of vocational representation a little further. I feel a great deal of satisfaction that the Government are going to consider the question of representing minorities, and while not advocating any fancy franchise, I commend most earnestly to the right hon. Gentleman that consideration should be given to this great question. I call it a great question because without a doubt it is very much to the fore to-day in all European countries. We have in our own country this sovereign Parliament, and yet the most important discussions, and in fact, decisions are taken by consultation between the Prime Minister or the heads of the great Government Departments and representative bodies elected on a vocational basis. I am not talking, of course—I hope I never will in this House—from a class bias, but might I point out that to-day in England you have these great bodies, elected on a representative basis, wielding enormous power, and playing in most cases a very useful part in the social and political life of the country. They have no representation as such here, except in the very limited case of the few members representing the Universities. There is a great opportunity here for the Government to show for once in this respect a great deal of imagination. I believe they could introduce on this proposal a great advance in democratic government in the British Isles, and I believe that just as they have experimented on Ireland with regard to proportional representation, with very good results indeed, as anyone who has seen the results of the recent local elections in Ireland 1180 will admit, so in the same way I believe they could make an experiment which might lead more than anything else to political and industrial peace as regards the internal government of Ireland.
The proposal I make is this, that this Amendment should be accepted, or something like it, and that we should deliberately increase the numbers in both the Northern and Southern Parliaments of Ireland. I will not dogmatise about the numbers, but I suggest that a substantial extra number of Members should be provided for these two Parliaments, and that in both Northern and Southern Ireland they should be elected by the great professional organisations, such as the great learned professions, the lawyers, doctors, architects, and so on, which are already self-governing and used to electing their own Members, and also the great trade unions. The Union of Agricultural Labourers should have a representative or two as such in both Parliaments, and the railwaymen, the seafarers, and other great unions in the North and in the South should elect a few Members. I think it would be extremely valuable as an experiment, and I believe it would be conducive of the most excellent results in Ireland. This is not a far-fetched proposal. Many hon. Members on this side are here representing certain professional organisations, although in theory they are elected for geographical constituencies. I refer in particular to the miners' representatives, many of whom, it will be admitted, are most valuable Members in this House. They are elected by miners; they represent above all things the mining industry. I do not think that is an unhealthy thing. I wish we had more of that in this House. It is a most excellent outlet for a great professional organisation. Of course, if it is carried to its uttermost limit it is what is known as the Soviet. I am not advocating the Soviet. I am taking what seems to me really sound and democratic in that system. We cannot blink it. In many parts of Europe to-day, in one form or another, it has got a hold of large masses of people, and you have to recognise it, and I think there is some good in it. You have got to take the best in that system and combine it with the geographical system.
To-day we have the great example of constitution-making on the other side of 1181 the North Sea. The Germans, with all their faults, are a very methodical, careful people, fond of minute detail, and of thinking out things beforehand. Perhaps they are given a little too much to it, but in Germany they are trying to combine the two forms of democracy—the democracy which has been handed down for some centuries in this country and the new democracy which, willy-nilly, is rearing its head up in Eastern Europe. I most earnestly urge on the Government an unprejudiced consideration of the proposal put forward by the hon. and gallant Gentleman. There is something in it. It is not put forward as a dream of anarchists or anything of that sort. It is to meet a need. People say they want a working man who knows working-class conditions to represent working-class people—a thoroughly unhealthy point of view, because the interests of one sort of working men are quite different from those of another. But if, for example, you can get the steel workers or the textile industry to elect men to represent them, that, I think, is a different matter. It is not unhealthy. I am not sure that it does not contain the germs of the new democracy, which, merged with the old democracy, may be the great solution of our problem.
§ Mr. HANNA
I am satisfied with the undertaking that the First Lord has been good enough to give the Committee. I beg to assure my hon. and gallant Friend that I am just as anxious for protection for minorities as he himself could possibly be, but I recognise that the hon. and gallant Member who spoke from the other side said what was perfectly right, that whatever methods and whatever course you adopt in relation to the Southern Parliament will, of course, apply to the Northern Parliament. If there is to be anything in the way of a fancy franchise, or anything in the nature of nominees, I would protest against it and oppose it to the utmost of my ability.
§ Mr. A. WILLIAMS
I think that we are in some danger of exaggerating the difficulties with regard to the Unionist minority in the south and west of Ireland, and undervaluing altogether the Schedule which the Government have already introduced into their Bill for the purpose of representing minorities by means of proportional representation. In the Schedule 1182 you have already constituencies returning eight, seven and, in several cases, six Members. Now where you have a constituency returning eight Members, it is clear that eleven per cent. of the voters of any one way of thinking will be able to get a representative. I know that in many parts of Ireland the Unionists do not amount to eleven per cent. of the voters, but it is quite certain that there are other issues that are coming to the front very rapidly in Ireland, and it is not, I think, to be supposed that when Ireland has self-government it is always going to be the old issue of Unionists versus Nationalists. It does seem to me that the evidence derived from the late elections in Ireland is quite clear, that questions of labour and employers, and so on, are coming to the front there, and that where you have an eight member constituency under proportional representation, you may fully expect that, in addition to those who have hitherto been called Unionists, a considerable section of those people, who are interested in stable Government will vote the same way, and will give you a certain number of Members in the Southern Parliament, representing what you may call conservative ideas. It has been recognised that it is not so much the great numbers of a party that tell in a representative assembly, but, even if you have a smallish number there who are determined to do their duty and put forward their point of view, you will get considerable results. I do, therefore, suggest that the Schedule as it stands for the representation of the Southern Parliament of Ireland will give a much more considerable representation to the more stable and conservative elements in that country than might be thought, if you judged merely by the proportion of Unionists and of Nationalists in the old sense of the word.
I do also suggest that this discussion to-day has rather gone wrong by forgetting the large constituencies which are already in the Schedule in the Bill. When you come to Ulster, the case is much stronger still. I do not object at all to the Government finding, if they can, some other way of representing minorities in Ireland. On the contrary, I have always had a most open mind on that point. I have always thought that, if you could get some other way of representing minorities than by ordinary proportional representation, it might be more suitable, at any rate, to the very scattered districts; but 1183 before you decide to do that, you have got to make up your mind that there is some feasible way which will not produce greater evils than those you are trying to avoid, and I do suggest that when you come to deal with Ulster you have to take into consideration the figures which were disclosed by the elections of January last as to the distribution of opinion in Ulster. You had there about 142,000 votes recorded, and very little more than half of them were Unionist in the old sense. The Labour vote was 25,000, the Nationalist vote 20,000 and there were Independents and Sinn Feiners. It is quite certain that if you had a Parliament elected for the whole of Ulster with anything like that number voting, the Unionists would have very little more than a majority of the elected assembly, and the other parties would be very strongly represented in it. When you come to the six counties only, of course the Unionists would have a larger share of representation, but it is quite certain the other parties would have a very considerable share of the representation. Therefore, I do hope that the Government will not undervalue their own Bill, and their own Schedule, and that, while considering whether anything better can be done, they will at the same time recognise that that which is already in the Bill is certain to give a considerable representation to the minorities in Ireland, especially under the new conditions which are arising, in which other issues and other parties are rapidly taking the place of the mere cleavage of Unionists and Nationalists that we have known in the past.
I should like to say a word of thanks to the Government for the sympathetic attitude which they have adopted towards this Amendment. The First Lord of the Admiralty certainly knows better than any other man in this Committee the cruel position in which the Southern Unionist may find himself. The remarks I made yesterday, to which he referred, applied to a very little part of the Bill—that applying to the Council—and were not meant to describe his attitude personally at all, or, indeed, the attitude of the Government on other matters than that which was then under discussion. I also very much welcome the words which have fallen from Ulster representatives. It is a 1184 great advantage to the Southern Unionists to know that hon. Members will help them to get some opportunities of voicing their rights and their difficulties. If I say one word about the speech of the First Lord it is only to reinforce him in his good intentions to try to deal with this question, and not from any sense of ingratitude.
It was suggested by the First Lord that the new Clauses, which are of very great importance, and which are on the Paper in his name, are going to help the Southern Unionists. These two Clauses deal with the Oath of Allegiance to be imposed on candidates before their election, and provisions in case one or other House of Commons is not properly constituted. I do not think that is going to help the Southern Unionists in the very least degree. After all, it is inconceivable that if the mass of Southern electors abstain from taking any part in Parliamentary elections that the minority would find it worth while to send representatives elected by a handful of the electorate, or, indeed, that those so elected would find it worth while to attempt to take their seats. I also think that the Clause providing for a nominated Committee to carry on the Government of Ireland in the absence of a properly constituted House of Commons is perfectly useless as a permanent or effective safeguard for the Southern Unionists.
Our real problem is: what is to happen when the Southern Parliament is a going concern? These two Clauses deal with a very different state of affairs, before the Southern Parliament really takes over control. The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, and who is the greatest expert, perhaps, on the question of proportional representation, drew attention to the very valuable conditions this Bill contains in that direction, but unfortunately the population in the South of Ireland is such that those who have gone into it are convinced that the Southern Irish Unionists would have a very small representation indeed. The population is so scattered, and the constituencies are, generally speaking, so large that I do not think you could recreate the county constituencies to give effective representation to the minority, or to enable them to reach the necessary quota. The best chance of reaching the quota would, of course, be in the other constituencies. If you take the two constituencies returning eight 1185 Members, you would find that it is out of the question that the minority should obtain representation.
Take the case of Kerry, which is to return eight Members. I see there are 155,000 Catholics against 4,000 non-Catholics. Therefore, the minority is only 1/40th, and the Noble Lord's very interesting suggestion that you should double the number of Members would not really give any effective representation to the minorities in those districts. I think, however, something might be done by making larger urban districts. I fail to understand why in the Bill it is proposed that Dublin should have three divisions. If Dublin voted in one division returning twelve Members instead of three divisions of four Members each, there might be a certainty that minorities would get representation. Of course, representation would be even more effective if the proposals of the Noble Lord were adopted and in the urban constituencies and county constituencies number of Members to be returned were doubled. Suggestions have been put forward, but I am inclined to think that the Noble Lord (Lord H. Cecil) probably suggested what on the whole is the best solution. The hon. Member for Lanark suggested a vocational franchise. I think from the point of view of a safeguard that would prove very effective indeed, but I recognise that it would be a very large departure from our present electoral system, and I can well understand that the Government would feel great hesitation in putting so drastic a change in the framework and machinery of their Bill. The proposal of the hon. Member might perhaps more satisfactorily be applied to the Senate. That proposal was embodied in the Report of the Irish Convention with regard to the Second Chamber. It proposed that there should be representation for various learned and other professions in the Senate. They also proposed that there should be representation in the Chambers of Commerce. I am inclined to think that, valuable as this would be as a safeguard, the easier one would be to carry out the suggestion of the Bill, and to make your proportional representation more effective by increasing the size of the constituencies in the towns, and by re-arranging the number of Members these constituencies will return. In view, however, of the promise of the Government that they will not close the door to this question and 1186 will consider it, I hope, and bring forward some definite proposal on the Report stage, I beg to ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. MOLES
I beg to move, in Subsection (3), to leave out the wordsexcept that at any contested election of the full number of members the election shall be according to the principle of proportional representation, each elector having one transferable vote, as defined by the Representation of the People Act, 1918, and His Majesty in Council shall have the same power of making regulations in respect thereto as he has under Sub-section (3) of Section twenty of that Act, and that Sub-section shall apply accordingly.We are now beyond the stage of theory. We have passed into the realm of facts. What is the case to be made against proportional representation? We make out this case—there is no mandate for it! Nobody in Ireland has been consulted respecting it. Nobody in Ireland has asked for it—whether Nationalists, Unionists or Sinn Feiners. It proposes to set up for Ireland one standard, and a wholly different standard for the rest of the United Kingdom. This House, always by increasing majorities for Parliamentary elections, has rejected the principle of proportional representation. A Committee appointed to select one hundred constituencies for an experiment did so, and the proposal was chased out of every constituency. This principle enormously increases the cost of elections, and it means the death knell of labour representation, because the cost will be so heavy. I do not understand why the Government is always trying on Ireland nostrums which no other place will stand. I cannot conceive of any part of the United Kingdom upon which it is more dangerous to attempt these constitutional experiments than Ireland. When the ex-Attorney-General stated in this House the case for proportional representation for local government he was extremely eloquent, and he ventured far into the realm of prophecy. History has declared him entirely in the wrong. He claimed that this new system would obliterate the old line of cleavage. Has it? I say it has rather increased it. The dividing line between us before was Nationalist and Unionist, but to-day it is Sinn Fein and rank republicanism, which is a wider breach with Irish Nationalism than we have ever had.
1187 The case was made by the Attorney-General that the Government saw in this principle the one way of checking the ravages of Sinn Fein. Has it checked it? Is there anybody here, having looked at what has happened in Ireland, will suggest that for a moment? It is not Unionism that has been ruined by this proposal but official Nationalism. On the Mayo County Council every seat is held by Sinn Feiners, and Roscommon elected an absolutely Sinn Fein County Council. Of the 21 members of the West Meath County Council 19 are Sinn Feiners, and there is not one Nationalist. Athlone No. 1 is Sinn Fein, and so is Athlone No. 2. Louth is almost solid Sinn Fein. South Tipperary is exclusively Republic, and every official Nationalist was defeated. The whole case which was made out for proportional representation has been absolutely falsified by the facts, and so far from delivery from Sinn Fein proportional representation has delivered the country over to Sinn Fein hand and foot.
The great test after all must be that of efficiency. I do not care whether you call it Labour or Captalistic if in civic government they give you really good civic management, that is as much as you are entitled to expect. Let us see how far proportional representation has brought that about, because it was one of the things most strongly claimed for it. I remember the Attorney-General saying that it would give us a type of man much needed in Ireland, and that it would produce men of real quality and substance, and make an end of that gross mismanagement which had occurred throughout Ireland. It was also claimed that this principle would bring down the rates, and he told us to view the spectacle of Dublin where, because of mismanagement and incompetence, the municipal rates had risen to 16s. 11d. May I point out that to-day, under the Sinn Fein Council, they are 20s. 6d. The old majority on the Derry Corporation was swept away. A Nationalist Corporation succeeded it, and almost its first act was to put 7s. in the £1 on the rates. In Waterford the rates are now 18s. 3d., in Limerick 19s. 6d., and in Cork 20s. 6d. That is the kind of transformation that has been accomplished in Ireland in civic affairs 1188 under proportional representation. That is what we were to be delivered from under this system, and it is just the sort of thing we have been really delivered to. What has happened to the old type of man? I will quote from one of the organs which staunchly espoused proportional representation. It is a leading Nationalist organ. It says:Many of these bodies, or the great majority of them, have discharged their duty to the public and fulfilled their trust with ability and true patriotism. Taking them all in all, and allowing for difficulties, with a few exceptions the Irishmen who have administered affairs under the provisions of the Irish Local Government Act have acquitted themselves creditably. As a result of the elections a revolutionary change has been made in the personnel of these councils, and even in North-east Ulster there have been many changes. The dissolution of the old bodies was the signal for a clean sweep in other parts of Ireland, and now quite 80 per cent. of the members of the county councils and rural district councils are men or women who have had no actual administrative experience.You have swept away the whole body of experienced representatives. You have, by means of Proportional Representation, superseded them by a band of neophytes; you have sent the rates up, and you have swept out of public life the best type of men we had. Then I remember another triumph by the ex-Attorney-General who will be remembered in Ireland by two things. First, he was the main instrument of bringing the infliction of Proportional Representation upon Ireland, and, secondly, he effected a change in the Church hymn book and got recognised a hymn, the first line of which ran, "I was a wandering sheep; I did not love the fold." He said that the Scottish Proportional Representation elections were coming on, and he told us to have faith and to await the result. He warned us against prophesying what was going to happen in Scotland, and he told us that Proportional Representation would be triumphantly vindicated in the School Board elections throughout Scotland; he said that first-class men were coming forward and the whole public in the great Scottish cities were seething with excitement and were awaiting the opportunity to avail themselves of the opening of the poll. What did happen? I took the trouble to look into this, and the results came out before we had finished with the Committee stage of our Bill. It cannot be pretended that 1189 Scotland is illiterate, because there you have an educational system which has been a subject of world-wonder and admiration. But this highly-instructed public throughout Scotland somehow was not able to understand the system of Proportional Representation. It was Mr. Disraeli who once said in this House that he objected to putting into popular hands a system of election which required a senior wrangler in mathematics to work it out, and I think that was one of the finest descriptions ever given of Proportional Representation. But what occurred under it in Scotland? In Edinburgh, out of 130,000 odd electors, 24,000 only went to the poll—18 per cent. Out of 446,000 in Glasgow, 121,000 went to the poll—27 per cent. In Leith, the proportion of voters polling fell to 15.2 per cent., and in Aberdeen of all places it went down to 12.5 per cent. I think in the history of School Board elections in any one of these places the voting never fell so low; in some cases it is 50 per cent. less than the previous worst poll. That is what Proportional Representation does when you put it to the test.
Let us look at the Irish results. An hon. Member opposite made, I think, a triumphant appeal to them. He does not know his Ireland. He would do well not to rely too confidently upon statistical tables prepared by officials whose interests in their job are at stake. There never was such an educational campaign carried on up and down all Ireland as in the case of the recent borough and urban council elections. Millions of documents of various kinds were sent out. Scores of hundreds of lectures were delivered at street corners, many of them by people who knew nothing about their subject. Great funds were opened. Philanthropists were appealed to to come forward and put their money down in order to help to emancipate Ireland from the slavery of the old system. The newspapers opened their columns to all kinds of correspondence, and the various parties did their best on the one side to alarm the people, on the other hand to incite them. Everybody was supposed to know everything about Proportional Representation, and then they voted. Then came the count. We counted from morning till noon, from noon till dewy eve, and from dewy eve till far into the night, and sometimes into the next day, and in some cases we had no fewer than fourteen 1190 counts before we elected anybody. We managed to get them home in penny numbers and the job was done.
What is the result? There is not to-day a single body in Ireland elected under proportional representation which is not the poorer in personnel. Men of quality have largely disappeared. If you do not have real efficiency, if you do not have men with business qualities, with some sense of responsibility, with some capacity for the duties laid upon them, what can you expect? I have told the Committee what happened in Dublin, in Waterford, in Limerick, in Cork, and elsewhere. You would not have had these types of men elected under the old system at all. All our history proves that. Over and over again men, and in some cases 30 per cent. of those that were elected, were elected without having obtained the quota by reason of default on the part of others. Then came the elections of Boards of Guardians and other bodies. Again, what happened? Take the case of Belfast. Under this tremendous tidal wave of propaganda, some 67 per cent. of the available electors were polled, and with this splendid example before their eyes what occurred when we came to elect the poor law guardians? One illustration will be enough. The electorate fell to 20 per cent. You are going to apply the same principle to Parliamentary elections. Let us see what is going to happen. Have the Government thought anything about the size of the constituency? Let me take one case, that of the combined counties of Fermanagh and Tyrone. These will constitute one constituency under the Bill. They represent in size 1,197,000 acres, and the man who is going to contest one of the seats there will have at the scale of 78 per elector on that score alone to foot an expenses bill to the amount of £2,806. Are you going to attract Labour candidates in that way? Take Donegal, with its 1,093,000 acres, and practically the same total as Fermanagh and Tyrone for expenses. Come down to Cork, with 1,797,000 acres. The expenses at 7d. per head per elector is £3,602. Look again at Tyrone and Fermanagh, because there you have for the moment the Nationalist population predominant. At your General Election the Unionists get, roughly, four seats to five Nationalists. But suppose one of the Unionist Members dies. The candidate who comes forward to fill 1191 that vacancy must make his appeal to the whole constituency, so that the very notion of proportional representation hopelessly and completely breaks down in face of a situation like that. The thing goes on county after county—resignations for business reasons, death, and all these things—the minority, having been entrapped into the position by this specious theory, is put in this position, that its very representation is swept away in that way, and proportional representation cannot meet it. Its advocates admit that it breaks down there, and they have no remedy whatever.
My hon. Friend thinks the old crystallisations in politics will disappear, and that you will get new crystallisations, and that Providence will come to the rescue of proportional representation, and everything will be right. I do not know what he knows about Ireland to make a prediction of that kind. I have been through seventy contested elections up and down the whole of the country, and I know it as well as my hon. and gallant Friend, and he is mistaken in his view. There will be no new crystallisation. Sinn Fein has swept away the old Nationalism, with which we could get along on some kind of terms. We may have led a cat and dog life, but we had many points of agreement, and I would go into the polling booth any day and vote for a Nationalist before I would for a Sinn Feiner. But we shall have no such choice. Even in the constituency of West Belfast, now the Falls Division, what has happened to the hon. Member (Mr. Devlin)? He was one of the advocates of this Bill. One-half of the representation of his party was swept out at the borough elections, and the four that it used to return are represented now by two. That is what has happened to him under proportional representation. An hon. Friend of mine who sits for one of the Divisions of Dublin also was an advocate of it. They had nine in Blackrock. They have got four to-day. That is the salvation that proportional representation brought to him. I could go on multiplying instances. There are scores of them up and down. I was glad to hear the admission that came so frankly from my hon. and gallant Friend (Lieut.-Colonel Guinness). It is clear now that the hopes of the minority in the South and West must no longer 1192 rest upon proportional representation. That has gone by the board. We looked into that question long ago. A body of the best experts, all of them Irishmen, drawn from the areas which were being specially considered, sat and formulated their views, as you will find in the Convention Report. I will read a section of it—We are agreed that, having regard to the smallness of the Unionist electorate in many counties, the Proportional Representation system would give no representation to the Unionist minority.That was approved by every Member of the Convention and unanimously adopted. The Chairman of every county was there and scores of others who knew the case. That was their verdict upon proportional representation and it really will not do for anyone who does not know Ireland to pretend to the contrary. What is the good of telling the minority in Clare, only 1.86 of the population, "Put your trust in Providence and proportional representation?" The thing is humbug. What is the good of telling them in Kerry, where there are only 2.74, "proportional representation is coming. You will be all right." You can go to Limerick with 2.90, and so on, up and down. I make this statement with a full knowledge of the facts in every constituency in Ireland, that outside Dublin you could not elect one on proportional representation. That is a fact and you need not pretend to the contrary.
I was glad, though somewhat amused, to hear the plea put in by someone who does not know Ireland, talking about the downtrodden Catholic minority in the north. Let me tell him something about the county councils. On the county councils they numbered under the old direct system, 112—one for less than each 6,000—and we numbered 123, one for more than each 6,000. That is the down-trodden minority. And although we were 200,000 in excess of them in numbers, in the last Parliament, such was the kind of performance that was carried on through under-representation here and over-representation there, that they had 17 Members and we had 16. That is what is called the down-trodden minority. The position to-day is that we are 22 and they are 14. I will defy proportional representation to repeat the experiment. I will defy it to improve upon it. It could not do it. I hope we shall have no more nonsense 1193 talked about the down-trodden minority in Ireland. There is no mandate for this proposal. No one has asked the Government to put it into the Bill. The only people in the House who are entitled to speak for Ireland protest against it. It will add enormously to the cost and in that way it will exclude the type of man we desire to get into Parliamentary life.
I hoped the Government would have given us their views in answer to my hon. Friend's remarks. As no one has risen, I am compelled to do so to put a few considerations to the Government. We do not desire that this discussion should drag on for any length of time. We want to come to a decision on it as soon as possible and get on with the Bill. We submit first of all that proportional representation should never have been applied to municipal elections by the Bill of last year for the reason that every representative of Ireland in this House with the exception of two was opposed to that experiment. Further, we object to the imposition of this system on Ireland for the reason that this Parliament has refused on six separate occasions to apply it to England, and we object very strongly to be the subject of these experiments, which my hon. Friend has I think clearly proved to be so futile to Ireland. We do not complain that we are very badly off under the Bill. It is quite true that both the Northern and the Southern Parliaments have the right after three years, if they think proper, to revert to the system of election which is in existence for this House of Commons, and we do not consider that we are under any serious hardship in that, because we are quite convinced that we shall be able to elect a working majority of our own way of thinking, and we are also pretty certain—I will not put it higher than that—that when that Parliament is elected and when these three years have elapsed that Parliament will put an end to this system of proportional representation and will go back to the system which exists here at present.
We ask the Government whether it is a proper thing or a judicious thing to insist upon Proportional Representation with all its drawbacks. It is very unpopular and very expensive and will mean an enormous amount of trouble to carry it out. As we have heard, £20,000 is to be spent in one county alone on the municipal election. Is it worth while, I 1194 ask again, in view of the probability that the system will be reversed on the first opportunity, to insist on holding the first elections under the system of Proportional Representation? So far as the North is concerned—we do not propose in this matter to speak for the South—we desire that proportional representation should be changed. We see no reason why we should not be allowed to elect our first Parliament under the direct system of voting and let the South have Proportional Representation if it so wishes. I admit that there is no great hardship in the Bill, but it would give unnecessary trouble and expense having a system introduced which will be reversed in all human probability in a very short time. Therefore I hope the Government will see their way to strike this out of the Bill, at least so far as it applies to the Northern Parliament. If they cannot do that I hope they will reduce the period within which we will be allowed to decide the matter for ourselves. It is now three years and they might reduce it to one year. I see an hon. Gentleman opposite with a good deal of ammunition ready to fire off. I do not blame him; he must reply to the hon. Member who has just spoken, but I do not think this is the time or the place for going fully into the merits or demerits of this question. We hate the system in the North, and so far as I know everybody is of opinion that we will reverse it and go back to the present system of election.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
I do not think the Government would be wise if they acceded to the request made by hon. Gentlemen opposite because it is of a character and nature which are both retrogressive and reactionary. As to the account of the experience of it which has just been given, that in no way affects my judgment on the merits or Proportional Representation, and I can assure both him and my hon. and gallant Friend who sits near him that that is particularly so with regard to its operation in Scotland. There the effects have been entirely satisfactory. No doubt there have been low polls, but these are symptomatic of the state of the public mind with regard to elections of every kind and it is carried into all elections everywhere. I will not attempt to say what is the reason for that public apathy with regard to elections both for Members of Parliament and local bodies, but I do 1195 know that the fact exists. It is simply reacting in Ireland as it is in different parts of the United Kingdom.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
It was a general proposition, and it was an argument which carried very little weight to me in the light of the general effect which I have described. As to the future of Proportional Representation, is it as certain, shall I say as that we are going to have another general election some time or other, that it will be extended; either we shall have the cumulative vote or some system of Proportional Representation. I ask the Government not to go back upon a scheme which has been adopted and approved in practice, and I think neither the Government nor its supporters will be inclined to accept the proposal notwithstanding the appeals just made to them from below the gangway.
§ Mr. A. WILLIAMS
We have had from two representatives from Ulster a strong attack upon Proportional Representation as applied to municipal elections in Ireland and a strong plea for omitting it altogether from the Bill which is now before us to establish Home Rule. I should like to examine briefly the main arguments against the system especially with regard to Ireland. We have been told that it was introduced for Ireland without any mandate. Let us look at the reasons why it was introduced for municipal purposes. The late system of municipal elections in Ireland is completely broken down in one particular town. That was the town of Sligo. [Laughter.] Hon. Members may laugh, but they have no argument against Sligo.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
Yes, the facts were these. Sligo had elected a municipal council under the old system, and the effect was that it had fallen down into bankruptcy. The municipal chairs and tables were sold by the auctioneer to pay the debts of the town. In the old days before the municipal vote was extended there was a Unionist's Council in Sligo; and then the other fellows were at their feet. Then the franchise was extended and the 1196 Unionists became the under dog and the other fellows got complete control, and the result was that Sligo was bankrupt municipally. Then there was an appeal made that we should put our shoulders to the wheel in order to get Sligo out of that rut. The gentleman who at that time was the representative of Sligo (Mr. Scanlan) brought in a Bill and carried it through, establishing a municipality in Sligo under a system by which all parties should be fairly represented. The elections were held. There were some Independent members, the Sinn Feiners were represented by one-third, I think, and the Unionists were well represented—I think they called themselves the Municipal party or something of that kind; and there were also Nationalists' representatives. All parties were represented and were thoroughly satisfied. So great a success was it that when the Government talked of re-establishing municipal elections in Ireland they came forward to ask that that system should be applied to all municipalities in Ireland, and practically every party in Ireland, and all the newspapers, approved it and acclaimed the result—[HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"]—except the Ulster dominant party, and they stood out against it, and I shall show very soon what good reason they had for doing so. That is what led to the introduction of municipal proportional representation in Ireland, and I say it is a gross misrepresentation of facts to say there was no mandate for it and that nobody asked for it. On the contrary, everybody asked for it, everybody was content with it, except the dominant party in Ulster, which is now opposing it. I do not wonder that they are opposing it. It has broken down their domination in Belfast. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] It has broken their power in Tyrone and Fermanagh, and now they come forward in fear that it will break down their power in the Northern Parliament, and will show that there are a large number of people throughout Ulster who are interested in other things than the old bitter feud of Orangeman against Catholic. The hon. Gentleman tells us that it has sounded the death knell of labour representation.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
There was no Labour representation in the old Belfast Council. 1197 The old Belfast Council consisted, with rare exceptions, of 52 Unionists and eight Nationalists.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
Now the Unionists number 37, the Labour men 12, the Nationalists and Sinn Feiners five each, and there is one Independent. It is the same story in many parts of Ireland. Under proportional representation Labour has for the first time been able to get real, independent representation. I do not mean a few Labour men put in by the grace of some other party, but I mean real Labour representatives, who go there because they represent real Labour organisations. To my mind that is a pretty clear reason why my friends from Ulster dislike the system; and yet they have the courage to come and tell us that this system sounds the death knell of Labour representation, and ridicule the idea that there are any new crystallisations or formations of parties and interests in Ireland. It is not necessary for a man to have spent his life in Ireland to be able to read the Irish newspapers. That can be learned even on this side of the water, and anybody who does so will see that all over Ireland there are strong bodies of Labour opinion which have been seeking, and to a considerable extent obtaining, representation on the local bodies in Ireland under proportional representation. And then our blood is made to curdle by reports of the Sinn Fein sweeps which have taken place in some of the council elections recently. I would ask the House to bear in mind the clear distinction between the town elections which took place in Ireland last January and the country elections which took place quite recently. In the town elections there was very good feeling among all parties, and there were excellent results. Unfortunately, in the interval between January and June there was a great exacerbation of feeling in Ireland. I am not going into the reasons for it, it has nothing to do with proportional representation, but there was undoubtedly a very great increase in bitterness of feeling, so much so, that during the country elections recently there were very large areas where practically nobody came forward except Sinn Feiners, or Sinn Feiners and Labour men. Therefore, it is perfectly true that there have been considerable areas in the 1198 recent county elections where Sinn Feiners, or Sinn Feiners and Labour men, have alone got representation. Would that have been any better under the old system of single-member representation? Not a bit. On the contrary, it would have been worse, because if you turn to the Parliamentary elections which took place in the single-member constituencies at the end of 1918 you see how Sinn Feiners were able to sweep the board over and over again. Take Dublin city, for instance. There were seven Sinn Fein Members returned; but when you came to the Dublin municipal elections in 1920 you found that the Sinn Feiners only got 42 of the seats, whereas the others together got very nearly the same number. That is a very considerable result. The Labour men got 15, Reform party 11, Nationalist 9, Independent 2, and the Unionists, in the name of Unionist, got one. [Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen who try to make a cheap joke upon that know perfectly well that a large number of the others were Unionists—[HON. MEMBERS: "No!"]—and only stood under another name because they very rightly considered that in municipal affairs it was not a question whether a man was a Unionist or not, but what line he took on municipal matters. In the city of Belfast, in the Parliamentary election, there were eight Unionists and one Nationalist returned, and under Proportional Representation the representation of other parties in the municipal election was considerably improved. I have given the figures and am not going to state them again. This all shows that these sweeps of Sinn Fein in certain counties have not been in any sense due to Proportional Representation, but that they would have been more extensive and would have taken place in a larger number of areas under the old single-member system. We are told that there was a very small vote in Scotland under Proportional Representation. How about Ireland? In the January elections in Ireland, 70 per cent. of the electorate voted, practically 70 per cent., and in one ward in Londonderry 93½ per cent.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
Very likely, but that is no reason why the hon. Gentleman should tell the House that only such very small numbers of the electors go to the 1199 poll when he knows very well that in the municipal elections last January in Ireland 70 per cent. of the electorate went to the poll. In London you very often have only 15 per cent., and, I believe, under 10 per cent., going to the poll, and that not under Proportional Representation at all. I have been twitted as if I had said that Proportional Representation was going to bring in a paradise and do away with all the evils of Ireland, give representation to the Unionists of Kerry, and all that sort of thing. I have never said anything of the sort.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
No, I do not perfectly well know it. I am sorry if I misunderstood my hon. Friend. Of course, I apologise for it, but I certainly understood those remarks as referring to me. The results that have already been achieved in Ireland have been quite sufficient to show that under Proportional Representation you get an immense improvement upon anything that you can get in single-member areas. In Scotland, also, the same thing has been shown. You do get in a great many districts a representation of all parties. I ask the Committee to consider what is going to become of our representative system either in Ireland or in this country if we are going to face general elections with three or four parties contesting one against another, and with perhaps a majority of the seats going to minority voters. I believe our experience is already sufficient to indicate to us the direction in which we ought to look for a cure, and if we look in that direction we shall be joining with the great current which is now flowing in all the civilised countries of the world, with hardly an exception. In all the civilised countries you find that the population are being forced to recognise that if you want to make self-government real you must have a system which will give a fair share of representation to every section, which will not cut up the State simply by a fight between this faction and the other faction, but will give a logical and reasonable system by which every party and every opinion will be able to show their strength and to elect representatives of their 1200 opinions and of their interests in proportion to their real strength in the country.
§ Mr. W. COOTE
The hon. Member has spoken about Proportional Representation, but he has left the financial side out of the question altogether. The election in the counties of Tyrone and Fermanagh will cost the individual member something like £2,500. He has not suggested any way out of that. He has used the old arguments that were heard here some years ago when Proportional Representation was originally before the House. He talks very much of Sligo, but he does not tell the Committee of the developments that have taken place there and in other parts of Ireland since the Sligo election. The Committee may not be aware that the people of Sligo had agreed on a joint representative council to be really a selected council before Proportional Representation was suggested to them. It was only when Proportional Representation was proposed by the Local Government Board that they agreed to it for the sake of getting some way out and getting help from the Local Government Board for the time being. They would not help them unless they adopted Proportional Representation. Therefore, they submitted to Proportional Representation, which accomplished for them what they had intended to do before the suggestion of Proportional Representation was made. It may not be known to the Committee that since the last election there the Council of Sligo, elected on Proportional Representation, has come to a deadlock on no less than five occasions, and have disbanded and adjourned their proceedings and resumed again. The hon. Member does not tell us of the increase of rates from 8s. 6d., which was the figure the Local Government Board said they ought to be to the figure at which they stand now. He admits that in the county councils and in the rural constituencies Proportional Representation has not worked so well as it did in the cities, and even in the cities he has not told us what has taken place in Cork, Waterford, and the urban centres, where ordinary constitutional nationalism has been driven out and where Sinn Fein holds the field practically entirely.
Coming to the rural districts and the county councils, how can any proportional representation work well? Take 1201 the county of Monaghan, where the parties are almost equally divided between Nationalist and Sinn Fein, and where, when the Nationalist candidates were nominated, in the interval that took place between the nomination and the confirmation of the nomination, Sinn Feiners, with blackened faces, visited the homes of the nominated Nationalists and told them that their lives would be the penalty if they dared to go on with the nominations. Thereupon they withdrew the nominations, so that Sinn Fein held the field. What happened in Tyrone the other day? This is one of the blackest things we have against proportional representation. It tends to corruption and misrepresentation all along the line, because men who are unprincipled, as the Sinn Fein party are, are willing to do anything to accomplish their ends. There are districts which are Unionist districts, but five or six districts are bracketed together with areas that are intensely Sinn Fein and where there are very few Unionists or Protestant people. In the Omagh district, where there ought to be two Unionists and two Sinn Feiners, and where our quota was very fine, the Sinn Feiners, with whom electioneering is a fine art, in order to frustrate and keep Unionists from going to the poll, had threatening notices posted in districts in the mountains where there are only a few Protestant people, with the result that they were afraid to vote. In these cases, addressing the people in their homes and naming the individuals, whose names for obvious reasons I will not mention, because it might not be comfortable for them even in the North of Ireland, they issued notices such as this:It is understood that you intend to vote Unionist to-morrow. Now, in voting Unionist, we take it you vote to keep Ireland in bondage. Therefore, if you go to vote to-morrow, be prepared to meet your God, for you shall not return. What has been done in the South can be done in the North. The time for humbug is over. Signed by the black hand of Glenelly.Is this a fair method of electioneering? It is only under Proportional Representation that this could be done. [HON. MEMBERS: "Only under Proportional Representation?"] Yes, because it cuts down our quota. It links up five or six districts. Some of those districts would have their Nationalist or Sinn Fein representation, and very rightly, and there would be no harm if Unionists and Protestants did not vote. But when Unionist 1202 districts are linked up with other districts these steps are taken to destroy the representation of entirely Unionist districts, and they adopt these methods in scattered districts to destroy our quota. So that the very idea of Proportional Representation is defeated by its own friends. This could not happen under the ordinary system. Some parts are entirely Sinn Fein. In the Cookestown area it had on its register 305 voters, living and dead, and there would be that number of votes in the ballot box, because the dead people were impersonated. They brought in their children, their boys and girls for impersonation purposes in order that their quota should be higher than it ought to be and in order to destroy ours. It may be asked, Why does it happen; why do you permit it to happen? We cannot send an isolated Unionist as a personation agent into a remote district, where he does not know anybody and whence he may not return alive. When men can put out notices like the one I have read they will do anything in order to accomplish their ends. Proportional Representation is a humbug in Ireland It has destroyed the purity of elections. It has destroyed the object we have at heart, which is to get real representation for the people in all the communities of our municipal and rural life.
§ Lieut.-Commander WILLIAMS
I am glad to see that the President of the Board of Education (Mr. Fisher) has come in to help us to solve this wild form, as I call it, of mathematical mania that we know as Proportional Representation. I have always been rather inclined to believe that there was something in it, but I have never yet been able to discover what it means. I have asked many of my friends what they mean by Proportional Representation, and they always say, "It is so simple that everyone can understand it." I return to the point and say, "Yes, but what is the system?" and they always go on, "It is so simple that nobody can possibly fail to understand it and therefore it needs no explanation." We have heard this evening of the results of Proportional Representation in Scotland. We were told just now that the results of elections in Edinburgh meant that under this system only about 18 per cent. went to the poll. I do not happen to have the usual percentage of electors who poll in Edinburgh, but in a great highly educated city like the capital of 1203 Scotland I think that that is a proportion so low that it could hardly be cited as a real success of this system of which we have heard so much to-night and which I believe, if it were really explained and made clear to us, might have something in it.
But voting myself under this system in Scotland, I have never quite discovered what the election was about, I am afraid because no one who was going into or coming out of the polling booth had the slightest knowledge of what was happening. Most of them, being Scotch, seemed rather pleased at the idea of getting three or four bites at their cherry, and, not being Scotch myself but having some knowledge of the race, I conclude that having a second or even a third try for their money, so to speak, and not necessarily losing because they do not back the winner every time naturally appeals strongly to Scotch shrewdness and their general desire to get there all the time. But when I had voted and endeavoured, even after the poll to discover exactly how the system was going to work out in getting the people who were well known in the district as shrewd administrators or known for their strength of character—how this queer mathematical problem which had to be worked out with each vote—and each representative was going to get a better type of man in the House of Commons or on the County Council, I found that it was entirely beyond my understanding.
I can quite see if you have got an Opposition that, for example, is divided in its views and its leaders and is unable to promote or propose any policy, or even to get leaders who could attend to business in the House, they would jump at any form of election which might induce people to vote on a rather different system, but I cannot without such explanation realise what will take place if you are going to set up a Parliament in Ireland or set up a system which we have been told by every Irishmen in this House will hit them. I have heard the Member for the Falls Division of Belfast praise it mildly, but I have heard him do otherwise than praise it last year, when he said that you were applying proportional representation to Ireland on the system of trying it on the dog. I ask the Government to endeavour to explain it in such a way 1204 that the Irishmen opposite may understand it, like it and swallow it, but above all I ask the Government, unless they can get real support from Irish quarters, to have pity on the Irish nation and not be known as the Government who inflicted this last of all wrongs on the Irish people.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
We should not allow this discussion to lapse so soon. One or two statements have been made by the hon. and gallant Member and the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. Coote) which ought to be challenged. I have not the pleasure and happiness of living permanently in Ireland, but I am going to take the liberty of quoting from somewhat well-informed quarters very short extracts from leading Irish papers on the working of this system of proportional representation. The "Irish Times" of 19th January, 1920, said:The system of Proportional Representation has come to stay. We believe that the early future will see its adoption in municipal and Parliamentary elections throughout the United Kingdom. The Irish elections establish all the virtues that were claimed for this scientific method of feeling the popular pulse.I suppose that even the hon. Member will admit that the "Irish Times" is an old-established and respectable journal. Take a paper of the opposite views, the "Irish Independent" of the following day, the 20th January, 1920, which, one would think, would have taken the opportunity of tearing to pieces the leader in the "Irish Times." They say:The success of these elections naturally suggests the more extended application of the system.The "Dublin Evening Herald" said:This Proportional Representation General Election was the most business-like proceeding that the general public have ever assisted at. The local government elections of 1920 will loom for all time as a historic milestone in the path of Ireland.A distinguished man of letters like the hon. Member for the Ormeau Division (Mr. Moles) must have read these papers, and how he can make the speech which he made this evening I do not understand. It is very important that we should look to these leading Irish papers for guidance in this matter. After all, they write to suit their readers. Their proprietors are business men and they are not going to give opinions hostile to the bulk of the people for whom they cater. The "Ulster 1205 Guardian," on the 24th January, 1920, said:Proportional representation has demonstrated beyond the shadow of doubt its entire practicability and its justice to all sections of the different communities.There are many more extracts which I could quote, but those which I have quoted are sufficient to show that proportional representation has been a success in Ireland. I am astonished that even from the quarter from which this originated such an Amendment should be proposed. We, in this country, I am sorry to say, lag far behind other countries in Europe. The French and the Germans elect their representatives on the proportional representation system. I have heard hon. Members in this House continually bemoan the fact that there is not a constituent assembly in Russia. The first constituent assembly was elected there on proportional representation, and that, in a country with some 80 per cent. illiterates. Now, hon. Members from certain districts of the North-East of Ireland, because of proportional representation happens to have destroyed their caucus, come down and abuse the system. As to the argument about intimidation, I would ask what has that to do with proportional representation? We have had intimidation in England and in Ireland for many centuries, long before proportional representation was thought of seriously. There has been the same sort of thing in a much worse degree in other countries. In the Southern States of America, for many years after the War of Secession, no negro was allowed to vote. In some of the country districts of the Southern States to-day no negro dare vote for fear of his life. Do you propose to take away the rights of the American people to choose their representatives, because of that? It is no argument whatever. Presumably the argument is produced by the hon. Member in order still further to blacken his fellow countrymen. I am convinced that the system of proportional representation will come in this country, in spite of the arguments used by hon. Members who are the last remnant of those who lived in the bitterness and passion of the last century.
Sir LAMING WORTHINGTONEVANS (Minister without Portfolio)
I think the Committee is probably prepared to come to a decision on this Amendment. We have had a very in- 1206 teresting Debate on Proportional Representation, but as we had a full Debate last year on the application of the system to local elections, I do not suppose anyone wants to hear much from me on the general subject now. It is, however, due to the Committee that the Government should say why it was introduced into the Bill. It was introduced into the Bill as one of the safeguards by which it was intended to protect minorities. The hon. Member who moved the Amendment told us that under Proportional Representation certain things had happened, and he attributed them to Proportional Representation. I confess that while I very much regret any intimidation that may have occurred, or any untoward circumstances, I do not see why Proportional Representation should be saddled with the odium of what has occurred. For instance, under the old system we know that at this moment there are in this House for the South and West of Ireland only one Unionist and one Nationalist; the rest of the Members of Parliament are Sinn Feiners. That is not a result of Proportional Representation; on the contrary, it is a result of the old system. I cannot see that even my hon. Friend could suggest that minorities would be less represented under Proportional Representation than under the old system. What the Bill does is to provide that the first Parliament should be elected on a Proportional Representation system. After that self-government is given to the two Parliaments, and they can, if they choose, scrap the system of Proportional Representation and revert to the old system of election. The Government, therefore, cannot accept the Amendment.
§ 10.0 P.M.
§ Mr. MOLES
The hon. Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) has quoted to us a variety of newspaper extracts. One said that proportional representation had come to stay; another said that it had proved its practicability; and a third declared that it was a historic milestone. The hon. Member did not quote a single observation from any newspaper which said it had been a triumphant success and had given us the better type of civic representative that we were promised when it was put forward. That is the striking thing that is not found in these quotations. I not only know the quotations. 1207 I know the facts. He was good enough to adopt the attitude which has become characteristic with him. His attitude always, towards this Bench and towards all others, is one of studied offensiveness. I suggest to him, with very great respect, that the loud-mouthed and senseless clamour in which he indulges in this House is very far removed from sensible and restrained criticism. If he has any Friends sufficiently interested in him, they ought to take him to one side and tell him that he ought to desist from making a fool of himself here. My right hon. Friend who spoke last has told us that Sinn Fein swept the decks in the South and West of Ireland. That is perfectly true of the Parliamentary elections. It is just as true of the county council and municipal representation. Proportional representation was to have changed all this. That was the case made for it. It has failed to do it. This particular system the House has six times refused to adopt. You have given us no opportunity of guiding you in the matter. You are going, of course, to put your Whips on, and to march the battalions into the Lobby, not because you have convinced them. We can go into the Lobby, as we did yesterday, thirty or forty Members, and the big battalions would come along and swamp us. That would be futile and a waste of time. In view of these circumstances, there is no course open to me but to refrain from going to a Division, and I withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The next two Amendments on the Paper refer to matters already disposed of, and the following Amendment is the subject of a new Clause and there is a Clause on the Paper of which notice has been given by the Government.
I beg to move, in Sub-section (5) to leave out the work "three" ["three years"] and to insert instead thereof the word "ten."
After three years the Irish Parliaments can sweep away any electoral safeguards for minorities in this Bill. I understand hon. Gentlemen on this side have suggested that three years is too long and that Ulster would want to sweep away 1208 proportional representation very much sooner. I am afraid I must on behalf of the scattered minorities in the South and West take, and necessarily take, the view that three years is too short and that the carefully-thought-out safeguards merit that they should be kept in force for ten years. I hope, as the result of the sympathetic speech of the First Lord this afternoon, that those scattered minorities will be given some effective representation. I agree that any safeguards of this kind, however close they may be to the present machinery of the Bill, cannot be a permanency in Ireland. I hope if the Southern Parliament functions at all that it will eventually work out its own salvation, but I feel that three years is too short for the development stage if the Southern Parliament is not to be tempted to sweep away safeguards and provisions which are put in for the interest of those who have been loyal to this country and who deserve some protection.
§ Mr. LONG
Under a previous proposal my hon. Friends who come from the North said that they would like power placed in their hands to effect the change immediately, and would like to have no limit of time. My hon. and gallant Friend would prefer ten years. I am bound to say the Government regard ten years as a most unreasonable period during which to tie the hands of local Parliaments. I think that on the whole we have struck a happy medium in three years, and, after all, let the Committee remember what we are really doing. We are now in June, 1920. Supposing this Bill passes by the middle of this year and receives the Royal Assent in October or November. It will be another year at least from then before it will begin to operate, and are we not therefore allowing enough time for the influences of this measure and for other influences which are at work in Ireland to have their effect in that country and produce a condition of things in which, in five years' time, you will have a very different state of feelings from what you have now? If you have not got a different state of feelings by that time, then God help Ireland and this country, but my firm conviction is that between the exercise of strong Governmental powers on the one hand and the influences which will be at work as a result of the passing of this measure and of other things that are going on, on the 1209 other hand, in five years' time it will be perfectly safe to leave the Irish Parliaments to deal with their own affairs. If it is not, something much more drastic than this will be required.
§ Sir P. LLOYD-GREAME
I rise to make a possible suggestion which might meet the two points which have been raised. I entirely agree that ten years seems to be too long, but if the three years is left, that appears to me to alter the whole basis on which the first Parliament is elected. Would it not be possible to arrive at a reasonable compromise, which would fix a term, say, of five or six years, which would cover the period of the first Parliament, and would leave the second Parliament free to deal with the position as they think fit?
§ Captain C. COOTE
I am afraid I cannot quite agree with the Amendment, and I am very glad the Government are resisting it, and for this reason. It seems to me that if the danger which this Amendment is intended to guard against eventuates, and if, on the one hand, the Dublin Parliament makes electoral laws directed against the Southern Unionists, or, on the other hand, the Belfast Parliament makes laws directed against Roman Catholics, then the whole question of giving Home Rule to Ireland falls to the ground, because if the local Parliaments were, to use a colloquialism, playing the fool in that way, it is obviously inadvisable that the local Parliaments should exist at all. They would have to cease; the Act would have to be repealed, because it would reduce the whole matter of Home Rule to an absurdity. I think the general principle should be that this House should not interfere with the powers which are given to the local Parliaments under this Bill. You must trust them to a certain extent to be honest and play the Parliamentary game in an open-handed and generous manner; and if they do not do so, I cannot see how either three years or ten years will make any difference. If that is the spirit which is going to animate the proceedings of these Parliaments, they might as well not exist; and if they do exist, and show that spirit, the sooner they are done away with the better.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
The hon. and gallant Member who has just sat down has said that if the local Parliaments play the fool they can be done away with. 1210 It is all very well for him to stand up in this House and say that, but the actual operation of doing away with them would, I think, be extremely difficult. Let me point out to the hon. and gallant Member what would have to be done. First of all, there would have to be a Bill introduced into this House, and with the introduction of a Bill into this House what would take place in Ireland? The state of Ireland at the present moment is not extremely satisfactory, and if this Parliament, having granted Home Rule, were to say, "We think you are playing the fool, and we are going to take it away again," the difficulty, I think, would be tremendous. We should have to send an army of at least 100,000 men over there to enforce the repeal of the provisions of this Bill, even if we could get it through this House. I wonder what hon. Members opposite would say. I think my knowledge of them is sufficient to show that they would be strongly against the Bill, and there would be very great difficulty in enforcing the Bill, supposing it were passed. Therefore, with all due deference to the hon. Member, I think he is mistaken in thinking that when this Bill becomes an Act there will be an easy means of repealing it. What we want to do is to think a little before it becomes an Act and to consider whether it is advisable to allow certain safeguards to be introduced or not.
As I understand it, these two Parliaments are to sit for five years, but at the end of three years they will have the opportunity of altering the safeguards, for what they are worth—and, personally, I do not think they are worth very much—which have been put into the Bill by this Parliament. I am inclined to think the Amendment of my hon. and gallant Friend is right. I do not know whether ten years is the right period which ought to be inserted, but I think the least period should be five. What is the use of setting up a Parliament to exist for five years, and providing certain safeguards, if, at the end of three years, that Parliament can wipe out those safeguards altogether? Before we give them the opportunity of altering and abolishing those safeguards, we really ought to know whether the Parliaments are going to work, and I do not think you can tell in three years whether those Parliaments are going to work satisfactorily or not. The Amendment would extend the time to ten years, 1211 which, after all, is only the life of two Parliaments, and is not a very long period in the history of a country, and if we are going to set up new Parliaments, which are to legislate for the two countries into which Ireland is going to be divided, we ought at least, before parting with our safeguards, to see whether those Parliaments are going to work satisfactorily. The only question which remains is how long it will be necessary to see whether those Parliaments are going to work satisfactorily. I believe we shall not know, certainly not in three years; and I very much doubt whether we shall know in five years. I am a strong supporter of the Ulster party, but, just as they have seen me make mistakes, so I have seen them make mistakes, and even in the case of the Northern Parliament we ought at least to have a little more than three years to see whether they will carry on the government of that part of Ireland properly. With regard to the southern part of Ireland, I do not ever remember that the inhabitants of that part ever did anything right. Ever since I have had the privilege of a seat in this House they have never done anything but make mistakes. I do not think there ever was a greater critic of them than my hon. Friend the First Lord—in the old days there was no greater critic—when I sat at his feet and listened to—
§ Sir F. BANBURY
It is to protect the very people of whom my right hon. Friend says he has been an unworthy, but I should like to say a worthy, champion that I say we ought to substitute ten years for three years. It is for that very reason—that they happen to be in a minority, and have been unable to exercise the abilities they possess. For that reason I shall certainly support the Amendment of my hon. and gallant Friend.
§ Major HILLS
It is always a great pleasure to me to find myself in agreement with my right hon. Friend who has just spoken. On this occasion I am in very 1212 hearty agreement with him. I support the Amendment for the reasons he has given and also particularly in view of what passed earlier in the afternoon. I would not have called upon the Government but that they have promised to endeavour to find some means to give the Southern Unionists representation in the Parliament of Southern Ireland. If you are going to give this protection what use is it if the first Parliament elected can sweep it away? You cannot conceive of any sort of method of giving representation to the Southern Unionists that is not an elective method, and therefore liable to be changed by the first Parliament. Surely under the circumstances it is all the more necessary to make the safeguard effective, for it is perfectly clear to the whole Committee that the first Parliament returned in the present difficult situation in Ireland cannot be very favourable to the Southern Unionists. If the protection is held under the stress and friction that must occur during the first election, and in a Parliament returned almost entirely of Sinn Feiners, all these have to do is to pass an Act, and all these schemes go to the winds.
The position would be quite different if one Parliament had run its course. All Parliaments make mistakes, and the electors that return the first one to power might return another the next time, for the small body of Unionists might make good—very good indeed—and you might have a second Parliament under fresh conditions, happier and better than now. I do not think that the Government can really defend the position to leave all this machinery in the hands of the first Parliament that is elected. If three years, why not three days? I do beg the Government most earnestly to postpone the date, at any rate, until the second Parliament is elected. They would not do any harm by it. If ten years is too much, accept six! If they do not do that, all the protections which were promised, and which we have accepted gladly, are quite illusory.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir S. HOARE
I should like to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he will consider the suggestion that the first Parliament should not be empowered to make this alteration. I am sure he will agree that there is a risk that the first Parliament, at any rate, in the South, will be a very partisan body, 1213 and what we are anxious to ensure is that during the very critical time when partisan feeling will be running at its height after the first Parliament is summoned, there should be full security for the minority. I think this matter ought to wait until the second Parliament, when feeling will probably be more reasonable in both the South and the West. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to say whether he cannot take that point into consideration.
§ Mr. LONG
There is no question of principle involved here. Of course, I have my view on this subject, and in this particular instance I can speak with some knowledge, particularly of the southern part of Ireland. I cannot help thinking, however, that we are fighting over an unreality. This Amendment is being urged from the point of view of to-day, and I believe that is a tremendous mistake. My right hon. Friend (Sir F. Banbury) referred to the present condition of things in Ireland. I agree with him, and I think the state of things is both deplorable and abominable, and the Government is working with all its vigour and determination a policy which, I hope, will put an end to that state of things. This Bill is different from any other Bill which has yet been introduced dealing with this subject, because it is the measure of a Government which represents all parties as no Government has represented them before, and it is only resisted by those who are not represented in the Government because they would go further. This measure is quite different to any other Bill dealing with this subject. I believe that the limitation we have imposed is a right one. I admit that there is much to be said for the argument of the hon. Member for Chelsea, and the Government are quite willing to consider between now and the Report stage whether they cannot provide that before any change is made there shall be a new Parliament elected so that there will be an appeal to the country, and the opinion of the electors expressed, before any change is made in the safeguards of the Bill.
The right hon. Gentleman has given a very sympathetic answer, for which I am grateful, but I think it would be well if we could get some of these Amendments accepted on the Committee stage, because we are 1214 piling up a tremendous number of promises for the Report stage. I would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that he should vary his practice by accepting this Amendment on the Committee stage, putting the period at six years, and, if necessary, modifying it to four years on the Report stage.
My right hon. Friend is showing unnecessary irritation. I am not showing any ingratitude. I have not expressed any desire to divide. I put forward my proposal in all good faith, and I think it is quite reasonable that the right hon. Gentleman should accept some of these Amendments in Committee. However, I will not press it further, as he seems to be so sensitive to criticism, and I will ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I beg to move, in Sub-section (5), after the word "altered" ["shall not be altered"], to insert the words "or any university deprived of its representation."
The object of this Amendment is to make the representation of universities permanent in Ireland. Under the Bill it is provided that there shall be eight university Members, four for the national universities and four for the Government universities. In Southern Ireland the Members for Dublin University are a very valuable safeguard for the minority in the South. I think Dublin University has special claims to consideration in this respect, in view of the very distinguished Members she has from time to time sent to this House, including David Plunket, Lecky, and the present right hon. Member for the Duncairn Division of Belfast (Sir E. Carson). I do not put this Amendment forward in any sectional interest, because I believe it is of great importance to the Irish people that neither political nor sectarian bitterness should drive out of the councils of the nation representatives of the scientific and learned professions who would be chosen by university constituencies, and who would probably not only adorn the South of Ireland Parliament, as they 1215 do this, but would add very much to the practical wisdom of that body.
§ Mr. LONG
This is a very difficult Amendment to meet. I have always been a strong advocate of university representation, not from the point of view of my hon. and gallant Friend who suggested the desirability under the peculiar representative conditions of Ireland of having university representation, but I have always thought it was essential that, in this House, there should be university representation. On the other hand, is it not really difficult to say to these two Parliaments, "You shall have full power to deal with the constituencies in the great industrial centres in the North, or in big cities like Cork and Dublin, or in large agricultural areas like Mayo, Roscommon or Galway"—that you should say to them, "You can deal as you like with those great interests, but, under no circumstances, shall you deprive the universities of their representation?" It seemed to us that that is a very strong order. It seems to us either you should give these two Parliaments within a certain period power to deal with their own constitution or else you should give them no such power and say to them, "What this Parliament has enacted you must accept for all time." On the whole we came to the conclusion that after a certain period these two Parliaments ought to have power to arrange their own constitutions and vary them if they desire to do so, and anxious though I am that university representation should be maintained—and the Government propose at a later stage to accept an Amendment to extend the representation by including universities—we are very much impressed by the argument that you cannot distinguish in this Clause between one constituency and another. The logical and proper thing to do would be either to withhold all these powers and say you cannot trust these Parliaments or else give them, as they are given here, in respect of all constituencies, whether they are industrial, agricultural or university. That, I think, is the right course. I have great sympathy with my hon. and gallant Friend, but the arguments against are stronger than those for.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I should like to hear the views of the Minister for Education upon the Amendment. As I understand the right hon. Gentleman's argument, it 1216 is that the Government have considered whether or not it is advisable to make any restrictions or give any directions after three years to the Parliaments as to the method of election and generally the qualifications and registration of electors. They have come to the conclusion that on the whole it is advisable, much as they would desire to preserve University representation, to leave these matters after three years, or perhaps six if the Amendment is inserted on Report, to the decision of the Parliaments. Then I want to know what is the meaning of these words:And due regard shall be had to the population of the constituencies other than university constituencies.Are they put in to have any effect or are they merely camouflage which expresses a pious opinion?
§ Sir F. BANBURY
The words are these:And due regard shall be had to the population of constituencies other than university constituencies.
§ Mr. LONG
They certainly have not reformed my right hon. Friend. What has led to the reforms? It has been the shifting of the population. One area becomes very crowded and is entitled on numbers to more Members than another, and you pass your Reform Bill to adjust your representation. You do not read just your university representation on anything to do with population. You give a university one member or two members: you do not count the number of its electors.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
If the right hon. Gentleman will allow me to continue my argument, I may be quite wrong, but I do not understand the meaning of these words: "And due regard shall be had to the population of constituencies, other than university constituencies." That would lead one to suppose that universities were to be excepted in some way. Does it apply to an ordinary constituency, and is a university constituency to be 1217 left out of it? This is not an easy Bill to understand, and I may be mistaken. Suppose a free hand is to be given to these two Parliaments to do what they like, can they do what they like with the universities? Or are the universities to be in an exceptional position. My hon. Friend near me (Mr. Marriott) who does not represent a university, but ought to—he represents Oxford—may be able to tell me. Certainly it requires some explanation.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.