HC Deb 22 June 1920 vol 130 cc2144-6

Again considered in Committee.

[Mr. WHITLEY in the Chair.]

Postponed Proceeding resumed.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again.—[Mr. Long.]


I do not propose to oppose this Motion, but I think we should have some indication as to what the future progress of the Committee stage of the Bill is likely to be. Considerable doubt exists in the minds of hon. Members, and even in the minds of those who represent Ulster itself, as to what are the intentions of the Government. The Committee upon the Home Rule Bill is not to sit again this week. We know already that the House is going to be asked to sit during the autumn, but we have practically come to no decision on the vital points of this measure, because after all the financial Clauses are the most important.


Why did you waste time on the Adjournment?


The hon. Member wastes more times than anyone else. I have wasted no time on the Adjournment. I am entitled on the Report stage to raise the question of the future of the Bill, and to ask whether it is intended to pass it through all its stages and into law before the end of the present session. I want to know whether it is going to be taken again next week. It is perfectly impossible if it is intended to really make this Bill what it claims to be, a measure "to provide for the better government of Ireland," to pass it in the sort of atmosphere in which we have been discussing it this afternoon. We have had no Cabinet Minister present, except the First Lord of the Admiralty—neither the Leader of the House nor the Prime Minister. If we look back to the history of successive Home Rule Bills and remember the way in which they were discussed in the old days, the way in which the leaders were present to put forward the points of view of their respective sides, and when we see this Bill discussed, as it has been during the present Committee stage, one is amazed. We have the whole of the members of the Nationalist party absent, and those representing what are known as the free Liberals are for the greater part absent also.


No, no!


Well, I will give an example with the right hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) who, however we may differ from his views, is in a position of the greatest influence in this House. How many times have we had the advantage of his presence or of his words on this Bill? Once! In view of the state of Ireland and the situation generally and the kind of atmosphere that at present is in the House of Commons, is it not really a farce to try to pass this Bill through its different stages? I believe I am entitled to ask for an explanation from the Government? Do they really intend to get this Bill? Are we going to have the financial Clauses, and is it intended to put the Bill into operation in Ireland? There has never been a Bill which in its passage through Committee has had a worse Press than this Bill. It has no support whatever in the Press. No interest is taken in it. And this is in great contrast with the position in the old Home Rule days. When we consider the old Home Rule Bills and the discussions and the interest they attracted, one asks oneself whether this is a Committee of the House of Commons passing an important Bill or whether it is a debating society in some provincial town. No one who has been any length of time in this House, like my right hon. Friend the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury), with whose views I so seldom find myself in agreement—


The Noble Lord should address himself to the question of reporting progress.


That is exactly what I am to the best of my ability en- deavouring to do. Anyone who has had the long experience of my right hon. Friend cannot, after the way in which this Bill has been discussed in Committee, and in view of the attitude that the Government has taken upon it, fail to be convinced that the Government has no intention of passing this Bill, or, if it be passed, of putting it into operation in Ireland. In view of what is taking place in Ireland to-day, and all the circumstances of the situation there, before we report Progress it is desirable that we should know from the Government what are their intentions. I am perfectly convinced of the truth of what I am saying. I am prepared to make a wager that neither this Bill in its present form, or anything like it, will ever pass the House of Commons, or will ever be passed into law.


I have listened to a great many speeches in this House, but a more farcical one than that just delivered by the Noble Lord I have never heard. He has spent nearly every possible moment of the time left in demanding of the Government a long and eloquent reply to his speech. I noticed that this afternoon he was very active in standing up in favour of the Motion for Adjournment.

It being Eleven of the Clock, the Motion to report Progress lapsed, without Question, put, and the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.

Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.

The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.

ADJOURNMENT.—Resolved, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Lieut.Colonel Sir R. Sanders.]

Adjourned accordingly at One Minute after Eleven of the Clock.