That it is expedient for the purpose of any Act of the present Session to provide for the better government of Ireland,—
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."
§ Mr. HOGGE
It is a rather tall order to ask the House to-night to pass this Resolution, which we discussed so recently as Friday afternoon last at some length and in considerable detail, and when the reply we received from the Government was not such as to assure us that we were making a contribution in finance that was reasonable so far as this House was concerned. On that afternoon I raised the question, among other things, of the destruction of property in Ireland, and I had the agreement of my light hon. Friend the Member for Duncairn (Sir E. Carson) in estimating the damage that had been done to property in that country at £2,000,000. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Duncairn (Sir E. Carson) said that I had vastly underestimated the amount of the damages. We were told by my right hon. Friend the Minister without Portfolio (Sir L. Worthington-Evans) that, as a matter of fact, these damages will have really no effect upon his estimate—which, the House will remember, was made as far back as May, 1920—in so far as these damages are recoverable from the ratepayers in the locality in which the damage was done At Question time to-day a question was put down about these damages, and I myself put a supplementary 1510 question to the Chancellor of the Exchequer as to who would be responsible for the damage, supposing that they could not be collected from the ratepayers. That question was disposed of by a wave of the hand. As a matter of fact, it is common knowledge, apart altogether from any bias on either side of the House, that a very considerable amount of damage has occurred in Ireland as a result of the political situation. Balbriggan is a case which has been mentioned in this House on more than one occasion—
§ Mr. SPEAKER
How does that come under this Resolution? This Resolution deals with the Government of Ireland Bill. I do not see how Balbriggan, or any other place, comes under that.
§ Mr. HOGGE
The reason why I suggest it to you, very respectfully, is that under this Resolution we are taking a sum of £18,000,000 as the contribution from Ireland to the Imperial Exchequer. That £18,000,000 is arrived at by taking the difference between the expenditure for Irish services and the revenue which is to be derived from Ireland. The revenue which is to be derived from Ireland is, of course, collected from Irish sources, and if those Irish sources are depleted as a result of the destruction of property and business in Ireland, it is obvious that the £18,000,000 cannot be obtained.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
It is rather difficult to follow that, and rather indirect. Supposing that the Government of Ireland Bill does not go on at all, the Balbriggan indemnity will still be payable, according to the hon. Member's argument. This Balbriggan indemnity is quite independent of the Government of Ireland Bill, and any discussion on the Bill has nothing to do with the Balbriggan indemnity.
§ Mr. HOGGE
I would respectfully suggest this: It is quite true that, whether the Bill goes on or not, the Balbriggan indemnity will require to be levied upon the ratepayers in the Balbriggan district; but if property in the Balbriggan district, to take one example only, is destroyed, then the revenue estimated to be derivable from Ireland cannot be obtained. Obviously, for instance, if a factory, as in the case of Balbriggan, is burned down and the business destroyed, no taxes can be collected from that subject; and that is the case not only in Balbriggan but in many other parts of Ireland. My case 1511 would be that my right hon. Friend the Minister without Portfolio has overestimated by a very long way the amount of revenue that will be derivable from Ireland, and that, in voting this money, we are voting altogether a false sum.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I am afraid I do not follow the hon. Member now. The objection which he has is that the sum which it is suggested that Ireland shall pay is too large, but I fail to see that Balbriggan has anything to do with it whatever.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I do not agree to that at all. I do not acknowledge that. I say it is the hon. Member's argument.
§ Mr. HOGGE
I will remove the case of Balbriggan from the argument with pleasure. My argument is that this Financial Resolution is based upon a series of figures which assume that Ireland is able to pay out of revenue a certain sum. We hold that certain events which have occurred have made it absolutely impossible for that sum to be realisable, and, therefore, this Financial Resolution; which suggests that £18,000,000 will be the amount that Ireland makes in Imperial contribution to this country, is not to be realised, and is not likely to be realised, and that, therefore, we ought to have from the Minister in charge some facts which are brought up to date. The Minister in charge of the Resolution on Friday gave in support of his argument figures which had been brought out in a White Paper dated May, 1920. That means that those figures were arrived at long before May, 1920, assuming that some three months were taken to get them out, since these sources of revenue from which you can derive payment from Ireland have seriously diminished, and before we proceed with the financial clauses of the Home Rule Bill we ought as a business transaction to be in a position to know how much we really are to pay. I suggest that before we agree to this we ought to have some argument advanced from 1512 the other side to prove that this will be all that we are required to pay. I remember that the other day the right hon. Gentleman said that some £9,250,000 were reserved to the Irish Exchequer, or the two Parliaments, out of the surplus, and he suggested that that would be sufficient to cover any exigencies of that kind. Those figures were challenged by the right hon. Member for Duncairn (Sir E. Carson), who said he doubted very much whether that £9,250,000 would ever be available for that purpose. Those of us who are not Irishmen and are not intimate with the financial figures cannot say, one way or the other, whether that is true or not, but I am suggesting that, before we agree to the Report stage of the Resolution, we ought really to know whether those figures are ample to cover the outside figure named by the right hon. Gentleman. I could not agree to the Report stage of the Resolution unless he can assure the House and give arguments and figures in favour of his belief that we can limit the contribution of Ireland to this country to £18,000,000.
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
I want to make one last protest against this Financial Resolution. The £18,000,000 that, in theory, we are going to extract from Ireland under this arrangement, I do not believe can possibly stand Opinion in all parts of Ireland and of all States is quite opposed to it, and the Government will have to modify it. I do not think for one thing that the proposed system of taxation, where you have one body in Ireland able to levy Death Duties and unable to levy Income Tax, and this Parliament able to levy Income Tax and unable to levy Death Duties, will work. I give that as one example out of many that I could quote, and I am convinced that the whole arrangement we are now discussing will not last, and will have to be modified. I rather think when the final Resolution is come to, and I hope seriously it will be soon, we shall have very seriously to discuss the question of the Imperial contribution from Ireland, especially in regard to the so-called War Debt. I spoke very briefly upon this matter on the last occasion, and I seem to have been taken up on that point by the right hon. Gentleman (Sir L. Worthington-Evans). I do not think we can ask logically for a direct contribution from Ireland if she 1513 is made fiscally independent of this country. Any system of self-government in Ireland—and I do not wish to be controversial now—that is going to work must maintain her fiscal independence. If under those conditions the Irish fiscal system provides for its own war invalids, and pensions for widows, and if in addition they undertake to be responsible for the payment of interest on War Loan held by Irishmen whose normal place of residence is in Ireland; and if Ireland, as I hope, makes some direct contribution for her own defence, then a poor country such as she is, without great industries except in one part, will be doing pretty well by us. Although it may seem a tall order to say that in future we shall not receive a direct contribution from Ireland, I think that if we come to discuss the matter in a businesslike way it will be found that a solution such as I suggest will be the best. From discussion I have had with Irishmen of all shades of opinion during the Recess on the financial provisions of the Bill, I think I am right in saying that Irish opinion generally inclines towards that solution. There is going to be a great re-adjustment of war debts everywhere. We shall all have to alter our ideas about war debt. There is going to be a wiping off of more debts between our Allies and possibly between this country and the Dominions. I am told that President Wilson came over to the Peace Conference with a plan approved by the American Cabinet for wiping out the War Debt of France and England with America, but owing to what happened in Paris he was so disillusioned that he went back with that plan in his pocket, and it would be impossible now to get a Cabinet in America to carry it through. I only mention this as an illustration of the way in which we shall have to adjust these debts, and I think that in laying down this contribution of £18,000,000 from Ireland we are making a mistake which we shall have to correct in the future.
This Financial Resolution provides for the erection of Parliament buildings and buildings for Government Departments, and it also provides that a certain amount of money 1514 can be expended on those buildings; "such money as shall be certified by the Joint Exchequer Board." This Resolution contemplates the possibility of there being no Parliament for Southern Ireland. If there is no Parliament for Southern Ireland, there will be no Exchequer for Southern Ireland, and if there is no Exchequer for Southern Ireland there will be no Joint Exchequer Board, and if there is no Joint Exchequer Board apparently there will not be any authority able to certify money for the erection of Parliament buildings. I should like to ask the Minister without Portfolio if he will explain how that difficulty is to be got over.
§ Sir LAMING WORTHINGTON EVANS (Minister without Portfolio)
The hon. Member has questioned me about a sort of house that Jack built, and finally sought to prove that there will be no Joint Exchequer Board. Under the Amendment on the Paper known as the First Lord's Amendment, there will always be a parliament in Southern Ireland and Northern Ireland. If the electors do not elect a parliament then a parliament will be nominated, and having been nominated there will be a representative of Southern or Northern Ireland, as the case may be, on the Joint Exchequer Board. The Joint Exchequer Board will function exactly as under the Bill. The speeches of hon. Members repeat more or less points which were raised on Friday, and as I replied to these points on Friday I do not think that it would be fair to ask the House to listen to me again.
§ The remaining Government Orders were read and postponed.
§ Whereupon Mr. SPEAKER, pursuant to the Order of the House of 19th October, proposed the Question, "That this House do now adjourn"
§ Adjourned accordingly at Twenty-two minutes after Eleven o'clock.