HC Deb 27 October 1920 vol 133 cc1847-51

(1) This Act may be cited as the Emergency Powers Act, 1920.

(2) This Act shall not apply to Ireland.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

I beg to move, to leave out Sub-section (2).

That Sub-section states "this Act shall not apply to Ireland" and I should very much like to know why that is so. If the Government of Ireland Bill had been placed on the Statute Book, I would have moved to amend this Sub-section to say that it was not to apply to Southern Ireland. I can in a way understand why the Government do not apply this Bill to the South and West. But why is this Bill, with all its virtues and which has been received with such joy by the supporters of the Government not been applied to Northern Ireland? We are told that everything in the North-East of Ireland is perfectly peaceful and one would almost think that they never have strikes in Belfast. I seem to remember a rather drastic strike which occurred in Belfast last year, when a Soviet formed of trade union leaders took complete charge of Belfast and ran all the public services for the relief of the inhabitants. I remember also that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Duncairn (Sir E. Carson), who, I am sorry to see, is not in his place when his country is being discussed, tried to intervene in that strike, and was sent to the rightabout very quickly. There was great solidarity of labour on that occasion, and the strike was very orderly or comparatively orderly. Belfast was a paradise when the Soviet had control compared to what it was during the religious riots. The North-East of Ulster is industrialised, and if this Bill is all the Government says it is and a heaven-sent piece of legislation for securing milk for babies and food for nursing mothers, why is it not being applied to Ireland? I think it was the Attorney-General who spoke for the first time since the Armistice about women and children.

I should like to know if hon. Members from Ireland who have voted consistently with the Government for this Bill are going to support the proposal that it shall not apply to Ireland. I see an hon. and gallant Member present (Major Malone), who, although he does not sit for an Irish constituency, is an Irishman and represents one of the London divisions. Is he going to support this proposal that the Bill shall not apply to Ireland? I have not seen him once in our Lobby. Is it the case that the Government do not really care what happens in Ireland? We know that over great areas in Ireland the railways are stopped and parties of armed military and police were sent on to the trains in order to break down the resistance of the railway men. We know that for some time that policy was dropped, but the Minister for Transport went over to Ireland recently and told the Railway Executive that they were not going to have that nonsense, and ever since parties of armed soldiers and police have been applying for passage in trains, and railway servants who do not carry them are dismissed. Apparently the Government, from statements in this House, view with complete composure the stoppage of the whole economic life of Ireland if only it can break down the Sinn Fein party. Is that why they do not apply this Bill to Ireland, or is it because there is no law of any sort in Ireland except the law of the bayonet and the knout? I would like an explanation from the Government. I am sorry to see that on a Bill of this importance that the Chief Secretary and the Attorney-General for Ireland and the Solicitor-General are not present. I hope the Home Secretary, who, I presume, had something to do with the drafting of this Bill, though I cannot understand why he and not the Food Minister had his name on the back of it, will tell us why this proposal—

Major P. D. MALONE

In answer to the challenge of the hon. and gallant Member, I have to state that I am not going into the same Lobby as that into which he intends to go on this occasion. No doubt he is influenced by the name that I bear and by the influence that he has had over my namesake on the Benches opposite.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

I wish I had.


Although I bear that honourable name, I will not go into the Lobby with the hon. and gallant Gentleman.

Amendment negatived.

Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill, as amended, be reported to the House."

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

Would I be in order now in opposing the Report stage being taken?

The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Mr. J. W. Wilson)

That will come later.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill reported, with Amendments.

Bill, as amended, considered.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

Am I in order in protesting against the Report stage being taken now? Although I have searched through Erskine May, it is not absolutely there laid down that the Report stage of a Bill that has been drastically amended in Committee shall not be taken on the same day, but it does say that it is not usual, except with the general consent of the House. The Amendments made in Committee on this Bill have been very far-reaching, and the phraseology is complicated, and I think we ought at least to see the Bill as amended in print before proceeding with the Report stage. I say that there is not the general consent of the House to take the Report stage now, and I think I could muster 60 hon. Members in the Lobby against taking it.

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Sir E. Cornwall)

I think there was the general consent of the House to taking the Report stage now.