HC Deb 20 March 1922 vol 152 cc23-4
33. Sir W. DAVISON

asked the Prime Minister when it is proposed to introduce the Irish Free State Constitution Bill; whether the House will be given an opportunity of amending any of the Clauses of the Constitution which have been drafted by the Provisional Government of the Irish Free State, or whether the said Constitution will be embodied in a schedule to the Bill which it will be necessary for the House to accept as a whole or to reject?


The Government have endeavoured to make it clear, both IB. reply to questions on the subject and in the course of the recent Debates, that in accordance with precedent the terms of the constitution will be formulated in Ireland by the Irish Provisional Government. His Majesty's Government must, of course, be afforded an opportunity of satisfying themselves that the Constitution is in conformity with the Treaty. The Constitution and the Treaty will be submitted by the Provisional Government to the Irish people at an election. It will be open to either House of Parliament, immediately the Constitution is published, to challenge the intentions of His Majesty's Government in regard to it. After the Irish people have at an election accepted the Treaty and the Constitution, a Bill will be introduced in this House confirming the Constitution and completing the ratification of the Treaty. Nothing can deprive Parliament of its right to reject or to amend to any extent legislation which is placed before it, but His Majesty's Government will not be able to accept any amendment in conflict with Treaties or agreements which they have concluded with other Governments.


Has the British Parliament, which is giving a constitution to Southern Ireland, not a right to know the terms of the constitution which it is giving before that constitution is submitted to the electorate of Southern Ireland?


Obviously, they have that right.

Lieut.-Colonel A. MURRAY

What is the use of the House of Commons challenging the constitution if the Government has already given its assent to it? Is it not according to precedent, as in the cases of Australia and South Africa, for the constitution to be presented to the House before the Government gives its assent to it?


No, Sir. The House has to give its formal assent to the constitution by a Bill which completes the process of ratifying the Treaty. The House exercises its authority by ratifying or amending as it chooses. The powers of Parliament are absolutely unlimited.

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