HC Deb 27 November 1922 vol 159 cc388-9

Order for Second Reading read.

The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for the COLONIES (Mr. Ormsby-Gore)

I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time"

I am rather doubtful whether in five minutes I can explain the provisions of this consequential Bill, more particularly bearing in mind the phrase that fell from the right hon. Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon) this afternoon, in which he said there was nothing so technical as a layman trying to talk law. This is an omnibus consequential Bill mainly composed of Clauses which have no connection, so my task is not an easy one. I envy the skill shown this afternoon by my learned Friend the Attorney-General in his maiden speech which so struck the House, and on which I venture to congratulate him. The first Clause of this Bill deals with the continued application of the 1920 Act to Northern Ireland. In the event of Northern Ireland exercising its option and continuing outside the Free State, it is necessary, if that option be exercised, as it seems likely it will be, to have machinery ready for the legal continuance of the Northern Government. To begin with, it is necessary that there should be a Governor of Northern Ireland to represent the Crown in Northern Ireland. Under the 1920 Act the same Lord-Lieutenant was to act for Southern Ireland and for Northern Ireland. Now under the Treaty there will be a Governor-General of the Free State, and there must be another officer to act on behalf of the Crown in Northern Ireland. Secondly, the various consequential enactments necessary to bring the Act of 1920 into full operation in Ulster are set out in the First Schedule. There is only one on which I propose to say something, because it is important and constitutes a variation of the Treaty. It is paragraph 3, which deals with the constitution of the Council of Ireland. The proposal which appears in this consequential Bill is a variation of the Treaty, but it comes to this House for its consideration as an agreed Clause—agreed between the Provisional Government of the Free State and the representatives of the Government of Northern Ireland and of the British Government. The three parties, as it were, have agreed to this solution of the problem of the Council of Ireland, namely, that it shall be left without any further intervention from this Parliament to the Parliaments of Northern and Southern Ireland to come to a fresh arrangement, other than was originally proposed, by the passing of identic Acts. A time limit has been put in of five years. It is presumed that something must happen within that five years. If not, of course, fresh legislation will be required here, but it is unthinkable that some arrangement will not be come to by the passing of identic Acts for the North and the South, or that they will not be able to come together and thresh the matter out. The Government are anxious to invite Parliament to leave it free to Ireland to make the best-possible arrangement.

The second Clause of the Bill deals entirely with the provision for Judges. It has been prepared by a Committee which carefully examined it. All the parties concerned have been consulted by the Committee which sat under the late Home Secretary (Mr. Shortt), and the Government have taken over the proposals therein contained. Clause 3 deals with a somewhat different problem. An undertaking was given by the late Government to provide cottages and land for ex-service men. We are in honour bound as a Parliament here to continue to undertake that obligation, and this Clause provides for such continuance. Clauses 4 and 5 are necessarily consequential provisions which will be needed, directly the Free State comes into full force, to prevent duplicate taxation or the like. I am afraid I shall have to continue my exposition of this Bill when the Debate is resumed.

It being a Quarter past Fight of the Clock, and leave having been given to?move the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 10, further Proceeding was postponed, without Question put.