§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Bonar Law)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
I wish, first of all, to express, on behalf of the Government, our great regret that the time for dealing with this Bill, the Second Reading of which I now rise to move, and with the consequential Bill, which will be moved by my hon. Friend the representative of the Colonial Office, is so short. I think that any Government elected would have realised that if a really great calamity was to be prevented, this Bill should be passed by the 6th December. The House understands what has led up to this position. Under the Treaty, and the subsequent Act in the early part of this year, the Provisional Government set up in Ireland comes automatically to an end unless this Bill passes by the 6th December. That, of course, means, so far at least as the Constitution Bill is concerned, it is practically, if not completely, impossible to alter it, for this reason, that, under the Treaty, the Constitution -had to be ratified by the Parliament in Ireland and also by this Parliament. It has already been ratified by the Irish Parliament, and, obviously, no change we made here could be valid unless it were subsequently agreed to in the Irish Parliament. In these circumstances, it would be almost impossible, even if it were desirable, to have this done. But, as a matter of fact, I think the objection was more apparent than real. The circumstances are such that, in my belief, so far as the Government are concerned, and indeed so far as the House of Commons is concerned, our liberty of action is circumscribed within the narrowest limits. The late British Parliament gave its approval to the Treaty, but what in a sense is even more important, we have just had the verdict of the country as a whole, and I am sure I am right in saying that no political party, and, so far as I know, no individual Member or candidate, took any other view than that this Treaty must be given a chance, and everyone desires that that should be done.
328 In these circumstances, we are limited to a single consideration. Does the Constitution comply with this Treaty, or does it not? In my judgment, that is the sole consideration that can come before the House of Commons to-day. It is obvious that in dealing with a matter of that kind, it is very difficult for an ordinary layman to come to a conclusion as to the extent to which certain words fit in with other words in another document. Rightly or wrongly, that has always been considered to be the special function of a class which usually has been well represented in this House. As an ordinary layman, I should myself have said that the single fact that the second Clause in the Irish Constitution lays it down that anything in the Constitution which is contrary to the Treaty is null and void, would of itself make the Constitution in accordance with the Treaty. But it is not on that ground; it is not on the ground of any examination I have made myself that I ask the House to allow this Constitution Bill to go through exactly as it stands. My first act on undertaking to form a Government was to find out what had been the legal opinion of the advisers of the late Government on that point. There was no doubt about it. The Law Officers declared that the Constitution was in accordance with the Treaty, but in connection with what was done by the late Government there is another fact which, I think, will have a certain amount of weight The Lord Chief Justice had by that time ceased to be a member of the Government. He occupied the second highest judicial position in this country, and, as the Lord Chancellor sometimes takes an interest in politics, he may be said to hold the highest judicial office outside politics. I think he has shown his public spirit, for he was entirely independent of the Government, and in no way obliged to do it. He undertook to go over, with the representatives of the Free State Government, the terms of the Constitution, but of course the House knows the Constitution, as originally presented to the late Government, was not in accordance with the Treaty. That was not owing in any way to bad faith, but there must always be a difference of opinion in cases of this kind. But what was done was that Lord Hewart, working with the legal representatives of the Irish Free State, went over all the points in 329 dispute, and they came to a settlement, and I am glad to state he has authorised me to say, in his opinion, also, the Constitution is in accordance with the Treaty. I asked our own Law Officers to examine the same question, and they gave the same opinion. In these circumstances, it seems to me that the legal opinion of such high officers, and representing, so far as politics are concerned, such different views, ought to commend itself to this House, as it does to me, as something which in itself is almost final.
It is really on this ground that I commend the Second Reading of the Bill to the House, but I want to say a little more about the wording of the Constitution. I daresay many Members of the House— and I confess I am one of them—if they had been reading the Constitution with a free mind, would say that there are expressions as to the meaning of Dominion status which they would rather not see in. But there is another reason also which influences many people, and certainly influences me. It must be remembered, of course that the drafting of the Constitution by the Irish Free State was, I think, implied in the Treaty, and, as a matter of fact, the Constitutions of Canada, Australia and of South Africa were all drafted in those Dominions, so that there is nothing in that to cause any exception. But the other consideration I have in my mind is this. Our Constitution—not only the Constitution of this country, but the relations of this country to the Dominions —is not a written Constitution. If you were to pass an Act of Parliament to define any of our actions, you would discover that the practice had completely changed from that which is found in the Statute, to such an extent that I think it would be generally agreed—the words are, I think, Professor Dicey's—that the prerogative of the Crown had largely become the privilege of the people. It is exactly the same in our relation to the Dominions. If we were to take the statutory expression as to what those relations are, it is obvious that you would find that they were entirely out of touch with the actual state of things to-day.
There is another observation I should like to make. The part played by the great Dominions in the War has really made an immense difference in their relationship with this country as a whole. 330 It is not only that difference, but they are themselves conscious of the change which the War has brought about. So much is this the case, that at the last Imperial Conference there was a lengthy discussion as to whether or not some attempt should not be made to define by resolution what the present relations of the Dominions to the Mother Country were. I am glad to say the Dominions' Prime Ministers unanimously came to the conclusion that any such attempt would be unwise, and might be disastrous—a view I entirely share. That leads to the consideration which, I am sure, will be in the mind of every section of the House. If there were an attempt resulting from this Irish Constitution to define by Statute what the relations of the Dominions are, it would not be merely a question between us and Southern Ireland. It would be a question of the most far-reaching importance, and I do not hesitate to say that the very fact that the Dominions have grown in stature as the result of the War makes it more necessary than ever it was before that, when the new influence which they ought to exercise on our whole, policy has no fixed machinery for carrying it out, nothing should be done to suggest that their powers are less than we know them to be, and they believe them to be. I say, therefore, without hesitation, that if this Parliament were to pass an Act which attempted to limit the powers of the Dominions, according to Statute, it would re-echo all through the Dominions, and would be one of the most dangerous things that could happen.
I am quite sure that hon. Members will agree with me that there is no need for much discussion. I do not think it is necessary to say more. I commend the Bill to the House, obviously with little fear as to the result. I recommend it, too, without any expression of exaggerated hope—though certainly no words that I could use would be stronger than I feel—I commend the Bill in the hope that what we desire will be in every way realised. I hope the House will not object to my reading one or two sentences from the speech which I made a year ago, for it shows that from the first I have fully realised how difficult the task was:I think there is a feeling all through the Empire of rejoicing, but there is going to be a reaction from all this.… It is absurd to think that we have settled the Irish questions when both Parliaments have agreed to this. Ireland is in a state of demoralisa- 331 tion and chaos as great as ever has been in almost any country. That is not going to be changed by waving a wand. There are going to be terrible difficulties, but I see this prospect for us. I do not think it is our fault, but it is our misfortune that we have never had that moral support from the South of Ireland. There is at least the possibility that these people may get it; that if they do not get it to-day or to-morrow, or next year, they may get it some time, and they may restore civilised conditions to Ireland." [OFFICIAL, REPORT, 15th December, 1921: Cols. 208–209, Vol. 149.]That is exactly the position to-day. It is a struggle for good relationship with this country and for peace in Ireland. I am quite sure that every one in this House will agree with me that we on this side can do nothing to help, but might very well do a great deal to hinder, not only by criticism, but even by expressing our sympathy. They have got to work it out for themselves. The one hope that I may express—on which I fee! strongly— is that there may be that moral support behind this new Government which we never had during 700 years, and that in that case there may be good relations between the two Governments. Believe me, Mr. Speaker, whether or not this Treaty and Bill which I am anxious for the House to adopt succeed, we hope sincerely they will. I am sure of this, not only the whole of this House, but the whole of this country, will feel—putting it on the very lowest grounds—that we must not give any excuse to the people of Ireland for thinking that we are not doing our part. We must give no excuse for that. Why should we? I am sure the feeling is deep-rooted in every one in this House that peace may come out of this. I say that no good but only harm will come of criticism; but I think I am justified in saying that I trust that the Members of the Provisional Government do think that they are getting public opinion behind them. Let me quote words which made a great impression on me, the words of Mr. Cosgrave, now-head of the Provisional Government, who, as he left me on one occasion, said: "Whatever happens to my colleagues or myself "—and the House knows what he meant by that—"whatever happens to us, the people of Ireland are determined upon peace with this country, and they know that peace can only be got by the loyal observance of the Treaty on both sides." Not only those who, like myself, have been in favour of the present course 332 and who, if it succeeds, will get no credit, but those who have been bitterly opposed will rejoice as deeply and as wholeheartedly if it turns out the success that we all earnestly desire.
§ Mr. RAMSAY MacDONALD
I desire to associate myself with what the right hon. Gentleman has said. The less said about this Bill the better. Criticism is useless. Sympathy is dangerous. All that this House can now do in relation to Irish Government is to implement its part of the Agreement and to allow this Bill to become law. Though I may be allowed to echo what the right hon. Gentleman has said about the difficulties that it may create of a much wider character than merely the difficulty of defining the exact relations between Ireland and ourselves, I hope the time will never come when there will be any attempt made to define in rigid legal formulæ the relationships between the different parts of this self-governed Empire. The one safety of the Empire is that the relationships shall remain organic rather than legal. I hope that the phrases that, of necessity I think, have had to be used in this Bill may be allowed to remain there and may not be taken out of it in another place. I welcome the Bill however for a reason which I think will not be at all considered inappropriate. Those who have read the Bill with modern democratic ideas in mind will have been much struck with the extraordinary number of new experiments that the Irish Government proposes to make. Surely it is one of the greatest aids to modern government that the Irish Government should make those experiments. We have had, for instance, this question of the functioning of government, and so on. As a student of these things, as one who sees years go on and our old conceptions of democracy and democratic forms requiring modification, surely we will welcome these experiments! I hope they will be successful. Beyond that I am not going, except to say I share the hope of the right hon. Gentleman that this is going to bring a spirit of happiness and a spirit of co-operation that all our past experiments in relation to the government of Ireland have failed to give. However dangerous it may be even to sympathise, it is not dangerous, and will not be regarded as objectionable by the Irish Government, when we say to them now, as 333 we say of our labours here: "May the blessing of the Almighty rest upon them, for they are dealing with problems which are almost outside the scope of human skill."
§ Colonel GRETTON
I do not rise for the purpose of moving the rejection of the Bill or giving any hostile criticism. The Treaty has been passed and accepted, and it is far too late for anyone in this House to challenge the terms of this Treaty. As the Prime Minister has said, all that remains to be done is to consider whether the Bill and the Constitution in the Bill are within the four corners of the Treaty. There are several questions of great importance arising out of these considerations, and I propose—if the House will bear with me for a very few minutes—to attempt to deal with a few of them, inadequately, I am afraid, because these matters are very largely legal questions in which a layman is at a great disadvantage. I find in the first Article of the Constitution thatThe Irish Free State … is a coequal member of the community of nations forming the British Commonwealth of Nations.I think in this phraseology there is a notable departure from the words which wore used in the Treaty, which says:Ireland shall have the same constitutional status in the community of nations known as the British Empire as the Dominion of Canadaand the other Dominions. Why is this departure made? Article 2 says:All powers of government and all authority legislative, executive, and judicial in Ireland are derived from the people of Ireland.The phraseology of that Article is quite contrary to the Constitutions set up in His Majesty's Dominions of Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. There all the powers of the Constitution were derived from the Act of the British Parliament, conferring and establishing certain rights on and constitutions in those Dominions. I will deal a little later, if I may, with the state of things in Ireland. I am not challenging, I do not wish to challenge, the good faith of those who form the Provisional Government in Ireland, and I am not questioning their desire or intention to carry out the Treaty for which they stand. But it should always be remembered that, in respect to 334 democratic Governments, policies change, and that Governments that follow are not bound of necessity by their predecessors. There may be, and probably will be in Ireland, Governments holding other views—and, it may be, very different views—of questions arising out of the Treaty than at present held by the Provisional Government. Therefore, I submit that it is important that great care should be taken to see that the Constitution of which this House approves is in conformity with the Treaty entered into. Before I pass from Article 2 I would ask the House to consider how the two Articles stand. If the Republican Party in Ireland gained the ascendancy and made up its mind to establish a republic. [An HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear!"] Yes, but I think the House will see clearly that under those two Articles there is a definite foundation for the establishment of a republic.
I will pass to the Third Article in the Constitution, which deals with the question of citizenship. Hitherto there has been no citizenship established by any Act of any Constitution in any part of His Majesty's Dominions, and all British subjects hold their status as subjects of the British Crown, whatever their nationality or race, or in whatever part of the Dominions they may reside. In this Third Article there is to be set up something quite new and different which must raise the very serious constitutional question of the relationship of the Irish Free State citizens and British subjects. Article 3 proposes to enact thatEvery person, without distinction of sex domiciled in the area of the jurisdiction of the Irish Free State, at the time of the coming into operation of this Constitution, who was born in Ireland or either of whose parents was born in Ireland, or who has been ordinarily resident in the area of the jurisdiction of the Irish Free State for not less than seven yeans, is a citizen of the Irish Free State, and shall within the limits of the jurisdiction of the Irish Free State enjoy the privileges and be subject to the obligations of such citizenship; provided that any such person being a citizen of another State may elect not to accept the citizenship hereby conferred; and the conditions governing the future acquisition and termination of citizenship in the Irish Free State shall be determined by law.That is something quite new. There is no mention in that Article of any provision as to the status of the British subject. That is a matter which I wish to 335 bring to the attention of the Law Officers, and I invite them to explain what will be the status of the citizens of the new Irish Free State as British subjects? Will they be British subjects in all parts of the world? Will they be British subjects in the United Kingdom and in our Dominions when they travel abroad, or when they go to foreign countries outside His Majesty's Dominions? Another question arises of equal importance, and it is, What will be the status of a British subject when he goes to Ireland? Under this new Free State he will not have the rights conferred by this Constitution. He will not have rights as a citizen of the Free State under Article 7, which provides:The dwelling of each citizen is inviolable, and shall not be forcibly entered except in accordance with law.He will not have the advantages or the privileges of Article 10, which provides:All citizens of the Irish Free State have the right to free elementary education.Neither will he be able to enjoy the rights and privileges of the franchise. He will not be eligible for a judgeship or any office requiring citizenship under the Free State. This is a matter of first-class importance. I want to know clearly what will be the status of a British subject under the Irish Constitution. There are some other points of importance which, if the House will bear with me, I will endeavour very shortly to deal with. There is Article 5. This is perhaps a matter which many hon. Members think is not of much importance. Article 5 provides:No title of honour in respect of any services rendered in or in relation to the Irish Free State may be conferred on any citizen of the Irish Free State except with the approval or upon the advice of the Executive Council of the State.I think that is a distinct breach of the privilege and prerogative of the Crown. Why should such a provision be inserted? Then there is the provision made in Clause 7 of the Articles of Agreement which provides:The Government of the Irish Free State shall afford to His Majesty's Imperial Forces:
Then I find that Article 49 of the Constitution is in the following terms:
- (a) In time of peace such harbour and other facilities as are indicated in the Annex hereto, or such other facilities as may from time to time be agreed between the British Government and the Government of the Irish Free State; and
- (b) In time of war or of strained relations with a foreign Power such harbour and other facilities as the British Government may require for the put-poses of such defence as aforesaid."Save in the case of actual invasion, the Irish Free State shall not be permitted to active participation in any war without the assent of the Oireachtas.That means the Parliament of the Free State, and therefore it appears to me that these two Clauses are not in agreement. In the first place, under the Treaty it k agreed that the Irish Free State shall afford to the Government of this country harbour and other facilities which it may require in circumstances arising, not only out of a state of war, but in case of a national emergency. That means the use of the harbours and the shore and forms of communication, and it may mean such facilities as wireless telegraphy and cable communication. Article 49 lays down that none of these things can be done without the previous sanction of the Irish Parliament. In time of war or in case of a national emergency there is no time to wait for the assembling of Parliament, and consequently delay would arise in obtaining consent, and there is some doubt whether that, consent might be obtained.
No State can allow military facilities to another State and remain neutral, and by providing communications and facilities of this sort, such a State actually becomes a participator in the acts of war, and can no longer be described as neutral. I, therefore, submit that Article 49 is not in conformity with the terms of the Treaty, and should be either amended or expunged from the Constitution. If I am wrong in my contention I shall be glad to be enlightened, and I should like to hear the opinion on which the Government have acted in accepting Article 49. I do not think I need to raise the question of the appeal to the Privy Council. That is a complicated legal matter, but it is quite clear that there must be some supreme authority to deal with points of law which may arise under this Constitution. The Prime Minister says the Government rely upon the Clause which states that anything not in conformity with the Constitution shall become null and void and have no effect, but who is going to decide that point? Who is 337 going to decide whether by any legislation or any act of administration or failure to take action, according to the terms of the Treaty or the Constitution, there has been such a violation as will render such acts null and void?
It is said that the Privy Council has to decide these matters. I know that there are constantly a number of cases being referred to the Privy Council from the Dominions, and it is true that in the case of Canada, by the Act of 1886, a Supreme Court was set up in Canada which overrides the previous unlimited appeal to the Privy Council of this country. In practice, however, many matters are referred to the Privy Council by leave and by permission, and that is the Constitutional form. All matters of general importance dealing with large questions affecting a large number of persons in Canada and our Dominions are decided by the Privy Council, and I think the same privilege should obtain in Ireland, more especially as in Ireland there is some doubt as to what is the actual status of a British subject under the Irish Constitution. This is a point which requires to be carefully considered before this Bill is passed.
I come to observations of a rather marc general kind. I would like to ask with whom are we making this Treaty? Upon whom are we conferring this Constitution? I would also like to know whether the Constitution which Parliament is now being asked to pass is to be accepted as a final settlement. That is a very large point. I am not speaking as an advocate, and I am trying to state the case as impartially as I can, and I am basing my argument upon well-known and established facts. There are large bodies of people in Ireland who certainly do not accept this Treaty or this Constitution as a final settlement of the Irish question. The Minister for Local Government under the Provisional Government (Mr. Ernest Blythe) himself said:We all hold and believe that the Treaty may be annulled. We all hold that, when the Irish Nation wishes, when it finds it advantageous, it may annul, on proper notice, any Treaty it has entered into. We regard this as fundamental.The Minister for Homo Affairs in the Provisional Government (Mr. O'Higgins) said:There has been much said about this Treaty to the effect that there was duress. Undoubtedly there was duress. The Irish 338 people have taken this Treaty as the best thing they could do in the circumstances of the time. Now I hold that, in the case of the Treaty, and I think in what I am going to say now I am expressing the mind of a great many people throughout the country, that, in the case of a Treaty signed under circumstances and conditions like that, that position is simply that at any moment in the future the majority will of the Irish Nation can publicly and absolutely, without dishonour, repudiate that Treaty if they consider it wise to do so.The Minister for Local Government (Mr. Ernest Blythe) further said:I decided to vote for the Treaty … I believe it contains the principle of growth, and because of that I believe through the Treaty position Ireland can work forward to complete nationhood.5.0 P.M.
It has been stated again and again by supporters of the Government that this Treaty is simply regarded by a very large number of people in Ireland as a stepping stone to complete severance of the British connection. If that is so—and I think it cannot be contested—there is all the more reason why we should be exceedingly careful that we do not go in any degree in this Constitution outside the terms of the Treaty. The Government in Ireland itself—and I am not now offering any criticisms upon that Government—is by no means firmly established. It is surrounded by enemies. There is a very strong and very active Republican party in Ireland which may at any time succeed in overthrowing it. There is a strong Labour party supported by the Transport Workers' Union and other bodies, which is certainly against this Constitution being treated as a final settlement, and which believes it can be used effectively, at no very distant day, to set up an independent kingdom entirely separate from the United Kingdom. Speeches made in the debates in the Dail have been of a more extreme and advanced character. I think I am therefore justified in saying that we are asked to make this arrangement on an exceedingly insecure and uncertain foundation.
The Prime Minister has admitted that the South of Ireland is in a state of chaos which is deplorable. It is so, and that condition gets worse month by month and week by week. There has been a steady deterioration in the moral character of the people in Southern Ireland. Look at the nature of the crimes—the assassination of political opponents, brutal and unmentionable attacks on women and 339 children, and the smaller crimes of burnings, mutilations of cattle, and robbery. It is true that you can find here and there small districts which are not affected by these crimes, and whore the people are living in comparative security, but these districts are not large and they are the exception to the general rule prevailing throughout the country. In the capital of Southern Ireland itself scenes of disorder and violence occur every day. People are constantly held up in the streets by men armed with revolvers and robbed. There is not the faintest protection. Houses are entered and looted on the outskirts of the city, and day and night there is firing and fighting, sometimes of a very violent character, in the streets of Dublin itself. Since the 26th June, the date of the battle at the Four Courts, Dublin, ordinary outrages have increased and are growing worse. There is, too, the desecration and burning of churches hitherto unknown in Ireland, and outrages on women are of constant occurrence. I have a list of such cases which came into my hands only a few days ago. A newly married young woman, the wife of a man resident in this country, went over to visit her relations in one of the disturbed parts of Ireland, and within 48 hours the house in which she was living was entered and she was outraged by four men and left in a terrible condition.
§ Colonel GRETTON
I am not going to give any name. Obviously I cannot expose these people to further outrages.
§ Colonel GRETTON
And if I gave the name of the town I might lay these people open to further attacks.
§ Colonel GRETTON
I only withhold them in order to protect these people against further attacks and outrages. Their lives, indeed, might be in danger if I gave names. [An HON. MEMBER: "We 340 do not believe you!"] Large bodies of people in this House and in this country will believe that I do not make statements except on good authority. I have heard of another case of a man resident in Ireland who, on returning to his home after a few days' absence, found his daughter tied naked to a tree near the door. She had been outraged by four men and was in a deplorable condition. The unfortunate man was so desperate—
§ Mr. WHEATLEY
Is it in order for an hon. Member to make scandalous assertions like this against a respectable section of His Majesty s subjects without producing any evidence to support them?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Gentleman is quite within his rights in withholding names, and so is the hon. Member who has raised the question, but the rule here is to listen to opposing opinions.
§ Colonel GRETTON
My charge is a general charge of disorder in the South of Ireland—disorder which affects the lives and property of persons. I am making no charge against any individual. I have carefully refrained from doing so.
§ Mr. McENTEE
Is it not a fact that the honour of women is held infinitely higher by the people in Ireland than by the people of this country?
§ Colonel GRETTON
It no doubt was the case two or three years ago that the feeling as regards women in Ireland was as described by the hon. Member, but it is so no longer, and so far as morality is concerned,.Southern Ireland is falling into a terrible state—[An HON. MEMBER: "It is not true!'] I could give many more cases, for they are of common occurrence. Then it is well known that the railways— the Great Southern and Western and some parts of the Midland and Great Western—have been subjected to much destruction. Hon. Members can easily ascertain that if they endeavour to travel 341 by those lines. Signal boxes have been burned, bridges destroyed, rails torn up, and the railway communication in Southern Ireland is no longer reliable. Many parts of the country can only be reached by goods and passengers travelling along insecure roads. Some parts of Southern Ireland are in actual danger of famine and starvation during the coming winter owing to the breakdown of the ordinary communications, such is the state of chaos that prevails. In many districts roving bands, sometimes calling themselves Free Staters, sometimes Republicans, and sometimes having no name at all, enter houses and take away what they want. [An HON. MEMBER: "The Black and Tans did that!"] I am trying to explain what is happening now. I am trying to point out the kind of foundation on which this House is now endeavouring to set up a new Constitution in Southern Ireland. These facts must be admitted by everyone who knows the country. One charge is that previous Governments and the Press have not kept the people informed of what is going on in Ireland. I have here a statement from the columns of the "Irish Times," which shows that a measure of censorship is still exercised over the Press in this matter. I will read the headings of the reports of outrages on two days:
342 Mr. Cosgrave himself stated in a speech:
- 4th November.
- War on Railways. Train derailed and lines destroyed.
- Raids in Dublin Post Offices. Robbery of Rotunda Rink.
- War in Kerry. General destruction.
- Lively Nights in Louth. National troops attacked.
- Bomb works havoc at Ardee.
- Prolonged firing in Dundalk.
- Mail train attacked.
- Messrs. Guinness's offices raided.
- Bridges blown up and signal cabins burned.
- 7th November.
- Big County Cork Fight. Towns lost and won—heavy casualties.
- Cork in darkness.
- Two sailors shot (Cork).
- Man shot in a jail (Limerick).
- Fight in a valley (Waterford). Capture of road mines.
- Ambush victims. Funerals at Dundalk.
- Motor car fired at (Tubbercurry); young man shot dead.
- Bombs in Sligo. Shops wrecked.
- Civic Guard raided (Roscommon). Clothing and handcuffs taken.Unless the criminal situation in the country be dealt with, and it cannot be dealt with by any organisation the Government can set up, it must be dealt with by the healthy and active co-operation of every section of the community.That is an admission that his Government has hitherto been powerless to deal with this deplorable and horrible situation. Southern Ireland is in a state of anarchy and civil war. I think that these facts should be in the mind of the House when it makes its decision whether this Constitution is to be established by law and by an Act of this Parliament. It should be aware that the foundation on which it is building is a shifting and uncertain sand. There are few people who are thoroughly well acquainted with the circumstances of Southern Ireland who have any doubts on this matter. Most of those who know what is going on there from day to day think that nothing can come except further chaos and further misery The Provisional Government itself is, as I am informed, in a bankrupt condition. Its estimated expenditure is notless than £40,000,000, and its estimated revenue, on the most sanguine basis, even if it can collect all the revenues due to it, is not more than £27,000,000. They have not hitherto been able to collect more than £13,000,000, leaving a very large deficiency still to be collected. The larger part of their revenue, in fact the only part of their revenue upon which they can rely in Southern Ireland, is that which is derived from the breweries and distilleries, which have to pay their licence duties.
I have received a letter from a resident in one of the quieter counties in Ireland —one of those which are held to be undisturbed. He is a considerable landowner, but he says that he cannot collect his rents, and is thus without means, so his rates are not paid. [An HON. MEMBER: "Good!"] Yes, but he cannot pay his taxes to the Government, because he has not the means. He cannot pay the death duties, because he cannot sell the land; no one would be willing to buy it under the present conditions. He is, therefore, helpless and unable to pay his taxes. The bank in that part of Ireland where the greater part of the business is done was raided and robbed, and the bankers, therefore, had to stop operations. That from a comparatively quiet and undisturbed part of Ireland, is very 343 significant. I earnestly appeal to the Government to give us some explanation on these very serious questions arising out of the situation which I have endeavoured very inadequately to put before the House for its consideration, and I ask hon. Members to face the facts of the situation, and not to look upon some imaginary Ireland, but upon the actual Ireland as it is to-day. They will then have to consider, in the not unlikely event of this Provisional Government, this Constitution, this Treaty breaking down, what course it will be incumbent upon this country to take in order to establish law and order in the unhappy land of Southern Ireland.
§ Sir JOHN SIMON
The hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just sat down began his speech by saying that he did not propose to invite the House to reject this Bill, and I feel sure that, in making that announcement, he was meeting the general feeling of the House. That being so, I find it a little difficult to understand the exact purpose that is served by his collection of alarming incidents alleged to have occurred in recent months in the South of Ireland. It is much to be desired that this Debate should not be a contest between different sides as to who can pile the largest amount of blame on this quarter or on that for past events in Ireland. It must be clear to the hon. and gallant Gentleman that, if recitals such as he has been giving to the House were to be regarded as the staple of the Debate, then there would be a good deal to be said from other quarters of the House in complaint of other instances of misconduct.
I rise to express, on behalf of myself and my Friends with whom I am associated, our complete concurrence with what the Prime Minister said at the opening of the Debate. He pointed out, and I think it is one of the encouraging features of the situation, that this Constitution is a Constitution which has been drafted in Ireland by Irishmen for Ireland. In that respect it differs from the two Gladstonian schemes, from the Act of 1914, and from the Act of 1920. The procedure that has been followed is, however, by no means a novel or a revolutionary procedure. As the Prime Minister pointed out, the Constitutions under which different parts of 344 our Empire are now working are in a very large measure Constitutions which have been settled on the soil where they were to operate, by the people who were to live under them. The Dominion of Canada, which, in Article 2 of the Treaty, is specially referred to, lives, it is true, under a Constitution which is contained in an Imperial Act; but that Imperial Act did nothing more than embody in legislative form the great collection of Resolutions which had been arrived at in Quebec as a result of long debate and ultimate agreement between the Canadians themselves. The Constitution of Australia is not to be found in any enacting Section of any British Act of Parliament at all. The Constitution of Australia is scheduled to a Statute of 1900, in exactly the same way in which it is proposed that this Irish Constitution should be scheduled to this present Bill. Perhaps the most remarkable case of all is the most recent, for the Constitution of the Union of South Africa was at length arrived at as the result of discussion in South Africa itself, and it was carried through this House, within the recollection of a good many hon. Members, in the year 1909, without the alteration of a single sentence.
It may be suggested that these instances are not exactly in point, because they are all instances of a union which is being effected between areas that hitherto have not been so closely federated; but the principle that Constitutions in our Empire have usually been found to have a permanent basis in the cases where they have been arrived at and settled on the soil affected by them, is by no means limited to the different Federal unions under the British Crown. I believe it would be true to say that Constitutions which promote prosperity and loyalty, and which have been found to be lasting Constitutions for subordinate States in our Empire, have, almost without exception, either actually or virtually, been framed by those who were to live under them themselves. I think that that circumstance may well be set against some of the gloomy records and forebodings of the hon. and gallant Gentleman, for, at any rate, there is a real clement of hope and confidence here, in that this Constitution is not a Constitution which the British Parliament formulates and offers to confer upon Ireland; it is a Constitution which 345 Irishmen themselves have drawn up, and which they now apply to the Imperial Parliament to ratify.
There is a second consideration which, T think, goes a long way. It is not immaterial to note that, since the Treaty was effected and was authorised by this House, there has been, undoubtedly, in this country of England, an increasing support for the scheme embodied in the Treaty. I have noticed, on examining the records, that, when the Bill for the ratification of the Treaty was proposed in the last Parliament, there was a Division, in which 58 Members of the late House voted in the minority. I do not think that that phenomenon will be repeated. At least two Members who voted in that minority have since, like sensible men, become members of His Majesty's present Government, and share the responsibility—I see one of them sitting on the Front Bench now—of recommending this Constitution to the House of Commons. I am the more glad, therefore, to learn from the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just spoken that, so far as he is concerned, and I assume, so far as, his Friends are concerned, they do not propose to divide the House on this Motion.
But there is a third consideration, and I do not think the hon. and gallant Gentleman's view of the matter is the one which best corresponds with the information which reaches many of us from Ireland. I do not believe that the situation in Ireland is going from bad to worse. On the contrary, there are very strong reasons for hoping and supposing that, since the Treaty was signed, the situation as regards acceptance of the Constitution has improved. Let me call attention to these two or three facts. The Treaty was signed on 6th December of last year. When the question of the ratification of that Treaty came before the Dail, as it did very shortly afterwards, it was approved only by the very narrowest majority. It was approved only, I think, by a majority of seven, 64 voting; in favour and 57 against it. That was the situation in the very part of the country which is to be affected by this Constitution less than a year ago, and it is surely obvious that the situation, instead of getting worse, is, in fact, becoming very considerably better. When the elections took place in Southern 346 Ireland last Midsummer, the result of them, as the House knows well, was substantially to increase the demonstration of support for the Treaty. Recent divisions which have taken place in the Dail have shown larger majorities still.
There was a very tragic event which occurred in Ireland in August last which, I believe, did more to consolidate the opinion of Southern Ireland in favour of this Treaty than all the arguments which have been addressed in support of it. When, within the space of a fortnight, Arthur Griffiths died and Michael Collins met his violent death, that tragic combination of circumstances did more to consolidate the opinion of Southern Ireland in favour of accepting this Constitution and honourably working under it even than the boldness which they exhibited in negotiation, and I believe it to be a wholly false picture of the present state of Irish opinion to suggest that they are not prepared to accept this Constitution and to work it honestly and honourably. As far as any indications known to me are concerned, the ratification of this Constitution is not opposed, apparently, by the Southern Unionists of Ireland, who suffered terribly in recent months and years, but who, none the less, do not apparently resist that which the House is now asked to accomplish.
That being so, the question really comes back to the simple and practical question which the Prime Minister put in his opening remarks. I was amused to notice that the Prime Minister does that which statesmen always do when they refer to the legal profession. He gave the House to understand that the law was a mystery which no business man could ever hope to fathom. Then he proceeded to put forward a very admirable, very complete and perfectly convincing argument, such as any lawyer would at once accept, to prove that the Constitution was within the Treaty.
§ Sir J. SIMON
I ask the House to observe how simple it is. The truth is, as I have often had occasion to observe, that there is nothing in this world so technical as a layman who is trying to talk law, and there is nothing in the world so simple as the legal principle which lies at the bottom of the solution of a question such as the question whether 347 this Constitution is within the Treaty. The Prime Minister, in a sentence, put a conclusive argument. It is, I apprehend, impossible for any Constitutional student, whether lawyer or layman, to suggest that this Constitution is not within the Treaty, for, if, by the express terms of the document, there were anything in any of its Clauses which went beyond the terms of the Treatyany such excess is here and now declared to be void and of none effect.I should like to say one word on two or three of the detailed points which the hon. and gallant Gentleman raised. First of all, he was concerned because of the Article in the Treaty which deals with Irish citizenship. I do not wish to take a part in the Debate which would be more properly taken by the Attorney-General—and those who know the hon. Gentleman will know that there is no lawyer in England more competent to give us guidance and sound reasoning on a subject of this sort—but it really is fallacious to suppose that in the British Empire, as it exists to-day, there are not many cases in which citizenship in some part of our Dominions is not the same thing as British citizenship here at home. There is at least one case, which will be known to those whose duty it is to study such things, which occurred during the War, in which a man who was admittedly an Australian citizen, declared to be such by Australian law, was none the less interned in this country as an enemy alien, and was declared to be rightly interned under the Regulations then in force. It is not a fact, therefore, that there is a complete correspondence between citizenship in every part of the Empire and citizenship here at home. It is much to be desired that there should be, and in the last Naturalisation Act, for which the Government of which I was a member was responsible, there is a Section which provides that the different Dominions of the Crown, of which Southern Ireland will now be one, are able to adhere to our own rules if they choose to declare their willingness to do so. That, I think, is the real answer about citizenship. Then the hon. and gallant Gentleman was concerned about Article 49, which provides that:Save in the case of actual invasion, the Irish Free State shall not be committed to active participation in any war without the assent of its Parliament.348 Would it not be just as well that in this matter we should recognise how the facts really stand? It is only a month or two ago that the late Government in this country, whether wisely or unwisely I do not stop to inquire, actually sent out messages to the different Dominions of the Empire in order to inquire what measure of support they would be prepared to give to the Mother Country in the unhappy event of a new war. What is the good after that of not facing the fact that, as our Empire grows the great Dominions of the Crown are Dominions which give us their support and assistance, not because we are in a position to compel them to do so, but because they are willing to give us that active support in every case where our cause is just?
I take the third example, the question of appeals to the Privy Council, a rather technical subject really, but the hon. and gallant Gentleman, I think, was not justified in his criticism. The truth is that both in Australia and in South Africa there have been restrictions put upon appeals to our Privy Council here, which are at least as strict as the restriction which is to be found in this Constitution. This Constitution preserves the right to appeal to the Privy Council by what is called special leave. It gets rid of the right of appeal without special leave. That is exactly the situation of the Union of South Africa to-day, with this additional provision, that in the case of the Union of South Africa the Parliament of South Africa has reserved the power at any time by further legislation of its own to cut down the subjects on which even special leave may be given. I take these three examples, because they seem to me examples which can be dealt with very fairly and summarily to show that in these matters the Constitution is not open to objection. I recognise to the full that the Constitution contains a number of matters which were not likely to be inserted in it if it was drawn up by Englishmen. That is perfectly true. But what we have in this matter to realise is that the House of Commons, by confirming this Constitution, is taking that bold step which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Austen Chamberlain) described the other day as a great act of daring faith.
I should like to make one reference to the past. By passing this Irish Free 349 State Constitution, the Imperial Parliament, is definitely abandoning the attempt to govern Ireland at Westminster, and it is definitely declaring for a solution on the basis of Dominion Home Rule. It is nearly 30 years ago since Mr. Joseph Chamberlain, speaking in this House on the First Reading of the second of Mr. Gladstone's Home Rule Bills, objected to that Bill, and made this observation:Does anybody doubt; that if Ireland were a thousand miles away from England, she would have been long before this a self-governing Colony?Mr. Joseph Chamberlain went on to argue that the Bill of 1893 was a dangerous Measure because, he said, it attempted to draw a line at a place where a line can never permanently rest. It was a Bill, he thought, which conceded a certain measure of autonomy, and at the same time leaves things in a state of unstable equilibrium because it withholds full autonomous rights. The most important thing to notice about this Constitution is that that criticism, which has inspired so much of the opposition to Horns Rule schemes, is certainly met by this present Measure, for the most striking feature of this Constitution is that it completely confers upon Ireland the status of a British Dominion. As to proximity, I think the last 30 years have introduced new considerations which most of us would be willing to recognise. The march of British science has really brought all the Dominions of the Crown in one sense into much closer touch with the Mother Country, and on the other hand experience, both ill peace and in war, has shown to this country the danger of facing in Ireland a community, the majority of which protest against the treatment of Irish affairs by a London Parliament, and regard themselves as unwilling subjects of English rule. That danger is intensified by the fact that there are only 60 miles of sea between ourselves and the sister island. It seem to me that the part which was taken only a year ago by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham who, I think, is sitting now in the seat from which his distinguished father delivered the speech to which I have referred, when he explained his own reason for his own change of view, is one which we might well take as an example of statesmanship in facing this new situation. When the hon. and gallant Gentleman asked us to face the facts, these are the facts which he must face. When he asks us to con- 350 sider what is the foundation upon which we are building, I reply that the foundation is that which was pointed out by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Austen Chamberlain) in the speech to which I have referred. In that speech at the Unionist conference, 12 months ago, dealing with the grant of self-government to the Transvaal, he used these words:By a great act of daring faith they conferred upon our recent enemies in the Transvaal and the Orange Free State on the moral of our victory, full self-government. I voted against them. I thought it a rash and wicked thing to do. If we could have seen further into the future, if I could have voted in that Division with the knowledge I have to-day, I should have known that that great act of faith was not, as I thought, a destruction of our policy, but its completion and its fulfilmentIn discussing Irish affairs there is no section of this House that can hold itself to be always wise or completely blameless. Do not let us on any side of the House enter into competition either of criticism or of self-praise. Let us, at any rate, do this one thing which it is in our power to do in order to give the whole Irish situation its best chance—a thing that was done by this House when it passed unanimously the British North America Act, when it passed unanimously the Commonwealth of Australia Act, when it passed unanimously the Union of South Africa Act; let us to-day, with united voice and without any dissent, wish God speed to the Constitution which is thus submitted for our ratification.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Mr. Ronald McNeill)
I cannot forget that it was my fortune, when first I had the honour of addressing this House from the side opposite, to speak on the subject of Ireland, and I had the difficult task of following the right hon. and learned Gentleman who has just sat down. I am afraid that I made a very poor hand in answering his eloquence and his arguments. I do not propose this evening to make any attempt to reply to him, though I must confess that not a few of the things which he said presented to me almost an insuperable temptation to answer them. I must resist that temptation. I am only prompted to say anything by a personal allusion that he made to myself, with his usual courtesy, which requires a few words from me in reply. I feel all the more called upon to do so be- 351 cause I noticed that, in the course of the election oratory in the country, a suggestion was made that I, in accepting a seat on this bench at the very moment when the Government that I was joining was about to ratify this Treaty—I having been a very persistent opponent of the policy embodied in this Bill—was surrendering my convictions.
§ Mr. McNEILL
The right hon. Gentleman did not make that observation, but it has been made. It was stated, in terms, that I had accepted office to ratify this Treaty. The same charge has been made against others. So far as I am concerned, there is not a shadow of foundation for any such reproach. I have not, as I propose to show, taken office to ratify this Treaty, nor have I surrendered the position that I have always occupied in relation to the policy, nor have I modified nor altered in the slightest degree the opinions that I have always held in regard to it. I must, perhaps, express myself almost in the terms of a personal explanation. Highly as I appreciate the honour of holding even a subordinate place in the Government of my fight hon. Friend the Prime Minister, I would not, as he very well knows, have accepted any position, no matter how insignificant, if the policy which we are discussing now was still an open question in any sense of the word. I made it perfectly clear months ago, speaking in this House, that while I regarded the Treaty and the policy of the Treaty as a disastrous and indefensible transaction, T had to recognise, as I then stated, that the mischief had been done beyond repair, and that Parliament had no choice but to carry it out to a conclusion.
More than that, the House will remember that, if it had not been for the Dissolution of the late Parliament, a conference of the Unionist Associations would have been held on the very day that the polling took place in connection with the General Election. That proposed conference met with a good deal of criticism throughout the country, and I had given notice, many weeks before the Dissolution, that I would move a Resolution at that conference, in which I expressly acknowledged, in terms, that the Treaty which had been made with Southern Ireland could not and ought not 352 to be abrogated. Therefore, in my judgment, all that remains for this Parliament to do, as was very well expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Upton (Mr. Margesson), who seconded the Address, is a pure formality, merely to seal an instrument already signed by the late Government in the name of the English people. The present Parliament and Government have no option and, therefore, have absolutely no responsibility in the matter. If I thought it were otherwise, then, instead of standing here, I should be doing my humble best to oppose this Bill from some other quarter of the House. However, there the Bill is. The right hon. and learned Gentleman who has just spoken did not actually reproach me but with that cleverness which he always shows, in a rhetorical sense, he did so by a compliment. His compliment was intended to convey the impression that I had been brought to a more sane frame of mind. I have endeavoured to show the House that I have not thought it necessary to change any opinion I have ever held, and I do not think that anything I have done is inconsistent.
In conclusion, following up what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has said, I should like to say on my own behalf—and I may say it on behalf of those who have shared my view of this matter—that, notwithstanding all that we have said and done in the past, from the day that I first addressed this House in reply to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, up to the present moment, no one more than myself earnestly hopes that the policy which is now being brought to a completion may be for the peace, happiness and blessing of my native country. I was much impressed by the concluding words of the Leader of the Labour Opposition, in the prayer to Almighty God that His blessing may rest upon this policy. With that expression and prayer T should like humbly to associate myself.
§ Mr. F. GRAY
I am very conscious, as a very young Member, of the lack of wisdom in intervening in debate before being fully acquainted even with the position of friends and foes in the House. It is particularly unwise to launch one's first ship upon the Irish Sea. I have been encouraged, nevertheless, to intervene by a distinguished Member on the other side, who is of opinion that I have a large 353 knowledge of the state of affairs in Ireland. If I may say so without transgressing the Rules of the House, this is untrue. It is true that I have spent a long period during the present year in Ireland, watching very closely the sorrows through which both the North and the South of Ireland have passed. I have there enjoyed the friendship, the kindness and the hospitality of the leaders of all sections and of all parties, and if in return for that I can make some little contribution to this Debate, I shall be grateful. It is a matter to be regretted that this Bill is introduced from the other side of the House. There are hon. Members of this House who have not had the advantages of education such as some of ns have had, and I wonder what they think of the standard of public life when they see this Measure being adavnced in this House by the representatives of a party which, for a quarter of a century, has advanced an entirety converse policy, which has caused so much sorrow and so much grief both to the people of Ireland and to England, and has meant great loss of wealth in both cases.
I am not, however, disposed to quarrel with the person or the party that advances good Measures. This I believe to be a good Measure, but not the concluding Measure which will bring lasting peace to Ireland. I believe it will be, perhaps, 25 years before peace may come to Ireland, and that peace will come through the setting up of a United Parliament for all Ireland. That, if it comes, must come from those representing Northern Ireland. Until they make, that step, it is for this country to protect the rights of Northern Ireland. It must be obvious to all that this Measure, introduced on that side of the House, and supported on this side, will be passed. That being so, all that can be done by a Debate here is practically to inflame passions in both the North and the South of Ireland, which we should all deeply regret. For those representing Northern Ireland I have the greatest respect. While I differ from them I realise that they, at least, have been consistent throughout in support of their policy, and, as I know so well, they have faced untold dangers from day to day with the greatest possible courage. I appeal to them that nothing should be said here 354 which will further inflame passion in the South or in the North of Ireland.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Captain CRAIG: I wish as soon as possible to place before the House the views of hon. Members who come from Ulster. The House will remember that when the Truce was entered into, and during the time that the negotiations were going on which led up to the Treaty, the Ulster party took up the position that, providing their interests were not interfered with or encroached upon, it was not their business to interfere between the British Government and the representatives of Southern Ireland in any arrangement they might come to in reference to the government of Southern Ireland. That position I always adhered to, right up to the time the Treaty was published to the world. It is true that there was a condition—more than an implied condition—that the interests of Ulster should not be prejudiced in any way without Ulster being consulted thereon. Relying on that condition we held it to be our duty not to interfere between the Government of this country and the representatives from Southern Ireland who came to meet them. If the Government had adhered to the condition which I have mentioned, our attitude with regard to the Treaty would have been the same as our attitude had been during the negotiations. That was that, although not one single colleague of mine from Ulster looked upon the Treaty as anything but a most-disastrous document; that in spito of the fact that we did not for one single moment agree with the rosy prophecies which were made from various parts of the House as to the future of Southern Ireland: in spite of the fact that on the contrary we then foresaw and now see a most horrible condition of affairs existing in Ireland; and in spite of the fact that we consider things in Ireland are rapidly going from bad to worse; in spite of all those things we would have felt that it-was out duty not to interfere with the Government in any arrangements which they might take with Southern Ireland.
Our express hostility to the Treaty has been on the ground that it has interfered seriously with the interests of Ulster. I need not go into that question now at any length, but any hon. Member who has 355 followed these discussions knows well to what I refer. I refer first to the fact that as the Treaty was drawn up Ulster was included in it, in spite of the fact that every man who signed that document knew well that we would never consent. Then there was the question of the boundaries, about which I am not going to sneak to-day, and there was also the question of the Council, which will be referred to when we come to the second Bill, on which I will not dilate now. Those questions, every one of which seriously affected Ulster, prevented us from carrying out the policy of neutrality which we would have carried out had the Treaty left us severely alone. But in spite of those serious blots on the Treaty from our point of view, the Treaty has been passed in this House, and, as has been said by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, the matter has now passed out of our hands, and I am here to say that, so far as the Ulster Members are concerned, the Government need fear no opposition to the passing of this Bill.
I think that the attitude of the right hon. Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon) in going into the history of this question was not a suitable one to take in this Debate, but I do desire, without going into the condition in which Ireland is, to appeal to the Government, in any reply which may be made at the end of the Debate to the various speeches, to say something as to their policy towards the Unionists in the South and West of Ireland, who have lost so much of their property and have been driven out of the country in such large numbers. That I consider to be one of the greatest blots on the policy of the late Government, and I sincerely trust that the new Government are not going to follow their footsteps in this matter. Whatever was said as to the Treaty, it was clearly understood by everybody that the authorities in Ireland were expected to treat fairly every section of the community, and yet from the ill-fated moment that the Treaty was passed, and the Government disbanded the Royal Irish Constabulary and withdrew the soldiers, a campaign of destruction and boycotting was started against the Unionists in the South and West of Ireland. Destruction to the extent of millions of pounds has been done. Many of the finest houses in 356 the country have been burned to the ground, and, lately, thousands of unfortunate Unionists have had to leave everything behind them in Ireland and flee to this country. I hope that before this Debate is over the Government may give those unfortunate people, and give us who sympathise with them so much, some indication of the policy which they are going to pursue.
I advocated in this House a long time ago that the late Government's policy should be that the men who had their houses burned to the ground and their property destroyed must be compensated, and if the Free State failed to do so the Government's duty was to see that the compensation was paid, and I maintain that that could be done, and that it ought, to be done. A declaration should be made to the Government of the Free State that these men should not be allowed to be driven out into the world without a penny of what belongs to them, and if the Free State refuse or fail to pay these compensation claims, the Government of this country should pay them and charge them to the Irish Free State. I trust that later on there will be some statement of policy on these lines, which will hold out some hope to these unfortunate people before the end of the Debate.
Our position is perfectly clear. We do not believe and never have believed that the Treaty was the right method of dealing with Ireland. We have been amply justified in our belief by what has happened during the last year. When the Treaty was published the late Prime Minister informed the House that at last peace had been secured in Ireland, but hon. Members, even if they do not believe the horrors which were related by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Burton (Colonel Gretton)—every one of which is literally true—will agree from what they do know of the State of Southern Ireland and of what has been going on in Ireland during the last year that peace is the last word which you can apply to the state of affairs in that country. So far as we can see, things are going steadily from bad to worse, and if we could go back and put Ireland into the position in which she was three years ago we would do it. But I know that that is impossible. We have said in our speeches that the Treaty must be given a chance. It must be given a chance if 357 for no other reason than that things have been brought to such a pass that it would be folly of the worst description to go back on it now. The Treaty must go through, it must be given the fullest chance and, if it is successful, I shall be very pleased. But I have very little hope of that. Yet I fully realise that it would be folly, second only to the folly which prompted the late Ministry to sign the Treaty originally, to go back on it now. But while we offer no opposition to the passing of this Measure into law we think that the late Government in signing the Treaty, did one of the worst day's work which any Government ever did in this country.
§ Sir FREDERICK BANBURY
The right hon. and learned Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon) drew a very glowing picture of what was going to result from the Treaty. I think that it was very bold of him to have drawn such a glowing picture when we think of what has happened since the Treaty was signed a year ago. Only a year ago the late Prime Minister in this House, in introducing the Treaty, told us in a very eloquent peroration—I think I remember his exact words—that in future our success would be her joys and our grief would be her sorrows. These are very beautiful words, but they have not been borne out. Instead of the Treaty having resulted in peace it has resulted in murder, arson, and other outrages of the worst description. But I do not want to discuss that. I am one of those who voted against it, and it is one of the acts of my Parliamentary life of which I am proud, and I believe that in future generations by those who read the history of the times none will be more acclaimed and supported than those of us who voted against the Treaty.
But I do not think that that is the question now. We were beaten and we have got to accept our defeat. Therefore, so far as I am concerned, I shall not vote against any Bill which enacts the Treaty, but what we have got to see is: does this Bill carry out the provisions of the Treaty? and if not, then we ought to amend it in Committee in such a way as to make it carry out the provisions of the Treaty. The right hon. and learned Gentleman told us that it was difficult for a layman to understand legal technicali- 358 ties. I quite agree. Then he went on to say that, so far as ho was concerned, he was in agreement with Lord Hewart that the Constitution did carry out the provisions of the Treaty. In my experience I have never known one hon. and learned Gentleman to agree with another. I think that this is almost the first time I have known such a thing to occur. Naturally it made me a little suspicious. I then remembered that both the Noble Lord and the right hon. and learned Gentleman were Radicals, that both of them had been in favour of Home Rule for a great number of years, and I was not surprised that on this particular occasion they agreed. By the Constituent Act the Constitution is made subject to the provision thatif any law made thereunder is in any respect repugnant to any of the provisions of the Scheduled Treaty, it shall, to the extent only of such repugnancy, be absolutely void and inoperative.That attracts the lawyers because, naturally, if something occurs and one lawyer says that it is not inconsistent with the Treaty, there will be argument amongst the lawyers, one saying that it is consistent and another saying that it. is not. Who is then to decide? In order to make confusion worse confounded the Bill does not stop there. The quotation goes on:and the Parliament and the Executive Council of the Irish Free State shall respectively pass such farther legislation and do all such other things as may lie necessary to implement the Scheduled Treaty.Who is to compel the Parliament of a Free State to pass such legislation? If they do not pass it, what is to happen? Surely the Treaty is here in black and white. Why not enact it again? Unless the lawyers thought that there was something in the Constitution which did not agree with the Treaty, they would not have put this in. I have not the honour of the acquaintance of the learned Attorney-General, but I see him on the Treasury Bench. I hope I shall get excellent advice from him in the near future. I see that the learned Solicitor-General is also present. I am sure they could have drawn up a Constitution which would have agreed in every particular with the Treaty, had they been asked to do so. That is all we have to sec to; we are bound to see that the Treaty is enacted in the Constitution, 359 and nothing else. Here is a point which is very important. In the Treaty it is enacted that the Army in Ireland shall be limited. Article 8 says:With a view to securing the observance of the principle of international limitation of armaments, if the Government of the Irish Free State establishes and maintains a military defence force, the establishments thereof shall not exceed in size such proportion of the military establishments maintained in Great Britain as that which the population of Ireland bears to the population of Great Britain.I do not see anything whatever about that in the Constitution. I may be wrong, being only a layman. But, supposing that I am right, and that the Free State has a larger army than is proportionate to the population of Ireland in relation to Great Britain, there is nothing in the Constitution about that. What on earth could we do? I am glad that the Prime Minister of the last Government is present. The right hon. Gentleman will remember the speech ho made at Carnarvon, where he pointed to the danger of Ireland having a great army. I attach very much importance to the safeguard which the Government said was in this Treaty. It is absolutely essential that we put down Amendments, not to wreck the Bill or to prevent the Bill passing, but to bring the Bill into line with the Treaty.
§ Mr. SAKLATVALA
I beg to move, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."
I realise the unpopularity I am courting in taking this step, but it was distinctly understood between my electors and myself that they did not wish me to back up a Treaty which was based upon coercion, and was signed under duress. I do not now speak on behalf of the Labour party in the House. I wish that to be made perfectly clear. I maintain that, perhaps as a purist, I adhere in the Amendment to a principle that the Labour party has laid down, namely, the principle of self-determination. It is not to be understood that I do not share the wishes or the prayers of my chief, nor is it to be understood I have not the same desire as my colleagues, but I must frankly admit that I do not share their hopes. I believe that the only cure will come when either this Government or a future Labour Government tells our 360 friends in Ireland that they have a right to a genuine and bonâ fide, self-determined voice of their own. Unless that is done, neither the Treaty nor the Constitution nor the Bill now before the House is likely to do what we all, against our convictions, hope that they may do. We talk of a Treaty. Hon. Members on all sides of the House have written and spoken in unmistakable terms in expressing their views that the unfortunate part of the Treaty was that the signatures were obtained under duress. I feel that that duress was undoubtedly there, and the unfortunate fact was that it need not have been there. If matters had been left to the free will and the good sense of the people, the result would have been quite- different from what it has been.
We have heard to-day quotations and illustrations of similar enactments for colonies and dominions of the Empire. Is there any real parallel between those Constitutions and the hopes and desires of the people of the countries concerned and the hopes and desires of the Irish people? Was Australia not rejoicing and waiting almost to a man and woman for the day when her Constitution would be confirmed by this House? Was not South Africa, after a great war and defeat, gratefully awaiting the day when the Treaty would be passed and the little minority of the republican in a constitutional manner would be permitted to express themselves as a minority? The people of Canada, too, were determined to have their Constitution and to work it. The case of Ireland is different. It is no use our pretending that it is not so. We cannot adopt the policy that by driving deeper into the soil the roots of a cactus, and by carefully covering it with soil, roses will grow later on. I pay my homage to the great spirit that reigns in this House to-day, and to the great spirit that pervades the people who sent Members to represent them in this House. I admire that spirit at its full value. In spite of all the bitter differences in the past, we are determined to come to a genuine and sincere unanimity upon this question. Were we settling the matter in dispute between ourselves here, that spirit would give us a permanent solution: but our unanimity does not affect the disunity in Ireland, and that point does not seem to be before this House as emphatically as it ought to be.
361 Was there ever an instance in the history of treaties where immediately after a treaty had been signed, two out of the five signatories had to repudiate their signatures as not having been put down with a bonâ fide and conscientious intention? The hon. Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon) was pointing out to us the great improvement, which has taken place since the Treaty. I am sorry to hear argument of that kind being advanced on rather imperfect observation. [HON. MEMRERS: "Hear, hear!"] The imperfect observation which I wish to point out is not referred to in the spirit of the hon. and gallant Member for Burton (Colonel Gretton). It is quite in another direction. In the first instance, what is the constituent assembly which has sent us this document? Soon after the Treaty and, apart from anything that was ever contemplated at the time of the Treaty, a truce was entered into between the two factious parties in Ireland creating an artificial Dail to tackle the problem of the- Treaty. I take no sides with either of the Irish parties, but I maintain that truce—or that promise to observe a truce —was not fair to the people, of Great Britain, and it was certainly more than unfair to the people of Ireland. Under the truce it was decided to call an artificial constituent assembly, and when the moment came, even that truce was not observed, and the so-called constituent assembly cannot on any bonâ fide and sincere principle of self-determination, be accepted as a truly and properly elected Dail representing the people of Ireland in the ratios and the proportions in which they stand. I was present at the last great Labour Conference in Ireland; I attended its sittings in Dublin and I saw there written down in black and white and heard proclaimed from the platform—A plague on both your houses"—on both parties, both the pro-Treaty and the anti-Treaty party. I have heard it declared that Irish Labour, well organised, is determined to work for a worker' republic. These are the views which are being expressed, and the Labour party in Ireland is bound to come into its. own, however much hon. Members may jeer or laugh. The Republicans are there; it is no use denying that they are there in very large numbers, and it is extremely doubtful, if coercive 362 measures were not taken, whether they would not prove themselves to be the majority of the people of Ireland. These facts cannot be ignored, and they cannot be buried or covered up. We are assured by the Prime Minister that, according to Mr. Cosgrave, Ireland is only waiting for the Constitution to be carried through this House, and that they are going to work it out. Mr. Cosgrave knows that he had to shoot four human beings a week ago, and he has had since to take another life by violence—that of Erskine Childers. He knows that the prisons of Ireland are to be filled with thousands of men, and even some women, without charge and without trial. He knows that Ireland is to be prepared to receive this Constitution, not with joy and Hags and illuminations, but with martial law, penalites and threats, imprisonment and ships waiting to depopulate the country. [Interruption.] I will ask you, Mr. Speaker, to save me from those who are pretending to be my friends. I appeal to the Prime Minister and I appeal to the House.
Once, in 1801, our predecessors and your forefathers thought they had worked a great political trick and a mighty political charm when with great unanimity in Dublin and London they brought about the Act of Union. For 120 years that Act of Union has only produced distress to Ireland and disgrace to this country. I, as your friend—not as your critic nor as your opponent—foel that I am in conscience bound not to be a party to another and a greater mockery. Until the Labour party in this country comes into power, until genuine self-determination is permitted to the people of Ireland, there is going to be neither peace nor fidelity to the Treaty, nor the carrying out of the Free State Government, nor any of the "tosh" we have been hearing of late. I am speaking in a most difficult position. I know I seem to be the friend of my enemies and the enemy of my friends, but time and history will prove my case. I shall not be at all sorry or ashamed to say that even if you were all unanimous, I stood aloof and away from you. Within five years this House will find the necessity for undoing this unanimous or semi-unanimous Act after more distress and more suffering. Let me predict that it will be the Labour party sitting on those benches which will have to afford real freedom 363 to Ireland. Instead of merely expressing a pious opinion, I take my courage in my hands and true to my convictions I move this Amendment in order to create an opportunity for myself to vote against the Bill.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I hope the hon. Member will not proceed to a Division on this Amendment, because the only result will be that he will find himself in the Lobby with a large number of Members with whom he really has no possible point of agreement. The fact of the matter is that we have Die-hards on both sides. Perhaps it is well that we should learn early in the life of this Parliament that Die-hards come together anyhow. We want, at any rate, to understand what happens when out wishes are carried out. I ask the hon. Member for Battersea (Mr. Saklatvala) to consider what would happen if he got his way and if this Bill were rejected. It would then appear that Great Britain, having signed the Treaty, is determined by the voice of a new Parliament to cancel the Treaty. I agree with the hon. Member that there was a great deal that was undesirable in the way in which the Treaty was brought about, but whether those methods were desirable or undesirable, we cannot now possibly go back upon the Treaty which was signed, or fail to carry out to the letter the terms of the obligations into which we entered. The speech to which we have just listened, a very eloquent speech, ought to have been delivered not here but in the Dail. Many speeches similar to it were made in the Dail, and the result of those speeches, I may point out, has been civil war in Ireland. There is a definite question which this House has to consider at this moment, and the attitude taken up by the Labour party on that question is that whether the Treaty be bad or good, whatever be the circumstances attendant on the signing of the Treaty, that Treaty has been signed, and we, whether on the Government Benches or the Opposition Benches, are determined to see that Treaty carried out.
§ Sir JOHN BUTCHER
I should like at the outset to associate myself most cordially with the hope which has fallen from the Prime Minister and the Under-Secre- 364 tary for Foreign Affairs, that the establishment of this Constitution may inaugurate a new era in Ireland, and bring back to her that peace and happiness to which she has been so long a stranger. No one who has been associated as closely as I have been with the appalling suffering of our fellow-countrymen and women in Ireland could fail ardently to hope that the orgy of crime which still goes on in Ireland may cease, that order may be restored, and protection of life and property afforded to those who have suffered and are suffering so cruelly in Southern Ireland. I regret I cannot take the roseate view of Southern Ireland put forward by the hon. Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon). I wish his view were correct, but I know it is absolutely without foundation. The terrible crimes which have disgraced Ireland and brought misery to her people are still going on.
The position of this House in considering this Bill is an extremely difficult one. We have inherited from the late Government certain obligations—I think one might almost say a damnosa haæreditas. Unfortunately, we are bound to carry out those obligations and to give effect to the Treaty. The time for doing so is short—lamentably short. I will suggest to the Prime Minister in a few moments a mode by which the time can be extended without interfering with any vital interest, while enabling this House to carry out its undoubted obligation of examining this Constitution, seeing whether it is one which ought to be passed unamended, and, if not, amending it and making it conform to the Treaty.
The right hon. Gentleman said that the only question before the House at this moment is—Does the Constitution conform to the Treaty with Ireland? That is no doubt the main question, but I think there is another question which we are bound to consider, and that is this—Does the Constitution involve grave injustice to British subjects in England and elsewhere? I think I can show that it does, and if that be so, I personally would like the Constitution to be amended so as to eliminate those elements of injustice. I, therefore, think we should have more time in which to examine the Constitution. The Prime Minister told us that certain eminent legal authorities had said that the Constitution is in accord with the Treaty. 365 We are not, I submit, in a law court, but in a House of Parliament, and we are not entitled in this House to shelter ourselves under the ægis of any legal authority, however eminent. Our duty is to examine this Constitution and see whether it is a right one, and it is our obligation to do so. Let us remember that we are to-day doing an irrevocable act, so far as we are concerned. We shall never have another opportunity of revising this Constitution once we have passed it in its present form. The right lion. Member for the Spen Valley (Sir John Simon) rather suggested that it was not a proper thing to amend a Constitution at all, and he pointed to the case of the Constitution of the Union of South Africa and to the case of Canada, as a justification for what he said. Hut he did not tell us, what is nevertheless the fact, that when that Constitution for Canada came before this House for consideration it was largely amended. Many new and important clauses were introduced into it which had not been suggested by the Resolutions of Quebec, and therefore I suggest that the illustration that the right hon. Gentleman put-forward as a reason why we should not amend this Constitution is a good argument for the opposite view.
Let me now point out certain respects in which I think this Constitution deserves our examination and, as I think, amendment. Article I of the Treaty says:Ireland shall have the same constitutional status in the Community of Nations known as the British Empire as the Dominion of Canada," etc.What, however, is the first Article of the Constitution? Does it reproduce verbatim Article I of the Treaty I Instead of that, this is put in:The Irish Free State (otherwise here-matter called or sometimes called—)a name which I will leave it to the Attorney-General to pronounce—is a co-equal member of the Community of Nations forming the British Commonwealth of Nations.That is an absolute falsehood. The Irish Free State is not a co-equal member of this Community of Nations, and let me give one instance in which it is not. One member of that Community of Nations is the United Kingdom, as we must call it for want of a better name. By Clause 4 of the Bill now before us, the right of the United Kingdom to make laws affect- 366 ing the Irish Free State in certain cases is preserved and acknowledged. If the Irish Free State be co-equal with the United Kingdom, then the Irish Free State should be entitled to legislate for the United Kingdom, but no one, not even the most rapturous supporter of the Irish Free State, would put forward such a claim, and therefore, from that point of view alone, the Irish Free State is not co-equal with the United Kingdom.
Article 2 of the Treaty sets forth:Subject to the provisions hereinafter set out the position of the Irish Free State in relation to the Imperial Parliament and Government and otherwise shall be that of the Dominion of Canada.That is a perfectly plain and simple statement, and I cannot conceive why it was not embodied in the Constitution, but, instead of that, Article 2 of the Constitution states:All powers of government and all authority legislative, executive, and judicial in Ireland are derived from the people of Ireland.That is very questionable in regard to any Constitution, but in the case of the Trish Free State it is absolutely untrue. Canada was given a Constitution by this House, and the powers of Canada were not derived from the people of Canada, but from this House, and therefore to say that the powers of the Parliament of Ireland are derived from the people of Ireland, when they actually have to come here to get this Constitution accepted, is a statement incapable of substantiation. I therefore ask the Attorney-General to tell us why, instead of this perfectly plain, clear, straightforward Article 2 of the Treaty, we have this not only questionable but inaccurate and entirely untrue statement embodied in the Constitution.
There is something worse than that. Article 3 of the Constitution has been examined from the Irish viewpoint, but it has not yet been examined from the point of view of England and the rest of the Empire. Article 3 says:Every person…domiciled in the area of the jurisdiction of the Irish Free State…who was born in Ireland or either of whose parents was born in Ireland, or who has been ordinarily resident in the area of the jurisdiction of the Irish Free State…for not less than seven years is a citizen of the Irish Free State.I would point out that this is an entirely new constitutional practice, and 367 that there is no such status of a citizen of Great Britain or of Canada.
§ Sir J. BUTCHER
There is no such thing as a citizen of Canada, constitutionally speaking; there is a British subject. Let me ask the Attorney-General a question. Does this mean that when a person domiciled in Ireland is made a citizen of the Irish Free State he ceases to be a British subject? I hope not, but I should be very glad to get an authoritative statement from the Attorney-General that his citizenship of the Free State does not deprive him of the rights and privileges of a British subject. There is another and more serious question, affecting British subjects in other parts of the Empire besides Ireland, and it is this I want to know what lights a British subject domiciled in England, Scotland, or any other part of our Empire would have if he went to reside in Ireland. Let me take an Englishman domiciled in England who goes to reside in Ireland. According to this Article no matter how long he resides in Ireland, unless he actually gives up his British domicile, his British home, adopts an Irish home, and becomes domiciled in Ireland he will have none of the rights given to an Irishman. He will be a sort of alien, a sort of Uitlander in Ireland, although he is a British subject and goes to reside there. Let me point out what sort of disability a British subject would be liable to if he went to reside in Ireland. Article 7 of the Constitution states:The dwelling of each citizen is inviolable and shall not be forcibly entered except in accordance with law.Supposing this Englishman goes to Ireland to reside, unless he becomes an Irish citizen his house is not inviolable, but may be forcibly entered, and it is only the houses of Irish citizens which are made inviolable by this Article. Article 10 of the Constitution states:All citizens of the Irish Free State…have the right to free elementary education.The British subject who is an Englishman and who goes over there, however, has no right, either for himself or his children, to any free education at all. Is that a situation in which it is right to place a British subject from England, Scotland, or any 368 other part of the Empire? Again, the only people who are entitled to exercise the franchise in Southern Ireland are the citizens of the Irish Free State, and therefore the Englishman who goes over there, unless he gives up his English home, can never get a vote in Ireland. He can be called upon to pay taxes—that is certain —but he can never get a vote or exercise the privileges of citizenship. I would ask the Attorney-General whether this is not, a case of grave injustice to British subjects resident in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and other parts of the world.
Let me now pass to another respect in which I think the Constitution requires alteration. Article 65 of the Constitution states:The judicial power of the High Court shall extend to the question of the validity of any law having regard to the provisions of the Constitution.In Article 66 there is a provision that there may be an appeal to the Supreme Court of the Irish Free State in certain cases, which decision is to be final and conclusive. Then there is this proviso:Nothing in this Constitution shall impair the right of any person to petition His Majesty for special leave to appeal from the Supreme Court to His Majesty in Council.7.0 p.m.
I ask where is that right derived from? At the present moment there is no right for any person in Ireland to appeal to the Privy Council. There is a right, it is quite true, to appeal from the Supreme Court in Ireland to the House of Lords in certain cases, but it is a fundamental part of our Constitution that no person in Ireland can appeal from the decision of any Court to the King in Council. Therefore, when this Constitution says that nothing shall impair the right of any person to appeal to His Majesty the King, I say that there is no such right, and, if there be no right, then you cannot impair it. To say that you cannot impair a non-existing right, certainly does not give a right where there was not one before. I ask the learned Attorney-General to amend this Article by inserting, in very clear and explicit language, a provision in accordance with the Treaty, that there shall be an appeal from the Supreme Court in Ireland on the same lines as there is an appeal from the Supreme Court in Canada to the Privy Council. 369 I ask the House to remember that this is a vital point. The Privy Council is the only tribunal which can possibly correct the Irish Free State Parliament if it passes laws which are not in accordance with the Constitution. I doubt not that it was intended that the power should be given, but it is not given. This power is all important. There should be some mode of correcting errors of the Irish Parliament if they go beyond their powers under the Constitution und pass laws contrary to it. Some power must be given by which these laws may be brought under review and the matter put right.
Reference has been made by the right hon. Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon) to the Union of South Africa. It is quite true in the Act relating to the Union of South Africa there are words somewhat similar to those in this Constitution which state that nothing is to impair the right of a person to petition for leave to appeal. But there is all the difference in the world between the South Africa Union Act and the present Constitution. When the Union of South Africa was constituted by the Union Act, there were already legislatures in the British Colonies in Sauth Africa, and from each of those British Colonies there was an existing right to appeal to the King in Council.
§ Sir J. BUTCHER
I really cannot discuss every interruption. As I have already pointed out there is no right to appeal to the Privy Council from any Court in Ireland. On the other hand, when the South African Union Act was passed, there was an existing right to appeal from all the existing legislatures to the Privy Council, and that right was continued. The words which were inserted in that Act in order to continue a right which existed were perfectly proper. Therefore, I beg the Attorney-General, who I know will give this his perfectly fair consideration, to make this matter clear. It is a point which, as he would be the first to admit, is really of vital and extreme importance to the proper working of the Constitution.
I have taken these illustrations for the purpose of showing that there are serious points to be considered; points which are necessary to be understood, and which 370 undoubtedly require amending at out-hands. We ought to be given an opportunity, in accordance with our constitutional obligations, of carefully examining this Bill and of amending it if necessary. The Government answer, I understand, is two-fold. In the first place the Prime Minister referred to Section 2 of the Constitution Act which was passed in Ireland, which says that if there is any provision of the Constitution repugnant to the Treaty it is null and void. Is that any reason why to-day if we see that there are provisions in the Constitution which are repugnant to the Treaty we should not put them right? We should be guilty of a most gross breach of our duty. I will go farther than that. Supposing that hereafter provisions are found in the Constitution which are repugnant to the Treaty, who is to say whether they are repugnant? Under this Bill there is no tribunal that can say whether or not the provisions of the Constitution are repugnant to the Treaty. You will not be able to come to this Parliament, because this Parliament will have passed the Constitution. Therefore, once you pass things which are repugnant to the Treaty there will be no way of setting them right. There is, no doubt, a provision that the Parliament of Ireland may, if it likes, put right those things which have gone wrong. How are we to enforce it? Will this Government be able to go to the Irish Parliament, and say, "Here is a provision of the Constitution you have made which is repugnant to the Treaty, which you ought to set right Set it right" If I know anything of my fellow countrymen in Ireland I do not think they will do much, even if they have got power of revision of that sort. I say, therefore, that this is the time to secure this revision.
A further question was raised by the Prime Minister. He says if you amend thi6 Constitution it will have to go back to Ireland in order that the amendment may receive the sanction of the Irish Parliament. That is quite true. It is also true that it will be very difficult, if not impossible, to do that by the 6th December. It is also true that if the Constitution is not passed by the 6th December, the existing Provisional Government in Ireland comes to an end. Let me suggest to the learned Attorney-General and to the Prime Minister that there is a quite simple method of ex- 371 tending the time. They could bring a Bill into this House, which could be passed in a couple of days, extending for one or two months, as the case might require, the powers of the existing Provisional Government in Ireland. That would give us those extra one or two months for examining these matters and putting them in order. If that suggestion were put before the Irish Government I think they would be grateful for it. At any rate, I strongly urge the Government, in order to give us the opportunity of carrying out our duty of examining and amending this Bill, to bring in such a Measure. No one could reasonably object to it. Then, when we have amended the Constitution, we shall be able to set up the Irish Parliament on what I trust may be. a fair basis. I end by saying, as I began, that I trust the inauguration of that Parliament may be the inauguration of a new era for Ireland.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL (Sir Douglas Hogg)
During the three days that I have had the honour of sitting in this House, I have heard more than one hon. Member appeal to the indulgence of the House. I hope I shall not be trespassing unduly if I begin by saying that I am conscious that no Member has more need to appeal for that indulgence than I myself. I should like to assure the House that if I do make mistakes, it will be due to inexperience and to no intentional disregard of the rules of the House or the traditions which inspire them. I have listened, I hope intelligently, and certainly attentively, to the criticisms which have been put forward against the Constitution which this Bill seeks to enact. I have followed the Articles which are particularly impugned. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Burton (Colonel Gretton) began by telling us that he did not propose to move the rejection of this Bill or to vote against it. He quite correctly proceeded to point out certain respects in which Articles of the Treaty did not seem to him to conform with Articles of the Constitution. I am going, I hope, to deal with those difficulties. After going through the Constitution, the hon. and gallant Member went on to point out that in his view it was very doubtful with whom we were making this Treaty. He questioned whether the Constitution were a final settlement, and 372 pointed out instances of disorder in Ireland. He told us, as I fear may be true, that there are many people in Ireland who desire to see this Treaty annulled.
I hope my hon. and gallant Friend will forgive me if I do not follow him in that part of his speech, because it seems to me that those arguments were better directed to the question of the rejection of the Bill rather than to the matter which he himself said was the relevant matter, namely, whether the Constitution and the Treaty were in accord. I would only say this, that if it be true, as I fear it is true, that there are disorders in Ireland; if it be true, as I think it may be true, that many people in Ireland wish to see this Treaty annulled, there could be no better way of fomenting disorder and of playing into the hands of those who wish to see the Treaty annulled than to fail to pass this Bill. You would thereby leave us in the position that, by Article 17 of the Treaty, the Provisional Government would cease to have any power in Ireland on the 6th December; we should have nothing erected in the way of organised government to take its place, and those who opposed the Treaty in Ireland would be able to say that the British Government had once again played false with them.
I turn to the detailed criticisms which have been brought forward this evening. The first Article which was attacked was Article I of the Constitution—the Article which provides thatThe Irish Free State is a co-equal member of the community of nations forming the British Commonwealth of Nations.It was said that whereas in the Treaty the expression was "the British Empire," in this Article the expression is "the British Commonwealth of Nations," and that that was a new phrase, which meant something different. I think I can alleviate the anxiety of my hon. Friends if I point out that the expression is taken from the Oath of Allegiance, which is to be found in the Treaty itself, because if we look at the Treaty it is expressly provided that the Oath of Allegiance to be taken by every Member of the Irish Houses of Parliament is to be in a stipulated form, which ends by reciting the adherence of Ireland to, and her membership of, "the group of nations forming the British Commonwealth of Nations"—exactly the same phrase as we have in Article 1. I do not think, there- 373 fore, we need be alarmed by the prospect that Article 1 is different from the Treaty. The next Article attacked is Article 2, in which it is declared thatAll powers of government and all authority, legislative, executive, and judicial in Ireland, are derived from the people of Ireland.It was pointed out that the phraseology there is different in some degree from the phraseology in some of the older Constitutions which have been given to the various self-governing Dominions. I am inclined to think that that in itself could fairly be used as an instance of the difference of phrase, which grows up with the difference of conception as to what constitutes the British Empire and the relations! of the Dominions to this country, but I think my hon. Friends need not be afraid of the meaning or the effect of the Article when they remember that Article t is only one Article, which has, of course, as the hon. and learned Member for York (Sir J. Butcher) will realise as a lawyer, to be read in conjunction with the other Articles of the Constitution. We find that under Article 12, the legislative authority is vested in the Government and two Houses; that in Article 41 it is provided that the representative, of the Crown may withhold the King's Assent, or reserve any Bill for the signification of the King's pleas-ire, provided that he shall act in accordance with the constitutional usage governing the like withholding of assent or reservation in Canada; and that Article 51 provides that "the Executive Authority of the Irish Free State is hereby declared to be vested in the King." With those stipulations embodied in the Constitution I do not think my hon. Friends need be under any apprehension that the Constitution can be used legally to set up a Republic.
I pass to Article 3, which has been the subject of considerable attention. It has been stated that Article 3 creates a status unknown hitherto to the British Constitution or to the Constitution of any State within the King's Dominions. In fact, Article 3 has no such far-reaching effect as my hon. Friends seem to fear. There can be no doubt at all, that whether you go to Australia or to Canada for your parallel, you will find in either of those self-governing Dominions that British subjects sometimes are, and sometimes are not, granted the right of the franchise, and granted what may loosely, 374 perhaps, be called the status and privilege of citizenship. The right hon. and learned Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon) referred to the case in which it was held only two years ago, in the British Court of Appeal, that a German who had been naturalised in Australia, and therefore in Australia was a British subject, when he came to England was an alien enemy. The hon. and learned Member for York said that the phrase "Irish citizen" was a phrase unknown to the British law, and that we should not find in Canada or any other self-governing Dominion any such phrase. I have had the industry to look up the Canadian Statutes, and I find that my hon. and learned Friend is mistaken in that view, because if he will look to the Immigration Law of Canada, which was passed as long ago as 1910, he will find the phrase "Canadian citizen" used in that Act. It is defined in that Act, and there are a variety of provisions which give certain privileges to Canadian citizens which are not accorded to other British subjects. It seems to me, therefore, impossible to say that there is anything alarming in finding in the Irish Free State a phrase used to define people who have certain privileges in the Irish Free State, which has been used at least for 12 years past in Canada, the place which is, admittedly, taken as the model of the Irish Free State Constitution.
The next matter which was criticised was Article 5. The hon. and gallant Member for Burton (Colonel Gretton) pointed out that the stipulation as to titles of honour which is contained in Article 5, namely, that they cannot be conferred on a citizen of the Irish Free State except with the approval, or upon the advice of the Executive Council of the State, was not to be found in any Constitution. I believe he was quite right in saying it was not to be found in any Constitution, but he is mistaken if he thinks that it embodies any new constitutional theory. As long ago as 1918, this very point was raised by the Dominion of Canada, and the responsible Ministers of the Crown at that time gave to the responsible Ministers of Canada an assurance in the very terms of Article 5 of this Constitution. I pass to the next Article attacked, which I am glad to say is as far on as Article 49. That is the Article which provides thatSave in the case of actual invasion, the Irish Free State shall not be committed to 375 active participation in any war without the assent of the Irish Parliament.My hon. Friends called attention to the provision of the Treaty which provides thatThe Government of the Irish Free State shall afford to His Majesty's Imperial Forces in time of war, or of strained relations with a foreign Power, such harbour and other facilities as the British Government may require for the purposes of coastal defence.There is really no inconsistency between the two Articles. The stress, of course, in Article 49, is on the word "active" participation. It does not say, and does not mean, that the Irish Free State is not to give the harbour facilities which they have undertaken to give. What it does mean to say, and what it does in fact say, in my opinion as a lawyer, is that the Irish Free State shall not be committed to active participation, that is to say, to become actively engaged by raising and joining fighting forces in any war, without its assent. If there were any doubt about it, we should find at once the value of Clause 2 of the Act which the Irish Free State passed, and which was referred to by my right hon. Friend the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury)—the Article which provides thatThe said Constitution shall be construed with reference to the Articles of Agreement for a Treaty between Great Britain and Ireland set forth in the Second Schedule which are hereby given the force of law.I am sure the hon. and learned Member for York would be the last to suggest that any lawyer who had that Clause before him, and had to glance through Article 49, in the light of Clause 7 of the Treaty, would have any doubt at all as to the effect of the words "active participation."
I pass now to what is perhaps one of the most serious matters which have engaged the attention of those who have criticised the Bill—I mean Article 66 with regard to the Privy Council. I think the right of appeal to the Privy Council is a matter to which probably the great majority of our Members on this side of the House would attach the greatest importance, and I do not think that if there were any doubt about it, it ought to be left in doubt: but in my judgment there is none. The legal position, as I understand it, is this. Every self-governing Dominion necessarily has, 376 unless it has been taken away, as part of its constitutional relationship to the Crown, the right of the Crown to grant leave to appeal to the Privy Council in any case in which the Crown thinks fit so to do. That has been laid down as being the undoubted prerogative of the Crown in the Privy Council itself, two or three times at least. That is, I think, a matter beyond all possible doubt. It is perfectly true that at this moment—at any rate, down to the enactment of the Treaty —there was no right of appeal from Ireland to the Privy Council, because the Crown exercised its right of appellate jurisdiction through the House of Lords. But this Treaty, by its express terms, put the Irish Free State into the position of a self-governing Dominion, and expressly provides thatthe position of the Irish Free State in relation to the Imperial Parliament and Government and otherwise shall be that of the Dominion of Canada, and the law, practice and constitutional usage governing the relationship of the Crown to the Dominion of Canada shall govern their relationship to the Irish Free State.The moment you enact that, it necessarily follows you are putting Ireland into the position in which the appeal which formerly lay to the House of Lords, now lies to the Privy Council. and the relationship of the Crown to the Dominion of Canada, undoubtedly is—I am speaking here in the presence of lawyers on both sides of the House, and I know they will all agree with me—that the Crown has a right, at least when it chooses in any given case, to give leave to appeal to the Privy Council. That right is exercised through the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council under the statutes which create that Judicial Committee, and the moment you enact this Constitution and this Treaty you necessarily give to Ireland and to an Irish citizen the right of applying to the Privy Council for that right to appeal which every Canadian citizen has at this moment. If Article 66 were not in, I am inclined to think that there would still be a right of appeal to the Privy Council, because it has been held more than once in the Privy Council that you cannot take away that prerogative of the Crown except by express words. But in order to prevent any doubt upon the matter, you have, in Article 66, the express provision:Provided that nothing in this Constitution shall impair the right of any person 377 to petition His Majesty for special leave to appeal from the Supreme Court to His Majesty in Council, or the right of His Majesty to grant such leave.Having that proviso there, there can be no possible doubt at all that the prerogative right of the Crown which exists in the case of Canada and other self-governing Dominions is preserved in the case of Ireland. I think, therefore, that the apprehension of my hon. and learned Friend, quite rightly brought forward for consideration, really turns out not to have any foundation.
I think that exhausts the particular Articles of the Constitution which were attacked. But my right hon. Friend the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) propounded one or two other conundrums. [Laughter.] I gather, although my Parliamentary experience is very scanty, that that is nothing new. The questions which he has put to me were these: He said, first of all, that there was in this second Clause of the Irish Bill the, provision that the Articles of Agreement were given the force of law, and that the Constitution, in so far as it had reference to the Articles of Treaty, would be null and void, and, said he, what is the object of having that in at all if the Constitution is all right? The answer is that even lawyers sometimes make mistakes, and in order to prevent any possibility of a mistake arising in this case, there has been expressly inserted this stipulation which of itself involves that, if such a mistake should ever be discovered, then it is the Treaty which prevails and not the Constitution, and that the Constitution, to the extent to which it is in conflict with the Treaty, becomes null and void and inoperative. My right hon. Friend went on to say, who was going to decide whether the Constitution is in conflict with the Treaty or not, and if I may say so, I entirely agree that that is a very important point which ought to be cleared up. It is cleared up! Article 65 of the Constitution provides:The judicial power of the High Court—That is the Irish High Court, not Parliament, as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for York (Sir J. Butcher) thought—shall extend to the question of the 378 validity of any law having regard to the provisions of the Constitution…Then, Article 66 provides:The Supreme Court of the Irish Free State"—that is the appellate Court—shall with such exceptions (not including eases which involve questions as to the validity of any law) and subject to such Regulations…have appellate jurisdiction from all decisions of the High Court.So that we. got an express provision there that any question as to the constitutionality of any law must go to the High Court, and then we get, under Article 66, the proviso to which T have already called attention, under which the prerogative right of the Crown to grant leave to appeal to the Privy Council is preserved. Therefore, in any case of doubt the Privy Council has the right to say that the question should come to it for decision and its decision will be final.
§ Sir J. BUTCHER
Docs this Clause only relate to the question of the validity of the law made by the Irish Parliament, not to the validity of the Clause in the Constitution?
§ Sir D. HOGG
I do not think that that question is well founded, because my hon. and learned Friend sees the laws are enacted by Parliament subject to and by virtue of the Constitution. If any particular enactment of the Irish Parliament were challenged or the validity of anything which it did was sought to be impugned, the question then would necessarily go viæ the High Court to the Supreme Court and then from the Supreme Court to the Privy Council.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
May I put an important question? Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman say what is the meaning of these words in Article 66:The decision of the Supreme Court shall in all cases he final and conclusive, and shall not be reviewed or capable of being reviewed by any other Court, tribunal or authority whatsoever.
§ Sir D. HOGG
"Provided that nothing shall impair the right of the Privy Council to grant leave to appeal." These words, which follow those quoted by my right hon. Friend, mean, or the effect of them is, that the Supreme Court of the Irish Free State is placed 379 in the same position as the Supreme Court of Australia, and the Supreme Court of South Africa, and, I think, probably, the Supreme Court of Canada. That is to say, that the decisions of these Courts are final and conclusive, unless His Majesty is pleased to exercise his prerogative right and grant leave to appeal to the Privy Council, in which case the Privy Council may review the decision.
§ Sir D. HOGG
These, I think, are the main criticisms which were brought to my notice, except this: That my right hon. Friend the Member for the City of London called attention to the fact that Clause 8 of the Treaty was not in the Constitution. He said, or suggested, Why not put it in? The answer is, that if you look at the enacting Clause of the Constitution it is in, because paragraph 2 of the Schedule (page 4) begins by saying:2. The said Constitution shall be construed with reference to the Articles of Agreement for a Treaty between Great Britain and Ireland…are hereby given the force of law…Therefore you are enacting here that the Treaty is law. You need not then proceed to re-enact it by setting it out over again, word by word, in the First Schedule: you have set it out in the Second Schedule. You do not want to print it twice over.
§ Sir D. HOGG
I think it makes for lucidity. I have dealt, I think, with all the specific criticisms which have been levelled against the Articles in the Constitution. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Antrim (Captain Craig), in the course of Debate, asked whether some statement would be made on behalf of the Government with regard to the position of the Southern Unionists. That is a question which, I think, we all recognise as quite a fair question. There is, in fact, going to be a statement made upon that topic by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary for the Colonies when he introduces the second Bill. He has discussed the matter with responsible Members of the Government as to the exact statement, and has it in his mind. I am quite sure my hon. Friend will leave that matter to him. The matter has not been overlooked, but it does not come 380 in at this stage. I think I have traversed all the ground necessary in regard to detailed criticism. I would only like to add one or two observations in reply to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for York, who suggested that there really was no urgency in the matter, because we could pass a one-Clause Bill which would extend the time. The difficulty about that is this: that the Treaty is not a unilateral agreement. There are two parties to it. The Treaty is a bargain which this country has made with the Irish Free State. I venture to think it would be a very unfortunate thing if the first Act of this new Parliament, to which almost every Member has been returned pledged, if he can, to secure the observance of the Treaty—if our first act should be to pass something inconsistent with the Treaty in the hope that we should persuade Ireland to agree to it. It is unfortunate that we have not got longer to discuss the matter, but the position is that by the express terms of the Constitution it has to be enacted by 6th December. If we alter the Constitution we then no longer enact the Constitution which has been approved by the Irish Parliament, and we are refusing to do it. although, before it was enacted by them, we had it submitted to the late Government and by them approved. It is perfectly true, of course, that it is our responsibility to pass this Bill. It is, no doubt, true that if we found in the Constitution something which undoubtedly was inconsistent with the wording of the Treaty, it would be our duty to communicate with the Irish Free State and to give effect to it. But I think that the considerations which I have mentioned should at least go so far as this: that this House ought not to refuse to enact this Constitution unless it is absolutely certain that there is in the Constitution something which is really vitally inconsistent with the Treaty. We ought not to be so astute as to try to pick some technical flaw in the exact wording of some particular Clause, and out of that spell some disagreement which would give us what they would regard as a dishonest excuse for getting out of our obligations.
I thank the House for having listened to me patiently. I would only like to add in conclusion this: We have had from some hon. Members expressions of doubt as to the future of the Irish Free State. I have 381 no mandate from His Majesty's Government to express any view one way or the other. I am quite sure, however, that I am voicing the hope not only of the Government but of all hon. Members of good will on both sides of the House when I associate myself most earnestly and most sincerely with the very eloquent speech of the leader of the Opposition, and when I say that every Member of this House will regard this Bill as a Measure of good will to the people of Ireland, as an indication that Great Britain does intend to implement her obligations to the full, and that oven those who are opposed to the Treaty recognise it and desire to adopt it, and by enacting it to carry it out. His Majesty's Government and the people of Great Britain as a whole will loyally and faithfully observe its terms, with a full hope and prayer that it may turn out for the blessing of the people of Ireland and the cultivation of friendship and amity between that kingdom and ourselves.
§ Sir HERBERT NIELD
We know the right hon. and learned Gentleman who has just spoken is one who has attained a prominent position at the Bar. I think I may prophesy for him an equally prominent position in this House if one makes his opening speech the illustration. I should like to congratulate him upon the Parliamentary manner that he has already acquired. He has indeed gripped the House as very few other speakers have done, and ho may, I think, congratulate himself upon possessing not only a very clear but a very persuasive voice. With all those accomplishments, I am perfectly sure that he will not be the cause of the downfall of the Government—if it ever does come down. Unlike Balaam of old who went to curse but who remained to bless, I am prepared to approach this Bill with the broadest views of which I am capable. I have been in this House for nearly 17 years, and I have been through a great deal of this controversy. I have seen a good deal of its origin; but the less we say about that the better. I was, of course, deeply disappointed at the proceedings which led up to the Act of last year. I do not desire to open up the volume of the Session of 1921, because it has gone. Strongly as I feel about it, I am prepared to let byegones be byegones, if only this Measure can be made a successful effort for the purpose of restoring peace to Ireland. I was prepared to 382 criticise this Measure very much upon the lines adopted by the hon. Member for York (Sir J. Butcher), but I am satisfied with the answer which has just been given by the Attorney-General. I was inclined to believe that the previous Committee which considered this Measure came to a conclusion too readily, and the decision was arrived at by those in whom I had very little confidence. I do not believe, however, that, the present holders of office would swerve from their duty if they had any reasonable doubt as to the Constitution which we are asked to affirm not being within the four corners of the Treaty.
It is deplorable that circumstances have made it necessary for the present Government to be the one to have to shoulder-responsibility for this Measure. I trust, however, that it may prove to be a solution of the difficulties which have so long prevailed, and which would never have arisen if politicians in 1906 had not converted a peaceful Ireland into its present state of chaos and anarchy. The authors of this legislation now sit on the opposite side of the House in a decimated condition, and on them rests the responsibility, and posterity will judge them by the result. We all hope that the ultimate results of affirming this Constitution will be satisfactory, and that it may be used moderately, wisely and well by those on the other side of St. George's Channel. I hope we shall not take advantage of any technicality and resist this or that when proposed to us by the Government, of Ireland. I hope we shall honestly and sincerely try to make this a working agreement, and that it will heal finally that sore which has existed for many years in Ireland.
§ Mr. J. JONES
May I, as a common Member of this House, be allowed to congratulate the Attorney-General upon his speech? I happen to be an Irishman myself, and I want to congratulate the Attorney-General. If all the speeches he delivers here have the same breath of sympathy and understanding and good relationship as the one which he has just delivered, then on this side of the House we shall be pleased to listen to him every time he addresses us. Ireland at the present moment happens to be in a position of which none of us who happen to be Irishmen are proud. We believe that this Bill gives Ireland a full opportunity, and it gives the people of Ireland 383 power to express themselves in a proper constitutional way. My own belief is that it will be the beginning of a better relationship between the people of Ireland and the people of this country. We trust that under this Measure the people of the North and South of Ireland will join together to achieve a solution of their common problems. There has been an election in Ireland, and the people have accepted the Treaty, and the delay in the carrying out of the Agreement between Great Britain and Ireland in a proper constitutional form has given those who are anxious to destroy good relations between the two countries the opportunity which they sought.
I am no apologist for the principles and opinions I hold. I do hold them and I have a right to hold them. If the people of Ireland decided in favour of a republic by their votes, I should back them because I have no love for any Government which is not founded upon the people's will. The people of Ireland decided to accept the Treaty and it has been accepted by at least 80 per cent, of the electors, and they have agreed to accept this basis of friendship between Ireland and the people of this country. No Irishman, whether he comes from the North or the South can claim to be a loyal son of Ireland if he now tries to pick holes in that agreement. I suggest, after hearing some of the things which have been said in this Debate, that the people of India would be delighted if they had an opportunity of having a similar Constitution to the one we are now considering. I think it ill becomes those who claim to believe in the principle of democracy to get up here after a General Election, in which they never expressed the opinions they are expressing now, and try to prevent the realisation of the ambitions of the overwhelming majority of the people of Ireland.
I am here as an Irishman. I am also here as a member of the Labour movement to say that this is the best settlement that has ever been offered to Ireland. The hon. Gentleman who has just addressed the House has expressed regret that the legislation proposed in previous Parliaments has not been carried into effect. Who was responsible for that legislation not being carried into effect? Why, the very people who 384 are now wearing sackcloth and ashes, the very men w-ho ought now to be apologising for their past, misconduct, are finding fault with this measure of self-government. As a poor student of history, and not one who is well educated, I say that reforms delayed mean revolution begun. What has happened in Ireland is mainly due to the narrow-minded policy of those who are now saying, "For God's sake, save us from the wolves." If in 1886 this House had given more attention to the statesmanlike proposals then made in a small way, which were put forward as an olive branch, I believe that we should have gradually-reached a better relationship, and we should not have had now all these differences between one part of Ireland and the other. I hope this Measure will enable the two Parliaments to work amicably together, and if it tends in that direction we shall welcome it. I hope the consequences of passing this Measure will be the breaking down of all barriers and the making of greater opportunities for a country which we all love.
I am proud to have the opportunity on this occasion of following another Irishman. I have listened to this debate with great attention, and I hope that eventually the passing of this Treaty may lead to what has been rightly called the clasping of hands between two people long estranged. At the present moment that is not so. Hon. Members know that on 6th December, when this Constitution becomes law, there will be no joy bells ringing East, West, North or South in Ireland. Hon. Members know-that there will be no great expressions of joy in this country at all. There are, however, 615 men and women in Great Britain who ought to be really pleased at this Treaty becoming finally an Act, and they are the Members of this House, because we get room for an extra hundred in this. House The Nationalist Members have gone, and hon. Members opposite have more room to spread themselves. I know what it means to have to sit on the crowded benches opposite.
We do not want to accentuate now our differences in regard to the Articles of Agreement and the Constitution. There are differences, but it appears to me that we have had Ministers who have tried to accentuate those differences. Those, however, are small points, and what really 385 matters to the Loyalists in the South of Ireland is that we have to find out what our status is going to be. We have been betrayed and abandoned in the past, and now we have to find out as best we can exactly what our position is going to be. I congratulate the Attorney-General on his brilliant speech, but I think he skated over in a few sentences the thing that really matters, that is, British citizenship. Until you run the danger of losing a really good thing you do not appreciate it. I appreciate my British citizenship as the finest thing in the world, because it gives mo a direct appeal to my Sovereign and I am afraid that under this Constitution I am going to lose that.
Because on the 6th December I have to make a choice. Article 3 of the Free State Constitution says:Every person, without distinction of sex, domiciled in the area of the jurisdiction of the Irish Free State at the time of the coming into operation of this Constitution who was born in Ireland or either of whose parents was born in Ireland or who has been ordinarily resident in the area of the jurisdiction of the Irish Free State for not less than seven years, is a citizen of the Irish Free State.If I take lip those obligations I want to know if I lose my British citizenship or do I not?
Then what about my fellow citizens in the Irish Free State? Article 3 says that anybody ordinarily-resident in the area of the jurisdiction of the Irish Free State for seven years acquires citizenship. Apparently they equally become British citizens. It seems to me that seven years next March the Irish people may be celebrating the insurrection in Dublin and all sorts of evil characters may flock back into Ireland, and they will have been in that country for seven years. Therefore, as soon as we make this Bill into an Act, all those doubtful characters, ipso facto, and automatically become citizens of the Irish 386 Free State. Do I understand they will not become British citizens? Do I understand that I can become a citizen of the Irish Free State and not lose my citizenship over here in this country?
§ 8.0 p.m.
I am glad to have that expression of opinion, and I have waited all the afternoon in order to get it. Otherwise see what it means. I shall have to make my choice under Article 3 whether I am to become a citizen of the Irish Free State or Whether I shall become an ontlander in my own country. As an outlander I may be subjected to various penalties with regard to land tenure and military service. I am extremely glad to hear that if I take up my citizenship in the Irish Free State I shall lose nothing; that I shall remain a full British subject, and at the same time be a fully fledged subject of the Irish Free State.
I do not want to quarrel about words, I will accept the term "citizen." If I become a citizen of the Irish Free State I shall remain a full British subject. If that is so it applies to every loyalist in the South of Ireland. I am very glad to get that statement from the Attorney-General.
§ Mr. CHARLES ROBERTS
Is it clear that the Irish Free State under this Constitution gets the same right of separate representation in the Assembly of the League of Nations as the self-governing Dominions?
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir WILLIAM ALLEN
A great deal has been said this afternoon with regard to the malicious injury done to property in Ireland and to the awful condition of those people who are unable to recover the compensation they are entitled to. I want to get some information on this subject in order that we may induce a speeding up of the settlement of these claims.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. James Hope)
I do not say that that is necessarily out of order on this Bill, but it would come in much more appositely on the next Bill.
§ Sir W. ALLEN
I will postpone what I have to say on that point until we come to the next Bill. I want to draw special attention to the provision under which existing officers of the Provisional Government who at the date of the coming into operation of the Constitution are engaged in the administration of public services, which on that date become public services of the Irish Free State, are to become officers of the Irish Free State. A great many of these officers in Southern Ireland are piteously appealing for relief from that provision for compulsory transfer. By this Article these officers are to remain permanently under the Free State Government; they will have to stay there compulsorily. It will involve great hardship to many of them, and I invite the Government to seriously consider their case. I am told there is quite a number of vacancies to be compulsorily filled up by the Government of Southern Ireland and that at least seven more officers of the Civil Service are required to fill these vacancies. The officers are protesting, and I would beg of the Government to consider their case and to realise what their position will be when they are compulsorily transferred, against their wishes, to the Irish Free State. I am sorry that I and my hon. Friends on these benches cannot give an immediate response to the appeal which has been made to us. I wish that we in Northern Ireland could extend the hand of friendship to Southern Ireland, but up to the present they have given us no reason for doing so. When they seriously take up the question of working this Act, when they become rational, when they cease their brutality and bestialities, when they get going in a sane manner, then will be the time for us to come together. We all want peace, and the sooner we can get it in Ireland the better. We want to be enabled to attend to our business and to get on with our work.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House for Tomorrow.—[The Prime Minister.]