HC Deb 20 March 1923 vol 161 cc2353-5

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend and limit the duration of the Restoration of Order in Ireland Act, 1920. I have the support of many Members who are constitutional authorities and are experienced in the law and methods of repressing and punishing crime. All of those who are supporting me on this Bill belong to my own party. The Bill has four main propositions. I do not think I need refer to the terms of the Act, because they are familiar to the House. The first proposal of the Bill provides that in each case where an Order has been made by the Home Secretary it shall be reviewed by the Advisory Committee.

This is by no means a challenge as far as the Home Secretary is concerned, and I think he will be the first to agree that in a matter which has such serious consequences, it would strengthen his own hands if each case were reviewed, as of right, by the Advisory Committee. As I understand from the statement made yesterday, it is the intention of the present Advisory Committee—as far as the Chairman has announced it—to review these cases, but I think it is only a matter of right that a provision to this effect should be embodied in the Statute, and that each man who happens to be the subject of an order, should have his case brought under the review of the Advisory Committee. The second point is that— also as a matter of right—every man should be able to appear before the Advisory Committee. It is true again that yesterday the Attorney-General said facilities would be given, and everyone was glad to know it. I think that was at the instance of the Chairman of the Committee, but again I think, that in a matter which so gravely affects the liberty of the subject, the accused man should have a right of appearing before the Advisory Committee. The third proposition is that until the Advisory Committee has confirmed the Home Secretary's Order no subject of this country should by any Order of the Home Secretary be compelled to leave the country. One of the far-reaching consequences of an Order such as those made by the Home Secretary recently is that, apart from the fact of the man being deported to Ireland, the man loses his right to apply for a writ of habeas corpus. When the Act of 1920 was brought in, that was never contemplated by the House of Commons. What, in fact, was contemplated, was that if any order was made under the Act, the man should remain, not only under the jurisdiction of the Home Secretary, but under the jurisdiction of the English Courts. I think an unfortunate consequence of the orders now being made, and their results, is that, at any rate at this moment, none of these men are able, if they so desire, to challenge the decision of the Home Secretary as to whether he is acting legally or not.

If these men were retained in this country under arrest pending the decision of the Advisory Committee, they could then, if they so desired and were so advised, apply to an English Judge and test the validity of the Order. The last proposition is one which, I think, may commend itself to all Members of the House and it is that the Act should be limited in its operation. I do not think anyone desires that the Act should remain on the Statute Book without any period being put to it. The Bill fixes a period of 12 months and if at the end of that time affairs in Ireland warrant the necessity, the Act can be renewed, but anyone who has regard for the liberty of the subject will desire that after this time it should be strictly limited in its operation. I only wish to say in conclusion that no one who is supporting this Bill has, and certainly I have not, any desire to condone crime or encourage lawlessness. The Bill is introduced with a view to preserving if possible—I agree in difficult circumstances—the liberty of the subject. Nor is it, so far as this country is concerned, a proposal condemning the action of the Government. It is strictly limited to the future operation of the Act. I have already stated to the House my own misgivings as to the action of the Government. This Bill does not affect that action, but only affects the future, and if the four propositions which I have outlined, were agreed to by the Government, it would do much to strengthen their hands in the action they are taking. In any event, I hope the House will permit the Bill to be circulated and printed and the suggestions contained in it considered by hon. Members.

Question, "That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend and limit the duration of the Restoration of Order in Ireland Act, 1920," put, and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Sir Kingsley Wood, Mr. Hawke, Sir Ellis Hume-Williams, Mr. Galbraith. Mr. Lort-Williams, Mr. Cassels, Mr. G. W. H. Jones, Sir Harold Smith, Mr. Morris, and Mr. Greaves-Lord.