§ Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment to Question [30th September] "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
Which Amendment was, to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the words
this House, while desirous of forwarding a constitutional and lasting settlement of the question of the boundary between the Irish Free State and Northern Ireland, declines to proceed with a Bill which might enable territory to be transferred from the Irish Free State to Northern Ireland or from Northern Ireland to the Irish Free State without the consent of the Parliament to whom jurisdiction over that territory has been granted by the Imperial Parliament."—[Mr. Reid.]
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ Captain WEDGWOOD BENN
I have listened to many Debates in this House on the Irish question, and I think everyone who is in the same position will agree that the Debates we have had yesterday and before upon this subject have been marked by a new tone. I welcome that tone, and I hope nothing I shall say—although I am bound to introduce some controversial points—will appear harsh or unfair either to the Northern Unionists or to the representatives of the Free State. The fact of the matter is that we in this Parliament are becoming interested only in a diminishing degree in the affairs of Ireland. The issue we are discussing to-day is primarily an Irish issue which can only be satisfactorily settled by the assent on the one side of Sir James Craig and his party with their passion for detachment, and on the other side of President Cosgrave and the pro-Treaty party who are also working for the freedom of Ireland as a nation within the Commonwealth of the British Empire. The attitude we must adopt is the Imperial attitude. We must examine the question as an Imperial issue, bearing in mind—as I think—that 152 the only final solution of the Irish question lies in the unity of Ireland as a Dominion within the British Commonwealth. We are met with conflicting claims made on the one hand by the Irish Unionist Members and on the other hand by the Free State, as to what are supposed to be our pledges in this matter. I propose to examine, firstly, the statements by the Northern Unionists, and, secondly, the position of the Free State, to see exactly what are our obligations.
Hon. Members from Northern Ireland will not deny that they stand, in relation to this Parliament, in quite a different relation from that of the Free State. They have always expressed their desire to remain as part of the United Kingdom. They have always expressed their belief in the supremacy of this Parliament, and they therefore will be the last to desire to put forward any argument or make any suggestion which would aim a blow at the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament. Now, observe the Amendment which has been moved and which is a repetition of Amendments moved and rejected many times in this House. This is not an attack merely made upon a detail of Article 12 of the Irish Treaty. The attack is upon the whole Treaty and upon the right of this Parliament to make a Treaty without the assent of the hon. Gentlemen opposite. Why do I say that? Because those who have read the Treaty know that it put Northern Ireland into the Free State and for one month Northern Ireland was a part of the Free State. It is true the powers of the Free State were not exercisable, but they existed according to the terms of the Treaty, and the option was given to Northern Ireland to get rid of the allegiance which they owed to the Free State under the Treaty by moving an Address to the Crown, and in that case they retained the powers—though not the territory—which was given to them under the 1920 Act. Therefore, I say, we are met here in this Amendment not merely with the suggestion that some part of the Treaty should be altered, but with an argument which really aims a fatal blow at the validity of the whole Treaty itself. The Northern Unionists base their claims upon the Act of 1920. I do not know why the Act of Parliament of 1920 should have some special sanctity which no other Act of Parliament possesses. It was not a good Act; it 153 was a very bad Act because it was based upon the idea of the partition of Ireland, and many of us in this House, including all the hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway, opposed it on those grounds when it was before the House. But it has some special sanctity. The Act of 1914, which was passed three times by this House, for the passage of which a great constitutional change was made by the passing of the Parliament Act, was repealed—I well remember the occasion, late one night—by a Clause in the Act of 1920. Nobody then said there was a sacro-sanctity about the Act of 1914, and it was almost considered indecent—the action was mine—to move an Amendment objecting to the repeal of that Act. It is said that you cannot alter the Act of 1920 without the assent of the Northern Parliament, but by the Act of 1920 a Southern Parliament was set up in 1920, and was destroyed in 1922, without ever having become articulate, and, further, the Northern Unionists themselves came to this House and asked for an amendment of the Act of 1920, by the Consequential Provisions Act, in order that they might themselves enjoy the dignity of a Governor and a Privy Council in Northern Ireland.
Further than that, they send their representative to the Judicial Committee to plead the cause of Northern Ireland when the Committee is examining the meaning of the Treaty, and their representative, no less distinguished a lawyer than the right hon. Gentleman who was the Attorney-General in the late Government, says to the Court: "There is a simple constitutional way of making Article 12 operative." What was it? An Act of Parliament amending the Treaty of 1922 and, consequentially, the Act of 1920. What becomes, then, of this plea that a special sanctity attaches to this one Act of 1920 over and above all other Acts? The Act itself in at least three places asserts in terms the right of this House to amend it. First of all, it denies to the Northern Government the right to interfere in Treaties with other parts of His Majesty's Dominions; in another Section, it says that this House shall have power to make laws applicable to Northern Ireland, although they may refer to the ceded matters; and in Section 75 of the Act it expressly and in terms says that the authority of this 154 House is undiminished over all matters, persons, and things in Northern Ireland. Therefore, I submit that the claim that what this House did in 1902 it has no right to amend in 1924, whether on constitutional or on any other grounds, cannot be sustained.
Now we come to the Treaty itself, and to the special position of Northern Ireland under the Treaty. I want to make, in a not too unfriendly way, I hope, some references to a speech made yesterday by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Macpherson), who sits on this bench. I should not have referred to it if he had not said in one part of his speech that he was speaking for everybody, "even" on these benches, and that word was rather lacking, I thought, in discretion. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say that he was as good a Liberal as ever he was. I am not concerned to dispute that statement, but since his earlier Liberal days the right hon. Gentleman has wandered into a far country and spent his time in riotous living. I do not in the least object to my right hon. Friend bringing back a pocketful of husks to munch at his leisure, but I do object to his prescribing the husks as a diet for the Liberal family. The right hon. Gentleman lent himself to an argument which I was surprised to see supported on the high authority of the Speaker of the Northern Parliament, which was this, that when this House made the Treaty we knew perfectly well that there was a simple way for Ulster to evade its obligations by refusing to appoint a Commissioner. That is an argument that when this Act was passed everybody knew—and this House assented to the Act because they knew—that Ulster had merely to say: "We do not appoint a Commissioner," and thereby she was absolved from all obligations involved in Article 12. What does that mean? It means that Amendments moved in this House to restrict the powers of the Commission, the statements made with fervour by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen in all parts of the House that this meant the disruption of Northern Ireland, were make-belief, were a sham, and that behind it all, in the Lobbies, there was a winking of the eye, and a tapping of the nose, and an explanation: "It is all right, because Ulster has only to say she does not 155 appoint a Commissioner, and under the Act she is entitled to evade the rectification of the frontier which Article 12 prescribes. May I ask my right hon. Friend whether he told Michael Collins and Arthur Griffith this?
§ Captain BENN
I am very much surprised to hear my right hon. Friend say that. Was Michael Collins on the run when he was signing the Treaty? Michael Collins and Arthur Griffith came to this country; they were received; they made the Treaty, and the whole thing contained a trick. Everybody—
§ Mr. FERGUSON
On a point of Order. Why does not the hon. and gallant Gentleman address the Chair, Mr. Speaker?
§ Captain BENN
I say in all seriousness that this argument that has been put forward by the Northern Unionists, and has been supported by the right hon. Gentleman is a dishonourable afterthought.
§ Mr. FERGUSON
On a point of Order. I have been made to withdraw a similar remark, and I think the hon. and gallant Gentleman should be made to withdraw it.
§ Captain BENN
I would appeal on this point to the authority of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. A. Chamberlain) and of Sir James Craig himself. The right hon. Member for West Birmingham, in a speech, said:There was one thing we did not foresee, and that was that Ulster would refuse to appoint a Commissioner.Sir James Craig himself, in the Northern Parliament, having put forward this argument that I am attacking, added:They made a drafting error, and the consequences can rest upon themselves.What becomes, then, of this argument that we knew that this was the open door through which Ulster might escape? It is some solace to those who, like me, can 156 never hope to achieve more than mediocre attainments, to know that this Article was drafted by "the best brains in the country"—Lord Birkenhead and Mr. Churchill. It may be, perhaps, that that consideration is some consolation to the captain of the Opposition ship, who has just signed on a new seaman with his hip pockets suspiciously bulging. I say that if this was not a slip, if this was the intention—that is the argument advanced—it is not our business to talk about "the best brains in the country," but it is our business to talk about the greatest roguery.
Let me deal with the second argument, the argument that has been accepted unanimously—the assertion that was made by some that Article 12 merely involves a rectification of the frontier, an amendment here, an amendment there. Everybody knows that when that very difficult Treaty was being advocated, and its passage secured in this House, many diverse statements were made. Some said this merely meant a rectification of the frontier. Others—and I put in this class both the Leader of the Ulster party in this House and Mr. Michael Collins—said that this meant a considerable alteration of territory. [HON. MEMBERS: "Quote!"] I do not want to take up the time of the House. I will give one or two examples. Let me take Lord Danesfort. [HON. MEMBERS: "He was not the leader!"] I will take the then Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs. [HON. MEMBEES: "Craig!"] I will take the leader of the Ulster party:The Boundary Commission …. may cut off considerable portions of our province."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th February, 1022; col. 1291. Vol. 150.][HON. MEMBERS: "May!" and Interruption.] When this Article was before the House, some said, "It means a mere ratification." Others said, "It may involve a considerable transfer of territory." Mr. Collins said, "It means a considerable transfer of territory." Members of the Unionist party from Ulster said, "It may," and, in fact, some went further and said, "It will be possible"—the quotation I was going to give from Lord Danesfort. What is the fact? The fact is that in the midst of these conflicting interpretations of the Article, the Government did what was 157 right. They said, "We are going to give these terms of reference to the arbitrators, and they must decide what they mean, and how they are to be applied." That must be our position to-day. The Treaty is signed; it is not a thing we can amend to-day. It is a contract. The House rejected an Amendment to limit the powers of the Commission, and decided that the only thing to do was to leave the words as they stood for the interpretation of the Boundary Commission, which the Government propose should be done even at this day. Why? Because the words have a special significance. They are taken from the great European Treaties where we had to decide, where the population was mixed, what the boundary should be of Germany. We used these words, "The wishes of the population, subject to geographical conditions." There is a special meaning and a special force in those words, and the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) even spoke of Silesia as an example comparable with Ireland, and an hon. Gentleman who pleaded the cause of the Treaty cited the case of the Treaty of Versailles in support of one of the arguments. The reason was that this House was not willing to put a minority under a Government they did not wish to accept. The case of hon. Members from Ulster used to be, "Why should we, who are 26 per cent. of the population of Ireland, be put under the domination of the remainder? We claim the right of the minority." Why should they, who are 26 per cent. of the population of Ireland, now claim to put 34 per cent. of their population under a Government they do not desire? There is no defence in equity for such a claim.
§ Brigadier-General Sir HENRY CROFT
Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman suggesting that they will hand over great territories?
§ Captain BENN
I am leaving the matter to the Commissioners. The Commission has been bombarded in a somewhat indecent manner with instructions as to how they ought to act, but I have no doubt that that judicial court will ignore everything, except the instructions upon which it is acting. I come to another argument—the argument that in some sense the Treaty is a breach of pledges which have been given. That 158 was advanced also by my right hon. Friend. It was said pledges were given that the six counties were to be inviolate, that the boundary of the six counties would never be touched. To whom were those pledges made? The hon. Member for West Belfast (Sir R. Lynn) said they existed since 1916, and he says so now. In 1916 Ulster returned an anti-partition majority to this House. Who was consulted when these so-called binding pledges were made? They were pledges of a party character made to meet party exigencies. They were pledges made to Lord Carson and Sir James Craig, because that was necessary for the success of the policy of the Government of that day. It is said the Northern party has sacrificed three counties, and, in virtue of that sacrifice, the remaining six should be inviolate. A Unionist Member of this House proposed to give them the nine, and they opposed it. Why did they themselves suggest the partition of the ancient Province of Ulster? Because they were afraid Ulster itself would wish to join in the Free State. There was the danger. I will quote the words of the hon. and gallant Member for Antrim (Captain Craig). He said:We are charged with the defence of the Ulster position …. the duty of undertaking the government and the defence of as much of Ulster as we can hold."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th March, 1920; col. 991, Vol. 127.]That is to say, "Give us as much minority as we can keep under, but do not make the minority big enough." [Interruption.] If right hon. Gentlemen have given pledges privately to fellow politicians, it is to their infinite credit to discharge them, but do not let them say that those pledges were made by the people of England to the people of Ireland. They were not.
Let me leave the question of Northern Ireland, and turn to the Free State aspect, and the world and Imperial aspect of this problem, because that in future will be the only aspect that will concern us. This document is a Treaty. It is described as a Treaty, just as the Act of Union was described as a Treaty. It is an International document. It has been accepted by the League of Nations, and has the validity of all other International documents. In this Treaty it is stated that the status of the Free State shall be the same as the status of Australia, 159 Canada and the other great Dominions. When General Smuts wrote his famous letter to De Valera at the beginning of these negotiations, General Smuts said:The Dominions will stand beside you, and shield you, and protect your rights as if they were their own.Do hon. Members, whose interests and whose faith in the Empire are great—and we also have faith in the Empire!—do they think that we are going to break our word to the smallest and weakest Dominion without shattering faith in that word throughout the length and breadth of the British Commonwealth? What is true of the Free State is true of every other Dominion, because the Free State—
§ Sir WILLIAM DAVISON
What about the letter of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) to De Valera?
§ Captain BENN
Let me say one word about the repercussion of the acceptance of such an Amendment in Ireland itself. It is two years since a distinguished Unionist Member of this House wished the House to present a humble Address to the Crown praying that His Majestymight ratify these Articles of agreement so that the same may be established for ever.Two years later the same Member proposes that we should break the agreement that we made in these solemn terms with Ireland. In Ireland there is a party which is fighting for the Treaty. Three times they have succeeded—and it is a marvel to observe it!—three times they have succeeded in securing the ratification by the freely-elected representatives of the Free State. They are fighting for the freedom of their country as a nation within the British Commonwealth. They are fighting also for the unity of Ireland, the provision for which is contained within this Treaty. Ireland is one. The only final solution is that Ireland should be treated as one. It was one in 1800 when the Treaty of Union was made. It was one throughout Mr. Gladstone's Bills. It was one in 1914. It is one under this Treaty which is made with Ireland, and not with Southern Ireland, because it has been recognised that it is only as a unit that the unity of Ireland can be established. There is one way in which the whole question can be 160 settled. Supposing that Ulster, that Northern Ireland, could see their way to make a gesture of unity to the South; supposing that they could see their way to accept the ideal of a united Ireland, then the matter of the boundaries between two is without any importance whatever. May I say that the devotion and the service in the War, great as they were, would then be succeeded by that priceless gift which the gesture of unity would give if made by the representatives of Northern Ireland!
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
The hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just spoken has earned for himself a reputation as a fighter of which anyone might be proud; but I wish that occasionally in this House of Commons he would play the part of a pacifist, instead of the part of one stirring up strife. I cannot but express my regret that the unfortunate differences which continue to prevail in the ranks of the Liberal Party—[HON. MEMBERS: "What about Winston Churchill?"]—should impart into a discussion, which otherwise in all quarters of the House has been of a gravity and a forbearance befitting so solemn and so anxious an occasion, a tone of contentior and strife which I hope I may do nothing to continue, and, if I may say so, do something to allay. My right hon. Friend the Member for Colchester (Sir L. Worthington-Evans) and I are the two Members sitting on this side, and the only two Members on this side, who were not only supporters of the Treaty, but actual signatories of it. We have thought it desirable that one or other of us should intervene for a few moments in the Debate, lest our silence should give rise to a misconception as to our attitude. In what I say I think I may assert that I shall represent my right hon. Friend and co-signatory as well as myself. It is for that reason that, as a signatory, I intervene.
It is not because I differ in any respect from the course recommended by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Baldwin) or from the observations which he addressed to the House yesterday in regard to the situation. Like my right hon. Friend, I am glad to make my acknowledgments of the tone and temper in which the Prime Minister moved the Second Reading of the Bill, and, indeed, I think it is to the credit of this House that on great occasions the House shows 161 itself worthy of its great name; that on questions raising such a depth of feeling, and so many intense fears and anxieties, the speeches of those who moved and seconded the Amendment on behalf of Northern Ireland were as grave and temperate as was the speech of the Prime Minister himself. I was particularly glad to hear the Prime Minister dwell upon the obligations of us all to the loyalists—to those who were members of the old Unionist party of Southern Ireland. It ought not to be forgotten that it was from the Unionists of Southern Ireland, from the representative men among them, that the first cry for peace came, for an amendment of the Treaty, and for an end to the bitter strife. Let it not be forgotten that, whether the struggle continues or the struggle is ended, theirs was a most difficult, a most perilous, a most painful and anxious position. If I feel I have anything to reproach myself with in my part in the making of that Treaty, it is that I trusted too much for the protection of the loyalists, not to the goodwill of Mr. Collins and Mr. Griffiths—for that goodwill was never wanting on their part—but to their power. And the lamentable events which followed in Southern Ireland upon the decision of the Dail, and their loyal acceptance of the Treaty, that lamentable history destroyed the chances of a peaceful and happy oblivion, to which I am sure that the principal negotiators of the Treaty on the Sinn Fein side looked forward to as much as we did, as being the best security that we could give to Southern Ireland.
I was not less glad to hear the Prime Minister acknowledge our obligations to Northern Ireland and his determination, in the new policy which he was proposing to the House, when acting in lieu of the Ulster Government, to act as far as he could in what was the spirit of that Government, and to secure that the representative, not now to be appointed by them as provided in the original Treaty, but by the British Government, should be as much a representative of Northern Ireland, and a man as closely possessing their confidence and commanding their respect as if he were their own direct nominee. I think that is profoundly wise. I think it is vital to any prospect of success in the policy upon which the 162 Government have embarked, and I do urge—
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the COLONIES (Mr. J. H. Thomas)
Does the right hon. Gentleman mean that he should be particularly acquainted with and looked upon as representing Ulster?
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
I mean that he should be a man in whom the whole of the North has confidence. I mean that he should be such a man as they would have chosen had they felt able to nominate a Commissioner, and that he should be as much their representative and their man of confidence as the other Commissioner is the representative and man of confidence of the South. I hope that the Prime Minister and the Government will lose no opportunity of securing, as the third Commissioner whom they are going to appoint, in default of an appointment by the Ulster Government, a man whom Ulster will trust and who will be, as I say, as much the representative of Ulster and Ulster feelings as the second Commissioner is of the feelings of the Free State.
So far I have done no more than to recognise the spirit in which the Prime Minister moved the Second Reading of this Bill, and to emphasise the importance of the conditions which he himself laid down. Now I must say one word of criticism upon the attitude to the whole question adopted by both the Prime Minister and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith). I think both of them in their speeches spoke of the Bill now before us as being a Measure which rectifies an error and corrects a technicality in the old Treaty. I consider that is to underrate profoundly the importance of what they are doing, whether it be right or wrong to do it. It is something much more than that. The letter of the old Treaty is plain. They sought the advice of the highest judicial authority, the Privy Council, as to whether they could do under the Treaty and the Statute which ratified the Treaty that which they now propose to do, and the advice of the Privy Council was that it could not be done in that way. Therefore observe, in the first place, that you are altering the letter. It may be right or it may be wrong, but that is what you are doing. You are not 163 correcting an error, or providing for a technicality, but you are amending the Treaty vitally.
The Colonial Secretary is habitually coupling together the letter and the spirit, and the spirit is as important as the letter, though it is the letter that binds. The letter was clear. Ulster alone had the right to appoint the third Commissioner. Was not the spirit equally clear? It was an invitation to co-operation by Ulster in settling a boundary which as it then existed was not satisfactory, and no one pretended that it was satisfactory, or had ever been satisfactory either to the North or to the South. The Treaty by its letter gave the power to Ulster, and to Ulster alone, to appoint a third Commissioner, and by its spirit sought the co-operation of Ulster in solving this difficult question. It did not propose her subjection to an award given by a Commission to which she had not been a party.
The hon. and gallant Member for Leith (Captain W. Benn), if I rightly understood him, suggests that to lay any stress upon this aspect is to expose ourselves to the aspersion that all the time when we were negotiating and passing the Treaty, we were tricking those with whom we were dealing. [HON. MEMBERS: "No," "Yes'' and "Roguery."] I think that is a very mischievous suggestion, because something more than the honour of our public men is impugned. That suggestion impugns the honour of the British Government. Such a suggestion should not be made except after the gravest consideration, and only when it is quite clear that that is the only explanation.
§ Captain W. BENN
I had no intention of making any charge of that kind in regard to those who made the Treaty, and I do not think my words bear that construction. What I said was that, if it was asserted that it was well known that by the simple act of refusing to appoint a Commissioner, the whole of Article 12 would become inoperative—if it was asserted that that was known at the time, then that Article was a trick.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
I am very anxious not to be controversial, and I am also anxious that we should be clear among ourselves as to what is the real position. It was an essential feature of the Treaty that Ulster should co-operate in the Boundary Commission, and should 164 nominate a Commissioner. Was it not a foolish hope to entertain at the time for those who signed the Treaty that we were doing something which could not happen, and could not be realised? Let it be borne in mind that another agreement was come to, very shortly after the signature of the Treaty, between the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland and Mr. Collins, that they would themselves draw the new boundary, and dispense with the Commission. It was not at all impossible when the Treaty was signed, and, indeed, but for the unhappy events of the following months in Southern Ireland, but for the unexpected position with which Mr. Griffith and Mr. Collins were met, and but for its results, I am not at all certain that, long before this, we should not have had that boundary adjusted by common consent of the North and the South, and the Commission, having been established, finding that its only work was to ratify the decision which had been come to by the two parties, and which satisfied them both.
There is no trickery in that. There was an expectation, which was a reasonable expectation at the time. After all, let us consider—and I beg the Government to consider—what is the history of this boundary question. It nearly produced civil war just before the outbreak of the Great War. The Home Rule Bill was passed in Parliament in 1914 after the outbreak of war, with the assurance and the pledge that it should not come into operation until the Ulster case had been met. Coming on to the amending Act of 1920—I skip the intervening years—you established the Government and the community of Northern Ireland as a separate entity, with definite rights and privileges. It was the common and publicly avowed belief and intimate conviction of every party in the State that the union of North and South could only he produced by Irishmen, could never be secured by force or coercion—that it could only be produced as confidence arose between them, as good will grew between them, and as common interests might dictate that such was to the advantage of both.
I was a member of all those anxious conferences which preceded the signature of the Treaty. It is not only that that was the view of every party which sat in this House from 1914 165 onwards; it was the view of the representatives of Sinn Fein with whom we sat in Downing Street to negotiate this Treaty. There was never an idea that you could deprive the North of Ireland by force of the position which the Act of 1920 had given her, of the rights and privileges with which she had been endowed; or that these could ever be surrendered except by her own representatives, her own people, when they desired, in their own interests, to merge themselves into the larger Ireland which might be produced by the union of North and South.
I noticed the warning given by the Colonial Secretary yesterday about raising controversy over the grave of Lord Long. I shall say nothing, I think, that tends to controversy. My memory is not good enough to say that such-and-such a Cabinet discussion did take place, still less to say that it did not. But is there anything in Lord Long's letter that was not common knowedge to all of us—that Ulster was to be preserved in the rights and privileges conferred upon her as an existing self-governing body, subject to conditions as to her participation in this Assembly, and, subject to one condition only as regards her territory, that there might at any time be an adjustment of a boundary, which nobody pretended to be a convenient one as it stood? I say, therefore, that through the whole of this business, since 1914, there has been a consistent purpose among all parties, and that is the purpose which was embodied in this Treaty. It was that Ulster should have her own fate in her own hands; that if she liked to join with the rest of Ireland, she could do it, that if she preferred not to do so, no compulsion should be exercised upon her, but that the time had now come when that revision of the existing boundary, which every party had contemplated as a necessity sooner or later, ought to take place.
As to what the nature of that revision was to be, I have never had, and I have not now, the slightest doubt. It is not as if the whole subject came upon us for the first time after the Treaty was signed. In those long conferences which preceded the signing of the Treaty, this question was again and again before us. I am saying nothing new—I mean that I am saying nothing which has not already been said in this House—though I am repeating 166 what I think it is important to recall, when I say that the British signatories to that Treaty definitely refused to allow the question of the boundary to be settled by county option, by Poor Law district option, or by vote of the inhabitants taken in any local government circumscription that you might have. We left it to the Commissioners. We left it to them under a form of words which we deliberately adopted to exclude such a dismemberment of Northern Ireland as would be created by cutting out whole counties or large slices of counties—under a form of words which we were deliberately advised, and which I see no reason to doubt we were well advised, directed the Commissioners to readjust an old boundary, and not to create a new one regardless of history or of existing conditions. No doubt it was said at that time that the actual interpretation of those words must rest with the Commissioners. We resisted with all the authority that we could command any attempt to amend the Bill, and thereby amend the Treaty in one sense or another. We resisted any attempt to give a greater definition to the boundary then, in the first place because we believed it to be unnecessary, and because, as shown by speech after speech in the Paper which the Government have laid—though bulky as it is, it is very incomplete—there, was no doubt what our intentions were, and 4.0 P.M. what we believed we were doing. I was going to quote, but it really is not necessary. Observe this! We made those declarations in December, before the Treaty had gone before the Dail. Do not talk to me of trickery. Every word that I say now was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), by Mr. Winston Churchill, by my right hon. Friend beside me, and by myself in the Debate in December, 1921, before ever the Dail had the matter under consideration. If we were trying to trick the Irish, should we have exposed our whole hand, and made our whole claim? [HON MEMBERS: "He never said so!"] No, but what he did say was that those who, like my right hon. Friend the Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Macpherson), attach some importance to these declarations, to what was embodied in them, and that was in their mind all the time, were open to such a charge. 167 [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] At any rate, if the hon. and gallant Gentleman says that I misinterpret him, I will withdraw at once.
§ Captain BENN
I want to make it quite plain that I have made no charge at all of trickery against them, none whatever.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
Then we are agreed. This interpretation of the Treaty was plainly placed upon it in this House by every signatory of the Treaty who was in the House at the time, before ever the Treaty came under consideration by the Dail, and not one of us signatories of the Treaty in this House, or signatories of the Treaty sitting in the other House who made similar declarations, ever received from those who signed the Treaty for Sinn Fein a suggestion that we were saying anything different to this House from what we had said to them in the conferences. I say that we resisted all Amendments, because we thought our words clear and sufficient for the purpose. We resisted all Amendments for another reason, and an even more vital one. We resisted all Amendments on the ground that if you once began to amend here, you opened unlimited right to amend in Dublin—you ended the whole negotiations, and you had to begin all over again.
Now, what is the position? Can I repeat to my friends the same argument which then I addressed to them? I can tell them to-day, as I told them then, that I believe their fears to be unfounded. I cannot believe that a competent lawyer or a sane man, interpreting the document which it is the business of the Commission to interpret, would give it the reading which they do here. But I cannot say to them, "You must not re-open the question," for the Government have re-opened it. The Prime Minister talks about correcting an error, and overcoming a technicality. It is much more. He has signed a new Treaty. He has signed a new Treaty in supplement to, and in variation of, the old Treaty, and the very argument which I used to persuade my friends in the House to reject all Amendments is now turned against me. My argument was that, if you once allow one party to amend, the other party has a right to amend, and, of course, it is true that the right hon. Gentleman and the Govern- 168 ment have re-opened the question. They are amending the Treaty. They have signed a new Treaty, and they are seeking to pass a new Treaty, to get ratification of a new Treaty and of a variation of the old Treaty. You are not only changing the letter of the Treaty; you are altering its spirit. That which we hoped, and hoped as I still think not foolishly but as reasonable men might hope with an expectation of fulfilment—that co-operation which we hoped for is now to be dispensed with, and, in place of a boundary settled by an arbitral tribunal to which the North and South both send their members, it is to be a boundary settled by a tribunal to which we in this House, not all sympathising with Ulster, not all of us perhaps moved by the deep memories of a long past that are the governing factors in the whole life of that people, appoint a Commissioner in place of a Commissioner to be appointed by the Government of Ulster. You have destroyed, in so doing, the ground of the appeal that I made to my friends in 1922 against moving or accepting any amendments to the Treaty.
I do not want to make the situation more difficult, but I ask the Government to recognise how grave is the step which they are taking, and with what anxious care and impartiality they must walk in their further course. The Prime Minister expressed a hope—God knows that everyone in this House could echo it in his heart!—that even now the Bill which we are passing may perhaps never be needed—that agreement among Irishmen may yet do the work in the only satisfactory way—and relieve us of a task in which none of us want to participate. But if there is to be any hope, the pressure must not be put on one side only. The Prime Minister and Government of Northern Ireland have repeatedly offered to negotiate with the present representatives of Southern Ireland as the Prime Minister offered to negotiate with Mr. Collins, and as Mr. Collins agreed to negotiate with him.
What are you doing? What can you do? That is the question which you have got to ask yourselves. Will the South show the same spirit of friendliness, the same willingness to co-operate in the settlement of this difficulty that the Government of the North have already shown? I do not believe that the fears 169 of the North have any foundation. I believe that the interpretation of the Treaty is clear, and that the Commission will interpret it in such a way as may, I hope, bring this long controversy to a conclusion. But you have re-opened the Treaty. You have signed a supplementary Treaty. You are amending and altering the old one by the supplementary Treaty. You have a fresh opportunity to guard against the danger which I think scarcely exists, but which dominates the mind of the people of the North of Ireland. You, I understand, decline to take it. Your action so far is one-sided in amending the Treaty. You have more reason to pray than any other that we who signed the Treaty on behalf of Great Britain may be right in our interpretation. If not, you are advancing to a disaster which you know, and for which you have no remedy.
§ The LORD PRIVY SEAL (Mr. Clynes)
I believe that the right hon. Gentleman is in error in one or two of the conclusions drawn by him towards the close of his speech, but on the whole I would say that his speech is in keeping with the deserved reputation for consistency and dignity which the right hon. Gentleman has earned for himself in the Parliamentary life of this country. I would add that by its inferences, by its gaps and by its implications, a very large part of that speech was more in support of the Bill now before the House than against it. We have not presented this Bill to the House because we were eager to undertake the task which has fallen to our hands, though I think the Debate has proved that, unwilling as we have been to take up the work, we have our hearts more in it than it can be said that the Opposition have their hearts in the resistance which they are offering to this Bill. That is so because clearly we are giving the correct interpretation to both national feeling and opinion on this newly-raised Irish issue. I would not claim that either in the House or in the country there is more than a melancholy attention to the issue and to the speeches which are being delivered upon it.
When my right hon. Friend asks us further to try a settlement by consent or by negotiation, surely he is overlooking the repeated efforts made right up to the last few days of the introduction of this Bill to reach a settlement upon those 170 lines. Those efforts were recited at great length yesterday by the Prime Minister, and, if from any quarter likely to be helpful we could receive further encouragement, we should further persevere upon those lines. But Parliament has a responsibility when there is a breakdown in the law and a point is reached where, in matters of legislation as in matters of the industrial life of the country, negotiations unhappily come to an end. To pursue the course of doing nothing whatever and leaving matters further to develop would be to follow a counsel of despair, certain to have the consequences which some fear still will arise from the passing of this Bill into law.
We cannot, therefore, leave the issue alone, as to take no action at all would be to allow that Clause of the Treaty completely to lapse. What would that mean? The effect of allowing the Clause to lapse would be to destroy the Treaty, and to involve us in national humiliation and in the renewal of the contest between Ireland and England which the Treaty was designed to terminate. Will anyone in the House say that the Treaty meant there was to be no Commission at all? Yet, it is upon that assumption that the whole opposition to the Bill is based. I assert that no responsible and representative leader of any party dare say that the Treaty meant that Clause 12 was not to operate, and that there was to be no Commission. I regret to find that outside this House, sitting in another place, there are Lords of very high authority and influence who apparently can reach such a conclusion. I observe that Lord Carson, writing a few days ago on something I said in the country on this subject, reached this amazing conclusion:The Treaty leaves it optional to both the Governments to proceed or not to proceed with the Commission.Law in this country is not an optional thing. The law imposes obligations upon us according to the language expressed in Statutes. What, therefore, did Clause 12 say? In face of what has been said as to its meaning, it is essential to quote the language. It says thata Commission consisting of three persons.…shall determine, in accordance with the wishes of the inhabitants, so far as may be compatible with economic and geographic conditions, the boundaries between Northern Ireland and the rest of Ireland.171 The Government in their Bill are not proposing, as perhaps the right hon. Gentleman fears, to vary the language in that part of the Treaty. The sole purpose of the Bill is to repair the omission for which Ulster is responsible and to appoint a third Commissioner so that the Commission may function. Everyone contemplated a settlement by the action of the Commission. I therefore repeat that the recital from relevant documents in the Prime Minister's speech yesterday proves that every public utterance of the leaders who took a part in concluding the Treaty anticipated that the Commission would be established and would fulfil its functions. That is true of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George); it was true of his successor, Mr. Bonar Law, and it is true of his successor, the present Leader of the Opposition, and for anyone now to pretend that it was optional on the part of either Government to exorcise some unexpressed right to appoint or not to appoint Commissioners is making a call on the credulity of Members of the House which I am certain will find no response.
The Leader of the Opposition yesterday pressed upon us the closest attention to what ho repeatedly termed "the spirit of the law." Such a thing is not to be found in the terms of Statutes. It is to be found in other factors and circumstances. Our view is, that Parliament cannot give to Commissioners instructions on the spirit, and Parliament ought not to give orders to the Commission beyond the language already in the Treaty. The Commission itself would have every interest in striving to reach, not merely equitable but acceptable decisions which would commend themselves to both the North and the South. It is in that conviction that this Bill is submitted, and we are, therefore, takng no step which is unfair to Ulster. What is fair to Ulster must be settled by the Commission itself, and no Government, as I am arguing, can ignore the subject of that Commission and seek refuge in taking no action whatever. I was surprised to hear yesterday, in the early part of the speech of the hon. Member who moved the Amendment, that we are proposing now a course which would give power to the Commissioners to say whether 172 Northern Ireland should exist or not. That is an exaggeration into which I hope for the moment only the hon. Member was led. There is not only no such thought in our mind, but no such terms in the language which we are asking the House to consider. By the Act of Parliament, and by the Treaty, Northern Ireland was given two courses to follow. Two things are at the bottom of all these Acts of Parliament recently passed. First, Northern Ireland was given freedom for an independent existence outside the Free State. The right to exercise that freedom she has used. But the same law which gave her the exercise of that right stipulated that that right was subject to the conclusions of a Commission empowered to determine the boundaries which were permanently to exist between the North and the South, and in the absence of that Commission and in the exercise of the first right on the part of Ulster it has become a binding obligation upon this Parliament to repair any defect which has arisen and to set up a Commission which will settle outstanding and unsettled questions.
We listened yesterday with our usual interest and admiration to the speech of the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University (Lord H. Cecil). He entertained us with references to the existence or non-existence of degrees of common sense, and I think his conclusion was that had there been any degree of common sense there at all this matter would be settled by Irishmen at home and not by ourselves. I rather fear there is some measure of obstinate belief in the mind of the average Englishman—not represented by the Noble Lord—to the effect that Irishmen are incurably dense and fractious on questions on which they ought to agree. May I suggest to the Noble Lord that he maybe brilliant at any time—it is easy for him to be so—and yet be brilliant without a contribution of a common-sense character to the problem we have to settle. Where is the common sense in expressed anticipations of disorder which amount themselves almost to incitements to disorder? The Noble Lord pictured a condition assuredly to arise from the course we are taking which would amount to riot, bloodshed, murder and shooting. I ask, therefore, why should we assume that the decisions of a trusted Commis- 173 sion in this instance would not be accepted by the Irish people and that such dire consequences as were referred to would be certain to follow? I ask that because Labour would be as certain as any other Government to secure as good, as acceptable and as appropriate servants for the purposes of this Commission as those who may be connected with any other party. May I here cite in support of this view some words from the right hon. Gentleman opposite in relation to the personnel of the proposed Commission:We shall secure a man of high standing, of unimpeachable reputation, of known sagacity, who must command the confidence of all parties. Why do my hon. Friends assume that that which in the eyes of all of us would be madness, that which in the eyes of every man in the House would appear unreasonable, will necessarily or even probably or possibly be the view taken by the impartial chairman of the Commission?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th February, 1922; col. 1466, Vol. 150.]It is in that spirit that we who seek appropriate representation and personnel upon the Commission would have it function. I reject them entirely, the fears harboured by some and expressed by others, that the course we are taking will lead to serious breaches of the law in the North of Ireland or in the South. I would ask, Why is it that the indications of oncoming trouble are given to us by those who in the same breath claim to be, above all others, law-abiding citizens? We cannot any longer listen with patience to this contingent loyalism, for we say that no section in these islands shall be allowed to boast of loyalty and observance of the law when they approve the law and yet claim beforehand the right to revolt against the law when they see it to be no longer in their favour. If all of us declined to comply with the requirements of Parliament, law and order would be gone. It is only because we submit ourselves to the instrument of this House that any conditions of law and order can be preserved in any part of the realm. Those who make a special claim and repeatedly press that claim upon our attention to be law-abiding subjects can have no charge against us for seeking to make good what is clearly the purpose and the intention of the law passed by enormous majorities in this House. Lengthy speeches have not been the custom during the course of 174 this Debate, and I hope will not be. It it certainly not the intention of those who sit on the Front Bench to take up a great amount of time, not because there have been complaints of long speeches in the past, but because this is a subject on which the average man in the House can have something to say that it is worth our while to hear. But I will go back, in my closing observations, to the spirit in which again the right hon. Gentleman addressed his followers on 17th February, 1922. He had to speak to some unwilling followers. They had a past. They had much to forget. But the right hon. Gentleman then saw that there was no alternative to the course taken by the Government of the day. It is because we see no alternative now to the course we are taking that the Bill is brought before the House. Finally, addressing his followers, the right hon. Gentleman said:If you reject our advice, if you repudiate our authority to act in your name, you are within your rights. But in that case, I say to my hon. Friends that I and my colleagues shall have ceased to be their leaders, and must decline to be their agents."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th February, 1922; col. 1470, Vol. 150.]Let the leaders of the Opposition adhere to that spirit in relation to Irish affairs, and we are certain that the people of Ireland will yield to its meaning and observe the law.
§ Captain Viscount CURZON
I am very anxious to intervene as an "average man" as the Deputy-Leader of the House has just said. In no way do I wish to pose as being in any sense of the word an authority upon Ireland. I want to try to give the House, if I can, some little idea of what I have lately had an opportunity of seeing in Northern Ireland. I had the honour and pleasure of leading two parties of my colleagues round Northern Ireland. The party was composed of representatives of all parties. I am sorry to say that only one representative of the Government's supporters was able to be with us.
§ Viscount CURZON
As many as I possibly could in a fortnight. I would like to point out to the hon. Members opposite that it was a source of great regret, which was frequently expressed in Northern Ireland, that there were not 175 more members of the Labour party with us. They would have been more welcome, I believe, to the people of Northern Ireland than members of the Conservative party.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
Did you tell them that you did not send invitations to most Members of the Labour party?
§ Viscount CURZON
I did my best to explain it, and the hon. Member's colleague who represents North South-wark (Mr. Haden Guest) will be able to explain to him what I have told them. I am very sorry that I was not able to extend an invitation to more Members, because I had a very short time in which to do it. The first thing that happened when we went across, was that we were met by an article in the "Irish News," claiming to represent Nationalist opinion, which advised Nationalists in Northern Ireland to have nothing to do with us, because they said that we came there with our minds made up and that we were nonentities to our bootlaces. With the latter description I agreed, but with the former description I did not. We went there in order to try and find out the facts of the situation for ourselves, and I am certain that I can speak for all my colleagues when I say that while we may have gone over there with certain views one way or the other, every Member who went over has seen fit somewhat to revise the views he previously held about Northern Ireland.
The impression we got, first of all, was of the wonderful loyalty of the people of Northern Ireland. A certain amount of doubt has been thrown upon it by one or two speeches this afternoon. The hon. and gallant Member for Leith (Captain W. Benn) spoke about the passion for Imperial attachment, and the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken referred a little slightingly, I thought, to the loyalty of Northern Ireland. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman has been over to Northern Ireland and seen the position there for himself. I cannot think that he would have spoken quite as he did if he had been over there. I beg hon. Members opposite to realise that I am only trying to give a faithful impression. The loyalty which you find over there is in many cases pathetic in its 176 demonstration. Party managers we know well. We all know what party managers can do. They can organise villages and make a large display of Union Jacks and all that sort of thing which we expect in certain villages so organised, but when you go to little isolated farmhouses, miles away from anywhere, and standing one-half or three-quarters of a mile back from the road, and you find in front of these little houses—pock-marked, as they are, sometimes by bullets, and with bullet holes through the windows and walls—a little Union Jack about the size of a pocket handkerchief, and you find the inhabitant coming to the door and standing there for sometimes hours at a time in the rain in order to see a couple of chars-a-bane, containing people he has never seen before, go by on a road half a mile to three-quarters of a mile away, it is a pathetic demonstration of loyalty. That is an absolutely true picture. Anyone who has been over there can say whether I am giving an accurate impression or not.
The next thing that impresses you is the intense determination of the people. Their attitude is, ''We wish good luck to the Free State, we wish them well, but we mean to get a square deal.'' The next impression that I got, and I think my colleagues had the same impression, was the very deep and grave anxiety which one and all naturally feel with regard to their future. You cannot be surprised. They have been through suffering. The whole future for them seems to be in a state of flux. There is no certainty as to what may happen. I can quite imagine myself under those conditions being gravely anxious. In spite of them anxiety, they are absolutely determined, I am perfectly satisfied, that, come what may, they will never flinch. They come from a stock which does not flinch.
I was in the House when the Treaty went through, and I am glad to think that I voted against the Treaty on every occasion that it was possible to record a vote against it. I voted against it because I did not believe that in any sense of the word did it contain the seeds of settlement between Northern and Southern Ireland. The one thing that I want to see, more than anything else in this world, is a real settlement, leading eventually to a unified Ireland. There- 177 fore, I absolutely accept what the hon. and gallant Member for Leith has said. But there is this boundary question. When the Treaty Bill was going through the House I, and colleagues who thought as I did, tried to get an Amendment accepted defining the boundaries. The Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University (Lord H. Cecil) has quoted the terms of the Amendment, but he did not exactly quote the answer, which was more or less an answer to every Amendment moved while the Bill was going through. It was the answer given by Mr. Winston Churchill:You cannot possibly go back and alter the description of the Instrument, still less can you alter in any particular its provisions. On behalf of the Government I cannot possibly agree to any Amendment which alters, modifies, extends, explains, elucidates, amplifies or otherwise affects the text of the Instrument we call the Treaty."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd March, 1922; col. 629. Vol. 151.]Yet that is what the Government are asking us to do to-day. The right hon. Gentleman at a later stage said:If it elucidates or explains, none the less it will be an amendment of the Treaty, and as such I should not be able to accept it, because we are absolutely tied by the Treaty. … It is not in my power, or in the power of the Government, or of anyone who has put his hand to or given his vote for this Treaty, to alter any jot or tittle of it without agreement with the other party."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd March, 1922; col. 685, Vol. 151.]There is another aspect to which I should like to draw attention. You are going to alter the Treaty. Where is that going to lead? It is certainly going to be a precedent. It is certainly going to be used as a precedent. We cannot tell what may be the future of affairs in the Far East. Supposing 10 or 15 years hence there are grave complications in Australia, and it becomes necessary to draw a boundary line. Take Mosul, where there is considerable difficulty over the boundary line. Are we being quite consistent in our attitude towards Northern Ireland and in our attitude towards Turkey at Mosul? It is a very dangerous thing that we are being invited to do by the Government.
I want to deal with one or two matters that were raised yesterday in Debate. The Prime Minister said:In Conference after Conference, in officially and properly constituted meetings, in informally constituted meetings with 178 both the Premiers together and with only one of them present, we have used every means in our power to try to get a settlement by agreement, and I am here to report to the House of Commons that, unfortunately, we have failed."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th September, 1924; col. 38, Vol. 177.]The Prime Minister stopped there. Why did not he say why these conferences failed? Surely it is most important that we should have a little information as to why no agreement is possible. I believe that agreement would be possible if you could only make it clear to Northern Ireland exactly what is intended. I am certain that a great deal of the fear of Northern Ireland rests upon the fact that they do not know what the Boundary Commission may possibly do. They are afraid that the issue would be decided over their heads and that they would have no say in it.
§ Viscount CURZON
I would ask the hon. Member to treat this question seriously. I regard it with very grave anxiety, and I am sure he does.
§ Viscount CURZON
If the hon. Member will allow me to develop my argument, perhaps he will be able to intervene at a later stage and refute it, if he can. Another thing which gives rise to grave anxiety in Northern Ireland, is that they do not know how the will of the people is to be ascertained. That is left to the Commission. If only this point could be made a little bit clearer, I am certain that it would do away with some of the anxieties there are in Northern Ireland. If you can only do away with these anxieties and define the issue I am certain that you would have gone a long way towards getting a settlement. As against that, what do we see? On the 22nd September, Mr. Blythe, who is Minister of Finance in the Free State, thus interpreted Article 12:He did not know what area would be transferred by order of the Commission, but it was quite clear from the terms of reference that it would be a substantial one.A few days ago, I think it was one day last week, Mr. James MacNeill, of the North Eastern Boundary Commission, which represents the Free State over here, 179 gave an interview to the Press. The interview was reported verbatim in the "Morning Post." He was asked what the Free State would do if the award of the Boundary Commission was unsatisfactory to them? He replied:As far as I know, if the decision of the Arbitrator is disappointing, I believe that both the Government and the people of Southern Ireland would accept it, for they have agreed to the arbitration.He used the words, "I believe." Why did not he speak with definite authority? He proceeded:I do not see how they could adopt any other attitude. I do not think the Irish people will hold the Irish Government responsible for any disappointment.If Southern Ireland wishes Northern Ireland to realise that their fears are groundless, why did not Mr. MacNeill speak with definite authority on behalf of the people of Southern Ireland? That would be the way to secure settlement. He was asked:Do you think the change recommended will be material?He replied:I certainly think the Free State Government believe that if the wishes of the population in the adjoining counties are considered, as the Treaty provides, there will be more than a mere straightening out of the boundary line. It will be a substantial transference of territory, though I do not wish to say how big a change it ought to be.This is the sort of statement that is standing in the way of a settlement. I put it to hon. Members opposite, who think that I am wrong, that time and time again people who know Ireland very well have said, "Why does not the Free State Government try to win Northern Ireland? Why do they try to coerce it?" If they try to take large pieces of territory from Northern Ireland, is it not obvious that Northern Ireland will not agree? If Northern Ireland does not agree, where are you led to? You are led to the employment of the British Army in trying to enforce the law. That, so far as I can see, is the position which Mr. MacNeill has in mind. He was asked what would be the attitude of the Free State if Ulster refused to accept the award, and he said:I do not see that we can do any more than ask Great Britain to deal with her recalcitrant subjects in this province.180 That gives you an idea of the views of the Free State on this matter. If we really want to get a settlement we must try to see if we cannot get a little more reasoned language on both sides, and statements a little more definite so as to lay them before Northern Ireland, and to show them that they are wrong in their fears. Yesterday the hon. Member for North Southwark (Mr. Haden Guest) made a speech in this House. When he was going round Northern Ireland the other day he declared repeatedly that he wanted to see Ireland get a square deal. North as well as South. That was endorsed by the hon. Member for Sudbury (Mr. Loverseed), and it was endorsed or, several occasions by other members of the party. The hon. Member for North Southwark yesterday, as one who has the opportunity of meeting President Cosgrave and the Governor-General of Southern Ireland, said,and the contrast between the toleration in the South and the lack of toleration in the North cannot fail: be impressive."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th September, 1924; col. 77, Vol. 177.]and he then went on to say.because if there are difficulties they are coming not from the South but from the North.I would submit that that does not coincide fully with the hon. Member's publicly declared intention to see a square deal for Northern Ireland. It does not really give a square deal to Southern Ireland. These comparisons I submit are odious. They get in the way of a settlement. The hon. Member for North Southwark, with his colleagues who went over with him, wrote a letter to the "Times" when they came back, strongly advocating that a further attempt should be made to find a settlement before the Boundary Commission meets. If the hon. Member tries to throw the blame for the lack of toleration upon the people of Northern Ireland, and accuses them of making all the difficulties with the Free State in the way of a settlement, then he is doing the very one thing which stands in the way of a settlement, and which no Member of this House should permit himself to do at the present time. He went on to say, that he had seen in Northern Ireland a considerable number of gentlemen with a little flag in their buttonhole bearing the words "Not one inch," but they did not mean it. The 181 hon. Member does not seem to have realised that that little badge "Not one inch" is merely the first portion of a rather catchy phrase. The phrase is "Not one inch without the consent of the Parliament of Northern Ireland," or words to that effect, and when these people go about wearing that badge that is what they really mean, and I submit that that is a reasonable proposition. He went on to say that these men were in private discussing methods of boundary rectification which involved miles of Northern territory. Does not that show a reasonable frame of mind and a chance of getting a settlement? The hon. Member must live up to his publicly expressed declaration to secure a square deal for Northern Ireland and also to try to work for the settlement.
When we were over in Northern Ireland the other day we had the opportunity of meeting one of the hon. Members for Tyrone and Fermanagh (Mr. Healy) and several of his friends, who met us in Enniskillen to place their case before us. I need hardly say that every one of us was extremely grateful to the hon. Member and his friends for the opportunity afforded to us of hearing their side of the case. We wanted to hear both sides of the case. I asked the hon. Member a question, and he was not able to answer me. I am going to ask it now again, and I hope that before this Debate ends he will find an opportunity of answering us, because it is of some importance. The hon. Member for Tyrone and Fermanagh is the representative of Free State opinion in that area, and probably represents everybody who sympathises with the Free State along the border. He is in the position of a candidate for an election. When candidates fight a constituency they are expected to place their policy before it. The hon. Member would like to see those two counties embodied in the Free State. Sir James Craig on the other hand invitee the public of Tyrone and Fermanagh to remain as they are. I think it reasonable to ask the hon. Member this question. In the, we hope, unlikely event of the Free State declaring for a Republic, what would be the hon. Member's attitude?
He has invited these people to take a very serious step. Their whole future is simply hanging on it. Should not the hon. Member say what his attitude would 182 be in such a case? Would he expect the people of Tyrone and Fermanagh to become Republican as well? It is true, as he told me, that that is a hypothetical question, but I think that it is a question of such importance that I hope that he will see his way to answer me. I do not want to say anything which would make matters in any sense more difficult to the present Government. I do not hold them in any way responsible for the position in which we find ourselves, but I ask them to realise the facts. You are up against a people who are absolutely determined, and mean every word they say. Their attitude is: "We have given of our nearest and dearest for you during the War and at other times, but our husbands, brothers and sweethearts did not lay down their lives in order that their nearest and dearest might be under people who are hostile to us." We must try to work for a settlement, but I do suggest that you cannot really force people with the spirit of that sort.
If this Boundary Commission over sits, what good do the Government think that it is going to do? Has anybody in this House yet said that, if the Boundary Commission sits, he thinks that its findings will be acceptable, to both sides? Yet if it is not acceptable to one side or the other surely are you not going to get into an almost impossible position, leading to something far worse than anything which exists at present, because if the Government set up this Boundary Commission they are going to make a settlement infinitely more difficult. I hope sincerely that wiser counsels will prevail on all sides. As a mere plain back bencher, who has seen the state of affairs for himself in Northern Ireland, I wish to make one last desperate appeal. It may seem absurd to appeal at this time for a settlement, but I refuse to abandon hope of a settlement until the last hour has struck. I want to make one appeal to the South of Ireland to allay the fears of the North, to show that they are groundless, to try to win the North, and to reciprocate the offer made by Sir James Craig. Why not meet together for this purpose? The Government's action, if anything, is a deterrent to such a meeting, because as long as they think that they can get something out of this legislation it must stand in the way, but if any appeal of mine can carry weight I 183 would make one last attempt to get moderate opinion together on both sides. I met the leading Nationalist in Belfast, the gentleman who, I understand, leads all the Nationalists in Belfast, and he told meI do not agree with the North and I do not know that I agree altogether with the South, but one thing which I dread more than anything else is a forced settlement.I appeal to the Government to do nothing that will involve a forced settlement, and to do nothing which will affect adversely the peace, happiness and prosperity of those who are concerned. I only hope that the best will happen, and I shall not abandon hope until the last hour has struck.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I have risen only to clear up one point, but before I do so I would say one word about what has fallen from the Noble Lord the Member for South Battersea (Viscount Curzon). He said that the question was whether those who had fought for the flag were to see their nearest and dearest forced under a flag which they regard as hostile. He completely misconceives the issue. It is not a question of whether men who believe in the Ulster tradition shall be forced under the flag of Southern Ireland. It is a question of whether men who believe in the tradition of Southern Ireland shall be forced to remain under a flag under which they do not wish to remain. That is a very different issue. It is common ground with all parties now that you cannot coerce what is known as Ulster, the homogeneous population in the North East of Ireland which represents the political tradition that is known as Ulster opinion. It is common ground that the forces of the Empire cannot bo used in order to force them into an association with the rest of Ireland, until they wish to have that association of their own free will. Nobody suggests that any force should be used, and the real issue is whether men of a different kind, different in race, different in religion, and different in outlook, in tradition and in opinion, whose whole heart and soul is with the tradition of the South of Ireland, should be compelled to remain under the other flag.
That is a very different issue and I think that, if the House would discuss 184 it from that point of view, and if the Imperial Parliament exercises its influence and its pressure wisely in order to intervene between the parties, there ought not to be much difficulty in arriving at a rational solution. No one knows better than my right hon. Friend the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) and myself how difficult it is to get a settlement. My right hon. Friend 5.0 P.M. (Mr. Asquith) referred yesterday to the attempt that was made at Buckingham Palace just before the War. I think I can carry it a little further without disclosing anything that is unfair. There is no doubt at all that, as far as the Unionist Leaders in this country and the Leaders of the Liberal party were concerned, we could have arrived at a settlement. There was an attempt to define a boundary—and the manuscript is, I think, at the moment in the possession of Lord Carson—in a way that would transfer the Catholic population of Tyrone and Fermanagh and one or two other counties to the South, and that would transfer the Protestant population now under the Sinn Fein flag to the North. My recollection is that it did not make any very considerable difference in population. It was a comparatively small transaction from the point of view of the net result, but it was not a small transaction from the point of view of the changes which were effected. When you come to the net result, I do not remember whether it was against the North or against the South, but it did not make a very substantial difference. What prevented it? Not that there was no agreement between the English parties, because substantially there was. The difficulty was that neither the representatives of the South nor those of the North dared to face their respective constituents with a change of that kind. The feeling was too bitter on both sides. Surely that is a case in which the Empire ought to be able to exercise its authority. If pressure had been brought to bear on the North and South at that moment, I have no doubt at all that in their hearts they would have been delighted to be able to say: "We made the best fight we could. We protested against it. This is the only thing we can get." Then we would have had peace. Unfortunately, much more disastrous events intervened, and we were unable to carry it any further.
185 I want to say a word or two on the question of pledges. It is a very important matter. So far as the pledges are public, I have not a word to say about them. There is not a single public pledge which has been given, either by myself or by any of my colleagues who have been associated with the Treaty of 1920 or 1921, which has reference to boundaries—not a word. Every pledge has reference to the powers and privileges of the Parliament, but not a word about the boundaries, and no pledge was ever given as regards boundaries. It has been said quite recently that pledges were given privately. I am very loth to refer to this, especially as it was brought into prominence very largely in connection with the memorandum published by Lord Selborne, and which was written by Lord Long, whose death we all deplore. I would rather not discuss it with reference to Lord Long. But I understand that my right hon. Friend the Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Macpherson) last night rather adopted the same recollection. As my right hon. Friend has pointed out, Lord Long did not say that there was any pledge that the present boundary should be adhered to. All the speeches which have been delivered and all the comments in the newspapers assume that Lord Long stated that we had given a guarantee to these six counties that there should be no alteration at all. That is not the fact. They omit the last words of his declaration. These words make it clear that, even in his memory—and he was recalling something that was said four years ago, and how many of us can recall every word that was said four years ago—he had in his mind that something was said about the question of boundaries. My right hon. Friend the Member for Ross and Cromarty did not go quite so far, but he rather indicated that the six counties were unalterable. If he adopts Lord Long's interpretation, I have not a word to say about it. When statements are made about something which was said four years ago, all the parties are put in a very awkward position, because how can you remember exactly what was said?
Fortunately, every Minister here has the means of refreshing his memory. Since the War there has been a new method of recording Cabinet decisions. I cannot quote them, but I am entitled to 186 refresh my memory by reference to them. The statement is that the pledge was given by Lord Long on behalf of the Government of the day, that it was submitted to the Cabinet and that the Cabinet authorised the pledge to be given. There is no record of any kind, as my right hon. Friend stated last night, of any such transaction, and I certainly cannot recall it.
There were discussions and I adopt the statement made by my right hon. Friend as to what transpired then. There was a good deal of discussion at that time about the best method of fixing the area of Ulster. There were three proposals. The first was that the whole of Ulster—the nine counties—should form the area. There was a good deal to be said for that. That would have provided a powerful minority of Catholics who would be able to stand up for themselves in the Ulster Parliament. There was a good deal to be said for it, and there were many Members of the Cabinet who were strongly in favour of it and for that reason. They felt it was not a good thing that you should have the Catholics in such a small minority that they were quite unable to put up a fight for themselves. That was one proposal. The second proposal was the six counties. The other proposal was that you should have a Boundary Commission appointed before the Bill was brought in to fix the area and that the area should be delimited by a Boundary Commission appointed by the Government before the Bill was brought in. That was the third proposal in 1920. I am entitled to say that the Ulster Leaders were in favour of a Boundary Commission in 1920. They felt the force of what has been stated over and over again in this House, that the county areas do not represent fairly the population which they really claim as their own.
Take Tyrone and Fermanagh for instance. The county of Tyrone is divided in the proportion of something like five Catholics to four Protestants, while in Fermanagh I think the majority of Catholics is a little larger than that. If you get county option then considerable homogeneous areas of Protestants are forced into the Southern area against their will. On the other hand, if you had given Tyrone and Fermanagh to the North without limiting their boundaries, there 187 is no doubt that considerable areas of Catholics would have been forced into the Northern area against their will. Therefore—and I am speaking now after refreshing my memory in the manner to which I have referred—the Ulster Leaders were in favour of a Boundary Commission at that time, and I am certain that no pledge could have been given at that moment that would constitute a guarantee that there would be no delimitation of frontiers between North and South once peace had been made with the South. It was inconceivable that that should be done, because the Ulster Leaders realised, just as much as we did, the danger of the wholesale incorporation of hostile population inside their small province.
I cannot quote in these matters, but I am entitled to refresh my memory, and there are several right hon. Gentlemen who were also present. It is quite open to them, too, to refresh their memory. There is my right hon. Friend the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne), my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. A. Chamberlain), my right hon. Friend the Member for Colchester (Sir L. Worthington-Evans), and, lastly, my right hon. Friend the Member for Spark-brook (Mr. Amery). I advise him to look at what happened when he was present. He was then an Under-Secretary, but his chief, Mr. Winston Churchill, was away in Mesopotamia and he felt he ought to be there to represent his interests, and he was there. I advise him to look it up. It is very remarkable. It is no use treating this Boundary Commission as if it were some sort of device which we had arranged with Sinn Fein to the detriment of Ulster. I state deliberately, and I say with knowledge of what happened, after looking into the matter, that the first suggestion, as far as I can see any record of it, in respect of a Boundary Commission came from the Ulster Leaders themselves, and rightly so. I am not at all surprised that we had that in our minds a year later when we came to settle with Southern Ireland. We knew the views of the Ulster Leaders that they were predisposed to a Boundary Commission. As we made it quite clear to the Sinn Fein Leaders, a Boundary Commission does not merely mean taking parishes out of Ulster and giving them to the South; it means taking the Protestant parishes 188 from the South where they are contiguous and on the frontier and putting them into the North.
That is why I can never understand why Ulster refused to enter openly and wholeheartedly into an arbitration so long as they were assured that it was going to be a perfectly fair one. I have never heard anyone impugn the character, the integrity or the ability of the nomince of the present Government, and they really had the opportunity, when they had their own friends in office for a whole year, of carrying out the terms of the Boundary Commission. Do they mean to say that they could not have trusted them to have chosen a perfectly impartial nominee? I never could understand why they did not do it then. Not that I think they would not have chosen a perfectly impartial chairman. Not that they would have chosen a more impartial man than the one chosen by the present Government, but their friends in the North of Ireland would have had more confidence in the man chosen by friends of their own complexion. I never could understand why, when they had the opportunity, they did not proceed with the Commission. If anyone has a right to have any doubts at all, it is the South. Just see what the Commission means. There are to be three Commissioners, one to be appointed by Ulster and one by the Imperial Government and only one by Sinn Fein. Sinn Fein is prepared to accept a decision when two out of the three are nominated by a Parliament, by a Government responsible to a Parliament, in which they are not represented, and they have not power to say a word upon it. Why Ulster should show this suspicion of the Imperial Parliament I cannot understand. Sinn Fein has no reason to trust the Imperial Parliament—none! Sinn Fein and the people they represent have every reason to distrust the Imperial Parliament. If Ulster felt like that, why did Ulster insist upon remaining inside the Imperial Parliament?
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
No. They insisted on having representation in this House, and, of course, naturally. But having accepted that decision, having chosen it, they really must abide by it. What is the position? The question of 189 boundaries is a question with which Ulster has nothing whatever to do—I mean legislatively.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I say "legislatively." Ulster has nothing whatever to do with the boundaries within the Empire except through the Imperial Parliament. That is a question which is excluded from the purview of the Ulster Parliament. They have no more right, except through the Imperial Parliament, to decide the question of boundaries than if it were a question between Yorkshire and Lancashire.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
Because the Imperial Parliament has decided that we shall. It is the law. Hon. Gentlemen from Ulster do not realise that it is the law of the Parliament of which they are Members. We are condemned because we did not make preparation for the refusal of Ulster to appoint a Commissioner. Were we to assume that Ulster would refuse to carry out the law of the Parliament of which they had chosen to remain members? It was inconceivable. We took it for granted that they would abide by the law of the land under their own Parliament. That is all we did.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
We abide by every law until it is altered. The hon. and gallant Gentleman seems to think that once a law is carried you cannot alter it without the consent of every man who approved of that law at that date. He really must revise his constitutional doctrine, because he is a great constitutionalist. As far as pledges are concerned, I repeat here, and I repeat it in the presence of those who were parties to whatever occurred on that occasion, that no pledge was ever given to Ulster that there would be no adjustment of the boundaries of the six counties—never. No pledge was ever given. If a pledge had been given, it would not bind Parliament for ever. It is either right or wrong that this should be the boundary. If it is wrong that you should force Catholics inside Northern Ireland against 190 their will, is it to be said that the Imperial Parliament is to be precluded for ever from righting that wrong, even if a pledge had been given by a Minister?
§ Mr. MOLES
The right hon. Gentleman has just informed the House that at no time and in no circumstances was any pledge given to Ulster with respect to the permanent exclusion of the six counties. May I ask his attention to this statement published over the signature of Lord Carson two days ago:I received a letter from Mr. Lloyd George assuring me that the six counties area would be permanently excluded from the Act?Will the right hon. Gentleman direct his attention to that statement?
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I would like to see the letter to which Lord Carson refers. If he said that I gave a pledge that, in so far as I was concerned, under no circumstances was there to be any readjustment of the boundaries of the six counties area, I say that I never did it, and I would like to see that letter. I await the receipt, of a copy of it. No pledge was ever given; I repeat it. No pledge was given by any Minister on that occasion that there would be no alteration of the boundary of the six counties. Having regard to the fact that it was common ground that the boundaries were unsatisfactory, that they would have to be readjusted, and that they would have been readjusted at that date were lit not for the fact that you could not have a Boundary Commission when there was a rebellion raging and blazing on the borders, and that it was quite impossible to do it—that was the only reason why it was not done then—
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
We put it into our Act in 1921, as soon as we had conditions under which it was possible to appoint a Boundary Commission.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
Evidently the right hon. Gentleman is one of those to whom you have to make a statement three times before they understand it. Having regard to the fact that it was common ground at that time that there 191 should be a re-adjustment of boundaries, having regard to the fact that it has failed, not because there is any failure in the drafting, which is absolutely clear—it is the drafting of the Treaties which have fixed the boundaries in Central Europe, and which, where they have been carried out honourably between races that had been at war for hundreds of years, have fixed boundaries satisfactorily—having regard to the fact that it has failed now, not because there is any failure in the drafting of the Act, but because there is a refusal on the part of one of the parties to carry out an Act of Parliament to which they are a party, I say that the Government are absolutely right in taking the only step which is possible to put it right.
§ Sir MALCOLM MACNAGHTEN
The right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken is not right in saying that this is merely a question of the re-adjustment of boundaries for the purpose of transferring from Northern Ireland those persons who wish to go under the Sinn Fein Government, and transferring to Ulster those persons in Donegal and in North Monaghan who wish to come into our area. If that were the only question, there would be no difficulty at all about it, and the tension of feeling which now exists throughout Ulster, and which a rash word or a rash act may bring into dangerous conflict, would not exist. The right hon. Gentleman cannot have read the publications issued by the Free State Government under the name of the North-Eastern Boundary Bureau. They claim the city of Londonderry, which I have the honour to represent, Enniskillen with a history almost as glorious as that of Derry, and the town of Newry. Those are the three frontier towns of Ulster. Take any of them from Ulster and you destroy the economic life of Ulster. People who lay claim to those towns know that very well, and it is for that very reason that they are claiming them. If Derry, Enniskillen and Newry are to remain part of Northern Ireland, the position is greatly relieved—there is no doubt about that—because then all that you are left with are the country districts, where the land is held by farmers, small holdings of 40 or 50 acres. So far as these men are concerned, naturally enough the people of 192 Ulster are anxious that the loyalists on the border, who have been exposed to murder and outrage, and who are now living secure and at peace, should not be transferred to the Sinn Fein Government without their consent.
Is it an unreasonable claim? I believe that no hon. Member of this House, who went round the border and saw these farms and the people who live there, and heard what they had been subjected to three years ago, and saw their present condition of peace and security, could do other than stand where the Ulster Members stand to-day and say that these men shall not be transferred against their will. The right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken asked why we put forward this Amendment and take the position that no part of our territory can be taken from us without the consent of our Parliament. Let me tell him this: There may be doubt and ambiguity about the pledges given by public men. Recent events have no doubt given rise to some suspicion about them. But the right hon. Gentleman will not dispute that the people of Ulster were reluctant to accept the Six Counties area. They accepted it on the clear understanding, so far as they were concerned, that it was a final settlement of the question. They were sacrificing the loyalists in Donegal, and Monaghan and Cavan, but for the sake of peace, for the sake of putting an end to a controversy which had been going on since 1886, they were willing to accept this Government under the Act of 1920. I put it to the right hon. Gentleman, where such a public understanding has arisen, can it be withdrawn? We put our grounds higher than that. Against our will a representative and responsible Goverment was conferred upon the people of the Six Counties. But we accepted it, and we have worked it.
We were not the first part of the British Empire to which representative and responsible government had been granted, by no means. Is there a single precedent throughout the Empire where, after representative government has been given, the area to which that government has been given has been altered or modified in any way without the consent of that Government? There is no precedent at all, I believe. Therefore, the people of Ulster had not only what they understood to be the assurances of public men. 193 Whether Lord Carson was right or wrong in saying that he had that letter, there is no doubt at all that he told the people of Ulster that he had the assurance of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) that if they accepted the Six County area, that area was given to them for ever.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
With reference to that letter, the hon. and learned Gentleman does not seem to have heard me. Would he mind telling me what is the date of the letter?
§ Sir M. MACNAGHTEN
The right hon. Gentleman is under a misapprehension. I do not know about the letter. I do know what Lord Carson said when he came to Belfast and why it was that he secured the assent of Ulster.
§ Sir M. MACNAGHTEN
I understood these were the proceedings which led up to the Act of 1920. Lord Carson said it was with great difficulty he was able to secure the assent of the people of Ulster to the Act of 1920, and the means by which he got that assent was by assuring them, on the word of; a British Prime Minister, that if they did accept six counties it would be an end of the controversy and they would be secured in that area. We stand by the position which is the constitutional position, that an area granted to a representative assembly cannot be diminished or altered in any way except with the consent of the Parliament of that area. So we venture to put forward our Amendment, and we hope all who are careful for the law and customs of the Constitution will support it.
§ Mr. McENTEE
I think anybody who would do anything to add fuel to the fire in Ireland to-day would be doing a grave disservice to Ireland and to the Empire in general. Listening to the Debates to-day and yesterday one cannot fail to be struck with the attitude adopted by those who speak on behalf of Northern Ireland compared with the professions which they make of their loyalty to the Empire. Loyalty to the Empire and the Imperial Parliament, if it means anything, means that people who accept a law and are a party to a law shall carry out that law as long as it remains on the Statute Book, and that if they desire to alter it they shall do so in a constitutional way. It seems extraordinary that people who are always professing their desire for constitutionalism and their desire to obey the laws of the country are now seeking to destroy the law. The position on the border between Northern and Southern Ireland was left indefinite, and the Act established the means and the machinery by which that boundary was to be defined later on. Nobody on behalf of Northern Ireland raised any objection to the machinery then set up; not only so, but they proved that they accepted the Act by actually applying to His Majesty the King to allow them to contract out according to the terms of the Treaty. If they agreed with that part of the Treaty, why on earth do they refuse to submit what they tell us is a good case to a body specially set up to arbitrate on the question of the boundary. I have often enjoyed an Irish song which appears to me typical of the minds of some of the people who profess to speak for Northern Ireland:When we get what we want, we're as quiet as can be;Where the mountains of Mourne roll down to the sea.Ireland should be as indivisible as England or Scotland, and when the great majority of the people of Ireland agreed to allow any section of their own people to contract out and form a separate Government they went very far indeed to meet the wishes of the people of Northern 195 Ireland. Had the Irish people decided to stand up for the right of Ireland, like Australia or Canada, to form one government in their own country for one people, they would have been perfectly justified. I am speaking as one brought up in the faith that is dominant in Northern Ireland. My people, as far back as I can trace their history, were all members of the Orange institution, and were loyal Protestants, and the probability is that I should be still among those people had it not been for what I saw when I was among them. Frankly, I must bear testimony to this fact, that as a Protestant Irishman living in Southern Ireland I never received anything but the greatest courtesy. I never received the slightest opposition either as regards my religious views or on the ground that I held certain political views. I put it to the Noble Lord opposite who visited Ireland a little while ago, and who knows more about it than anybody else, that if he travelled all over Ireland, and consulted with the people in the various parts of the country, he would find there was far more toleration among the people of Southern Ireland than among the people of Northern Ireland—infinitely more toleration now and at all times.
Why has the six-county claim been substituted for what used to be called the Ulster demand? In my boyhood and early manhood I was brought up among Protestant people in Northern Ireland, and in those days I was asked by the leaders of thought among those people to recognise that Ulster was a separate part of Ireland—not six counties, but nine counties—and that the nine counties were loyal to the Empire, but the remaining 23 were disloyal. That is the story I used to be told, and I was induced for a long time to remain loyal to nine counties out of 32, and I was told those nine counties would always stand by the Empire while the remainder were not to be relied upon to do so. Why did Ulster herself drop three counties out of the nine? I suggest the principal reason was because opinion in Ulster was evenly divided, and the people who dominated Ulster in the past, and who do so to-day, were afraid of that large minority which might, by propaganda, have been turned into a majority. They feared that Nationalist opinion or Catholic opinion—opinion 196 hostile to the dominant force in Northern Ireland, call it what you like—might have got power in the nine counties. That is the reason why which appealed to them.
§ Mr. McENTEE
I heard it stated here to-day that an hon. Member in this House at the time moved that the nine counties instead of the six should be excluded, and that the opposition came from the Members for Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. McENTEE
You say so, but other people say "No," and I cannot judge between the two. At any rate you do not wish the nine counties, and I suggest the reason is because you are afraid of a possible majority against you and you wish to guarantee the maintenance of your power in Northern Ireland. The hon. and learned Member for Londonderry (Sir M. Macnaghten) made reference to economic conditions in certain parts of Ireland. I have received a number of leaflets from Northern Ireland and some from Southern Ireland on these subjects. In a leaflet from Northern Ireland one of the reasons put forward for supporting their point of view in this matter is that they are financially stable and it is stated there are £60,000,000 deposited in the banks in Northern Ireland and in addition £3,000,000 deposited by the working class in the Post Office Savings Bank. There are £60,000,000 deposited in the names of a very few who dominate Northern Ireland and only £3,000,000 deposited in the name of the great bulk of the people of Northern Ireland who constitute the working class. It is the old determining factor—the determination to keep out of Ireland and establish a little, small, rich community and evade, as far as possible, responsibilities in taxation and other things which would be incurred if they belonged to Ireland.
§ Mr. McENTEE
I will tell you. I left because I could not get a job there. I left because I was boycotted from one end of Ireland to the other because of the lack of toleration on the part of your people. I was driven out of Ireland 197 without any desire to leave it at the time—though I am not sorry since. I was driven out because, time after time, I was refused the opportunity of working for my living by the people who had the power to give me a job or to refuse it.
§ Mr. McENTEE
I am sorry for these interruptions, but they indicate the type of toleration which one might expect in Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. McENTEE
That is the spirit that has made Ireland what it is to-day, and if you show as little toleration to the people of Southern Ireland as you do to me, I cannot blame the people of Southern Ireland for their attitude towards you. As one brought up as a Protestant, loyal Irishman for many years, and who has travelled among the Catholics of Ireland in almost all parts, where I was treated with the greatest toleration and the greatest courtesy, I must say that it was only when I went to Northern Ireland amongst my own people that I found that terrible intolerance that has been largely responsible for the condition of Ireland to-day. One can only regret that kind of thing. Nobody regrets it more than I do, and nobody would make greater sacrifices to bring about real peace amongst the people of Ireland than I would; but it occurs to me, after some 30 years over here as an observer, from outside if you like, but with a long experience in Ireland and with Irish birth, that if there were any real desire amongst the people of Northern. Ireland to-day, if they had any real faith in their own case, if they believed in their case, as they say they do, they would not refuse to submit it to the arbitration of independent men. I am a trade unionist, and over and over again I have heard appeals, since I have been in this House, when a big industrial dispute has been in progress, to submit the thing to arbitration. It has been said: "If you have a good case, submit it to independent men, and let them decide." I say to the people of Ulster, to the people of the six counties: "If you believe in your case, submit it to 198 the arbitration of this independent tribunal that has been set up, and appoint your own man to it."
After all, the people of Northern Ireland profess to have great loyalty to this country and great faith in the Empire, and if they have, and if they are sure their case is good, surely a tribunal constituted with only one representative of Southern Ireland, which contains by far the greater part of the Irish people, and one representative of the smaller part of the Irish people, and with a chairman friendly to Northern Ireland—all the history of Ireland would suggest that the chairman appointed by the British Parliament would be friendly to them—in circumstances like that, if they refuse to submit their case to arbitration, there is only one conclusion that the people of the world can come to, and that is that they are afraid of their case, that it is not a good one, and that they know it is not a good one, and, therefore, they prefer to fight on rather than to submit it to arbitration. I do not see any other alternative to the passage of this Bill. It has been said we are instituting a new Act of Parliament, but suppose we are, what alternative is there? The right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. A. Chamberlain) did not suggest an alternative, because he has not got one. The only alternative is that of drift, and if drift is to be the policy of the British Government, then every Member in this House, and particularly those from Northern Ireland, will know what is going to he the result. It will probably mean civil war in Ireland again. We are told that, if we pass this Bill to-day it may mean civil war in Ireland again, but what are we to do between two such alternatives as those? I suggest that even now, if the people of Northern Ireland believe in their policy, and have faith in the Empire to which they profess to be loyal, they should submit their case to the arbitration of people so appointed.
§ Mr. HOGBIN
I ask the indulgence of the House on rising to make a few remarks. I was one of 21 members of this House who recently visited the boundary between North and South Ireland, and after we had heard both sides of the case—we had deputations from the Catholic side and from the Orange side—we came 199 to the conclusion that the one way in which a satisfactory final settlement could be come to with regard to the boundary question was that it must come from within. While in Ireland, I had the opportunity of talking with an ex-Judge of the King's Bench Division, and his remark to me was, "All that we ask you to do is to leave us alone. If you will leave us alone, I prophesy that Ireland will be one unit in 15 years, but if, by your interference, you seek to force a decision upon Ireland, you will put peace hack for 100 years." Those views, I think, were largely held by members visiting Ireland in the deputation to which I have referred. Unfortunately, conferences which have been held between the two parties have failed, largely, I believe I aim right in saying, due to the fact that Sinn Fein has made exorbitant, extravagant demands, such demands as it has been impossible for the representatives of Northern Ireland even to consider. I understand that one demand that was made by Mr. Cosgrave was that in any county or any area where there was a majority of even one Nationalist or one Roman Catholic he would claim that for Sinn Fein.
§ Mr. HOGBIN
The Government now come down to this House in frantic haste and say: "We must introduce a Bill which will give effect to the Boundary Commission which was to be appointed under the Treaty." They say we are in a position to amend this Treaty, but when the Treaty was before the House—I was not here at the time—I understand that an Amendment was moved, and that the, answer from the Treasury Bench was that not one "i" could be dotted, not one "t" could he crossed, not one comma could be altered, not one stop could be removed. Now the Government come down and are asking hon. Members to support them in amending this Treaty. If it could not be amended then, is there any reason why it should be amended now, and, at the same time, why it should be legal so to amend it? At whose behest are we to make this Amendment? Whence does the pressure come? I am wondering whether it does not synchronise in some way with the release from a certain place of a certain gentleman who would have been far better kept there. That gentle- 200 man has always had an evil influence on Irish affairs. I wonder whether the pressure has come from that quarter upon Mr. Cosgrave, and I wonder, also, whether, as a result of that pressure, Mr. Cosgrave has brought such pressure to bear upon the British Government of to-day that they have been compelled to come to this House, possibly against their will, with a view to amending this Treaty.
Speaking from these benches, I must say that I speak for myself alone, and I am not afraid to do that. As a matter of fact, I am in favour of supporting this Treaty, but I think that the construction of Article 12 should be varied from the way in which the Government seek to construe it. My firm belief is that when that Article was drafted, and when the Treaty was signed, it was thoroughly understood by all the contracting parties that, failing agreement between North and South, the functions of the Boundary Commission were to be confined to a settling of the adjustment or rectification of the boundaries. But surely the rectification of a boundary does not imply the yielding up of whole counties or of whole stretches of territory. That is what is being demanded to-day by the Free State, and I under stand that that is what Ulster objects to, and I quite agree with Ulster that she should object to such a demand being made upon her. Not only is that so, but, assuming for one moment that the demand of the Free State is acceded to by the Boundary Commission that the Government propose to set up, what does it imply? It implies the yielding up to the Free State of the entire control of the water supply for Belfast, and, as it was quite reasonably put to me, assuming that the Free State does get control of Belfast's only means of water supply, she naturally is in a position to say: "Very well, for every gallon of water you want, we want 2s. or 3s." Is there anything to prevent that?
§ Mr. HOGBIN
Common sense persuaded the Free State to send over the borders into Ulster to burn, to rob and to commit bloody murder.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
On a point of Order. Is the hon. Member in order in referring to a self-governing Colony, a friendly Colony, as having sent troops over deliberately to another Colony for the purpose of murder and robbery, and, if that remark were applied, say, to Canada, would it be in order? I want your ruling.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
I understand the comment was made to apply to a time prior to that to which the hon. Member refers.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
On a further point of Order. The words "Free State" were deliberately used, and that can only apply to within the time in which a self-governing Colony has been set up. I want to know from you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, seeing that that term applies to recent history and to a Colony recently set up, if it is in order for any hon. Member to refer to them as sending troops for murder and robbery.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
The statement was not made in the way the hon. Gentleman has put it to me. 6.0 P.M. The hon. Member was undoubtedly referring to a prior period, and the words "Free State," as is within the knowledge of everybody, were inadeventently used.
§ Mr. HOGBIN
If I have in any way transgressed the rules of debate in this House, I certainly will at once withdraw. [Interruption.] I am afraid my maiden speech has brought about a little bit of a quarrel between myself and my friends on my left, but that is nothing fresh.
§ Mr. O'GRADY
Surely the hon. Member will apologise for that? [An HON. MEMBER: "That is your tolerance!"]
§ Mr. HOGBIN
This is quite common to me in my constituency. In conclusion, I would like, with all the power that I may have at my command, to suggest to the Government that now, before it is too late, they will do what, I think, Ulster is asking them to do, and, I think, Ulster would agree if they would do it, and that is, if they can, amend this Treaty legally in this manner, define the functions of the Commission which they are going to set up, define the terms of reference, and let those terms of reference be so clear as to show what, I believe, Article 12 to mean, namely, the rectification or adjustment of 202 the boundary. If they will do that, I believe Ulster is still prepared—in fact, I feel convinced she is willing—to send her representative to sit on that Commission. We have heard a good deal about pledges, and the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) declared that he had given no pledge. In a letter written to Mr. De Valera, dated 20th July, 1921, he writes:The form in which the settlement is to take effect will depend upon Ireland herself. It must allow for full recognition of the existing powers and privileges of the Parliament and Government of Northern Ireland, which cannot be abrogated excepting by their own consent.It is not for me as a young Member of this House to criticise a Member of the standing of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, but I do think that the pledge given here, if it means anything at all, includes the boundary question between North and South. If it does not, why should the word "privileges" be used? Surely "boundary" comes within that word? That is my view, at any rate. Finally, I would like to say we cannot overlook the fact that Ulster is intensely loyal to Great Britain. Wherever we went on the Ulster boundary, we saw the Union Jack. The first thing we saw when we crossed the border was the tricolour of the Free State, without any reference whatever to the Union Jack. I do think that if for no other reason than that when we had our backs to the wall in 1914–18 Ulster sent her men and her money, and gave her blood, her cause is entitled to fair, just and earnest consideration from all sides of the House.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HOWARD - BURY
I should like to congratulate the hon. Member upon his most excellent speech. Though at times it may have been a little provocative, we in Ireland, when Irish affairs come forward, are always apt to look upon people who trail their coat as entitled to a little fair-play. My only claim to speak to-night is that I am one of those Southern Unionists, one of those 400,000 who are now under the Free State Government. We are not a vocal party; we have no representation to-day in this House; we are not, like many of my hon. Friends who come from Ulster, a party that can sit here in the House and can bring forward their grievances. I was, therefore, very glad when the 203 right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. A. Chamberlain) and the Prime Minister alluded to those troublous times that we have been going through. The Prime Minister told the House,The great bulk of this minority had accepted the settlement. They had suffered as no other class in Ireland had suffered.I do not think anyone in this House would disagree with that.Loyal to the Free State they were, and are none the less loyal to the Empire.We hear a great deal about loyalty in the North, but when has the loyalty of those 400,000 Unionists been put forward in this House?Their rights and status as British citizens they passionately prize, and no section here or in Ireland has any right to put its loyalty up against theirs."—[OFFICIAL Royalty 30th September, 1924; col. 31, Vol. 177.]They took their part in the fighting in the Great War just as much as those in the North did. They suffered equally with the North, but speakers are apt to look only to the North of Ireland as being the loyal portion of Ireland, and to omit that large minority in the South whose voice, unfortunately, is not heard to-day in this House. We look upon this problem from a different point of view, rather different from what hon. Members from Ulster do. Many of us in the Free State belong to the old historical province of Ulster. We live in those three counties that were cut off from Ulster, and I trace this back to the days to which the right hon. Member for Cartiarvon Boroughs alluded, to the discussions that took place in 1919 and 1920 between the leaders of Northern Ireland, as it, exists at present, and the Cabinet. At first, as he told us, many Members of the Cabinet, were in favour of the nine counties, the original historical province of Ulster, being excluded, but it was the pressure of the Members from Ulster, who believed that a large number would be against them differing in religion, and to a great extent in race, that led to the six counties only being excluded.
Therefore, it is to those days that I trace back this mistake. We should not have had this boundary question. There would have been the old historical province of Ulster. When you have the emasculated portion of a province, six 204 counties taken away from it and put aside, it naturally leads the Southern Irish to say, "We have got far more than we expected. We have another three counties. We did not expect them, and have only to ask for more, and we shall get more." That is the natural line for the South to take. I have always looked upon it as a weak form of statesmanship that thought the difficulties in Ulster would be too great if they had the nine counties, but we know what the Ulstermen are; they are determined men, and can overcome difficulties. They would have overcome those difficulties, and it would have been to the good, not only of Ulster but the rest of Ireland, that there should have been a big minority there able to take their part, and to oppose the Government of Northern Ireland. It would have brought a solution of the Irish question nearer than it is to-day.
The reason I do object to this Boundary Commission is that you are going to stereotype the division in Ireland, and make the boundary a definite boundary, and for ever you are going to partition Ireland. There is the great mistake. Like all Irishmen. I want eventually, the definite unity of the country. We realise it is not by pressure on the North that you will ever get that. It will never come from pressure. The South must woo the North. It must make itself into a pleasant and an agreeable place before you will ever get the North looking towards the South and saying they want to come in and join them. It seems to me almost unthinkable that a country comparatively small in area, with a total population little over half that of Greater London, should support two Governments, four Houses of Parliament—two Senates, a Dail and a House of Commons—and two separate sets of officials. It seems a waste of money and time that that should exist for ever, and is it really to the good of Ireland that this should really continue for ever? Cannot there he some step made, some gesture from the North that will not put off for ever re-union? We all desire it.
§ Lieut. - Colonel HOWARD-BURY
I would like to try to look at this from the 205 ordinary business point of view of the man in the North. He is a shrewd business man, and when he looks towards the South and says, "What advantages should I have if I were to come in?" he sees to-day a country more expensive to live in than any other country in Europe, more highly taxed—the Income Tax is still at 5s. in the £—with the Corporation Profits Tax still in existence, with the 2d. postage, when he sees people coming over from the Free State border every day into the North to buy sugar and tobacco, because sugar is twice as expensive in the Free State as in the North, he says, "What attraction is there for me to come in?" Fresh taxes are being imposed every day in the South. We have had a statistical tax recently of 6d. on every parcel that comes into the country and, in addition, a delivery fee of 6d.
Taxes are being imposed all around. The shrewd business man will naturally say, "It is no advantage whatever to come to this country; I shall only be more highly taxed." Mr. Blythe, up till now, has been working under an old formula of Chancellors of the Exchequer, who in former times seemed to look to the higher taxes to produce the more revenue. But I should like to point out to Mr. Blythe that he has here the very greatest opportunity to try to induce the North to come in and join the South. What does the bulk of the revenue come from in Southern Ireland? I am afraid hon. Members below the Gangway opposite will look upon it as anathema and as fruits of the Devil! It is mostly from beer and whisky. Nine-tenths of the revenue comes from these, but the remainder, or part of the remainder, comes from Income Tax. In this country, we depend mostly upon Income Tax and Super-tax for our revenue. Mr. Blythe, if he were a bold, courageous man, would say to the Free State: "Now I am going to reduce Income Tax from 5s. in the £ to 2s. 6d. in the £." He would lose very little, for there are thousands of people who want to settle down and live their life in the South, in business, or who have retired on a small pension, and would like a little sport, a little shooting or a little fishing. It would be an inducement to them to come and settle down in Ireland. The North would then look to the South. The Northern business man who has the Income Tax of 4s. 6d. 206 in the £ to pay would look towards the South and say, "I may gain a great benefit now."
This would be a gesture. It would be a start. It would be something. Taxes talk far more eloquently than politicians. I think it would be a beginning in inducing the North to look towards the South. A substantial reduction in Free State taxes would do more to settle the boundary question than all the legal arguments that interest lawyers. Besides that, the Free State have yet a long way to go. There must be less talk of republics and secret societies. They are going through very difficult times. No one knows better than I do the difficulties of the last two years in the Free State. They were faced with open rebellion from the beginning, with murder, with outrages throughout the country. Tens of millions of pounds damage were done. To-day the law is being established, and any Member of this House can go without fear to any part of the country. That has been going on, but so long as there is this talk of leaving the British Empire and forming a republic there will naturally be no attraction to the North to come in.
We say that this Bill that is before the House to-day is a Bill to rectify an error in a former Bill. Those in the South tell us that it is the moral duty of this country to carry out the spirit as well as the letter of the law. Well, if there is any doubt as to the word of England at any time England must keep her word. England will have to keep her word. I object to the Boundary Commission because, as I say, it stereotypes these boundaries, and that is the last thing I want. But is there not some chance, some opportunity, when we have got this Boundary Commission through, to leave it over for the time being, to let it be, and to try and induce the leaders of the North and the leaders of the South to come together with some form of agreement. How much have we in common? Agriculture is the staple industry of Ireland. There are two Ministries of Agriculture. Why not combine the two and make a beginning there someehow? There are many others: the Fisheries and many other public Departments where a beginning might be made where the interests are the same. Do let us try and start and build on a foundation—slender it may be—but do not for ever let us 207 rule out the idea of unity in Ireland. We all desire it. We all hope it may come. Let us not do anything permanently to sever the country, but let us do all we can to build up this unity we all desire in Ireland.
Mr. GEORGE DAVIES
I feel particularly dependent upon the grace which the House usually accords to those who address it for the first time. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. A. Chamberlain) regretted that the hon. and gallant Gentleman who spoke on this side of the House could not appear in this Debate in the role of pacifist. May I explain that I appealed to my constituency, the University of Wales, in that role, and it is in that role that I wish to intervene for a little while in the Debate to-night. I confess that I have listened with considerable sympathy to the arguments on both sides of the House with regard to the question of implementing Article 12. As a simple layman, I confess I feel considerably perplexed as to where the rights and wrongs of the case lie. But one thing is perfectly clear. It seems to me that people on both sides are under the impression that there was an understanding, if not an agreement, which is now in jeopardy. If Ulster was definitely promised that six counties now and for ever, it is quite useless now to speak of the wishes of the population. The one claim rules out the other. If there is any inconsistency we have to go back—as the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford -University (Lord H. Cecil) said last night—to the spirit and not to the letter. It seems to me that the question of putting pledge against pledge does not lead us in this House to any solution. The Government is not the first amongst the rulers of the earth who have been embarassed by a pledge. There was a certain king of old—Herod—who made a very injudicious oath to give even to the half of his kingdom under certain conditions, and, when he was called upon to redeem the pledge, he executed a prophet. It would have been more honourable for him, I think, to have broken his oath rather than to have executed John the Baptist.
The question surely with which we are confronted is, which pledge, if the two are inconsistent, most accords with 208 humanity and justice. If anything has been promised in the past, if any pledge has been given, this House and the country are not absolved from the necessity of overhauling the case again. If there be a deadlock, it is not facing up to the situation merely to relegate the trouble to another body. The Noble Lord the Member for the University of Oxford spoke of the distinctions in the interpretations of the word "spirit." His interpretation of it was that it was "intention." I feel that that hardly goes far enough. It is surely not only an intention held at one time when the facts were one thing, but a right intention held at the present when the facts may be different. There is a body in Ireland which does take up an extreme position. They are not extremists of the right or the left, but extremists of the centre. I am thinking now of Mr. G. W. Russell, the editor of the "Irish Statesman," and the appeal which was quoted by Mr. Wickham Steed—once editor of the "Times"—the other day, and in which a new note is struck. It is quite refreshing to hear such a note in an Irish discussion. Mr. Russell says:We think we can say that no effort was made by the Free State Press to bring about the unity of Ireland by restraint in speech, by elucidation of what was obscure, by a continuous courtesy in answering argument or suspicion. It fell a prey, as did the Northern Press, to the alluring demons of retort and recrimination often quite just retorts, but all tending to make us further apart in body and soul.We believe the deep heart of Ireland can he plumbed only by the generous nature. There are depths unsounded and unstirred in the Irish nature since the death of Thomas Davis, the most generous and noble of Irish public men. Irish politicals since then have relied too much upon the easily excited surface passions, and nobody has sounded that deep nature; not the Free Staters, not the Republicans, not the Ulster politicals.If Irish people ask themselves in all earnestness: do they wish well or ill to their Northern fellow-countrymen who now are sundered from us, we think we know what answer the heart would make. It would be afraid to admit that it desired anything but good, and if it knows this and will act on it, we may be certain of winning our Ulster countrymen. They will not be one whit less generous than we are. A last word. States are founded, not on theory, not on rights, but on the affections.It fills one with hope that that kind of note is being struck in Ireland by one of the noblest of Irish voices. It is in that 209 direction that I would wish to follow in the course of this Debate. How are we to intervene at this juncture to secure, not a partisan settlement, but a settlement in a just and Christian spirit? Sometimes we try to arrive at what is the right spirit by defining what it is not. We read it in the old book, "Not by might nor by power"—whatever the other means may be by which the divine spirit may be brought in. The speech delivered the other day in Ulster by a Member of this House seems to me to give an example of what is not the right kind of spirit. The hon. Gentleman to whom I refer, speaking at a Loyalists' demonstration, said:If force was used against Ulster he would say to them one word 'strike,' and he would add to that by saying that 'he who hits first hits last.' They were better armed and trained than the irregulars and they were more numerous than the Free State army.I feel sure that the good sense of the House will deprecate at this grave hour this sort of thing being spoken by anyone in a public position. It seems so much in contrast to the appeals that we have heard from both sides of the House. If there is one thing which unites the Members of this House, from whichever side they may be drawn, it is the solemn spectacle of the memorials to our soldiers. I wonder if, as we remember, we ever think, not only of the men who died in France, in Mesopotamia, in the Far East, and elsewhere, but also of the soldiers who died, as it may seem in vain, in Ireland? Let me give an example of their spirit. I refer to an officer of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, Major Compton Smith, who was executed by the I.R.A. in 1921. Before his execution, he wrote a letter to his wife in which he said:I leave my cigarette case to the regiment, my medals to my father, and my watch to the officer who is executing me because I believe him to be a gentleman and to mark the fact that I bear him no malice for carrying out what he believes to be his duty.In a letter to his regiment, he said:I should like you fellows to know that I intend to die like a Welsh Fusilier with a laugh and forgiveness for those who are carrying out the deed. I should like my death to lessen rather than increase the bitterness that exists between England and Ireland.It is significant that the Commander-in-Chief of the Irish Republican Army should have said later: 210We cannot go on fighting Compton Smiths.That spirit is not confined alone to those who died for England. At the time when Mr. Erskine Childers, who was so often execrated in England, was about to be executed by the Free State troops, he wrote the following letter to his wife on the eve of his execution:Will this nation soon understand and pay reverence to what actuates us in this cause? I feel it will. If only I can die knowing that my death would somehow save the lives of others and arrest this policy of executions. I see big forces rending and at the same time moulding our people in affliction. I die full of intense love for Ireland. I hope, one day, my good name will be cleared in England. I felt what Churchill said about my 'hatred' and 'malice' against England. How well we know it is not true. What line I ever spoke or wrote justifies that charge? I die loving England and passionately praying that she may change completely and finally towards Ireland.There was a classic utterance in classic times taken from the lips of the gladiators of the arena, "Cæsar! those about to die salute thee." It is one of the hopes of the future that some of the noblest of the men who have been soldiers have died, not with the appeal and salute to Cæsar but with the salute to Christ. Whether it is Nurse Cavell who says, "Patriotism is not enough; I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone," whether it is Michael Collins who with his dying lips pleads for forgiveness for his enemies, whether it is Erskine Childers or Compton Smith, is it possible that the note sounded at such an hour when all pretence is laid aside and by men who have suffered so much, cannot be responded to in this House, even in the midst of the bitterness of the partisanship which seems to be inevitable when Irish questions are discussed. It is said that in Irish affairs, if you wish to see straight, you must look round the corner. I confess to only an academic interest in Article 12 when I remember that the "real politik" of the situation is the Republican forces and the Orange Lodges, the forces on the extreme right or on the extreme left. The "Irish Times" last week speaks in the gravest possible tone about the imminent possibilities of the future. It says:It seems now to be fairly certain that, if the Boundary Commission fails to transfer substantial areas from Northern 211 Ireland to the Free State, a determined effort will be made in Dail Eireann and throughout the country to abolish the oath of allegiance, and virtually to consign the Treaty to the scrap-heapThe Special Correspondent of the "Daily News" reported that the Republicans may he in power in Ireland within six months. It is vain to burke the greater issue that lies beyond the text and letter of Clause XII. However little one may sympathise with Republicanism it is surely well, even at the risk of seeming to be a "devil's advocate," to seek to understand why Republicanism should exist in such force in Ireland to-day. I have referred to the Pacifist Extremists of the Centre in Ireland—such men as G W. Russell and Sir Horace Plunkett. I believe that even Arthur Griffith himself deplored the resort to violence on the part of Sinn Fein, and even in 1920 these men were in favour of and repeatedly urged a Dominion Home Rule settlement. The House will remember how the negotiations went on and how a period of violence followed. We all remember how an American Commission reported upon the operations of the Black and Tans and how gradually the whole country began to protest against the policy, and how finally that policy came to an end. Now the invitation of July, 1921, to the Sinn Fein leaders either implied a change of heart or else a definite abandonment of the policy of coercion. I was in Dublin a few days after the invitation was sent and I shall never forget what seemed to me most deplorable, namely, the spirit of suspicion with which the invitation was received. On the day of the meeting of the first Dublin Peace Conference I had the opportunity of a conversation with Mr. De Valera. He then said to me:If it is really meant in the spirit of trust and goodwill there will be a great response from Southern Ireland, but we have been tricked so often by English politicians.I saw later one of the most dangerous leaders of the Irish Republican Army, upon whose head a price was laid, and this man said to me:We have gone beyond the fear of death. We only live for one thing now, 'Ireland free.' But if this invitation is really sent in the spirit you suggest we shall be the first to forget and forgive.212 It was one of the most moving things I have ever seen to behold in front of the Mansion House the scene when the first Peace Conference was held, and especially the respectful reception of the Southern Unionist leaders. Within the space of a few days from the sending of the Peace invitation we saw the British Commander-in-Chief in Ireland being received with cheers by a Sinn Fein crowd. Such was the response of the "deep and generous nature" to which I have referred. At the appeal of grace the common people, as always, "heard it gladly." The effect in England was no less extraordinary. The Liberal revulsion against the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), as chiefly responsible for the Black and Tan policy, was checked. All one heard in the market places of Wales was, "We will forgive him everything if he stands for peace by goodwill." The Archbishop of Canterbury's letter to the "Times" expressed the anxiety and concern of the Church for reconciliation and peace by goodwill. General Smuts' intervention on being sent across to Ireland suggested to Liberals that the halcyon days had returned, and that we were going to have the kind of policy by which Campbell-Bannerman settled South Africa. Mr. Lloyd George himself said, after his first interview with Mr. De Valera, that they were faced either with the Sermon on the Mount or a dreadful relapse into methods of barbarism or something to that effect. To quote again the phrase used by the pacifist school of thought in Ireland:The polities of time seemed to be beginning to accord with the politics of eternity.Why did this not succeed in the wonderful manner in which the South African settlement succeeded? No one has paid a more splendid tribute to that attempt than the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. A. Chamberlain). Towards the end of the negotiations there were two principal points outstanding—the form of the oath and partition. The former was the alternative between a "recognition" of the King and an "allegiance" to the King. I suggest that the value of a form of enforced loyalty or an enforced allegiance was "not worth the bones of a single grenadier." I need not now go into the question of partition. The whole of 213 this matter has already been debated to the husks. But Mr. De Valera himself, speaking the other day, has made a disclosure in which he quoted from a letter sent to him by Mr. Arthur Griffith:Lloyd George and his colleagues are sending a further reply to the Ulster men refusing their Dominion proposal, but offering to create an all-Ireland Parliament, Ulster to have the right to vote itself out within 12 mouths. But if it does, a Boundary Commission is to be set up to delimit the area, and the part that remains after the Commission has acted is to be subject to equal financial burdens with England. Lloyd George intimated that if Ulster refused that, this would be their last word to Ulster. If they refused, as he believed they would, he would fight the matter in Parliament, appeal to Parliament against Ulster, or pass an Act establishing an all-Ireland Parliament.I do not wish to pursue this point further. But an event then occurred the effect of which I am sure has not been sufficiently realised on this side of the Channel. I understand that the signatures of at least three Irish delegates were obtained by the threat of a declaration of immediate war unless they signed the Treaty in its then condition. I do not know the value of the evidence on the point given by the three Irish delegates. I only know that these events are described very dramatically in a Life of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) by Mr. Raymond. It may seem incalculable that, with such grave issues at stake, men should trouble twopence about an oath. Those who speak in that way surely do not remember the Celtic temperament, not only in Ireland but in Wales. It does not seem very long ago that on a question of a grievance which seems very trifling at this time, namely, the question of some Welsh non-conformist school children being taught the Anglican Catechism, the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs roused the country, encouraged the county councils to defy the law, and, when a mandamus of the Government was threatened, replied:What is a mandamus? Simply a bit of blue paper.It seems to he, looking back over the tragic days we have passed through in the last 10 years, a straining at a gnat to have had so peculiar a sensitiveness in these times. I wonder how many camels we have swallowed since. And yet I believe that is the Celtic temperament. 214 The taking of an oath of loyalty in which there is a sense of unfairness or duress will always leave resentment or revolt. That duress is regarded by many in Ireland as having created the greater part of the difficulties of the present day. We have been told repeatedly that members of the Free State Government have lost their lives in an attempt to maintain that Treaty in face of those who said they could have no part or lot in it so long as it was executed under duress in that way. I admit that I have no sympathy with republicanism, but, after the Great War, in which one of the chief objectives was said to be the right of self-determination of small nationalities, where Poland, Latvia, Esthonia and Hungary have been granted republican constitutions, it does not seem an enormity that there should be men in Ireland who, for some reason or other, prefer that kind of government. However, the estate was broken up, but the entail of the old hostility and suspicion remained. It seemed, to use the phrase again, that "the politics of eternity" had once more relapsed into the partisanship of strife.
Now we are confronted with this situation: The Free State Government is at its wits' end in face of a large, and, I am afraid, a growing, Republican minority. The Minister of Finance, Mr. Blythe, said the other day that he believed they would have achieved unity with their Northern fellow-countrymen had it not been for the period of disorder which they attributed to the necessity of dealing with the insurgent Republicans. A significant thing about it all is that both sides, whether Republicans or the men of the North, feel that they have been unfairly dealt with by the parties in this House. Why is that? It is, surely, not due to lack of concern and good intention in this House. I believe that all the Members who come to this House are gravely concerned to do the best and the right thing for Ireland. I believe, myself, that it is because we have relied far too much on our powers of coercion to pass our decisions through, and too little upon our powers of conciliation and friendship. There was once a very wise king who had to decide an extraordinarily difficult dispute. Two women disputed as to the ownership of a small child, and the solution to which this wise king came was arrived at through his offering to divide the child into two halves. It 215 seemed like logic; it seemed like justice; but when one of the women immediately renounced altogether her claim to the child, it assured the king that she was indeed the true mother.
If I may use that analogy, the side or party that has the spirit of bona fides which would commend itself to Members of this House is the party that will really show the most concern for the wishes of the child—for the people themselves—that will really be prepared to trust to the free vote and free voice of the people who are immediately concerned. Surely, the real problem is not one of geography, but of humanity. It is not a matter of dealing with maps, but with men. If the Commission which I hope will be appointed should go as far as to delineate the boundary that it considers fair and right, at that point the real problem will commence. What is this country to do in the event of the necessity of the enforcement of those decisions? It seems very difficult to suppose that any delineation will commend itself to both sides. What is this House to do in the event of that boundary proving unsatisfactory to either side? The Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University (Lord H. Cecil) has spoken of the case of Shylock and his pound of flesh. It seems to me that we may use that, illustration and say, "The pound of flesh, if you will, but not one drop of Christian blood"—that is to say, that this House will be no party to the enforcement of decrees by the old abandoned method of coercion, which for the last 700 years has wrought such havoc every time it has been applied, whether it has been threatened against the North or actually applied against the South.
All this throws one back on the position that the basic question is not at all this matter of the geographical boundary. It is the question of the treatment of minorities. Is it beyond our hopes that a scheme may ultimately be proffered to both sides whereby they will agree to conditions in regard to the treatment of minorities which will leave no sense of unfairness behind? This is just the kind of question which, in the case of every little new country on the Continent, has to be referred to the League of Nations—the question of minorities and majorities. I was present a year ago at a Danish Peace Conference, very appropriately 216 called by women, on the Schlesvig-Holstein frontier, and I remember hearing that, although there was tremendous soreness at first on the frontier, the Danish Government had gone so far in giving every kind of concession that the minority might wish for that the bitterness was in course of being wiped out. It is significant that that little country, having acted in that spirit, should be the country which is about to bring in a proposal for total disarmament. In the case of Norway and Sweden, again, the two countries, some 10 years ago, were on the verge of war. I believe that this country intervened then, not in a coercive but in a suggestive and conciliatory spirit, and those two countries, where men were arming on both sides, were finally separated without any ill-will by a great and kingly act of renunciation on the part of the King of Sweden, who gave away what seemed to be national prestige. That act of renunciation, I believe, brought Sweden and Norway into their present state of warm and cordial friendship. We know very well in Wales what sect feuds have been. We know that our whole politics were directed, for a desolate 40 years, to the antagonisms between chapel and church. We know how remote that question seems now. We have had to try to learn "so to be Presbyterian as not to forget that we are Christian." I believe that the appeals that are being made by the pacifist minority in Ireland, to whom I have referred, are appeals of the kind that the body of this House can support I should like, in conclusion, to say that I hope we may be able to say, with humility to Ireland, in the words of one who contained in himself the qualities of a great Englishman, a great lover of Ireland, and a great Christian—Mr. Gladstone:I would entreat you, aye, with my latest breath I would entreat you, to let the dead bury their dead, to let bygones be bygones, and to love, cherish and sustain one another in all the vicissitudes of human affairs in the times that are to come.
§ Captain CRAIG
I think I am right in saying that the speech to which we have just listened was a maiden speech, and, in that case, the duty falls upon me to congratulate the hon. Member on what has been a very welcome and most interesting speech. Unfortunately, I do not agree with it all, but it very rarely 217 happens that a Member on the opposite side of the House does agree with the speech of an opponent. I would only make one comment on the subject-matter of the speech, and that is, that there was only a very small portion of it which had any bearing on the question we are discussing, namely, the boundary. In that respect, however, the hon. Member has not sinned a bit more than a great many of his predecessors. For instance, my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bilston (Lieut.-Colonel Howard-Bury), who spoke immediately before the hon. Member, devoted a considerable proportion of his speech to matters which were entirely unconnected with the boundary question. The House of Commons, I think I am safe in saying, is beginning, or has already begun, to tire of the expression "gesture," and of another expression that has been very often used by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), namely, "the exploration of avenues" to arrive at certain results. But when my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bilston asks Ulstermen to make a gesture, either in the matter of the boundary question or of coming into one whole Ireland, and in the next breath tells us that if we do so we shall have to suffer higher taxation than at present, that we shall have to pay 2d. for every stamp for which we now pay 1½d., that we shall have to pay more for our sugar and tobacco, and shall have to pay 6d. on every article which we receive in a letter from this country, and added to all that he tells us there is a very fair chance of our being subjects of a republic instead of being a part of a united Empire, my hon. and gallant Friend would, I am sure, if he were here, excuse me if I decline absolutely to make any such gesture.
There is no doubt that the most important speech in the whole of this Debate was the speech made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, who spoke earlier this afternoon. I must say that I was utterly amazed at that speech. Its whole tenor was that this Commission, when it is set up, will be entitled to hand over to the Free State large areas of Ulster territory. There can be no question about it. The right hon. Gentleman went into the whole story of the iniquity of Ulster hold 218 ing in suppression a minority of I do not know how many hundred thousand Catholics. He most distinctly led the House to understand—
§ Captain CRAIG
The right hon. Gentleman mentioned a large Catholic minority. He mentioned most distinctly that, if the Commission chose to take that view of its duty, it would be perfectly competent for it to hand over large territories, whose inhabitants are opponents of ours in religion and politics, to the Free State. I would ask the House to remember that it is only a few days ago since Mr. Winston Churchill made a speech at Edinburgh, in which he distinctly laid it down that what he had in his mind when the Treaty was signed was that the only duty and the only power of the Commission which it was intended to set up under that Article would be a mere rectification of the border line. Mr. Churchill was Colonial Secretary at that time, and was not only a member of the Conference but a signatory of the Treaty. What amazes me now is that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, either in a speech or in writing—I cannot remember which—a few days later said that the words used by Mr. Churchill corresponded exactly with his own ideas on the subject.
§ Captain CRAIG
The right hon. Gentleman, surely, does not deny that he either spoke or wrote words, I will not say literally those that I have used, but words corresponding exactly to them. [HON. MEMBERS: "It was about Lord Birkenhead!"] I apologise; I have made a mistake. My friends remind me that it was not a confirmation of what Mr. Churchill said, but of what Lord Birkenhead said, that came from the right hon. Gentleman; but Lord Birkenhead said, possibly in slightly different language, exactly the same as Mr. Churchill said. I am glad to be corrected on that point, but there is no difference. The right hon. Gentleman comes to us to-day and delivers a speech which, if it means anything at all, means that in his view it is open to the Commissioners to hand over large areas of our territory to the South—I 219 think everyone who heard him will agree that that is not an unfair interpretation of what he said—and yet, as I have pointed out to the House, he confirmed, a few days ago, Lord Birkenhead's interpretation of what the signatories of the Treaty meant when they drew up this Article.
There was another point about the right hon. Gentleman's speech at which I am amazed. That was where he affirmed that no pledge was ever given to Ulster that the boundary would not be touched. That is a very important 7.0 P.M. matter. I admit, so far as I am concerned, that I never heard of any definite pledge in so many words; from members of the Government, that "we bind ourselves that under no circumstances will we ever touch your boundary." I admit what the right hon. Gentleman said is true in that sense. Let me remind the House however that the question of amending our boundaries was never thought of by anybody. We were given certain definite areas, and it was made as clear to us as anything could he made clear, that that was to be the definite area over which our Parliament was to be supreme for all time. If it had been suggested to us that there was ever to be any alteration of the boundaries of those six counties, of course, we would have protested and seen to it that that question was dealt with and that provisions on that point were made perfectly clear. Here we were negotiating with the Government of the day. A great deal of what was done, in what I might call the Ulster part of the Act of 1920, was brought about by friendly negotiations between the Ulster representatives, the Ulster leaders, and the Government of the day, of which the right hon. Gentleman was the head. It was clearly understood by us and by every man in Ulster that the six counties arrangement was to be absolute finality in the matter.
To come now, after all those years, after the Government had accepted our assurance that we would do our best to make the Ulster Parliament a success, and say that what we considered to be an absolutely final area is not so, is one of the most amazing statements that can be made. There can he no question about it. Whatever the right hon. 220 Gentleman said there can be no question about this, that I and everyone of my colleagues in the House now, and who were in the House at that time, and every man in Ulster, took that Act of 1920, and took the six-county arrangement as the last and final settlement of the Irish question. It is unfortunate there is not a greater number of Members in the House now who were Members of the Parliament in which the Act of 1920 was passed. But I challenge any one of them to get up in his place and say that that was not the idea which possessed their minds when that Bill was passed. A sigh of relief went up all over Ulster, and I believe, too, in this country, when it was realised that with the passing of the Act this interminable fight between North and South in Ireland had been settled in the only logical and proper way it could be settled, namely, by giving each their own Parliament. I am convinced of that, and, I repeat, it was with the greatest regret that I heard the statement of the right, hon. Gentleman, which amounts to this, that we were given a definite area, we were invited to set up our Parliament, to set up our Departments, to collect our taxes, and that at the same time a Boundary Commission was to be set up which would deprive us of a large part of that area. The thing is absurd on the face of it.
And now let me leave the right hon. Gentleman. The main objections that we have to the proposals of the Government are these. A great deal has been said as to the meaning of Article 12. it is obvious, after all I have said about the right hon. Gentleman's views on the subject, that there is a difference of opinion as to what it means. It is true that a great many lawyers have assured us that it only means a rectification of the border line. Were we certain that any Commission that might sit on the subject would take that view, I need not say our minds would be relieved of a very great weight. We have had no fewer than four of the signatories expressing in plain terms the fact that when they signed the Treaty they intended the words of Article 12 to mean that the Commissioners should only have power to rectify the frontier line and that they should not have power to hand over large areas. Owing to the fact that Ulster, 221 quite properly, refused to appoint a Commissioner to assist in her dismemberment, and owing to the fact that the Privy Council found that in the absence of an Ulster Commissioner the Commission cannot function, the Government finds itself in the position that it has to introduce fresh legislation if anything in the nature of a Boundary Commission is to be set up.
Two years or more have elapsed since the fights in this House on the Boundary Commission. I would like to make one remark with regard to a point which has been referred to by hon. Members opposite. They say that the fact that this House rejected all our Amendments having for their object the restriction of the powers of the Commission shows that they were of opinion that the Commission should be allowed to be set up. Other people say that hon. Members, particularly on this side of the House, were convinced that no harm would come to Ulster by Article 12 being allowed to pass. I challenge anybody to say I am not right when I state that there were at that time in the House a very large number of Members on both sides who were not satisfied as to that Article. A great many voted for the Article most reluctantly. A great many of them thought we had been harshly treated, as we undoubtedly were, in having this Commission set up against the express pledges of the right hon. Gentleman. Many Members thought we had been very badly treated in having this Article inserted in the Bill, even if it only involved a comparatively inocuous rectification, on the ground that we were not consulted, and because it was done behind our backs.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
The same invitation was sent to the Ulster Parliament. [An HON. MEMBER: "At 2 o'clock in the morning!"] I beg pardon, an invitation was sent to them to join in the conference. They refused to join.
§ Captain CRAIG
What happened with regard to the so-called refusal to attend the conference was this. We had been granted our Parliament. We were setting up our Departments, we were busy within our own six counties, when the right hon. Gentleman asked Mr. De Valera to send people over here to confer with him to see if he could put an end to the state of affairs in Southern Ireland. We said, 222 "Good luck to you, and we hope you will do it." The right hon. Gentleman sent an invitation to the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland asking him if he would like to take part. The Prime Minister said in effect, "No, we will not, for this reason: This is no business of ours. We have our own Parliament. We are busy setting up our own Departments. This is a matter between you and Southern Ireland." On a dozen platforms that attitude of ours has been explained. Why should we have gone to that conference? It was clearly understood that if the interests of Ulster at any time were brought up or assailed, or it was proposed to affect them in any way, Ulster was to be given notice and asked if she would like to appear at the conference. The particular point I was trying to bring out has escaped my memory. [An HON. MEMBER: "About the voting!"] The real truth of that voting was simply this, that Mr. Winston Churchill and other Ministers had repeated on numerous occasions that the Government would accept no Amendments of any sort or description. The words have already been read out by an hon. Member.
Mr. Churchill said, speaking on behalf of the Government—I cannot possibly agree to any amendments which alter, modify, extend, explain, elucidate, amplify, or otherwise affect the text of the instrument which we call a treaty.At another place. I remember, he said:As the tree has fallen it must lie.Which meant that you must take the Treaty exactly as it was or run the risk of the Free State signatories repudiating it. It was that, I submit, which made so many members reluctant to vote. It was not because they were satisfied. I know a large number who voted were much dissatisfied with the treatment of Ulster in this matter. Another point about the failure of the Ulster Government to appoint a Commissioner is this. By the Treaty, as was pointed out by the right hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. A. Chamberlain) earlier in the afternoon—an Ulster member was an essential part of the Commission. It was intended that, if anything was to be done, it was to be done by a Commission consisting of a Free State representative, an English Chairman, and an Ulster member. 223 I submit that the proposals of the Government to take powers to themselves to appoint a Commissioner over the heads of Ulster is so altering the form of the Commission that they are altering the Treaty out of all recognition. So far as that Clause is concerned, it is not the same Article as in the Treaty signed by the signatories.
The Government have had two years' experience of the difficulty and trouble which this Boundary Commission is likely to raise. The Free State people claim that ender it they were to get a large part of our territory in Ulster. The Government have seen the feeling growing stronger within the Ulster borders in which the people are very anxious and determined not to give up one inch of of their territory without their own consent. The trouble has been growing and growing for two years. At any moment, apart from this Bill altogether, some unfortunate incident might have set the whole border aflame. I am glad to say that it has not happened. That therefore is the condition of affairs. I submit that the Government are bound neither in law nor in honour to alter the Treaty. I submit that they were freed by the action of the Privy Council from taking any part or parcel in this matter. The Privy Council held that a Commission which did not contain a representative from Ulster could not act. The Government had appointed their own Chairman and the Free State had appointed theirs. The Government, therefore, had done all they could under the Act, and neither in law, equity, honour nor anything else were they liable to go any further. But they were anxious as far as possible that it should not be said that they had failed in their duty in carrying out the Treaty. They held a strong position because they could have told the Free State they could not do anything more for them, and if the Free State insisted that this Boundary Commission must be set up and that the component parts of it should be altered so as to enable the Government to set it up, the Government should have said to them: "If you insist on this, we on our side must also insist that you will allow the Treaty to be altered in one other respect, namely, in restricting the powers of the Commission 224 to a mere rectification of the boundary." Why did not the Government do that I want an answer to that question when the Colonial Secretary comes to speak.
The justification for such an action on the part of the right hon. Gentleman would have been the statements which were made by Members of the Conference who had signed the Treaty. There was Lord Birkenhead, the right hon. Gentleman below me, Mr. Winston Churchill, and last but not least, until this afternoon, the right hon. Gentleman opposite, everyone of whom had stated in the most explicit and plainest and clearest way that when they signed the Treaty the idea they had in their heads was that the Commissioners had only power to rectify the frontier line by minor changes on one side or the other. Under these circumstances, the right hon. Gentleman was amply justified in saying to the Free State—if he had had the same degree of ardour to do justice to Ulster that he appears to have had to do justice to the South of Ireland he should have said, "see what a fix we are in. See what a fix you are in. If we do not do something you will not get your Commission at all. But you also see the terrible difficulties which have been created by this controversy during the last two years, and it is quite clear that if you get your way and get large areas of Ulster territory there will be something approaching to civil war." Had he said that I am sure the Free State, from their own point of view, would have met him to the extent of allowing him to insert words in the Clause restricting the powers and the duties of the Commissioners. But my principal ground of criticism and the fault I have to find with the Government in this matter is this. They find themselves in a difficult position. Why, when there is a conflict of fact or of anything else between the North and the South, is it always the South who are to be helped out of the difficulty?
Why is it that we have been asked by so many Members to make a gesture of some sort to meet these people in the South? I ask any man who looks at the thing from an impartial point of view to say who is the person who has the right to complain in the matter. Is it the South or the North? We, having been given a definite piece of territory, over which we were to be supreme, were after- 225 wards told that a Commission was to alter the boundaries of that area. It does not matter to me whether they were only allowed to alter it by a few hundred yards on either side. They have no right to do that without our consent. The statement was made by a friend of mine that there is no case in the whole of the Britiish Empire where a territory to which self government has been granted has ever been deprived of one inch of that territory without its own consent. It seems to me that is a very strong case. How is it that on every occasion on which the interests of the North and the South conflict it is we in the North who are expected to hand everything over to the South? It is most unfair. We have an unassailable case, and I sincerely trust that when the Division comes to-night we shall have the support of a very large number of Members.
§ Sir COURTENAY MANSEL
I should like to add my small tribute to the sincerity with which the hon. Member for the University of Wales (Mr. G. Davies) addressed the House. While I have listened with admiration to many speeches which have been made in the Debate, it has crossed my mind that they resemble in one degree the iridescent crust that forms over molten lava, so remote have many utterances in this House been from the spirit that animates the minds of men and stirs their passions on the boundary we are discussing now where fears, hopes and agonies give a tone to men's voices and give a gleam to their eyes. I am glad the course of the Debate has blown away, as the wind blows away cobwebs, the assertion that we have no liberty of choice because our course of action was dictated by what was termed the honour of England. If that were true, if pledges had only been given to one side, our course would have been fettered, and we should only have been able to do, at whatever cost, what the honour of England dictated. But that is a phrase which can be misused. One remembers that biting expression of Prince Gortschakoff, the Russian Chancellor, when in 1864 we abandoned the neutrality of Denmark, and he said:Never talk to me of the honour of England.When people are forgetful so easily of pledges while insisting with such fervour 226 on other pledges no less binding, one understands how foreign nations have at times given us, though we were guiltless of any evil intention, the term "perfide Albion." We are free to choose our course, and it is a momentous choice that we are called upon to make. I have heard this Debate termed a sham fight. Events which at the time seemed trivial and commonplace often in the light of the future prove of a really sombre and irrevocable character. During the Peloponnesian War, the year before the great disaster that ruined the Athenian Empire, they had to decide the fate of a small Ægean island, and they approached that problem in a spirit of cruelty and hardness. I know that no Member of the House approaches this problem in the spirit of cruelty, but some approach it in a spirit of hardness that verges on cruelty, and that is why I was anxious to pay my tribute to the very different spirit of my compatriot this evening.
There is a very great danger that the real lack of sympathy which exists between the people of England and the people of Ulster should prevent them from doing justice in this case. That lack of sympathy arises because the centuries have shaped the characters of these nations differently. The people of Ulster have lived a life of constant struggle—a struggle to maintain the ideals they believe in. They have had to fight against not only the hardness of man but the hardness of nature. Nothing is more striking than the contrast between the fertile pastures in the centre of Ireland, the rich land, the golden acres, and the fine harbours of the South of Ireland and the cold clay soil of the North and its inclement climate and the absence of natural harbours. In the Apologue of the Noble Lord the Member for the Oxford University (Lord H. Cecil) there was another resemblance that did not occur to him. Belfast, like Venice, has its great public buildings built upon piles. The site of that great commercial city is entirely due to the industry of man. It was wrested from nature by drainage. The harbour owes nothing to nature and everything to man. It is this constant struggle for the ideals that they believe in that has made the Ulster people, in the eyes of the English people, hard. 227 They have a Roman hardness. But let us not forget that they have other Roman virtues as well—their piety, their devotion and loyalty, which are sneered at most unjustly, their devotion and their loyalty to a country which has used them very harshly, and their determination not to surrender the rights of free men and to exercise the fullest franchise of our free ancestors and, if necessary, to take up arms for the rights that they feel essential to liberty. Their whole history has been a struggle and an achievement. That is the great feature of the history of Ulster, that they have succeeded against unparalleled difficulties in maintaining those ideals and conquering all the obstacles that faced them and producing great results of civilisation and order, and this country has every reason to be proud of them.
The result of that constant struggle has been that they have kept alive all the vital issues and ideals to which we accord only a sentimental respect. I hope we shall not add ingratitude to the imputation which must lie on us of broken promises. That imputation must lie on us, because similar promises have been made to both parties, and they must be broken to one or the other. There can be no controversy about that statement., so explicit, so emphatic, so lucid, which has come to us like a voice from the dead. But let us not forget also the voices of other dead—of the soldiers that Ulster sent to the War. We shall not be either just or grateful if we do not allow those voices to plead more eloquently with our hearts than any living voice can. There was a great Roman whose brother was accused of corruption. He came into the Senate and said, "I forbid this trial. On the anniversary of this day I took Carthage and saved the State." The Romans were grateful for the one day. Shall we not be grateful for even one day to the men who laid down their lives for us? Perhaps the role of Brutus condemning his son to death will please hon. Members better. It is a role for which I have no admiration. I know of a, better character than that of Brutus. It is a story of the French Revolution, and not a romance, but a true story. A few days before the fall of Robespierre in the Conciergerie were imprisoned a man and his son, aged 16. When the roll call of those about to die 228 was taken, the son's name came up first, and the father, with great presence of mind, answered in his son's name and there went to that horrible death—at least one happy man. That is the role which would suit a great nation far better than that of Brutus destroying his own children
The Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University, in his ingenious apologue, compared the whole question to the case of Shylock "The Merchant of Venice." I agreed with the remedy that the Noble Lord proposed, with all my heart, that the boundary changes should be ascertained and that the element of uncertainty, which is the greatest danger in the whole of this problem, should be removed. But there was one point in the apologue with which I did not agree, where Shylock made his appeal to the most serene Prince and his counsellors and obtained the licence to shed blood. The Noble Lord said that it was Ulster that was going to suffer. It is not Ulster alone that will feel the pang, but the whole body of the British Empire, in every nerve. That is because this question is emphatically an Imperial question and not a local question. Ulster has been compared to the County Councils of Yorkshire and Lancashire. But this question is one that touches the existence and the very future of the British Empire. I look upon it as being terribly dangerous and the mere serious, because it is only another evidence of a continuing tendency.
It is another example, if any further example were needed—with Egypt, that artery of Empire, lost to us, with India, that vast Empire, the home of one quarter of the human race, ready to be lost to us—of our incapacity to hold what the valour of our ancestors gained for us against mighty odds, with such small resources; another fatal lesson taught to the world that it pays to be the enemy of England and that it does not pay to be her friend. It is not only the destiny of Ulster that is on trial now; it is ourselves. We have to decide whether we shall live as an instruction or as a warning to generations yet to come, and whether we are worthy or unworthy of the great trust that our fathers have handed down to us.
§ Mr. PENNY
The House is very much indebted to the right hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Macpherson) for the speech which he delivered yesterday. He spoke in a very straightforward, honest way from his knowledge as an ex-Minister of the Crown and an ex-Chief Secretary for Ireland. If hon. Members below the Gangway opposite give full consideration to the words that he used, it will be impossible for them to accept the Bill as now proposed by the Government, and blindly to follow the lead of the right hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith). The speech of the right hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty was most courageous, and it coincides with the views of the Leaders of the Government who were responsible at the time for the Treaty. It seems to me that at the present time we have a problem before us which is rather like squaring the circle. Definite promises have been made to both sides, and I am strongly of opinion that the only solution of this problem can be obtained if we get co-operation and friendship between both sides concerned. Unless the Government urge the two parties to come together in this spirit, they will only be beating the air, and we shall not get any further.
Much has been said about honouring our obligations and pledges. I have listened with great amazement to the specious reasoning of those who are supporting the Bill when they say that they are honouring their pledges. They are only looking at the matter from a limited point of view, and not in its entirety. There are two sides to the question, and both sides have to be considered. The weight of argument is more in favour of Ulster than of Southern Ireland, and it behoves us to hold the scales fairly and deal out justice to both sides. Do not let politics enter into the question. Let that spirit of friendship and humanity enter into our deliberations as was mentioned by the hon. Member for the University of Wales (Mr. Davis) in his maiden speech.
Loyalty at the present time is penalised. The more revolutionary one is the more consideration one gets. Ulster has been loyal to us. She has been given self-government. His Majesty the King opened the Ulster Parliament, and its Government have governed well. Busi- 230 ness there is thriving. They are paying interest on our War debt. I believe they have paid something like £11,000,000 during the last two years. They are doing all they possibly can to fulfil the responsibilities we gave them. Therefore, I do say that we must support them as much as we are supporting the other side. I feel sure that if Article 12 were interpreted in the spirit in which it was drawn up, the Ulster people would be quite prepared to accept it, and I do ask the Government to adopt the suggestion that definite terms of reference should be given to the Boundary Commission so that Ulster will know that they will not have territory filched from them, but that the whole matter will be dealt with in a spirit of give-and-take. If that point of view is represented to Southern Ireland, we shall know whether they are acting in good faith, and whether they want the settlement. I sincerely pray that they do want the settlement.
If, however, they do not accept that view, one cannot but feel that they must have a grievance, so that they may keep up some of the old bitterness that they have had in the past. I want some arrangement whereby the two parties can be brought together and some satisfactory solution arrived at. I hope that the boundary can be defined in such a way that it will be a give-and-take policy. I understand that Amendments of this nature are to be put forward, and sincerely hope the Government will take them into consideration, and see the wisdom of accepting them, for unless they do so, I feel sure that we are going to open up new episodes of reprisals, anarchy, misery, and bloodshed such as we have had in the past. If the Government would give assurances in this direction, I feel sure that the Bill would pass with a very large majority. It is not asking too much. Surely, if Southern Ireland is in earnest, and if the Ulster men are in earnest and want, a settlement, and if they know definitely on what terms the settlement is to be made, it should be acceptable to both sides. I would like to see unanimity in this House so that we can take full responsibility. Should the Bill go to another place after having passed this House by a mere majority, it is quite possible that the House of Lords would turn it down altogether. That, 231 possibly would be playing into the hands of the Government, who have no love for the other place, although they have put some of their own supporters there recently.
We have the greatest sympathy with President Cosgrove, but in his position he must take up a bold front against the rival factions there. In any event, we have to keep our word; that is everything to an Englishman. I have been abroad most of my life, and wherever I have been the Englishman is trusted and the word of the English Government is trusted. If we break our pledge at the present time, it means that our bright escutcheon is going to be besmirched, and' we shall be looked upon as a renegade nation. We must honour our pledges in spirit, in word and in deed. If we break our pledges to Ulster, who has been so loyal to us, what are our Dominions going to think of us? Are they going to stand shoulder to shoulder with us as in the past, if they feel that we break our pledges and that we cannot be trusted? Their loyalty had a shock as regards Imperial Preference a short time ago. I hope that to-day we are going to make up our minds that we will honour our pledges to both sides. We must also consider the position in which Sir James Craig is placed. If he were to give way without having adequate safeguards, the people he represents would consider that he was a traitor to their cause, and justly so. Therefore, let us look at the matter dispassionately, and I feel sure we can come to some solution. If we go on in this way the principle of self-determination of which we hear so much is ridiculous. We have given self-government to Ulster we cannot take away one inch of her boundary without her consent. Therefore, I urge that we should divest this issue of all political clothing, that we should dispassionately face facts as they are and be true to our word. I cannot think of any advice to waverers better suited to the occasion than the words of Polonius to his son Laertes—To thine own self be true;And it must follow as the night the day,Thou canst not then be false to any man.If we act upon that principle, and if we urge the two parties to come together, I feel sure that we shall avert terrific 232 trouble and bloodshed, and that we shall bring about a satisfactory solution of the present problem.
§ Mr. C. HEALY
I should like to remind the House of what took place 10 years' ago, because it seems to me that it has a very direct bearing on things to-day. In 1914, the Home Rule Act had been on the Statute Book, and the Irish people were looking towards this House and towards Great Britain with almost the same feeling that they are looking towards this House and this country to-day. Something then intervened to change the whole current of Irish history. The same irreconcilable faction in North-East Ulster said that they would not have Home Rule. Thereupon, the Home Rule Act went on to the Statute Book. I heard one hon. Member on the opposite side, this afternoon, ask how it was that Ulster had to make all the sacrifices. Ulster has made very few sacrifices. That part of Ireland which is now called the Free State has been making, for as long a period as I can remember, all the sacrifices. In this year 1914 the leader of the Ulster people delivered some very fiery speeches. A Dublin man who compiled a little book called the "Gramma of Anarchy" entirely from the speeches of Sir Edward Carson, as he was then, was sent to gaol for a long period, but Sir Edward Carson was not deprived of his liberty. Instead he was promoted to a place of greater responsibility and power. It will be within the recollection of the House that a mutiny in pursuance of the policy of defying the laws and ordinances of this Parliament was organised among the troops at the Curragh. At the same time there was a violent Press campaign in this country, which bore a very close resemblance to the Press campaign which is on foot to-day. The burden of the claim on both occasions was that Ulster must not be coerced. That was in 1914, and I ask the House seriously to consider whether they are going to repeat the blunder of 1914 in this year of grace 1924.
A great deal has been said about the 1920 Act. The 1920 Act was passed at a time when Ireland had no representatives in this House, and the only body consulted in Ireland as to the partition of Ireland—because that is what the 1920 Act meant, the partition for the first time in the history of Ireland—was the Ulster Unionist Council. That was not an elected 233 body. There was no body of opinion, either in Ulster, Munster or any of the other provinces, consulted. Consequently, when people speak of the 1920 Act as being sacrosanct, we ought not to forget the origin of that Measure. The first suggestion made with regard to the 1920 Act was that the partition should be on the basis of counties, enabling them to vote themselves out or in as the case might be. If the Prime Minister of that day had adopted that course, a great deal of the trouble which has since occurred would not have arisen, but meantime the Ulster Unionist Council had met, and they gave the six counties as their irreducible minimum, and the six counties were fixed as the area of Northern Ireland.
It would not be out of place for me to speak for a moment upon the position of the Nationalist minority in the North-East and particularly of the position of the Nationalists in the counties of Fermanagh and Tyrone, where they are actually in a majority. Before the Northern Government assumed office at the last local government election, held under the system of proportional representation, the Nationalists in Tyrone, Fermanagh, Derry City, South Armagh and South Down returned the number of representatives to which their numbers on the register entitled them, and nothing more. If an election were conducted to-day, these areas have been so gerry-mandered that the Nationalist majority could elect only an insignificant minority of the representatives. The position to-day is that one Unionist vote is equal to precisely two and a quarter Nationalist votes. It may seem inconceivable to. Members of this House that the Northern Government or any Government could so ingeniously arrange the local government areas as to produce a result of that kind, but the facts are there. If you look at a map of the electoral area of the county Fermanagh you will see that it resembles the fingers of your hand, with the most ungainly outlines running up and down, and all this has been done with the object of securing that the majority of the people of that county shall return a minority of the representatives at the local elections.
Why should the Northern Government do a thing of that kind? If they wish to do justice by their Nationalist 234 and Catholic majority in Tyrone and Fermanagh, why should they seek to drive thorn out of public life? I ask that question of the representatives of Ulster Ireland is at the moment a fairly contented member of the community of nations known as the British Commonwealth. If you will consider the past history of that country, and particularly the recent history, the wonder is not that Ireland is disloyal to the extent to which she is, but that she is so loyal as she is. A war took place in the years from 1918 to 1921, in which the most bitter partisan feeling was excited on both sides. That was brought to an end by the Treaty of 1921. That Treaty is now registered with the League of Nations, and I do not think that any Member of this House will suggest that, if there be any evasion of that Treaty, it will conduce to the good name of England abroad. An hon. Member opposite quoted the words of the Minister of Finance in the Free State dealing with the interpretation of Clause 12. But I will challenge anyone to produce any statement of any Minister in the Free State, which, of course, embraces Northern Ireland as well as Southern Ireland, containing a word of unkindness towards the North. On the contrary, President Cosgrave and the members of his Cabinet, and the Nationalists in the South generally, have always expressed the keenest desire for closer co-operation between the Parliaments of the North and the South. It is within the knowledge of a great many Members of this House that when the Free State set about establishing a Senate it gave a large representation to the very small minority of 10 per cent. in the Free State, but when Northern Ireland proceeded to elect a Senate it gave practically no representation to a very considerable minority of 34 per cent. in Northern Ireland.
§ Captain DIXON
The reason of that was that the Nationalist Members boycotted the Northern Parliament, and the Northern Parliament had to elect the Senate. As there were no Nationalist Members present to elect their own Senators, they were not elected. Had the Members of Parliament who were elected to represent the Nationalists come into the Parliament, they would certainly have had their quota in the Senate, because they would have elected their quota.
§ Mr. HEALY
The point is that the Nationalist Members were protesting against their inclusion in Northern Ireland, and consequently they did not wish to come in. They knew how imminent the Boundary Commission was, and, knowing that the wish of the people of both areas was to be included in the Free State, they did not think it advisable to go into the Northern Parliament. Now I will call attention to the other side of the picture. I will not go back a century and a half or two centuries. Yesterday will do me. The Minister of Labour in Northern Ireland, Mr. John Gordon, went to Liverpool yesterday, or the day before yesterday, as is reported in the "Times" to-day, and proceeded to enrol a battalion of Orangemen there, and with what consequence? It says:To those who know the Orange element in the life of Liverpool, Mr. John Gordon's statement that Liverpool would go to Ulster's assistance has caused no surprise.Offers of assistance for what?Plans are well advanced for reorganising the Ulster Volunteers and bodies of men are reported to be ready if the pall should come to support Ulster by force.There is not much brotherly feeling, not much suggestion of goodwill, in that Parliamentary Secretary of the Northern Government.A week ago Mr. John Gordon, Parliamentary Secretary of the Northern Government, and Mr. John Grant, an Ulster member, came to Liverpool and interviewed several volunteers with a view to finding their feeling on the subject of mobilisation.If that is the sort of goodwill exhibited by Northern Ireland, through one of her Ministers to-day, what hope is there that the Nationalist minority, who constitute the majority in the two counties, can be drawn more closely to the Northern Government and what hope is there that the Free State Government will find any medium of arrangement with a body of that kind? There is also in the Northern Parliament a gentleman named McBride. He made a speech recently in the Nationalist town of Newry to which an imported audience was drawn by means of ten special trains from Belfast. No doubt this large attendance impressed some of the English Members of Parliament who had come across. A Member of the Northern Cabinet was there and this is what was said:If any part of the people in the county were to be forced into the Free State 236 it would have to be done by British bayonets.The people of Tyrone and Fermanagh do not ask for any bayonets. We simply ask to be allowed to declare our preference, and we expect that the Boundary Commission will provide us with the means of doing so. Mr. James Cooper, another Member of the Northern Parliament, speaking on the 26th of June last, said:Beyond all doubt it this Boundary Commission is forced to an issue Fermanagh and Tyrone will resist and the battles of Enniskillen and Newtownbutler will be fought over again.That is the kind of incitement that is being used by the Press and the platform in Northern Ireland, and that is the kind of thing that makes any agreement impossible and makes people of moderate views—and I reckon myself among those—feel that it cannot he expected. I do not wish to wash what I may 8.0 P.M. call dirty linen in this House with my fellow Ulstermen, if I can possibly avoid it, because, after all, we have a certain national pride. Up to May, 1922, the Nationalists of Belfast, under the Northern Government had 447 of their numbers killed. One must not forget that in the very centre of the North-East of Ireland, in the city of Belfast, law and order had been at a discount. On the occasion I refer to, 1,786 people were wounded.
§ Mr. HEALY
9,250 were driven from their work by armed mobs. The surprising thing is that not a single Orangeman was made amenable for any of these things. Six hundred Nationalists recruited from Tyrone and Fermanagh were taken and interned, and hundreds are interned still. They can neither get a trial nor release after 2½ years' imprisonment. I do not want to go into the matter, but I could quote instance after instance of injustice done by the Northern Government.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member is taking us a really very long way from the subject before us. The question of Northern and Southern Ireland is a very big one.
§ Mr. HEALY
I defer to your ruling. Since the Northern Government assumed 237 office, its policy seems to have been that of harrasing the Nationalists in every way. I do not know what the Northern Government hope to gain by a policy of that kind. A clergyman in Northern Ireland cannot remain a chaplain of a workhouse or a gaol at a salary of £5 or £10 a year unless he takes the oath.
§ Captain DIXON
On a point of Order. I think, Sir, you have ruled that we cannot discuss the action of the Southern Government. Equally, I take it, we cannot discuss what has happened under the jurisdiction of the Northern Government. I am hoping my hon. Friend will tell us before he sits down who murdered poor Mr. Cordell.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
We must keep to the point, which relates to the appointment of the Third Commissioner.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
Is it not in Order for an hon. Member to illustrate his argument for readjusting the boundary by alleged acts of injustice done by one Government or another? Such an argument is relative to the question so as to bring in evidence—
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
On that same point of Order, may I submit that if the minority in the Northern Government can prove that the actions of that Government in another part of the country might be wrong, they can use such illustrations in support of their argument.
§ Mr. HEALY
I am just going to mention why the Nationalists of Tyrone and Fermanagh wish to have the matter adjusted once and for all. The secretary to the County Council was approved by the Local Government Board in Dublin prior to the coming in of the Northern Government by the British Government. The Northern Government assumed control of the Six County area and reduced the secretary of that council to the position of accountant, and appointed in his place, without notice of any kind, a friend and neighbour of a Northern Minister. Having reduced him, they next arrested him without making any charge, 238 and he is at this moment in Belfast prison. Whilst one department of the Home Office refused to release him, another department said they must dismiss him because he could not resume his duties. It is a Gilbertian situation surely which could only happen in Northern Ireland. I have heard a good deal about the loyalty of Northern Ireland, but I confess it is a long while since I experienced it. Northern Ireland may be loyal just as long as it suits it to be loyal, and not loyal when it does not suit it to be loyal. On the 1st April, 1922, the Northern Government withdrew the Imperial War Savings Certificates, and they issued immediately the Ulster Savings Certificates. It reminds me of the old nursery rhyme,Love Daddy, love Mammy,Love myself best of any.In Omagh last year a body of police, a civilian body armed, decided to strike. You would be surprised that such a loyal body of men should go on strike. But what do you think the men struck for? They went on strike because one Englishman had been imported as a drill instructor, and they would not give this man one brown penny out of the million odd subsidy voted in this House for the upkeep of this force. That is the type of their loyalty. [An HON. MEMBER: "It is quite untrue!"] A sum of money was voted by this House for the purpose of erecting dwellings for ex-service men. There were 320 Nationalist ex-service men and less than 160 Unionist ex-service men. [An HON. MEMBER: "May I ask how the hon. Member knows their polities?"]
§ Captain DIXON
We have got nothing whatever to do with this matter. It is in the recollection of this House that this matter was set up under the Northern Government. The ex-soldiers' houses are under a Committee set up by this House, and the Government have nothing whatever to do with it. Therefore the charge made by the hon. Member is ridiculous.
§ Mr. HEALY
It was set up by the Imperial Government but, I believe, administered by the Northern Government. You may search the whole area of the Six Counties to-day and you would not find one ounce of loyalty from one end to the other. As long as I can remember the Union 239 Jack has been used in Northern Ireland as a party emblem. There has never been a local election or a Parliamentary election at which I have not seen that flag stuck about purely as a party emblem, with the accompaniment of "God save the King." Can you wonder, then, that the people on the other side have come to regard it purely and simply as a party emblem? Those who preached sedition in 1914 are those who preach sedition to-day and say that they would defy this Parliament and its Statutes, even by force. I have no objection to our Northern friends getting the best financial terms they can from the Imperial Exchequer, but I say that the money so obtained should be devoted to some better use than the upkeep of an unnecessary Special Constabulary recruited on sectarian lines. There are other objects more deserving. Proportional representation has been scrapped in Northern Ireland. There you have curfew, after two and a half years of peace. Your neighbour will search your pockets in the street and take your private correspondence, and search your house. Raids and searches are daily occurrences. Then there is the banishment of Nationalists. There are to-day hundreds of Nationalists across the border who cannot come back. There are hundreds of Nationalists in prison. They are not told with what they are charged.
§ Viscount CURZON
Is it not a fact that they have to get a surety of only £10 and promise to be of good behaviour, and they can come out?
§ Mr. HEALY
I am sorry that that is not so. Why should innocent men be asked to provide a surety at all? The Nationalists of Fermanagh and Tyrone have no wish to impose their will on anyone. They ask merely that Article 12 of the Treaty, which means that the people will he consulted, should be put into operation. They do not say, as others have said, that they will arm themselves and resist the decision of the Boundary Commission. They are ready to accept the decision of the Boundary Commission. A good deal has been made of the promises to Lord Carson before the 1921 Act. Let me refer to a letter, dated 14th November, 1921, from the then Prime Minister (Mr. Lloyd George) to Sir James 240 Craig. That was before the Treaty was signed. The ex-Prime Minister said:His Majesty's Government have determined to face these difficulties for the sake of peace at the heart of the Empire and the ultimate unity of Ireland…. All experience proves, moreover, that so complete a partition of Ireland as you propose must militate with increasing force against that ultimate unity of Ireland…. All ex-one day be possible. The existing state of Central and South-Eastern Europe is a terrible example of the evils which spring from the creation of new frontiers, cutting the natural circuits of commercial activity.… Your proposal would stereotype a frontier, based neither upon natural features nor broad geographical considerations, by giving it the character of an international boundary. Partition on these lines the majority of the Irish people will never accept, nor could we concientiously attempt to enforce it.Sir James Craig had that letter in his hand and hon. Members opposite must have been aware of its existence before one line of the Treaty was signed. We are not relying very much on promises or on the interpretations put on Article 12 by the signatories either on the one side of on the other. The Article stands for anyone to interpret, but the only body which can interpret it properly is the Boundary Commission. I would like to quote the opinion of two men on the Free State side as to what they understood Article 12 to mean. They are as well able to interpret it as is Lord Birkenhead. The claim of Michael Collins in that respect is not second to that of Lord Birkenhead. Michael Collins died for his faith in the Treaty. This is what he said:—There is nothing ambiguous about that Clause. The decision of the boundary line is a question for the inhabitants of the area concerned to decide. At no time was there any question of my being misled by Mr. Lloyd George. I never went on any opinion of his on the subject It was a matter for the inhabitants of the areas involved and for them only. The maps presented by the Irish Delegation to the British Delegation are clear and unquestionable. They are marked on five different bases: counties, constituencies, county council areas, Poor Law areas, and parishes according to religion. Our aim was clear: Majorities must rule, and in any map marked on that principle under the above headings we secure immense anti-partition areas. If we go by counties, anti-partition has a clear majority in two of the six. Under the other headings the anti-partitionists gained very large areas in Down, Derry and Armagh, and remember 241 that in the remaining area., Antrim and Belfast, there are large minorities of our people…. These are the facts and we can come to agreements only on recognition of facts. It is useless to think or say otherwise.Let me quote also Mr. Griffith, of whom I have heard a good many eulogies this afternoon. Mr. Griffith, in reply to a deputation from Newry, said:He and Mr. Collins and their fellow-delegates had urged the claims of those districts for weeks during the negotiations in London and the result was that the Free State should extend over Ireland, that Ulster should have the option of voting herself out within a month, but if she did so a Boundary Commission should be set up to decide if such districts would come into the Free State. That was the position to-day also.That was on 3rd February, 1922. Now I come to a witness who, from my standpoint, is even of more value, namely, Lord Birkenhead himself, and these words of his have the merits of not having been written recently, not having been written a long time after the signing of the Treaty, but written on the morning after the signing of the Treaty. They form part of a speech delivered in the Birmingham Town Hall.There is one important reservation to be made in the paramount interests of peace. If Ulster elects to remain more closely associated with us there must, in our judgment, be a ratification of frontiers. We do not propose to interfere with the arrangement of a year ago in relation to two counties, but we propose that a Boundary Commission shall examine into the boundary lines with a view to rendering impossible such an incident as that of a few days ago in which the popularly elected bodies of one or two of these districts were excluded from their habitations by representatives of the Northern Parliament on the ground that they were not discharging their duties properly.How, I ask hon. Members, could such an incident be prevented in future except by taking this County Council from under the jurisdiction of the Northern Government? The County Council referred to by Lord Birkenhead is the County Council of Tyrone which had been excluded from the County Council premises a day or two previously. The then Prime Minister, speaking in this House on the 14th December of the same year, made the following statement. It was after the Treaty had been signed, and no hon. 242 Member on the opposite side of the House took exception to the statement.There is no doubt, certainly since the Act of 1920, that the majority of the people of two counties (Tyrone and Fermanagh) prefer being with their Southern neighbours to being in the Northern Parliament.There is no question there of a rectification of frontier. The right hon. Gentleman makes the definite statement that the people of these two counties prefer being with their Southern neighbours.Take it either by constituency or by Poor Law unions, or, if you like, by counting heads, and you will find that the majority in these two counties prefer to be with their Southern neighbours. What does that mean? If Ulster is to remain a separate community you can only by means of coercion keep them there, and although I am against the coercion of Ulster I do not believe in Ulster coercing other units.I think there is overwhelming testimony to the effect that more than a rectification was intended. Certainly nobody in Ireland had any doubt upon the point, least of all the spokesmen of the Northern Government, because they maintained from the outset that they would not appoint their Commissioner because large areas were involved. Apart from that point, in the Buckingham Palace Conference of 1914 the sole difference between Lord Carson on the one hand and the late Mr. Redmond on the other was this question of Fermanagh and Tyrone. It was a question of whether four or six counties should be included in Northern Ireland, and the conference came to nothing. Does it seem reasonable to ask the Free State to concede in 1924 what Mr. Redmond would not concede in 1914? It is most striking that the representatives of Northern Ireland, whilst anxious for peace, and whilst claiming a majority in one or other or both of these two counties, are afraid to take the voice of the people. I do not say whether we would have a majority in Fermanagh and Tyrone in favour of the Free State if a vote were taken to-morrow, but I say whatever way the vote may go, if it expresses the wish of the people, we are prepared to accept it. Will Northern Ireland also accept it? The words in the Irish Treaty are almost identical with words in the Treaty of Versailles and, I think, in the Treaty of Lausanne, and I desire to quote what Lord Balfour, who was British representative on the League Council, understood 243 as the interpretation of these words when they appeased in another Treaty:The Treaty of Versailles lays down in quite unmistakable terms that the division of Upper Silesia should be in conformity with the wishes of the population as far as possible, but that account must be taken of industrial conditions. These two things are quite disparate considerations. They have no immediate relation with one another, but I think you can say with confidence that the Treaty of Paris puts population first and industry second. There was a point at which the wishes of the population must give way to the needs of the district. But on the whole they desired that as far as possible the wishes of the population as exhibited by the plebiscite should afford the ground upon which a decision should be come to.What we in Fermanagh and Tyrone ask is that the Irish Treaty should be interpreted as Lord Balfour says the Treaty of Versailles should be interpreted. If that be done, and if the wishes of the people he taken, we are quite prepared to abide by the result.
§ Mr. GREENE
Before the hon. Member sits down, may I press him to answer the question put to him earlier by my Noble Friend the Member for South Battersea (Viscount Curzon).
§ Mr. HEALY
I understand the question referred to is: What my attitude would be if Ireland became a Republic? This would be my answer. There is no likelihood, in my opinion, of Ireland becoming a Republic. I am in favour of the Free State, but, if the Irish people should at some future date decide upon having a Republic, I should constitutionally accept the will of the people.
§ Mr. GREENE
It seems to the ordinary lay mind that the impasse in which we find ourselves at the present moment is due to the fact that the British Government entered into two contracts which are more or less mutually destructive. It would seem also to the lay mind that the prior contract should be absolutely binding and that the second contract should be binding only in so far as it does not infringe the earlier contract. For those reasons I hold, from the point of view of equity, that the Bill before the House should not be allowed to go through. We have heard a great deal about the honour of England having to be upheld in the keeping of this second 244 Treaty with Southern Ireland. When I think of that I feel like the prophet of old who "sat down for six days and was astonied." If the honour of England be involved, it is involved chiefly with regard to the prior Treaty which we were in a position to make and not with regard to the later Treaty which we were not in a position to make. With regard to policy, I submit it would be the worst possible policy and would absolutely damn us in the eyes of the Dominions were we to carve slices off the territory of any Dominion without the consent of the Government of that Dominion. Therefore for reasons of equity, honour and policy I propose to vote against this Bill.
To understand the local conditions in Ireland it is necessary not only to hear about them and read about them, but actually to see them. For that reason I was one of those who accompanied my Noble Friend the Member for South Battersea on the late tour of the boundary. I find myself in agreement with him and with my hon. Friend the Member for North Battersea (Mr. Hogbin) when they say that the chief impression they got was the pathetic loyalty of the people, but I should say that there was one thing even more pathetic than that loyalty, and that was the trust that the poor people round the boundary seemed to place in us. They seemed to think that because we were Englishmen and loyalists we had only to come and see their point of view, and we would be able to see that right and justice were done to them in the Mother of Parliaments. That trust in us was really pathetic. During our tour many deputations came to us, and the spokesmen of all those deputations said practically the same thing. They all said that they wished the South well, that they had no enmity against the South, and that all that they wished was to be left alone themselves. They wished to be left in a country where the Union Jack would still fly over their heads, and where the King's name was still honoured, and, in spite of what the hon. Gentleman the junior Member for Fermanagh and Tyrone (Mr. Healy) said, they wished to remain in a country where peace now reigns. They reminded us that their ancestors had been sent there at the wish of the English 245 Government, that they had lived there for 300 years, and by their own efforts had turned a barren moor into smiling farms, and they also pointed out to us that that territory of Northern Ireland is flourishing, not only paying its own way, but that it has already handed into the Imperial Exchequer a sum of no less than £13,500,000.
Then they told us those things to which they objected. They objected to finding themselves in a country where the King's name was despised, where the Union jack was scorned, and where, in spite of the last speaker's observations, murder and arson are rife. They objected to living in a State that cannot pay its way, that they expect to go bankrupt at any moment, and that has failed to pay one penny into the Imperial Exchequer. They also had another objection. They did not want their children to be taken away to have their time wasted in learning a dead language, through the medium of which they were to learn other things, such as geography and so forth. They spoke, also of the horrors that they had endured. There has been enough talk about horrors to-day, and I could describe many, but I do not propose to do so, for it would do no good at all, but these simple men, without passion, quietly and simply, told us of the horrors that they bad endured and of the losses that they had suffered. I am not a sentimental man, but I can assure this House that many a time I felt my heart wrung and a lump in my throat, especially when I thought that they were the men who had fought for us, the men who had believed in us, the men who had trusted us, and I thought it the more when I asked myself what they had done to deserve what may be done to them.
At the end of our tour, I came to the conclusion that, so far, we had heard only one side of the question. Now there are two sides to any question, and we had never heard the other side. Although we had given the Nationalists and the Sinn Feiners of the North every opportunity to speak to us, they had never done so, except on one occasion at Enniskillen, when the junior Member for Fermanagh and Tyrone brought a party to see us. They put their case, and it is an absolute fact that certain members of our party, when they had heard the case as put by that deputation, became practically 246 Ulstermen. At the time I did not blame the case. I am sorry to say that for the moment I thought it was possibly because it had not been well handled by the junior Member for Fermanagh and Tyrone, but since then I have changed my mind. It was the case itself which was at fault, and not my hon. Friend. Having come to that conclusion, that we had not heard the case properly, I decided to remain behind when the rest of the party returned to England. I remained behind on the border, and I took every opportunity to speak to people holding all shades of opinion. I especially wanted to get into touch with Sinn Feiners living in Northern Ireland, with Nationalists living on the north side of the boundary, and with loyalists living on the Free State side of the boundary in the three lost counties. I succeeded in seeing people of those various types, and my thanks are due to them for the candid, frank, and open way in which they spoke to me.
I thought at first that I would have much trouble in getting them to speak openly, owing to the atmosphere of fear which I found to exist round about the border. In most cases, when I told them what I wanted, they declined to speak, and then, being Irishmen, spoke for about two hours. With regard to the Sinn Feiners, one man made an extraordinary remark to me, a remark which I shall always remember. He said: "The best thing that could possibly happen to Ireland would be for every man, woman, and child to go to bed saying, 'God save the King' and to get up saying, 'God save the King,' but," as he put it in his humorous way, "that is not likely to happen, so we need not talk about it." He admitted to me that the state of Ireland was happier and better before Ireland had self-government. I am referring to pre-War days in 1913 and 1914. He said a return to that would be even better than the present state of things, but such a return would be impossible owing to the bitter hatred which was felt for England by the Sinn Feiners of both Northern Ireland and the Free State. I asked him, and I asked others, why they desired to be under the Government of the Free State rather than under that of Northern Ireland, and the reply was that they "would rather be under the Government of Russia than under the villainous, cruel, and tyrannical Government of Northern Ireland.'
247 Being of a curious turn of mind, I asked them for their experiences. The tyranny with which they had had to put up consisted of being interned, or of having their houses searched, or in some cases, I believe, deportation. I listened to their tales of woe, and then I used to ask them why these disciplinary measures had been taken against them. One and all answered: "for no reason at all." But when I suggested that possibly they had been Sinn Fein judges or had belonged to irregular, illegal armed forces, the admitted it cheerily! With regard to some things said just now by the junior Member for Fermanagh and Tyrone as to the large number of atrocities and outrages that had occurred up to June, 1922, I am reminded of that by a remark made to me by one of these Sinn Feiners. He talked of the injustice of interning men for lengthy periods of time without those men having first been convicted of a crime. I should like to point out to the House, and especially to the hon. Member for Fermanagh and Tyrone (Mr. Healy), that the number of atrocities, which had risen to something like 600 per month—
§ Mr. GREENE
I could not. The number of atrocities had risen to, roughly, 600 per month in May and June.
§ Mr. GREENE
I am talking about one thing; the hon. Member may be listening for another. It was about that time that this tyrannical Northern Government started interning suspected persons, and immediately the number of atrocities began to decrease. In July it was down to 500, in August to 300, in September to 200, and by November it was down to nothing. Perhaps that is some explanation why the Northern Government has been so "tyrannical" in interning people whom it considered suspects. In talking to these Sinn Feiners, I asked them for their solution of the present troubles, and they gave as their opinion that Northern Ireland should retain absolutely nothing except those areas that were predominantly Protestant. Not only did I talk with Sinn Feiners, but I talked with Nationalists. The Nationalists, as a 248 whole, admitted to me that they might be probably better off under the Government of Northern Ireland than under the Government of the Free State, especially from the financial point of view, but they said they believed that to have a boundary at all was wrong, that the division of Ireland was artificial, and that therefore, in the interests of the country, there should be no boundary. Therefore, they were prepared to vote again and again to have portions of the North put into the South, hoping that all eventually would be in the South.
Then with regard to the Southern loyalists, those who were left behind in the three counties that were handed over to the Free State, they told me that on the whole they were not badly treated. They told me they thought Mr. Cosgrave's Government were doing their best to make them contented, so as to get a good reputation for the Government of the Free State, and to entice as many people as possible now resident in Northern Ireland to vote to he transferred. These loyalists in the Free State told me they wished, however, they were back in Northern Ireland, and that large numbers of their Nationalist friends had confided the same thing to them. As to the truth of that, of course I can say nothing, but I believe them to be principled and reputable people. After my investigations, I came to the conclusion that there was greater safety and less taxation in the area governed by the Government of Northern Ireland, but I also felt—possibly this may not be pleasant to some of my friends from Northern Ireland—that if the population prefer to live under worse circumstances in the Free State, then they have the right to live under worse circumstances there. I put that point of view to many loyalists in Northern Ireland, wanting to find out how they would parry the suggestion. I especially talked of the counties of Fermanagh and Tyrone, and what the loyalists told me was that the majority of people in Fermanagh and Tyrone did not wish to come under the Government of the Free State. They told me that the so-called majority of which one hears was entirely fictitious, that it was entirely a religious vote. They told me of cases of Nationalists who were giving thanks that they were still in Northern Ireland, but that these men voted deliberately against 249 their own wishes, because to vote otherwise would show them to be disloyal to their own church.
There is another point with regard to this majority in those two counties. That majority, so far as it exists, has been brought about, to a great extent, by the replacement of those loyal men who fought and died for us in the War. Those men have been replaced by others from the South who never fought far us in the War. It would, therefore, seem that the patriotism of Northern Ireland is to be the undoing of Northern Ireland. I hope the House will really think over those words, because I believe them to be true. I believe they should be thoroughly understood by all the people of this country. I might give an example of what I mean. I was talking to a loyalist farmer one day. His two sons went to the War and were killed. At the present time he is employing four men from the South. Those men have no stake in the country, they pay no rates, they pay no taxes, they are practically strangers there. When it comes to a vote, four votes go Nationalist and one vote goes Loyalist. That man, who has got a stake in the country, who gave his sons to the Empire, that man who provides the work for his employés, has only one vote, and these outsiders can outvote him by a majority of four to one.
Again, one has heard of many Loyalist Nationalists who would vote Unionist, but think it wrong to do so, because they have been told if they vote Unionist they will have to answer for it at God's High Altar on the Judgment Day. Furthermore, there is a certain amount of terrorism of poor people living in the mountains. They have been threatened with death if they go to the polls, because they have been suspected of having the intention to vote Unionist. I have here a photograph of one threat:To William and Eliza Griffin.It is understood that you intend voting Unionist to-morrow. Now in voting Unionist we take it you vote to keep Ireland in bondage. Therefore, if you come to vote to-morrow he prepared to meet your God, for you shall not return. What has been done in the South can be done in the North. The time for humbug is over.—(Signed) THE BLACK HAND OF GLENELLY.The hon. Member opposite may think it funny to hear of the tyranny of poor people in the mountains, but he would 250 think very differently if any of his supporters were terrorised in that way.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I can show the hon. Member worse than that. I get worse than that sent to me at the House of Commons.
§ Mr. GREENE
I am most delighted to hear that no harm has come to the hon. Gentleman so far from these threats. I can assure him that, rightly or wrongly, the whole of the population of Ireland, both North and South, believe that such threats can be, and have been, followed up by death. There is one more point that I should like to raise with regard to this majority. That is, that such as it is, it is shrinking daily owing to the fact that the people are pouring into the North of Ireland from the South because they know they would prefer to live under the Government of Northern Ireland. I can say without fear of successful contradiction that these people are going into Northern Ireland, because I see that no less a person than the senior Member for Tyrone and Fermanagh stated in a speech at Londonderry the other day that these people were coming in—he described it as "being brought in."
Not content with my investigations on the border I went, with various of my colleagues, to Dublin, where I was, accorded an interview with Mr. President Cosgrave and Mr. Kevin O'Higgins. During that interview I put various questions to the President which I thought might have an interest For the people in the North. I asked him whether he would approve of yet one more effort of settlement by agreement. He said, "No." I hope the junior Member for Tyrone and Fermanagh who was present will correct me if I make any mistake. He said, "No." I asked him whether that was actually the case. He said, "Yes. Because there is no disagreement between myself and Sir James Craig." He said the only disagreement that existed at the present time was between Sir James Craig and the Nationalists of Northern Ireland. I then put it to him that it would be of great interest to the people of Northern Ireland to know what he was claiming in the way of territory. He replied that he was claiming nothing; he simply wanted the people in the North who wished to be in the South to have their wishes ascertained and to be 251 given the opportunity to come across. I asked him how he would suggest that these opinions should be collected. He said that he would leave that to the Commission. I pointed out to him that the method by which the vote was to be taken made a very great difference to the people of Northern Ireland in the manner with which they would face this Commission. I pointed out to Mr. Cosgrave if a vote of the whole area was taken, naturally not one inch could be transferred to the South. I pointed out to him that if he wanted the vote taken by counties he would have to give up the claim to South Down and South Armagh; and that if it was going to be taken by Parliamentary divisions, he could have no possible claim to Northern Fermanagh. He said that ho preferred to say nothing. I said: "Mr. President, surely, after all this long time, you must have something in your mind which should be made known to the people of the North to enable them to know how to face this matter, whether still to stick out for having nothing to do with the Commission or otherwise?" His only reply was: "Does the counsel on one side expose his plan of campaign to the counsel on the other side?"
I then broached the question of loyalty. I asked him about the King's name, about the oath of allegiance, and so forth. He replied that the Orangemen 9.0 P. M. of Ireland had taken the national and loyal emblems as party emblems, and that now they were party emblems, therefore it was impossible to treat them solely as national or loyal emblems. But he gave me no explanation whatsoever of the alteration in the oath of allegiance and other oaths of a like nature. The last question I put to him was whether it was or was not the fact that when men have been released from internment or imprisonment in Northern Ireland, they could come to Southern Ireland and be given captains' commissions in the army. I quoted one case to him. His reply was that so many Nationalists came from the North that is was quite possible that mistakes had occurred, and that undesirable people had got what possibly they ought not to get. I think he made some remark about certain cases that were received and given commissions in 252 Southern Ireland, but that was when the competent authority in Southern Ireland thought that what had happened in the North did not make it wrong to give these men these positions. I think my hon. Friend opposite will say that I have given a fair statement of what occurred.
The result, after all, was that I did not gain one word of encouragement to hope for a settlement. I had not gained one word of reassurance to give to the people of Northern Ireland in regard to the loyalty of the South, or how much was to be demanded should this Commission be set up. Things being so, I would appeal to the House most urgently not to let this Bill pass through in its present form. If it does, the Commission may possibly not consider themselves confined to a rectification of the boundary line. They might take into account the small majority—I say small advisedly—I believe it is something like 6,000 out of 90,000—might take this small, vanishing and, possibly, unwilling majority in Fermanagh and Tyrone into account, and hand over a large slice of territory and tens of thousands of British loyalists to what they fear would be hardship, danger, and bondage under what they consider to be a disloyal and an alien flag.
§ Captain BERKELEY
I very much wish that the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down had confined himself to relating the very interesting account of his interview with Mr. Cosgrave, which I am sure every one present was extremely interested to hear, instead of allowing himself to be led away into relating stories based upon hearsay, and, above all, with betraying himself into the very seriously inaccurate statement that he allowed himself to make at the beginning of his speech. He began by talking of the two contracts between this country and Ireland, and suggesting that one should prevail. He most inaccurately described an Act of Parliament as a contract. After all, there has been quite sufficiently misleading things said on this subject both here, and above all, elsewhere; in the newspapers. He went on to talk about some of the documents dealing with the Treaty. There has never been any treaty with the people of the North. The Government of Ireland Act of 1920 is an Act of Parliament and was intended to apply to the whole of Ireland. It was allowed to be 253 abrogated in regard to the South, but it has remained an Act of Parliament and has validity as regards the North. Really the status of Northern Ireland is something equivalent to that of a self-governing colony, and every word of the 1920 Act shows that it is perfectly legal for this Parliament to make this division of Northern territory. I am one of those who do not find myself in complete agreement with the attitude of my party on this matter, and I hope my hon. Friends will not describe my defection as arising from mere perversity. Of course, it is much easier to agree with one's friends than to differ, but I know that there is no proscription or prescription in the Liberal party, and Members of that party are not proscribed if they hold heterodox opinions. It is not that I disagree with the traditional Liberal policy with regard to Ireland.
My hon. Friends in Ulster know quite well that I have shared those peregrinations which so many of us have made, and they know also that I believe that had Mr. Gladstone's original proposals been accepted the whole of this trouble would have been averted. The Home Rule Bill which Parnell approved of satisfied all the legitimate aspirations of the Irish, and if in 1885 the Bill which was much less far-reaching than the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, to say nothing of the principal Act of 1922, had been carried into law, there would certainly have been no Irish boundary problem to-day. But it is no use looking into the past in regard to this matter and we have to face the situation as it is. The fact that injustices have been done to Ireland as a whole, and particularly to the South of Ireland, is not the slightest excuse for doing another injustice to the North of Ireland to-day.
I was very much impressed by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) in which he said that the Imperial Parliament ought to use legitimate pressure. I fully agree with that contention, but what I fear is that there is a danger of the House of Commons, which is the mouthpiece of the country, shirking its duty in regard to this matter. If there is to be pressure applied it must be applied impartially, and that is the danger as I see it. Just one word in reference to rectification, 254 and this is germane to the point. The right hon. Gentleman who represents one of the divisions of Antrim said that no invitation was given to Ulster to participate in the Conference which drew up the Treaty, and he further stated that the reason why Ulster did not want to participate was that they were very much concerned with their own affairs in Ulster. As the implication was adverse to what was said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, perhaps the House will forgive me if I call attention to the real fact of the case. On the 10th of November, 1921, the then Prime Minister addressed a very full letter to the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland proposing a conference and detailing the agenda very fully.
§ Captain BERKELEY
We all sympathise with the right hon. Gentleman's very proper concern for the affairs of Ulster, but surely he will realise that very often when formal negotiations take place, it is the commonest practice in international affairs for those negotiations to take place before a Round Table Conference is called together. That has been done very successfully in regard to very delicate questions which have been considered by the League of Nations.
§ Captain BERKELEY
At any rate, it was an honest attempt to get an agreement for a Round Table Conference.
§ Captain BERKELEY
I do not think anybody would object to the heads of the Government entering into negotiations with Mr. De Valera in order to work out the details of the tripartite conference beforehand if my right hon. Friend 255 thinks that is unreasonable, I am sorry, because I think it was a reasonable thing to do. After those pourparlers had taken place, the, Prime Minister wrote to Sir James Craig very fully. There were two main questions remaining to be settled, but there were also five or six other questions to be dealt with, and the reply to that was a very courteous but a very firm refusal to take part in any conference at all. In reply to that, my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs wrote to Sir James Craig as follows:My dear Prime Minister,—We have received with great regret your refusal to enter into conference with us unconditionally—the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, in reply to the Prime Minister of Great Britain, had said that he would only come and confer if it was clearly understood that certain things should not be discussed, which makes any sort or kind of conference impossible. My right hon. Friend continued:To demand, as between two sets of Ministers of the Crown, a preliminary limitation of freedom of discussion, is contrary to the spirit of mutual loyalty and co-operation which animates His Majesty's Government in all parts of the Empire.''I do not want to make a great point of this at all, but merely to draw attention to it, because it is a very large subject; but we must be fair to all sides. It seems to me, if I may say so as a very junior Member of the House, that one of the principal contributory causes of the trouble in Ireland at present has been the difficulty of getting people to be fair to each other. Never was there more need for toleration and mutual confidence than there is to-day. I hope I may be forgiven if I add that I think it is rather a pity that so much of the Debate has been given up to rather high-sounding phrases about honour and loyalty, and also that so many metaphors and similes have been employed. I am not sure that it has really helped us materially that so many literary allusions have been brought, in. The plays of Shakespeare have been cited by one hon. Member, and stories of Robespierre and Brutus told us by one of my hon. Friends on these benches, which were capped by references to Polonius and Laertes on the other side. There has been far too much phrase-making on the subject of Ireland.
256 With that exordium, I would refer, if I may, to one or two of the main facts of the situation as I see it, and I will begin by referring to one very terrible and tragic fact. As far as one can foresee the possible course of events, it seems to me that, despite the terrible lessons of the War, despite the fact that there are hundreds of thousands of young men now who took a very gallant and active part in the War, and who have seen the dreadful devastation that can be wrought in a civilised country by the engines of war, both sides in Ireland to-day are quite prepared to contemplate armed hostilities with comparative equanimity. That is a very terrible fact, and it ought to be present to every Member of this House when he is making up his mind what he is to do in regard to this Bill. In particular, it ought to be present in our minds when we are considering how far the House of Commons is neglecting its duty if it allows things to slide, if it merely contents itself with accepting the Bill put forward by the Government and passing it, saying, "Well, there was an error in the Treaty; we will rectify that, and leave it to the two dogs." That is a very dangerous doctrine, because the two clogs may fight about it.
Perhaps those who are prepared to consider such a possibility will also consider what this country is to do if hostilities break out. It is a very serious problem. What we ought to do is to avert the possibility, and my belief is that we can do that by firmly exercising the functions of government which have been committed to the House of Commons to exercise for the benefit of the ration and of the Empire as a whole. This is one of the great moments that occur in all epochs of history where it is essential that the Government should be fair to both sides and should be firm. If I may make a very brief historical reference to the facts before stating what I personally intend to do on the Bill, I will do so. So junior a Member as myself cannot hope to say anything that will act as guidance to the Government in the matter. I can only say what I have thought out for myself, and what I propose to do.
The first point which I think we ought to bear in mind is with regard to the Act, of 1920. I am not talking about it as a prior contract or a prior Treaty, but 257 I am going to say this: It is all very well, as some of my hon. Friends on the Front Bench have said, to point out that the Treaty of Peace with Ireland in 1921, which was embodied in the Act of 1922, referred to the whole of Ireland. It did, but the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, also referred to the whole of Ireland. The point is very important. The Act of 1920 was not, as some people might have gathered from what has been said during the course of this Debate, a settlement negotiated privately with Ulster. The Act of 1920 was a legislative provision made by the House of Commons for the benefit of the whole of Ireland. It became a dead letter in the South of Ireland because of unfortunate, dreadful events, which it does not help us to go into; but it became the law of the land in Ireland. It was riot a bargain made with the North of Ireland; it was an Act of Parliament passed by this House and loyally and properly—though I hate to use the word "loyally" after some of the usage which I have heard it receive in this Debate—it was loyally and properly accepted by those in the North, who undertook the very difficult task of organising a Government and carrying it into effect, as they have done very much to their credit.
I see a great authority on constitutional history and law sitting opposite me, so I must be careful what I say, but I have always believed That the effect of the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, was to create in Northern Ireland something practically equivalent to a, self-governing colony. I know, of course, that self-governing colonies have no representation in the Imperial Parliament, and have rather more control over taxation; but for practical purposes a self-governing colony was created in the North of Ireland. In 1921 we made the much-debated settlement with the South of Ireland, and again, as has been pointed out, it purported to be a settlement with the whole of Ireland. It was an Act for the whole country, with provision for the Northern Department—for Ulster—to contract out if they chose, and they did so. The important point with regard to that—and I have not heard this said before, but I believe it to be true—is, that we must regard these two documents, the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, and the Act of 1922 with its annexed Treaty, 258 as being part of each other. It is really a very elementary proposition, because the provisions of the Treaty itself make it perfectly plain that that is the case.
Article 13, for instance, which provides for what has never been set up, namely, the perpetuation for the whole of Ireland of a council of Ireland, says this:For the purpose of the last foregoing Article"—the much debated Article 12—the powers of the Parliament of Southern Ireland under the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, to elect members of the Council of Ireland"—which can only be brought into existence at all through the Government of Ireland Act, 1920—shall, after the Parliament of the Irish Free State is constituted, be exercised by that Parliament.And then there are further provisions in Article 14 of the Treaty which make it perfectly plain that the two documents must be read together. If the two documents have to be read together, then, although it is quite true that in the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, provision is made in the last resort for this country altering the boundaries of the North, it is an action which we could never take, no matter in what form of words we safeguarded ourselves, with any other self-governing colony except Northern Ireland. We clearly could not do it with Southern Rhodesia. We could not do it with Newfoundland. It may be arguable that we could do it, because there is direct representation of Northern Ireland in this House. If we have the legal right to do it, it is a right which this country ought not to exercise. There is another point. Many of those who have taken part in the Debate have spoken of the boundary provisions in this manner: they have said: "If you do not pass this Bill, you make the Treaty a dead letter." That is the same kind of halting exaggeration on this side as I was compelled to take exception to in my hon. Friend opposite, who mis-described the Government of Ireland Act. It is not in the least true that the Treaty becomes a dead letter if you do not make provision in this Bill. The purpose of the Treaty was to confer upon Ireland, if possible, and if not possible, then upon what we now call the Irish Free State, the status of a Dominion 259 of the British Empire. It would only become necessary to do that in the event of Ulster contracting out. The Treaty does not become a dead letter. Does my hon. Friend for a moment imagine that if the House of Commons refused to pass this Bill, and the Boundary Commission were not set up, Southern Ireland would then revert from its status as a Dominion to its former status?
§ Captain BERKELEY
That is not to say the Treaty would become a dead letter. I hope that, if possible, we shall avoid discussing that, terrible contingency, but it will not be to make the Treaty a dead letter. The final point that I should like to mention is this. There has been a great deal of loose talk about foreign countries in this Debate. We have been told about the Treaty of Versailles and of this Treaty and that Treaty, and that the particular form of words was selected, because the same form of words was in the Treaty of Versailles. I think I am right in saying they are not precisely identical. It may have been the intention of the original draftsmen to use these words, but I do not think that is the form of words used. It is fogging the House to talk about Alsace-Lorraine, Upper Silesia and plebiscites in Schleswig-Holstein in this connection. We can get a much better illustration within the Empire itself. The kind of situation that appeals to me as being more or less comparable with the present situation is the case that would arise if there were a dispute in the Union of South Africa and Rhodesia. Take the situation of the Transvaal and Natal before the War. The Transvaal, although owing suzerainty to this country, had a President. You had the racial difficulty and the difficulty of very bitter personal antagonism. What I submit is that you could not in a case of the dispute in those days between the Transvaal and Natal lay down a line without any co-operation of the people, of Natal. You could not to-day, if there were a dispute between Southern Rhodesia and the Union of South Africa, enter into an arrangement for the demarcation of the boundary with the Union of South Africa, without taking into con 260 sultation the representative of Southern Rhodesia.
I think Ulster was wrong in refusing to participate in the conference. You must learn to forgive wrongs in your own family. We must learn to be a little more tolerant of people within the Empire. There has been this hopeless confusion and misunderstanding between all the three parties to the transaction. You have the Free State interpretation from one speaker; you have a totally different interpretation given by another speaker; this correspondence produced and that correspondence produced. Only one thing emerges plainly, and that is that all three parties understand something different by what was intended. In that case my belief is that the duty of the Government and of this Parliament is to be firm. I think we should pass this Bill, because it is not in the interests of the Empire that these differences and dissensions in Ireland should persist. We should make provision that, if Ulster will not appoint a representative, a representative should be appointed for her. I also think we ought to make it perfectly plain in the Bill that the terms of reference to the Boundary Commission are those of rectification of her frontier and not reallotment of territory.
§ Colonel GRETTON
Before I deal with the main question before the House, may I call attention to an incident which has occurred in Debate in the last two days? Yesterday the ex-Chief Secretary for Ireland, the right hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Macpherson), quoted from his recollection of something that happened some years ago. The Colonial Secretary intervened by hinting that he had referred to Cabinet documents and that these documents would not bear out the recollection of the right hon. Gentleman who had made the statement. This is something quite new in our procedure. It went further to-day, because the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnalvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) talked not obscurely of these documents and his examination in reference to them. I do not think it is necessary to say more than to remind them of the old rule of this House that when documents are appealed to they are laid before the House for the examination of Members, who can form their own opinion of the value of the evidence that is quoted. If Ministers and 261 ex-Ministers are going to take this course may I, as an old Member of the House, warn them that the House of Commons will insist on searching those Cabinet documents and having the whole of the evidence laid before them for their own judgment and their own decision.
Now I pass to the subject of the Debate. The. Amendment before the House provides that effect should not be given to the proposal of the Bill unless it is provided that the decisions of the Boundary Commission have the approval of the Parliaments of Southern and Northern Ireland. The Debate has wandered over very wide ground. It has been proved up to the hilt that the parties to the Treaty were not agreed as to what was the true interpretation and intention of Article 12. An hon. Member has quoted evidence showing that Michael Collins and Arthur Griffith never accepted the interpretation which has been placed on Article 12 by Lord Birkenhead and all the other signatories to the Treaty except the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, who, to the astonishment of all those who have followed this controversy, repudiated the position which he was believed to hold and informed the House that the whole field was open to the Boundary Commission, and that they might out away half of Ulster under the wording of that Article. Putting that aside, it is clear that all the English signatories to Article 12 were of the belief when they signed the document that what was intended was merely a rectification—an adjustment—of the existing border and that the powers of the Commission would not go beyond that point. Now we are face to face with a misunderstanding or a delusion. I do not like to suggest that there was any sharp practice about the matter of language at all. There might have been an honest difference between them. The letter of 3rd March, 1922, was very clear and explicit; that the integrity of Ulster was preserved by the terms of that Article. But I must protest against some of the arguments which were introduced into that letter. Clearly the parallel of Silesia was a false one, because in the Treaty of Versailles it was intended that there should be a partition of Silesia between Germany and Poland. Provision was made in the Treaty that that partition should take place, and the 262 Articles of Agreement were drawn accordingly. But all the evidence is that no partition of Ulster was ever intended by the English signatories to the Treaty.
Where are we to-day? This is a matter really of grave practical importance. Mistakes may have been made. There may have been doubts as to what was intended. Where do the Government think they are going? What do they think they are doing by setting up this Commission? The Prime Minister said if the Bill receives the assent of the House and becomes a Statute the Government intend to appoint a Commissioner to represent Ulster of such a character and of such calibre as Ulster herself would have appointed had she consented to appoint a Commissioner. That is to say, he is going to appoint a man in whom Ulster will have confidence. But if he is biased, if he has a tendency to one side or the other, it will be towards the Ulster side of the case. Quite complacently the Free State has already appointed a Commissioner to represent and urge the view of the Free State and the claim which it is admitted on all hands the Free State makes to the whole of the counties of Fermanagh and Tyrone, possibly the city of Londonderry, and certainly to a large section of the southern part of county Down. Then what becomes of the third? I am not going to question or impugn the integrity or the bona fides of the very distinguished legal gentleman who has been chosen by the Government to act as Chairman, but the Chairman of such a Commission, with an advocate of one side and an advocate of the other side, must consider not only arbitration but the Imperial position. He must consult the Colonial Secretary and the Prime Minister to find out what views the Imperial Government have upon this question, and I should be very astonished if I made inquiries and did not find that such consultations have already begun.
§ Mr. THOMAS
That is not true. It is very important that I should answer this at once. The honour of the Chairman would be involved in it. I desire to say that neither the Prime Minister nor myself has had any consultation whatsoever on the merits of the case with the Chairman, and the only people he has consulted are Sir James Craig and Mr. Cosgrave.
§ Colonel GRETTON
I am very glad to hear that explanation, but the stage will inevitably come when the Chairman must find out if the Imperial Government have any views. I implore them to be candid. What do they expect this Commission to decide? They must have some view. They are not taking a leap into the dark—at least, I should hope not. I imagine, as I am sure every hon. Member imagines, they have formed some view as to what is to be the result of this Commission. Is it, as has been urged on this side, really going to rectify the frontier and make the adjustment as near as it can by agreement between the two other Commissioners, or do they expect that the Chairman in some cases may, for one reason or another, decide that some considerable block of the Free State should be transferred to Ulster or some considerable block of Ulster should be transferred to the Free State? If that is to be the kind of decision, what is going to be the position of the Government? We know that the Free State are not going, lightly, to consent to any large transfer of territory which they now control to the Government of Ulster. On the other hand, it is common knowledge, admitted on all hands, that very large transfers of territory, other than the mere rectification of borders, will be resisted by the Government of Northern Ireland and the people whom they represent. What is going to be the attitude of His Majesty's Government? Are they going to try to enforce decisions, and, if so, how? These questions are most urgent. It is the duty of the Government to be perfectly candid and to tell the House what they intend in appointing this Commission, which is in certain respects different from the Commission set up under Article 12. They are changing the Treaty. What do they expect to effect by the action which they are asking the House to take? These questions ought to be answered.
Hon. Members on all sides have made eloquent speeches on the dangers and difficulties of the situation. As one who has been intimately acquainted with the Irish question for many years past, I agree with all the speeches that have been made as to the gravity of the crisis with which we are faced. There is no doubt that the expectations and the an- 264 ticipations in the Free State have been raised high, and that they expect much. They expect large increases of territory, and if they do not get them they will turn out the present Government of the Free State and put in a different sort of Government. These arguments have been urged in this country. It has been said, "If we do not gain territory from the Northern Government, the Government in power in the Free State will be removed and a Republican Government will be set up to repudiate the Treaty.
Many hon. and right hon. Members know that I have never been an advocate of the Treaty; I have always been opposed to it. I have believed it to be a great delusion, and that it would fail to pacify those elements in Ireland which have been hostile to this country, which imperil the safety of this country and the safety of Ulster. I have nothing to regret and nothing to withdraw, because it has been clearly proved that the so-called Treaty has not settled the whole question. We are here once more dealing with an Irish crisis. I hope the Government will be candid with the House, and tell us what they are going to do, what they expect to happen, and what attitude they intend to take up in certain eventualities. I might say a great deal more, but the hour is getting late. I should like to develop the reasons why the Ulster people take up their present attitude with regard to the Free State.
It is well known that the Free State has overspent itself, and that in three years it has overspent itself by nearly £30,000,000. It is a bankrupt State. It is a fact that its trade is languishing and that as an agricultural State it is getting rapidly into destitution. The Free State Government has not succeeded in establishing order, although it has used the most drastic measures. It has been said that they have executed many of their opponents, and so they have. They have an armed force far in excess of that laid down in the Treaty. They have also an Irish republican army, armed and drilling in sight of the regular forces of the Free State who are powerless to prevent it. There have been burnings and raidings and the Government of the Free State is powerless to put them down. There have been persecutions of political opponents. Religious questions in some districts have been raised in a violent manner. I have 265 in my possession adequate evidence in proof of these statements. I would ask hon. Members to realise what is likely to happen to those who are opposed to the Government; of the Free State and who may be transferred to that State—people who have been loyal to the British Crown and who do not accept the dominant party in the Free State. The Colonial Secretary knows of many cases of damage and burning, etc., which are awaiting settlement.
I refer to these matters to show that the Free State Government has not yet established that orderly government and that condition of things which would induce the people of Northern Ireland to look with confidence upon the Free State. The Free State are flying the flag of an independent State with no emblem of the British Empire upon it. They boast—I have evidence of it—that their object is ultimately to obtain the complete independence of Ireland from the British Empire. No wonder that Ulster looks with great suspicion on things of this kind. We must remember that the Ulster borders have been raided and that there has been destruction of life and property, and various forms of terrorism. On both sides of the border there are armed guards, watching day and night to see that no aggression takes place. No one has ever accused Ulster of having raided or of having annexed any portion of the Free State. The whole of the aggression has been upon Ulster. What are the Government going to do to protect Ulster? This is not a local question between Ulster and the Free State. Ulster has every right, and has established her right by her many acts, her loyalty and her sacrifice, to the consideration and protection of this House of Commons. What is going to happen in the Empire and in the world at large if you are not able to protect the loyal subjects of the Crown in the very heart of the Empire? British people can never be indifferent to the fate of Ireland. Ireland is at the heart of the life of the Empire. It lies across her great arteries of trade. If you had a hostile Ireland, or an enemy established himself in Ireland, you would have a platform for air raids within one and a half hours of your great centres in the North. We cannot cut Ireland adrift. We have always got to remember the vital interest which it has for the 266 safety of this country. Irishmen are to be found in all parts of the Empire. There are Northern Irishmen in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere, and there are also men from the South. What are the Dominions going to think of abandoning those who fought for you in the War and who sacrificed so much for the Empire? They can only think, as has been said by more than one speaker, that it is better to be the enemy of England than to be her friend.
§ Captain DIXON
I address myself to this question perhaps from a different point of view from many speakers on both sides, because I happen to be a member of the Ulster Government, I happen to live in. Ireland, I happen to have property there, and I happen to have hosts of friends on both sides of the border in Ireland. The one thing which I want to see in this world is peace in Ireland. I do not think that I have ever in this House, or in any other place in which I have spoken, said one word which would stop in any Way that peace coming about, but when I recall the Debate which has taken place to-day I say to myself, "What good is this with regard to what I have at heart, what the Ulster Government have at heart, and what I honestly believe the Labour Government have at heart, the peace of Ireland? "I have heard to-day speeches of a most provocative character, which brought one back to the old bad times which we thought were over for ever. I need only refer to the speech of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Leith (Captain W. Bunn), a speech which will do infinite harm wherever it is read. I can only say that this and other speeches which were made from the benches opposite were unreasonable and absolutely contrary to what we are trying to bring about. On the other hand the speech of the right hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty, the late Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. Macpherson) and other Members behind him, especially the speech of the hon. Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Sir C. Mansel), will do an immense amount of good, because they will show the people of my country that there is fair play in all parties.
The Prime Minister, speaking yesterday, challenged those who had been in communication with him to say that he had not treated them with courtesy and 267 fairness. The Prime Minister has behaved with the greatest courtesy to the Ulster people, to the Prime Minister of Ulster, and to every one who has come in contact with him. I can say the same of the Secretary of State for the Colonies. They have behaved with as great fairness as we should have received from any other part of the House. I claim no party in this House. I claim that the rights of Ulster ought to be supported by every side and every party in this House, and I say with gratitude that while party 10.0 P.M. speeches of a violent and vindictive nature were made from those benches there was not one single speech of that kind made from the Labour Benches. You cannot set up a democracy without taking the consequences. It is not what I say or what Sir James Craig says, or what any of us say, that matters. It is what the people of Ulster say. We are only the servants of the people. It is useless for the right. hon. Member for Carnarvon to say practically that no promises were given to Ulster. Was the right hon. Gentleman making a fool of no less a person than His Majesty the King when he sent him to Belfast to give us this Constitution?
Every possible reason was given to Ulster to believe that, if we accepted the six counties, we should not be interfered with, and let me say that we resented to the very last coming to such an agreement, because I believe—and every clay as I grow older strengthens the belief—that the most terrible thing ever done to Ireland was, not only the partition of Ireland, but was the establishment of the Free State in Ireland, because I believe that. Ireland cannot live unless she is absolutely a part of the United Kingdom, and I believe, what Liberal Members do not know, and what some of the Labour Members do know, because they have their great trade societies in Ireland—and I have studied the question—that it is not possible for the Free State to retain the same standard of living for their workmen as the standard of living within the British area. I believe that if we joined with the Free State we should do so at the expense of our workmen, and I represent one of the largest workers' constituencies in the North of Ireland. I happen to be a friend of the Minister of 268 Labour, and I know the trouble that we are having, and Ministers on the Front Bench know well the fights which we are making to try to retain the standard of life of the workmen in Belfast at the same level as the standard of life in England. Therefore whatever arrangement you could come to the workmen of Ulster will never go underneath the standard of life which they have now. Therefore you can make up your mind that if Ireland is ever to be united it must be by being united again within the United Kingdom. That is the only way in which it will be united.
I do not wish to occupy more of the time of the House; I think that I have put the Ulster point of view. We resent this Measure because we are satisfied that it will not bring peace to Ireland. The only way in which you can bring peace to my countrymen—and I know them North and South and I have friends North and South—is that when the time comes when these horrible fights and these horrible memories have passed away we can come together and decide upon these questions by ourselves. I do not believe for one moment that this Bill will have any influence either on the North or on the South of Ireland. Do not believe for one moment that by passing this Bill you can pull the Union Jack down off Derry walls. You cannot do it. Who is going to do it? Put your minds down to the facts as they are. Who is going to enforce it? Are you going to pull down the Union Jack and put up the tri-colour? Do not let, us for one moment run away. Look where you are going to. I heard my hon. Friend the Member for Tyrone and Fermanagh (Mr. Healy) say they would accept this Bill. I was amazed to hear him make such a statement, for he is one of the Clerical party. What happened in Londonderry the other day? On the same platform on which my hon. Friend the Member for Tyrone and Fermanagh stood was the parish priest of Omagh. And what did he say? He said:I have read in the papers and heard statements made that large parts of Tirconaill are going and I want to advise those now taking part in this Treaty that rather than see one part of Tirconaill put under the iniquitous Government of Northern Ireland, the men of Tirconaill will die in the ditches round the farms which they were born in.This was said by the very gentleman who put the Member for Tyrone and 269 Fermanagh in. Therefore I say for the peace of Ireland I should leave this thing and give them a chance to settle down. I say to the Members of this House that if they think they are voting for peace in Ireland they are making the mistake of their lives. If a Commission is set up, composed of one Englishman and a gentleman of the Free State, do you think the Republicans are going to stand it? When you are passing a Bill of this kind do not think you can make an agreement between Ulster and the Free State; you have got to consider the others. Before you pass this Bill, think what you are doing.
§ Mr. THOMAS
The Debate was opened yesterday by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in his speech which was recognised in all parts of the House as being not only an impartial speech but an expression of the Government's desire that this question should be considered free from party bias. We have just heard from a distinguished Irishman what he calls the plain truth. No one in this House listened to him without feeling, as I felt, how much better it would be if, instead of within the next hour this British Parliament, having to give expression to its opinion in the Lobby on this question by a Division, all Irishmen would follow his example and say: "We, as Irishmen, are better judges of our own problems than the English, Welsh or Scotsmen can possibly be." I have no hesitation in saying that the sentiment he expressed, namely, that Irishmen, after all, are not only the best judges, but must ultimately, if there is to be finality, to settle this question, is a sentiment that all parties in the House ought to endorse. But I cannot help contrasting that speech with that of the previous speaker. It only shows how much better it would be if it had been left to the Irishmen instead of my hon. Friend giving expression to the views he did. He has asked me to be very candid with the House. In other words, he has asked me to continue that policy which has now become a virtue of this bench, always to tell the truth. I have no desire or intention to depart from that virtue. I am going to tell the truth. I am going to say quite frankly to him what he must know about the question he puts to-night, that he put it two years ago to the right hon. Gentlemen sitting opposite, Members 270 of his own party. He said to them as he has now said to me, "Will you define the boundary" The answer that I give is the answer that they gave, and the only answer they could have given, namely, that having appointed, rightly or wrongly, a Boundary Commission to do this job, we did not intend to prejudice their position. He knows perfectly well that was the answer given by the right hon. Gentlemen sitting opposite.
§ Colonel GRETTON
That is true. I did not get the explanation from the right hon. Gentlemen who sat on the Treasury Bench at the time, and I am hoping to receive it now.
§ Mr. THOMAS
That is to say he looks for more virtue here than there. After all he is right in that sense, the only difference being that we feel—and I say it quite seriously—that if the Boundary Commission was intended to do the job it would be wrong on the part of Members of this House to tell them how to do it. But I would ask my hon. Friend whether he carefully considered, with reference to the boundary of the Free State, that whether he agreed with that Bill or not, there were differences and honest differences of opinion. There could he no Member of this House, whatever his view of the Irish Free State may be, that ought to do other than wish it well, and not only wish it well, but remember that it is a part of the great British Commonwealth. You are merely playing into the hands of the enemies of the Free State by giving them this encouragement, to those who are not only enemies of the Free State, but enemies of the Empire itself.
I, like the Prime Minister, have no hesitation in saying that I have no sympathy with the task that I am performing. I am entitled to say that more than any other Member of the House, because for the past 20 years I have had the honour and privilege of being the direct representative and leader of probably more Irishmen than any other Member of this House. For 20 years over 20,000 railwaymen in the North and South of Ireland have looked upon me as their leader to negotiate their differences. The remarkable thing is that, however keenly they may be divided—I admit that they were divided on this great controversy—I always found them, like all other Irish- 271 men of all parties, united when they wanted to get anything out of the British Government. Incidentally, I have found no exception to that rule since I have been in office. I also want to say frankly that I was always against the Boundary Commission. I have always opposed the Boundary Commission in principle. I pleaded with Sir James Craig and with Mr. Cosgrave not to put the Boundary Commission into operation. I will tell the House frankly why I did that. It was because I felt then—I have not changed my views to-day—that the stereotyping of a boundary by a Commission means the permanent partition of Ireland, which is ruinous to the ultimate economic development of Ireland. But it was an Act of Parliament. I put it to the House that anyone who knows the position of Ireland in this connection would share my view.
Lord Carson, when the 1920 Act was being debated in the House, put the position clearer than anyone else. No one would accuse him of being other than partial to Ulster. I pay a tribute publicly to him, profoundly as I disagree with him and much as I argued with him when I was sitting on the Opposition Benches. No one who knew him could be other than fully conversant with one fact, namely, that he was an Irishman above everything else. Only within the last few weeks, notwithstanding his strong views, he it was that caused representations to be made to the British Government for the return of the famous pictures from the National Gallery, not to Belfast, but to Dublin, because he was an Irishman. What did he say when the 1920 Act was being debated? Replying to my right hon. Friend the Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. T. P. O'Connor), he said:I look to the time when both he and I, as Irishmen, will be able to work together for the common good of our country.That sentiment the whole House has appreciated. It was a sentiment that I felt was true then, and that I feel is true to-day. That is why it has been with no desire to establish the Boundary Commission that I have worked. But I put to the House quite frankly this position: We have to admit we failed. We called conference after conference. Sir James Craig and President Cosgrave met. Here I ought to say there is a 272 general assumption that these two people are at daggers drawn, that they never speak to each other and are bitter, hostile enemies. I only wish all the people they represent on both sides were as reasonable as they are themselves. I only wish that the Southern Irishman and the Northern Irishman could meet and act in one room, as Sir James Craig and President Cosgrave did, and I am quite sure we would not be troubled with this difficulty to-day. But the Government did all they possibly could—here, I want to be clear again—to avoid the necessity for introducing this Bill. It has been asked, "Why did not President Cosgrave accept the offer of Sir James Craig?" It is only fair to President Cosgrave that I should give that question an answer. He responded every time to every invitation that was extended to him. We met in conference day after day. I am not going to give the House the details of our proposals, because if you do that kind of thing it makes conference in the future absolutely impossible. But I am going to say this, that the one point upon which failure to agree took place was the insistence that President Cosgrave must come into conference and abrogate his rights under Article 12. That was the condition made.
I put it to the House: How could President Cosgrave accept that situation for a moment? To hon. Members, no matter what their views may be, or how keenly they may feel about this question, I put the simple facts. Here is the President of the Irish Free State, with a Treaty signed by both sides under that Treaty a Boundary Commission is to be set up and certain things are to happen. Then, on the other side, he would have to go back to his people and say, "I went into conference to negotiate a boundary but, before I went into conference, I absolutely forfeited my right under this Article," and, if no agreement resulted, he would have been accused by his own people of forfeiting his rights under the Treaty. Those are the short facts concerning this talk about President Cosgrave being unreasonable. It is due to him and it is due from the Government to say he was not unreasonable. It is equally true to say that Sir James Craig was not unreasonable. Both had their difficulties. Both were faced with factors they could not control. The result was the breakdown of the Confererce; the 273 Government were compelled to take action, and the action is the Bill now before the House.
That brings me to the Debate. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition opened yesterday by saying that the difference between this Bill and the Treaty was that this contemplated a different Commission from that originally intended. I think that is a fair summary. That is perfectly true, but I put it to him that that is something for which we are not responsible. The Commission contemplated in the 1922 Act is open to-day. It is up to Ulster to nominate a Commissioner, and that is the end of this Bill. Therefore it is not only unfair, but it is not a good debating point, to say that this is a different Commission when the people responsible for the change are those who themselves refuse to accept it. In connection with that, he also said that the situation was that everyone on that side of the House understood that. Article 12 meant limited powers. In other words, here is the short difference. On the one side you have a claim for Tyrone and Fermanagh. That is shortly what I would call the extreme claim on the Southern side. On the other, there is a claim that a mere rectification should take place, and before this Bill passes we are asked to define Article 12 as meaning a rectification. That, in a few words, is the difference between us. We are asked to accept the Amendment before the House, and so define it, but I would ask the House in this connection to compare our position with that of my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. A. Chamberlain), who himself was not only a party to the Treaty, but, as he rightly said this afternoon, took a tremendous risk in giving effect to it. He was asked precisely that question which has been put by the Leader of the Opposition to me, and this is his answer:What are the alternatives? Ono alternative is that you should reserve to Ulster all her rights and powers and privileges—Mr. MOLES: And territory.Mr. CHAMBERLAIN: No, Sir.
§ Mr. A. CHAMBERLAIN
No. If the right hon. Gentleman thinks it worth while to quote me at all, let him finish the quotation
§ Mr. THOMAS
I will finish it. There is an intervention by the Speaker, and then the right hon. Gentleman goes on:—that you should reserve to the North-East of Ireland all her rights and powers and privileges; that you should readjust the boundary line, which nobody pretends is an ideal line, which never was included in any promise we made, or in any one of the quotations which have been read from our speeches. The other alternative is that, sooner than touch that boundary, you should resume civil war, fight and fight and fight for no great issue of national honour, for no great issue of Imperial strength, but in order that you may preserve within the boundary of the Northern Government populations, the majority of which desire to leave their away, and that you may continue to exclude from Northern Ireland populations which desire to enter under their rule."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th February, 1922; col. 1469, Vol. 150.]That is all. I put it to the House that that quotation itself answers two points—first, that it is not true, as the records show, that all those promises that have been made to Ulster, whatever they may be or by whomsoever they may have been made, meant that this boundary as it was then in the Six Counties was the last word. That presupposes clearly the idea amongst all parties that some alteration must take place. That is the first point that it answers, but the second is this, that it answers the Amendment before the House, because if, with the agreement fresh in their minds, if with all the facts before them, if indeed, as they were and always remained, the guardians and protectors of what were called Ulster rights, they themselves said: "No, we will not interfere with something which after all is the business of the Commission," I put it to the House, how could it be expected that we on this side of the House should do what they themselves refused to do? That is the Amendment before the House, but if any more conclusive answer is needed, I will quote my right hon. Friend the Member for Ladywood (Mr. N. Chamberlain) who is much more convincing. He said:Therefore it did not seem to me that it was possible for any Minister either to accept an Amendment of the Treaty in that respect or to pronounce beforehand what the judgment of the Boundary Commission might be when they came to determine this very vexed and controversial question."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th February, 1922; col. 1311, Vol. 150.]
§ Mr. NEVILLE CHAMBERLAIN
As the right hon. Gentleman has done me 275 the honour of quoting something I said, will he also quote the passage in the same speech in which I said that the House had clearly understood that the proposition was that there should be merely an adjustment of boundaries, and not a transfer of large territories, and that it was on that understanding that they had accepted the Treaty?
§ Mr. THOMAS
I accept it, and I hope that all those who cheer will do as he did, and go into the Lobby against the Amendment. I am quite sure he will do the same to-night, because consistency in this matter is a virtue. Now I come to my right hon. Friend the Member for Oxford University (Lord H. Cecil). He said that this Article could only be interpreted in one way. In short, he said that when we were asked to vote on the last occasion this particular Article was under discussion, everybody connected with the Treaty interpreted it in one way—I am summarising what he said; in fact, he said there could he no other construction placed upon the Treaty. That was the essence of his speech yesterday. I have yet to see whether that is strictly in accordance with the facts, and, to be quite sure, I am going to quote from someone whom the Noble Lord would accept in preference, say, to my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). This is a quotation from a speech made during a debate:I have no doubt that the Noble and learned Viscount when he rises to reply will say that the pledge has not been violated. I do not know how he will get over the Boundary Commission; I do not know how he possibly can. If it were just a gentle readjustment of frontiers, a few acres here and there, no doubt that would come within a reasonable elasticity of interpretation. But I am afraid I cannot read the Articles like that, nor can I read the Noble and learned Viscount's speech at Birmingham like that.Those were the words of Lord Salisbury. It would be an unfortunate thing if the Irish dispute developed into a domestic family squabble. It would indeed be interesting to see both Noble Lords arguing this point out between themselves. So far as I am concerned, I would be content to leave it there; but I would urge the Noble Lord, who unfortunately is not present, to remember that he also said something yesterday that I not only feel was unfortunate, but 276 I think he said—quite honestly, I am quite sure—that, in his opinion, if a struggle took place, the people in this country would unhesitatingly support the North. Do not let us talk about that. There has been too much talk of bloodshed, and of what is going to happen. I deplore that kind of talk, because no one is going to benefit from it, neither North nor South. Again, it is equally necessary, in saying that, to remember that there are not only the enemies of the North; there are the enemies of the Free State and of the British Commonwealth. If the Noble Lord meant that in a struggle to establish a republic the people of this country would take sides—yes, I agree with him. But in a dispute which involved the honour of the pledged word of this House of Commons, the people of this country would say: "We are going to be honourable with the agreement that we have already made." Then take the case of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Macpherson). Here you have an illustration of the unity which characterises all parties in this matter. Curiously enough, the right. hon. Gentleman took up a remarkable attitude. He did not seem to remember one thing, that he was the last Chief Secretary for Ireland. [HON. MEMBERS: "Not the last!"] Well, the last but one. As he said in his speech last night, he took a particular pride in vindicating his honour. That is something we all appreciate. But it might have occurred to him when speaking that he was a member of the Government and sat on these benches both when the Treaty and the Act was being debated. He might have thought of his honour then. But, no. It is quite true he was not the Chief Secretary for Ireland. He was Minister of Pensions. I did not, however, understand that he was relieved of any of his responsibility because he was relieved of his job. The fact remains that the point I am making is that he might have thought of this question in 1922, instead of forgetting it, and not saying a word, and then having to let the House know all about his promise. He said something else. He said in a very sneering way that this was an unalterable Treaty, and several other hon. Members referred to it in that sense, in fact we have been challenged to say why is it that we are altering a Treaty that 277 was supposed to be unalterable. My right hon. Friend fell into that error. How many hon. Members of this House remember that this is the second time the Treaty has been altered? The first time it was altered it was done at the request of the Northern Government, and there was nothing about it being an unalterable Treaty then.
Let me remind the House of the fact that when the 1920 Act was passed there was a Joint Council set up to deal with railways, fisheries and the Diseases of Animals Acts. This Council was set up on the fifty-fifty basis of representation from both sides to deal with matters which were common to the whole of Ireland. Anybody who knows the real situation knows the absurdity of stereotyping these matters. The result was that in the 1920 Act this matter was dealt with in the way I have indicated. When the 1922 Treaty was made, and the Act ultimately became law, it was discovered that by an oversight the Irish Free State, not only had the right to deal with railways, fisheries and the Diseases of Animals Act in their own territory, but they had also the right to sit in equal numbers on the Council in the North. That was a ridiculous position. It would be absurd for me to assume that in the case of difficult negotiations like these there would not be a mistake. The fact remains that this was an oversight if you like, but it was an injustice to Northern Ireland.
Please observe what followed. The Irish Free State could have rigidly stuck to the Treaty, and said, "No. We are the greater body in Ireland, and we refuse to alter the Treaty." We made representations to the Irish Free State, and the Noble Lord the Duke of Devonshire in the other place introduced a Bill and said," I desire to draw the attention of the House to the fact that this is an alteration of the Treaty." How was it done? It was done in the very way that my right hon. Friend criticises us for doing to-day. My right hon. Friend says, "This is a new Treaty. The signature of the Prime Minister and President Cosgrave shows that it is a new Treaty." Supposing the Prime Minister had not been careful to get that signature.
278 Supposing my right hon. Friend had been the least bit careless and had been indifferent to the consequences. It would have meant that the Dail, without consultation with us, could have immediately altered the oath and said, "Because you presume to alter a Treaty to which we are parties without our signature, we claim the same right to do it without yours." My right hon. Friend did not make that mistake. We were much more careful, and that is the answer I give on that particular question. Now I come to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Antrim (Mr. O'Neill), who, after all, is a very responsible Member of the Northern Parliament, of which I believe he is the Speaker, and he has seconded the Amendment we are now debating. He said what I hope he did not believe. I say that quite seriously, because I want to draw the attention of the House to the implication behind it. He said that when the Treaty was debated and this particular Clause was under review, the Members, so far as his party was concerned, voted because they honestly believed that there would he no Commission appointed.
§ Mr. HUGH O'NEILL
What I said was that many Members on this side of the House had stated to me in conversation that they always felt that in the last resort, if Ulster did not feel inclined to appoint a representative, therefore the qualifying matter of Ulster's consent would be gone, and the Commission would not be set up.
§ Mr. THOMAS
I want, not in the name of the Government or of a party, but in the name of the whole House of Commons, to repeat that the implication behind that is that Members deliberately went into the Lobby and let the whole world say that they voted for something that was a bargain with what is now one of our Dominions, in the hope and belief that it was a fraud from beginning to end. I want to say that I do not believe that that was in the mind of any signatory of the Treaty. I would refuse to associate any signatory with any such idea, and I equally refuse to associate any Member of Parliament with it.
§ Mr. THOMAS
Yes, I will read anything. I do not know what it is, but I will read it:Mr. KIDD: I hope the Minister for War "—
§ Mr. THOMAS
This is valuable, because it throws an interesting light:Mr. KIDD: I hope the Minister for War, once a devoted Unionist, now an enthusiastic Coalitionist, will give me some enlightenment on this. Supposing Ulster refuses to nominate a Commissioner, what is the position of Ulster?Mr. DEVLIN: Do it without them.Mr. KIDD: There is no such provision. The mere fact that there is no compulsion upon Ulster to nominate one of the Commissioners, and that there is no machinery provided under the Bill in the event of her not doing so, is no mystery to me. It harmonises the Bill, with the fact that Ulster was not a party to the Treaty, which harmonises with the further fact that the basis of the negotiation of the Treaty was a basis which recognised"—I think this is what my hon. Friend wants. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!" and "Go on!"] Let me say quite frankly that Mr. Kidd was the first Member—and it is only fair to say so, because we have gone into the records—who pointed out this very danger. I have also another quotation bearing on the same point. Let the House observe that Mr. Kidd was not a signatory of the Treaty, but an ordinary Member of the House. Let us see what a signatory of the Treaty said on this very point. This is what Lord Birkenhead said, dealing with the same point:If the Government of Northern Ireland should assume the deep responsibility of saying, in spite of the decision of the House of Commons and of the House of Lords and of Parliament as a whole, 'We refuse to appoint a Commissioner,' then a wholly new situation will have arisen which will require to he dealt with by new methods.I want to deal with the further point put by my right hon. Friend, which I believe to he the most important point raised in debate. My right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham, said, "What is the Government position on the assumption that this Bill becomes law? Do they recognize that in the appointment of a Commissioner when they are called upon to appoint a Commissioner they are not merely appointing a Commissioner to represent them as a Government but to take the place of what was intended to be the nomination of 280 Ulster." That is to say to appoint someone who does not speak for the Government or act for the Government, but who will be in some special degree representative of, and can speak for, and would be accepted as carrying the views of Ulster. Clearly that question is very important and vital. I recognise its importance for a reason not even stated by my right hon. Friend. The one thing that we all ought to keep in mind is this, that if we can do anything to end this tension and stop the feeling that there is going to he war, and that something is going to happen, that is our obligation and our duty. Therefore I answer my right hon. Friend by saying this. We do not intend, and will riot appoint a Commissioner, when this Bill becomes law, merely as the nominee of the British Government.
I give this guarantee to the House now, that between now and the Third Beading I will go very carefully into the matter, I will explore every avenue, and try to find a man who will be as representative of Northern Ireland as, say, Mr. MacNeill is of Southern Ireland. I do not think you have a right to expect me to say more. I give that undertaking on behalf of the Government, and it is in accord with what my right hon. Friend said. The advantage of that I would stress, even to Southern Ireland. Southern Ireland nominated someone who is an old partisan, and rightly from their point of view, because they appointed someone they felt would be the best judge of their view of the case. We are equally anxious that Ulster shall not suffer, but shall have the advantage of someone who specially knows her case. I am going to repeat what the Prime Minister said yesterday, that we would much prefer Northern Ireland to do it herself. If Northern Ireland fails to do it we will try to make amends for that omission by doing it, I hope as well as she would have done it herself. My right hon. Friend referred to what he called the deplorable events following the signing of the Treaty. We all deplore them, but in fairness to the Irish Free State it cannot be too strongly urged when we talk about these people being republicans and so on, I do not believe in the history of the world there are men who have made greater sacrifices for the Treaty. Michael Collins died for it. Arthur Griffith died for it.
§ Mr. THOMAS
I know that, but I want to say this for the benefit of the House and the country. How many Members of the, House know that they not only interned 12,000 of their friends, but executed 80 of them? Let the House visualise the situation. There were men, whether you agree with them or not, who Never their comrades, who fought against us. When they had put their name to the Treaty they said, "Our honour is involved." and they did not hesitate to execute 80 of their men. I know one case where a bosom friend of O'Higgins was charged in connection with the siege of the Four Courts. Every effort was made because he was his bosom friend, and had been his best man at the wedding less than six months before. O'Higgins was the Minister responsible for the execution. All manner of pressure was brought on O'Higgins to release his old friend, but he said, "He must die to-morrow morning." I know he sat up all night till eight o'clock, and when the message came that his friend was shot, he collapsed and he said he had done his duty. When the will was opened within an hour, every-
§ thing was left to the O'Higgins family There cannot be greater loyalty than that. Let us be loyal to those who have been loyal to us. Do not let that he misunderstood, because Ulster has been loyal to us, and we want to be loyal to her. We do not want any coercion. The Government have appointed a Commissioner. No one has dared to question his integrity. No one has said a word about the impartiality of the Chairman. We regret the necessity for this Bill. My last word is that I hope the necessity for it will be avoided. We are driven to do it. We will do it with a full sense of our responsibility. We will keep in mind what I have said with regard to the character of the individuals appointed. I only hope, whatever may have been the feelings in the past, and whatever have been the passions aroused by this controversy, this is the last stage, and that Ireland will be in the future a united Ireland, and an asset to the great commonwealth of nations.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 291; Noes, 124.285
|Division No. 197.]||AYES.||[11.0 p.m.|
|Ackroyd, T. R.||Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock)||Gould, Frederick (Somerset, Frome)|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Compton, Joseph||Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Comyns-Carr, A. S.||Graham, W. (Edinburgh, Central)|
|Alden, Percy||Costello, L, W. J.||Greenall, T.|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro)||Cove, W. G.||Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)|
|Alstead, R.||Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)|
|Ammon, Charles George||Crittall, V. G.||Grigg, Lieut.-Col. Sir Edward W. M.|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Darbishire, C. W.||Groves, T.|
|Attlee, Major Clement R.||Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)||Grundy, T. W.|
|Ayles, W. H.||Davies, G. M. Lloyd (Welsh Univ.)||Guest, J. (York, Hemsworth)|
|Banton, G.||Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Guest, Dr. L. Haden (Southwark, N.)|
|Barclay, R. Noton||Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Dickie, Captain J. P.||Harbison, Thomas James S.|
|Barnes, A.||Dickson, T.||Harbord, Arthur|
|Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar (Banff)||Dodds, S. R.||Hardie, George D.|
|Batey, Joseph||Duckworth, John||Harney, E. A.|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Dudgeon, Major C. R.||Harris, John (Hackney, North)|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish||Dukes, C.||Harris, Percy A.|
|Berkeley, Captain Reginald||Duncan, C.||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon|
|Birkett, W. N.||Dunn, J. Freeman||Harvey, T. E. (Dewsbury)|
|Black, J. W.||Dunnico, H.||Hastings, Sir Patrick|
|Bonwick, A.||Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Hastings, Somerville (Reading)|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Edwards, G. (Norfolk, Southern)||Hayday, Arthur|
|Bramsdon, Sir Thomas||Edwards, John H. (Accrington)||Hayes, John Henry|
|Briant, Frank||Egan, W. H.||Healy, Cahir|
|Bromfield, William||Emlyn-Jones, J. E. (Dorset, N.)||Henderson, A. (Cardiff, South)|
|Brown, A. E. (Warwick, Rugby)||Falconer, J.||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Finney, V. H.||Henderson, W. W.(Middlesex,Enfield)|
|Brunner, Sir J.||Foot, Isaac||Hillary, A E.|
|Buchanan, G.||Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton)||Hindle, F.|
|Buckle, J.||Gardner, J. P. (Hammersmith, North)||Hirst, G. H.|
|Burnie, Major J. (Bootle)||Gavan-Duffy, Thomas||Hobhouse, A. L.|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel||George, Rt. Hon. David Lloyd||Hodge, Lieut.-Col. J. P. (Preston)|
|Cape, Thomas||George, Major G. L. (Pembroke)||Hodges, Frank|
|Charleton, H. C.||Gibbins, Joseph||Hoffman, P. C.|
|Clarke, A.||Gilbert, James Daniel||Hore-Belisha, Major Leslie|
|Climle, R.||Gillett, George M.||Howard, Hon. G. (Bedford, Luton)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Gorman, William||Hudson, J. H.|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Gosling, Harry||Isaacs, G. A.|
|Jackson, R. F. (Ipswich)||Murrell, Frank||Spero, Dr. G. E.|
|Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Naylor, T. E.||Stamford, T. W.|
|Jewson, Dorothea||Nichol, Robert||Starmer, Sir Charles|
|John, William (Rhondda, West)||Nixon, H.||Stephen, Campbell|
|Johnston, Thomas (Stirling)||O'Connor, Thomas P.||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)|
|Johnstone, Harcourt (Willesden, East)||O'Grady, Captain James||Stewart, Maj. R. S.(Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Jones, C. Sydney (Liverpool, W.Derby)||Oliver, George Harold||Sturrock, J. Leng|
|Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Oliver, P. M. (Manchester, Blackley)||Sullivan, J,|
|Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Owen, Major G.||Sunlight, J.|
|Jones, Rt. Hon. Leif (Camborne)||Paling, W.||Sutton, J. E.|
|Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Palmer, E. T.||Tattersall, J. L.|
|Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Jowett, Rt. Hon. F. W. (Bradford, E)||Pattinson, S. (Horncastle)||Thomas, Sir Robert John (Anglesey)|
|Jowitt, W. A. (The Hartlepools)||Perry, S. F.||Thompson, Piers G. (Torquay)|
|Kay, Sir R. Newbald||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Thomson, Trevelyan (Middlesbro, W.)|
|Kennedy, T.||Phillipps, Vivian||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Pilkington, R. R.||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Pialstow)|
|Kenyon, Barnet||Ponsonby, Arthur||Thornton, Maxwell R.|
|Kirkwood, D.||Potts, John S.||Thurtle, E.|
|Lansbury, George||Pringle, W. M. R.||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Laverack, F. J.||Purcell, A. A.||Toole, J.|
|Law, A.||Raffan, P. W.||Tout, W. J.|
|Lawrence, Susan (East Ham, North)||Raffety, F. W.||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.|
|Lawson, John James||Ramage, Captain Cecil Beresford||Turner, Ben|
|Leach, W.||Rathbone, Hugh R.||Turner-Samuels, M.|
|Lee, F.||Raynes, W. R.||Varley, Frank B.|
|Lessing, E.||Rea, W. Russell||Viant, S. P.|
|Lindley, F. W.||Rees, Sir Beddoe||Vivian, H.|
|Livingstone, A. M.||Richards, R.||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Loverseed, J. F.||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen|
|Lowth, T.||Ritson, J.||Ward, G. (Leicester, Bosworth)|
|Lunn, William||Robertson, J. (Lanark, Bothwell)||Warne, G. H.|
|McCrae, Sir George||Robertson, T. A.||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J.R.(Aberavon)||Robinson, S. W. (Essex, Chelmsford)||Watts-Morgan, Lt.- Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|McEntee, V. L.||Robinson, Sir T. (Lancs., Stretford)||Webb, Lieut.-Col. Sir H. (Cardiff, E.)|
|Macfadyen, E.||Robinson, W. E. (Burslem)||Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney|
|Mackinder, W.||Romeril, H. G.||Wedgwood, Col. Rt. Hon. Josiah C.|
|Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Royle, C.||Westwood, J.|
|Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||Rudkin, Lieut.-Colonel C. M. C.||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Maden, H.||Samuel, H. Walter (Swansea, West)||White, H. G. (Birkenhead, E.)|
|March, S.||Scurr, John||Whiteley, W.|
|Marks, Sir George Croydon||Seely, H. M. (Norfolk, Eastern)||Wignall, James|
|Marley, James||Sexton, James||Williams, A. (York, W.R., Sowerby)|
|Martin, W. H. (Dumbarton)||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)||Williams, Col. P. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Masterman, Rt. Hon. C. F. G.||Sherwood, George Henry||Williams, Lt.-Col. T.S.B.(Kennington)|
|Maxton, James||Shinwell, Emanuel||Williams, Maj. A.S.(Kent,Sevenoaks)|
|Middleton, G.||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Millar, J. D.||Simon, E. D.(Manchester,Withington)||Willison, H.|
|Mills, J. E.||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred||Simpson, J. Hope||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Mond, H.||Sinclair, Major Sir A. (Caithness)||Windsor, Walter|
|Montague, Frederick||Sitch, Charles H.||Winfrey, Sir Richard|
|Morris, R. H.||Smillie, Robert||Woodwark, Lieut.-Colonel G. G.|
|Morrison, Herbert (Hackney, South)||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)||Wright, W.|
|Morse, W. E.||Smith, T. (Pontefract)||Young, Andrew (Glasgow, Partick)|
|Mosley, Oswald||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Moulton, Major Fletcher||Spence, R.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Muir, John W.||Spencer, George A. (Broxtowe)||Mr. Spoor and Mr. Frederick|
|Murray, Robert||Spencer, H. H. (Bradford, S.)||Hall.|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Gates, Percy|
|Allen, R. Wilberforce (Leicester, S.)||Chapman, Sir S.||Greene, W. P. Crawford|
|Allen, Lieut.-Col. Sir William James||Clayton, G. C.||Gretton, Colonel John|
|Apsley, Lord||Cobb, Sir Cyril||Hall, Lieut.-Colonel Sir F. (Dulwich)|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Cohen, Major J. Brunel||Harland, A.|
|Banks, Reginald Mitchell||Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Hartington, Marquess of|
|Barnett, Major Richard W.||Cory, Sir Clifford||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)|
|Beamish, Captain T. P. H.||Courthope, Lieut.-Col. George L.||Hogbin, Henry Cairns|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Cowan Sir Wm. Henry (Islingtn, N.)||Hohler, Sir Gerald Fitzroy|
|Berry, Sir George||Craig, Captain C. C. (Antrim, South)||Hood, Sir Joseph|
|Blades, Sir George Rowland||Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)|
|Bourne, Robert Croft||Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Howard, Hn. D.(Cumberland,Northrn.)|
|Bowater, Sir T. Vansittart||Cunliffe, Joseph Herbert||Hughes, Collingwood|
|Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W.||Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Hume-Williams, Sir W. Ellis|
|Brassey, Sir Leonard||Deans, Richard Storry||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer|
|Briscoe, Captain Richard George||Dixey, A. C.||Huntingfield, Lord|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Dixon, Herbert||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert|
|Buckingham, Sir H.||Eden, Captain Anthony||Jenkins, W. A. (Brecon and Radnor)|
|Bullock, Captain M.||Edmondson, Major A. J.||Kindersley, Major G. M.|
|Butler, Sir Geoffrey||Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith||Lamb, J. Q.|
|Calne, Gordon Hall||Falle, Major Sir Bertram Godfray||Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)|
|Cassels, J. D.||Ferguson, H.||Lord, Walter Greaves.|
|Lorimer, H. D.||Perkins, Colonel E. K.||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's Univ.,Belfst)|
|Lowe, Sir Francis William||Philipson, Mabel||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Lumley, L. R.||Plelou, D. P.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Lynn, Sir R. J.||Raine, W.||Sutcliffe, T.|
|M'Connell, Thomas E.||Rankin, James S.||Terrell, Captain R. (Oxford, Henley)|
|McLean, Major A.||Rawlinson, Rt. Hon. John Fredk, Peel||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)|
|Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Rawson, Alfred Cooper||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|Marriott, Sir J. A. R.||Reid, D. D. (County Down)||Watson, Sir F. (Pudsey and Otley)|
|Mason, Lieut.-Colonel Glyn K.||Remer, J. R.||Wells, S. R.|
|Meller, R. J.||Remnant, Sir James||Weston, John Wakefield|
|Meyler, Lieut.-Colonel H. M.||Rentoul, G. S.||Wilson, Col. M. J. (Richmond)|
|Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Moles, Thomas||Richardson, Lt.-Col. Sir P. (Chertsey)||Wise, Sir Fredric|
|Morrison-Bell, Major Sir A. C. (Honiton)||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Nicholson, O. (Westminster)||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Yate, Colonel Sir Charles Edward|
|Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Savery, S. S.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Hugh||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley||Sir Malcolm Macnaghten and|
|Pennefather, Sir John||Shepperson, E. W.||Captain Viscount Curzon.|
|Penny, Frederick George||Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House for To-morrow.—[The Prime Minister.]286
§ Whereupon Mr. SPEAKER, pursuant to the Order of the House of 30th September, proposed the Question, "That this House do now adjourn."
§ Adjourned accordingly at Twelve Minutes after Eleven o'Clock.