HC Deb 21 July 1926 vol 198 cc1372-5
Captain BENN

I beg to move, in page 2, to leave out Sub-section (2).

Sub-section (2) of Clause 2 reads as follows: This Act shall apply to Northern Ireland in so far as it deals with any enactment relating to a subject with respect to which the Parliament of Northern Ireland has not power to make laws, but subject to this provision this Act shall not apply to Northern Ireland.' The position of Northern Ireland, as I understand it, is governed by the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, by which Ireland was divided up and certain powers were given to Northern Ireland, and the Government of Northern Ireland has operated under those powers ever since. It was declared in that Act that certain powers would not, be exercised by the Government of Northern Ireland, and, on the other hand, powers were given to the Government of Northern Ireland to make laws for the government of that part of the country. Some of the Acts in the Schedule to this Bill apply only to Ireland, for example, the Labourers (Ireland) Act, 1883, but apparently, under Sub-section (2) of Clause 2, this Act is not to apply to Northern Ireland. That is a mystery to me. The Labourers (Ireland) Act clearly deals with matters in regard to which the Northern Ireland Parliament has power to make laws, namely, labour, sanitation, and so forth. I do not know whether my mind is confused on this matter, or whether there is some simple explanation, but I put it to the right hon. Gentleman that it does require some explanation. If he can make it clear to me, I shall be very grateful. Otherwise, perhaps it would be wise to strike out altogether Sub-section (2) of Clause 2.


The answer to the hon. and gallant Member's question is really a simple one. As he knows, under the Act of 1920, there are certain subjects which are transferred and some that are reserved. This Measure, by the Subsection which the hon. and gallant Member desires to leave out, enacts that, as far as the reserved subjects are concerned —that is to say, those subjects over which this Parliament has power of legislation—it shall apply to them. If the hon. and gallant Member will look at page 5 of the Bill, he will see included there various Acts which apply to reserved subjects, and which are consequently renewed, if they are renewed at all, by this Parliament. The Sub-section to which the hon. and gallant Member refers comes under the same category. It is quite true that, speaking generally, the Government and Parliament of Northern Ireland would have a right to legislate on the subject of labourers, but this particular Act, I think I am right in saying—though I confess I am speaking from memory—is specifically among those subjects which are reserved by the Act of 1920.

Captain SENN

Of course, the right hon. Gentleman speaks with great knowledge, but I have looked up the Act of 1920, and I am certainly greatly surprised to learn that this Act of 1883 deals with reserved subjects.

It is an Act to better the condition of labourers in Ireland. I may be wrong, but I shall be very much surprised to hear that the Government of Northern Ireland has not power to deal with the matters to which its Clauses relate. If it has, let us see what is being done by these subsections. They are being deprived of the benefit, if it is a benefit, of the Act of 1883, and it is expressly provided in this Sub-section that the Labourers (Ireland) Act shall not apply to Ireland. Where it is to apply to if it is not to apply to Ireland I do not know. I shall be very grateful if some Member of the Government or some Member of the Parliament of Northern Ireland will explain whether these matters are not in fact within the competence of their Parliament.


The learned and gallant Gentleman has referred to Members of the Northern Irish Parliament. Neither I nor my hon. and learned Friend beside me (Sir M. Maenaghten) are Members of that Parliament There is no harm whatever done by the Bill. It is no good looking at the Act of 1883, because there is a whole series of Acts. I have not looked the matter up, but my impression, for what it is worth, is that there are financial provisions which must be dealt with by that Parliament. But however that may be, if the Northern Ireland Parliament does not desire that these Acts should be continued they will be dropped.

Captain BENN

No, the Imperial Parliament is enacting them.


The Bill refers only to Acts within the competence of this Parliament.


I think the learned and gallant Gentleman has in his hand the Minutes of Evidence given before the Select Committee on the Expiring Laws Continuance Act last year. If he looks at page 8, he will see that the explanation I gave was perfectly accurate.


I support my hon. and gallant Friend in making inquiry as to the continuation of this particular Act. Certain powers were reserved in the Act which gave To Southern and Northern Ireland the powers of Government: but that this particular Act applies to the whole of Ireland and no Amendment of it has been passed since the passing of the Government of Ireland Act. Consequently, the original Act and the 15 Amending Acts which have been passed since the enactment of the original statute, apply to the whole of Ireland and not simply to Free State Ireland or Ulster Ireland. Therefore, whether Ulster wants it or not, it will not be dropped. If this is a reserved subject, as the Financial Secretary to the Treasury says, then, whatever the Ulster Parliament says, the last word rests with the Imperial Parliament whether it shall apply or not to Northern Ireland. I should like to know why this Act and the Amending Acts, which bear entirely upon Ireland and which, as far as I can discover, have no financial proposition in them, or any financial obligation bearing upon this country, should be a reserved subject. If the Irish Parliaments do not intend to operate these Acts—assuming they have power to do so, of which I am not sure—what is the use of continuing them as expiring laws?If on the other hand the Ulster Parliament or the Free State Parliament pass laws.dealing with the subject, this particular Act could disappear from the list of expiring laws.

Captain BENN

I now find that the explanation is simple. The passage in the Report to which the Financial Secretary has referred had escaped my notice. I am surprised that he did not read it. This is a matter on which the Northern Parliament of Ireland can legislate, and they can, if they like, pay for it; but they do not want to pay for it. There is not power on our part to say what shall happen in Northern Ireland in regard to this matter; they have the power in regard to legislation, and the only thing we are privileged to do under this Schedule is to pay. This is a reserved subject; they have power to make their own arrangements, but they do not desire to forfeit lien which they have on the British Treasury. For that purpose this matter, which has caused so much trouble to my hon. Friend the Member for Govan (Mr. Maclean) and others, is inserted in the Schedule in order that we can go on paying for something which is within the competence of the Northern Parliament.

The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Sir W. Joynson-Hicks)

This is money which is advanced under the Land Purchase Act for the purpose of building labourers' cottages in Ireland, and it is all repaid. We do not have to provide the money here, as suggested by the hon. and gallant Member, without being repaid. To enable this work to be continued it is necessary to include these Acts, as has been done in Sub-section (2).

Amendment negatived.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

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